F Dane Byers (Prince Albert, 2002-06) signed a tryout contract until Oct. 10 with Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). Last season, with the Hershey Bears (AHL), he had seven goals and 12 assists in 43 games. He was the team captain. . . . The contract with Ilves Tampere turns into a one-year contract on Oct. 10th if Byers is still with the team.
A few weeks ago, Richard Doerksen, the WHL’s vice-president, hockey, asked if I would participate in a project that would result in the league selecting the top 50 players in its history.
He was putting together a committee that also would include Norm Dueck, Peter Loubardias, Bob Ridley, Dan Russell, Rob Vanstone, Dean Vrooman and Bill Willms.
Each of us was asked to select the top 20 players from each of five time periods — 1966-76, 1976-86, 1986-96, 1996-2006, 2006-15. And if you think that was easy, you need to think again.
Out of that came a list of 125 players that was released by the WHL on Tuesday. On that list are 10 goaltenders, 27 defencemen and 88 forwards.
Starting in October, fans will be able to go to the WHL’s website (whl.ca) and vote for their top players. In January, the WHL will begin to release the names of its top 50 players of all-time.
Believe me when I tell you that it wasn’t easy choosing only 20 names from each of those time periods. I know it won’t be any easier whittling 125 names down to 50.
Why not give it a try?
If you haven’t seen the list, it’s right here.
F Joseph Cassetti, a 16-year-old from Pleasanton, Calif., announced via his Twitter account that he has committed to Boston College. The 6-foot-2, 165-pounder was a sixth-round selection by the Spokane Chiefs in the 2014 bantam draft. Last season, he played in the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies organization. . . . Meanwhile, G Boston Bilous has committed to Denver University where he will play for the Pioneers. Bilous, from Langley, B.C., is 14 years of age and attends the Delta, B.C., Hockey Academy. The commitment is for 2019-20. He is eligible for the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.
Among players returning to their WHL teams from NHL camps on Tuesday were G Landon Bow (Anaheim) to Swift Current; F Radovan Bondra (Chicago) to Vancouver; F Gustav Olhaver (Colorado) to Seattle; F Glenn Gawdin (St. Louis) to Swift Current; F Luke Philp (Philadelphia) to Kootenay; F Austin Wagner (Los Angeles) to Regina; and D Chaz Reddekopp (Los Angeles) to Victoria.
Coming on Wednesday: 10 things worth watching in the WHL’s 2015-16 regular season.
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The Swift Current Broncos dropped F Tanner Mole, 16, from their roster on Tuesday. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. Last season, Mole had 36 points, including 15 goals, for the midget AAA Winnipeg Monarchs. . . .
F Trygve Many Guns of the Regina Pats has been hit with a three-game suspension for a charging major he incurred Friday against the host Prince Albert Raiders. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound freshman will miss the first three games of the regular season. . . .
D Schael Higson, 17, of the Saskatoon Blades also will be sitting out when his side plays its first game. He has been suspended for one game after a kneeing major he picked up against the host Swift Current Broncos on Saturday. Broncos F Ryan Sokoloski, the victim of the hit, limped off and didn’t return. . . .
G Chris Mason (Victoria, Prince George, 1993-97) has announced his retirement after a 17-year pro career, the last two in Europe. Before that, he played nine seasons in the NHL. . . . Mason, 39, is from Red Deer. . . . He is expected to join the Nashville Predators’ broadcast team. . . .
D Evan Wardley, who played out his junior eligibility with the Seattle Thunderbirds last season, has signed with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Wardley had been in camp with Pittsburgh. . . .
Rudy Poeschek doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of so many hockey enforcers who have died prematurely. But he’s aware of the toll that being a hockey enforcer can take. Poeschek is back in Kamloops these days, and he has a 45-day jail term to serve. Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week details Poeschek’s story right here and it isn’t pretty.
Chris Nowinski is a former footballer player and pro wrestler who suffered multiple brain injuries. He now is well know in the world of concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research as the executive directory of the Concussion Legacy Foundation of Boston.
In Petruk’s story, Nowinski is quoted:
“This is an almost entirely preventable disease that we’re often giving to teenagers. I can’t tell you how to prevent Alzheimer’s, but I can tell you how to prevent CTE — don’t get hit in the head. It’s such an easy fix. Brains were never meant to be hit like that.
“We need to change the way we play our sports.”
He is right.
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has written an interesting piece in which he suggests five things the NHL and NHLPA could do to help deal with the concussion issue. At one point, he writes that the NHL should ban fighting immediately. “If the NHL bans fighting, so to will major junior leagues where a lot of concussion problems begin in the first place,” Campbell writes. . . . That piece is right here.
Thinking of great hockey man Larry Popein today! #greatnickname— Dan Russell (@DanRussellST) September 22, 2015