Junior Hockey  

OHL board approves Steelheads' move from Mississauga to Brampton

TORONTO — The Ontario Hockey League's board of governors has approved the relocation of the Mississauga Steelheads to neighbouring Brampton, Ont.

The league said in a release that the team would retain the "Steelheads" name and will play out of the CAA Centre starting in the 2024-25 season.

The team isn't moving far. Its previous home, Mississauga's Paramount Fine Foods Centre, is roughly seven kilometres away from the CAA Centre.

Brampton gets another shot at hosting an OHL team after the Battalion moved to North Bay, Ont., following the 2012-13 season.

The Battalion struggled to draw and averaged an OHL-low 2,191 fans per game in its last season in Southern Ontario.

Mississauga, the third-largest city in Ontario by population, will be without an OHL team for the first time since 1998.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.


Golf Canada executive and former Argos RB Bryan Crawford named OHL commissioner

TORONTO — Sports executive and former CFL player Bryan Crawford has been named the next commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League.

The major junior league announced in a release Wednesday that Crawford will begin his tenure on Aug. 6.

The 42-year-old Crawford has spent the last six years with Golf Canada as the tournament director for the RBC Canadian Open.

Before that, he held executive roles with Basketball Canada and Ontario University Athletics.

Crawford spent seven seasons (2005-11) as a running back with the Toronto Argonauts before entering sports management.

He appeared in 112 games with the Argonauts and retired as the club's all-time leader in special teams tackles with 137.

The 42-year-old from Hamilton will take over from longtime commissioner David Branch, who announced last year he would leave the role after this OHL season.

"It is an honour to be named commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League and I am thrilled to be joining one of the great sport institutions in our country,” Crawford said in a statement. “I am excited by the opportunity to build upon the legacy being left by David Branch."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.

Jagger Firkus becomes first Moose Jaw Warrior to win CHL player of the year

FRANKENMUTH — The accolades and recognition meant the world to Jagger Firkus.

Firkus was named the David Branch Player of the Year Award winner at the Canadian Hockey League awards Saturday. He became the first player in Warriors history to win the award.

He paced the CHL with 126 points (61 goals, 65 assists) to also earn the top scorer award.

"It means the world to me," Firkus said. "The organization of Moose Jaw, they've had a lot of really good players that came over there, but to be the first to get this award, it means a lot to me.

"The organization of Moose Jaw has done so much for me, so I'm happy to give back to them."

"It's special to me, it's special to my family and hopefully I can keep moving forward," he added.

Easton Cowan of the London Knights and Mathieu Cataford of the Halifax Mooseheads were the other two finalists for CHL player of the year.

Firkus was presented the award by outgoing Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch, for whom the award is named.

Firkus, drafted by the NHL's Seattle Kraken in the second round (35th overall) in 2022, was held off the scoresheet just four times in 63 regular-season games.

He also carried a 26-game point streak of 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) between Nov. 25 and Feb. 17.

He led the Warriors to third place in the Western Hockey League's Eastern Conference regular-season standings.

Then came the franchise's first-ever Ed Chynoweth Cup after advancing to their first WHL final in 18 years.

The Warriors made it to their first-ever Memorial Cup. Moose Jaw fell to host Saginaw in Friday's tournament semifinal.

"It was special, it really was," Firkus said of the his season. "It was the (most fun) year of hockey I've ever had. It was the best group of guys I've ever been a part of.

"Looking back on it, I wish it could never end but that's not hockey. You eventually come to an end. Just super-proud of the guys, super-proud to be a part of the Moose Jaw Warriors."

As for his potential future in the NHL, the player nicknamed Firkus Circus says he'd be grateful for a chance.

"Whatever the future holds, I just want to be proud of myself," he said. "The Firkus Circus, if it does eventually get there, I'll just be honoured to be there and get the opportunity to play in the NHL."

Firkus was one of two players to be nominated for two awards.

Saginaw's Zayne Parekh earned defenceman of the year and was a finalist for top draft prospect. Parekh is the first Spirit player to ever win CHL defenceman of the year.

He led the Spirit to a historic campaign, as they crossed the 100-point mark for the first time in team history with 102 in the regular season, behind only London in the Ontario Hockey League.

