For the last couple of years, a rumour has surfaced every so often that goes something like this . . . the owners of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets are close to purchasing the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and relocating the franchise to the Manitoba capital. The Kootenay Ice would then pack up and leave Cranbrook for Lethbridge.
Well, now comes word, courtesy of Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press right here, that the Jets are on the verge of moving their AHL franchise, the St.
John’s IceCaps, from Newfoundland to Winnipeg in time for next season. Yes, it would be the rebirth of the Manitoba Moose.
At the same time, there is speculation that the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, will move to St. John’s.
But where does that leave the Lethbridge-to-Winnipeg rumour?
It would be dead in the water, at least for now.
There is speculation that moving the IceCaps to Winnipeg would be a temporary move, with the Jets continuing to look for a home for the franchise that is closer to Manitoba than St. John’s. Perhaps that would mean finding a city in close proximity to the AHL’s new Pacific Division.
The AHL’s board of governors is scheduled to meet during the approaching week, so there no doubt will be more heard about this subject in the days to come.
Meanwhile, make no mistake about one thing — there is real concern about Cranbrook’s WHL franchise.
In a recent interview with Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, WHL commissioner Ron Robison was asked: “Have you had much thought or many talks about expansion or relocation?”
His response: “None at this point. There is no future expansion planned. Our goal is to keep our franchises where they currently are. Obviously, there are challenges. We’re monitoring the Kootenay situation very closely. Lethbridge ownership is another area we’re monitoring very closely as well. Any market that is undergoing some challenges, we’re certainly on top of that and concerned. Particularly in Kootenay’s case, the viability of that franchise long term.”
Asked about the issues posed by having 12 teams in one conference (Eastern) and 10 in the other (Western), Robison suggested: “In an ideal world, we’d love to have balanced conferences with 11 and 11. That would make the most sense. It wouldn’t balance our divisions, but it would balance our conferences.”
So let’s start speculating that perhaps the Ice would be better served playing out of Abbotsford, B.C., where there is a 7,000-seat facility that doesn’t have a major hockey-playing tenant.
Were the Ice to end up there, it would mean a move from the WHL’s Central Division to the B.C. Division, leaving the former with five teams and the latter with six. That would leave each conference with 11 teams.
This season, through 33 home games, the Ice’s average attendance is 2,231, up four from last season. Only the Swift Current Broncos (2,127) have a lower average.
In 2012-13, the Ice averaged 2,411 per game.
Mark Lamb, the general manager and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos, was released from Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current on Saturday. Lamb spent Friday night there, thus missing the Broncos’ 3-2 loss to the Warriors in Moose Jaw. . . . He also missed last night’s game against the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . According to the Broncos, Lamb will rejoin the team “after the weekend.” . . . The Broncos, who have lost six straight, are at home to the Regina Pats on Wednesday.
There is no relationship in sports like that between a baseball player and his glove. That is the case, no matter the age group or the level of play. Billy Witz of The New York Times takes a look right here at players with the New York Yankees and how they treat their gloves.
THE WHL PLAYOFF PICTURE:
1. Brandon (6 games remaining) — Will finish atop the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1995-96. Will face second wild-card team, presently Edmonton, in first round. . . . Two points behind Kelowna (6) in chase for first place overall. . . . At home to Moose Jaw on Tuesday.
2. Regina (7) clinched second in division last night. Will meet third-place team, presently Swift Current (7), in first round. . . . In Prince Albert on Tuesday. This is a makeup date for a game that was blizzarded out on Feb. 14.
3. Swift Current (6) has lost six in a row and now leads Moose Jaw (6) by two points. . . . At home to Regina on Wednesday.
4. Moose Jaw (6) is two points behind Swift Current. . . . Has won three straight and is 7-2-1 in last 10. . . . In Brandon on Tuesday.
5. Prince Albert (7) is six points behind Moose Jaw. . . . At home to Regina on Tuesday.
6. Saskatoon (6) won’t be in the playoffs.. . . In Edmonton on Tuesday.
1. Medicine Hat (6) is tied with Calgary atop the division. But Medicine Hat has more victories (41-40) at the moment. . . . Will play Kootenay in Cranbrook on Friday.
