What really happened with the Portland Winterhawks and recruiting? WHL head office should elaborate
I appreciate the WHL powers that be want to keep the privacy of their teenage players.
I appreciate it took considerable gumption to throw the whole library, if not several books at least, at the Portland Winterhawks for recruiting infractions. I appreciate they desperately want this thing to go away, especially with the spotlight even brighter due to the NHL lockout.
But we need to know more. You can’t wallop a franchise like the Winterhawks got walloped on Wednesday, offer up a vague explanation and then let the Winterhawks submit their own cryptic response and not have people wonder.
Don’t get it. Sorry. Portland losing their first five picks from the 2013 bantam draft, plus the first rounders in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and being fined for $200,000 and seeing general manager and coach Mike Johnston suspended for the remainder of this season for something called “player benefit violations,” is hard to fathom.
It makes me think of A Few Good Men, where the Jack Nicholson character turns to the Tom Cruise character in court and says, “Now, are these the questions I was really called here to answer? Phone calls and foot lockers?” Doesn’t add up.
After the WHL released their statement, the Winterhawks and former Vancouver Canuck assistant Johnston followed and stated that they “were found to have committed the following violations: a player contract signed in 2009, involving flights for the player’s family and a summer training program; over the last five years, seven families were provided flights 2-4 times per season based on financial need and their distance from Portland; twice in the last five years the team paid for two players to each have a one-week summer training regimen; the Winterhawks provided a cell phone for its team captain for a period of three seasons.”
Were those flights deal breakers? Do the Winterhawks not get those players without them? Or was it a nice gesture, as the Winterhawks would lead you to believe? That makes a difference.
The WHL’s statement featured this paragraph: ““WHL Clubs are required to fully disclose all commitments they make to a player in the WHL Standard Player Agreement. Our independent investigation in this case revealed there were multiple violations over an extended period for player benefits that are not permitted under WHL Regulations and were not disclosed to the WHL. It should also be noted through the course of the investigation there was no evidence of any payments or enhanced education benefits provided to players that would be contrary to WHL Regulations as previous media reports indicated.”
What does any of that mean?
The league has severely hamstrung one of its most storied markets (Alan Caldwell sums it up at his Small Thoughts At Large blog). We should have a better idea of exactly why.
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