Sunday, 12 July 2020

2019 Canadian Bowl win a big moment for Hilltops’ “Sarge”

HC Tom Sargeant, centre, celebrates the Hilltops CJFL title win in 2015.
    When it comes to honouring CJFL coaching legends, it only makes sense to start with Saskatoon Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant.
    On Wednesday, the CJFL started a weekly feature to celebrate its legendary coaches, and the first coach to be featured was Sargeant.
    When you have more post-secondary head coaching victories in the Canadian amateur football ranks that anyone else, it only makes sense to lead a list of features on coaching legends.
    Under Sargeant’s watch as head coach, the Hilltops have won 13 CJFL titles, including nine out of the last 10 championships and the last six straight titles in a row.
HC Tom Sargeant gives tips to Hilltops QB Tyler Hermann (#12).
    He was also part of two Hilltops CJFL title winning teams as an assistant coach and won his first CJFL championship with the team as a player in 1985.
    Sargeant has a career 210-30-2 head coaching record in the CJFL’s regular season and post-season. The 55-year-old has a 155-21-2 record in the CJFL regular season and a 55-9 record in the CJFL post-season.
    At the moment, the Hilltops are on a 31 overall game winning streak including action in the CJFL’s regular season and playoffs. The Hilltops have won their last 29 straight games on the road including the CJFL’s regular season and post-season.
    Having won the last six straight CJFL titles, the Hilltops have won a CJFL record 20 straight post-season contests.
    One of Sargeant’s best works as a head coach may have come in the Hilltops most recent victory in the Canadian Bowl to become CJFL champions.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant grades a situation from the sidelines.
    On Nov. 16, 2019, the Hilltops downed the host Rams in Langley, B.C., 11-6 to capture the CJFL title.
    The game was a defensive slugfest.
    On top of being the Hilltops head coach, Sargeant doubles as the team’s offensive coordinator. On the competitive side as an offensive coordinator, you had to know it bothered Sargeant his offence wasn’t scoring more points.
    Still, the Hilltops defence was on fire and kicker Rylan Kleiter came up clutch hitting 3-of-4 field goals.
    In the role of head coach, Sargeant focused towards playing into the hand that gave his team the best chance to win with the way that game was flowing.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant has receiver Rylan Kleiter run in a play.
    That meant creating the best conditions to allow the Hilltops defence under the guidance of defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie and Kleiter to win the game.
    Offensively, that meant the Hilltops ran the ball a lot more and focused on not turning it over.
    In that moment, Sargeant swallowed his pride as an offensive coordinator in order to create the best opportunity for his team to win the CJFL championship on that day. That is a big thing, and it played out to being a key factor as to why the Hilltops prevailed on that day to capture their 22nd CJFL championship.
    It should also be noted the Hilltops have had monster offensive CJFL championship games with Sargeant calling the plays on offence.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant conveys orders in the 2018 Canadian Bowl.
    In the Canadian Bowl held in 2018 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Hilltops hammered the Rams 58-21 with Sargeant serving as the offensive coordinator.
    In the Canadian Bowl held in 2017 in Windsor, Ont., the Hilltops dismantled the Windsor AKO Fratmen 56-11 with Sargeant calling the offensive plays.
    Reading what you have to do on that particular day to win is one of the many factors that makes “Sarge” an all-time coaching great.
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Saturday, 11 July 2020

Age cap rule hurts U Sports football in COVID-19 times

Nick Summach (#62) leads a running play downfield for the Huskies.
    It was a tough to digest piece of news that dropped for football players in U Sports.
    On Thursday, TSN broadcaster Farhan Lalji reported over Twitter that U Sports had voted against extending the age cap rule for football by a year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That initial tweet caused a surge of stories to come out of various media outlets in the mainstream and non-mainstream.
    University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris stepped down as the head of both a university football coaches’ committee and a technical subcommittee over this move.
    Of course, this became a big story in U Sports circles, because back on June 8, U Sports cancelled all its fall national championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The football cancellation included the Vanier Cup national title game and the semifinal contests in the Mitchell Bowl and Uteck Bowl. The Vanier Cup had been contested in every year starting with 1965.
    The Reseau du sport etudiant du Quebec (RSEQ) is the only conference under the U Sports umbrella holding out hope of having a regular season in football in the 2020-21 campaign.
Colton Klassen heads up field for the Huskies.
    The Canada West Conference, Atlantic University Sport and Ontario University Athletics have all nixed plans to play regular seasons in 2020-21.
    Back on June 8, U Sports said student-athletes without U Sports national championships this season will not be charged eligibility and will remain eligible for athletic scholarships. At the time, there was no word regarding the age cap for football.
    Under the age cap rule, players who turn 25 before Sept. 1 age out of U Sports football. Football players have seven years to complete their five years of eligibility in U Sports upon graduating from high school.
    Any player who would have gone into their final year of eligibility for U Sports football in the cancelled 2020 season will see their career come to an end. According to U Sports, this affects approximately 300 out of 2,335 athletes.
    On top of that, a large number of veteran players will also lose a year of eligibility under this decision.
    While discussions have come up regarding concerns of more physically mature older athletes going up against younger not as physically mature recent high school graduates, all that talk takes away from the issue in the current day.
Yol Piok heads downfield after a big catch for the Huskies
    The athletes that are getting slighted are being slighted by a factor outside of anyone’s control in the COVID-19 pandemic.
    When U Sports does resume action after the pandemic, it will be in a rebuilding state. That goes for all sports operating under the U Sports umbrella.
    On the football side, you don’t want to be casting aside veteran players, who could help trigger name recognition whenever action resumes.
    At the moment, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team is looking at not being able to return star utility offensive player Colton Klassen, running back Jace Peters, receiver Yol Piok, offensive right tackle Nick Summach and receiver Joseph Trumpy.
    In the CFL Draft that was held on April 30, Summach was selected in seventh round and 57th overall by the Edmonton Eskimos. Klassen was picked in the eighth round and 69th overall by the Montreal Alouettes.
    All five of those players are fairly well known in the football community of Saskatoon. Klassen is one of the best known Huskies.
Jace Peters rumbles downfield on a run for the Huskies.
    Their returns to the Huskies could bridge action before and after the stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The University of Regina Rams face the same challenges on this front. They are looking to be without linebacker Cody Peters, who should be able to play one more season but is going to age out.
    Peters had a stellar five-year career winning five straight CJFL titles with the venerable Saskatoon Hilltops. He was named the CJFL’s defensive player of the year in 2018.
    Before rejoining the Hilltops for his final CJFL season 2018, Peters attended training camp for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. Following his time with the Hilltops, Peters joined the Rams.
    Peters is known in the football community in Regina and throughout Saskatchewan.
    Due to the fact there won’t be a 2020 season for U Sports football thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, some U Sports football players will be making critical life decisions about whether they will continue to play football or move on to another phase of their lives.
    For recruits that just graduated from high school and were planning to join a U Sports football team as a rookie in 2020, those recruits might ultimately decide not to play and focus on other educational or working world opportunities.
Joseph Trumpy makes a big catch for the Huskies.
    Taking a year away from playing meaningful games throws a wrench into the plans of every player. They don’t need to be given any extra incentive to not play.
    On top of all that, football is the only sport under the U Sports umbrella that has to follow an age cap rule. Just from that perspective, it would be fair to eliminate the age cap rule and make football eligibility mirror that of the other sports in U Sports.
    When these pandemic times come to an end, it is likely you won’t see the U Sports football teams filled with veterans in the starting ranks who are aged 26 and 27. That was a trend in the late 1990s and early to mid 2000s.
    This time around concern has to centre on just getting the sport of football going again just like any other sport that is governed by U Sports.

