Wednesday, 28 November 2012


 The comissioner of the WHL, Ron Robison joined Hockey Central @ Noon to discuss the sanctions against the Portland Winterhawks:

Here are the League and Winterhawks press releases in chronological order:


The Western Hockey League announced today the disciplinary action which has been taken against the Portland Winterhawks franchise for a series of violations of the WHL Regulations.

As a result of a series of player benefit violations which have occurred over the past four seasons, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison has suspended the Portland Winterhawks from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and the forfeiture of their first round selections in the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 WHL Bantam Drafts. 

Should the first round selection in 2014 not be available due to a conditional trade, Portland will surrender their second and third round picks in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.  The WHL also announced the Portland Winterhawks have been fined $200,000 and Winterhawks General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston has been suspended for the balance of the 2012-13 season, including the 2013 WHL Playoffs.

“All WHL Clubs understand they are required to fully comply and respect our League Regulations or they will face significant consequences,” stated WHL Commissioner Ron Robison.  “WHL Clubs are required to fully disclose all commitments they make to a player in the WHL Standard Player Agreement.  Our independent investigation in this case revealed there were multiple violations over an extended period for player benefits that are not permitted under WHL Regulations and were not disclosed to the WHL.  It should also be noted through the course of the investigation there was no evidence of any payments or enhanced education benefits provided to players that would be contrary to WHL Regulations as previous media reports indicated.”

The Western Hockey League will not make any further public comments on this matter.

Winterhawks Statement:

Today the Western Hockey League has announced disciplinary action against the Portland Winterhawks for violations related to player benefits. The WHL has forfeited the team from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and the forfeiture of the team’s first round picks in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The WHL also announced the organization has been fined $200,000, and that General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston has been suspended for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs. Assistant General Manager & Assistant Coach Travis Green will assume Johnston’s duties on an interim basis.

What follows is a summary of the league’s findings, and a statement from Johnston:

The Winterhawks were found to have committed the following violations:

•       A player contract signed in 2009, involving flights for the player’s family and a summer training program
•       Over the last five years, seven families were provided flights 2-4 times per season based on financial need and their distance from Portland
•       Twice in the last five years the team paid for two players to each have a one-week summer training regimen
•       The Winterhawks provided a cell phone for its team captain for a period of three seasons

The WHL’s audit found no violations involving monetary payments made to players, their families or agents, or any violations related to the league’s educational packages.

“After fully cooperating with the league’s investigation, we were extremely surprised at the excessive nature of the sanctions, and we don’t feel they are in line with the scope of the violations we were found to have committed,” said Johnston.

“We believe that apart from recruiting trips and parents’ weekend, there is no prohibition in the rules governing flights for players’ parents, which were the majority of the infractions,” continued Johnston. “We are currently exploring our options on how we will proceed. Despite our objections, the league has made its decision, and our players will continue to pursue the goal of winning a WHL championship.”



CALGARY, AB. - The Western Hockey League has released the following statement to provide further clarification on the sanctions imposed yesterday on the Portland Winterhawks.

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.” 

Statement From Winterhawks In Response To WHL
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:

•       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.