The Portland Winterhawks broke camp on August 24 but not until crowning a Neely Cup Champion, adding a little weight and changing the roster just a bit.
First, the roster adjustment: Thinking that they would have a tough decision to make having four overage players to whittle down to three, the decision was made a great deal easier with the announcement by the Alberta Golden Bears of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA). Josh Paterson announced he would join the Bears, following in the footsteps of Jared Freadrich and Brendan Burke, both former Hawks who also competed with the Bears.
Other WH players: — Former Victoria Royal Griffen Outhouse and Tyler Soy, former Moose Jaw Warrior Dalton Hamaliuk, former Seattle Thunderbirds Noah Philp and Nolan Volcan and Matt Berlin who finished his WHL career with the Kootenay Ice Former Spokane Chief Luc Smith, former Medicine Hat Tigers Ryan Jevne and Chad Butcher, former Everett Silvertip Matt Fonteyne, former Prince George Cougar Joel Lakusta, former Saskatoon Blade Dawson Davidson along with former Kelowna Rocket and Brandon Wheat King Braydyn Chizen. — All of these players will help comprise the Golden Bear Roster, which once again proves to be one of the strongest teams to play against. The average age is just 21 which means this team will be in force for a few years to come.
Seth Jarvis added a silver medal as part of Team Canada during the Ivan Hlinka/ Wayne Gretzky tournament in Czechoslovakia this year. The tourney will move to Edmonton and Calgary next year. Jarvis is also thought to be a first-round pick in next June’s WHL Draft. Other notables include Simon Knak and Clay Hanus, which make the Haws the only team in the CHL to have three players in the top 60 overall and share that with the US National Development Program as well.
The Winterhawks also made an offseason purchase of the Jr. Hawks. Doing so eliminates the Jr. Hawks from being a non-profit group but adds an incredible amount of stability to the program. Usually it is a parent who is the President of the club but leaves after their child moves on to another level of hockey. With that fracture, the team often isn’t as strong as it should be. The purchase now allows the Winterhawks to keep a better focus on the program and for a longer period of time. Currently there are just three sheets of ice to practice on in Sherwood, Mountain View and Winterhawks Skating Center. The demand is such that even a twin rink might still not be enough to fill the demand. Mountain View and Sherwood train young kids to play and in many cases, those players then move on to the Winterhawks Skating Center to either finish their career, move on the Hawks or look to the collegiate route. Every year, the Try Hockey For Free concept sees an overflowing of kids at each arena, which shows the demand is there.
It is the harnessing of this that becomes a problem, hopefully with the Winterhawks purchase, the focus will be more and there will be more benefits to both the local community. It is still many years down the road of having more ice sheets in place, but the seed has been planted already.
The Neely Cup, named after Winterhawk great Cam Neely, had a four-day, eight-game intra squad tournament and 84 players competed in this event. On the first day, Team Scatchard took a pair from Team Peterson 3-1 and 4-2 with the nitecap seeing Team Rutkowski shutting out Team Williamson 4-0 before losing 5-1 in the second game. On Day Two, Team Peterson and Team Williamson tied at 1 in the first game, before Team Peterson picked up a 4-2 win over Team Williamson. Team Scatchard won 3-1 in the opener, before losing the second game 6-1 against Team Williamson.
On day three, Team Scatchard took a strong 5-2 win over Team Williamson but dropped the second game 6-2. The evening games saw Team Peterson take a pair from Team Rutkowski 3-1 and 4-2.
With the six games now completed, two teams would compete for third place as Team Rutkowski won a 4-2 game against Team Williamson. The second game ended in a 3-3 tie. Team Scatchard win the Neely Cup with Team Williamson rounding out the bottom, but the real winners were the fans that watched the action. Once again the coaching staff will have a tough time paring down the group.
Up next will be this weekend’s Everett Tournament where the Hawks will assemble a team to compete in three games. The players who will play will most likely be a part of the regular squad with a few players heading to NHL Camps.