Winterhawks sale would be ninth since 2007 . . . WHL GM tells Ewen ‘lineup’ of shoppers is expected . . . What’s the price tag?

Sooner or later, the Portland Winterhawks likely will be sold.

Why likely? Because never say never, and perhaps owner Bill Gallacher will end up keeping the WHL franchise.

But if the Winterhawks are sold, it will mark the ninth time a WHL franchise has Portlandchanged hands since the Kamloops Blazers went from community to private ownership during the summer of 2007. Of course, it also will be the second time the Winterhawks will have changed hands since 2008.

However, as of Tuesday night, there didn’t appear to be anything new regarding the Winterhawks’ situation, The WHL’s top regular-season team in the shortened 2019-20 regular-season is in receivership after a number of Gallacher-owned companies filed for bankruptcy last week.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia, who covers the Vancouver Giants, writes that “a WHL general manager, who requested anonymity, says he expects a ‘lineup’ of interested buyers for the Winterhawks . . .”

Yes, the vultures will be circling.

The last WHL franchise to have changed hands was the Seattle Thunderbirds.

One source who knows his way around the WHL told Taking Note on Tuesday: “Bet Russ Farwell is patting himself on the back . . .”

Farwell was the Thunderbirds’ governor and general manager, and also owned a piece of the action when that deal went down in 2017.

Here’s Ewen:

“WHL teams don’t change hands often and sale prices are rarely made public, as you’d expect. The Seattle Thunderbirds were sold in October of 2017, going from a group led by longtime Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell to brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt, who own Silent-Aire, an engineering and data centre equipment manufacturing company based in Edmonton.

“Multiple sources say the Thunderbirds were sold for US$12 million. That’s never been confirmed.”

Ewen’s complete piece is right here.

Six months before the Thunderbirds changed hands, the Chynoweth family sold the Kootenay Ice to Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. After two winters in Cranbrook, they moved the franchise to Winnipeg immediately after the 2018-19 season.

The Regina Pats were sold in April 2014 with Russ and Diane Parker of Calgary, who had owned the franchise for 19 years, selling to a local group comprising Jason Drummond, Todd Lumbard, Anthony Marquart, Gavin Semple and Shaun Semple. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the sale price “is believed to be in the neighbourhood of Cdn$7.5 million.”

In March of 2014, Rick Brodsky sold the Prince George Cougars to a group that includes local businessmen Ray Fortier, Ernest Ouellet, John Pateman and Greg Pocock, along with two former Cougars defencemen — Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. The sale price was reported by the Prince George Citizen as being close to Cdn$7 million. Brodsky had bowed out of his family’s ownership of the Saskatoon Blades to purchase the Cougars franchise in 1992 when it was playing out of Victoria.

After owning the Saskatoon Blades for 37 years, the Brodsky family sold the franchise to Mike Priestner of Edmonton, who owns Go Auto, on Aug. 27, 2013. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported the sale price as Cdn$9 million.

On April 4, 2011, the WHL confirmed the sale of the Chilliwack Bruins by owners Jim Bond, Brian Burke, Moray Keith, Darryl Porter and Glen Sather to RG Properties, which was headed up by Graham Lee. He moved the franchise to Victoria where it operates as the Royals.

Bill Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in August 2008, buying the franchise from John Bryant, Jack Donovan and Jim Goldsmith. The sale price was believed to have been about US$6 million.

The Kamloops Blazers were sold over the summer of 2007, with Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland Properties and now the owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, partnering with former players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor to purchase the franchise from community shareholders. The sale price was about Cdn$6.1 million.

So what will be the price tag on the Winterhawks?

Well, if this was four or five months ago, one might have guessed it to be somewhere around US$12 million.

However, in these pandemic times — I mean, can anyone guarantee when/if the next season will begin? — and with the franchise in receivership and the vultures circling, it just might go for something less than that.

Or could the WHL step in and purchase the franchise for a healthy price, if for no other reason than to protect the values of its other 21 franchises, and then try to find new ownership once we find out what things will look like when we get to wherever we are going?

These are bizarre times in which we find ourselves living and there are oh, so many questions, aren’t there?


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one a zinger from H.L. Mencken: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

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There have been reports that Vince McMahon, he of grapplin’ fame, is working to sell his football league, the XFL. If you’re interested, The Sports Curmudgeon has a few words of warning: “If you are thinking that it might be a hoot to put in a bid for ‘3 easy payments of only $39.95,’ let me offer a word of caution and suggest that you might wind up as the owner.”