Parekh paced all CHL blue liners with 96 points (33 goals, 66 assists).

He was looking ahead to Sunday's Memorial Cup final against London, and a chance to bring Saginaw its first Memorial Cup in the team's tournament debut.

"I don't feel much. It hasn't sunk in yet," Parekh said of becoming the first Spirit player to win the award. "I'm trying to be the first person to bring a Memorial Cup to Saginaw, so that's the goal."

Moose Jaw's Denton Mateychuk and Vsevolod Komarov of the Drummondville Voltigeurs were also finalists for defenceman award.

Medicine Hat Tigers centre Cayden Lindstrom was named top draft prospect. He's ranked third among North American skaters in the NHL's Central Scouting rankings, with Parekh slotted fifth.

Chicoutimi Saguenéens right-winger Maxim Massé, who is 30th on those rankings, was the other draft-prospect finalist.

"It's definitely an exciting moment coming up," Lindstrom said of NHL draft June 28-29. "It's a lot to take in. There's still a lot of work to be done, though."

Goaltender of the year went to William Rousseau of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, while Medicine Hat's Gavin McKenna took rookie honours. Jean-François Grégoire of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar earned coach of the year.

Moose Jaw's Brayden Yager earned the sportsmanship award. Noah Chadwick of the Lethbridge Hurricanes took home scholastic player of the year and Mason Vaccari of the Kingston Frontenacs was given the humanitarian award.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2024.


Canucks hire Manny Malhotra as head coach of the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL

Canucks hire Malhotra

The Abbotsford Canucks will have a new head coach next season and it's a familiar face for Canucks fans.

After four seasons as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Manny Malhotra will be the new head coach in Abbotsford.

“Bringing in someone who is familiar with the organization is a big win for us,” said Vancouver Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin in the team's press release. “Manny’s experience in hockey development and coaching has prepared him really well for this head coaching opportunity. We look forward to working with him and providing our staff in Abbotsford all the support they need to continue to develop our players.”

The news comes after reports that Jeremy Colliton, who coached Abbotsford for two seasons, rejected a contract offer from the Vancouver Canucks. There were suggestions that he wanted to be open to an NHL coaching job and clauses in his two-year contract offer restricted him from pursuing NHL jobs. 

Malhotra played two full seasons with the Canucks in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and they happened to be two of the best seasons in franchise history, as they won the Presidents' Trophy both years. He took on the thankless role as a checking-line centre, starting shifts in the defensive zone against tough competition to help free up the team's top-two lines to focus on producing points.

He then returned to the Canucks organization as a development coach for four seasons, working with players on specific skills in practices, particularly faceoffs. When he got the chance to work behind the bench with the Maple Leafs, he jumped at the opportunity

Now, Malhotra is taking the next step in his coaching journey, becoming a head coach in the AHL. Coaching has long been a dream for Malhotra, nurturing a seed planted by Ken Hitchcock when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“At that point, I had played for a lot of coaches in a lot of different systems,” said Malhotra, “and for the most part, you’re always just told, ‘Do this. This is what we’re doing.’ Whereas for Hitch, he gave you the ‘Why.’ And for me, it was kind of like a lightbulb moment.” 

“That’s when I started to have that seed in my mind that I think I would enjoy coaching,” he added.

The Canucks have seen some success with Abbotsford as a developmental system, with Nils Höglander returning to Vancouver as a more complete player after a stint in Abbotsford and the development of players like Noah Juulsen, Nils Åman, Arshdeep Bains, and Linus Karlsson as depth contributors.

Malhotra's strengths as a communicator and someone who had to change his game to make it in the NHL should translate well to his new role in Abbotsford.

“Being able to return the to the Vancouver Canucks organization is an incredible opportunity for both me and my family,” said Malhotra in the press release. “Getting the chance to help develop the next wave of young talent is an honour and a privilege. We have a lot of good prospects in the group, and I can’t wait to get started on the ice."

Indigenous consultant accuses NHL's Blackhawks of fraud, sexual harassment

CHICAGO (AP) — A consultant the Chicago Blackhawks hired to improve relationships with American Indian tribes has filed a lawsuit accusing the team, its charity foundation and its CEO of fraud, breach of contract and sexual harassment.

