Winter Hawks heir wants to make the right move
Brian 'Bunny' Shaw says he's compelled to consider offers
He bears the famous name, but he stays behind the scenes with the Portland Winter Hawks, preferring to let others run the team.
'I can't tell Jann Boss how to run her office or Ken Hodge how to run his team,' says Brian Shaw, the man they call 'Bunny,' who holds the biggest ownership stake in Portland's junior hockey team. 'They have much more experience. I let the office go on its own. I trust them. I like to follow the hockey part of it.'
Shaw, whose late uncle Brian Shaw, along with Hodge, brought the Winter Hawks to Portland in 1976, says he simply wants to do his job as one of the team's paid scouts.
'That's just me. I'm trying to be quiet and win hockey games,' he says. 'If I can help get the players, we'll win and fans will be happy. But I do realize I have two hands here Ñ one where I have to listen and one where I have to do my job.'
Shaw would have the biggest say should Hodge present to shareholders an opportunity to sell the team. A viable buyer supposedly has been identified in the Minneapolis-based Agenzia Sports, which is headed by Pat Forciea and made an offer last week.
Hodge, the team's president and general manager, says the matter has been handed off to Portland's corporate attorney while the Winter Hawks compete in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Shaw, a Winter Hawks player from 1977-82, says he owns 40 percent of the team and Hodge 34 percent. Harold Snepsts, a former Winter Hawks coach, owns 17 percent, and many others hold smaller shares.
Shaw says he would have to consider selling, if the right offer comes along.
'It's good to listen when you're in business. I can't, in this day and age, not listen,' he says. 'I want to say, 'No, we're not selling,' but you have to make the right move for the Winter Hawks. I wouldn't rule out (selling). You can't.'
Shaw, 41, lives in Lake Oswego and has called the Portland area home since 1993, the year his uncle died. When he died, the elder Shaw had his interest in the team divvied up among relatives and confidants, with Bunny being the biggest beneficiary.
The once iron-fisted Brian Shaw might be rolling over in his grave with the prospect of the Hawks being sold, but times have got tough for the proud WHL franchise. The Winter Hawks have an expensive lease with Oregon Arena Corp. Ñ which Hodge says the OAC people might be willing to renegotiate Ñ and the team hasn't done well financially since winning the 1998 Memorial Cup.
The future, however, appears bright. Portland has terrific young talent and the potential to play in the WHL finals the next three years. It also has three of the first 30 picks of this year's bantam draft, and Shaw has been busy combing British Columbia and Alberta and parts of the United States for players.
'I'm not bragging, but we're doing a pretty good job,' he says. 'We have a strong list and a good core of young guys. We're trying to get a clue about who's recruitable and who's not.'
Shaw played in 215 regular-season games with 129 goals and 166 assists for the Hawks, who won four division titles and placed second once in his five years. They reached two WHL finals and the 1982 Memorial Cup.
Shaw played minor-league hockey in the Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis systems, twice coming close to making the Blackhawks. He retired in 1989 and started working for the Hawks. He took a couple years off in the late 1990s because of back problems.
Shaw grew up with the franchise, first hanging around his uncle, Hodge and the team back in Edmonton in 1971.
'I love the Winter Hawks,' he says.