I could ignore the latest on the Winterhawks saga, or address it. Hmmm
The WHL tried to provide a little more clarity yesterday with the following release:
CALGARY, AB. - The Western Hockey League has released the following statement to provide further clarification on the sanctions imposed yesterday on the Portland Winterhawks.Now, at first glance, I didn't see anything *new*. This basically re-iterated what the Winterhawks said after the sanctions were handed down on Wednesday. To which in several spots (twitter, message boards) it was "so it really is just about flights and cell phones?" Yes. Yes, it is. Because flights and cell phones are a violation of the rules that are in place. Not just once, but 54 times over five years. As Robison said, the violation of said rules was "repeated and systemic". I'll get to the level playing field in a bit.
After the WHL became aware that the Portland Winterhawks had entered into an undisclosed player agreement which contravened WHL Regulations, the WHL commissioned international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an independent investigation to determine whether there were any additional benefits extended to players during the past five seasons. The independent investigation identified 54 violations involving 14 players which have occurred over the past five seasons.
The violations all relate to providing players with benefits not permitted under WHL Regulations. The violations include additional parent travel, off-season training and other benefits. These additional benefits, which were not disclosed to the WHL, are strictly prohibited under WHL Regulations.
All WHL Clubs and General Managers are required to fully disclose to the WHL all benefits provided to players and to ensure their Club is fully aware of and in compliance with WHL Regulations at all times.
“We believe the sanctions are not excessive given the repeated and systemic nature of the violations,” stated WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “The independent investigation discovered an unprecedented number of violations. It is the responsibility of each WHL Club and General Manager to be fully aware of the WHL Regulations and to be in compliance at all times. These sanctions are necessary in order to protect the overall welfare and integrity of our League and to preserve a level playing field for all of our member Clubs and our players.” (WHL)
The Winterhawks responded with their own press release:
Tonight the Western Hockey League released a statement indicating there were 54 violations over five years involving 14 players. The Winterhawks do not dispute these allegations, which are consistent with the statement the team made yesterday:OoooOOoo, a little sass at the end, shot aimed right at the league. So the 'Hawks statement basically re-iterates their release from Wednesday as well, but adds in that the WHL has counted each infraction separately which adds up to the 54 violations. In other words, 54 rules weren't broken, but a couple of rules broken 54 times.
• One player was provided flights for his family and a summer training program
• Seven families were provided 2-4 flights per season over the course of five years
• Two players were provided a one-week summer training session
• Four captains over three years were provided cell phones
The WHL is counting each flight, training session and phone as an individual infraction, adding up to 54. The league’s findings are consistent with the team’s statement yesterday, and the Winterhawks are encouraging more transparency in this process. (Winterhawks)
It took me...ohhh...90 seconds to do the math in my head and figure out that if you take what the Winterhawks said Wednesday and add up each violation individually, you get about 54.Again, even if the flights were given as a courtesy and not as a recruiting tool (as mentioned in yesterday's post), IT'S STILL A VIOLATION OF THE RULES. REPEATEDLY.
It took me...ohhh...30 seconds to match up what the league said with what the Winterhawks said and see that the league replaced "provided a cell phone for its team captain" with "other benefits".
a) the league wrote the statement with the 54 violations and the "other benefits" in such a way that they could imply a little bit of scariness around the corner, and hold on to those few stragglers who are pretty much inclined to believe "there has to be more this than what people are saying" no matter what. That said,
b) the league essentially confirmed that the violations are everything that the Winterhawks said, and no more. This is what it's about. It's about paying for players' families to watch them play, nothing more sinister. (Oregonlive)
Really now if you say "it is 54 broken rules" then you are going to get a much larger reaction than if you say 15 were broken. And again to me the Winterhawks offering a player's family plane tickets BASED ON NEED during the season so the player's family can see their child shouldn't be a violation to begin with.Portland didn't hide the violations because apparently no one ever read the rule book over there. The WHL's statement included "It is the responsibility of each WHL Club and General Manager to be fully aware of the WHL Regulations and to be in compliance at all times." Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Or even mis-interpretation. Not for five years.
IF you read what I wrote yesterday regarding the cost of airfare into Portland and realize also that not every hockey family can afford to fly to see their son then this is a rule that needs to go. These kids leave home in the middle of August and if they play on a team like the Winterhawks that makes the WHL Finals is gone until May.