2. Calgary (6) is nine games into a franchise-record 11-game road trip. . . . Won’t play again until Friday in Red Deer.
3. Red Deer (6) is five points off the pace. . . . At home to Saskatoon on Wednesday.
4. Kootenay (6) is 10 points behind Red Deer, and holds down the conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . At home to Lethbridge on Tuesday.
5. Edmonton (5) is in the second wild-card spot, one point behind Kootenay. . . . At home to Saskatoon on Tuesday.
6. Lethbridge (7) is out of the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
1. Kelowna (6) has clinched first place in the Western Conference and will play the second wild-card team, presently Tri-City (6) in the first round. . . . Leads the overall standings by two points over Brandon. . . . At home to Victoria on Wednesday.
2. Victoria (6) will finish second and meet the third-place team — right now, that’s Prince George (6) — in the first round. . . . They split two games in Prince George on the weekend. . . . In Kelowna on Wednesday.
3. Prince George (6) is third, thanks to a 5-0-1 run. It is 7-1-2 in its last 10. . . . Prince George is four points ahead of Kamloops (6) and six up on Vancouver (6). . . . In Kamloops on Wednesday.
4. Kamloops (6) will meet Prince George four times in the next two weeks. They’ll play Wednesday in Kamloops, March 18 and 20 in Prince George, and March 21 in Kamloops. . . . The Blazers also are two points behind Tri-City (6), which holds down the conference’s second wild-card berth.
5. Vancouver (6) has lost six straight and is two points behind Kamloops and four behind Tri-City. . . . At home to Spokane on Tuesday.
1. Everett (6) is in first place, four points ahead of Portland (8). If Everett finishes first, it will play the first wild-card team, presently Spokane (8), in the first round. . . . At home to Portland on Wednesday.
2. Portland (8) is on an 8-0-2 roll. The second-place team will play the third-place team, Seattle (6), in the first round. . . . In Everett on Wednesday.
3. Seattle (6) trails Portland by eight points. . . . At home to Everett on Friday.
4. Spokane (8) is in the first wild-card spot, nine points behind Seattle and seven ahead of Tri-City (6). . . . In Vancouver on Tuesday.
5. Tri-City (6) is in the second wild-card spot, two points ahead of Kamloops and four up on Vancouver. . . . Entertains Prince George on Friday.
IF THE PLAYOFFS BEGAN TODAY:
Brandon vs. Edmonton
Medicine Hat vs. Kootenay
Regina vs. Swift Current
Calgary vs. Red Deer
Kelowna vs. Tri-City
Everett vs. Spokane
Victoria vs. Prince George
Portland vs. Seattle
(NOTE: Team with home-ice advantage shown first.)
In Prince Albert, F Reid Gardiner scored the game’s last two goals, both via the PP, to give the Raiders a 4-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Gardiner, who has 31 goals, tied the game 3-3at 12:01 of the second period and snapped the tie at 6:50 of the third. . . . F Simon Stransky and F Austin Glover drew assists on both goals. . . . The Raiders led 2-0 after one period, only to have the Hurricanes scored three second-period goals, two of them by F Giorgio Estephan, who now has 20 goals. . . . F Brayden Burke had two assists for Lethbridge. . . . Once again, Hurricanes G Stuart Skinner shone, this time with 55 saves. . . . Raiders G Nick McBride stopped 21 shots. . . . Each team was 2-for-4 on the PP. . . . Lethbridge D Nick Walters played in his 300th regular-season game. Walters, from Spruce Grove, Alta., has played 145 games with Everett, 50 with Brandon and 105 with Lethbridge. . . . The Raiders (27-35-3) have won three straight. . . . The Hurricanes slipped to 20-37-8. . . .
