Big day in Hawkey Town

by Steve, October 15th, 2008

With the Winter Hawks starting their biggest road trip of the season in Spokane tonight, the WHL board of governors is meeting today to decide the fate of our local major junior hockey franchise. Kamploops Daily News sports editor Greg Drinnan, who initially broke the story of Calgary oil man Bill Gallacher’s bid to buy the Hawks, says “all indications are that the sale will proceed.”

That means, in all likelihood, by the time the Hawks come back to town on November 5, they’ll be under new ownership, new management, and, if the rumors are correct, new coaching.

It will also be interesting to see what player movements happen.

The three-year reign of New York barkeep and real estate horse trader Jim Goldsmith and his partners has nearly driven the team into the ground. We expect five-year cycles in junior hockey, but this ownership group has taken the Hawks so far down, it’s hard to see the upside — even with a darn good crop of youngins in the system. Attendance is at an all-time low, from what I can see, with average “crowds” well below the 3000 mark (you don’t have to go back more than three years to see averages around 6000 at this point of the season).

There’s no question Goldsmith and his crew have been doing the bare minimum to operate this team with the sale pending. And there’s no question Portland hockey fans will be happy to see them go.

Gallacher’s ownership also signals the end of the “three amigos” era in Portland hockey, with general manager Ken Hodge expected to be replaced. He’ll probably ride out the season in an advisory role.

Hodge, along with the late Brian Shaw and trainer Innes Mackie first introduced Canadian major junior hockey to the US in 1976 when they brought the Winter Hawks, previously the Edmonton Oil Kings, to Portland. Hopefully Gallacher will treat Hodge and Mackie with the kind of respect they deserve, and they’ll get a nice send-off (and retirement package).

The WHL is holding a press conference at 2:30 PST, presumably to announce the sale.

Update 3pm: The sale has been unanimously approved, and the long Winter Hawk nightmare of Jim Goldsmith and crew is over.

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