Avenir Sports and Entertainment has purchased majority ownership in the Kloten Flyers, a professional hockey team that plays in Switzerland’s National League A.
ASE also owns the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.
Bill Gallacher, the chairman of Avenir Consolidated Corporation, owns ASE.
ASE purchased majority ownership in the Flyers from Philippe Gaydoul, who had bought in more than two years ago when the Flyers were experiencing some difficulties. Gaydoul will remain on the team’s board of directors.
“The Avenir Sports and Entertainment group wants to ensure the Kloten Flyers continue to develop at a high level,” Gaydoul said in a news release from the Flyers. “Back when I launched my rescue mission, my goal . . . was to help ensure this historic ice hockey club could continue to play the key role in our society that it has performed for more than 80 years.
“But I always saw my involvement as a transitional solution, so I am now very happy that an experienced group like ASE wants to commit to the Kloten Flyers.”
ASE, which is based in Calgary, purchased the Winterhawks in 2008 when Portland was the WHL’s poorest franchise, both on and off the ice. Today, it is hoping to play in its fifth straight WHL championship final.
The Winterhawks hold a 2-1 lead on the Kelowna Rockets going into Game 4 of the Western Conference final tonight in Portland.
But what does all of this mean to the Winterhawks?
Here is a key sentence in a news release issued by the Winterhawks: “The Flyers also boast one of the leading youth development programs in Europe, with a pipeline of young talent that has produced many professional players.”
The Winterhawks are no strangers to Swiss players. In past seasons, their roster has included the likes of D Luca Sbisa, F Nino Niederreiter and F Sven Baertschi, all of whom were terrific WHLers and went on to become first-round NHL draft selections.
It sounds as though the pipeline to Portland has just had another tap installed.
When I suggested to someone with knowledge of the situation that it would be interesting to watch Portland’s involvement in the CHL import draft a couple of years from now, the response was: “No need to wait.”
The CHL’s 2015 import draft is scheduled for June 30.
Meanwhile, ASE has set up a management team to oversee the Flyers. This team features Doug Piper, who is the Winterhawks’ president, Ken Stickney, the president of ASE and Gallacher’s right-hand man in this area, and Bob Strumm, who works for ASE out of Las Vegas.
Strumm is no stranger to the WHL, having worked in the league office as well as with the Regina Pats and Spokane Chiefs.
The Flyers are expected to retain Sean Simpson as head coach.
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