Nina Sanders filed the civil action late Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court. She alleges in the lawsuit that the Blackhawks were facing intense public pressure to change their name and logo in 2020. The team's CEO, Dan Wirtz, hired her that year to serve as a tribal liaison.

Wirtz promised that he would create positions for American Indians, buy land to give to the Sac and Fox Nation and change the team's logo if she decided to accept the job, according to the lawsuit. She took the job based on those promises, but Wirtz never followed through on any of it, the lawsuit alleges.

Sanders goes on to allege that she told her immediate boss that an employee had been sexually harassing her and tried to force her into his hotel room in 2021. The harassment continued into 2022, but nothing was ever done about it, according to the lawsuit. Sanders also maintains that she reported two other incidents of male employees groping women, but nothing was done.

Wirtz ended Sanders' contract last summer, according to the lawsuit.

A Blackhawks spokesperson didn't immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.

The team said in a statement to WBBM-TV that the organization noted “operational issues” in Sanders' work, and external partners told the team that they didn't want to work with her. The team still extended her a new contract in 2023, but Sanders chose not to renew it. The team said it investigated Sanders' sexual harassment allegations and couldn't find enough evidence to substantiate them.

Kelowna Chiefs hockey team introduces new head coach, general manager

New coach for Chiefs

The Kelowna Chiefs hockey team has found a new head coach.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Kelowna Chiefs were pleased to announce Friday the hiring of Nick Deschenes as their head coach and general manager.

Deschenes comes to the Chiefs for the 2024-25 season after spending time in the KIJHL with the Grand Forks Border Bruins, the Summerland Steam and the Sicamous Eagles. He's also spent time coaching the Trail Smoke Eaters out of the BCHL.

During the 2023-24 season with Sicamous, the experienced coach managed to lead the Eagles to a 31-12-1-0 record, which was good enough for fifth in the overall regular season standings.

“The Chiefs are excited to have Nick join the organization as our new head coach and general manager,” said Chiefs owner Darren Tymchyshyn.

“Nick’s proven success developing players and preparing them for a higher level was a major factor in my decision. Importantly, Nick’s ties to the local minor hockey community will expedite my goal of recruiting more players to stay close to home and play for the Chiefs.”

After a poor performance last season that saw the team rack up just 16 wins across 44 games, a coaching change needed to be made.

“I look forward to building a successful program that leverages the talented hockey players here in Kelowna while continuing to grow alongside the KIJHL as the league moves towards Junior A, Tier 1 status. I’m looking forward to the challenge and happy to be coaching where I call home," said the new coach.

More 2024-25 announcements are expected for the Chiefs in regards to the upcoming season, which should be revealed in the next few weeks.

Canada beats United States 6-4 to win under-18 men's world hockey championship

ESPOO, Finland — Gavin McKenna put Canada on his back to win its fifth-ever under-18 men's world hockey championship.

McKenna scored three times, finishing his hat trick with an empty-net goal, and added an assist as Canada rallied past the United States 6-4 on Sunday in the international tournament's final. McKenna, from Whitehorse, Yukon, gave credit to his teammates.

"I couldn’t have done it without them, there were so many guys that stepped up when we needed it and it all paid off in the end," said McKenna, a 16-year-old forward with the Medicine Hat Tigers. "There was never a doubt in our room. We have built unbelievable friendships that we’ll have for a lifetime."

Cole Beaudoin and Tij Iginla also scored in the third period as Canada overcame an early 3-1 deficit with four goals in the final frame. Ryder Ritchie added a goal in the second period.

Goalie Carter George made 31 saves for the win in net.

Cole Hutson had a goal and two assists for the U.S. Christian Humphreys, Cole Eiserman, and Brodie Ziemer also scored.

Nicholas Kempf stopped 19-of-24 shots in net for the Americans.

The American racked up 31 minutes of penalties while the Canadians took just eight.

"The U.S played really well, but with the penalty—the power play is something we practiced all tournament, it came up big today and that was the key to our win," said McKenna.

Earlier Sunday, Love Harenstam stopped all 36 shots he faced as Sweden shut out Slovakia 4-0 to win bronze.

