Changes Are Coming In The WHL

As expected, thee have been many changes this past week as we lead up to the NHL Draft in July. 

The Portland Winterhawks figured in several changes this past week. 

Kyle Gustafson, who has been with the team since 2003, was tapped to fit into the Vancouver Canucks NHL franchise as Assistant / Special Assignment Coach. While with the Hawks, Kyle was an Assistant Coach and moved up to become an Associate Coach, and over the past couple of seasons, he was also an Assistant General Manager. Kyle being as young as he is certain to be an incredible asset for years to come within the NHL. Being a personable individual, youthful hardworking will also help develop new ideas for the franchise in the future. The press release is right here.

The next day saw major, but unexpected upheaval in the brass of the Winterhawks.  

President Doug Piper tendered his resignation, and John Critzer, who now writes for pnwhockey, reports that Senior Vice President Kelley Robinett is being reduced from full-time to part-time. This is most likely due to the new owners taking more control of the franchise.  Doug Piper has been in full force since the team was taken over originally by Bill Gallacher and would also be the only face many people have seen since attending games in the new era. As President, Piper was seen walking the halls of games and meeting with both fans and sponsors. He added a calm over a stormy feeling many had with the previous ownership group, and with it, the franchise bloomed. 

An impressive winning record, strong sponsorship revenue, and a very strong ticket base are what Doug Piper leaves as a legacy during his time with the Portland Winterhawks.

Both Kelley and Doug have been removed from the splash page of, along with Piper Crisscola, who was in charge of the Game Night Press Releases before Walter Ruff took over this past season. Kelley is the last remaining lineage to the team in terms of long-time history. It will be interesting to see if any of the team histories will continue to be curated by Robinett for the immediate time being. The press release is right here.

A former player of the Portland Winterhawks who played two seasons with the Hawks before going onto an extensive career with the Washington Capitals and ending with the Colorado Avalanche is back in the coaching game again. 

Steve Konowalchuk was drafted by the Caps during the third round in 1991 and came back to the WHL as the Coach of the I-5 rival Seattle Thunderbirds in 2011-17. He then became an Assistant Coach of the Anaheim Ducks and Scouted for the New York Rangers before being tapped to be the next coach of the WHL Red Deer Rebels. The press release is right here

The NHL Draft is now set for July 24 and 25, where the Hawks will see if Forward Simon Knak will lead the way for the draft-eligible players of the Portland Winterhawks.  With that, the Hawks are looking at drafting two players in the upcoming Import Draft. In a confusing situation, Portland looks top draft two Import players as both Brondberg, who has been NHL drafted, and Knak, who looks to be drafted, is also of an age where the teams could pluck them from the Winterhawks leaving them with no European players. The goaltender situation is still uncertain as the Hawks have not signed the most recently traded player with Moose Jaw Warriors in Jesper Wallstedt. Jesper has yet to be signed by any WHL team, so it is not counted against the Import totals. Portland will be selecting ninth in the CHL Import Draft. The full press release is right here

Garry Davidson didn’t last long on the market. Following the release of Dallas Thompson from the Calgary Hitmen, They announced former Winterhawk and recently released Everett Silvertip Garry Davidson as the new Director of Player Personnel. Davidson was a strong player for the rebuild of the Winterhawks and had a powerful presence for the Everett Silvertips during his time there. One can expect similar successes during his time with the Hitmen. 

One can expect a few more changes within the WHL over the next concise time as they lead to both the drafts and leading up to the season, which appears to be headed for a start in October. 

The Ontario Hockey League is looking to start again in October with a full 68 game schedule, playoffs, and an appearance in the Memorial Cup in June 2022. By the rotation of the leagues, it would be run by the QMJHL this upcoming season.  Expect other leagues in both the WHL and QMJHL to follow suit as the season takes shape.

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About Stuart Kemp 314 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the Immediate Past President of 15 years of the Booster Club. and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.