The Western Hockey League Board of Governors has approved Winterhawks Sports Group (WSG) as the new owners of the Portland Winterhawks franchise effective January 1, 2021. WSG is led by Michael Kramer and Kerry Preete, who will also be the managing partners. Along with the Winterhawks franchise, WSG has also acquired the operations of the Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton, OR and all Winterhawks Junior Hockey programs.
Winterhawks General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston, team President Doug Piper, and all key staff across the three companies will remain with the organization.
“Mike Johnston and his staff created one of the most successful and highly-respected hockey development models in the world, while Doug Piper has laid the foundation for successful business operations in the Portland market,” said Kramer, owner, and CEO of New York City-based boutique investment firm Ducera Partners. “We are excited to inject our experience in both hockey and business to push this franchise to new heights. We are committed to this team, to the fans, the city of Portland, and to the local hockey community.”
Founded in Portland in 1976, the Winterhawks will remain in the region for the long term. A lease extension is in the works to continue playing at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The group intends to hit the ground running on January 1st.
“One of our first objectives is to connect with the fans, sponsors, and community leaders to get feedback on the team and its presence in the community,” said Kramer.
The ownership group will also be active in working with the WHL along with city and state officials to develop a plan for the Winterhawks and its players for the remainder of the current season. This plan will include resuming activities at the Skate Center and the Winterhawks Junior Hockey programs.
“Our goals are far bigger than just the Winterhawks’ success and winning championships,” said Preete, a retired senior executive. “We intend to be responsive to our fans and sponsors as well as good community partners. This includes development of youth hockey and figure skating in the community.”
WSG rose to the top of the long list of suitors interested in purchasing the Winterhawks, who were named the top WHL franchise by The Hockey News in 2017. The team finished the decade leading the 60-team Canadian Hockey League in total regular season wins, playoff wins, and goals scored from 2010 to 2019. Piper, Johnston, and their staff are excited about working with the group after an eight-month search for new owners.
“We are very excited to have this ownership group, headed by Michael and Kerry, be the entity that completes the purchase of the Winterhawks,” said Piper. “They are perfectly suited to be the next stewards of the Portland Winterhawks and continue our tradition of success. Their love of hockey and business acumen will help lead us to prosperity as we enter our 45th year in the Portland market.”
“We are excited to be moving ahead with Michael, Kerry and the Winterhawks Sports Group,” Johnston added. “Their experience in the business world combined with their passion for hockey will have a positive influence on our organization and the community of Portland.”
For the Western Hockey League, completing the franchise transfer to the right group of owners has been the goal from day one of the process.
“The WHL and our member Clubs are very excited to welcome Michael Kramer, Kerry Preete, and the new ownership group of the Portland Winterhawks,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “We are fortunate to have an ownership group of this caliber take over the operations of the Winterhawks and provide the long-term stability the WHL requires for the franchise in Portland.”
Kramer and Preete are joined by longtime National Hockey League executive Peter Luukko, and several other partners in the venture. Luukko is well-acquainted with the booming market for hockey in the Pacific Northwest as he oversees renovation of the Seattle Kraken’s arena and construction of their multi-sheet practice facility. Together, members of the WSG bring extensive experience in business management, hockey franchise and arena operations, and youth league operations to the Winterhawks family of companies while being avid hockey fans.
Kramer and Preete, hope to convene in Portland in early January for a more formal introduction to Winterhawks fans, youth hockey and figure skating families, members of the local ice sports community, and media.