Doug Piper

New ownership in the offing for Winterhawks -- could it be 'Pickled?'

New ownership in the offing for Winterhawks -- could it be 'Pickled?'

(Updated at 2:58 PDT)

Portland Winterhawks fans can relax for the time being.

It appears that their franchise -- while it will soon have a new owner -- will likely not be affected adversely by the bankruptcy of several companies owned by Edmonton oil man Bill Gallacher, who purchased the Western Hockey League team in 2008.

And it's possible that the owner could be the same group that operates the Portland Pickles, a team in the summer collegiate wood-bat West Coast League.

Alan Miller, who operates a marketing company in Los Angeles when not in Portland during the WCL season, expressed an interest Monday.

"They have a broker in Toronto who is running the file on behalf of the finance company," Miller said. "And a representative of our company has had a conversation with them. I love hockey. Been to Winterhawks games. My partner, Jon Ryan (the former Seahawk punter), has had plenty of experience in hockey -- he comes from Regina, Saskatchewan, and he tells the story that he was cut from five different teams in that league."

Miller emphasized that his group is still in the preliminary stages of studying a possible deal and would not sell the Pickles if it purchased the Winterhawks. The Pickles' season fits reasonably well into the Winterhawks' off-season and he believes there is an economy of scale with the two franchises under the same umbrella.

The Winterhawks have built a near-dynasty and had the WHL’s best record with a very young team this season, prior to the pandemic shutting down the league in March.

But the team, which has done well financially since Gallacher bought it, was one of a number of his companies put up as security against a loan that he did not repay. The hockey team is now in receivership, meaning it will be sold to help repay the loan.

The receiver, Bridging Finance, a Canadian company, will be attempting to sell the team but has motivation to find solid ownership because prospective new owners in the WHL require league approval. The good news for the receivers is that the Winterhawks are a successful business that would be attractive to someone wishing to get into the hockey business. 

The key officers of the team, president Doug Piper and vice-president/general manager and coach Mike Johnston, are expected to remain in place -- depending on the wishes of new ownership -- and they will add value to the franchise.

But the good news for fans of the team is that the organization itself is on solid business footing in a city that supports it very well -- pending the future of the pandemic, of course.

The franchise should attract solid -- perhaps even local -- ownership.