Friday, February 22, 2008

Portland Update

Portland play-by-play announcer Andy Kemper has temporarily suspended his blog. It's a shame because it was a convenient way of keeping track of the Hawks. I don't think people quite understood that he was an employee of the Hawks, and not an independent journalist, and thus, wasn't able to share everything he knew(assuming he knew anything, and I believe him when he says he didn't know much of the team's financial dealings.)

The Portland Tribune and The Oregonian both jumped into the mess in Portland with a couple extensive articles.(Both links via Gregg Drinnan)

It sounds like a lot of Portland's financial troubles are coming from the fact that they lease their arena through the Portland Trail Blazers, and in down years when attendance slips, like the past two, they're struggling to make ends meet because of the lease.

Portland claims that they are behind on some bill payments, but that everybody will get paid. There's really nothing more in the article on the stick front, except the same rumors that parents and agents have had to purchase sticks for players.

When it comes to Portland's treatment of players, the Portland Tribune mentioned this story:
The Hawks also have drawn criticism for the team’s handling of players. One player was released after requesting to take a different college course, but Donovan says the player had lost ice time, anyway, and showed inappropriate behavior when consulting with the team’s education administrator.
On the issue of Kevin Undershute's surgery, Portland said it's pretty standard for teams to have Canadian players get surgery in Canada, where it is cheaper. Undershute, for his part, has backed Portland the whole way. From the Portland Tribune article:
“I just wanted to get healthy,” Undershute says. “I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. They’re in a tough spot, I understand, with health care costs and everything.”
But at the same time, Portland admits that 16-year-old Riley Boychuk was a higher priority to receive medical treatment because he still has four years of eligibility left, whereas Undershute will be done in the WHL after this season.

There is a pretty interesting college hockey connection in all of this. Kevin Undershute had initially verbally committed to play college hockey at Alaska-Fairbanks before deciding to sign with Medicine Hat of the WHL. Meanwhile, you may remember two years ago, Portland tried to court Dion Knelsen, very publically, by saying Fairbanks had never sent anybody to the NHL.

Fast forward a few years to the present. Next year, Undershute will be playing college hockey at the age of 21 anyway, only this time in CIS, where there is next to no hope of getting a pro contract, rather than in the NCAA, where it's becoming quite common for undrafted free agents to sign NHL contracts.

Meanwhile, Alaska, the school that never sent anybody to the NHL, has had four players play in the NHL since then: Aaron Voros, Jordan Hendry, Kyle Greentree, and Darcy Campbell. Of the four, only Voros was drafted, in the 8th round of the draft.

An interesting question that was brought up to me was how much of this stuff would have been mentioned if Portland had been winning this year? We probably wouldn't have heard anything about it. This situation does highlight an uglier side of the CHL. It may be great for the uber-talented that breeze through the league for a few years on their way to the NHL, but at the end of the day, it's still run like a business, which can lead to some tough situations for the fringe players.


Anonymous said...

Your bias is incredible, Portland is a bad situation, and the WHL is stepping in to clean it up. What is the NCAA doing about these little gems??

But we also want to know, because we want to know whether all of this is getting out of hand.

First we had Brett Motherwell and Brian O'Hanley getting suspended for doing something really, really bad at Boston College. Next thing we knew, Motherwell was off the pros. O'Hanley is lingering around ... somewhere.

Four Boston University players were reprimanded, with one being stripped of his captaincy, later to be reinstated.

Freshman defenseman Kevin Quick at Michigan was recently dismissed from the team, with coach Red Berenson indicating simply that it was a really, really bad thing.

Former Gopher Nate Hagemo was arrested on charges of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia.

CC players were suspended for a blackface incident. Later, more CC players — Cody Lampl and Derek Patrosso — were suspended for lengthy periods of time for ... something, again, really, really bad that's "undisclosed."

Vermont's Jonathan Higgins was suspended for six games after court charges were brought against him for stealing a bicycle. Patrick Cullity, a sophomore defenseman, was also suspended one game for an unspecified violation of the school's code of conduct for student-athletes.

Maine's Tanner House was charged with unlawfully "touching" a female in a bar ... those charges were later dropped.

T.J. Oshie of North Dakota and Mike Radja of New Hampshire were both suspended after arrests made at Oshie's apartment. Oshie had already been in trouble with the law before.

Players from each of the four major leagues have been suspended for on-ice incidents.

We've had two major foul-ups by WCHA referees, leading to a suspension.

We've had a coach get suspended for flipping off a referee. Of course, this was another PR move. North Dakota officials said that their coaches should be held to a standard where vulgarity is not acceptable. My gosh — you'd have to suspend just about every coach in every sport in the NCAA. Hakstol just got caught on camera. Then again, if you read lips, these guys are caught on camera yelling obscenities all the time. But whatever.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown freshman forward Harrison Zolnierczyk is facing charges resulting from a fall 2006 incident when, according to the Canwest News Service in Canada, Zolnierczyk and then-teammate Bradley Harding made a sex tape with a teenage girl and posted it on the YouTube website.

Zolnierczyk has been dismissed from the hockey team, but will remain in school.

Atlantic Hockey has suspended eight players that participated in the Feb. 9 brawl between RIT and Canisius, including punishing Carl Hudson (Canisius) and Ricky Walton (RIT) for the rest of the regular season.

The punishments work out to three extra games for Hudson and five extra for Walton. RIT is appealing the decision.

With RIT ahead 3-1 in the third period, a fight started in the RIT zone. After things had started to subside, Walton punched a Canisius player from behind. Hudson then left the penalty box to re-join the fight. Later, he repeatedly slammed the head of an RIT player into the ice.

As a result of the melee, 15 players were given penalties, including eight from Canisius. There were four game disqualifications to Canisius players, including two to Hudson. Two DQs is the equivalent of three games suspension.

Commissioner Bob DeGregorio and supervisor of officials Gene Binda reviewed tapes from the incident, which led to 251 penalty minutes.

"Atlantic Hockey, the NCAA and the culture of collegiate hockey will not allow or condone fighting," DeGregorio said. "This was not representative of the student-athlete experience that Atlantic Hockey and its members are striving to achieve."

Canisius players receiving additional one-game suspensions were Phil Rauch, Taylor Anderson, Jason Weeks, and Carl Hudson. For RIT, the suspensions went to Tyler Mazzei, Louis Menard, Stephen Burns and Ricky Walton.

"We fully support the decisions made by the commissioner and his staff," Maher said of Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio's decision. "These suspensions are both substantial and appropriate under the circumstances. We have high expectations and standards for our student-athletes and in this case we failed to meet those standards. We regret that this incident occurred, however, now that the suspensions have been finalized, we intend to use this experience as a teaching opportunity and to reinforce Canisius College's commitment to the highest levels of sportsmanship."

The penalties assessed within the game included:

Goalie Taylor Anderson — leaving the crease, fighting, game DQ
Taylor Anderson — fighting, game DQ
Josh Heidinger — double roughing, fighting, game DQ
David Kasch — double roughing, misconduct
Phil Rauch — double roughing, misconduct
Cory Conacher — double roughing, misconduct
Jason Weeks — double roughing, misconduct
Carl Hudson — fighting, misconduct, 2 game DQs

Goalie Louis Menard — leaving the crease, fighting, game DQ
Ricky Walton — fighting, game DQ
Tyler Mazzei — misconduct
Stephen Burns — double roughing, misconduct
Anton Kharin — double roughing, misconduct
Justin Hofstetter — double roughing, misconduct
Brent Patry — double roughing, misconduct

That's 15 players involved total. Canisius had eight players involved, four DQs, four fighting majors, five misconducts, and 10 roughing minors. RIT had seven players involved, two DQs, two fighting majors, five misconducts, and eight roughing minors.

On July 9, 2007, Zolnierczyk and Harding were charged with four specific counts: surreptitiously making a recording in a situation where a reasonable expectation of privacy is expected, knowingly distributing that recording, possessing child pornography and distributing child pornography.

"We're still in the preliminary stages," said Zolnierczyk's lawyer, Richard Fowler, to the Providence Journal. "There is a discussion taking place, but I can't tell you anything about those discussions. I can say that the charges on their face are more serious than the circumstances."

Zolnierczyk and Harding were teammates for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). Harding has pleaded guilty to the above charges and is awaiting sentencing, and Zolnierczyk will appear in the Port Alberni Provincial Court in Canada on March 13.

According to Cp. Rob Foster of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the charges are punishable by jail time.

Zolnierczyk has appeared in 16 games for Brown this season, including last weekend's games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. The Toronto native has no goals and three assists and has a -4 rating so far this season.

Chris said...

A lot of these incidents are simply cases of NCAA kids being held to different, much higher standard. The BU kids were at a bar. Big deal.

Most of it is kids getting into trouble because of drinking. If you don't believe that a fair amount of drinking goes on in the Canadian leagues, you're stunningly naive. The difference is, minor stuff like that just isn't going to get reported in Canada, especially if, as I mentioned, the hometown team is winning.

Even the worst incidents, like the one in Brown can happen anywhere. The only difference is that colleges can't sweep it under the rug or trade kids away to another team like Zack Torquato last year.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know how Reddin is doing in Portland? sounds like he made a great move to end up there.

Anonymous said...

Why is this story posted on a college blog? Oh that's right, because its a negative story and little Chris just loves sticking it to the CHL. If this isn't bias then what is? What about all the positive stories coming out of the CHL?

That's O.K because the CHL is starting to dominate concerning attracting elite level talent (just wait for this year's NHL draft) and more and more top Americans are choosing that route over the CHL (wait and see what Morin and Fowler do this fall). Of course little Chris will never mention this though.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you post about all those NCAA "incidents"...

Lets see.. "touching", "theft",
"blackface" "really bad things" "credit card scam" "drug possession" "off ice arrests" "players being dropped"

Doesn't sound too minor to me.

Anonymous said...

How many times have you seen a CHL program fold, leaving the players high and dry.

Seems to be a regular NCAA D1 occurance now.