The Portland WInterhawks will start the preseason in Everett as part of their tournament beginning August 30 and will play three games that weekend. Unlike last year, they will not play a night game, nor will they face the US Division Champions in the Everett Silvertips. Tri-City, Spokane and Seattle will do the honors instead. Portland will play Spokane, Tri-City and Vancouver, with the game against Tri-City as a morning game on Saturday and two afternoon games that will bookend the weekend.
This will be the first glance at what should be most of the final team before they split off to attend NHL camps. Goaltending appears to be set with Joel Hofer being the go-to guy between the pipes and Dant Giannuzzi as the backup with a few more starts than last year. Shane Farkas, who was to be an overage this year, moved to Victoria through a trade allowing Portland a bit more breathing room at that position.
The Hawks will still have four overage players, which they need to reduce by one in October. The odd man out appears to be Lane Gilliss only due to his being a forward and they don’t have more than one overage defenseman this season—at least not yet.
Once that tournament is over, the Hawks will pare down a bit, some players will attend NHL camps and the rest will then head to Kennewick for the annual Tri Cities tournament. The Hawks will once again play three games with a night game against Tri Cities on Thursday September 5, followed by afternoon games against Spokane and Seattle.
Once again, they will not play Everett. Unlike the Everett tournament, there are no Sunday games. Prince George will not be a part of the US Division tournaments unlike previous years, opting for a couple of games in Vancouver, one in Kelowna and one in Dawson Creek, BC where they face Edmonton.
The Hawks are expected to play their first regular-season game on September 21, which would be a Saturday. The season will carry a 68-game schedule like last season, which will see fewer weekday games and have a few pockets of no games as the season stretches.
The preseason will last almost three weeks with the first game being a Tuesday-night game between Regina and Moose Jaw at Moose Jaw’s Mosaic Place on August 27 and ending with Red Deer vs Calgary at the Calgary Saddledome on Sunday, September 15.
Winnipeg Ice, now moved from Cranbrook, BC will have a very light preseason schedule of just three games as they play a pair in Brandon, Manitoba, which should easily be rivals, and one game against the Saskatoon Blades in Saskatoon, SK.
The WHL Coaching race continues with three teams now looking for their next bench boss as the time to the preseason draws near. Kamloops just ended theirs as they grabbed Shaun Clouston. Clouston had been the coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers for 16 seasons before being unceremoniously dumped for Willie Dejardin who last was with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL. Glouston adds Darryl Sydor as the Kamloops Blazers associate coach up from the assistant coach role he took with the Blazers last year. Sydor brings nearly 1,300 games under his belt with the NHL, which should assist Kamloops as they look to make a bigger impact in the BC Division this year.
The WHL will announce the regular-season schedule in less than two weeks and this year, the Hawks will travel to the Alberta Cities plus Swift Current as the Eastern teams will visit this year including the now-moved Winnipeg Ice.