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Portland Update

Portland play-by-play announcer Andy Kemper has temporarily suspended his blog. It's a shame because it was a convenient way of keeping track of the Hawks. I don't think people quite understood that he was an employee of the Hawks, and not an independent journalist, and thus, wasn't able to share everything he knew(assuming he knew anything, and I believe him when he says he didn't know much of the team's financial dealings.)

The Portland Tribune and The Oregonian both jumped into the mess in Portland with a couple extensive articles.(Both links via Gregg Drinnan)

It sounds like a lot of Portland's financial troubles are coming from the fact that they lease their arena through the Portland Trail Blazers, and in down years when attendance slips, like the past two, they're struggling to make ends meet because of the lease.

Portland claims that they are behind on some bill payments, but that everybody will get paid. There's really nothing more in the article on the stick front, except the same rumors that parents and agents have had to purchase sticks for players.

When it comes to Portland's treatment of players, the Portland Tribune mentioned this story:
The Hawks also have drawn criticism for the team’s handling of players. One player was released after requesting to take a different college course, but Donovan says the player had lost ice time, anyway, and showed inappropriate behavior when consulting with the team’s education administrator.
On the issue of Kevin Undershute's surgery, Portland said it's pretty standard for teams to have Canadian players get surgery in Canada, where it is cheaper. Undershute, for his part, has backed Portland the whole way. From the Portland Tribune article:
"I just wanted to get healthy," Undershute says. "I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. They’re in a tough spot, I understand, with health care costs and everything."
But at the same time, Portland admits that 16-year-old Riley Boychuk was a higher priority to receive medical treatment because he still has four years of eligibility left, whereas Undershute will be done in the WHL after this season.

There is a pretty interesting college hockey connection in all of this. Kevin Undershute had initially verbally committed to play college hockey at Alaska-Fairbanks before deciding to sign with Medicine Hat of the WHL. Meanwhile, you may remember two years ago, Portland tried to court Dion Knelsen, very publically, by saying Fairbanks had never sent anybody to the NHL.

Fast forward a few years to the present. Next year, Undershute will be playing college hockey at the age of 21 anyway, only this time in CIS, where there is next to no hope of getting a pro contract, rather than in the NCAA, where it's becoming quite common for undrafted free agents to sign NHL contracts.

Meanwhile, Alaska, the school that never sent anybody to the NHL, has had four players play in the NHL since then: Aaron Voros, Jordan Hendry, Kyle Greentree, and Darcy Campbell. Of the four, only Voros was drafted, in the 8th round of the draft.

An interesting question that was brought up to me was how much of this stuff would have been mentioned if Portland had been winning this year? We probably wouldn't have heard anything about it. This situation does highlight an uglier side of the CHL. It may be great for the uber-talented that breeze through the league for a few years on their way to the NHL, but at the end of the day, it's still run like a business, which can lead to some tough situations for the fringe players.