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.

Portland Winterhawks' parent company files for bankruptcy

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Portland Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks' parent company files for bankruptcy

The coronavirus has had a global impact not just from a health and safety perspective, but from an economic one, too.

As the sports world remains at a standstill for two months, tough decisions have been made. People have lost their jobs, taken paycuts and companies have had a shutter their doors. For some businesses, it's temporary. For others, the pandemic has changed the course of some companies forever. And Portland, Oregon, is no exception.

The Trail Blazers' NBA season, Timbers' MLS season and Thorns FC's NWSL season have all been suspended. The Portland Winterhawks' WHL season was cancelled-- and now the consequences are dire.

According to Oregonlive, Portland Winterhawks Inc., the Winterhawks parent company, filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy Thursday after owner William Gallacher "allegedly failed to repay money his companies had borrowed in 2018."

Bridging Financing, who reportedly took the Gallacher to court in Toronto, claims it has taken control of several of his companies, which includes the hockey franchise.

Now, a court-appointed receiver has the Winterhawks' fate in its hands. 

A receivership could be devastating for the hockey team. The Western Hockey League can terminate a team’s ownership agreement if the franchise enters bankruptcy or is in receivership for more than 10 days. The Winterhawks’ landlord, Rip City Management LLC, can also void the team’s lease to play in the Moda Center and Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. Rip City Management LLC is affiliated with the Trail Blazers.

The receiver said he has no plans to shut down the Winterhawks organization and added that he hopes it will soon return to normal operations.

The WHL said in a statement Sunday that they are aware of the situation and are “working closely with the Receiver and the Winterhawks team management to ensure the smooth transition to new ownership in short order.”

President Doug Piper, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston, and the executive staff will remain with the team.

The Winterhawks arrived in Portland in 1976, having made the WHL Championship series 12 times, and has won the championship three times: 1982, 1998, and 2013. Before the pandemic, the franchise was atop the Western Conference before the abrupt ending of the season. 

Brendan Leipsic's Capitals contract terminated after offensive remarks revealed

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USATSI

Brendan Leipsic's Capitals contract terminated after offensive remarks revealed

The Washington Capitals have placed former Winterhawks wing Brendan Leipsic on unconditional waivers with the intention of his contract being terminated after private messages revealed misogynistic comments. 

The Capitals forward came under fire after screenshots of the conversation leaked on Twitter. 

They showed Leipic making derogatory comments about women and their appearances that were sexual in nature. 

The Capitals forward also made some remarks about current and former teammates.

The Capitals front office denounced Leispsic’s comments immediately. So, too, did the NHL, which released a statement regarding the situation.

Leipsic later took to his personal social media and apologized for the comments that he made.

During his career with the Winterhawks, Leipsic scored 120 points in 68 games to win the CHL Top Scorer Award as the highest-scoring player in the Canadian Hockey League.

Leipsic was finishing out a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Capitals before he was cut. He scored three goals and eight assists in 61 games this season.

He will head to the offseason as a restricted free agent.

COVID-19 ends WHL season -- with the Portland Winterhawks as champs

COVID-19 ends WHL season -- with the Portland Winterhawks as champs

The bad news for the Portland Winterhawks and their fans Wednesday was that the Western Hockey League has canceled the remaining games of its regular season.

The good news, though, is that the young Winterhawks have capped off the abbreviated season by being declared the winners of the WHL’s U.S. Division and, even better, winners of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champions, with the best record in the entire league.

The WHL is still holding out hope of holding its playoffs if the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and conditions allow.

Mike Johnston, the team’s head coach, vice president and general manager, admitted that it has been a surprising season for a young team not expected to contend this season.

“To be honest, it was,” Johnston said. “We thought at Christmas we wanted to see where we would be, in the running, and we were kind of surprised at that time we were holding that top position in the league.

“We decided at the trade deadline not to make any moves -- one of the first years we didn’t make any moves, for the simple reason that we liked our team. They were over-performing. And I thought they deserved to make a run with it.

