The Portland Winterhawks held a public video conference to introduce the new team ownership on Tuesday night. During the video conference, they also hosted a Q&A with head coach Mike Johnston and president Doug Piper.
From the new ownership
New owners, Michael Kramer, and Kerry Preete took time to answer some questions regarding their purchase of the team. Preete spoke of how he knew of the Winterhawks as a teenager growing up in Western Canada. He considered the Winterhawks as one of the top teams in the Western Hockey League. Now, he is excited to be part of the Winterhawks alongside Kramer.
Kramer then spoke of a family history of participation in ownership of both rinks and youth hockey programs. He also has had long-time exposure to the Winterhawks having previously served as a member of the board of the Rose Garden. Both brought up Portland being a great hockey town and the desire to grow the franchise in the community.
Winterhawks in the community
Recognizing the concern of some, both Kramer and Preete affirmed that the Winterhawks will still be around whether or not the season takes place. A main takeaway is a complete desire to have the Winterhawks form deeper ties to the Portland community. Especially looking to extend leases in current facilities and keep the team in the area for the long-term.
Return to play
Regarding the return to play policy posed by the WHL, Preete mentioned that the first commitment is to the fans and the players with their development. Very similar to the desire of the fans, the discussion revolved around the safety of the athletes while also being able to put on a successful season.
The Western Hockey League is committed to a 24-game Regular Season for 2020-21.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 9, 2021
A true home for the Winterhawks
There was also a comment stating that they wanted to make one venue the true home of the team. Specifically, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. While continuing to have the occasional game at the Moda Center, the idea is to make the VMC the central hub of Winterhawks hockey.
Junior Winterhawks and youth hockey
Speaking on the Winterhawks Junior Hockey program, both Kramer and Preete have children that have played hockey throughout each stage and both men have a desire to build the program for the future. Working to develop more youth and expand the program in the Portland area.
Following the discussion with our new ownership, President Doug Piper and Head Coach Mike Johnston joined the live stream to answer various other questions.
The end of last season
Coach Johnston spoke first, specifically regarding the abrupt end to last season and the three players who finished their time with the Winterhawks last March: Lane Gilliss, Jake Gricius, and Matt Quigley.
There were eleven weeks where the team met on video conferencing checking in and hearing from alumni and NHL personnel.
Johnston confirmed that Joel Hofer and will not be returning to Portland as he has is named to the taxi squad for the Blues. Meanwhile, it is unlikely that we will see the return of John Ludvig. He has been assigned to the AHL by the Florida Panthers.
Also mentioned was that Ludvig won the fitness award at camp for the Panthers.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 12, 2021
Current player development
Johnston also confirmed that Mason Mannek and Nick Cicek will be returning as two of the team’s 20-year-old overage players.
Both Seth Jarvis (Carolina Hurricanes) and Jaydon Dureau (Tampa Bay Lightning) will be returning to the WHL once the season begins but will be starting the year on their respective AHL teams.
Also expected to return for the start of the season are Jonas Brøndberg and Simon Knak.
James Stefan, Cross Hanas, Jack O’Brien, and Clay Hanus will all be playing in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars. They will be returning to the Winterhawks following the conclusion of the Stars’ season. The final regular-season game for Lincoln is scheduled for April 24th.
The Winterhawks have announced player development plans for the 2020-21 season.
— Portland Winterhawks (@pdxwinterhawks) January 12, 2021
President Doug Piper took the opportunity to inform the fans that the new ownership is celebrated by both the owners and the organization.
A few final questions
Another question from fans was how the tickets for unplayed games as well as season ticket deposits are being handled. The answer is that the tickets will be honored going forward and the fans will get their money’s worth.
Regarding the streaming of games, the WHL has previously announced a new streaming service will be coming which is exceptionally important in the coming season as there will be little to no fans in attendance.
Also discussed was potential renovations to the VMC (there may be more coming at some point).
You can watch the full video here.