Many sports fans dream of owning a team one day. But what all goes into running a sports franchise, specifically a Western Hockey League (WHL) franchise? Michael Kramer, a majority owner of the Portland Winterhawks shared what he and others do as owners. He shared an inside look at how he got into the sport, why he bought the team and ownership’s role with operations.
“Creating a connection with and educating Portland as to where we sit in the overall sports world I think is an important thing,” Kramer said.
Kramer touched on players in the organization now and those who have graduated from their junior days. He touched on multiple players recently that signed NHL contracts.
“I don’t think people really understand what is coming through Portland on that,” Kramer said.
Why he purchased the team and his background
Kramer and the new ownership group took over in January when he and a few others purchased the team from a former Alberta oil mogul. Due to the pandemic, the past owner had to declare bankruptcy with the hit the oil industry took.
Purchasing the Winterhawks wasn’t Kramer’s first dive into the sport of ice hockey. Growing up in California, he didn’t get into the sport until his oldest son decided to start playing to start playing 12-15 years ago. Kramer currently owns a two ice rink facility in Connecticut that hosts youth hockey and a Junior-A team.
“It’s one facility with two rinks and then we have youth hockey there, we have a juniors team there, that’s more of a community project,” Kramer said.
Working in Sports
Kramer said you have the regular 9-5 then the game at 7 p.m. He emphasized how those who work in sports put in a crazy amount of hours.
“It’s a business at the end of the day, but as in any business and anything you do, the more passionate you are about it, the better you do at your job,” Kramer said.
Being talented at what you do was another key element Kramer spoke on when it comes to working in sports. Kramer explained how sports are a business but that having the passion is also important.
“You obviously have to be talented at your trait, you have to be dedicated, you have to have that grit and excitement to it,” Kramer said.
When it comes to the Winterhawks specifically, Kramer hit on what they look for from their employees.
“From our standpoint, what we want from our employees is that they recognize that we are a fan based business,” Kramer said.
Kramer noted they want to make it a more positive fan experience. He said the ownership group has the view that Portland really is a hockey town, but people don’t know it.
“Hockey has been in Portland since the early 1900s and consistently been there, so we want to reintroduce that as a major sport to the market and expand who plays, who goes and who supports the Winterhawks,” Kramer said.
When it comes to fans and supporting the team, some are passionate, know the game well and follow players they got to know closely, after they graduate from juniors. For others, some get to know to know the game well and get into it. But for a large group of people, it’s about experiencing a game and enjoying the entertainment. Some may not remember who won or anything about either team or the league, but that they had a great night out. For others, a Winterhawks game provides the opportunity for a company to treat their clients to a night out