In Moose Jaw, F Torrin White scored three times to lead the Warriors to a 7-1 victory over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . White opened the scoring at 1:53 of the first period, made it 3-0 at 13:46 of the first and completed his hat trick at 1:06 of the second to make it 5-0. . . . White has 15 goals. . . . The Warriors scored four times in the first period. . . . Moose Jaw F Brayden Point scored his 32nd goal and added three assists, while F Brett Howden notched his 18th goal and had two helpers, and F Axel Blomqvist drew three helpers. . . . Moose Jaw G Brody Willms stopped 28 shots. . . . Moose Jaw was 3-for-7 on the PP; the Blades were 1-for-5. . . . The Warriors honoured the Snowbirds aerobatics team by wearing special jerseys in the warmup. Snowbirds members were in the dressing room prior to the game and on the bench during warmup. . . . The Warriors (29-32-5) have won three in a row. . . . The Blades (19-43-4) have lost three straight. . . .
In Brandon, F Morgan Klimchuk had two goals and two assists as the Wheat Kings dumped the Swift Current Broncos, 9-1. . . . Brandon F John Quenneville broke a 1-1 tie with his 17th goal at 4:57 of the second period and the Wheat Kings ran away from there. . . . Klimchuk, who has 29 goals, is riding a 10-game point streak. . . . Brandon F Tim McGauley scored his 40th goal and added two assists as he ran his point streak to 22 games, the longest in the WHL this season. He’s got 47 points, including 15 goals, in that streak. It’s the longest point streak by a Wheat Kings skater since F Cory Cyrenne went 23 games in 1997-98. . . . McGauley also went over 200 career regular-season points. He now has 202 points in 219 games. This season, he’s got 97 points, three shy of the WHL scoring leader, F Trevor Cox of the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . F Peter Quenneville scored twice and added an assist for Brandon. He’s got 26 goals, with eight of them coming in his last four games. . . . Brandon D Eric Roy scored his fifth goal and added two assists, while F Jayce Hawryluk scored his 26th goal and had an assist. D Matt Taraschuk had two assists. . . . Brandon was 4-for-5 on the PP; Swift Current was 0-for-1. . . . Brandon G Jordan Papirny stopped 22 shots as he became the first WHL goaltender to 40 victories this season. He is the first Wheat Kings goaltender with at least 40 victories since Glen Hanlon set the WHL single-season record of 49 in 1976-77. . . . The Wheat Kings (48-11-7) last won 50 games in 2009-10. . . . The Broncos (30-31-5) have lost six in a row. . . . Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun has a game story right here. . . .
In Edmonton, F Davis Koch broke a 2-2 tie with his eighth goal of the season at 17:24 of the third period as the Oil Kings beat the Calgary Hitmen, 3-2. . . . Edmonton F Lane Bauer had tied the game with his 23rd goal at 1:45 of the third. . . . The Hitmen took a 1-0 lead on F Adam Tambellini’s 45th goal at 12:42 of the first, on a PP. . . . Edmonton D Dysin Mayo tied it with his 13th goal, on the PP, at 15:38. . . . The Hitmen took the lead when D Travis Sanheim scored his 12th goal, on the PP, at 13:51 of the second. . . . Tambellini, Sanheim and Mayo also had an assist apiece. . . . Edmonton G Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots, four more than Calgary’s Brendan Burke. . . . Calgary was 2-for-4 on the PP; Edmonton was 1-for-5. . . . The Oil Kings were without D Marshall Donald, who was on crutches after Friday’s 6-4 loss to visiting Regina. Donald was acquired from the Hitmen in January. . . . The Oil Kings improved to 31-29-7. . . . Calgary (40-21-5) has two games left in its franchise-record 11-game road trip. It is 6-3-0 with games left in Red Deer on Friday and Lethbridge on Saturday. . . .
