Friday, August 15, 2008

Sold!...?: Portland Winter Hawks

If you thought being a Blackhawks fan was tough before Bill Wirtz kicked it, the poor citizens or Portland, OR have their own circus in the WHL's Winter Hawks. The last couple years, the Winter Hawks had more in common with the Chicago club than their jersey. (The sweaters originally worn by the Winter Hawks were hand me downs from the Blackhawks. They were later tweaked, such as redoing the cross-tomahawks shoulder crest with a "P" for Portland, but they're essentially still the same...excepting that awful 25th anniversary shirt.)

Portland has been the league's worst team under their current ownership, lead by Jim Goldsmith. Worse yet, they're being sued by their former coach, are accused of neglecting medical treatment for their players, and have been late to pay suppliers.

However, it looks like salvation will come in the form of new owners. Greg Drinnan reports that the Winter Hawks are set to be sold pending league approval. The buyer is Calgary-based billionaire Bill Gallacher, who also has an interest in the BCHL's Nanaimo Clippers. The price is a reported C$7.5MM.

Not too long ago, the Winter Hawks were a proud franchise, having won two Memorial Cups and churning out NHL-bound players, such as Marian Hossa, Brendan Morrow, Braydon Coburn, Richard Zednick, Adam Deadmarsh, and Cam Neely to name a few. Oh yeah, and Brandon Dubinsky.

Portland's recent years of suffering pale in comparison to their brothers in Chicago, but they're hoping that with fresh blood at the purse strings they'll have an equally miraculous turnaround in the standings.

Gallacher will have a tough go of it. The Winter Hawks have the worst lease in the league, particularly now that their arch rival Seattle Thunderbirds are exiting KeyArena to become the primary tenant at Kent Events Center, currently under construction. Despite reports that a new lease is imminent, it's highly doubtful new terms will bring any significant revenue sharing, though even a reduction in rent would go a long ways. I expect Gallacher and his group will be underwriting the team in exchange for the glamours of ownership.

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