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One more thing regarding The Sports Curmudgeon . . . if you aren’t a regular reader of his work, you should at least consider taking a look at his Tuesday post. He tackled two questions: 1. What might sports be like in a post-COVID-19 world?, and 2. Are sports important with regard to (a) ‘return to normalcy?’ . . . It’s all right here.


Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Tuesday that there won’t be any special treatment given to the NHL if it wants to use Vancouver as a hub for its proposed return to play. . . . “I’m not going to compromise safety for any organization, whether it’s the NHL or anything else, as much as I love hockey,” Dr. Henry said during her daily briefing. If the NHL is to bring teams into Vancouver, she said, all people involved with the teams and arriving from outside Canada would have to self-isolate for two weeks. . . .

The Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, has been cancelled for 2020. It was to have been held from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 in Toronto. . . .

The California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) announced Tuesday that its schools “have determined that NCAA sport competition will not occur during the fall of 2020.” . . . This news came after the U.S.’s largest four-year college system, the California State University (CSU), announced most classes will be presented online in the fall. CSU has 23 schools. . . .

Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, said at a news conference on Tuesday that pro sports can resume in his state, without fans, as of May 16. He said leagues and teams would have to provide public health protections and follow guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control. . . .

There are 41 theaters on Broadway in New York City that are part of the Broadway League. They announced Tuesday that they will remain closed through at least Sept. 6, which is Labour Day.


When the Detroit Pistons were winning NBA titles, they were a fearsome aggregation of aggressive players. As Charles Barkley explained on Facebook: “Those guys were out there trying to hurt people. . . . When you were playing the Pistons you had to call home and tell your family you love them just in case you never saw them again.”


Aris Brown, the 18-year-old son of NFL great Jim Brown, who is 84, has committed to play lacrosse at Hampton University. As Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot wrote: “It appears that Jim enjoyed a strong fourth quarter.”


Sheep

Winterhawks in receivership . . . Regular-season champions for sale . . . Owner has filed for bankruptcy

The Portland Winterhawks, who won the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s regular-season champions for 2019-20, are in receivership and, according to a news release from the league, a FOR SALE sign is blowing in the wind.

The Oregonian, a Portland newspaper, has reported that the company that owns the Portlandfranchise, Portland Winterhawks Inc., filed for bankruptcy on Thursday.

According to Jeff Manning of The Oregonian: “Winterhawks owner William Gallacher allegedly failed to repay money his companies had borrowed in 2018. The lender, Bridging Financing, went to court in Toronto earlier this month and claims it took control of several of Gallacher’s companies, including the hockey team.”

Manning reported that “several” companies owned by Gallacher filed in Portland on Thursday.

According to Manning, the WHL “can terminate” a franchise if it “enters bankruptcy or is in receivership for more than 10 days.” As well, Rip City Management LLC, which operates the two arenas in which the Winterhawks play, could rip up their lease.

It’s unlikely any of that will happen, though.

From court documents: “At present, the Receiver has no indication that PWH is in financial distress apart from its involvement in the Bridging Loan. Accordingly, the Receiver views it as important to maintain the operations of PWH and the Winterhawks’ franchise to preserve their value for the benefit of all creditors of the Debtors in the Canadian Proceeding.”

Gallacher is a Calgary-based oil man, and you may be aware that the oil-and-gas sector is having a tough time of it these days. Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in 2008. Under his ownership, along with the leadership provided by Doug Piper, the team’s president, and Mike Johnston, the vice-president, general manager and head coach, things turned around and what once was the WHL’s most-pathetic franchise played in four straight championship finals (2011-14), winning in 2013.

Manning’s complete story is right here.

According to figures compiled by the WHL, the Winterhawks’ average announced attendance for 32 homes games in the truncated 2019-20 season was 5,540, the fifth-highest average in the 22-team league. That was a decrease of 376 from 2018-19, when the Winterhawks had the fourth-highest average announced attendance.

The WHL suspended its regular season on March 12 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It later cancelled its season, including playoffs.

The Winterhawks finished with the WHL’s best record (45-11-7), their 97 points leaving them one ahead of the Everett Silvertips (46-13-4). Thus, Portland was awarded the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champion.

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The WHL released a statement on Sunday afternoon, saying that it is “working closely” with all involved “to ensure the smooth transition to new ownership in short order.”