NHL will provide good distraction if show goes on, other notes

The Oilers, seen here in a 2017 pre-season game, are hub city NHL hosts.
    Fan chatter on the NHL is starting to trickle through on social media lines.
    If the circuit can execute its return to play out in two hub cities in Edmonton and Toronto, it will provide a good distraction for sports fans in Canada in these COVID-19 pandemic times.
    The NHL is resuming the paused 2019-20 campaign with a 24-team playoff tournament. Teams are slated to report for training camps on July 13.
    The post-season is scheduled to begin on Aug. 1 with five games that open five different best-of-five play-in series. A total of 16 teams are taking part in the play-in round to determine eight clubs that will advance to the main 16-team post-season bracket.
    The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have been placed in the main 16-team bracket.
    All of the post-season games will be played in Edmonton and Toronto. Both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs held off until Friday before making official announcements that their centres would indeed be hub cities.
    That development is convenient for Canadian sports networks that dump tonnes of resources into television coverage of these games.
    Those networks don’t have to fear dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic border restrictions between Canada and the United States due to all the post-season games being played in Canada.
    Over the past couple of days, you are starting to see a social media post two coming from fans who believe the team they support will win the playoff tournament and capture the Stanley Cup.
    If the playoffs can progress to crowning a Stanley Cup champion, fan chatter will likely increase to the point where you won’t know that a pandemic is indeed going on.
    If the playoff tournament gets derailed by positive COVID-19 tests that results in a team or teams dropping out or the post-season not get completed, the fans that want to watch the league for the distraction will likely just go silent.
    Critics that don’t want the NHL to jump back into action will likely become more vocal and might even gloat over the failure.
    For the moment, fans that just want to see games just to have a distraction have something to look forward to.

  • On Wednesday, Sportsnet announced it was trimming its six-stop Grand Slam of Curling circuit to just two events next season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first slam event will be the Players’ Championship set for Toronto from April 13 to 18 in 2021. The second event will be the Champions Cup set for Olds, Alta., starting on April 27, 2021 running to May 2, 2021. The Grand Slam of Curling stops are part of the World Curling Tour seasonal calendar.
  • Gregg Drinnan has been doing ace work in rounding up the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic is playing on the sports world, especially in the hard hit United States, in his Taking Note blog. His round up from Friday can be found by clicking right here, and the round up from Thursday can be found by clicking right here. The amount of positive tests, postponements and cancellations keep piling up.
  • On a sobering note, the United States has hit the point where just over one out of every 100 persons in that country has contracted COVID-19 at some point this year. At the time this post went live, the United States had 3,355,646 total COVID-19 cases this year for a country that has a population of just over 331,060,000. Worldwide deaths this year from COVID-19 at 567,628 at the time of this post have passed total deaths by suicide, which sit at 566,508.
  • While U Sports decision to hold firm on the football age cap was disappointing for many, Dick White, who is the U Sports interim Chief Executive Officer, is still the right person to lead that sports body through these trouble current pandemic days. White has a strong passion for U Sports and has experience dealing with tough financial times as the director of athletics for the University of Regina. Like most sports bodies in Canada, U Sports is in for a tough road ahead.
  • Baseball and softball got going at the house and city league levels this past week in Saskatoon. It was a great site to see various diamonds in action around the city. Many have their figures crossed that this great development continues.
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Thursday, 9 July 2020