“Also, we knew going forward that we had a phenomenal team coming back next year and the following year so we didn’t want to tinker with that. Most teams in our position did make moves and acquired players, but even with that, we still held on right to the end.

“It’s amazing. This is only the third time we’ve had the best overall record and we’ve had a lot of good teams.”

The Hawks were loaded with youngsters this season. They will have two big-time losses next season, in goalie Joel Hofer and captain and star defenseman Johnny Ludvig. Both could be headed for professional hockey next season.

But all of the team’s offensive firepower should return.

“In the future, you’re looking at a real nice team for next year and the year after,” Johnston said, “A team that should be one of the strongest in the league.

“Our core players will be back. Two years ago, we had four 16-year-olds in our lineup and this year we had three. A third of our team was 16- and 17-years-old this year.”

The star of that group will be a player, Seth Jarvis, who is expected to be a high pick in the NHL draft this year. As a 17-year-old, he had 42 goals and 56 assists in just 58 games.

Indeed, a franchise that has had so much success under Johnston seems to be on the same road again.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announces cancellation of large gatherings

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announces cancellation of large gatherings

A news release was sent out Wednesday night from Oregon governor's office with the state taking its precautions in preventing the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

In the release, it states that all gatherings of 250 people or more are canceled across the state effective immediately. This will be in effect for the next four weeks and will be lifted on April 8.

A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which appropriate social distancing of a minimum of three feet cannot be maintained.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown will hold a news conference Thursday to explain new steps the state is taking.

Governor Brown also mapped out the recommendations put in place for schools, long-term and assisted living facilities, and at the workplace as well. 

Here are a few events on the upcoming schedule at the Rose Quarter in Portland:

Portland Winterhawks vs. Everett Silvertips

2020 OSAA Dance and Drill State

Brantely Gilbert concert

2020 NCAA Division I Women’s Regionals

2020 Nike Hoop Summit

And, that’s just the events scheduled at Moda Center and the Memorial Coliseum.

The Portland Timbers have one home game scheduled within the next four weeks. The Timbers are scheduled to host the Philadelphia Union on Mar. 28.

The OSAA basketball playoffs will be played without spectators at Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.

It was announced earlier Wednesday night that the NBA has suspended the 2019-20 season until further notice. The Portland Trail Blazers were scheduled to play the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. 

What happened in Kamloops that led to Don Hay joining the Winterhawks

What happened in Kamloops that led to Don Hay joining the Winterhawks

Don Hay surprised a lot of hockey fans when he took a job as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks last week.

Hay is the winningest head coach in Western Hockey League history, has won three Memorial Cups, two WHL Coach of the Year awards, a World Junior championship and been the head coach of the NHL Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes. Hay recently announced a "retirement" from coaching, leaving the Kamloops Blazers.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Northwest, Hay talked about the opportunity to coach in Portland under old friend Mike Johnston and his responsibilities on the staff.

See the video above

Winterhawks add Don Hay as an assistant coach

Winterhawks add Don Hay as an assistant coach

The Portland Winterhawks announced Monday afternoon that they've added one of the greatest coaches in Western Hockey League history to their staff.

Don Hay, the WHL's career head-coaching leader with 750 wins, won 3 Memorial Cup Championships with the Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants, has two WHL Coach of the Year Awards, a Gold Medal in the 1995 World Juniors, and NHL Head Coaching roles with Phoenix and Calgary. During the 2017-18 season while coachig at Kamloops, Hay set a WHL record, surpassing longtime Portland Coach Ken Hodge to become the leagues winningest Coach with 750 wins in his career.

He will join head coach Mike Johnston's staff as an assistant coach.

"We are thrilled to add a coach of Don's caliber to our staff.  He will bring not only experience in the league but also a history of winning. When I first approached Don about the idea I wasn't sure what his reaction would be, but he was both interested and excited. (Associate head coach) Kyle (Gustafson) and I have always had a good rapport with Don and feel he will definitely be a great addition to our group," said Johnston, who also serves as the team's vice president and general manager.

