Even without suspended head coach and GM Mike Johnston and a $200,000 team fine, you would rather this season be the heavyweight Portland Winterhawks than the Victoria Royals. The former still has a real possibility of winning the 2013 Memorial Cup and the latter only a remote chance.
But for the next several seasons, you would very much rather be the Royals - or any other WHL club - after the league lowered a consequential boom on the Winterhawks with serious ramifications that will considerably hinder Portland until 2017-18 and likely beyond. Portland has lost all selections in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL bantam draft and all first-round selections in the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 bantam drafts.
The WHL's communications on this have been awful. The league was stung by initial media and fan commentary that its sanctions announced last week on the Winterhawks were excessive for what appeared to be - according to the club's response - a handful of minor-seeming violations regarding cellphones and flights for player families.
The league has since countered that there were 54 Winterhawks violations over the last five seasons involving 14 players.
"We believe the sanctions are not excessive, given the repeated and systemic nature of the violations," said WHL commissioner Ron Robison, in a follow-up statement after the original penalties were announced.
"These sanctions are necessary to protect the overall welfare and integrity of our league and to preserve a level playing field for all our member clubs and our players."
That last sentiment may be the most telling.
There is great fear among the small markets in the WHL of being overwhelmed by the larger-market teams. For instance, even WHL teams that could afford to, are not allowed to fly to away games for convenience or a competitive advantage. All teams must bus. And certainly not all teams can afford to fly player families in for games while a select few can.
In using a pro baseball example, there is a wariness of Yankee-and Red Sox-like free spending teams emerging and dominating - if not in player stipends, which are regulated within the WHL, but in terms of additional perks the bigger-market teams could afford.
In many ways, the NHL lockout is also being driven by small-market owners.
My guess is before the Winterhawks controversy, most WHL fans probably didn't even know that team-paid cellphones for players or flights for player families are apparently restricted - or why they should be.
Why should Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton - and yes, even Victoria with its medium market and strong ownership - have to be subject to the same expenditures that small B.C. Interior and Prairie markets are confined to by necessity?
If the Winterhawks broke existing rules, they deserve to be punished.
The broader question, however, may be whether those rules need to be loosened.
HEAD SHOT: Colin Jacobs of the Prince George Cougars has been assessed a six-game suspension for a forearm to the head of Victoria forward Luke Harrison in Friday's Royals game in PG. Harrison was injured on the play.
"[Harrison] is not feeling very good," said Royals head coach Dave Lowry.
"He's going to miss a bit of time this week [home dates at the Memorial Centre against Vancouver on Wednesday and Swift Current on Saturday]. We'll re-evaluate after this week."
BRONCO BRETT: Swift Current will have a new blueliner in tow Saturday at the Memorial Centre as the Broncos acquired 17-year-old, six-foot-four Brett Lernout from the Saskatoon Blades for a fourth-round 2013 bantam draft pick.
"[Lernout] fits the identity and style of our team [12-13-5 ]," said Broncos head coach and GM Mark Lamb.
STRONG HURRICANE: Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Jaimen Yakubowski is the Denny's player of the week.
Yakubowski collected eight points, scoring five goals and three assists to go with a +2 rating, in four games over the past week.
Yakubowski is second in Hurricanes team scoring with 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 32 games played. The Hurricanes are third in the Central Division with a 14-14-1-3 record for 32 points.
An 18-year-old from Dal-meny, Sask., Yakubowski is in his second full season with the Hurricanes.
The WHL also named Justin Paulic of the Moose Jaw Warriors as the Goaltender of the week. Paulic posted a 2-0 record, stopping 44 of 47 shots faced for a 0.936 save-percentage and 1.44 goals-against average.
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