It started with great news for the Portland Winterhawks as they had all but two players return from initial NHL camps as they gear up for the 2017-18 regular season on the road this weekend in Everett versus the Silvertips. The Hawks also got a bolster from the Canadian Hockey League preseason poll which ranked them fifth overall out of the sixty teams in the three leagues being the WHL, OHL and QMJHL. Memorial Cup host team Regina Pats was ranked first overall with Tri-City Americans ranked eighth. The Hawks are also listed as favorites in the US Division with Tri-City listed as second. Memorial Cup attendees from 2017 in the Seattle Thunderbirds were ranked last in the poll of US Division teams.
Portland will have a decision to make at game time as to which three overage players will suit up for the squad as they work to get down to that magical number of three by mid-October. The Hawks pulled the trigger on a deal with the Kootenay Ice to help this issue out a bit when they dealt overage Colton Veloso to the Ice for a standard fourth round bantam pick in 2018. Veloso, who was a clutch player for the team, can acquire more ice time playing with Kootenay than he would in Portland and the Winterhawks look to add more depth in the coming seasons with the pick.
Beginning with the September 30 game, Portland and Seattle Thunderbirds will partner to air nine of the twelve games on stations in both markets. JoeTV Channel 22/ Cable 110 will air games in Seattle / Kent while CW32 will simulcast in the Portland/ SW Washington area. The partnership with the two teams was very successful with them adding the ninth game this year. Four will emanate from Portland and five will air from Kent. New start times for Saturday games will see 6pm for September 30, January 13, as well as Sunday December 31 7pm and Sunday February 11 at 5pm in Portland. Start times for Seattle will be 6pm on Saturdays October 7, December 30, February 10 and March 17. Sunday March 4 will start at 5pm.
With the arrangement for television completed came the announcement that some felt was coming that will affect many long time Winterhawks fans. The Winterhawks announced that they will air games only via their Winterhawks App through Apple and Android. With no games aired on radio, the Portland Winterhawks become the only team in the CHL to not air games on the platform. Many longtime fans who do not have smartphones or access to computers will have to find alternate ways to hear the games which for many, will prove to be very challenging. Also yet to be announced is the broadcaster for away games. With the departure of Todd Vrooman, who was the voice of the Winterhawks for the past six seasons, the load drops to Andy Kemper who added color commentary on home games and select road games that didn’t interfere with his regular work schedule.
One would think an announcement on this will be coming soon, but for Kemper, his returning to the play by play chair will be interesting in that he has been sided with a Vrooman pretty much from his debut. It started with Dean “Scooter” Vrooman and then Todd and those pairings clicked well. Can the magic happen again?
Fans of the Portland Winterhawks will have their first chance to meet several players before the first home game. Papa John’s in Aloha is hosting an event with players on Tuesday September 26 from 4:30 to 6pm. Joachim Blichfeld, Brendan DeJong, Shane Farkas and Mason Mannek. Raffle tickets will be sold to win some great prizes with proceeds benefiting WAHA.
Viewing parties have been announced for the upcoming season and a replay of last year’s locations. Four Buffalo Wild Wings locations will host games as well as Sports Look in Hillsboro, Oregon City Ice House in Oregon City and Kelly Creek Sports Bar and Grill in Gresham where the Booster Club will be for this Saturday’s game against the Everett Silvertips.