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Thursday, March 19, 2009

WHL Power Poll

Gregg Drinnan, yes the same Gregg Drinnan that used to be at the Regina Leader-Post, is now in Kamloops if you didn't know where he continues his passion of junior hockey writing for the Kamloops News. He has recently come out with a Western Hockey League power poll. Here it is.....

The Silver Fox has ascended the throne.
For years, Ed Chynoweth was the voice of the Western Hockey League and it didn’t matter what his title was, or even if he had one.It was no surprise a year ago when Chynoweth emerged on top of the first Daily News WHL Power Poll, a ranking of the 25 people who wield the most influence on the major junior league.
However, Chynoweth died April 22 at the age of 66 after a two-year fight with cancer.With Chynoweth gone, there has been at least something of a shuffling of the deck chairs. That shuffling has moved silver-haired Bruce Hamilton, the president and governor of the Kelowna Rockets, to the top of the second annual Daily News WHL Power Poll.The second annual Power Poll is headed up by what is seen throughout the WHL as The Big Three — Hamilton; Kelly McCrimmon, who owns and operates the Brandon Wheat Kings; and Tim Speltz, the long-time general manager of the defending Memorial Cup-champion Spokane Chiefs.
“Nothing happens in the league without these guys having input or the power to get things done or turn a vote,” one general manager says. “All three understand the importance of WHL first, and they run first-class operations.”No one understands better than those three that the league is a family. That is something that Chynoweth harped on for years.“These guys understand the old adage . . . that we may be fierce competitors on the ice but we have to be partners in the boardroom,” the aforementioned GM says.More than that, though, each of the Big Three is easily accessible and eager to provide help to the younger people involved in the WHL.
“These three provide leadership and are very approachable for advice which I can tell you I have needed in my time in the league,” says one young team official. “I also know that they have been great resources for others in the league new to their positions or to the league.”Hamilton, a former Saskatoon firefighter who played for the Saskatoon Blades and later won an Allan Cup with the Spokane Flyers, has done a masterful job of turning the Rockets into one of the most successful franchises in all of the Canadian Hockey League.Still, he is seen as someone who puts the league first.Keep in mind, too, that those on the WHL’s executive committee carry a lot of clout. Hamilton is the chairman of the board, with Jack Brodsky of the Saskatoon Blades, Russ Farwell of the Seattle Thunderbirds, Patrick LaForge of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Ron Toigo of the Vancouver Giants on the committee.
Here then is the second annual Power Poll, with the number in parentheses the ranking from a year ago:
1. (2) Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna Rockets (governor, president, general manager): Hamilton took over as chairman of the board of governors following Chynoweth’s death, then was elected to a two-year term at the annual meeting in June. He also was chairman from 1998 to 2004. . . . “Nothing happens without this guy being involved,” offered one observer. . . . He’s the WHL representative on the CHL board of directors.
2. (3) Kelly McCrimmon, Brandon Wheat Kings (governor, general manager, head coach): McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings’ sole owner, carries a lot of weight based on his time in the league. He was a player in the late 1970s and now is a prominent owner. . . . Chairs the competition committee. . . . The respect accorded him was evident when the Wheat Kings’ bid to play host to the 2010 Memorial Cup tournament didn’t draw any serious competition. . . . “This man is a success at everything,” offers one WHL insider. “I don’t know how he does all that he does.”
3. (4) Tim Speltz, Spokane Chiefs (governor, general manager): All of his work paid off with a Memorial Cup championship last spring. . . . Long-time GM is on the competition committee and always has time to talk about the WHL. Always provides answers to questions. . . . “First and foremost, he cares about the league and the direction it goes,” says one WHL insider.
4. (7) Ron Robison, WHL (commissioner): Robison is completing his ninth season as the commissioner. This one may have been his finest hour. He stickhandled out of what had become a huge albatross in Portland by landing Calgary-based businessman Bill Gallacher as principle owner. . . . One WHL governor says: “(Robison) is our leader . . . he has had many challenges to face since being appointed the commissioner . . . from the new era of ownership, to rising costs and the challenges we face individually and as a league. He has been an integral part of keeping the league in order with keeping his eye on the future since his time of taking over.” . . . Has spearheaded the move to get WHL games on TV with Shaw. . . . Is signed through 2010-11 but is sure to get an extension before then.
5. (5) Ron Toigo, Vancouver Giants (governor): This guy owns the Lower Mainland of B.C. As one WHLer puts it: “He is very powerful and has (a lot of) input at board meetings and also runs a first-class operation. He also helped put a dent in the Lower Mainland and the challenges we face with the BCHL.” . . . “He is a real doer,” adds another insider. . . . Toigo has hired the right people — Dale Saip, the vice-president of business development; general manager Scott Bonner; head coach Don Hay et al — and he lets them do their jobs.
6. (8) Bob Tory, Tri-City Americans (governor, general manager): No one is more passionate about the league and his team. In his 28 years in the WHL, he also has worked for Prince Albert, Portland, Seattle and Edmonton/Kootenay. . . . “He’s passionate but he kind of comes from everywhere,” offers one GM. . . . Some GMs don’t like talking trade with him; dealing with him has been likened to torture by dripping faucet. But the job he has done raising the Tri-City franchise from the ashes gets a lot of respect.
7. (6) Russ Farwell, Seattle Thunderbirds (president, governor, general manager): “One of the deepest thinkers in our league” is what they say about this veteran GM. Spent a lot of the last 18 months orchestrating his franchise’s move from Seattle to the brand new ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. “That has taken away from his strengths and his passion for the actual game,” one insider says. . . . With the move behind him, watch for more from Farwell. “He is more of a quieter influence,” one governor says. “But people listen when he talks.”
8. (22) Kelly Kisio, Calgary Hitmen (general manager): Should get more credit than he does for making a WHL franchise work in an NHL market. Stepped aside as head coach after last season, and became more influential without those responsibilities on his plate. . . . Has influence as member of the competition committee.
9. (14) Jack Brodsky, Saskatoon Blades (governor, president): Veteran owner is enjoying his club’s best season in recent memory. . . . “Jack Brodsky is such a solid, solid guy for our league,” one governor says. “He’s not earth-shattering . . . but he’s just so up front, honest and fair. He’s always there . . . he’s very dependable.” . . . Has the reputation of being ready, willing and able to tackle any job on behalf of the league. “He just takes those things and does a great job,” adds an insider.
10. (9) Jeff Chynoweth, Kootenay Ice (president, governor, general manager): Moved to quell relocation rumours by cutting new lease deal with City of Cranbrook and then reduced ticket prices for next season. . . . “Quiet at meetings, but is honest and has opinions,” says one governor. “He is sharp and he cares about the league.” . . . Can be abrasive and rub people the wrong way. But, one GM says, “Jeff won over a lot of people with his dignified and exceptional speech at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction (on behalf of his late father).”
11. (12) Richard Doerksen, WHL (vice-president hockey): Has been around since the days when he did the statistics with pencil and paper. Now carries a lot of “quiet” power. . . . Most often looked to for rules guidance and overall league governance at meetings involving governors and general managers. Also is the league’s disciplinarian, and as one insider put it, “there isn’t an evil bone in his body.”
12. (NR) Patrick LaForge, Edmonton Oil Kings (governor): He also is the president and CEO of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who own the Oil Kings. Has made huge inroads at the executive level in the Oil Kings’ two years in the WHL. “He is one of the governors in our league who brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight and is a great person who treats everyone the same,” says one governor.
13. Ken King, Calgary Hitmen (president, governor): He also is the president and CEO of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, who own the Hitmen. How powerful is King? At recent WHL meetings, no one was allowed to discuss the Flames’ plans to move their AHL affiliate, the Quad City Flames, to Abbotsford, B.C., just down the highway from two WHL franchises — the Vancouver Giants and Chilliwack Bruins. “That should tell you how powerful Ken King is,” one insider says. . . . Influence may take a huge hit with Flames moving to put AHL franchise in Chilliwack’s back yard.
14. (21) Dean Chynoweth, Swift Current Broncos (general manager, head coach): Has done a remarkable job in turning what was Party Central into back-to-back 40-win seasons. Has matured into a respected GM. . . . Member of officiating committee. . . . “He has a deeper interest on the hockey side than Jeff,” a governor says. “Dean isn’t as interested in the business side.” . . . Is in the final year of his contract and people throughout the WHL are wondering why he hasn’t been given an extension. . . . On the subject of the Chynoweth brothers, one insider says: “Both have more to offer and I think they will now that Ed’s not there.”