Fun with photos

Garth Knittig (#59) dives in for a TD for the Hilltops.
    Defensive lineman touchdowns always make great photos.
    Anyway how saw big old Garth Knittig fly through the air like a bird in the 2017 PFC final for the Saskatoon Hilltops would know that was true. 
    The defensive tackle, who was dubbed “the Delisle Destroyer,” looked like a stout thick building standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 285 pounds getting some serious air time taking the ball on a short-yardage plunge and diving in over top of the Regina Thunder defence from a yard out.
    Knittig’s score came with 96 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and it put the Hilltops up 36-24 over the Thunder. The score would be cemented as the final outcome of the contest at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on Oct. 22, 2017.
    Before Knittig’s touchdown, the Hilltops were holding on to a 29-24 lead against their Regina rivals late in the fourth quarter and wanted to ensure the Thunder didn’t have a chance to pull out any last minute heroics.
    On Knittig’s goal-line short-yardage score, he actually wasn’t supposed to get the ball. He was in the Hilltops short-yardage offensive package to be a blocking fullback.
    Hilltops star quarterback Jordan Walls didn’t hear the play call correctly and was supposed to hand off to a regular ball carrier. He also didn’t question what he heard, because Knittig was a strong, tough and hard-working defensive tackle.
    Everyone in the Hilltops huddle would have been in favour of getting Knittig into the end zone. Little did anyone know, Knittig could run the one-yard dive play as well as Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen, who was an all-time NFL great with the Los Angeles version of the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Garth Knittig gets set on defence in the 2017 PFC final.
    After that win, the Hilltops advanced on to win a fourth straight CJFL title.
    The image of Knittig’s score in that PFC final is one of the many photos I have captured over the years I enjoy looking at. Since I started this blog in late August of 2014, readers have constantly said they like the photos I have posted.
    Readers might not always like what I have to write, but I don’t think I have ever received a bad word regarding a picture I have posted. Most of those pictures have been from sports events that I have covered.
    Actually, I have usually received great feedback from my picture taking at sporting events. The first photos I ever took came from the second school year I worked at the University of Regina student news paper, The Carillon, in 1997-98.
    I shot a tonne of photos during my time at the Prince Albert Daily Herald from 2001 to 2004.
    I then went through a period of time where I didn’t shoot extensively. When I joined the Medicine Hat News in September of 2004, I was brought on to be a WHL beat writer that covered the Medicine Hat Tigers.
    While I did write about other sports, my main focus was on the Tigers and stories on the WHL league front.
    When I first got to the news, we had a deep editorial staff with three talented photographers. I wasn’t needed to fill that role.
The Hilltops celebrate winning the PFC title in 2017.
    During my time there, the News was sold to Glacier Media and the budget cut era began to take hold at that outlet. I took up shooting photos once again during the 2010-11 hockey season and have kept doing that craft since then.
    I actually like shooting photos more than I do writing.
    During these days that pass under the cloud of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it seems doom and gloom can overcome life.
    I figured I would share 10 more photos in no particular order I have taken over the years that look cool. I saw on my Instagram account I have posted at the moment 1,299 photos I have taken that I really like.
    That volume makes it hard to cut down to a handful of favourities. I figured this could be a fun post I could do on continuing basis even after the pandemic ends.
    With all that said, I hope you enjoy the first batch of photos I have collected for this post. 

Hannoun’s Game 7 OT winner gives WHL title to Raiders

    This will go down as the most iconic photo I have ever taken.
    Overage centre Dante Hannoun (#17) reacts to scoring the overtime winner for the Prince Albert Raiders in Game 7 of the WHL Championship series played on May 13, 2019 at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.
    Hannoun’s goal gave the Raiders a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants. It also gave the defining moment in the history of the Raiders legendary home rink in the Art Hauser Centre.

Rams’ Hughes the Huskies in the dust

    University of Regina Rams running back Neal Hughes was one of that program’s all-time top playmakers before going on to a 10-year CFL career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
    Before he won two Grey Cup rings with the Roughriders, Hughes blasts away from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies defence in this photo take on Sept. 15, 2001. He ran the ball 17 times for 141 yards and scored two touchdowns and caught six passes for 80 yards and a major score.
    The Rams won the Hall of Fame game 31-21 before 7,238 spectators on the frozen concrete of Taylor Field.

Smith’s joyful Ruthy moment with Huskies

    Chloe Smith only played two seasons for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, but that was enough time to carve out a memorable moment.
    In this photo taken on Feb. 24, 2018, Smith (centre) celebrates scoring the winning goal for the Huskies who downed the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 2-1 in Game 2 of a Canada West semifinal series. She was in her rookie season with the Huskies when she scored this goal.
    The win allowed the Huskies to sweep the best-of-three series 2-0.
    Smith’s tally goes down as the final U Sports women’s playoff series winner scored at the ancient Rutherford Rink.

Shirley so good at age 15 with Stars

    So good, so young.
    Sophie Shirley is pictured in action here for the Saskatoon Stars at age 15 during a Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League semifinal series against the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at the Agriplace Arena.
    At the time standing just 5-foot-4, Shirley weaved her magic piling up 12 goals and 12 assists helping the Stars win all nine of their league playoff games in 2015 and capture their first Fedoruk Cup as SFU18AAAHL champions.
    She finished second SFU18AAAHL regular season scoring with 22 goals and 17 assists in 27 games.
    Now standing 5-foot-9, Shirley is a star centre with the University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team and a member of Canada national women’s development team. She helped the Badgers win an NCAA national title in 2019 and has a decorated list of accomplishments in hockey having just turned 21-years-old.

Huskies’ Machart follows Riley to the end zone

    Running back Adam Machart rocked and rolled for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in 2019.
    In this picture taken on Sept. 6, 2019, Marchart follows the block of left guard Mattland Riley in the Huskies homecoming game against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at Griffiths Stadium.
    Machart had a big night carrying the ball 15 times for 134 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He caught an additional five passes for 39 yards in a 40-7 Huskies victory before 6,278 spectators.
    That was the beginning of a huge campaign for Machart. He set a new Huskies team record for most rushing yards in a season piling up 1,330 yards on 156 carries, where he scored eight touchdowns.
    Machart also caught 20 passes for 204 yards and scored three majors through the air. His 1,534 all-purpose yards were a new Huskies team record for one regular season.
    Riley would be selected in the first round and seventh overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL Draft held this past April 30.

