Thursday, 30 April 2020

Riley’s day – Huskies OL goes seventh overall to Roughriders

Mattland Riley will be looking to open up huge holes for the Roughriders.
    Mattland Riley will become the latest to live out the Saskatchewan football dream, and he totally deserves that opportunity.
    On Thursday, the Melfort, Sask., product and left guard with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team was selected in the first round and seventh overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL Draft. 
    Riley’s selection helps the Huskies uphold their reputation as “O-line U” as the storied U Sports program has a history of sending numerous offensive linemen to the Canadian professional ranks over the years.
    The 23-year-old becomes the latest player to go on the journey of growing up in a smaller Saskatchewan learning the game of football there, moving on to the university ranks and finding his way to the province’s CFL team.
    Riley, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 300 pounds, played high school football in the nine-man ranks with his hometown Melfort and Unit Comprehensive Collegiate Comets before joining the Huskies in the U Sports ranks.
    Over the past two seasons, Riley piled up the individual accolades with the Huskies.
Mattland Riley has been an elite pass protector.
    In 2018, Riley was a Canada West all-star and a second team U Sports all-Canadian all-star. He helped the Huskies win the Hardy Cup as Canada West Conference champions.
    In 2019, Riley was again named a Canada West all-star and a first team U Sports all-Canadian all-star. The Huskies finished second in the Canada West Conference with a 5-3 record and advanced to the Hardy Cup title game falling 29-4 to the eventual U Sports champions and Vanier Cup winners in the University of Calgary Dinos.
    Riley, who has used four years of U Sports eligibility, has all the physical tools to succeed at the professional level. He is really skilled at using his hands to tie up the hands and arms of on-rushing defensive linemen.
    The engineering major has smarts too.
    On top of all that, Riley is pretty down to earth, easy going and enjoys each day as it comes. He is pretty humble and never likes to have himself put in front of his teammates as individual awards pile up.
    When he arrives with the Roughriders, he is going to find he has a lot in common personality wise with veteran star offensive left guard in Brendon LaBatte, who grew up in Weyburn, Sask. The main difference between the two is LaBatte likes to race fast stock cars and does that as a hobby.
    Riley is one who legitimately puts the team first. He knows that if the team succeeds he will ultimately find success.
Mattland Riley, right, was a first team U Sports all-Canadian all-star.
    He always notes he plays along with some really good guys on the Huskies offensive line.
Riley will also get to renew some old football ties and seen an old friend when he begins working out with the Roughriders.
    In late November, the Roughriders signed offensive lineman and fellow Melfort product Logan Ferland to their main roster. Ferland was on the Roughriders practice roster last season and played his fifth and final CJFL campaign at left tackle with the Regina Thunder.
    Riley and Ferland were former teammates on the Comets and will now get to reunite in the professional ranks.
    While the spectre of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hangs over the world having shutdown most walks of life in Canada, Riley has continued to work out at home turning the spare room at his place into a weight room.
    On Thursday, he got to enjoy a great day as all the hard work he has put in and continues to put in has resulted in the chance to live out the Saskatchewan boyhood dream, because he will have a chance to play for the Roughriders.
Mattland Riley, right, is at locking up a D-lineman’s hands.
    Overall, Riley was one of five Huskies player to be selected in the CFL Draft. Defensive end Nicholas Dheilly, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, was selected in the fifth round and 46th overall by the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
    Receiver Sam Baker, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds, was picked in the sixth round and 48th overall by the Toronto Argonauts.
    Right tackle, Nick Summach, who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 330 pounds, was selected in the seventh round and 57th overall by the Edmonton Eskimos. Summach’s selection helps further cement the Huskies reputation as “O-line U.”
    Utility player Colton Klassen, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 200 pounds, went in the eighth round and 69th overall to the Montreal Alouettes. Klassen made an amazing recovery from a season ending broken right leg.
    Defensive end Tom Schnitzler, who played for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and is an alumnus of the 22-time CJFL champion Saskatoon Hilltops, was selected in the eighth round and 72nd overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Schnitzler, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245 pounds, is an accomplished long snapper too.
Mattland Riley (#55) has enjoyed being part of the Huskies O-line.
    The University of Regina Rams had two players picked in the CFL Draft.
    Offensive lineman Theren Churchill, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 280 pounds, went in the first round and ninth overall to the Toronto Argonauts.
    Offensive lineman Andrew Becker, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 280 pounds, was selected in the sixth round and 49th overall.
    The British Columbia Lions traded up to get the first overall selection from the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL Draft. In a trade that was announced at the draft, the Lions sent the third and 12th overall selections to the Stampeders for the first overall pick and 15th overall selection.
    With the first overall pick, the Lions selected linebacker Jordan Williams, who stands 6-feet and weighs 230 pounds, from the East Carolina University Pirates football team in the NCAA Division I ranks.