Lucas Pettersson scored 9:16 into the third period to break a scoreless tie for Sweden. 

Melvin Fernstrom, Alfons Freij and Victor Eklund rounded out the attack for the Swedes.

Alan Lendak stopped 25 shots in net for Slovakia. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

Canada beats Latvia 4-0 in quarterfinals at men's U18 hockey championship

VANTAA, Finland — Carter George made 23 saves for his second shutout of the tournament as Canada defeated Latvia 4-0 in quarterfinal action Thursday at the world men's under-18 hockey championship.

Team captain Porter Martone scored and 16-year-old Gavin McKenna had an assist. 

McKenna is second in tournament scoring with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in five games. He tied Macklin Celebrini (2023) and Tyson Jost (2015) for most points at a single U18 men's world championship by a Canadian.

Martone is third with 14 points (five goals, nine assists). He now has 20 career points at the tournament, one back of Connor Bedard's all-time Canadian record.

“I have to give lots of credit to my linemates," McKenna said. "I’ve been playing with Martone and (Caleb) Desnoyers, who have been unreal linemates, same with Roger McQueen who I started with. 

"As the tournament has progressed, we’ve gotten better every game, have built a great friendship with Porter and all the guys. Having Martone close to his own record as well, it’s been super cool."

Maxim Masse scored the winning goal on a power play 5:08 into the game.

Ryder Ritchie and Jett Luchanko, into an empty net, also scored for Canada. Tij Iginla and Harrison Brunicke added two assists apiece.

Goaltender Mikus Vecvanags made 34 saves for Latvia.

“I thought Latvia played well and so did we," McKenna said. "They came out hard and we had a pretty good response to their pressure and George had a great game in net. When he makes big saves, it gives us motivation to keep playing well and it gives us momentum as well."

Canada will face Sweden in Saturday's semifinals for a second straight tournament. The Swedes advanced with a 2-1 win over Finland. 

Sweden dumped Canada 7-2 last year at last year's worlds in Switzerland. Canada then beat Slovakia 4-3 in overtime for bronze.

Canada beat Sweden 6-3 in its opening game at this year's tournament.

The defending champion United States will face Slovakia in the other semifinal. The U.S. beat Switzerland 4-0 in the quarterfinals while Slovakia edged Czechia 3-2. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2024.

KIJHL Kelowna Chiefs have a new owner

Kelowna Chiefs sold

The Kelowna Chiefs are under new ownership.

The KIJHL board of governors recently approved the sale of the franchise to Kelowna businessman Darren Tymchyshyn.

The sale comes as off season rumours swirled around the possibility the team could relocate to the Cariboo. Instead, the North Okanagan Knights relocated to Quesnel while the Summerland Steam were sold and have relocated to Williams Lake.

Tymchyshyn says the team will continue to call Rutland Arena home.

“As a player, parent and coach it has been a dream of mine for some time to own a Junior A franchise,” says Tymchyshyn.

“The opportunity to acquire a franchise with the passionate fans, volunteers and sponsors the Chiefs possess was something I couldn’t pass up. I guarantee to work hard to ensure local players will want to play close to home in front of our loyal fans.

"Rutland is a passionate hockey community that has embraced the Chiefs and I look forward to building on this success and pride. I would like to thank Jason Tansem and the KIJHL for this opportunity.”

He has plans to revamp the hockey operations and has already embarked on a search for a new head coach and general manager.

“The KIJHL is excited to have Darren join our league as the owner of the Kelowna Chiefs and help continue the great tradition of KIJHL hockey in the Central Okanagan,” says KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois.

“Darren is highly motivated to continue the great work of previous owners Grant Sheridan and Jason Tansem, and ensure the Chiefs have a successful and sustainable program at the Junior A level for years to come.”

McKenna has six points, Martone has five as Canada thumps Kazakhstan at U18 worlds

VANTAA, Finland — Gavin McKenna had two goals and four assists, team captain Porter Martone had a goal and four assists and Canada ended group-stage play with an 11-3 rout of Kazakhstan on Tuesday at the world men's under-18 hockey championship.