In Red Deer, D Haydn Fleury broke a 3-3 tie at 7:20 of the third period and the Rebels went on to beat the Regina Pats, 5-3. . . . Fleury has six goals. . . . F Riley Sheen, who also had two assists, scored his 20th goal into an empty net at 18:38 of the third. . . . F Adam Musil gave Red Deer a 1-0 lead with a PP goal at 2:03 of the first period. He’s got 14 goals. . . . The Pats went ahead on goals by D Chase Harrison, his third, at 3:00 of the second and D Colby Williams, his ninth, just 17 seconds later. . . . Regina F Taylor Cooper assisted on both goals. . . . Red Deer F Reese Johnson pulled his guys even with a breakaway goal at 18:35 of the second and D Bart Cote broke the tie 13 seconds later. Johnson has two goals; Cote has eight. . . . Regina F Braden Christoffer scored his 24th goal, on a PP, 53 seconds into the third period. . . . Each team was 1-for-2 on the PP. . . . Red Deer G Taz Burman stopped 23 shots. . . . Regina G Tyler Brown turned aside 29 shots. . . . The Pats had Cole Sears backing up Brown. Daniel Wapple took a high shot on Friday night and now is listed as day-to-day. . . . Sears, 17, is from Red Deer. . . . . The Rebels (35-21-10) have won three in a row. . . . The Pats (35-21-9) are 2-1-1 in their last four games. . . .
In Medicine Hat, G Marek Langhamer posted his second shutout in three games as the Tigers beat the Kootenay Ice, 1-0. . . . Langhamer has two shutouts this season and six in his career. . . . The game was about one hour late in starting after the Ice encountered some mechanical with their bus while en route to Medicine Hat. . . . Tigers F Cole Sanford score the game’s lone goal, getting No 48 at 3:36 of the first period. . . . Langhamer finished with 16 saves, 15 fewer than the Ice’s Wyatt Hoflin. . . . Kootenay was 0-for-3 on the PP; the Tigers were 0-for-2. . . . Tigers F Trevor Cox drew an assist on the game’s first goal as he became the WHL’s first 100-point man this season. . . . Cox also leads the WHL in assists, with 75. . . . Tigers D Tommy Vannelli was back in the lineup after missing 18 games with a broken finger, while D Ty Stanton (ribs) returned after a two-game absence. . . . The Tigers are 41-22-3. . . . The Ice (33-29-4) has lost three in a row (0-2-1). . . .
In Vancouver, the Everett Silvertips scored the game’s last three goals and beat the Giants, 3-1. . . . F Tyler Benson scored his 14th goal for the Giants at 7:52 of the first. . . . Everett F Remi Laurencelle tied it with his 20th goal at 1:39 of the second and D Cole MacDonald broke the tie with his 10th goal at 2:15 of the third on a PP. . . . MacDonald also had an assist. . . . F Matt Fonteyne added insurance with his sixth goal at 6:21 of the third. . . . Everett G Carter Hart stopped 25 shots, while Vancouver G Payton Lee kicked out 27. . . . The Giants lost F Vladimir Bobylev with an undisclosed injury after he took a hit from Everett F Logan Aasman in the first period. . . . Vancouver F Zane Jones was in the lineup despite having incurred a boarding major and game misconduct on Friday night. The WHL announced Saturday afternoon that no further discipline would be forthcoming. . . . The Silvertips (40-19-7) have won three in a row. . . . The Giants (26-37-3) have dropped six straight. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province has more on the game right here. . . .
In Prince George, F Taylor Crunk scored in the 11th round of a shootout to give the Victoria Royals a 4-3 victory over the Cougars. . . . The Cougars had beaten the Royals 4-3 on Friday night. . . . Last night, the Royals took a 3-0 lead in the latter part of the second period, thanks to goals from D Chaz Reddekopp, his fifth, F Brandon Magee, his 19th, and D Ryan Gagnon, his first. . . . This was a special night for F Tyler Mrkonjic — more on him later — and he got the Cougars on the board with his eighth goal, at 17:27 of the second period. . . . D Tomas Andrlik pulled the home side to within a goal with his third at 5:10 of the third. . . . F Chase Witala tied it with No. 33, on a PP, at 16:59. . . . Victoria F Jack Walker, the first shooter in the breakaway contest, scored. . . . F Zach Pochiro, shooting third, kept the Cougars’ chances alive. . . . That was all the goals until Crunk scored to end it. . . . Prince George F Jansen Harkins had one assist, his 58th this season. That tied the Prince George single-season record set by F Quinn Hancock in 1997-98. . . . Cougars G Ty Edmonds stopped 31 shots. . . . Royals G Coleman Vollrath made 31 saves. . . . The Cougars were 1-for-7 on the PP; the Royals were 0-for-2. . . . The Royals (35-27-4) had lost their previous two games. . . . The Cougars (28-33-5) had won their previous five games. . . . The attendance was 5,404, with the Cougars’ owners guaranteeing the biggest 50/50 draw in franchise history. The winning number is to be posted on the team’s website. . . . The other half of the draw is to go to the Shelly L. Mrkonjic ALS Research Fund. Shelly, who died of ALS in 2006, was Tyler’s mother. So it was only fitting that he should score on what had to be a special night for the family. . . .
