WHL notes: Winterhawks to appeal sanctions

Could this be the week the Portland Winterhawks receive a reprieve?

The Western Hockey League’s Board of Governers is holding meetings in Las Vegas this week, and the Winterhawks are expected to appeal the sanctions they were handed earlier this season.

It’s unclear whether Portland’s sanctions, which were levied in November for improper player benefits, are on the agenda for the meetings. However, it seems the Winterhawks are determined to force the issue. Owner Bill Gallacher, president Doug Piper and general manager/head coach Mike Johnston were planning to attend the meetings, which began Monday and conclude today, to try to state their case.

“We’re going to this meeting,” Piper told the Portland Tribune. “We’ve been talking with the league office. We feel like we’re in a good place with the league on this.

“We’re going to the meetings optimistic that we’re moving in the direction to a solution we can all live with.”

The sanctions levied on Portland were unprecedented in league history. The team was fined $200,000, was barred from participating in the first five rounds of this year’s bantam draft, had its first-round bantam picks stripped through 2017, and general manager/head coach Mike Johnston was suspended for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.

The league never delved into the specifics of Portland’s violations, beyond saying the team was guilty of 54 violations involving 14 players. The Winterhawks claim the violations involved providing airplane flights for the families of seven players, providing cell phones for three team captains, and paying for summer training for three players.

There is no formal process of appeal to the league. WHL commissioner Ron Robison did not respond to interview requests from the Tribune asking about the status of Portland’s appeal. The Tribune reported the Winterhawks have consulted with attorneys about possible legal action against the league.

Portland currently has the league’s best record at 43-7-1-2, and the Winterhawks reached the league finals each of the past two seasons.

Stay tuned.

Around the WHL

It was a busy week in the WHL offices as four teams were fined a combined $3,250 for separate multiple-fight situations. Moose Jaw and Swift Current were both fined $500 for a multiple-fight situation on Jan, 26. Then Lethbridge and Edmonton were dinged even more because of a multiple fight situation on Jan. 27. Lethbridge was fined $750 for its second multiple-fight situation of the season, $250 for a goaltender fight, and coach Rich Preston was fined $500 for his game misconduct. Edmonton was fined $500 for the multiple-fight situation and $250 for the goalie fight. … Kamloops’ Colin Smith was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 19-year-old center had four goals and six assists as the Blazers went 3-1. It was the third time Smith earned Player of the Week honors this season.

League leaders

Points—Nicolas Petan (Portland) 93; goals—Brendan Leipsic (Portland), Nicolas Petan (Portland), Colin Smith (Kamloops) 36; assists—Petan 57; penalty minutes—Carter Proft (Spokane) 158; wins—Jordon Cooke (Kelowna) 29; goals against average—Tristan Jarry (Edmonton) 1.62; save percentage—Jarry .935.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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