Portland was very busy as they gear up for training camp in about two weeks.
They first announced that Kyle Gustafson would rejoin the Winterhawks as an Associate coach, a vacant position when Don Hay left the team to join Kamloops as they host the Memorial Cup at the end of the season. Kyle is just 41 and has spent his entire life in the Pacific Northwest as a player, coach, and more with several teams. He joined the NHL Vancouver Canucks last season when another former Winterhawks Assistant Coach Travis Green was there. With a major housecleaning in the Canucks organization, Kyle was let go, and there has been much speculation about where he would resurface.
Matt Bardsley, another former Winterhawk, became the General Manager of the Spokane Chiefs earlier this year, and there was thought that Kyle could go there as the head coach. Kyle’s return to Portland has several implications. With Kyle being so youthful and with his NHL experience, he would be able to possibly transition to the head coach of the Winterhawks when Mike Johnston removes himself from that spot. There is absolutely no timeframe on this, but at 65, Johnston can’t be expected to be the bench boss for ten more years like he has thus far.
Of course, that leaves Spokane Chiefs needing a head coach. It is highly speculative, but the name Travis Green can pop up. Having had a four-year career in Spokane from 1986 to 1990 before a trade to Medicine Hat, Green exploded onto a 14-year NHL career, and following a year overseas, he joined the Portland Winterhawks coaching staff in an incredible run showing an average of 43 winning games and led the team to the Memorial Cup Finals during the WHL sanctions. With his impressive run, he was made the head coach of the Utica Comets, where he held a strong court for four years. He then impressed the brass at the Canucks, who made him head coach, and he remained there for four more years and was into his fifth year when he was relieved of duties.
One has to wonder if Spokane will make a play for Green; if so, the WHL will be on fire for some time.
Meanwhile, Tyson Kozak signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Drafted initially last season in the seventh round, Kozak had another strong year for the Winterhawks tallying 69 points in 66 games, and was a strong leader on the powerplay. He has a year of eligibility to go in his junior career should Buffalo wish to have him further developed.
The Winterhawks also made a minor trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Hawks have given up two conditional picks, one in 2024 as a second-round selection and one in the fourth round of 2025, to obtain Diego Buttazzoni. The Tigers initially drafted him as the 37th overall pick in last year’s WHL Draft. He has played four regular season games with the BCHL in Port Alberni Bulldogs and Coquitlam Express while playing with the Burnaby Winter Club, where he tallied 1 goal and 2 assists. With BWC, he tallied 54 points in 32 games. At the end of the Winter Club season, he rejoined the Express for seven more playoff games, where three more assists came his way. He has signed a standard WHL Player Contract. He is expected to be at the Neely Cup at the VMC from Sept 1-4.
The Neely Cup will run as scrimmage games with players from all over comprising four teams and a pair of running clock games of two thirty-minute segments.
The schedule will start Thursday and Friday at 4 pm, Saturday at 2 pm, and Sunday at 8 am. Season Ticket holders are admitted free of charge, with $5 a day or $15 for the four games being charged to those who aren’t. Call (503) 236-4295(HAWK) to join the activities. The Golf Tournament and Dinner on August 28 and 29 are virtually sold out. If interested in the remaining few tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, the Booster Club has a few remaining seats for its Eastern Swing trip from Thursday, January 5 to Sunday, January 15. Details can be obtained by emailing email@example.com
Get ready, it’s hockey season, and the excitement is about to explode!