Cornwall blows roof of SaskTel Centre for Rush

    Jeff Cornwall gave the Saskatchewan Rush a dream finish to their first campaign playing out of the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
    On June 4, 2016, Cornwall, who is a Rush defender, scored a on a coast-to-coast rush with 12 seconds to play in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie with the Buffalo Bandits and put the Rush ahead 11-10 sending 15,182 spectators into delirium. That 11-10 score held up as the final in Game 2 of the National Lacrosse League Championship Series.
    The Rush swept the best-of-three set 2-0 to capture their second NLL title in team history. Their first came the previous season in what was their final campaign based in Edmonton.
    This photo shows the Cornwall (centre in front) celebrating his winning goal in 2016. I like the zoomed out photos of this moment the best, because they show how crazy the SaskTel Centre crowd was.

Moskaluke performs on Canada in 2017

    Just to show I can take pictures of happenings outside of the sports world, I had to throw in this picture of Jess Moskaluke.
    In this picture, Moskaluke is performing at Diefenbaker Park in Saskatoon on Canada Day of 2017. I guess it wouldn’t be much of an admission to say I love taking pictures of Jess Moskaluke performing in concert.
    I’ve only done that twice in my life. I hope I will have another opportunity to take pictures of her in action in the future.
    She has quite the stage presence, and of course, a fantastic singing voice.

Steel’s all-heart goal celebration for the Pats

    Sam Steel represented everything that was good about the WHL’s Regina Pats.
    The star centre gave his heart and soul to the historic major junior team every time he stepped on the ice.
    This picture was taken on April 17, 2017, and it was of Steel’s celebration in scoring the Pats first goal in a series deciding Game 7 of a second round playoff series against the Swift Current Broncos.      This picture shows Steel was locked into performing heroics with the Pats.
    He finished the night with two goals in a 5-1 Pats victory. The Pats trailed in the series 3-1 before pulling out three straight wins to take the set.
    It still marks the only time in the post-season the Pats have rallied back to win a series in which they trailed 3-1.

Caller versus Loewen

    This at the moment goes down as my best photo from a hockey fight, but the fight actually wasn’t as good as the photo was.
    On Dec. 9, 2017, the Saskatoon Blades hosted the Kamloops Blazers in a WHL regular season game at the SaskTel Centre. At the 11:45 mark of the first period, Blades 18-year-old defenceman Jackson Caller fought Blazers powerhouse 19-year-old left-winger Jermaine Loewen.
    Moments before this fight, Loewen had driven Caller’s defensive partner, Evan Fiala, hard into the boards.
    Caller, who stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 189 pounds, hung in a little bit with Loewen, who stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 221 pounds. Loewen overpowered Caller and won the fight without dispute.
    The fight was one-sided, but an early still made the bout look more competitive than it was. The Blazers took the game 4-1.

Willoughby plays hero for Huskies

    Kaitlin Willoughby had a number of big moments for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, but one picture I took of her goes down as an all-time classic.
    This photo taken on Jan. 21, 2017 shows Willoughby celebrating her overtime winner that gave the Huskies a 5-4 victory over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a U Sports regular season game at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    Willoughby’s tally was a highlight reel one that saw her speed down the left wing in the Thunderbirds zone, cut to the net and snipe the winner top corner past diving Thunderbirds defender Kelly Murray and netminder Amelia Boughn.
    Willoughby, who was in her fourth season with the U of S at the time of this photo, finished as the Huskies second all-time leading scorer with 50 goals and 61 assists for 111 points in 132 regular season games.

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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, 4 July 2020

