Portland Winterhawks investigation
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11-29-2012, 07:34 PM
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Nova Scotia
Sven talks about this:
Yeah, Sven Baertschi’s parents once accepted a free flight across the Atlantic Ocean to watch their son skate in the Western Hockey League.
Thing is, the Portland Winterhawks had nothing to do with it.
Baertschi, widely considered the Calgary Flames’ most exciting prospect in recent memory, paid the bill himself.
“My parents only came over once and I paid fully for that. I was able to pay for it because I was already signed with the Flames,”
said Baertschi, whose family lives in Switzerland. “In Portland, I got treated the exact same way as anybody else on the team.”
On Wednesday, the WHL hammered the Winterhawks for “a series of player benefit violations,” stripping the club of their first-round picks for the next five years, suspending head coach Mike Johnston for the remainder of the season and playoffs and assessing a $200,000 fine.
While league officials have been tight-lipped about the details, the Winterhawks revealed they were punished for providing flights to Portland for family members of seven players over a span of five years, arranging a week-long summer training program for two skaters and giving their captain a cell phone for the past three campaigns.
Baertschi, who spent two winters in Portland and is now in his rookie season with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, said Thursday he wasn’t involved in any of the violations.
The 20-year-old left-winger added he was “shocked” when he heard news of the sanctions and feels the punishment is “a little over-the-top” for seemingly minor infractions. The WHL has made it clear the Winterhawks were not providing illegal cash payments to players or bending league scholarship rules in the recruiting process.
“It happens sometimes that you try to do something good for somebody and, in the end, you get kicked in the ass,” Baertschi said. “I think this is a good example of that. I know I’m so close to all the people (in Portland) and they’re such great people, and I’m sure they wanted to be in the rules and they want to make sure they are doing the right things.
“Mistakes happen. Sometimes, you try to do something nice and it goes the other way. This kind of looks like that right now.”
Baertschi was eligible to return to the junior ranks this winter but was instead assigned to Abbotsford, where he leads the Heat with six goals and 10 assists in 18 regular-season games. He'll be summoned to the Saddledome as soon as the lockout is over.
Although Baertschi is no longer starring in Oregon, the Winterhawks currently sit atop the WHL's U.S. Division standings. Even with Johnston banned from the bench and no first-rounders to use as chips at the trade deadline, the Swiss sniper figures his former teammates are favourites for the league title.
“It's not going to change anything,” Baertschi said. “Portland will be on top at the end of the year.”
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