It was evident again Monday that David Branch, the commissioner of the OHL, is among the most progressive leaders in sports today. Not only has he cracked down on violence and illegal hits in his league, now he is leading the way in the area of mental health awareness. . . . “Seven months after the suicide of Saginaw Spirit forward Terry Trafford,” writes Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press, “the Ontario Hockey League is teaming up with the Canadian Mental Health Association to help players understand, recognize and treat mental health issues.
” . . . Here’s more from Whyno: “As part of the program, each of the OHL’s 20 teams will be assigned a mental health coach who will be available for players, coaches, parents, billets and other members of the organization to talk to. Other aspects include training on recognizing signs of suicide and depression and appointing “mental health champions” who can talk to the public about the league’s efforts.” . . . Whyno’s complete story is right here. It is worth reading, especially for the anecdote near the end that involves the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. . . . Now that the OHL has shone a light on this subject, it’s to be hoped that the WHL is in the process of following suit. . . . Mental Health Awareness Week runs through Oct. 11.
The WHL will announce the host team/city for the 2016 Memorial Cup on Wednesday afternoon.
There are two options — the Red Deer Rebels or Vancouver Giants.
When the governors ponder the decision, they will be faced with:
1. Let’s go with the Giants, who played host to the tournament in 2007 and have the bigger building, something that means a lot more revenue to be shared; or,
2. Let’s go with the Rebels, who have been loyal partners, who, with taxpayers, sunk a lot of money into upgrades for their arena and who play in a province that hasn’t played host to the Memorial Cup since 1974.
“You break down all the elements and you certainly like to think that we have a legitimate shot (of being named tournament hosts), but at the end of the day it still comes down to what the governors think and what they want to do,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, general manager and head coach, told Greg Meachem, the Red Deer Advocate’s sports editor. “There’s no way of knowing that ahead of time, but you’d like to think you have a reasonable chance. But again, it will come down to what 20 other governors think.”
Meachem reports that the WHL struck a ‘hockey committee’ and had it evaluate both franchises in terms of how competitive the teams might be in 2015-16. That committee comprised Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s head scout; Stu MacGregor, the head scout for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers; and Kellyk McCrimmon, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The report submitted by that committee now is in the hands of the governors.
“I’m going there with an open mind,” Sutter said of the meeting that is to be held in Calgary, “but I think we all know what the right thing is to do.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings will have to make a move involving their import situation at some point this week. The Oil Kings have been carrying three imports, one over the limit, so one of them will have to go. They have veteran forwards Mads Eller, 19, and Edgars Kulda, who turns 20 on Nov. 13, on their roster, along with Russian D Marsel Ibragimov, 17. . . . Ibragimov has been scratched for six straight games. Because he’s in his first season, he can’t be traded so would have to be released. Either Eller or Kulda, as veteran imports, could be traded. . . . The Oil Kings also learned Tuesday that F Curtis Lazar, 19, will open the NHL season with the Ottawa Senators.
It seems that there could be news this week involving the much-anticipated merger of the ECHL and CHL. Allan Muir of si.com has more right here. He also touches on the fact that some western-based NHL teams also are expected to move affiliates closer to them, meaning the face of minor professional hockey in North America is soon to undergo radical change.
The good people of Portland are again trying to figure out what to do with Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the home of the Winterhawks. Brad Schmidt of The Oregonian has the latest on this ongoing story right here. . . . Included in this story are a few paragraphs in which Winterhawks president Doug Piper says the organization wasn’t sure it could survive the sanctions the WHL slapped on it almost two years ago.
F Tyrell Goulbourne, 20, has returned to the Kelowna Rockets from the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, but a tender elbow will keep him out of the lineup at least for a few days. He had surgery on the elbow so wasn’t able to take part in the Flyers’ training camp. A third-round selection by the Flyers in the 2013 NHL draft, Goulbourne is to have the stitches removed from the elbow this week, so may not be too far away from game action. . . . His presence leaves the Rockets with four 20s, the others being D Cole Martin, F Colton Heffley and F Carter Rigby.
Fighting in hockey took another stride towards the precipice on Monday as the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs cut enforcers Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr, both products of the WHL. . . . As Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star reports right here, the Maple Leafs chose to keep the likes of Carter Ashton and Brandon Kozun, two more ex-WHLers, over the scrappers. . . . Tiger Williams, a former Toronto toughie who also played in the WHL, doesn’t like the move at all. “You know,” he told Feschuk, “there’ll come a day when I’m not right about this. I don’t think that’s today, in my opinion. But I think that day’s going to come.”
F Nic Petan made his season debut with the Portland Winterhawks as they fell 6-2 to the Royals in Victoria on Monday night. Petan, who was returned by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, had one assist. . . . Portland G Brendan Burke, making his fifth straight start, was replaced by Adin Hill at 13:48 of the second period with his side down 4-0. . . . Victoria got a goal and two assists from D Jack Walker. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders have released F Dylan Williamson, 16, and he is scheduled to join the junior B Nelson Leafs of the Kootenay International Junior League. A Calgary native, he got into five preseason games with the Raiders, but didn’t see any regular-season action. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft.