Unless you have been living under a rock or consciously make an effort to ignore hockey totally, you are probably aware of the recent penalties handed out to the Portland Winter Hawks Junior hockey team. It seems the Winter Hawks were playing against the league rules in recruiting and paying players to play in the Rose City. Fair enough rules are rules and leagues put forth rules to ensure the safety of the players, and also the financial stability of the league. However, the WHL set about to make an example of the Winter Hawks and put forth severe punishment that will see the Winter Hawks not only lose draft picks for the next 5 seasons, but also have to pay a huge fine of $200,000, which is a lot for any junior club.
Now I understand that the league is looking out for its best interests and wants to have a level playing field, but I find it hard to believe that the league is looking out for the fans in this mess. Why do you ask? Well, when the league says that is wants a level playing field among all the team so small market teams can compete with the larger markets, why does it allow some teams the run their operations that would make Ebenezer Scrooge look like a free spending fool? I'm not at liberty to say which teams they are, but I'm sure their fans would tell you the owner simply doesn't spend enough money to put a competitive team on the ice season in season out. Why does the league allow organizations to run so cheaply that no decent player in their right mind would want to play for an organization that will not help them develop? I'm not sure the WHL has a certain minimum level that teams must spend on players, but it perhaps would be a good idea to have one so some owners can't rely on the old tired excuse that they play in a small market.
Now lets look at the case of Seth Jones. If you were a highly touted prospect, where would you want to play? Here are your choices, a team in larger market with a highly respected coach/GM known for developing prospects with a proven team track record of sending players to the next level. Or, a team where the GM is a son in-law with eyes only on the bottom line trying to run a five star program on a half-star budget with a proven history of mediocrity? Hmmmm, and this is merely an example of a player who has a little say in where they want to go. How would you like to be drafted to one of these small markets with a cheapskate owner? I know I wouldn't.
Portland broke the rules and they deserve to be punished. That much is clear. How about changing the rules so that each franchise has to put forth a minimum amount of effort in trying to be successful? If it really is about protecting the fans and ultimately the league, then it has to happen.
Keep smiling and keep your stick on the ice.