According to the WHL, Doug Piper, the Winterhawks’ president, and Mike Johnston, the vice-president, general manager and head coach, “will remain with the team and are committed to conducting business as usual . . .”

The WHL statement also included this: “. . . we expect that there will be a great deal of interest in obtaining ownership” of the Winterhawks.

So . . . while the first paragraph would seem to indicate there is a sale on the horizon, it would seem that process of locating buyers is just getting started.

You are free to wonder how easy/difficult it will be to sell one of the WHL’s premier franchises in these pandemic-dominated times? After all, I would suggest that there is no guarantee as to when, or even if, the 2020-21 season will start.

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OK. I have to admit that I burst out laughing when I read one sentence in the WHL’s news release.

Here it is: “There will be no further comment from the WHL or Portland Winterhawks at this time.”

I take you back to Nov. 28, 2012, when, you may recall, the WHL dropped a sledge hammer on the Winterhawks for what it called “a series of violations of the WHL regulations.”

The last line of that news release, which didn’t spell out what the Winterhawks had done to warrant such punishment, read: “The Western Hockey League will not make any further public comments on this matter.”

The Winterhawks followed up by issuing their own news release, spelling out the regulations they had violated. It wasn’t long before Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was busy doing damage control with lots of public comments.

For old time’s sake . . .

The WHL news release on the sanctions is right here.

The Winterhawks’ news release explaining those violations is right here.

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The 22-team WHL has four community-owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos — whose fates are controlled by local shareholders. As such, each of them holds an annual meeting at which financial statements are presented to shareholders.

The other 18 all are privately owned, so their financials aren’t available.

While the Winterhawks may be in better shape than some of Bill Gallacher’s other business interests, you can bet that all of the WHL teams are feeling the squeeze brought on by the pandemic. The WHL had 54 regular-season games remaining in its season when the plug was pulled, so teams lost out on that revenue. And then the playoff qualifiers took big hits with the cancellation of those games.

And now, with so many questions and so few answers floating in the ether, you have to wonder how preparations for a new season — the selling of sponsorships and season tickets — are progressing.

Granted, it’s still early to some, but if you’re an owner or a general manager training camps should be opening in slightly more than three months. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed. What of bringing over import players? And what about the billet situation — how is that going to play out with a highly infectious virus lurking who knows where?

The Winterhawks were the first WHL team to issue furloughs and layoff notices and to impose paycuts late in March. The Kamloops Blazers, another privately owned club, were close behind. Their majority owner, Tom Gaglardi, also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars. He is the president of Northland Properties, which is almost completely reliant on the hospitality industry, meaning there is little in the way of revenue these days.

It’s safe to assume that other WHL teams, too, have done what they can to trim expenses as they are mired in a situation where they aren’t able to generate revenue.

Whether any of them end up going the way of the Winterhawks remains to be seen.

But you have to think some things are going to look a whole lot different by the time we come out the other end of his situation.

In the meantime, if you’ve been wanting to own a WHL franchise, you could do a whole lot worse than the Winterhawks, the defending regular-season champions.

Blazers’ top pick to get a look . . . Veteran Hitmen forward wants out . . . Leason, Raiders continue hot start


MacBeth

D Giffen Nyren (Moose Jaw, Kamloops, Calgary, 2006-10) has been released by Amiens (France, Ligue Magnus) by mutual agreement. He was pointless in seven games.


ThisThat

The Kamloops Blazers, beset by suspensions, injuries and a seven-game losing skid, will have F Logan Stankoven in their lineup on Friday night against the visiting Swift Current Broncos.

The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Stankoven, 15, is from Kamloops. He was the Blazers’ first-round Kamloops1pick, fifth overall, in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.

Last season, with the bantam prep team at Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., Stankoven finished with 57 goals and 33 assists in 30 games. This season, with the major midget Thompson Blazers, who play out of Kamloops, he has 10 goals and six assists in eight games.

After making his WHL debut on Friday night, Stankoven will rejoin his major midget teammates on Saturday for a 12:15 p.m. date with the visiting Cariboo Cougars.

F Jermaine Loewen, the Blazers’ captain, will complete a four-game suspension on Friday, while F Ryley Appelt begins a two-game sentence. At the same time, F Kyrell Sopotyk and F Travis Walton are out with undisclosed injuries. Walton, in fact, has yet to play this season, although he may be ready on Friday.

