Two Major Departures In The WHL To End The Week And Other News

Matt Bardsley, who was felt by many to be a major force behind the success of the Portland Winterhawks from when they were sold to Bill Gallacher, has announced his resignation from the Kamloops Blazers as their General Manager. Bardsley was the Director of Player Personnel for the Hawks and the General Manager before Mike Johnston took over.  

Leaving in 2018 from Portland to Kamloops, Matt had also taken his wife Stacy, who worked in the office of the Hawks as one of their major ticket account execs. Matt and Stacy had married and had a child just before Matt left for Kamloops. While there, the Blazers had a solid record, and things looked to be very long-term. Matt and Stacy had a second child while in Kamloops and looked to have a long-term future in the desert city.

The pandemic hit, and all of a sudden, neither Matt nor Stacy could cross the border. With all of the family while in Kamloops, it was tough to continue several hundred miles away and not visit their respective families.

The WHL posted a statement from the Blazers on their website:

Kamloops, B.C. – The Kamloops Blazers have announced this morning that General Manager, Matt Bardsley has resigned from the hockey club for personal reasons. Bardsley will transition out of his current position over the coming weeks.

“This was a very difficult decision for me and my wife, but one we needed to make for our young children,” said Bardsley. “When we moved here in 2018, we planned on making this our home for many years. Unfortunately because of COVID-19, it has restricted our ability to see our family as they reside in the United States.”

Bardsley was named the General Manager of the hockey club on June 1, 2018. Over three seasons with the Blazers, Bardsley’s teams had a record of 87-54-9-3 over 153 games. He was also named Western Conference Executive of the Year for the 2019-20 season. The Blazers won back-to-back B.C. Division championships in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

“I am so proud of what our team has accomplished during my three seasons here in Kamloops,” continued Bardsley. “From the exciting tie-breaker win in 2019 to the back-to-back B.C. Division Championships in 2020 and 2021. I am disappointed to have to leave this special group of players, coaches and staff, but feel confident they will continue to achieve great success individually and as a team going forward.”

“I would like to thank Tom Gaglardi, Shane Doan, Darryl Sydor, Mark Recchi, Jarome Iginla and Don Moores for trusting in me to come to Kamloops and carry on the tradition of excellence. Finally, our family would like to thank the city of Kamloops and #Blazernation for welcoming us during our three years here. Kamloops will always be a special place for us,” concluded Bardsley.

“We appreciated having Matt and his family move to another country and be part of the Blazers family,” said President/COO, Don Moores. “While we are saddened with his decision, we respect the difficulty Matt and Stacy have had dealing with the challenges of the pandemic and their inability to see their families who reside in the Portland area.  We wish Matt and his young family all the best in the future.”

The Brandon Wheat Kings have also been dealt a heavy blow with the resignation of Rick Dillabough, who was also a major force for the past thirty years with the team.  

The Wheat Kings have yet to release an actual statement, but Dillabough has released this statement through LinkedIn: 

Dillabough was their Business Operations, Sales and Communications 

After more than thirty years of wonderful memories and service to this great organization, I have decided to step down from my position of Director of Business Operations, Sales and Sponsorship with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

It has been an honour to be a member of the Wheat King family for so many years.

I can’t describe how exciting it was to be a part of so many highlights over the years. Two WHL Championships, three trips to the Memorial Cup and of course, having the opportunity to be a member of the Host Committee that brought the MasterCard Memorial Cup to Brandon and Manitoba for the first time ever.

I want to especially thank Kelly McCrimmon for seeking me out in 1989 and inviting me to embark on what turned out to be an incredible journey through the WHL.

Off the ice, some of my proudest days were having the chance to work with so many talented people. From the coaches, the players, the management and staff, I feel fortunate to have spent so many years with some of the brightest minds in the game. What made it more special is that you always felt that you were a member of a big family – one that worked, supported, cheered and celebrated one another.

My wife and I will continue to call Brandon home and I look forward to seeing what life has in store.

There have been huge rumors swirling that Matt would perhaps like to take the spot of recently departed Garry Davidson from Everett. Still, Gregg Drinnan, who posts Taking Note on the WHL, has quotes from Matt saying that he has no job offers and is not entertaining any at this time.  

As noted in the last article through Oregon Sports News, there are certain changes within the WHL with both a shortened season and no generatable revenue. The strong 50/50 sales have also been tough with fans, as has merchandise, tickets, and sponsorship, to name a few. Even with Government help, all the franchises are expected to take heavy losses this season, and it will be interesting to see what the other sire of the WHL come the fall will look like. 

Former Winterhawk tough guy Joe Mahon is now doing the separating instead of getting into the mix. Mahon, who was finished his junior career undrafted, turned to be an official in the form of a linesman. He is a dominant figure at 6’5″ and over 200 pounds. He started in Tier 2 Hockey, moving to the Western States Hockey League and Junior Hockey with the BCHL and WHL. He has just received the invite to be in the pool for the NHL Combine.  

PORTLAND, OR. – The Portland Winterhawks are proud to announce their first eSports venture with the inaugural Toyota eHawkey Fan Challenge.  The interactive and entertaining event will pit lucky fans against Winterhawks players as they go head-to-head in a game of EA Sports’ NHL 21.

The Winterhawks will launch their first two eSports gaming events on June 10th and June 24th, allowing fans on both Xbox One and Playstation 4 or 5 consoles to enter online for a chance to participate. Fans can enter to be selected by completing the form at winterhawks.com/ehawkey.  One winner will be selected to participate in each gaming event.  Each participant will receive an autographed puck from Toyota signed by the Winterhawk player they compete against.

In addition, Winterhawks fans will be able to watch the Toyota eHawkey Fan Challenge games online as they would a “real” Winterhawks game! The Winterhawks have partnered with veeZion to broadcast the events live on the team’s official Facebook page and on the team’s Twitch streaming channel (www.twitch.tv/whlwinterhawks).  Winterhawks play-by-play voice Nick Marek will provide in-game commentary as well as interviews with both the fan and the Winterhawks players. VeeZion helped produce the successful CHL Memorial eCup tournament last year and is a leading producer of eSports events for EA NHL video games and other sports.

“The Toyota eHawkey Fan Challenge is the first time that the Winterhawks have invited fans to participate against our players in an online game” said Winterhawks Vice President Rich Franklin.  “The eSports audience is growing rapidly, both amongst gamers and viewers, and we are excited to partner with Toyota on this new venture.”

PORTLAND, Ore. – NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft Thursday, listing five Winterhawks amongst the North American Skaters list.

The five players making the final list and their ranking are:

  • Simon Knak – #86
  • Jack O’Brien – #111
  • Ryan McCleary – #141
  • Tyson Kozak – #161
  • Gabe Klassen – #212

Knak, O’Brien and Kozak were all initially named to Central Scouting’s “Players to Watch” list to begin the season, while Ryan McCleary and Gabe Klassen made their way to the season’s end rankings with their outstanding play this season.

The NHL Draft is set to take place July 23 & 24.

About Stuart Kemp 230 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club since 2008 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.

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