2011-12 Schedule Released…

About six weeks earlier than normal, the WHL released its 2011-12 schedule today.  You can find the Winterhawks schedule at their website.  The home venues will be determined later (and I’m sure will be impacted about the possible NBA lockout).

Here are some details:

Home opener — Friday, September 23 vs. Everett

Road opener — Saturday, September 24 @ Seattle

Breakdown by month:

September — 4 games (2 home/2 away)

October — 13 games (6 home/7 away)

November — 11 games (5 home/6 away)

December — 10 games (5 home/5 away)

January — 12 games (6 home/6 away)

February — 13 games (9 home/4 away)

March — 9 games (3 home/6 away)

Breakdown by day:

Sunday — 8 games (4 home/4 away)

Monday — 2 games (2 home/0 away — both 2:00 holiday starts)

Tuesday — 8 games (6 home/2 away)

Wednesday — 10 games (4 home/6 away)

Thursday — 0 games

Friday — 24 games (11 home/13 away)

Saturday — 20 games (9 home/11 away)

Longest Road Trip:

9 games (10/21 Edm, 10/22 RD, 10/25 Cal, 10/26 MH, 10/28 Leth, 10/29 Koo, 11/2 Kam, 11/4 Kel, 11/5 Kel)

Longest Home Stand:

5 games (twice):  10/8 PA, 10/9 TC, 10/14 Kam, 10/15 Bran, 10/18 Sask & 12/28 Vic, 12/30 Vic, 12/31 Sea, 1/3 MJ, 1/6 Evt)

Three games in three nights:

Only three times:

September 23-25 — vs. Evt, @ Sea, @ TC

October 7-9 — @ Evt, vs. PA, vs. TC

March 2-4 — @ TC, vs. Sea, vs. TC

Double-Headers:

11/4 – 11/5 in Kelowna

11/11 – 11/12 vs. Spokane

12/6 – 12/7 in Prince George

12/28 – 12/30 vs. Victoria

1/11 – 1/13 vs. Kelowna

1/21 – 1/22 in Spokane

2/4 – 2/7 vs. Vancouver

2/20 – 2/21 vs. Prince George

3/14 – 3/16 in Victoria

Only two months until training camp opens!

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Four Hawks Selected in NHL Draft

1st Round – #13 Overall – Sven Bärtschi – Calgary Flames

1st Round – #23 Overall – Joe Morrow – Pittsburgh Penguins

2nd Round – #32 Overall – Ty Rattie – St. Louis Blues

2nd Round – #57 Overall – Tyler Wotherspoon – Calgary Flames

Congratulations to all four players!

(photos – Getty Images)

Great News!

From the Hawks website:

The Portland Winterhawks have announced that General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston and Assistant General Manager & Assistant Coach Travis Green have signed four-year contract extensions.

In addition, Assistant Coach Kyle Gustafson, Director of Player Personnel Garry Davidson, Director of Hockey Operations Matt Bardsley, Athletic Trainer/Strength & Conditioning Coach Rich Campbell and Equipment Manager Rob Gagne have also all signed multi-year contract extensions.

“The job Mike, Travis and the entire hockey operations staff have done to transform a last place team into the Western Conference champion in less than three years is nothing short of remarkable,” said Winterhawks owner Bill Gallacher. “The stability these extensions will provide the organization will be incredibly valuable as Mike and Travis continue to pursue the goal of bringing the Memorial Cup back to Portland.”

“On behalf of Travis and the entire hockey operations staff, we’re thrilled to have these extensions signed as we continue our goal of building a championship team here in Portland,” said Johnston. “Since joining the WHL two and a half years ago I’ve been impressed by the quality of the league’s players, coaches and management. We’re excited about the future of the Winterhawks organization and the direction we’re heading but clearly understand there are a lot of challenges ahead.”

Johnston was named the WHL’s Western Conference executive of the year this season in building a team that finished first in the conference with 103 points. In the playoffs, the Winterhawks won the Western Conference, advancing to the WHL Finals for the first time since 2001. In addition, last season the Winterhawks tied a franchise record with eight players selected in the NHL Draft, including Ryan Johansen fourth overall and Nino Niederreiter fifth overall, with another four players expected to be taken in this year’s draft.

In just under three years at the helm of the Winterhawks, Johnston is 108-79-5-6, and his winning percentage of .573 is second in franchise history among coaches with at least 100 games behind the bench. He came to the Winterhawks after a decade in the National Hockey League as associate coach with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings. Johnston has also been actively involved with Hockey Canada, coaching at such international events such as the Olympics, World Championships and World Under-18 team.

Green joined the Winterhawks’ front office after playing 14 years in the NHL with five teams. His posted 193 goals and 262 assists for 455 points in 970 career games. Green also played four seasons in the WHL from 1986-1990 with the Spokane Chiefs and Medicine Hat Tigers, totaling 152 goals and 189 assists for 341 points. Last year the Chiefs named him one of the top-25 players in the franchise’s history.

Assistant Coach Kyle Gustafson will be entering his eighth season with the team. He assists Johnston and Green with the team’s preparation for games, and plays an active role in team practices, leading players through specific drills to improve their skill sets, and plays a big role in the team’s video scouting.

Director of Player Personnel Garry Davidson oversees the team’s scouting of bantam players in preparation for the annual bantam draft, and came to the Winterhawks after a long career in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).

