September 13, 2011
Now that's a humblebrag — the Portland Winterhawks calling off an exhibition game since too many of its players are away with NHL teams. The 'Hawks, with 15 players off at rookie camps, scuttled their game Friday vs. the Seattle Thunderbirds after they were reduced to 14 skaters by injuries and a forward named F Lukas Walter .being claimed on waivers by the Tri-City Americans.
It seems best to play this humorously — the Saint John Sea Dogs and some other short-staffed Quebec league clubs already into their regular season probably wish they could push a few games back — since it is a little funny. True, the rookie games many Winterhawks such as Calgary Flames first-round choice Sven Bärtschi are, per Cam Cole, called "made-for-media-coverage tournament[s]." That doesn't mean junior teams, the CHL education package notwithstanding, have a 100 per cent legit beef about losing players without compensation. It was also not too long ago the Winterhawks did play shorthanded, during the darkest days before Bill Gallacher bought the team in 2008.
A few years back the Hawks were forced to play with 14 skaters but for a different reason. Previous ownership wasn't so popular and kids were quitting. Add to that injuries and it was a thin bench.
Nice to see times have changed for the better and if the Hawks get most of their NHL camp guys back they will be dominant this season. (Coming Down The Pipe!)
On the semi-serious side, it's not exactly an isolated incident. About 150 WHL players are off at camps, along with 155 from the OHL and 87 from the QMJHL. As Gregg Drinnan noted
With somewhere around 150 WHL players at NHL camps, you can bet there are other teams dangerously low on numbers.
For starters, the Kelowna Rockets, with eight players away, and the Kamloops Blazers, with seven gone, were under the 18-skater limit for a home-and-home weekend series.
The Blazers ... dressed just 15 skaters on Saturday in Kelowna, and lost LW Ryan Hanes to injury early on. The Rockets also had only 15 skaters in uniform for that one. (Taking Note)
Now that it's happened once, it probably will happen again. [Update: As Hank Hill would put it, "Yep." The Blazers called off their Wednesday game vs. Prince George "due to the depletion of the Kamloops Blazers roster."] The overall payoff of protecting players probably should rule the day, since a fatigued athlete is more vulnerable to injury. That should probably be higher priority than concern fewer exhibition games might hurt some players' chances of making the team.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.