Originally Posted by nsh03
Excellent article, thanks for posting it. The sanctions and article confirm what was already apparent to anyone who keeps an eye on WHL suspensions: The Winterhawks have a bullseye on their back and are going to get screwed on every possible occasion by the league. And then you consider the penalties to Johnston, which look an awful lot to me like the league trying to place a scarlet letter on him... it's downright vindictive.
As I see it the team was being generous to the families of its financially needy players with its own money. Yes it violated some rules and should be punished accordingly for it (namely paying for training and the cell phone), but hammering them for the flights is ridiculous when you look at how that rule is worded. This strikes me as the equivalent of the police raiding a suspected drug house and only finding a building code violation, but condemning the house and charging the owners with drug crimes anyway because that's what they thought/hoped they'd find.
I see it differently. I liken it more to Al Capone. The feds knew he was doing lots of bad things, but only had concrete evidence of the seemingly minor crime of tax evasion. The league had flights, cell phones, and week long training programs. Seemingly minor to most people, but I personally have never seen a WHL team suck soooo bad, get a new front office and then become a consistent producer of 1st round NHL picks. Not to mention the luring of kids that had said they were going to the NCAA. That sort of thing just doesn't happen in junior hockey, except in Portland.
Maybe the Winterhawks scouting staff are awesome and Johnston is one helluva salesman. Maybe Portland is just that great of a town. Maybe their owner dished out some personal cash to some of these blue-chippers, something that would not show up on an audit of the 'Hawks.
The whole league was happy to see Portland turn it around, but their ability to be so good in a watered down 22 team league for 3+ years is a bit uncanny.