Credit Where Credit is Due

by Steve, March 25th, 2008

New York City bar keep Jim Goldsmith has finished his second season as owner of the Winter Hawks with his operation under scrutiny from the Western Hockey League. Commissioner Ron Robison has ordered Goldsmith to step down as director of hockey operations and renegotiate his lease with the Trailblazers. There’s been a fair amount of posturing in the press, including Goldsmith complaining about the lease, saying “…do we have to just feed the pig?”

Not a good way to start the renegotiation talks, and the Blazers have been predictably cool to this kind of bombast. Their response? “…[T]hey need to get their fan base back.”

Scared shitless that we might lose our franchise in Portland, I wrote an e-mail to City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who last fall intervened on behalf of the Hawks to get their replay screens installed in the Coliseum. Here’s part of what I wrote:

The Trailblazers do not seem interested in renegotiating the lease, which they say currently brings them revenue equivalent to one concert from the entire season’s games.

My question to you is whether the city can do anything to prevail on the Trailblazers to renegotiate, or if this is entirely up to the Trailblazers’ management. Since the city owns the venue, it seems to me we should have some say in this.

While the Winter Hawks clearly aren’t a big money maker for the city or the Trailblazers, the value of this team to the community transcends the direct revenue they bring. As you know, Portland has a rich hockey tradition, going back to the Portland Rosebuds, the first US-based team to play for the Stanley Cup in 1916.

It would be a real shame if Portland lost the Winter Hawks because they are nothing but chump change to Paul Allen. Our only hope may be if the City of Portland were to step in at this point.

Is there any chance of that happening?

Thanks for you consideration.

Randy got right back to me, and confirmed my suspicions that the Winter Hawks owner’s style was hurting his own chances of renegotiating:

I do not believe the issue of re-negotiating a lease with the Trailblazers is exclusively because of the Trailblazers conduct. I have been party to some of the negotiations between the Blazers and the Winterhawks and I was not convinced, after that meeting, that the Blazers were to blame for the deteriorating relationship.

I will continue to do what I can to help improve the venue for the Winterhawks.

So there you have it, hockey fans. If you’re trying to get one of the world’s richest men to renegotiate your lease, it’s probably best to not start things off by calling him a pig.

Just sayin’.

Update, 4/8/2008: Randy’s got a lot more to say today.

Winter Hawks Go Out in Style

by Steve, March 25th, 2008

I caught the final Winter Hawks game last Sunday, and it was a doozy. The Hawks won on an unbelievable behind-the-back move by Matt Schmermund in the shootout.

This was almost enough to make me forget, for just a moment, that the Hawks were finishing one of the worst seasons in the history of the WHL, and that the threat of relocating the franchise is hanging like a pall over Hawkey Town.

Bombastic principal owner Jim Goldsmith bluffs that he’s looking at rinks within 60 miles for potential relocation if he can’t renegotiate his lease. (Of course, anybody that knows anything about hockey in the region knows there is nothing within 60 miles.)

So Goldsmith, under orders from the league to renegotiate, appears to be playing a game of high-stakes chicken with the Trailblazers, the lessor.

The best hope for the Winter Hawks would be a new owner group, one that knows hockey, knows the region, and knows how to negotiate. Short of that, Goldsmith’s best hope might be if the city, which owns the Memorial Coliseum, steps in to twist the Trailblazers’ arm to enter into lease renegotiation talks.

If neither of these two things happen, I’m afraid Schmermund’s move last Sunday may end up being our last look at Canadian major junior hockey in a city with a rich hockey history.

That would really suck.