Nov 28, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT
The Portland Winterhawks are being punished for what the Western Hockey League calls a “series of player benefit violations which have occurred over the past four seasons.”
The league announced today that the Winterhawks will be barred from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 bantam draft and will forfeit their first-round picks in the following four drafts.
GM/head coach Mike Johnston has also been suspended for the balance of the 2012-13 season, plus the playoffs.
In addition, the organization has been fined $200,000.
“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,” said league commissioner Ron Robison in a statement.
“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.”
No specifics of the violations were disclosed in the announcement; however, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the league’s investigation did not uncover any “irregularities” with regards to the club’s recruitment and acquisition of top prospect Seth Jones.
The sanctions come in the wake of a dramatic turnaround for the Winterhawks. When Johnston took over early in 2008-09, he inherited a team that had won just 47 games in the previous three seasons. Fast forward to the present and the team is coming off back-to-back appearances in the WHL finals.
Recent first-round NHL picks out of Portland:
2010: Ryan Johansen, 4th overall by Columbus
2010: Nino Niederreiter, 5th overall by NY Islanders
2011: Sven Baertschi, 13th overall by Calgary
2011: Joe Morrow, 23rd overall by Pittsburgh
2012: Derrick Pouliot, 8th overall by Pittsburgh
Update (4:25 p.m. ET):
The club has released a statement outlining the violations that it’s been found to have committed.
—- 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
Not surprisingly, the club feels the punishment is overly harsh.
“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,” Johnston said in the release.
“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. 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.”
Image of Mike Johnston via winterhawks.com
May 22, 2013, 5:53 PM EDT
Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault joins the fray.
May 22, 2013, 5:18 PM EDT
“As long as they keep winning here, that just gives me a better chance for a return with every win.”
May 22, 2013, 4:20 PM EDT
“Will we look at them? Absolutely.”
May 22, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT
Pittsburgh’s power play is just 1-for-12 in its past two games.
May 22, 2013, 3:48 PM EDT
Vancouver cleans house.
May 22, 2013, 3:31 PM EDT
Decent goaltending depth in Anaheim at the moment.
May 22, 2013, 2:47 PM EDT
Click to read two good reasons.
May 22, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
This should make the Keith Ballard buyout easier to stomach.
May 22, 2013, 2:07 PM EDT
Go have your say.
May 22, 2013, 1:55 PM EDT
He’s expected to be a top-5 pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
May 22, 2013, 11:59 AM EDT
Club says he suffered no injuries.
May 22, 2013, 11:35 AM EDT
His contract with the Coyotes is up June 30.
May 22, 2013, 11:10 AM EDT
Bold, but familiar move from Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean.
May 22, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT
Veteran defenseman spent 15 years in the league.
May 22, 2013, 10:34 AM EDT
Pending RFA not expected to re-sign with Jets.
May 22, 2013, 10:17 AM EDT
If they were, it would add fuel to the speculation that the team might relocate to Quebec City.
May 22, 2013, 9:52 AM EDT
He doesn’t have a goal in eight postseason contests.
May 22, 2013, 9:06 AM EDT
It’s not clear if they will be available on Thursday.
May 22, 2013, 8:02 AM EDT
The match starts at 7:30 p.m. ET.
May 22, 2013, 7:13 AM EDT
Wednesday’s collection of links.
- Here’s an (updated) list of available NHL coaching candidates 0
- Official: Canucks fire head coach Vigneault, assistants Bowness and Brown 19
- Question for commenters: What, if anything, needs to be done about the officiating? 83
- Playoffs Tonight: Senators confident they can beat Penguins 35
- Video: Kings denied a goal after quick whistle 29
- Tweet from L.A. Kings Twitter account stirs controversy 60
- Discuss: Sharks take Game 4, even semifinal series against Kings 15
- Discuss: Bruins rally in third, take 3-0 series lead 98
- Video: Callahan gets away with high-sticking Chara 31
- Playoffs Tonight: Kings look for ‘killer instinct’ against Sharks 10
- Discuss: Bruins rally in third, take 3-0 series lead (98)
- Video: Crosby scores hat trick, hits playoff milestone against Senators (91)
- Discuss: Detroit takes 2-1 series lead vs. Chicago (90)
- Question for commenters: What, if anything, needs to be done about the officiating? (83)
- Bryzgalov thinks Stalin did a good job, wishes Philadelphia wasn’t so old, and believes poor people don’t want to work (80)
- Tiger calls Sergio's comments inappropriate, hurtful
- Bears great Urlacher announces retirement
- PBT: Rugged Pacers hope to slow high-flying Heat
- Posnanski on Golf: Sergio shows disdain for Tiger
- OlyTalk: Coach K will lead Team USA in Rio Games
- PFT: Crabtree tears achilles, out six months
- PHT: Canucks reportedly fire Vigneault, assistants