Three Spokane Chiefs have a shot at playing for their national teams at the World Junior Tournament, and a fourth is a lock.
Defenseman Zenith Komarniski and Brad Ference are among 31 players who were invited Monday to Team Canada’s five-day selection camp in Kitchener, Ontario. The perennial champion Canadians will cut to 22 prior to the tournament Dec. 25-Jan. 3 in Helsinki. Camp runs from Dec. 12-17.
Forward Ty Jones is one of 28 players who received invitations to Team USA’s tryout camp Dec. 14-18 in Hackensack, N.J. The American team will also trim to 22 players.
Chiefs right wing Marian Cisar has made the Slovakian team, Chiefs coach Mike Babcock said.
Chiefs assistant coach Mike Pelino was asked to return with Team Canada but declined.
“My loyalty and priorities this year are with Spokane, this being such a special season,” said Pelino, referring to the Chiefs’ role as host team in the Memorial Cup tournament, major junior hockey’s Final Four.
“When I accepted the position here it was with the understanding there would be no distractions. The organization was supportive, but it was a very easy decision to say ‘Thank you, I’m honored and proud to be asked, but I’m here to do everything possible to help this team win the Memorial Cup.”’
Babcock or Peterson?
It appeared earlier in the week that Chiefs coach Mike Babcock would be named coach of the WHL West All-Star team by default, after Portland coach Brent Peterson told Chiefs broadcaster Craig West prior to Sunday’s night’s Portland-Spokane game he was not interested in the all-star appointment.
The coach with the best record after 29 games is to coach the West in the Jan. 21 game in Regina. The worst Peterson can do is wind up tied with Spokane, but since Portland leads the head-to-head series it would appear Peterson is a lock - except he says he has knee surgery scheduled the week of the game.
He said he also wants to spend time with his family.
Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said Peterson will probably be in Regina if he’s physically able, and is the coach-designate.
“Brent can’t defer,” Speltz said. “I’d call B.S. on that. Everybody would like a break, but it’s an honor and the commitment is part of it. We in our league have to be responsive to our commitments.”
WHL owners meeting in Calgary Monday agreed to continue the interlocking scheduling format into next season. It assures that each team will meet at least once home and once away… . Stick another W in the business resume of Chiefs owner Bobby Brett, whose partnership sold the Sioux City baseball team in the independent Northern League two months ago for $1.25 million to an 18-member Sioux City business group put together by the club’s field manager, Ed Nottle.
Since you asked: Chiefs coach Mike Babcock has this season and another left on his current contract. Asked if Babcock may be rethinking his personal timetable - that he might elect to coach in Spokane following this Memorial Cup season - Speltz said, “If Mike gets a good opportunity and feels that it’s time to leave, we’ll support his decision. If he doesn’t, and wants to stay, we’ll work with that.”