CFL seeks financial aid from federal government, other notes

Will the COVID-19 pandemic crush the CFL?
    On Tuesday evening, The Canadian Press broke a story the CFL was looking to the Canadian federal government for financial assistance due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    After The Canadian Press broke that story, it blew up on all of Canada’s mainstream media outlets. It was even covered by FOX News in the United States.
    The CFL is looking for $30-million in Canadian funds now to manage the impact COVID-19 has had on league business. The circuit is asking for additional assistance for an abbreviated regular season and up to another $120-million in Canadian funds for a completely lost season.
    In other words, the CFL is looking for $150-million in financial assistance if its nine teams are unable to play the 2020 regular season and playoffs.
    The CFL isn’t the only sports organization looking for financial assistance from a government in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 22, the British Columbia Hockey League, which is a junior A circuit, asked the provincial government in B.C. for financial aid.
    On Tuesday, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, which is a junior B circuit that has 19 out of its 20 located in B.C., said in a release it will be seeking financial assistance from both the B.C. provincial government and the Canadian federal government.
Will fun times like this return to Mosaic Stadium in Regina?
    On Wednesday, it came out the Canadian Premier League, which is an eight-team professional soccer league, is asking the Canadian federal government for $15-million in financial aid.
    Also on Wednesday on the profession basketball front, Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reported the Canadian Elite Basketball League is looking for a $5-million loan from the Government of Canada to help with finances.
    I have no problem with the CFL going after financial assistance from the Government of Canada. I believe the CFL is a Canadian institution that needs to be preserved.
    I could see the CFL folding if it doesn’t have a season in 2020 and doesn’t receive financial assistance.
    Actually, I do not have a problem with any sports league, sports entity or non-sports business seeking out financial assistance from the Canadian federal government of any of Canada’s provincial governments.
    In order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, all these governments have ordered shutdowns and prevented all of these entities from doing business. The ability of any of these outlets to bring in revenue has been extremely hampered due to no fault of their own.
    It is highly unlikely any of these sports leagues, sports entities or businesses would be asking for aid if a pandemic didn’t happen. 
Will Canadians like Evan Johnson (#64) be able to show off their skill.
    If the pandemic didn’t happen, all of these entities would go on with business as usual and be healthy.
    They weren’t mismanaged, and they didn’t ask to be forced to shut down by governments.
    If you shut down the entire whole non-essential work sector in society, there will be massive consequences, and these financial aid requests are part of the consequences.
    On Wednesday, Global News national telecast said Statistics Canada had complied data with the cooperation of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the numbers aren’t good.
    In that story, Statistics Canada said 53 per cent businesses surveyed reported revenue decreases of 20 per cent or more during the first three months of this year compared to the first three month of last year.
    Statistic Canada said one-third of businesses surveyed reported revenues dropped by 40 per cent or more during the first three months of this year compared to the first three months of last year.
    Out of the businesses surveyed, 41 per cent of businesses have been forced to lay off some employees. In the accommodation and food services sector, 24 per cent of those businesses surveyed said they have laid off all of their workers.
Will Zack Evans, right, be able to keep playing in his home city?
    I suspect if you take out what happened in January and February out of that Global News report the gloom of those numbers would be worse.
    I have no problems with sports leagues, sports entities or non-sports businesses asking for financial assistance from governments in these COVID-19 times. I also realize that there is only so much money to go around.
    Unless the governments of Canada elects to throw open the economy for business as usual, it is hard to optimistic about what could happen to these sports leagues, sports entities or non-sports businesses on the business front.
    One thing is for certain, I can’t see life in Canada returning to what it was on March 10 of this year before all the shutdowns happened until after a lengthy stretch of time passes.

  • On Wednesday, Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press wrote a story that quoted a trio of people involved with the now defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League being upset about men’s professional sports leagues asking for financial assistance. The CWHL folded on May 1, 2019 due to financial difficulties. The article quoted others who worried this will widen the gender gap in sports. Spencer’s piece can be found by clicking right here.
  • On Tuesday, the 2020 Hlinka Gretzky Cup hockey tournament, which is an under-18 national team best versus best event, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hlinka Gretzky Cup was set for Aug. 3 to 8 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta.
  • On Tuesday, the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede summer festival scheduled for July 22 to 25 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On Tuesday, the Clunie-Cooper Memorial Professional Bull Riding event slated for June 12 to 13 at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On Tuesday, it was announced the Saskatchewan Summer Games set to run July 26 to Aug. 1 in Lloydminster have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now slated to be held in Lloydminster July 18 to 24 2021.
  • On Monday, the Saskatoon Blades signed offensive defenceman Tanner Molendyk to a WHL Standard Player Agreement. The Blades selected the McBride, B.C., product in the first round and fifth overall in the WHL Bantam Draft held on April 22.
  • On Wednesday, the Prince Albert Raiders signed defensive defenceman Terrell Goldsmith to a WHL Standard Player Agreement. The Raiders selected the Fort St. James, B.C., product in the first round and 15th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft held on April 22.
  • On Thursday, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team announced that 21-year-old forward and Saskatoon product Dawson Holt has committed to the team. Holt played for four and a bit seasons with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants from 2014 to 2019. Last season, he started the campaign in the WHL with the Regina Pats before joining Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League in the junior A ranks.
    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, 28 April 2020

