Well, it’s been an interesting 24 hours in WHL circles …
For those who may have missed it, the WHL levied unprecedented sanctions against the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday for what it described as “player benefit violations” over the past four seasons. The league came down hard on Portland, suspending coach/general manager Mike Johnston for the remainder of the season, issuing the Winterhawks a $200,000 fine, and taking away Portland’s first five picks in next year’s bantam draft, as well as its first rounders through 2017.
The league declined to reveal any specific information about what Portland was guilty of, which is curious — don’t you think a punishment of this magnitude requires some sort of justification? However, Portland released a statement in which the team outlines what it says were the violations. The Winterhawks claim the violations included flights provided for families, paying for one-week training programs for two players, and a cell phone provided for a team captain for three seasons. If this is indeed represents the sum of Portland’s transgressions, the punishment seems harsh. But then, because of the league’s silence, we’re only getting one side of the story.
This is specifically relevant to the Silvertips because general manager Garry Davidson was part of the Winterhawks organization when these violations took place. Davidson spent four years as Portland’s director of player personnel before being hired by Everett in February to replace the dismissed Doug Soetaert.
However, Davidson today declined to comment on the situation, citing a gag order issued by the league. Davidson did say, however, that as far as he knew neither Davidson nor the Silvertips faced any consequences as a result of the WHL’s investigation, and the league did not mention Davidson in its statement.
Needless to say, this has been the water cooler talk around the league the past two days. The incomparable Gregg Drinnan has some interesting thoughts, and he’s gathered some relevant tweets (Jim Swanson’s is priceless).
Portland’s first away game since the announcement happens to be Saturday in Everett. That game already had a lot of buzz because it’s the first time former Everett prospect Seth Jones, who rejected the Tips during the offseason, will be visiting Comcast Arena. Should be quite the evening.