WHL

A 2020-21 W-H-L Season…Glass Half-Full or Glass Half-Empty?

 

I’m not a very superstitious guy, but, “Friday the 13th” has become a day where I’d like to stay in bed and wait it out!

The last, “Friday the 13th” had me wake up in a hotel room in my hometown of Winnipeg…

…with a very empty feeling!

The day before, COVID-19 stripped me… and thousands of other people with a vested or casual interest… of the 2019-20 Western Hockey League season. At the time, many of those thousands were hopeful that the suspension of play would be short and that the rest of the regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup would be held.

As I boarded the Prince Albert Northern bus to join the rest of the Blades’ traveling party for the nine-hour or so ride back to Saskatoon, my empty feeling continued…telling me that “-30-“ had been written to the campaign, which turned out to be the case!

Nearly four months later, the WHL bravely talks about starting the 2020-21 regular-season on October 2nd. As much as I want to be a “glass-half-full”, positive person, I’m not sure I’ll be doing what I love to do most in my professional life on the next, “Friday the 13th”… which happens to be in November!

I’m heartened by the fact the WHL has a tentative schedule ready to go. I’ve seen a draft of it and I’m excited. I like what I hear from some of my “spies” around the league and what is going on in some of the markets… season tickets are being sold and corporate sponsorships (rink boards, etc.) are being peddled.

It’s almost as if it’s business as usual!

That’s not the case everywhere because skepticism exists with some teams… and you can’t blame them for that. Look at the situation as it exists today…

-Daily infections of the novel coronavirus continue to be tallied and updated in each of the WHL’s six provinces and/or states.

-Each of the six jurisdictions is in a different and varying mode of re-opening their economies.

Until such time that “The COVID Curve” can be flattened everywhere, that herd immunity exists or…somehow… a vaccine has been created and is readily available to everyone, it’s hard to imagine the WHL being operational!

I hope I’m wrong!!

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The above mini-editorial helps herald my return to DUBNetwork as a regular, weekly contributor. Since I live and work in Saskatoon and do play-by-play of Blades’ games, I will keep readers updated with happenings involving the “Bridge City Bunch.” Following is a chronological account of what has gone on with the team over the last month…

June 16: Blades’ head coach Mitch Love was named an assistant coach for Canada’s Under-20 IIHF World Junior Championship team for a second straight year. Hockey Canada made that announcement, in addition to naming the 41-man summer development camp roster. The summer development camp will be held July 27- 31 by virtual means. Love, who is going into his third season as bench boss of the Bridge City Bunch, was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning team this past January in the Czech Republic… as was Andre Tourigny, who will move up to head coach from assistant for the 2021 event, starting Boxing Day in Edmonton and Red Deer.

June 24: Hockey Canada invited 113 players to the National Under-17 virtual development camp. That included Blue and Gold forward prospect Brandon Lisowsky. Unfortunately, the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, scheduled for November in Prince Edward Island, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lisowsky is a Port Coquitlam, BC, product who was selected in the first round, ninth overall, of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft

June 26: Former U of Saskatchewan Huskies and WHL puck stopper Jeff Harvey is the Blades’ new Goaltending Coach. The St. Albert, Alberta product takes over from veteran Tim Cheveldae after he parted ways with the Blue and Gold just before the 2019-20 season was suspended and ultimately canceled. The 37-year-old Harvey was, also, a former teammate of Bridge City Bunch head coach Mitch Love in the WHL with Everett and Swift Current.

June 30: A Finnish-born forward with a North American name and ties to Saskatoon is Blades’ property following the CHL Import Draft. The Bridge City Bunch selected Brad Lambert with the 33rd overall pick. The 16-year-old son of former Blue and Gold forward Ross Lambert was born in Finland and is a highly-regarded prospect for the 2022 NHL Draft. He is signed to play in the Finnish junior and men’s leagues this season, but he did suit up for the Under-15 Saskatoon Generals AA team in 2015-16. The Blades have Slovak forward Martin Fasko-Rudas and Czech defenceman Radek Kucerik committed to returning to Saskatoon whenever the next season starts.

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My weekly WHL thoughts, updates on the Saskatoon Blades and other teams that my “spies” fill me in on will be posted here every Monday or Tuesday!

Les Lazaruk,

Saskatoon Blades Play-by-Play

Sports Director, Saskatoon Media Group

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