The Blazers will be celebrating Mark Recchi Hall of Fame Night on Friday as Stankoven makes his debut. Recchi, a Kamloops native with three Stanley Cup rings in his possession, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame a year ago. Recchi, one of the Blazers’ five owners, now is an assistant coach with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Blazers opened this season by sweeping a home-and-home set from the Kelowna Rockets. Since then, the Blazers have gone 0-6-1, including 0-3-0 at home.

Last season, the Blazers began the season with a nine-game losing streak and never did recover as they missed the playoffs.


For the second time in less than a week, a veteran forward has asked a WHL team for a Calgarytrade. . . . The Calgary Hitmen opened a five-game road swing in Prince Albert on Tuesday night, but F Tristen Nielsen, 18, wasn’t with them. Prior to the game, the Hitmen revealed via Twitter that Nielsen, who is from Fort St. John, B.C., has requested a trade. . . . Nielsen was a first-round selection by Calgary in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . In 106 career regular-season games, he has 23 goals and 20 assists. This season, he is pointless in five games. Last season, he finished with 19 goals and 16 assists in 49 games. . . .

Late last week, veteran F Gary Haden, 19, asked the Medicine Hat Tigers for a trade. He is at home in Airdrie, Alta., as he awaits a move. . . . Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News has the latest the Haden situation right here.

On Oct. 8, F Michael Farren, 18, asked the Saskatoon Blades for a trade. On Oct. 11, the Blades dealt him to the Kelowna Rockets.


G Blake Lyda won’t be on the bus as the Everett Silvertips head out on their tour of the EverettEast Division. Josh Horton of the Everett Herald reported that Lyda, 16, who has yet to get into a game this season, suffered an undisclosed injury during a pregame skate on Friday and is listed as being out three-to-six weeks. . . . G Danton Belluk, who plays for the midget AAA Eastman Selects, is expected to join the Silvertips on Thursday and stay with them through the six-game trip.  . . . Belluk, 17, is from Lorette, Man. Everett picked him in the 10th round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. With the Silvertips, he’ll be backing up Dustin Wolf. . . . The Silvertips also head east without F Bronson Sharp, who is week-to-week with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Silvertips open the trip against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday.


The Medicine Hat Tigers are carrying 22 players after they dropped D Ryan Watson, 16, from their roster. Watson, from Delta., B.C., was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. This season, he was pointless in four games. He played last season for the Delta Hockey Academy prep team, recording four goals and 15 assists in 32 games. . . . The Tigers are carrying two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 13 forwards, not including veteran F Gary Haden, who is at home in Airdrie, Alta., after asking to be traded.


Tim Hunter of the Moose Jaw Warriors will be the head coach of Team WHL when it whlopens the CIBC Canada-Russia series in Kamloops (Nov. 5) and Vancouver (Nov. 6). . . . Hunter, in his fifth season as the Warriors’ head coach, also is the head coach of Canada’s national junior team. . . . In the Canada-Russia series, he will be assisted by Brent Kisio, the head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and Jason Smith, the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets. Kisio also is an assistant coach with Canada’s national junior team. . . . Athletic trainer Mike Burnstein of the Vancouver Giants will work both games, with help from Colin Robinson of the Kamloops Blazers on Nov. 5 and Khore Elliott of the Victoria Royals on Nov. 6. . . . Shingo Sasaki, the Giants’ equipment manager, also will work the game in Vancouver.


A home in Scottsdale, Ariz., that is owned by Bill Gallacher, the owner of the Portland PortlandWinterhawks, can be had for US$26 million. . . . According to Brinkwire, it is the “priciest home for sale in Arizona.” . . . More from Brinkwire: “The 14,350-square-foot house on four acres in the Silverleaf neighborhood of DC Ranch comes with an elevator, two guest houses,10-foot solid slab fireplaces, swimming pools on both sides of the property, a 1,000-bottle wine room and five laundry rooms. . . . The Mediterranean, contemporary-style mansion also has nine bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, 10-foot-tall automated doors leading to numerous marble terraces, a commercial walk-in freezer and a master bathroom done entirely in Statuario marble with grey and gold veining.” . . . Gallacher and Joanne Stansfield bought the joint for US$11.1 million in cash in 2016. . . . There’s more right here.


Garry VanHereweghe has resigned as general manager and associate coach of the AJHL’s Olds Grizzlys. He will work through Friday and then take his leave. . . . The Grizzlys have started the season at 0-12-1.


