Portland's Nicolas Petan, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie form the WHL's top production line (Doug Beghtel, The Oregonian)
PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL champion)
There's no doubt that Calgary billionaire Bill Gallacher saved the Portland Winterhawks when he purchased the team in late 2008. From 11 wins five seasons ago to 57 in 2012-13, Portland would be considered major junior's most heartwarming story of resurrection if not for the November sanctions that marred their impressive franchise turnaround.
Yet here we are, months later, still wondering if the Hawks really were docked $200,000, nine draft picks and head coach-GM Mike Johnston for buying some plane tickets and paying a cell phone bill. And now, though most in Portland have long ago thrown their hands up and given up trying to figure it all out, the matter is now front and centre as Canada's national media gets its hands on the Hawks for the first time. Expect acting head coach Travis Green to act as a shield as much as possible to keep the distraction away from his players.
Even without the compelling storyline of the "Evil Empire," the Winterhawks are a bit of a novelty in the Memorial Cup. The WHL's U.S.-based teams are used to being the outsiders of the CHL, and Portland fans are still very much aware that the Canadian hockey establishment didn't handle it well when original Hawks owner Brian Shaw took major junior from Edmonton and moved it to the States in 1976. When Portland became the first American team to qualify for the Memorial Cup in 1982, Canadian newspapers were outraged that the "national championship" included a team from Oregon. When the Hawks won the Cup in 1983 — as the host team, no less — the "C" in CHL was forever destined to be merely a suggestion, not a requirement. Still, whether it's sponsorship (WHL finals sponsors Husky and Kal Tire have no outlets in the U.S.) or some sort of intangible relationship with the game itself, the American teams don't quite "fit in" with the rest of the CHL — something that motivates them to crash the party on occasion.
Their season so far, expressed through the majesty of '80s rock anthems
The Clash, "Police On My Back." Johnston, like the late great Joe Strummer, was wondering "what have I done?" after the WHL suspended him for the season and sanctioned the franchise for violating the league's player benefit policy.
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