Daily Herald Staff
Fans of the Portland Winterhawks have received an early Christmas present.
The Western Hockey League club announced on Monday afternoon that league’s board of governors had approved the Winterhawks Sports Group as the new owners of the team at the start of 2021.
In their release, the team also announced that all staff will be staying with the Winterhawks, including general manager and head coach Mike Johnston.
The lead executives in the new ownership group are Michael Kramer and Kerry Preete.
Kramer is the owner and CEO of a New York based investment banking firm, while Preete was a former executive with Monsanto and played for the Prince Albert Raiders and the Humboldt Broncos during the 1970’s in the SJHL.
“The WHL and our member Clubs are very excited to welcome Michael, Kerry and the new ownership group of the Portland Winterhawks,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a prepared statement.
“We are fortunate to have an ownership group of this caliber take over the operations of the Winterhawks and provide the long-term stability the WHL requires for the franchise in Portland.”
The Winterhawks had been in receivership since early May following a bankruptcy filing former owner Bill Gallacher.
WHL Draft Pushed Back
The top-2006 born players in Western Canada and the United States will have to wait a little longer to find out their potential future locales in major junior hockey.
The WHL announced on Monday that their annual draft, formerly known as the Bantam Draft, had been pushed back from May of 2021 to December.
“This allows additional time for players in the 2006 age group to be evaluated following a challenging season due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Robison said in a statement.
“We anticipate minor hockey leagues and tournaments will be fully operational in the fall, which will allow players to compete at a high level once again.”
The league also announced that the 2021 WHL Cup is tentatively scheduled for next October, but has yet to reveal details on the U.S. Prospects Draft, which was held for the first time last March.
The 2021 draft class is currently headlined by Berkly Catton of Saskatoon, who is an underage forward for his hometown Contacts.
Catton, who had 108 points in 30 games as an underage player last season for the Saskatoon Bandits in the then-named Bantam AA ranks, has two points in five games thus far in his rookie campaign at the Under-18 level.
The other consensus top prospect in the draft is Vancouver-born forward Macklin Celebrini.
After putting up 94 points in 54 games last year for the San Jose Jr. Sharks Under-14 team, Celebrini has been dominant thus far for the Minnesota-based Shattuck St. Mary’s Under-14 program with 61 points in 24 games.
Hockey Harvest Lottery
The winner of the Hockey Harvest Lottery has a Prince Albert Raiders connection.
Lynn Moe, who is the mother of overage forward Spencer, received the grand prize of $185,365 on Monday after the draw was held in Saskatoon.
The other half of the 50/50 draw will go towards the WHL scholarship funds for the Raiders, Moose Jaw Warriors, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades and the Swift Current Broncos.
Around the CHL
While the Ontario Hockey League and the WHL await to start their 2020-21 seasons, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has announced plans to resume their campaign following the Christmas break.
The 12 teams based in Quebec will resume play on Jan. 22 in protected environments that will be located in Chicoutimi, Drummondville, Rimouski and Shawinigan.
The six teams based in the Maritimes will have their situation reevaluated after the Christmas break, but the league hopes that they can resume play on Jan. 21.