“I’m excited to work with the Portland Winterhawks organization. I’m looking forward to working with Mike and Kyle and the rest of their staff. It’s a great opportunity to continue to learn and add my experience to the coaching staff,” said Hay in the team's news release.

 

Glass Nabs Top Award In The CHL, Portland Winterhawks Gets Bladed

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Glass Nabs Top Award In The CHL, Portland Winterhawks Gets Bladed

BY: STUART KEMP

The road trip from Alberta ended with the Portland Winterhawks nabbing eleven of twelve points and provided a solid cushion atop the US Division standings and got them within nipping distance of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the overall lead as the Warriors played a few extra games to keep their now very slim lead.

As the Hawks approached home, there came word of Cody Glass receiving the CHL Player of the Month award. Glass, who had been drafted sixth overall in the 2017 NHL draft and signed shortly thereafter, amassed 26 points in 12 games including a 5-game point streak toward the end of November and recorded points in all 12 games played in November. He was announced as the CHL winner after capturing the WHL On the Run Player of the Week ending in November.

The Hawks, after battling a tough Central Swing tour of six games in nine nights, came home to start a whirlwind five game in nine night run with three games at home and two back to back away games. Portland would start it off at home with a game against the Saskatoon Blades, who had been winless in their US Division swing thus far. On the same night, the Hawks welcomed the Les Schwab Fox 12 Toy Drive as they looked to collect a number of toys for the drive ending in mid-December.

The best part of the night was the over 2,000 toys collected at the Moda Center which will go to a variety of local area charities for Christmas. Either Saskatoon was very good on this night, or Portland took them way too lightly. Shane Farkas made the start in net for Portland and held the Blades scoreless in the first period; the same could be said for Nolan Maier in the Saskatoon net. The second period appeared to be the undoing for the Hawks as a costly penalty to John Ludvig gave the Blades their only powerplay goal of the game and the only goal the Blades really needed.

Things got a bit rough for the Hawks as two scraps resulted in Portland’s top line scorers Sklyer McKenzie being off the ice for 17 minutes and Keiffer Bellows getting ejected from the game for a separate scrap. Without the two, the burden fell to other members of the Hawks, who despite a 48-42 shots on goal difference, couldn’t find the back of the net. Oddly, that would be the end of the penalties with the Blades going 1 for 2 and Portland unable to convert on their three chances. Saskatoon would add their second goal of the game late in the second period and add another late in the third to take a commanding lead. Portland tried to add strength up front as they pulled Farkas for the extra attacker with just under two minutes left in the game, but couldn’t convert and allowed Saskatoon an empty net goal with about thirty seconds left to close the scoring and hand the Hawks only their second shutout defeat of the season.

The Hawks will have no time to dwell on the loss as they hit the road for games Tuesday in Vancouver, BC and Wednesday in Everett before returning to Portland to play in order the same two teams Friday and Saturday. The Saturday game will be the annual Teddy Bear Toss where thousands of plush toys will hit the ice following Portland’s first goal. Once that game is over, the Hawks will play just three more games as they head to the Christmas break. They will feature a home and home series with the Spokane Chiefs and an away game versus the Everett Silvertips.

Winterhawks flying high in preseason, changes in roster both on and off the ice

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Winterhawks flying high in preseason, changes in roster both on and off the ice

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With 11 players either drafted by NHL teams or invited to NHL Training Camps, the Portland Winterhawks certainly have the largest contingent representing the Western Hockey League. Forwards Ryan Hughes and Alex Overhardt head to the Nashville Predators, defenseman Henri Jokiharju will head to the Chicago Blackhawks, forward Skyler McKenzie and goaltender Cole Kehler will take in Winnipeg Jets camp, forward Joachim Blichfeld heads down I-5 to San Jose to be with the Sharks, forward Evan Weinger will take part in the Los Angeles Kings camp, defenseman Brendan DeJong will attend Carolina Hurricanes camp, forward Kiefer Bellows will attend NY Islanders camp, and the newest addition to the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, will introduce their sixth overall draft pick, forward Cody Glass, along with defenseman Keoni Texeira.