WHL Bantam Draft made me feel normal in COVID-19 times

All set to cover the WHL Bantam Draft last Wednesday in the home office.
    It is a different question to be asked, “What is it like to feel normal?”
    I remember being asked that very query about seven years ago during a rough stretch when I was feeling better again.
    My obvious response was, “It feels good.”
    If you go through a period of time where you don’t feel normal, it is an odd different good feeling when the light bulb goes on when you realize you are feeling normal.
    The part that sticks out in your head at that sort of time is the thought that, “This is how it should be.”
    In the current day under the spectre of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it seems like the days are never normal.
    Actually, the common term that is thrown around is “the new normal” to basically insinuate that what used to be normal will never return again.
    Back when the shutdowns first started to happen on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed like the only thing that felt different was adjusting to daily change in society. Eventually going into the fourth week of shutdowns, it seemed like a new daily routine had unfolded in life at least for me.
Some of the pictures I’ve taken on recent WHL playoff trails.
    Still, I had a moment where I felt normal. Actually, it was a run of time where I felt normal.
    The run of time centred around covering the WHL Bantam Draft, which was held last Wednesday. I did pre-draft work the day before WHL Bantam Draft for this blog.
    Last Wednesday, I was covering the WHL Bantam Draft for the Davidson Leader and this blog. The pieces on both platforms focused around highly skilled forwards Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager, who played midget AAA last season for the Saskatoon Contacts and lived for a time in Dundurn, Sask.
    Both were selected in the first round with Heidt going second overall to the Prince George Cougars and Yager going third overall to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
    I’ve covered the WHL for 21 seasons and have worked my share of past WHL Bantam Drafts.
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHL Bantam Draft was held in an online form. Over the years, that never mattered to me.
    I haven’t attended any WHL Bantam Draft in person, because usually you would be busy trying to phone team officials and players who were selected in the draft.
I try to have some fun when I work from home.
    Only a handful of players in the past have attended the WHL Bantam Draft in person, so it only made sense to follow it online.
    This year it likely felt really different for team officials, because they usually gather in one location for a live in person draft as opposed to conducting a draft online.
    Last Wednesday, I was tracking the WHL Bantam Draft online, made some social media posts in the morning and did a phone interview near the lunch hour with Marc Chartier, who recently stepped down from being the Contacts head coach. I later did a second interview in the early afternoon with Yager.
    After the interview with Yager, it hit me that this was what I was supposed to be doing. I felt normal.
    The only thing that made that moment different was the realization that I felt normal. I was doing exactly what I have done on many WHL Bantam Draft days in the past.
    I should note that from 2016 to 2019 I usually covered off the WHL Bantam Draft with note type items, because I was on the road covering the WHL playoffs.
    A number of other things would be going on too that captured my attention like the Dogs’ Breakfast, which is an annual scholarship fundraiser for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team, and the Saskatoon Valkyries starting a Western Women’s Canadian Football League season.
I enjoyed catching up with Marc Chartier, back row right.
    Still, I was working a day last Wednesday that was pretty much identical to days I worked covering the Prince Albert Raiders for the Prince Albert Daily Herald or the Medicine Hat Tigers for the Medicine Hat News.
    After transcribing interviews with Chartier and Yager, I got in touch with Heidt. After the interviews were done, we had short visits over the phone afterwards, and it was great to catch up like you normally would.
    The longest visit was with Chartier, who noted it felt like it was the right time for him to leave the Contacts after 13 seasons. He stepped down after this past season concluded.
    I hadn’t talked with him since the season concluded, and I was wondering how he was doing.
    You could tell he felt comfortable with his decision. Of course, we shared a bunch of old hockey stories too.
    On Monday, reality hit again, when you go back to living your lockdown life. That included doing work in the home office and not going to any sports events or anywhere in fact.
I look forward to return to live WHL games when normal times return.
    There is no place to go as everything is shutdown.
    Usually at this point in the year, I would be life consumed busy with the WHL playoffs going on. I am still busy, but it is a controlled busy.
    I actually have time to help around the home and enjoy down time things like movies, YouTube videos and video games. I have gotten it into my mind I will allow myself to enjoy these things.
    With all that said, it was great to feel like I was living my life before the COVID-19 shutdowns during the WHL Bantam Draft week, even if it was just a seemingly short period of time.

Money, economics elephant in COVID-19 days, other thoughts

Will people have cash to go to sports events after the COVID-19 pandemic?
    I feel like money and economics are the elephant in the room during these shutdown times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Of course, the top priorities have to be health and safety. It is cool to see that it feels like everybody is on board with saving as many lives as possible.
    I think new compassion has developed with regards of caring for the elderly.
    After the shutdowns started to occur on March 11 due to COVID-19, it seems like for me people try to shy away from talking about money or economics. To be honest, I have lots of days were I do the same thing.
    Still, questions go through my head every now and then. I wonder how businesses will stay open as the time span increases where they are bring in a lot less income than they used to?
    How will sports teams continue without money coming in from ticket sales and dealing with decreased sponsorships?
    How will minor sports organizations keep going without being able to conduct the fundraisers they used to while also dealing with a decrease in sponsorships?
    How will everyone be able to keep paying their bills, especially those that are dealing with a reduction in pay, reduction in hours or have been laid off?
Will the paused businesses in downtown Saskatoon survive COVID-19?
    I know the Government of Canada has rolled out a number of emergency measures, but you have the gut feeling there will be a catch there in the tax department. Nothing is ever free.
    On top of that, how much debt will governments at various levels take on, and how will that affect things going forward?
    It feels like the Canadian thing to do is throw everything on credit and expect your life insurance to pay for everything once you pass on. I kind of had that jaded view about Canada for a least the last 10 years.
    My head also proceeds to ask, “When will the bottom fall out when it comes to throwing everything on credit?”
    Over the past week, I have heard one economist on news talk radio say more damage has already been done to the economy than what occurred in the years of the first half of the “Great Depression” spanning 1929 to 1934.
    To me it seems like the defence mechanism that all walks of life use is to not talk about money at all and proceeded with your day as normally as possible.
    As for me, I just take things one day at a time, and I have said that lots before.
    My gut feeling that when it comes time to eventually pay the piper, there will be a lot of people that forget what happened in the COVID-19 pandemic with regards to saving lives, and they will constantly say how upset they are.