If the Winterhawks were paying players under the table in order to get them to play in Portland then yes by all means punish them harshly. Hitting them for "violations" that really rather petty is mind boggling and makes no sense.
Portland never hid these "violations" from the WHL and there was no attempt by the Winterhawks to hide what they were doing. And the more public this becomes then the larger the black eye somebody is going to wind up with. ( Prospect Park)
Now, to that level playing field bit. From Drinnan:
The WHL’s Thursday night news release also included this quote attributed to commissioner Ron Robison: “These sanctions are necessary in order to protect the overall welfare and integrity of our League and to preserve a level playing field for all of our member Clubs and our players.”Now, admittedly, he knows a whole lot more about the workings of the WHL than I probably ever will. But before I read his piece today, I was thinking about the idea of a level playing field. Not just because I'm an Ams fan and Portland is in the news, but let's use the US Division as an example, specifically Tri-Cities and Portland. One club, the Hawks, is a large-market organization with a very wealthy owner. Our club is a small-market team, with a group of owners. The rule against flights for parents is there for all teams so that richer teams like Portland don't use that to entice players away from playing in smaller markets. If big-market teams payed for parents to fly in, naturally those parents (and players) are going to want to play there. That hurts smaller market teams, like ours, who are not able to afford to fly parents in.
There is no level playing field to preserve. Unfortunately, those days are gone forever. With no expense caps in place, how are the community-owned, small-market teams in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Swift Current and Lethbridge expected to compete with the big-market teams that have more revenue streams? How are the privately owned Brandon Wheat Kings expected to compete?
If the WHL wants to try and maintain anything close to a level playing field, perhaps it’s time to implement a revenue-sharing plan of some sort. That would mean putting a cap on expenses and running everything, including player and coach contracts, through a league auditor.
Some teams, but not all, hold parent weekends. I am told that WHL rules allow a team to put on a banquet and to pay for lodging. But teams aren’t allowed to pay for travel. I wonder who polices the expenses incurred for those weekends? (Taking Note)
In no way does that mean the Americans don't want parents to come watch their kids play.
Is it fair that some teams can afford to help some parents? Is it fair that not all parents can afford to come see their kid play? NO. But there is no perfect solution, I'm assuming, or one would be in place. Again, I'm not privy to the inner workings of the WHL or even the Americans, and really, I probably don't want to be. Ignorance is bliss?
Also from Drinnan:
As I understand it, a player Portland traded away arrived in his new team’s office and presented a contract that hadn’t been registered with the WHL office so was not on file in Calgary. That contract apparently included something that isn’t in the standard contract.
That apparently sparked this investigation.
One person familiar with the situation told me last night that Johnston had the opportunity to “come clean” in June and again in October. The WHL holds its annual general meeting in June; there was a gathering of governors and general managers in October. The source indicated that Johnston didn’t “come clean” and that figured in the disciplinary measures.
The WHL’s Thursday night release stated:
“The violations all relate to providing players with benefits not permitted under WHL Regulations. The violations include additional parent travel, off-season training and other benefits. These additional benefits, which were not disclosed to the WHL, are strictly prohibited under WHL Regulations.
“All WHL Clubs and General Managers are required to fully disclose to the WHL all benefits provided to players and to ensure their Club is fully aware of and in compliance with WHL Regulations at all times.”
That last para graph suggests that WHL general managers are expected to police themselves on these things. I would suggest that, if that is the case, perhaps it is time for the WHL to hire some people as befits a multi-million dollar business and handle its own auditing and enforcement procedures.Finally (well, before I get to tonight's game stuff), last night on Twitter a former WHL player (who was a Tri-City American at one point) tweeted something to the effect that "So Portland is being punished for treating their players and families well?" I'm not going to say which player, you can do your own digging, but it made me mad. Maybe he didn't mean it this way, but I took from it that he's saying the WHL doesn't treat players and their families well. Again, what do I know, but I'd like to think that this is not the case, at least in Tri-Cities. I know Bob cares deeply about these boys and their well-being. If the league rule is no flights, then he's just following that mandate. Who knows what other rules there are that hinder "niceness"? Gahh, it just made me mad.
Oh hey, there's a game tonight. Against Kamloops. Ams coming off a loss to Kelowna Wednesday night, gotta shake that one off and start over again in the 'Loops tonight.
There will a liveblog tonight, hopefully more lively than the last one :) Click the "Read More" to join in.