In Portland, F Paul Bittner scored three times and added two assists as the Winterhawks dumped the Tri-City Americans, 6-2. . . . Bittner, who has 32 goals, scored the game’s first goal, at 7:29 of the first period. He made it 3-1 with a PP goal at 16:26 of the first and then got the game’s final goal, at 18:20 of the third. . . . Portland F Nic Petan continued his amazing run with three more assists. He has 20 helpers in his last six game. In his last 20 games, Petan has five goals and 39 assists. . . . Portland F Oliver Bjorkstrand had two assists, but his franchise-record goal streak ended at 12 games. With 97 points, he is three off the WHL lead. . . . Portland F Miles Koules scored his 25th goal and added an assist. . . . Portland F Chase De Leo came up short on a penalty shot in the second period. . . . G Adin Hill stopped 30 shots for Portland, while Tri-City’s Evan Sarthou turned aside 46. . . . Portland was 3-for-5 on the PP; the Americans were 1-for-3. . . . The Winterhawks (39-20-5) are 8-0-2 in their last 10. . . . Tri-City (28-35-3) has lost two in a row. . . .
In Kelowna, the Rockets erased a 1-0 deficit with four straight goals and went on to a 5-2 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . F Jackson Playfair gave the visitors a 1-0 lead with his 11th goal, on a PP, at 1:28 of the first period. . . . Kamloops D Cole Martin tied it with his sixth goal at 5:34 of the second and F Tate Coughlin gave the Rockets their first lead with his second goal of the season at 5:58. . . . F Chase Braid upped the lead to 3-1 with goal No. 12 at 12:17. . . . Kelowna F Nick Merkley scored his 18th goal and added an assist. . . . Martin and Braid also had assists, while F Leon Draisaitl had two of them as he ran his point streak to 11 games. . . . Draisaitl has 43 points, including 16 goals, in 26 games since joining the Rockets from the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. . . . The Rockets remain without D Josh Morrissey, F Rourke Chartier and F Justin Kirkland. . . . With the victory, the Rockets (50-11-5) have won 50 games for a third straight season. The only other WHL teams to have done that are the Kamloops Blazers (1989-92) and Edmonton Oil Kings (2011-14). . . . The Chiefs (31-29-4) have lost two in a row. . . .
In Kent, Wash., D Jared Hauf broke a 1-1 tie at 15:36 of the third period as the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Kamloops Blazers, 3-1. . . . F Cory Millette gave Seattle a 1-0 lead with his 21st goal, at 4:53 of the second period. . . . Kamloops F Matt Needham tied it with his 23rd goal, at 17:16 of the second period. . . . Hauf then scored his third of the season. . . . Seattle F Nick Holowko scored his fifth goal into an empty net at 19:16 of the third. . . . Seattle F Mathew Barzal had two assists. . . . The Blazers had won the first three games of the four-game season series. . . . Seattle G Taran Kozun stopped 39 shots, 10 more than Cole Ingram of the Blazers. . . . Kamloops was 0-for-2 on the PP; Seattle’s PP didn’t get off the bench. . . . The Thunderbirds improved to 33-24-9. . . . The Blazers (24-34-7) are 3-1-1 in their last five games.
No Games Scheduled
No Games Scheduled
(all times local)
Regina at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Moose Jaw at Brandon, 7 p.m.
Lethbridge vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Spokane at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
(all times local)
Regina at Swift Current, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Prince George at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Portland at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
Victoria at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
According to our research, is the first WHL player w/ 4 consecutive 30 goal seasons since Chris St. Jacques (MH, 00-01 – 03-04).
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE)