Better safe than sorry.
Rebels head coach/VP of hockey operations Jesse Wallin will rest two of his key defencemen this weekend, one by choice and one out of necessity.
The rearguards in question — Justin Weller and Matthew Dumba — were both injured during Tuesday’s 3-1 home-ice loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers and will be press-box spectators tonight and Sunday when the Rebels entertain the Calgary Hitmen and Prince George Cougars, and Saturday when Red Deer visits the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Weller suffered a concussion, while Dumba sustained a knee injury — to be more specific, a sprained MCL.
“Both guys are doing well,” Wallin said Thursday. “Wellsey rode the bike yesterday and just didn’t feel right, but he rode again today and felt fine. He’s now on the (concussion) protocol so we have to keep him out, but he should be ready to play by next week.”
As for Dumba . . .
“He’s feeling good as well, but we just want to keep him out as a precaution,” said Wallin. “He’s a little bit hesitant on his leg right now, but all of the soreness is out of the knee. Still, we’ll give him some time off and he should be ready to go by next Friday (versus the visiting Hurricanes).
“We were talking about this as coaching staff, and the feeling was that in the long run it’s probably not a bad thing to give these guys a bit of time off. We’ll try and work through the games while they’re out.”
Also dealing with an injury to Matthew Pufahl and with 2010 first-round bantam draft pick Kayle Doetzel unavailable for call-up duty, the Rebels will be limited to four defencemen this weekend, with one or more forwards — likely Byron Froese, Brett Ferguson and/or Adam Kambeitz — moving back on a temporary basis.
Speaking of Doetzel, the large midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts rearguard has been hampered by injuries all season. Earlier in the campaign, he missed time with a back injury and broken wrist, and is currently sidelined for two weeks with a separated shoulder.
Then again, he never left.
WHL commissioner Ron Robison signed a five-year contract extension this week, a deal that extends him through the 2015-16 season. Robison is currently in his 11th year as league commissioner and CEO.
“The WHL governors voted unanimously to extend Ron Robison’s contract,” said WHL Chairman of the Board Bruce Hamilton. “We are extremely pleased with the job Ron has done since joining the WHL and wanted to reward him with a longer term contract. As we move forward over the next five-year period, Ron’s endeavors will be important as the WHL continues to be a worldwide leader in the hockey industry.”
The league has experienced impressive growth under Robison’s leadership and the WHL remains a leading supplier of players to the NHL, Canada’s national hockey teams and the Canada West university men’s programs.
“I consider it an honour and privilege to be in position to continue serving as WHL commissioner,” stated Robison in a press release. “The WHL has great potential for continued growth in the future and I look forward to continue playing a key leadership role in the seasons ahead.”
The Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers will be heading north today.
Way up north.
The WHL squads will hook up in a regular-season contest Saturday in Whitehorse, Yukon, as part of CBC’s annual Hockey Day in Canada.
“It’s going to be a really exciting experience,” Blazers forward Brendan Ranford told WHL director of communications Cory Flett. “This will be the furthest north I’ve ever been.”
“The furthest north I’ve ever been is probably Prince George,” added Giants winger Brendan Gallagher, who like Ranford is an elite offensive player. “I don’t think anyone on our team has been to the territories or the Yukon, so it will be a different experience for us, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Neither team is looking at the game as strictly a fun event.
“The playoff race is happening right now and we need the two points, so we will have to be focused on the game and how we play,” said Blazers forward Colin Smith.
Every so often, a WHL team will dip down to the junior A ranks and find a player who is a perfect fit for a certain role.
Darren Kramer fits that description. He’s been a gem of a discovery for the Spokane Chiefs, who brought the Peace River bruiser in earlier this season.
The six-foot-two, 196-pound winger was coming off seasons with the Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL in which he served 220 minutes in penalties in 38 games in 2008-09, and 311 minutes in 58 outings last winter. He’s currently the most penalized player in the WHL with 230 minutes served in 49 games.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “He doesn’t wear a letter but this is a credit to him, I’d name him as one of the leaders on this hockey team and I think every guy in that locker room feels the same.”
The 19-year-old is an accomplished fighter, but with five goals and five assists to his credit, he can also play.
“He’s an intelligent player,” Nachbaur said. “He knows the situation. He doesn’t fight for himself. He’s the ultimate team guy, he does it for his team. I can’t think of an instance he got into a fight because some guy hit him too hard. It’s always been about the team first.”