WHL: El Nino, Pink the Rink, Grow-vember, TV & hockey jobs!

Meteorologists have been warning about a nasty El Nino winter in the Pacific Northwest, but they didn't think it would arrive so soon. The New York Islanders announced today that they sent Nino Niederreiter back to the Portland Winterhawks.

The fifth overall pick at this year's NHL entry draft in Los Angeles played 9 games with the Isles, notching one goal, one assist and 8 penalty minutes. He brings some hefty NHL experience home to a Winterhawks team that's been tearing up the WHL. Portland sits atop the US Division with a 10-2-0-1 record and 21 points. In fact, the Winterhawks have the best record in the WHL right now. The Saskatoon Blades lead the East Division with a 10-3-0-0 record and 20 points, while the Kootenay Ice sit atop the Central Division with a 10-3-0-1 record and 21 points. The Vancouver Giants lead the BC Division with a 9-5-1-1 record and 20 points.

The move to send Nino back to Portland is being applauded by some Islanders fans. Evan Pivnick, who runs the "Islanders Inside" blog, told me "I think sending him back was smart. He will develop more and when he does come back to the NHL he will have experience." Longtime Isles blogger Dee Karl of the "7th Woman" blog, said "I'm looking forward to seeing Nino build his confidence & skill on the ice in Portland along with a desire to return to the NHL." Islanders fan Matt Clausen agrees, calling the move "hopefully a productive time to advance his overall game to come back later and produce."

Portland Winterhawks fans are excited to have Nino back in the lineup, but it's a bittersweet feeling, because they'd love to see him succeed at the NHL level right away. Portland fan Kari Frost sums it up well: " I'm extremely proud of his performance with NY, but am even more thrilled to have him back in Portland for another season. I think with him back, we have a really strong shot at the Memorial Cup this season."

You can bet fans will give him a rousing "welcome home" when the Winterhawks host the Kelowna Rockets tonight and tomorrow night at Memorial Coliseum. The last time I checked, tickets were still available. You can check by going to the Winterhawks site.

Silvertips "Pink the Rink"

The Everett Silvertips are a prime example of community outreach. I could write a weekly blog just about the team's good works outside the rink. Tonight, they hold their annual "Pink the Rink" event. Last year, they sold special pink hockey sticks autographed by players (I bought one signed by Cameron Abney, who's now with the Edmonton Oil Kings). This year, they're selling sticks again, and they're also auctioning off special jerseys worn by players at tonight's game. The jerseys are green and white, with a touch of pink. The auction will also include jerseys autographed by Head Coach Craig Hartsburg, Associate Head Coach Jay Varady (who won a gold medal as part of Team USA's coaching staff at the last World Juniors) and Assistant Coach Chris Hartsburg; plus a jersey signed by the entire team.

Here's how it works: Bids start at $150 each. Fans can place their bids in person during the first and second periods of tonight's game. Winners will be announced during the third period. After the game, they will get the chance to have their picture taken with the player whose jersey they won. The jerseys will then be cleaned, autographed and ready for pickup on Wednesday, November 3rd. The Silvertips are also allowing email bids. Here's the email address: auctions@everettsilvertips.com. IF YOU EMAIL YOUR BID, THE DEADLINE IS 3PM TODAY (FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29).

This year's "Pink the Rink" event benefits Providence Everett Medical Center's Providence General Foundation, which provides free mammograms for underserved and underinsured women in Snohomish County. Fans who buy special tickets to tonight's game will also receive a commemorative t-shirt. To check on availability or for more information, check out the Silvertips' website.

Grow-vember

The Kootenay Ice are getting a head start on the "playoff beard" look. They'll let their facial hair go wild during the month of November, which is being re-christened "Grow-vember."  The move is a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society, which is turning the focus on men's health, especially cancers that "occur below the belt." The Ice want male fans to grow their facial hair throughout the month and email their photos. The fan with the best look will win box seats for a Kootenay game in December. Here's the email address: growvember@gmail.com.

The Ice will also raffle off players throughout the month. Winners and five of their friends will get to spend an hour with the player doing whatever they want, within reason. The team says this contest is geared toward younger fans who could invite players to birthday parties, lunch or some other fun event. (The raffle begins tonight!)

On November 20th, team will wrap up Grow-vember with a special event, which will culminate with a special players "shave-off" after the game. You can find way more info than I can post here, by clicking on this link.

Hockey Job Openings

Two WHL teams have job openings right now:

The Saskatoon Blades are looking for a Ticket Representative. You can find more details here.

The Medicine Hat Tigers are looking for a marketing/Game Day Coordinator. You can find more details here.

WHL on FSN NorthWest

The WHL announced today that ten games will be shown either live or delayed on FSN NorthWest in 2011. Here's the list of games and times (all times are Pacific):

Friday, January 14 - Everett @ Seattle 7:30pm (Live)

Saturday, January 15 - Kootenay @ Spokane 10:00pm (Delayed) <- this is the WHL's first-ever outdoor game

Friday, January 28 - Portland @ Tri City 7:00pm (Live)

Wednesday, February 2 - Everett @ Kamloops 10:00pm (Delayed)

Friday, February 4 - Spokane @ Tri City 7:00pm (Live)

Friday, February 18 - Seattle @ Vancouver 7:30pm (Live)

Friday, February 25 - Portland @ Everett 7:30pm (Live)

Friday, March 4 - Seattle @ Portland 7:00pm (Live)

Tuesday, March 8 - Tri City @ Kamloops 7:00pm (Live)

Friday, March 18 - Everett @ Portland 7:00pm (Live)

Now, let's take a look at this weekend's schedule:

Tonight (Friday, October 29)

Chilliwack @ Calgary

Brandon @ Kootenay

Spokane @ Moose Jaw

Swift Current @ Prince Albert

Vancouver @ Red Deer

Kelowna @ Portland

Tri City @ Everett

Prince George @ Seattle

Saturday, October 30

Vancouver @ Edmonton

Brandon @ Lethbridge

Prince Albert @ Moose Jaw

Spokane @ Regina

Chilliwack @ Medicine Hat

Saskatoon @ Red Deer

Seattle @ Kamloops

Kelowna @ Portland

Prince George @ Tri City

Sunday, October 31

Saskatoon @ Calgary

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