TUESDAY NIGHT NOTES:

The Vancouver Giants unleashed a 71-shot attack as they beat the Swift Current Broncos, Vancouver6-2, in Langley, B.C. The game was the first in the Broncos’ five-game B.C. Division tour. . . . By period, the Giants outshot the visitors 26-4, 20-7 and 25-4. . . . The Broncos, who beat the host Brandon Wheat Kings, 3-2 in a shootout, on Saturday, now are 1-8-0. . . . The Giants (9-1-1) are off to their best start since 2008-09 when they opened 7-0-3. . . . Vancouver has points in eight straight (7-0-1). . . . The Giants scored twice in the first period as they outshot the Broncos, 26-4. . . . G Joel Hofer blocked 65 shots for Swift Current. . . . D Bowen Byram (4) scored twice and added an assist for Vancouver, with F James Malm drawing three assists. . . . According to the online scoresheet, Broncos D Matthew Stanley took a fighting major and game misconduct at 11:13 of the third period. Perhaps it was one of those one-man fights? . . . Broncos F Alec Zawatsky was hit with a cross-checking major and game misconduct at 11:54 of the third period. . . . G Trent Miner, who missed three weekend games after returning home to Brandon following the deaths of two grandfathers, was back with the Giants. On this night, he backed up David Tendeck.


F Jack Finley scored two goals to help the Spokane Chiefs to a 6-4 victory over the host SpokaneChiefsBrandon Wheat Kings. . . . The loss was the first of the season in regulation time for Brandon (5-1-2). The Wheat Kings were the last of the WHL’s 22 teams to suffer such a loss. . . . The Chiefs (5-2-2) are 2-1-0 on their East Division swing. . . . Finley, 16, has three goals this season. From Kelowna, he was the sixth overall selection in the 2017 WHL bantam draft. He is the son of former NHL D Jeff Finley, who now is the Detroit Red Wings’ chief amateur scout. . . . The Wheat Kings surrendered 2-0 and 4-3 leads as the Chiefs scored the game’s last three goals. . . . F Eli Zummack (5) pulled Spokane even, 4-4, with his second goal of the game, at 11:34 of the third period. . . . Finley’s second of the night broke the tie at 17:23. . . . Brandon G Jiri Patera, a freshman from Czech Republic, picked up his third assist of the young season.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes erased a 1-0 deficit with four straight goals en route to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Kootenay Ice. . . . The Hurricanes (4-4-2) had points in four straight (2-0-2). . . . The Ice (3-4-2) has lost four in a row (0-2-2). . . . Letthbridge’s four-goal outburst included two from F Jordy Bellerive (6) and one from F Jake Elmer (8), who played with the Ice in 2016-17. . . . The Ice lost D Dallas Hines to a cross-checking major and game misconduct at 16:21 of the third period.


F Brett Leason continued his red-hot start, scoring two goals and adding two assists as his PrinceAlbertPrince Albert Raiders dumped the visiting Calgary Hitmen, 8-4. . . . The Raiders improved to 11-1-0 with their fourth straight victory. . . . The Hitmen, who had points in their previous two games (1-0-1), fell to 1-6-2. . . . Leason, 19, leads the WHL in goals (11) and points (26) and is tied for the lead in assists (15). . . . He finished last season with career highs in goals (16), assists (17) and points (32), in 66 games. He had one goal in 12 games with Tri-City when the Americans traded him to Prince Albert. . . . F Sean Montgomery (4) added a goal and two assists for the Raiders. . . . The Raiders had F Cohner Saleski, 16, in their lineup for the first time this season, and he assisted on Leason’s first goal for his first WHL point. Saleski, a first-round selection in the 2017 bantam draft, plays for the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos. He was pointless in one game with the Raiders last season.


The Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s last two goals and beat the Tri-City SeattleAmericans, 5-4, in Kent, Wash. . . . The Thunderbirds (6-1-1) have points in five straight (4-0-1). . . . The Americans are 4-4-0. . . . F Nolan Yaremko (8) scored back-to-back second-period goals, the second one at 15:30, to give the Americans a 4-3 lead. . . . Seattle tied it when D Reece Harsch (1) scored, on a PP, at 18:36 of the second. . . . F Nolan Volcan (4) broke the tie at 1:29 of the third period and that one stood up as the winner. . . . Volcan finished with two goals and two assists. . . . F Andrej Kukuca (3) had a goal and two assists for Seattle.


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