  • It seems like it is pretty easy to find a COVID-19 conspiracy theory out there or find people who believe a conspiracy theory. I believe conspiracy theories take root because there is a distrust of politicians and world leaders that has hung around for a number of years. I believe that distrust helps feed conspiracy theories.
  • For what it is worth, I think most of the politicians and leaders in Canada have handled themselves well and have handled the COVID-19 pandemic well. To me, it seems like you those with different political views are all pulling in the same direction to gain the best result possible in navigating this crisis.
  • When I have made a supply run to the grocery store and I see someone wearing a mask, I always keep thinking of Canada’s criminal mask law. Of course, that doesn’t apply to shoppers and those out an about in public. They are trying to protect themselves from COVID-19. The mask law introduced by the Government of Canada in Bill C-309 that became law on June 19, 2013 bans the use of wearing masks during a riot or other unlawful assembly, and those convicted could face up to 10 years in prison. Canada’s Criminal Code, Section 351(2) covers “Disguise with Intent” that makes it an indictable offence to wear a mask or disguise to commit an indictable offence. I can’t see those laws having to be enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It was four years ago today on April 28, 2017 the ground-breaking ceremony was held for Merlis Belsher Place, which is the new hockey rink facility on the grounds of the University of Saskatchewan campus. At the moment, Merlis Belsher Place sits in waiting to see if it will become a field hospital for overflow COVID-19 patients. Hopefully, that day never comes. My old story on the ground-breaking ceremony day can be found by clicking right here.
  • A Twitter fan account has been created for Dr. Saqib Shahab, who is Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer. The Twitter handle is @ShahadFanClub and followers call themselves the #ShahabSquad. To me, it feels like Shahab is the best out of all the Chief Medical Health Officers who has been shown in the media dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It does feel like Dr. Shahab is becoming a celebrity. I can already see him doing a ceremonial kickoff of home game for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. If you haven’t been following the account, it is worth your time to do it.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Heidt, Yager expect smooth fits with their new WHL teams

Riley Heidt is pumped for his future with the Cougars.
    They were wanted by many WHL teams, and when the dust settled, Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager said they ended up with the clubs that they had maybe a little extra connection with.
    Going into Wednesday’s WHL Bantam Draft, the two skilled 15-year-old forwards were highly touted to go in the top three.
    With the first overall selection, the Regina Pats picked phenom forward Connor Bedard, who became the first person to be granted exceptional player status to play full time in the WHL at age 15. The league allowed the Pats to sign Bedard to a WHL Standard Player Agreement the day before the draft.
    Heidt was picked second overall by the Prince George Cougars. Yager went third overall to the Moose Jaw Warriors. The WHL Bantam Draft was held in an online format due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    On Thursday, Heidt signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement with the Cougars. Yager followed signing his WHL Standard Player Agreement with the Warriors.
    In both cases, there is a mutual expectation on the sides of both player and team that these unions are going to work out in a big way.
Brayden Yager is excited about his future with the Warriors.
    Both Heidt and Yager played as 14-year-old underagers with the Saskatoon Contacts helping the Contacts finish third overall in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with a 30-12-2 record. WHL scouts came out in droves to Contacts games to see Heidt and Yager perform.
    Heidt, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 160 pounds, appeared in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games posting 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points. He suspected he might be chosen by the Cougars feeling just a little extra upbeat in his dealings with the Prince George side.
    The Cougars happened to win the WHL Bantam Draft lottery on March 25, which allowed them to move up two positions to pick in the second overall spot in the first round.
    “I was obviously talking with teams before that,” said Heidt. “I talked to Prince George, and I had a pretty good clue that I was going there.
    “I was very excited. Just hearing my named called so it was official was an awesome feeling.”
    Yager, who stands 6-feet and weighs 163 pounds, also appeared in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games piling up 18 goals and 24 assists for 42 points. 
Riley Heidt, centre, sets to take a draw for the Contacts.
    He thought he hit it off really well with Warriors management and felt they would do what they could to get him to Moose Jaw.
    “I talked to a lot of those teams,” said Yager. “Moose Jaw was kind of one that kind of stuck to our family.
    “They have such a good group with (general manager) Alan Miller and (assistant general manager) Jason Ripplinger and (director of hockey administration) James Gallo and all of the rest of the support staff and trainers. It was a team that kind of stuck out to us. It is close to home, which is pretty important to us.”
    Heidt and Yager have been best friends since first playing spring hockey together at age eight. They have played together on the same team since that time and believe they are ready to skate out on their own when that time comes.
    Now that they have been drafted and officially committed to WHL teams, they both know they have more work to do in order to make an impact on the major junior circuit.
    Heidt believes he will get good guidance on that front from Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb and his staff in Prince George.
Brayden Yager can play a strong two-way game.
    “It is going to be awesome,” said Heidt. “It is obviously going to be a learning curve, and you are going to have to go through bumps on the way.
    “I’m very excited to get going here, and I think it is going to be a great challenge. I’m ready for it. I think coach Lamb he is obviously going to help me along the way. He is a great coach, and obviously, all the other people involve in their organization.
    “I am very excited.”
    Yager is looking forward to working with Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary and his staff. The gifted two-player said he has already been working hard to prepare for life in major junior hockey, and he said he didn’t let the daily situation the COVID-19 pandemic affect the thrill of WHL Bantam Draft day or his training.
    “It is unbelievable,” said Yager. “This is just one of those days that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
    “It is what your future is going to be like. I’m super excited. Moose Jaw is obviously an unbelievable program.
    “With the pandemic going around, it has been a little tough. Most of us are still working out at home and shooting pucks and doing all that kind of stuff just to stay engaged in the game and get ready for next year.”
Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager celebrate a goal last season.
    When it comes to transitioning to the WHL, both Heidt and Yager received high praise from Marc Chartier, who worked with both as head coach of the Contacts last season. Chartier stepped down from his position with the Contacts after working 13 seasons with the club.
    Chartier said both Heidt and Yager have the drive to earn positive outcomes in the sport.
    “They are very mature players, and they took the right approach coming in,” said Chartier. “They were first year players, and we had some older players on our team too.
    “They earned their position of where they played on that team. It is one thing to have the skill that they did, but they are pretty committed to the game, and they are always looking to get better. There are no shortcuts with them.
    “They are both a lot of fun to watch. They are very skilled hockey players. You put two skilled players together like that and there are positive outcomes all the time.”