Missing Jazz Fest, still haven’t enjoyed all that has reopened

A street performer at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in 2012.
    Weird realizations seem to come out of the blue during these coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic times.
    Having passed through downtown Saskatoon over the past week, it popped into my head that the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival should have been going on. Of course, it was announced way back in April the Jazz Festival had been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Still, the clock in my mind went off that this should have been going on. The Jazz Festival usually runs during the final full week of June and might run for about the first two to three days in July.
    While my main interests usually revolve around the sports world, the Jazz Festival usually provides the opportunity for me to enjoy something different. I enjoy wandering through downtown and checking out the corner musical acts that seem to pop up everywhere.
    I will usually bike from my home to the free stage for at least one night to see what is taking place there.
A guitar player on the street at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in 2012.
    The organizers tried to push the Jazz Festival back to where it would have opened on Friday and ran through to July 12 before the conditions of the pandemic forced an indefinite postponement.
    Even today when I was biking on the Meewasin Trail pointed towards downtown Saskatoon, I thought it would be great if I could check out some of the sites from the Jazz Festival.
    Another thought proceeded to pop into my head at that time. I thought it would be great to go to a play put on by Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan.
    Back in April, it was announced the program for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Believe it or not, I have gone to Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan performances in past summers. I saw Romeo and Juliet in the summer of 2014, and I took in Hamlet in the summer of 2018.
    Both were really good, and it felt good seeing those plays in the quaint tent setting. In my drives past the festival site, it appears construction is proceeding well for the permanent buildings that are going up there.
    The COVID-19 pandemic prevented The Pride Parade from going ahead in Saskatoon in June in a live format. 
The free stage at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in 2012.
    I’ve taken pictures of The Pride Parade on a couple of occasions, and I’ve always felt happy seeing the joy and the colour in those photos.
    With the reopening that has taken place in Saskatchewan since May 4, I haven’t taken advantage of everything the reopening has offered.
    I am not staying away due to fears of COVID-19. I have found I have grown accustomed to being a home bug.
    Currently, you can go into a coffee shop and sit in the dining area, which you couldn’t do for an extended time.
    I often frequented the Starbucks at Preston Crossing just north of the University of Saskatchewan to work on writing projects. Many posts for this blog have been written there.
    I last sat and wrote at Starbucks back on March 15. With the shutdowns that occurred, I have gotten used to working at home.
    I just can’t get on the horse of going to sit and work in a coffee shop again.
    I do have an office to go to in order to perform my duties, when I work as the communications coordinator for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
People march in the Pride Parade in 2015.
    It took work on my part in the middle of June to make it a habit to go into that office.
    I haven’t gone in to dine in a nice restaurant of a fast food restaurant. During the time heavy shutdowns were in place, I got used to ordering take out from those places.
    I didn’t frequented those places for takeout that much, but ordering takeout and eating food in front of the television at home has become the habit.
    The Great Canadian Brewhouse near my place in the north end of Saskatoon is open again, and usually its parking lot has been full of cars on a nightly basis. I keep asking myself if I want to pop in for a beer.
    I haven’t downed an alcoholic beverage at an establishment since going for a night out on March 14. I also want to pop in to Outlaws for a barbecued burger and a beer. While it is best known as a nightclub, the barbecued burgers there are good.
    I don’t believe the dance floor is open there, but I would like to go to Outlaws to see the staff I know there too.
One of the floats from the Pride Parade in 2015.
    My habit on Friday and Saturday nights have become watching movies or old TV shows I find on Youtube that I watched in my youth. If I want to drink a beer, I usually drink one or two before going to bed on a Friday or Saturday night.
    That has become my habit, and I find the urge to go out disappears as fast as it arrives.
    Before the pandemic, I would also go out to workout at a gym or fitness centre, when I want to switch things up and be around people. I’ve gotten so used to working out at home that I can’t find the urge to go to a gym.
Working out at home has become my habit.
    I wonder what it will be like to go to a live competitive sports event again in person. I haven’t done that for 114 days dating back to March 12, and sometimes I wonder if I will do that again.
    As these pandemic times go on, I wonder what other out of the blue things I will find I am missing. I wonder if I will discover changes in other small habits I used to have.

Winterhawks name may live on, other notes

Jaydon Dureau, front left, and Haydn Delorme are wrapped in star blankets. 
    It is highly possible Portland’s WHL franchise will continue to use the Winterhawks nickname.
    The nicknames for sports teams once again came under fire this week when news surfaced on Thursday that FedEx asked the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name. FedEx is a major sponsor of the team and the Washington NFL’s club’s home park is called FedExField.
    Since the early 1990s, the Redskins nickname has come under fire for being racially insensitive, and there have been calls to remove all nicknames of sports teams that are viewed as not being sound racially. The large majority of these cases involve nicknames that are linked to First Nations.
    Questions of addressing racism have found new momentum in the world following the endless protests that have occurred throughout the world due to the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25. All the soul searching is a good thing.
    In the WHL, I believe there is a good chance the Winterhawks nickname will live on.
    Back on Jan 12, 2019, the Saskatoon Blades were holding their annual First Nations Night contest as the SaskTel Centre, and the visiting Winterhawks were the opponents.
Fred Sasakamoose performs a ceremonial faceoff.
    Portland’s roster that night contained forwards Haydn Delorme and Jaydon Dureau, who are both members of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation in northwest Saskatchewan.
    Members of First Nations communities from Saskatoon and the surrounding area put together a warm and a cool culturally focused pre-game show. During that show, the blanket ceremony was performed for Delorme and Dureau, where both players had blankets wrapped around them by First Nations elders.
    They were given star blankets to honour their journey and dedication in sport.
    Fred Sasakamoose, who was the first player of First Nations descent to play in the NHL, was one of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation elders that took part in the ceremony and wrapped blankets around Delorme and Dureau.
    Sasakamoose wore his jersey from his old NHL club, the Chicago Blackhawks, while taking part in the festivities. Actually, it is common for Sasakamoose to where his Blackhawks jersey for public appearances at sporting events.
The Winterhawks red jerseys are one of the best looking in the sports world.
    During the pre-game festivities that night, the First Nations leaders spoke to the crowd about how proud they were of the Winterhawks for how well they carried First Nations colours.
    Of course, the Winterhawks jersey design comes from the NHL’s Blackhawks. A number of First Nations community hockey teams across Canada also use the Blackhawks nickname and jersey design.
    As a side bonus, the Blackhawks and Winterhawks red jerseys are arguably one of the best looking uniforms in the entire sports world.
    The pre-game festivities from that night at the SaskTel Centre were covered in the Eagle Feather News, which is a First Nations media publication.
    Due to the fact the NHL’s Blackhawks and WHL’s Winterhawks have had First Nations players on their rosters and have had a positive identification on that front, there is a good chance those nicknames will continue to be used by those clubs.

  • On Wednesday, there were numerous reports from media outlets in the United States that the NFL was planning to reduce the number of pre-season games each team plays from four to two due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If each team plays two pre-season games, that would cut the schedule of the entire NFL pre-season in half.
  • On Thursday, the junior A Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League hired Daniel Wapple as the club’s new goaltending coach. Wapple has been a goaltender skills instructor for the past five seasons and resides in Regina. The Saskatoon product played goal in the WHL for four seasons from 2012 to 2016 with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Medicine Hat Tigers, Regina Pats and Vancouver Giants. He finished the 2015-16 campaign in the junior A ranks with the Estevan Bruins. Wapple played one season in the U Sports ranks with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team in 2016-17.
  • On Friday, the Saskatchewan Soccer Association cancelled all of its outdoor provincial champions, the Provincial Soccer League and Soccer Day in Saskatchewan in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back on June 23, Soccer Canada cancelled its national club championships slated for Oct. 7 to 12 in Halifax, N.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On Friday, Hockey Canada announced the 2020 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge slated for Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 in Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I., has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Reconnecting for training helps mental health for sports world