Canada finished as the top team in Group B, winning its four group-stage games by a combined score of 31-7.

The Canadians will play Latvia, the fourth-place team in Group A, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Liam Greentree, Tij Iginla, Maxim Masse, Cole Beaudoin, Henry Mews, Caleb Desnoyers, Frankie Marrelli and Harrison Brunicke also scored for Canada.

Assanali Sarkenov had all three goals for Kazakhstan, which finished fifth in Group B and missed the playoffs with one point from an overtime loss over four games.

Carter George made 13 saves to earn the win for Canada, which outshot Kazakhstan 66-16.

Kazakhstan starter Tanirkhan Alpysbayev made 26 saves on 33 shots before being pulled midway through the second period.

Danil Lytkin stopped 29 of 33 shots in relief.

The 16-year-old McKenna, who won't be eligible for the NHL draft until 2026, finished group-stage play second in scoring with 14 points (six goals, eight assists), two points behind leader James Hagens of the United States.

Martone was third with 13 points (four goals, nine assists).

The U.S. faces Switzerland, Finland meets Sweden and Czechia takes on Slovakia in the other quarterfinals.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024.

Spence has two goals and assist, Canada thumps Czechia 6-0 at U18 hockey worlds

VANTAA, Finland — Malcolm Spence had two goals and an assist as Canada thumped Czechia 6-0 in a penalty-filled affair Friday at the world men's under-18 hockey championship.

Tij Iginla also had two goals and Carter George made 26 saves for the shutout

Gavin McKenna had a goal and two assists and Carson Wetsch also scored as Canada improved to 2-0. Captain Porter Martone had three assists.

Czech starting goaltender Jakub Milota allowed four goals on nine shots before being replaced by Bretislav Vystrcil, who made 22 saves on 24 shots in relief.

The teams combined for 103 penalty minutes, with three game misconducts handed out.

Czechia's Marek Danicek was tossed for an illegal check to the head and Petr Sikora was ejected for butt-ending in the first period, while Wetsch received a game misconduct for checking from behind in the third.

Canada was short-handed for 16 minutes 39 seconds in the game, including two penalties for too many men in the second period, after playing down a man for 12:05 in a 6-3 win over Sweden on Thursday.

Czechia (1-1) won the opening faceoff but immediately turned the puck over to Spence in its own zone, and the Canadian forward ripped a shot past Milota.

Spence went to the box for hooking 11 seconds after his goal, but Canada struck again when Iginla scored short-handed 1:51 into the game.

Iginla added a power-play goal at 7:18, and Wetsch scored 24 seconds later to chase Milota from the game.

After a goalless second, Spence increased Canada's lead to 5-0 7:19 into the third period, and McKenna capped the scoring with a goal in the final minute.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.

Two goals from McKenna led Canada to 6-3 win over Sweden at U18 worlds

VANTAA, Finland — Gavin McKenna scored twice in the span of one minute and 45 seconds in the first period as Canada opened with a 6-3 win over Sweden on Thursday at the world men's under-18 hockey championship.

Jett Luchanko had a goal and an assist and Malcolm Spence, Matthew Schaeffer and Carson Wetsch also scored for Canada. Porter Martone added two assists.

Carter George made 26 saves to pick up the win.

Canada made it difficult on themselves by racking up 51 penalty minutes, but limited Sweden to one power play goal.

"Our penalty kill was outstanding even though we had to use it more than we wanted to," said Canada head coach Gardiner MacDougall. "Any time you play your first game there’s a lot of emotions between the two teams, a lot of good hockey and things to clean up, but overall, it’s a great start for the group."

Alexander Zetterberg led Sweden with two goals and an assist. Melvin Fernstrom also scored. Love Harenstam made 20 saves.

Canada had a 4-1 lead after the frst period, but two goals from Zetterberg in the second cut the lead to one goal.

Schaefer scored a minute after Zetterberg's second goal to kill Sweden's momentum, and George made nine saves in the third period to help cement the win.

“I think it was a good game for us to get a win in the first game of the tournament," said forward Tij Iginla, who had an assist. "We talked about the penalties, and we know it’s tough to get going offensively when we’re in the box.”

Canada next faces Czechia on Friday.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

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