Soykos become prized free agents with ’Horns demise

Abby Soyko in action with the Bears in 2018-19.
    If you are a university level women’s hockey team and you haven’t called Abby and Alli Soyko, you better be picking up that phone.
    The two sisters and two parts of triple siblings had committed to play for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks back in January. The Prince Albert, Sask., products are now free agents due to the fact the University of Lethbridge cut both the men’s and women’s Pronghorns hockey teams citing a lack of provincial government funding.
    Both Abby and Alli would be great additions for any women’s hockey team. Both played major roles in helping the Prince Albert Northern Bears win the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship in 2016-17 and win a Western Regional playdown series to advance to the Esso Cup national championship tournament.
    Abby would be viewed as the big catch due to her scoring prowess. She is the quintessential power forward coming from a city in Prince Albert that is home to the WHL’s Raiders, which is a club that prides itself on its scoring and toughness.
    Actually, Abby made a huge name for herself in her hometown playing for the Northern Bears in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League.
    She played for the Bears for five seasons from 2014 to 2019 appearing in 136 regular season games piling up 65 goals and 63 assists for 128 points. She is the ninth all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL and the Bears all-time leader in goals and points.
    Abby is tied for the Bears all-time regular season record in career assists with Kaitlin Willoughby, who went on to star and become the second all-time leading scorer for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks.
    On top of all that, Abby was the Bears captain in her final season with that team.
Last season, Abby and Alli played for the Northern Alberta Xtreme Female Prep team in Devon, Alta.
Alli Soyko in action with the Bears in 2018-19.
    Due to their late October birthday, they had exhausted their midget AAA eligibility, but still needed to finish their Grade 12 studies in high school.
    Abby was the leading scorer for the Xtreme this past season posting 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 23 games. She has the combination of strength, power, speed and explosiveness few female players have.
    Before being cut, the Pronghorns women’s team, which had struggled in recent years, took a huge step to being more respectable posting a 9-16-1-2 regular season record this past campaign.
    In his one full season with the team, head coach Doug Paisley was set to bring in a strong recruiting class for his second campaign, and Abby was at the top of that class.
    She was viewed as a major land for that program and someone who could have potentially turned the balance of power in the Canada West Conference.
    Abby could have easily played for a top women’s program in the NCAA ranks.
    I believe Abby has the potential to have a better career in the U Sports ranks than Willoughby had with the Huskies.
    If a program is able to successfully recruit Abby, that program will likely get Alli as an addition as a package deal.
    Alli has all the physical tools to play at the university level. She will likely be pegged to play a more defensive and energy role at forward, but has the potential to be a sound two-way player.
    In her final season with the Bears in 2018-19, Alli recorded career highs in all offensive categories with four goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 26 regular season games.
    She had another solid campaign this past season with the Xtreme posting five goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 23 games. Like Abby, Alli still has more potential to reach in the game.
    Besides their exploits on the ice, Abby and Alli are the perfect players you want in your dressing room. They have the ability to bring their teammates up and believe that the impossible is possible.
    They are able to bring their teammates up while still always giving off that best friend type feeling.
    If you are a university hockey women’s team coach in Canada and the United States and you want win and bring your program up to the next level, you need to have Abby and Alli Soyko on your team, and that is the bottom line.

NWHL lands in Toronto, won’t go away, other notes


    It looks like the National Women’s Hockey League won’t go away.
    I know I likely will upset friends or potentially end friendships with individuals in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association by saying that.
    In a world that has a lot of fear and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NWHL announced on Wednesday it was expanding to Toronto. The Toronto squad will be the sixth team in the NWHL and the first squad located in Canada.
    The release announcing the new Toronto team included a statement from Mayor John Tory. The NWHL is looking towards playing its sixth season.
    The NWHL used to have a competitor in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League that was founded in 2007 and folded on May 1 of last year.
    After the CWHL folded, the PWHPA was formed as a non-profit, and its members include most of the high-profile players that skate for senior national teams in Canada, the United States and Europe.
    The PWHPA said it was boycotting the NWHL and any other women’s professional hockey league in North America until players received health insurance and a livable salary.
    Basically, the PWHPA would like to see the NHL come in and have the same relationship the NBA has with the WNBA, where the NBA fully backs the WNBA.
    In the process of this standoff between the PWHPA and NWHL, the PWHPA appears to have encountered an extremely tough foe in NWHL founder and commissioner Dani Rylan.
    While the NWHL doesn’t have the world’s best female players that are part of the PWHPA, Rylan is showing she might be the Kelly McCrimmon of women’s hockey when it comes to the business side of the game.
    McCrimmon is the general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and the owner of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and he is well respected for his ace skills in the business world.
    Rylan founded the NWHL in 2015 from nothing and the fledging circuit keeps getting stronger and keeps adding more sponsors even when encountering down points. Its momentum just keeps going and going.
    Rylan, who is 32-year-old product of Tampa, Florida, is proving that she is not someone you can easily push around.
    As a player, she was a 5-foot-3 grinder type forward who was told she would never make it in the NCAA Division I ranks. She played one season in the Division II ranks for the Metro State University of Denver men’s team in 2009-10 just to keep playing the game.
    Rylan made the Northeastern University Huskies women’s hockey team in the NCAA Division I ranks as a 23-year-old junior walk-on in 2010-11. She became a scholarship athlete and the Huskies captain in her senior and final season in 2011-12.
    This was impressive as Northeastern is traditionally a top eight program in the women’s NCAA Division I ranks. During her career with the Huskies, Rylan was known by her teammates as being a gritty grandma.
    Rylan comes off as one of those who sleeps just four hours a night and works and works and works at building her be all and end all life consuming venture in the NWHL. She is like a fictional Terminator robot that will not stop.
    She comes off as being gifted in business and has become a mini celebrity in building her league.
    At the moment, the NWHL splits its revenues 50 per cent with the players on the circuit. When the COVID-19 pandemic passes, it is possible the NWHL could grow to the point revenues coming in will see the players making more than just a living wage.
    If the NHL was smart, they would make an alliance with Rylan to expand the women’s game. Actually, I am surprised the Golden Knights haven’t brought her on board and cut her in as a part owner of the team.
    By expanding to Toronto, Rylan and her NWHL are showing they will not go away.
    It will be interesting to see how the standoff between the best female players in the game unfolds against Rylan, who is the best and most driven business person on either side of this standoff.
    Sportsnet put together a solid long form story on Rylan, which can be found by clicking right here.