Huskies DT Evan Machibroda pressures and opposing quarterback.
    It is safe to say those in the sports community aren’t taking for granted the chance to get out and train in the current day.
    Of course, athletes all over North America had to go through a lengthy stretch of not being able to train together due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In North America, massive shutdowns took place from March 11 to 13.
    When those shutdowns took effect, athletes and those in the general public who wanted to stay in shape had to find ways to do workouts and exercise on their own.
    In most places in North America, reopening plans started taking shape throughout May.
    In Saskatchewan, athletes and those in the general public looking to stay in shape have been able to train together at gyms and fitness centres since Phase 3 of the provinces reopening plan took place on June 8.
    Since June 8, further restrictions have been lifted in Saskatchewan, but life hasn’t returned to what it was before the shutdowns occurred due to COVID-19.
    Still, some sports like golf have been able to once again hold competitive events in Saskatchewan.      The sports of softball and baseball are expecting to start playing games at the house and city league levels in a matter of days.
    While there hasn’t been a lot of mingling at training centres, those attending sessions at training centres are visibly happy when they get to see others they haven’t seen for sometime due to the lockdown.
David Solie (#15) boots a field goal for the Huskies.
    A number of the athletes have jobs in the working world. In these present days, these athletes go through long stretches where they just see people from their work environments.
    When gyms and fitness centres opened up, those athletes had an avenue to see people outside of their work worlds.
    I’ve seen that play out first hand, when I wear my hat working as the communications coordinator at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. I’ve seen athletes from various sporting communities usually take part in workouts with Ignite Athletes with a little extra jump in their steps.
    The majority that I know come from the football world.
    From the U Sports world, one of the first persons I saw on the grounds was University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team kicker David Solie. When Solie saw me, he smiled.
    When we got talking, he said he was happy to get out of his house after being cooped up for so long.
    He works as one of the staffers at the complex too, but you could tell he had a new appreciation for being able to get out and about.
    I saw Brant Morrow, who is a defensive back for the six-time defending CJFL champion Saskatoon Hilltops, shortly after June 8 passed and had a catch up chat with him. He appeared really happy to see familiar faces again.
    One of the best visits I had was a chance encounter with Huskies offensive utility player Colton Klassen and now graduated Huskies defensive tackle Evan Machibroda at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
Ryder Klisowsky (#61) locks up on a block for the Hilltops.
    Klassen was selected by the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL Draft held on April 30. Machibroda was selected by the Edmonton Eskimos in the 2019 CFL Draft and signed a contract with the club from the Alberta capital on Jan. 28.
    Both are training and staying ready for a CFL season they hope takes place in 2020. We hung out for about 20 minutes catching up and telling all sorts of old stories.
    I also crossed paths with now graduated Saskatoon Hilltops left guard Ryder Klisowsky. Klisowsky is training to join the University of Manitoba Bisons football team for the 2021 U Sports season since the 2020 U Sports football campaign was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    He admitted he was happy to see familiar faces, when he went out to train.
    While most sports are still trying to navigate a return to play, it can’t be understated how much of a breath of fresh air it is to go out and train.
    For athletes, a new appreciation appears to have been built for that aspect of their lives.

Andrews departs as Pats play-by-play voice, other notes

    Phil Andrews’ successor is going to have monster shoes to fill as the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Regina Pats.
    On Monday, Andrews resigned his posts as the Pats play-by-play voice and director of media and communications effective July 31, 2020. Andrews has been the Pats play-by-play voice for the past nine seasons and added the role of director of media and communications in 2016.
    The 31-year-old had quite the run as the Pats play-by-play voice. Andrews called the rise of the great Pats teams that had the likes of Adam Brooks, Sam Steel, Austin Wagner, Connor Hobbs, Jake Leschyshyn, Nick Henry, Robbie Holmes, Chase Harrison, Josh Mahura and Tyler Brown.
Adam Brooks had lots of highlight moments called by Phil Andrews.
    That group came up under the guidance of head coach and general manager John Paddock, who shed the head coach role before the start of the 2018-19 campaign, and assistant coach and assistant general manager Dave Struch, who became the head coach and assistant general manager before the 2018-19 season.
    Andrews called games with professionalism, class and flair. He saw the Pats win first round playoff series in 2015 and 2016.
    The 2016 post-season saw the Pats fall 2-1 in a series deciding Game 7 to the Rebels in Red Deer in the second round. At the time, the Pats hadn’t played in a WHL final semifinal series since 1993 and were heartbreakingly close when they bowed out to the Rebels.
    That set the stage for the Pats to top the WHL in 2016-17 with a 52-12-7-1 record. In the 2017 playoffs, the Pats advanced all the way to the WHL final for the first time since 1984.
    They fell in the 2017 WHL final to the Seattle Thunderbirds, where the Thunderbirds closed out the series with a 4-3 win in overtime in Game 6 played at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
    In May of 2018, the Pats hosted the CHL championship tournament – the Memorial Cup. The Pats made the final of the 100th edition of the Memorial Cup falling 3-0 to Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan, who are based out of Bathurst, New Brunswick.
    Over all that time, Andrews became engrained as the Pats play-by-play voice making iconic calls of big plays made by Brooks, Steel, Hobbs, Brown and company.
Sam Steel seemed larger than life thanks to Phil Andrews calls.
    Anytime you saw the Pats stars making a highlight, you could hear Andrews’ voice.
    It was a cool development considering Andrews grew up in Saskatoon. A lot of fans of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades hate the Pats more than any other team in the league including the Blades archrivals the Prince Albert Raiders.
    Combining Andrews’ talent and his relative youth, I felt he would be the one guy out of all the current WHL play-by-play voices who would find his way into being the play-by-play voice of an NHL team.
    Andrews said the time has come to be more present with his wife, Megan, and their three children. Phil mentioned over Twitter they would be returning to Saskatoon.
    Andrews will be a winner in life no matter what he does. The impact he made calling plays for the world’s oldest major junior team in the Pats, whose history dates back to 1917, will not be forgotten in “The Queen City.”