The Hawks, meanwhile, will be hard at work trying to assess who will remain on their roster when they start the regular season in just over two weeks. Among the decisions will be the glut of overage players on their roster. Goaltender Cole Kehler is in a battle for the job with two netminders still on the list – Shane Farkas, whom the team picked up at trade deadline last season, and Evan Fradette, who is just sixteen years of age. Ethan Middendorf, who was off and on the roster last season and spent the majority of the season with the Vancouver, WA Rangers of the Western States Hockey League, has been dropped from the roster altogether, though he is still on the protected list. On the defensive side, Keoni Texeira is the only overage player who is in battles with the defense roster spot and is probably the safest to be on the opening night roster unless the Golden Knights in the NHL sign him to a deal and place him in their farm system.

The forwards situation is the most stressful with Alex Overhardt and Evan Weinger having invites to NHL camps and Colton Veloso, who wasn’t given an invite to a camp, but provided the best reason for being on the roster with a strong Winterhawks camp and preseason tournament games. With teams having to pare down to just three overage players by mid-October, the phones are sure to be buzzing from teams who may be in the market for strong players from the Winterhawks system.

The Hawks, in addition to Ethan Middendorf, removed defenseman Darren Gisti and forward Easton Easterson from the roster which left them with nineteen forwards, ten defensemen and three goaltenders for thirty-two players. The roster will have to undergo close to nine more reductions before the final rosters are set. Teams are only allowed to carry three overage players on their firm roster. Currently, the Winterhawks have five players listed as overage on their roster.

The players that were on the roster, with the exception of Cody Glass who was attending a camp in Toronto, Ontario, took part in the annual “tournaments” in Everett and Kennewick. Portland faced off against Spokane, Tri-City and Everett in the Everett tournament, winning one and losing two in regulation. In Kennewick, they won all three games as they played Spokane, Kootenay and Red Deer. It’s tough to call these games tournaments as teams don’t play round robin games, instead looking to matches that assist their teams to get better assessment of players.

With the Hawks done in preseason games, they will spend the next week making final cuts, looking for homes for players that won’t be on the roster for the time being to keep tabs on their progress and gearing up for their first regular season game on Saturday, September 23 in Everett versus the Silvertips.

Three people left the Winterhawks organization at the end of the season. Kevin Williams, who was in charge of game night operations, was replaced by Yinka Omolayole, who was working with Community Events for the past two seasons. Lesley Dawson, who was in charge of Community Events, was replaced by Leslie Pfau as the new Director of Marketing and Events and Piper Criscola who will manage Public Relations and Community Engagement. Both new additions were long time employees of Entercom Media and bring that experience to the squad.

One question still to be resolved is that of game broadcasts. The latest departure may have more significant impacts to both the team and how it airs games. Todd Vrooman, son of long time broadcaster Dean “Scooter” Vrooman, left the team in July, though it wasn’t announced until just a short time ago. Todd had been the current voice of the Winterhawks for the past six seasons as well as involved heavily in the podcasts and Hawkey Talk, which was a weekly Monday night show on KPAM 860AM, the same home for airing Winterhawks games. Todd had also been involved with Winterhawks programs in schools and other events which took a great deal of what little free time he had left.

Ron Callan, who hosted the Monday night Hawkey Talk, acknowledged that he has not been contacted for resuming the show this season and no mention has been made by the Winterhawks as to a replacement for Vrooman, which could mean that Andy Kemper will handle home game details, but nothing has been announced for away games. The Hawks floated the livestream broadcast via their app on phones before which received mixed reviews and would certainly eliminate those who rely on radio for broadcasts to hear their team on the road.

