Next: The Winter Hawks have been practicing and conditioning this week, preparing to play games at Spokane on Tuesday and at Kelowna at Wednesday.

Goalie fiasco: It's pretty rare for a player to quit a hockey career in the Western Hockey League. But goalie Kurt Kramer, 16, decided to leave just after being acquired by the Winter Hawks from Kamloops for Dustin Butler.

General Manager Ken Hodge reworked the deal, and acquired the rights to to goalie Chris Ward, 17. Kamloops got Ward from Everett to complete the deal with Portland.

Hodge says he talked with Kramer's mother, and coach Mike Williamson talked with the player to persuade him to play here, to no avail.

'I thought we were getting a player who was committed. Obviously not,' Hodge says.

Ward was cut early in the preseason, the odd-man out with two other 17-year-olds on the Silvertips' roster in Matt Esposito and Shayne Barrie.

He never played a game for Everett, although he sat on the bench during the WHL Western Conference finals last season. 'He's a highly competitive boy,' Hodge says.

Mucha ready: The Butler trade didn't surprise starter Kurtis Mucha; Butler, 19, didn't want to sit behind Mucha, 17, for another year. 'It was awkward,' Mucha says.

'He's commanding ice time,' Williamson says of Mucha. 'It doesn't mean he can relax - and I don't think he'll relax one bit.'

'I want to start as many games as I can. I'd like to go for 60,' Mucha says, noting that Everett's Leland Irving started 68 games last season.

- Jason Vondersmith

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