  • Last Saturday, the MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates signed right-handed pitcher and Muenster, Sask., product Logan Hofmann to a rookie contract. The Pirates selected Hofmann in the fifth round and 138th overall in the MLB Draft held on June 11.
  • In the CHL Import Draft held on Tuesday, the Prince Albert Raiders selected forward Uladzislau Shyla from Minsk, Belarus, in the first round and 45th overall. The 17-year-old, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 147 pounds, had 10 goals and nine assists in 55 games for Belarus’s under-18 team. With the selection of Shyla, the Raiders released 19-year-old Belarusian centre Daniil Stepanov on Tuesday. Stepanov had six goals and five assists in 49 games last season split between the Raiders and Moose Jaw Warriors.
  • In the CHL Import Draft held on Tuesday, the Saskatoon Blades picked centre Brad Lambert from Lahti, Finland, in the first round and 33rd overall. Lambert, who will turn 17-years-old in December, picked up 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points in 42 games last season with the HIFK Helsinki-U20 team. Lambert, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 172 pounds, did spend some years growing up in Saskatoon before his family relocated to Finland for the start of the 2017-18 season.
  • The North Bay Battalion of the OHL had the first overall selection in Tuesday’s CHL Import Draft. The Battalion used that pick to take winger Matvei Petrov from Moscow, Russia. The 17-year-old, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 163 pounds, had five goals and four assists in 21 games with MHK Krylia Sovetov from Russia’s top junior circuit.
  • On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Rush defender Kyle Rubisch was named a first team National Lacrosse League all-star. In the Rush’s 10 games last season, Rubisch had two goals and six assists.
  • The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame located in Regina is targeting to open on Sept. 1. The museum is undergoing renovations which were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Museums were allowed to reopen in Saskatchewan on Monday according to the province’s reopening plan.
  • With how the number of cases of COVID-19 have spiked in the United States, people in Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan might feel better about the decision that the Merlis Belsher Place hockey rink facility on the University of Saskatchewan grounds is a field hospital in waiting. The Merlis Belsher Place field hospital in waiting might be termed a “Linus blanket” field hospital in waiting as everyone hopes it never needs to be used for that purpose.
  • It was 10 years ago today the Saskatchewan Roughriders downed the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes 54-51 in double overtime as both teams opened their respective 2010 CFL regular season schedules. Roughriders star quarterback Darian Durant connected with star receiver Weston Dressler on a three-yard touchdown pass for the winning score on Saskatchewan’s second overtime possession. A sellout crowd of 30,048 spectators at Regina’s historic Taylor Field celebrated in raucous style after Dressler’s winning score. Seems weird to think it has been a decade since that all-time CFL classic contest was played.  
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Saturday, 27 June 2020

Contacts’ Korchinski making waves in hockey

Kevin Korchinski in action for the Contacts last season.
    You can add Hockey Canada prospect to the list of accomplishments of young Saskatoon product Kevin Korchinski.
    The 16-year-old from the Saskatoon Contacts under-18 hockey team has come up thought the game as an offensive-defenceman. As a result of having the skill set to play that role, Korchinski will be a sought after addition at the highest levels of hockey.
    After collecting 10 goals and 37 assists in 31 regular season games with the Saskatoon Generals under-15 club in the 2018-19 campaign, Korchinski found a WHL home being selected by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round and 10th overall in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
    He proceeded to play his 15-year-old season with the Contacts as a rookie in Saskatchewan’s under-18 AAA hockey league. Korchinski posted seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points in 41 regular season games.
    He helped the Contacts finish third overall in the Saskatchewan under-18 AAA league with a 30-12-2 record. The Contacts swept the Prince Albert Mintos in a best-of-five league quarter-final series 3-0.
    Saskatoon proceeded to be swept by the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-0 in a best-of-five league semifinal series. The rest of the under-18 AAA playoffs were cancelled nationally on March 13 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    Korchinski appeared in one WHL regular season game with the Thunderbirds in Seattle on Nov. 16, 2019. 
Kevin Korchinski put up 26 points with the Contacts last season.
    He posted a minus-two rating in the plus-minus department as the Thunderbirds downed the Portland Winterhawks 5-4 after a tiebreaking shootout.
    On Wednesday, Korchinski, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 154 pounds, found out he was one of 113 players named to Hockey Canada’s virtual under-17 development camp, which runs July 19-25.
    The players who are selected for this camp are on Hockey Canada’s radar to be placed on one of the three teams the sport body sends to World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. At the moment, the upcoming World Under-17 Hockey Challenge is slated for Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 for Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I., depending how the world situation unfolds related to COVID-19.
    While Korchinski won’t get to compete in a live camp, the fact he picked up this camp selection is a result of all the hard work he has put in through this point in his career. He has gotten to this point with little fanfare outside of folks in personnel departments from WHL teams.
    With all that noted, Korchinski has the making to be one of those players you hear about in the game for some time to come.
    Overall, Korchinski was one of six Saskatchewan product invited to Hockey Canada’s virtual under-17 camp. Weyburn product Dylan Ernst, who is a Warriors under-18 goalie, will also take part in that virtual event.
Kevin Korchinski will participate in a virtual Hockey Canada camp.
    Defencemen Hunter Mayo and Kalem Parker, who both played for the Saskatoon Blazers under-18 AAA team, are both tabbed for the virtual camp. Mayo is from Martensville, and Parker is from Clavet.
    Parker’s older sister, Mackenna, was a former member of Canada’s under-18 women’s national team.
    Regina product Kyren Gronick, who played for his hometown Pat Canadians under-18 AAA team, and Delisle product Jhett Larson, who played for the Notre Dame Hounds under-18 AAA team, cracked the virtual camp invite list at forward.
    Niall Crocker, who is prospect forward for the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, and Brandon Lisowsky, who is a prospect forward for the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, earned virtual camp invites too.
    For Korchinski and the rest of those young players, the under-17 virtual camp invite by Hockey Canada is likely just the next step towards making their biggest strides in the game.