15. (13) Don Hay, Vancouver Giants (head coach): “For me,” says one head coach, “he is hands down one of the best all-time coaches in junior hockey. I have the utmost respect for him and what he has accomplished. If you asked me if there is one person in the league that I could spend a couple days with to learn more about it would be Don.” . . . No one influences in-game officiating the way Hay does, but one of the best coaches in major junior history has earned that right.
16. (16) Scott Bonner, Vancouver Giants (general manager): His nickname should be Stealth because he loves to operate on the quiet and under the radar. . . . “He thinks real well but isn’t real vocal. He’s solid,” offers one governor. . . . Another governor says: “Very quiet but his results are his results . . . and they’re good.” . . . Is on the competition committee.
17. (17) Willie Desjardins, Medicine Hat Tigers (general manager, head coach): Perhaps the second most-respected head coach in the league, behind Hay. . . . You are safe to include him with the best coaches in WHL history. . . . Is on officiating committee.
18. (19) Gavin Hamilton, Kelowna Rockets (vice-president of business development): Has managed to turn Rockets’ games into events. . . . Gets lots of help from wife Anne-Marie, who is director of marketing and in charge of game-day operations. . . . One WHL insider says: “He puts on a great show every night and understands the challenges faced by the U.S. market, as well.” . . . Bruce Hamilton’s younger brother.
19. (NR) Yvonne Bergman, WHL (vice-president operations): On the way up, with a bullet. “It’s not easy for her at the table,” one governor says, “but she’s all about the league, and she works so well with Ron (Robison).” Bergman is one of the big pushes when it comes to marketing the WHL.
20. (23) Dan Russell, CKNW Vancouver: Is the host of the longest-running nightly sports talk show in the country. Also does play-by-play of WHL games on Shaw. Combine the two and no one spends more time talking up the WHL than this man.
21. (NR) Doug Soetaert, Everett Silvertips (vice-president, general manager): Has gone through a trying season that included the death of a player and the franchise’s worst record in its six seasons of existence. . . . As franchise has evolved, he has started to fit in more at a league level. . . . Chairs the officiating committee.
22. (24) Rick Dillabough, Brandon Wheat Kings (director of marketing, sales and public relations): No one works harder than the man who does it all but score goals for the Wheat Kings. No players are more involved in a broader geographic area than Brandon’s in all of southwestern Manitoba.
23. (NR) Kevin Muench, WHL (director officiating): Former referee is in charge of the on-ice officials. “He’s going to be a big part of things,” one governor says. . . . Another insider points out: “He has the most demanding job in the league. All of his workers must start their jobs being perfect and then proceed to improve.” . . . According to another GM, Muench “has too much control of referees without making them accountable for development. He tends to defend, defend, defend . . . and takes comments way too personally.
”24. (NR) Marc Habscheid, unemployed coach: In the last year, Habscheid, who has had WHL coaching gigs in Kamloops and Kelowna, has spoken with Portland, Kamloops, Regina, Prince George, Moose Jaw and Swift Current. His unsigned presence is making a lot of employed people uneasy. . . . Has been unemployed since being dismissed as associate coach by the Boston Bruins on June 15, 2007.
25. (NR) Russ Parker, Regina Pats (owner, governor, president): Has to live with constant rumours that he and his wife, Diane, would like to (a) sell, (b) relocate to Victoria, or (c) sell and purchase expansion franchise for Victoria. . . . Is believed to have at least thought about trying to swap franchises with Kootenay, something that may have foreshadowed a move to Victoria. . . . Lease problems in Regina seem to have been resolved, thanks in part to the the involvement of the WHL commissioner.———
TRENDING UP (alphabetical order): Craig Bonner, Kamloops Blazers (general manager); Colin Campbell, Seattle Thunderbirds (vice-president, assistant general manager, director of marketing); Jim Donlevy, WHL (director of education services); Cory Flett, WHL (director communications); Bill Gallacher, Portland Winter Hawks (owner); Bob Green, Edmonton Oil Kings (general manager); Mike Johnston, Portland Winter Hawks (general manager, head coach); Lorne Molleken, Saskatoon Blades (general manager, head coach); Don Nachbaur, Tri-City Americans (head coach); Dale Saip, Vancouver Giants (vice-president business development); Brian Sandy, Tri-City Americans (senior vice-president, chief marketing officer).

1 comment:

Kim K. said...

Hey Mitch,

Just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog -- found it by reading Tyler McMurchy's blog so i get the sane and insane all in about ten minutes. Just wondering...have you ever thought about doing a podcast?...just a suggestion.

Keep up the great work.