While nothing has yet been announced, with so little time before the season begins, chances are that the Portland Winterhawks will be the only team in the Western Hockey League without a radio broadcast. Jeremy Imig, who has been instrumental in helping get games on the air with CW 32 the past couple of seasons, may be pressed into action to get broadcasts out on a larger scale. To date, no announcement has been made on televised games this season.

Blazers, Thorns, Timbers, Winterhawks, and Hops combine disaster relief efforts

Blazers, Thorns, Timbers, Winterhawks, and Hops combine disaster relief efforts

The following is a joint press release from the Trail Blazers, Timbers, Thorns FC, Winterhawks and Hops

PORTLAND, Ore. (September 5, 2017) – With disaster response and relief efforts happening in their own communities and across the country, the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Portland Timbers (MLS), Portland Thorns FC (NWSL), Portland Winterhawks (Western Hockey League) and Hillsboro Hops (Northwest League) will band together to raise much-needed funds and blood donations to channel through the American Red Cross.  This is the first joint-philanthropic initiative among the five local professional franchises focusing on a specific cause – to bring aid to victims of Oregon’s wildfires; Hurricane Harvey in Texas; and the potential impact of Hurricane Irma in Florida.

“The destruction we’ve seen from the Oregon wildfires and Hurricane Harvey is heartbreaking,” said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter.  “The journey to recovery will be a long one for all impacted areas. The professional sports community here in Portland is rallying our respective fan bases, employees and partners to contribute resources to assist in the effort where it’s needed most.”  

“Our hearts go out to the families and individuals affected by the devastating fires in Oregon and the communities in Southeast Texas as they begin the process to rebuild and heal,” said Mike Golub, President of Business for the Timbers and Thorns FC. “By working together with our local partners, we are able to maximize our collective impact in support of the communities affected by the devastation caused by these disasters."   

The first steps taken will be to hold individual blood drives starting tomorrow, with each team hosting its own specially-designated day at the headquarters for the Portland American Red Cross, located at 3131 North Vancouver Avenue.  The need for blood is constant and the American Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood and blood products to hospitals in the nation. 

Fundraising efforts by each team will take place in the coming weeks and months at select home games and events to be announced soon.  The Timbers, Thorns FC and Hops seasons are currently underway, with the Winterhawks and Trail Blazers beginning their 2017-18 seasons soon.  Additional information will be posted on each team’s website and through their social media channels.

“We’re pleased to be involved with the team effort to raise funds and support the relief efforts locally and nationally,” said K.L. Wombacher, President and General Manager of the Hillsboro Hops.  “Having two players on our roster that we care deeply about being from the Houston area, Hurricane Harvey hits home for us. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost so much over the last week. We hope to do everything we can to help them get their lives back.”

"Between the forest fires threatening the Northwest and the hurricanes causing catastrophic damage on the Gulf Coast, the resources of the American Red Cross are being stretched to the limits," said Doug Piper, President of the Portland Winterhawks.  "We are proud to stand with the Portland sports community and bring aid to those who so desperately need it.”

Red Cross blood donations can be conveniently scheduled online at www.redcrossblood.org for any of their blood drive locations throughout the region; or through the mobile app by texting BLOODAPP to 90999.  Here is the schedule of upcoming blood drives hosted by each Portland-area pro sports team (**Note:  Donors should use visitor parking for their vehicles, or dial (503) 528-5800 for parking guidance if visitor spaces are full):

  • Wednesday, September 6 – Hillsboro Hops; 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 7 – Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC; 80 appointment slots from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Friday, September 8 – Portland Winterhawks; 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 9 – Portland Trail Blazers; 100 appointment slots from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

For financial donations, text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornadoes.  Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Donors must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and Data Rates may apply. Text STOP to 90999 to STOP. Text HELP to 90999 for HELP. Full Terms and Privacy Policy: hmgf.org/t.