Meaningful games mark real return for a sport, other notes

Who knows when Cody Fajardo (#7) and the Roughriders will play again.
    When sport jumps into action for real, its return should considered real at that point in time.
    That means the sport has to be engaged in regular season or post-season action, where a championship is on the line.
    At the moment in North America, that would mean the NASCAR Cup Series, UFC and PGA can be officially returned to action during these COVID-19 pandemic times.
    The COVID-19 pandemic created massive shutdowns in the sports world in North America starting on March 11, when the NBA paused its season.
    Besides the NASCAR Cup Series, UFC and PGA actually getting into action, there have been a lot planning for other circuits to get back into action. The NHL, NBA and MLB have cemented return to play plans that are slated to be executed in late July or early August.
    Until any of these leagues actually have teams participate in a meaningful game, you can’t say those circuits are officially back in action.
    The same goes for any sports league in Canada. That goes for the CFL, CHL, U Sports, CJFL or any minor sports.
    As far as the CFL is concerned, you wonder if it will return. On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are the flagship franchise of the circuit, announced they have $7.6-million in reserves and a stabilization fund, but all of that money is projected to be depleted by late fall.
    The Roughriders are projecting a loss of $10-million for 2020-21 fiscal year if the 2020 CFL regular season and playoffs for that year are indeed wiped out. The club posted a loss of $210,064 for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which included the club contributing just over $670,000 to the CFL for the management of the Montreal Alouettes.
    In Saskatchewan, minor baseball and softball games are planned for July. Until they play meaningful regular season games, those sports can’t be considered returned.
The return of Nolan Maier and the Saskatoon Blades is uncertain.
    Golf in Saskatchewan could be declared as returned as a Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour event was held Friday and Saturday at the Elmwood Golf Club in Swift Current.
    Still, there are no certainties on how sports will progress in Canada and North America. Over the past two weeks, it seems there have been a constant barraged of reports coming out of the United States of athletes testing positive for COVID-19.
    On Friday, the United States confirmed a record daily high for new COVID-19 cases at about 45,300. On Saturday, the state of Florida recorded a record of 9,585 new COVID-19 cases, which is a record for the state in a 24-hour period.
    Florida’s old record of 8,942 new COVID-19 cases was actually set one day earlier on Friday.
    Even the most powerful professional league in North America in the NFL showed cracks in its defiance of COVID-19 this week. NFL officials had given the impression the circuit would play a regular season that is close to normal.
    On Thursday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame cancelled the Hall of Fame Game set for Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, that was to feature the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony set for Aug. 8 has been postponed until August of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    That might foreshadow a sign of things to come for the NFL.
    The COVID-19 case spikes in the United States offers further confirmation how contagious the virus can be.
    In Canada where there has been a total of just over 103,000 COVID-19 cases so far this year, there seems to be a more general feeling that Canadian government and medical health officials are doing a better job of handling the pandemic than officials in the United States are.
    In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab, who is Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, should be praised for their work. As of Saturday, there were just 103 active cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.
Will Rylan Kleiter, left, and the Saskatoon Hilltops play in 2020?
    While some have worried Saskatchewan’s re-opening plan hasn’t gone fast enough, Saskatchewan was the first province to come out with a plan, and those in charge have stuck to their plan in following through on it.
    In comparison to the United States, Saskatchewan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been at an all-star level as events have unfolded. If there were doubts about this in early June, they have likely been erased now.
    Still looking at what is happening in the United States, you can expect that will cause more caution to be used regarding when various sports teams, leagues and minor sports bodies will return to play in Canada.
    At the moment, it appears caution is definitely the best course of action.
  • On Tuesday, the Government of Saskatchewan announced contact sports were allowed in the province and spectators are allowed at sports games as long as they following physical distancing measures. Only outdoor sports facilities are permitted to be in action at the current time.
  • On Wednesday, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 2020 class of inductees. They include players Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Doug Wilson. Ken Holland, who is a long time NHL executive and current Edmonton Oilers general manager, is going in as a builder.
  • Theoren Fleury wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Here is hoping the retired star right-winger from the NHL’s Calgary Flames will crack into the Hall, because he has a lengthy list of accomplishments in the game and his journey of perseverance on the mental health front has been incredible.
  • Gregg Drinnan has been tracking the fallout from the lawsuit filed by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor against the CHL alleging various forms of abuse during their major junior careers. They are hoping to have the lawsuit certified as class-action. Drinnan rounded up various developments on that front in his Taking Note blog that can be found right here.
  • The 2020 Canadian Final Rodeo slated for Nov. 3 to 8 in Red Deer, Alta., has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On Friday, the Medicine Hat Cubs junior B hockey team announced it will not play in the 2020-21 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic and diminishing sponsorship revenues. The Cubs play out of the Heritage Junior Hockey League in Alberta.
  • On Friday, the Saskatoon Blades hired Jeff Harvey as their new goaltending coach. The 37-year-old played goal in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice, Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips from 2000 to 2004. Harvey suited up for five seasons in the U Sports ranks with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team from 2005 to 2010. Harvey replaces retired NHL goalie in 52-year-old Tim Cheveldae as the Blades goaltending coach.

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