  • The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey announced a trio of strong recruits from the WHL ranks on Friday. The recruits include Saskatoon product and defensive defenceman Parker Gavlas, who played for the Medicine Hat Tigers, Saskatoon product and defenceman Ty Prefontaine, who was the captain of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Lloydminster, Alta., product and forward Jaxan Kaluski, who was the captain of the Swift Current Broncos.
  • On Thursday, Baseball Canada announced it was cancelling all its national championship tournaments in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baseball Canada was set to hold 11 different national championship tournaments.
  • On Thursday, the Calgary Stampede’s board of directors announced the Calgary Stampede was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Calgary Stampede was slated to run July 3 to 12.
  • On Wednesday, the British Columbia Hockey League, which is a junior A circuit, put out a release asking for financial assistance from the Government of British Columbia to offset major losses from the circuit’s member teams suffered due to the shutdown of the league from the COVID-19 pandemic. The release cited loss of revenue due to teams not being able to hold spring camps and uncertainty regarding ticket sales and sponsorship support in the 2020-21 campaign due to COVID-19.
  • On Thursday, the Government of Saskatchewan released a five phase plan open the province up for business again. Most of Canada has gone about six weeks observing massive shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following that announcement, Baseball Saskatchewan released a frequently asked questions document on Friday noting the organization was still hoping to hold a season. That frequently asked questions document can be found by clicking right here.
  • The University of Alberta Pandas women’s hockey team put out a fun pass the puck video on Twitter as part of a #SocialDistancingChallenge. The Pandas players were inventive in how they passed the puck along.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Heidt, Yager highlight banner WHL Bantam Draft day

Riley Heidt, in the air right, celebrates a playoff goal with the Contacts.
    Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager achieved a special rarity in the WHL Bantam Draft that may never been seen again.
    Having been best friends since playing spring hockey together at age eight, Heidt and Yager were selected second and third overall respectively in the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft. The draft, which was originally slated for May 7 in Red Deer, Alta., was conducted via an online format on Wednesday due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    Heidt went second overall to the Prince George Cougars. Yager was selected third overall by the Moose Jaw Warriors.
    It is hard to imagine that two 15-year-olds from Saskatoon and the surrounding area could be picked with back-to-back selections in the WHL Bantam Draft ever again. The two skilled forwards were allowed to play last year as 14-year-old underage players in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with the Saskatoon Contacts.
    The two were taken after forward Connor Bedard was picked first overall by the Regina Pats. The Pats stated they would select Bedard after landing the first overall selection in the WHL Bantam Draft Lottery held on March 25 and as a result, the WHL allowed the Pats to sign Bedard to a WHL Standard Player Agreement on Tuesday.
    Bedard is the first player to be granted exceptional status to play in the WHL full time as a 15-year-old.
Riley Heidt was picked second overall by the Prince George Cougars.
    Bedard, Heidt and Yager are arguably the best top three selections the WHL Bantam Draft has seen in some time. Heidt and Yager both entered the process to obtain exceptional player status too but were denied.
    Even without getting that tag, they are viewed as can’t miss prospects.
    They have elite skill sets you rarely see in other players. They have maturity that is beyond their years.
    If you didn’t see their baby faces, you would think they would a lot older than 15 years of age.
    They have been best friends for an extend period of time.
    Overall, they are just a cool story.
    Can anyone remember a pair of best friends that have come up through minor hockey together and proceeded to be highly touted prospects to play in one of CHL’s three major junior leagues?
    That would be a hard question for even the biggest hockey statistics geek to answer.
    Before joining the Contacts, Heidt and Yager played two seasons together for the Martensville Marauders bantam AA team from 2017 to 2019 while residing in Dundurn, Sask.
    During their final campaign with the Marauders in 2018-19, they put up mindboggling numbers.
Heidt compiled 36 goals and 63 assists for 99 points in 31 regular season games. Yager piled up 44 goals and 59 assists for 103 points in 31 regular season games.
Brayden Yager was picked third overall by the Moose Jaw Warriors.
    When they joined the Contacts, they continued to play together on the same line. Just watching them on the ice, it was obvious they had played together for a lengthy period of time.
    The puck moved effortlessly between the two on rushes and in the offensive zone.
    The Saskatchewan midget AAA league is a tough circuit for younger players to play in, and both had outstanding campaigns with the Contacts.
    Heidt, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 160 pounds, appeared in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games posting 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points. Yager, who stands 6-feet and weighs 163 pounds, also appeared in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games piling up 18 goals and 24 assists for 42 points.
    Together, they helped the Contacts finish third overall in the SMAAAHL with a 30-12-2 regular season record.
    WHL scouts flocked to Contacts games to see the duo play all season. Both went to WHL teams that really wanted them.
    Their selections marked a highlight day for the province of Saskatchewan at the draft. A total of 53 players were chosen from Saskatchewan which was second most out of the four provinces in Western Canada.
    They weren’t the only players from Saskatoon and area to be selected in the first round too. 
Riley Heidt had 37 points in 44 games with the Contacts.
    Offensive defenceman Reid Andresen, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 125 pounds, went 11th overall to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Andresen posted 13 goals and 38 assists for 51 points in 31 regular season games with the Saskatoon bantam AA Generals last season.
    Out of the other Saskatchewan selections from the first round, another potential head turner might be Kalan Lind from Shaunavon, Sask. Lind, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 145 pounds, piled up 68 goals and 52 assists for 120 points in 27 games with the Swift Current bantam AA Broncos.
    He is the younger brother of Kole Lind, who starred for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets from 2014 to 2018 and currently plays for the AHL’s Utica Comets, and Taylor Lind, who starred for the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League from 2016 to 2019 and currently played for the St. Cloud State University Huskies women’s hockey team in the NCAA ranks.
    Kalan Lind was selected sixth overall by the Red Deer Rebels.
    The Saskatoon Blades selected 11 players in the WHL Bantam Draft. With the fifth overall selection in the first round, the Blades picked defenceman Tanner Molendyk from McBride, B.C.
Brayden Yager had 42 points in 44 games with the Contacts.
    Molendyk, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 156 pounds, posted nine goals and 46 assists for 55 points in 27 regular season games playing for the Yale Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Lions in Abbotsford, B.C.
    The Prince Albert Raiders took nine players in the WHL Bantam Draft. With the 15th overall selection in the first round, the Raiders picked towering defensive defenceman Terrell Goldsmith from Fort St. James, B.C.
    Goldsmith, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 199 pounds, posted four goals and 15 assists for 19 points in 23 regular season games with the Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Green team in Delta, B.C.
    Overall, the WHL Bantam Draft was a banner day for Heidt and Yager, and it marked a great tribute and celebration for all they’ve accomplished to this point in hockey as best friends.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Yager, Heidt to step into WHL Bantam Draft spotlight

