Wednesday, 28 November 2012

WHL Hands Heavy Sanctions Against Portland Winterhawks

The Western Hockey League announced today the disciplinary action which has been taken against the Portland Winterhawks franchise for a series of violations of the WHL Regulations.

As a result of a series of player benefit violations which have occurred over the past four seasons, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison has suspended the Portland Winterhawks from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and the forfeiture of their first round selections in the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 WHL Bantam Drafts. Should the first round selection in 2014 not be available due to a conditional trade, Portland will surrender their second and third round picks in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. The WHL also announced the Portland Winterhawks have been fined $200,000 and Winterhawks General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston has been suspended for the balance of the 2012-13 season, including the 2013 WHL Playoffs.

“All WHL Clubs understand they are required to fully comply and respect our League Regulations or they will face significant consequences,” stated WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “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.”

The Western Hockey League will not make any further public comments on this matter.

Winterhawks Issue Statement

Today the Western Hockey League has announced disciplinary action against the Portland Winterhawks for violations related to player benefits. The WHL has forfeited the team from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and the forfeiture of the team’s first round picks in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The WHL also announced the organization has been fined $200,000, and that General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston has been suspended for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs. Assistant General Manager & Assistant Coach Travis Green will assume Johnston’s duties on an interim basis.

What follows is a summary of the league’s findings, and a statement from Johnston:

The Winterhawks 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

The WHL’s audit found no violations involving monetary payments made to players, their families or agents, or any violations related to the league’s educational packages.

“After fully cooperating with the league’s investigation, we were extremely surprised at the excessive nature of the sanctions, and we don’t feel they are in line with the scope of the violations we were found to have committed,” said Johnston.

“We believe that apart from recruiting trips and parents’ weekend, there is no prohibition in the rules governing flights for players’ parents, which were the majority of the infractions,” continued Johnston. “We are currently exploring our options on how we will proceed. Despite our objections, the league has made its decision, and our players will continue to pursue the goal of winning a WHL championship.”


  1. WOW! A huge thumbs up to the WHL head office! I never thought that they would come down hard on one of the big boys in the Boy's Club called the WHL. The sanctions go even further than I thought they might, considering who the owner is. This action will certainly send a strong message to any other teams that may have contemplated "cheating". Wondering out loud if there are any other teams that have paid players "under the table" or lured Euros over with the promise of extra bucks?

    Play by the rules...Message!!!!


  2. RJ.....Personally, I don't count Portland isn't one of the "big boys". My Boys Club are: Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton in that order. I'd hate to see what those 3 franchises spend in comparison to Swift Current, Prince Albert or Moose Jaw.

    In any event, I agree it is definitely good to see the league send a message to the rest of the teams.


  3. Seems quite excessive for what they did. Flights and a couple training programs and a cell phone. Big Whoop. I guess the league couldn't prove anything in their dealings with Seth Jones so they can down hard for these very minor infractions. Louie.

  4. Darren, when your owner is a billionaire whose is in the running to buy an NHL team I consider Portland as one of the big boys. What was listed is what they got caught for. They can't stop the big boys from having paid scouts all North America and Europe and paying coaches NHL type salaries but when it comes to player dealings the league can create a level playing field. Good to see the league sent a shot across the bow. Scott

  5. What is listed is obviously not the entire story. Since their awful seasons a few years back (and ironically coinciding with change in ownership), the Winterhawks went from several of the worst seasons in league history to making the finals two years in a row. The "discovery" of players like Niederreiter, Baerstchi, and Bartaggia combined with their overwhelming recruitment of American NCAA bound players like Jones, Iverson, Turgeon, Schoenborn, Burke and De Leo point to some seriously fishy recruiting practices. The WHL can say what it wants, but they have no obligation to say publicly what the violations truly were.