The nightmare is nearly over in Portland.

With the WHL’s board of governors approving the sale of the Winter Hawks to Bill Gallacher last week, the two-plus year reign of the Jim Goldsmith-led ownership group is mercifully on the verge of ending.

“We weren’t achieving the level and standard (of ownership) we expected … and they needed to pursue a sale of the team,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison told the Portland Tribune.

Gallacher, an Alberta oil tycoon and the owner of the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League, has declined interview requests until the sale is finalized, which is expected to happen by the end of the month.

Portland has been a complete disaster since the group led by Goldsmith, a New York-based businessman, bought the team in 2006. Once one of the league’s proudest franchises, under Goldsmith’s watch the Winter Hawks went 29-116-3-3, saw attendance plummet, were hounded by rumors of unpaid bills, and had a slew of players leave the team.

But with Gallacher on his way the league hopes the two-time Memorial Cup champion is on its way to recovery.

“(Gallacher) is a very passionate individual of hockey and a highly successful businessman who’s committed to the restoration of the Portland franchise, on and off the ice,” Robison said.

The complications aren’t completely over for the Winter Hawks, however. Indications are Gallacher plans to overhaul hockey operations, bringing new people in to run the front office and the coaching staff, and perhaps even new players from the college or junior A ranks. Portland departed for its swing through the East Division prior to the league’s vote on the sale, which was unanimous, and it’s unknown who will be in what position when the team returns.

“The more we think about the whole coaching thing, the more everyone gets off guard, veers away from just playing,” forward Colin Reddin told the Tribune. “It’s best that we let whatever happens happen.

“It’s the way it goes, it’s professional, it’s a job. If we need new coaches and players, that’s the way it goes. But, it’s definitely going to be a shocker for the team (if coaches change). How everyone adjusts will be important.”

Around the WHL: The deadline to get down to three overagers was last Thursday, with a number of teams making moves to get to the limit. Brandon traded defenseman Matt McCue to Medicine Hat in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft. Lethbridge sent forward Adam Chornyeko to Saskatoon for a fifth rounder in 2009. Calgary released goaltender Dan Spence and Tri-City released forward Blair Macaulay. Macaulay was selected by Portland in the overager draft, but has not yet reported. … Prince George made a couple roster moves. Disgruntled 18-year-old forward Dale Hunt, the third-overall pick in the 2005 bantam draft, was sent home to await a trade. Also, the Cougars acquired 19-year-old goaltender Joe Caligiuri from Brandon for a seventh-rounder in 2009. … Lethbridge picked up one of the league’s other available 19-year-old goaltenders, getting Torrie Jung from Kelowna for a sixth rounder in 2010. … Brandon forward Jay Fehr was named the WHL Player of the Week. Fehr had five goals and four assists in three games as the Wheat Kings went 2-0-1-0.

League leaders: Points — Evander Kane (Vancouver) 22; goals — Brandon Kozun (Calgary) 10; assists — Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Vancouver) 17; penalty minutes — Alex Plante (Calgary) 42; wins — Mark Guggenberger (Swift Current), Dustin Tokarski (Spokane) 7; goals against average — Tokarski 1.38; save percentage — Tokarski .956.

Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog

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