Bedard signs WHL Standard Player Agreement with Pats

Brayden Yager had an outstanding season with the Contacts.
    WHL Bantam Draft is lining up to be a special day for Brayden Yager and Riley Heidt.
    The two skilled forwards met in spring hockey at around age eight and have played together in Saskatoon and the surrounding area ever since. Last season, they both gained special permission from the Saskatchewan Hockey Association to play as 14-year-old underage players in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with the Saskatoon Contacts.
    Due to an SHA rule change, the pair had to go through an application process to enter the midget AAA level as underage players, where they were interviewed by officials from the SHA, and SHA officials also interviewed some of their school teachers.
    Yager and Heidt were both prospects to be tagged for exceptional player status to play in the WHL on a full-time basis as 15-year-olds. Their applications for that status were denied.
    Still, they are pegged to potentially to be selected second and third overall in the Wednesday’s WHL Bantam Draft after phenom forward Connor Bedard, who is the first player to be granted exceptional player status to play in the WHL. The WHL Bantam Draft will be held online starting at 10 a.m. Saskatchewan time. 
Riley Heidt had a stellar season with the Contacts.
    This year’s WHL Bantam Draft is being held online due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    After obtaining the first overall selection in the WHL Bantam Draft after the WHL Bantam Draft Lottery held on March 25, the Regina Pats let it be known they were going to select Bedard, who was granted exceptional player status on March 24.
    Bedard, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 165 pounds, played for West Vancouver Academy’s under-18 team this past season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. He piled up 43 goals and 41 assists for 84 points in 36 games.
    For his efforts, Bedard was named the MVP of the CSSHL’s under-18 division.
    Due to having the first overall pick, the Pats were permitted to negotiate with Bedard before selecting him in the WHL Bantam Draft.
    On Tuesday, the Pats signed Bedard to a WHL Standard Player Agreement before even formally selecting him first overall in the WHL Bantam Draft. That allowed the Pats and the WHL to announce the signing on Tuesday and gain a sizable media hit both locally and nationally that including holding an online media press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

    “Obviously, it is a dream come true,” said Bedard, who will turn 15-years-old in July. “When I was a young guy growing up watching the WHL, I always had dreams of playing there.
    “Getting the chance to be with the oldest organization in the league and such a great organization, I’m obviously couldn’t be happier, and I am very excited to get started.”
    On a marketing front, this turned out to be gold for the WHL as a league. They got a big media hit on Tuesday the day before the Bantam Draft with Bedard officially signing with the Pats, who are the oldest franchise in major junior hockey dating back to 1917.
Brayden Yager will be a great addition to any WHL roster.
    The circuit will get another big hit on Wednesday with the Bantam Draft itself.
    With Bedard’s signing out of the way, that allows Yager and Heidt to step into the spotlight for Wednesday’s proceedings.
    They had outstanding campaigns as underage players helping the Contacts finish third overall in the tough SMAAAHL with a 30-12-2 regular season record.
    Yager, who stands 6-feet and weighs 163 pounds, appeared in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games piling up 18 goals and 24 assists for 42 points. Heidt, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 160 pounds, also appeared in all of the Contacts 44 regular season games posting 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points.
    Both players have turned 15-years-old.
    Before joining the Contacts, Yager and Heidt lived in Dundurn, Sask., and played two seasons of bantam AA hockey with the Martensville Marauders. With the Marauders in 2018-19, Yager piled up 44 goals and 59 assists for 103 points in 31 regular season games.
    Heidt was also impressive that same season with the Marauders compiling 36 goals and 63 assists for 99 points in 31 regular season games.
    This past season, WHL scouts flocked to Contacts games to see Yager and Heidt in action.
Riley Heidt displayed a maturity beyond his years.
    They gave midget AAA spectators huge bang for their buck, because the onlookers got to see something special performance wise night in and night out.
    They both have a maturity way beyond their years, and when you talk to them, you wouldn’t realize how young they actually are outside of their baby faces being a giveaway.
    While they weren’t granted exceptional player status, Yager and Heidt are as close to sure bets as you can get that they will be stars in the WHL. On and off the ice, they are two individuals you don’t see come along very often at age 15.
    At the moment, the Prince George Cougars hold the second overall selection, the Moose Jaw Warriors the third overall pick and the Tri-City Americans hold the fourth overall selection.
    The Saskatoon Blades will pick fifth overall in the first round and usually in the 11th spot in subsequent rounds.
    The Prince Albert Raiders have the 15th overall selection in the first round and will usually select in the 15th spot in subsequent rounds.
    On Wednesday, Yager and Heidt will step into the WHL’s bright lights for the first time, and you can expect it is a moment they are ready for and will be the continuation of their special stories.

