Sunday, August 26, 2012

Welcome to Hawkey Town

(Portland Winterhawks)
There is nothing like your first visit of the season to the ice rink to get you excited about the upcoming season. For me this season is going to be very special lockout or not as I will have come full circle should there be a lockout.

It was the first NHL lockout that led me to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and in my case a rebirth of my passion for the game. I wish there was a way I could bring Ranger fans to a Winterhawk's game as they can bring the noise just like Ranger fans.

And I hate to say it but today's Winterhawk crowd is way louder than the NYR crowd. If anything there are several NHL franchises who could learn plenty on how to build a winner from the Winterhawks (Hello Columbus and Islanders).

During the 2007-2008 season the Winterhawks were one of the worst franchise on and off the ice in the entire CHL. Things started turning around in October 2008 when Bill Gallacher purchased the team.

The first thing Gallacher did was hire Mike Johnson as the General Manager/Coach of the team along with Travis Green to be the Asst. GM/Asst. Coach. The second thing Gallacher did was get out of their way and let them do their jobs.

It is mind boggling how so many NHL franchises are run by owners who just don't remember that you hired people to do jobs so get out of their way until they need your help.

In fact if you look at the entire Winterhawk's operation team then you see what rescued a franchise from the graveyard and built a franchise that has the potential to contend not for a couple of seasons like most junior teams but for years.

If you build a winning program using the draft to develop the core, then you can use trades and free agent pickups to fill holes not stock the roster. I bet that this Winterhawk management team could take over any number of NHL franchises and turn them into a winner.

On a beautiful late summer afternoon at the Winterhawk scrimmage was over a couple hundred fans just to watch training camp. In 2007-2008 that might have been the attendance for a regular season game; have times really changed.

In a year where the NHL is ready to once again suffer a labor stoppage; here is a junior franchise that is going to enjoy what several NHL teams wish they had. Spare me that they don't have the labor costs that NHL teams do because you are missing the point.

It doesn't matter what level of sport you are at; if you don't provide your fans a reason to spend their dollar (especially now in a recession) then they won't come. The Winterhawks have to compete against 2 NCAA football and basketball programs as well as the main tenant the Portland Trail Blazers.

I had planned to do a write up of what I saw from the players but the energy and excitement I saw from the Winterhawk fans was what stood out. It is the same kind of energy and excitement that the NHL/NHLPA are risking with another labor stoppage.

Welcome to Hawkey Town where the fun is back.

Game Action

Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) was in the lineup for his Baie-Comeau Drakkar as they took on the Rimouski Oceanic in QMJHL exhibition action. The Drakkar lost 3-1 for their 2nd straight loss and fell to 1-3 in exhibition play.

Noreau was scoreless on 2 shots as his defensive partner scored the Drakkar's only goal of the game so Noreau earned a +1 for the night. Other than that it was a quiet night for Noreau.

We should start seeing more exhibition action starting next weekend.

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