Director of Hockey Operations Matt Bardsley has been with the organization for nearly a decade. He evaluates other teams’ rosters and list players, assists Johnston and Green with trade discussions and player evaluations and oversees the team’s recruiting program.

Athletic Trainer/Strength & Conditioning Coach Rich Campbell joined the organization with Johnston and Green in 2008 and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Winterhawks players’ physical conditioning. Before joining the Winterhawks, Campbell was a trainer for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and was Head Athletic Trainer for the NHL’s New York Islanders from 1996-2006.

Equipment Manager Rob Gagne also joined the team with Johnston and Green in 2008, and has nearly 20 years of hockey experience. Gagne has worked for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, as well as teams in the American Hockey League, United State Hockey League and Colonial Hockey League.

Season tickets for the 2011-12 season are on sale now. Fans can call 503-236-HAWK or email seats@winterhawks.com to book their seats.

NHL Draft on Friday/Saturday

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft will take place this weekend in St. Paul, MN, at the Xcel Energy Center, the home of the Minnesota Wild.

The first round will be held on Friday night, starting at 4:00 PM Pacific time with rounds 2 through 7 to be held on Satuday, beginning at 8:00 AM Pacific.   The first round can be seen on Versus locally with the NHL Network carrying the second day broadcast.

Just like last year, the Portland Winterhawks will be hosting a draft party, actually two draft parties, on Friday at the Big Al’s Sports Bar locations in Beaverton and Vancouver.  I will be hosting the party in Beaverton with Todd Vrooman while Dean Vrooman and John Kirby will be hosting the gathering in Vancouver.  There will be prizes at each location as well as good conversation and a chance to watch the draft with other hockey fans.

Portland had eight players drafted last year, including two in the first round, and while it will be very hard to match the total number of drafter players, the Hawks could see three players selected on Friday night in the first 30 picks as Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie and Joe Morrow are all on the short list of those that could be drafted in the opening round.

One of the interesting things to do is read all of the mock drafts put out there by the “experts” and just where they think the players will wind up.  The commentary on each player is interesting and it kind of bugs me sometimes when I read stuff like “Bartschi (or Rattie) put up big numbers last year in the WHL, but those numbers may have been inflated by playing along players like Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter”.

If they consider that the numbers were inflated by sitting on the bench next to, or riding the bus with those two it would make sense.  Neither Rattie nor Bartschi spent much time playing on the same line with Johansen or Nino and if anything their numbers were inflated because they played together virtually all season long.

The interesting player to watch for me is Morrow…I’ve seen him predicted to being a top 15 pick to out of the first round.  He will be, IMO, a solid mid-first round pick after his play in the second half of the regular season and in the playoffs as well as his strong showing at the NHL combine.  Players with his skating ability and strength don’t fall far down the list and if he goes later than 22 or 23 in the draft, I’d be very surprised.

While he won’t hear his name (most likely) on Friday night, I don’t think Tyler Wotherspoon will have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called.  I think he could be a late second, early third round pick (much like Taylor Aronson last year).  Wotherspoon really played well in the playoffs where the scouts were watching closely.

It should be a fun time at Big Al’s…hope to see a lot of you there on Friday afternoon.

Kono New Bench Boss in Seattle…

It is official now that former Portland Winterhawk Steve Konowalchuk is the new Head Coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds.  Konowalchuk leaves the Colorado Avalanche, where he was a player and Assistant Coach for the past two seasons.  This is his first Head Coaching job at any level.

Kono had two great years in Portland, posting 196 points in just 136 games in the early 90’s and winning the WHL Player of the Year award in 1991-92.

It is not the first time Seattle has hired a former Hawk to coach them…in the 80’s, Jim Dobson had a stint behind the ‘Birds bench.

With the hire, it brings the total number of former Winterhawks as Head Coaches in the WHL to five.  Konowalchuk joins Shaun Clouston (Medicine Hat), Mike Williamson (Calgary), Bruno Campese (Prince Albert) and Derek Laxdal (Edmonton) as former Hawks now running benches in the Dub.  All but Laxdal played their entire WHL careers in Portland.

When you think about it, former Hawks make up 26% of the current WHL top bench bosses (and the Hawks are not led by one), and, who knows, it could be more depending on what Everett, Moose Jaw and Regina do.

Congrats to Konowalchuk…the rivalry just got more interesting.

 

Congrats Andrew Ference…

Congratulations to the Boston Bruins and former Winterhawk Andrew Ference on winning the Stanley Cup…here is a great interview with Ference, giving props to Brent Peterson.

Photo Credits – Getty Images:

Also, congrats to former Winterhawks Cam Neely (President & Alternate Governor) and Jim Benning (Assistant General Manager) of the Bruins.  You all did the Portland Winterhawks proud!

Lastly…congrats to long-time Portland area resident and former Portland Buckaroo Tommy McVie who scouts for the Bruins…one of hockey’s greatest personalities.

Leipsic, Pouliot Get Invite…

 

Brendan Leipsic and Derrick Pouliot have been selected to attend Hockey Canada’s Under-18 Summer Selection Camp in Calgary at the end of July to try and earn a spot on Canada’s entry into the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament held in mid-August in Slovakia and Czech Republic.

They are two of 15 WHL players selected of the total of 42 players that will take part in the selection camp.

The entire roster can be found at:

http://www.hockeycanada.ca/index.php/ci_id/170663/la_id/1.htm

 

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