Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Breaking My Heart

When I decided to increase the exposure for Ranger Prospects by starting this site it was to bring help bring the stories of the Ranger prospects closer to Ranger fans. It was my desire to share with Ranger fans the same excitement I get when I get to see and know those who one day will become Rangers.

As the season went on I decided that I wanted to expand to bring Ranger fans more of the prospect world, to help pass the word about some of the good things regarding the state of hockey especially US Hockey.

What I never expected was a week like we have reported on. It started with the very untimely passing of 19 year old Windsor Spitfire Mickey Renaud but now it appears that a very serious and extremely disturbing series of stories out of Portland Oregon involving the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

What started out as rumors on message boards about the Winterhawks not paying their bills has now spread to reports that injured players not receiving proper medical treatment. These rumors have now become actual news stories with reports that both the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League are now investigating.

Gregg Drinnan the sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News reported on his blog on Tuesday that "The situation in Portland regarding the Winterhawks has become a full-blown crisis with which the WHL is dealing"

Drinnan also reported that he had spoken with WHL commissioner Ron Robison Tuesday evening and the sad indications are that the WHL knows about possible problems with the Winterhawks when he said " We addressed some of (the Portland situation) at the governor's meeting (in Calgary earlier this month) and there is more to review"

What needs to be reviewed is unclear and when the WHL will address problems in Portland also remains unclear as Robison is attending the NHL General Manager's meeting in Fort Meyers, Florida.

Here is what we do know and that is rumors started surfacing that the Winterhawks had been not paying their bills, that they are so behind on some bills that their stick supplier has cut off shipments forcing the players have to purchase their own. Rumors of the Winterhawks not paying their bills are nothing new as they have been going on for several months now.

Dwight Jaynes of the Portland Tribune reported back at the end of September, that "It made for an interesting coincidence – about the time it became known to the Western Hockey League office that I was looking into late payments, bills got paid." These rumors though have not gone away and now have gotten even uglier.

Earlier this week, the Western College Hockey on Blogspot reported that rumors were surfacing that the Winterhawks were refusing to pay for an injured player's medical treatment. The player reported to be 20 year old Kevin Undershute who has been out since October with a shoulder injury.

There has been no confirmation or even worse no denial from the current ownership of the Winterhawks. The ownership group is a 3 man team that has been extremely unpopular with the Winterhawk fans as it is having made some questionable moves since taking over 2 years ago.

What has to happen now is not only does the WHL (and to an extent the CHL as well) need to address these issues right away but any required action must be done for all to see. These rumors are serious enough that they require a public response to either address and fix these problems or to clearly dispel any rumor especially regarding medical treatment.

If it the rumors about refusing to pay medical treatment are true then the WHL MUST STEP IN and take over the franchise and forced a sale to responsible ownership. At the same time if these rumors prove to be false then the WHL must also show proof that they are in fact untrue.

As it is this Winterhawk season has been one of the worst in WHL history as the Winterhawks are currently on a franchise record 16 game losing streak having a record of 9-50-1-1. The team has been so ravaged by season ending injuries that in their last game on Monday were only able to dress 14 skaters.

For the Winterhawk ownership they need to realize just how serious these rumors or reports are. With the franchise trying to desperately rebuild not addressing any and all of these issues especially regarding medical treatment will do far more damage than they realize. Staying silent is only going to make matters worse.

Right now if I was a parent of any young 15-16 year old player I would not allow him to play for the Winterhawks until all issues are clearly addressed. These reports or rumors are simply not going to go away now that they are in full view of the public.

For us this breaks our heart because we know how much the Winterhawks have produced for the Rangers. Mark Messier played in Portland, as did Marcel Hossa, Brandon Dubinsky and current Hartford Wolfpack player Michael Sauer. Several others who have been Rangers have also worn the Winterhawk uniform so in so many ways when we see a Winterhawk as a Ranger prospect odds are good he will become a Ranger as well.

For us on a personal note seeing these stories coming out of Portland greatly bothers us. as when Dubi Silverstein asked us back in 2004 if we were interested in writing about Ranger prospects, the first team to offer us full media access was the Portland Winterhawks. In our first season it was the Winterhawks who helped us gain access to not only their own players but others from other teams.

For us we love using Portland as our base for WHL coverage not because it is close to home but because Portland has long had a great hockey tradition going back to the old Western Hockey League. We view the current situation as seriously damaging that great history.

Excuse us while we rant

On a Winterhawk related note we are also very angry that Andy Kemper decided to shut down his Winterhawk blog. Andy is the play by play guy for the Winterhawks, a dinosaur because he refuses to sugarcoat the bad and calls it 100% honestly.

Andy shut down his blog after repeated garbage attacks on his character. People expected Andy to be the village reporter informing the world what his employers the Winterhawks were doing on the business end. The play by play guy for the most part is the lowest man on the totem pole so how is he supposed to report what he is not made aware are of?

Andy just wants to cover the hockey, he simply loves the sport and whether you agree with him or not you respect his vast knowledge and love of the game. That those losers who hide behind their computers to attack him are able to chase away one of the really good guys in the sport royally stinks.

Those who write blogs do so as an extra effort for the game, nobody earns enough money off these blogs (I have earned after 166 posts a whole $17.89). Guys like Andy do so to help bring the fans closer to the game like he did with his pictures of center ice from where they would stash him to call the game.

His reports on those bus trips gave REAL fans a sense of what these kids go though trying to chase their dreams of an NHL career. Only those who have either been there or live that life fully understand what theses kids do to become NHLers.

And for the record, Andy is not a friend of mine. I believe we have disagreed on more subjects than agreed. I wrote this because I respect his efforts to remain true and honest in a day and age where announcers are expected to overlook things and in fact shill.

Ranger Prospect News

Ryan Hillier and his Halifax Mooseheads hosted Antoine Lafleur and his Prince Edward Island Rocket. It was a combination of good news, bad news for both prospects as the Moosehead won 5-1.

For Hillier the good news was that his Mooseheads did win but his bad news was that Hillier did not score and now has a 6 game scoreless streak. Hillier took 4 shots, had 1 good scoring chance but also was a -1 with a 2 minute minor.

For Lafleur, his bad news was that his Rocket lost a game they badly needed to win for their playoff picture. His good news was that he was the backup goalie for this game so did not suffer the loss.

David Skokan was out of the Rimouski lineup with a muscle injury (our French translation was unable to determine what exactly is the injury) but his Oceanic were able to edge the Chicoutimi Saguenéens 3-2. We hope to get further word as to the extent of Skokan's injury.


Nick said...

hey man, question for you. i saw that beller has been playing in the bchl this year besides the limited time he has played for yale. any info on this? is this normal?

Jess Rubenstein said...


Beller left Yale during the holiday break after being a healthy scratch for several games.

Yale will not discuss why with me citing privacy rules but I do not blame the kid for leaving a place where he was paying for school out of his own pocket.

Thanks for helping me find him as I was not sure where he went to.

I will see what I can find out and will report back to you as soon as I find out anything