While the selection of bantam-aged players was front and centre on Thursday in Calgary one of the biggest bit of news went largely unmentioned as the Vancouver Giants let head coach Don Hay out of the final year of his contract so that he could return to his hometown and coach the Kamloops Blazers next year. The 60-year-old Hay began his coaching career in Kamloops in the early-1990s and captured back-to-back Memorial Cup titles in 1994 and ’95. Hay then went to the NHL for a brief period before landing in Vancouver where he won another Memorial Cup in 2007. Hay takes over in Kamloops from Guy Charron, who finished the season for Dave Hunchak…Another piece of news that was completed rather quietly was the Saskatoon Blades’ acquisition of former No. 1 pick Alex Forsberg from the Prince George Cougars. Forsberg had a rather bumpy ride in his three seasons in northern British Columbia and even left the club at Christmas in 2012 and finished that year with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Humboldt Broncos. The Waldheim native told the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that he is happy to be playing closer to home and should the Blades get Russian star Nikita Scherbak for another campaign that duo could be explosive.
Speaking of the Cougars, they were one of two teams to officially change ownership last week as the WHL’s board of governors approved the sales of the Prince George franchise to local businessman Greg Pocock while the Regina Pats were turned over to Queen City Sports Entertainment, a group headed by former Regina netminder Todd Lumbard and his partner Anthony Marquart. Included in the Prince George group are former Cougar players and current NHL defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Eric Brewer…Year-end awards ceremonies are usually fairly predictable, but what happened in Medicine Hat when the Tigers passed out their awards was almost unheard of as Curtis Valk walked away with 11 honours. Valk, who became the team captain when Hunter Shynkaruk was sidelined with a hip injury early in the season, won outright or shared in almost every award possible.
News out of Lethbridge continues to be dismissal as league commissioner Ron Robison joined the Hurricanes executive at a meeting with city council to go over a business plan the league and team have worked on to ensure the franchise survives its current downturn. To make matters worse former assistant coach Brad Lukowich has filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the team claiming he was offered a role as an assistant to the general manager when he learned through the media that he was being released with cause and no further payments were required on his salary. Robison insists the Hurricanes’ leadership needs to improve and be more accountable yet the board of directors says no changes are planned for the upcoming season.
How cool is this? When Jantzen Leslie went to school last Thursday he was told by his teacher to sit at the front of the class and watch on-line the proceedings from the WHL’s bantam draft. His teacher being a huge sports fan didn’t want him to miss out on his big day so he continued with his class while Jantzen waited to hear his name. He only had to wait 15 names before the Everett Silvertips picked him in the first round…Former Prince Albert Raider netminder Luke Lee-Knight worked with the Tri-City Americans during the draft as his familiarity with a number of the players provided insight to the scouting staff and offered them a different view on who to select.
The WHL is trying something new this year by putting on 13 combines in Western Canada and the United States in an attempt to provide better information to the scouts of the 22 teams. The combines, which are being co-ordinated by the Okanagan Hockey Schools in Penticton, will cost $250 for each player who attends. The closest they come to Prince Albert is Saskatoon on July 12. Other locations in Western Canada include Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Brandon, Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria. A test run was held in Regina a couple of weeks ago and it appears that what the league hoped to gain from the event took place.
In case you missed the announcement of who won the league awards last week here is a recap. Prince Albert’s Josh Morrissey was up for defenceman of the year, but lost to Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks.
List of award winners:
WHL Player of the Year – Four Broncos Memorial Trophy - Sam Reinhart – Kootenay Ice; Rookie of the Year - Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy - Nick Merkley – Kelowna Rockets; Goaltender of the Year - Del Wilson Trophy - Jordon Cooke – Kelowna Rockets; Defenseman of the Year - Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy - Derrick Pouliot – Portland Winterhawks; Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year - Brad Hornung Trophy - Sam Reinhart - Kootenay Ice; Scholastic Player of the Year – Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy - Nelson Nogier – Saskatoon Blades; Humanitarian of the Year – Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy - Sam Fioretti – Moose Jaw Warriors; Coach of the Year - Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy - Dave Lowry – Victoria Royals; Executive of the Year - Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy - Cam Hope – Victoria Royals; Marketing/Business Award -
Seattle Thunderbirds; Scholastic Team of the Year - Calgary Hitmen; Top Official – Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy - Nathan Wieler; Regular Season Champion - Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy - Kelowna Rockets; Top Scorer - Bob Clarke Trophy - Mitch Holmberg – Spokane Chiefs.
Information for the WHL Notebook is gathered from submissions provided by the WHL Writer’s Group.