Pronghorns hockey gets chopped, other notes

Russell Maxwell in action for the Pronghorns men’s hockey team last season.
    The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey teams fell victim to the financial numbers game.
    On Monday, the U of L announced both the men’s and women’s Pronghorns hockey teams were discontinued due to sizable post-secondary budget cuts from the Government of Alberta.
    A total of 52 student-athletes were affected by the decision including several recruits and coaches for the two U Sports teams.
    The U of L said it will continue to honour scholarship commitments to the Pronghorns athletes for the axed programs, if they elect to continue their studies at the institution.
    Both Pronghorns hockey teams finished last in their respective eight-team circuits in the Canada West Conference. The men’s team posted a 5-20-2-1 record, while the women’s team had a 9-16-1-2 mark.
    A number of Pronghorns players and alums of both teams expressed surprise by the move via social media saying it came out of the blue. A number of critics said via social media there should have been discussions about alternative ways to fundraise to support the teams.
    Unfortunately in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic causing massive shutdowns to occur across Canada, I suspected you could find more announcements like this one happening.
    It should be noted that COVID-19 was not referenced in the released issued by the U of L stating the Pronghorns hockey teams were being cut. I believe it is fair to say that the current COVID-19 situation likely hastened the decision to cut the Pronghorns hockey teams.
Kyra Greig was a Pronghorns women’s team standout.
    If there was not COVID-19 pandemic situation, you could safely argue the cuts were heartless. With COVID-19 hanging like a specter over the world, most businesses have experienced massive cuts to revenue, and to be realistic, the sponsorship dollars aren’t out there.
    Right now, businesses are doing what they can to hold on to money and assets.
    Due to the uncertainty about how long the COVID-19 pandemic could go on, the odds to successfully fundraise to keep the Pronghorns hockey teams going would not be good.
    It is sad to see the Pronghorns hockey teams become a casualty here. The men’s hockey team debuted in the 1984-85 campaign.
    In the 1993-94 season, the Pronghorns men’s team won their only Canada West championship and U Sports national title in the lone season the squad had Mike Babcock as head coach. Babcock would go on to rise to star status as an NHL head coach.
    The Pronghorns women’s team debuted in the 1997-98 campaign, which was the inaugural season for U Sports women’s hockey. The Pronghorns women’s hockey team appeared in U Sports nationals in 2003.
    Unfortunately going forward, the Pronghorns hockey teams might not be the only programs in Canadian sports that cease to exist during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • On Friday, Gerry Moddejonge of Postmedia did a story on letter his media organization obtained from University of Alberta athletic director Ian Reade to Golden Bears and Pandas coaches, sponsors, donors, volunteers and alums outlining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the school’s sports and recreation programs. That goes on top of cuts the Government of Alberta is making to post-secondary institutions. Overall, the U of A athletics program is one of the most storied in U Sports and has diversified revenue sources under normal circumstances. Reade wrote in his letter, “As you can see, however, we could not plan for a situation where every revenue source is eliminated or threatened.” Moddejonge’s story can be found by clicking right here.
  • On Tuesday, Saskatoon Youth Soccer Incorporated cancelled the outdoor season for May and June for all under-5 and under-19 leagues registered with its member zones and community associations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures that have been put in place by various governments to fight that pandemic.
  • TheWHL continued to announce its player awards online. On Monday, Calen Addison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes was named the Eastern Conference defenceman of the year. Playing through his 19-year-old season, Addison appeared in 50 regular season games recording 10 goals, 42 assists and a plus-seven rating in the plus-minus department. Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs was named the Western Conference defenceman of the year. Smith appeared in 46 regular season games with the Chiefs recording 19 goals, 40 assists and a plus-49 rating. On Tuesday, centre Dylan Cozens of the Hurricanes was named the Eastern Conference player of the year. Skating through his 18-year-old season, Cozens appeared in 51 regular season games recording 38 goals, 47 assists and a plus-23 rating. Adam Beckman, who is an 18-year-old left-winger with the Chiefs and a Saskatoon product, was named the Western Conference player of the year. Beckman appeared in 63 regular season games with the Chiefs recording 48 goals, 59 assists and a plus-44 rating. He was the leading scorer in the WHL.
  • The Prince Albert Raiders continued to roll out their team awards online. On Monday, overage captain and star defenceman Zack Hayes was named the winner of the Players Choice Award, which is voted on by the players for their teammate who best exemplifies what it means to be a Prince Albert Raider. Also on Monday, Hayes and sophomore import centre Aliaksei Protas, who was playing through his 18-year-old season, were named the co-winner of the Orland Kurtenbach Award as the team’s most valuable player.
  • The Saskatoon Blades put out a fun video on Twitter on Monday. They did a pass the puck challenge, where fans submitted videos that the Blades out together to make it look like their faithful were passing the puck to each other. The final product was enjoyable to watch.
    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.