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WHL's 50th anniversary season opens tonight

Russell won't be calling the play
By Gregg Drinnan
September 23, 2015 10:55 P.M.

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The WHL’s 50th anniversary season starts tonight with the Regina Pats meeting the Warriors in Moose Jaw. The game will be televised by Shaw, but I don’t know who will be doing the play-by-play. Shaw had indicated in a tweet that it would be releasing its telecast schedule this week but that hadn’t happened as of Wednesday night. . . . I have been told, however, that Dan Russell won’t be calling the play. After 11 seasons with Shaw, Russell isn’t returning. . . . What happened to Russell? A source has told me that no one from Shaw or the WHL contacted Russell after the end of the 2014-15 season, nor did Russell get in touch with them. . . . I guess that constitutes a mutual parting of the ways. . . . About all I could find from Shaw on tonight's game was this blurb: "A rematch of the first WHL Championship from 1967." Actually, the Moose Jaw Canucks beat the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first WHL championship series.
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When the Pats and Warriors take to the ice tonight in Moose Jaw, both teams will be missing key players. . . . F Brayden Point, the Warriors’ captain and one of the WHL’s best players, still is in camp with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . Moose Jaw D Colin Paradis has been fighting an inner-ear infection and won’t play. . . . Regina is missing D Colby Williams (arm) and F Taylor Cooper (shoulder), both of whom are out long-term, and D Connor Hobbs, who is with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
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They will salute the 1966-67 Moose Jaw Canucks during festivities tonight in Moose Jaw. The Canucks won the WHL’s first championship. Matthew Gourlie checks in right here with some of the players from that team. . . . There also is a neat team photo with all of the players’ names listed. . . . In another story, Gourlie talks to some of the Canucks about the 1967 league final that actually went nine games even though the Edmonton Oil Kings won the opener, 9-0. That piece is right here.
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A tip of the hat to forwards Carter Folk, Ryley Lindgren and Tyler Wong of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. They have announced that for each goal they score this season they will donate $5 to KidSport Lethbridge and Taber. . . .  The idea belongs to Wong. “Me, Ryley, and Carter . . . would like to give back to the community in way of giving money to underprivileged kids in order for them to play sports and hockey,” said Wong, who is into his fourth WHL season, in a news release. “We feel so privileged to play here and play hockey every day and we love to give back to kids that don’t have that opportunity.” . . . The Hurricanes immediately climbed on board and said they will match the players’ donation. . . . Lindsay Folk, Carter’s mother, also jumped on board with this tweet: “I will match Carter's donations!!”
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Among those players returned from the NHL on Wednesday were: D Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia) to Brandon; D Travis Sanheim (Philadelphia) to Calgary; F Jesse Gabrielle (Boston) to Prince George; D Andrew Nielsen (Toronto) to Lethbridge; F Ryan Gropp (New York Rangers) to Seattle; F Rourke Chartier (San Jose) to Kelowna; F Keegan Kolesar (Columbus) to Seattle; F Brett Pollock (Dallas) to Edmonton; F Brad Morrison (New York Rangers) to Prince George; D Sam Ruopp (Columbus) to Prince George; D Ben Thomas (Tampa Bay) to Calgary; D Brycen Martin (Buffalo) to Saskatoon; D Devante Stephens (Buffalo) to Kelowna; F Giorgio Estephan (Buffalo) to Lethbridge; G Brendan Burke (Anaheim) to Calgary; F Paul Bittner (Columbus) to Portland; D Sergey Zborovsky (New York Rangers) to Regina; F Keegan Iverson (New York Rangers) to Portland; and F Adam Musil (St. Louis) to Red Deer.
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With the regular season opening tonight, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News offers up his preseason rankings right here. And he ranks them one through 22.
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Got a tip or some information you feel could be useful to me, feel free to email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
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Coaching Game

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The BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers have named David LeNeveu as their goaltending coach. He played with the Clippers in 2000-01 before going on to Cornell U and then a pro career that included stints with the Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers. LeNeveu, 32, is from Fernie, B.C.
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On Tuesday, the Moose Jaw Warriors had only one 20-year-old on their roster, that being D Torrin White. By Wednesday afternoon, they had three, having acquired D Tanner Faith from the Kootenay Ice and Dryden Hunt from the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . The Warriors gave up a conditional fifth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft for Faith. Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman reports that the pick becomes a fourth-rounder if Faith is on a WHL roster on Feb. 10. . . . Faith was selected by the Ice in the second round of the 2010 bantam draft. In 88 regular-season games, he has 15 points, including three goals. Injuries limited him to 10 games in 2013-14 and 19 games last season. The Minnesota Wild picked him in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2014 draft. . . . For Hunt, the Warriors surrendered a second-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft and a third-round pick in 2018. The 6-foot-0, 200-pound Hunt had 83 points, including 33 goals, in 71 games last season. He was dealt by the Regina Pats to Medicine Hat in mid-season. In 197 regular-season games, he has 133 points, including 59 goals. . . . Hunt is from Wilcox, Sask., just a stone’s throw from Moose Jaw. . . . The Tigers had acquired Hunt and D Kyle Burroughs from Regina for D Connor Hobbs, a third-round pick in 2015 and a second-rounder in 2016. . . . If Faith is able to stay healthy, the Warriors got a whole lot better with these deals. Chances are Hunt will play alongside F Brayden Point, assuming one of the WHL’s top forwards returns from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s camp. . . . The Ice still has six 20-year-olds on their roster, including D Tyler King (knee), who isn’t likely to play before December, and D Tanner Lishchynsky, who is week-to-week with an injury. . . . The Tigers, meanwhile, still show four 20-year-olds on their roster, including import G Markus Eisenschmid. The other three are D Ryan Stanton, F Cole Sanford and F Trevor Cox.
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The Medicine Hat Tigers have released D Matt Staples, 20, and D Marshall Skapski, 17. . . . Staples, from Coppell, Texas, cleared WHL waivers on Wednesday afternoon so is a free agent. He played three seasons with the Tigers, putting up five goals and 20 assists in 155 regular-season games. . . . Skapski, from Abbotsford, B.C., was a third-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. He played last season with the major midget Fraser Valley Thunderbirds. . . .
The Regina Pats have named D Colby Williams as their captain. He has an arm injury and isn’t expected to play for a few weeks. The Pats named F Adam Brooks, F Sam Steel and D Connor Hobbs as alternate captains. Hobbs, 18, remains in camp with the Washington Capitals, who selected him in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2015 draft. . . .
The Vancouver Giants are poised to name F Tyler Benson, 17, as their captain. That announcement will be made today. Benson, who will be youngest fulltime captain in franchise history, is out indefinitely after having surgery on an undisclosed problem earlier this month. . . .
G Nick Schneider of the Medicine Hat Tigers has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Schneider, an 18-year-old from Leduc, Alta., wasn’t selected in the NHL’s 2015 draft and was in Calgary’s camp as an undrafted free agent. . . .
The Red Deer Rebels have released F Jack McClelland, who will turn 19 on Sept. 30. McClelland, the son of former NHLer Kevin McClelland, was pointless in five games with the Vancouver Giants last season, but spent most of the season with the junior A Wichita Thunder. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks have dropped F Jack Flaman, 18, from their roster. Last season, Flaman, who is from Vibank, Sask., had one assist in 34 games.
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Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada has written his weekly 30 Thoughts column, and it is right here. As usual, it’s a great read, including some interesting quotes from John Tortorella on fancy stats.
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Yogi Berra, one of the sporting world’s great people, died on Tuesday night. I don’t know of anyone in sports who was more beloved than Yogi. . . . The New York Times obituary is right here.

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