Sports Might Be Canceled, but Portland Still Won a Championship

The Portland Winterhawks have claimed the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for best regular season record in the Western Hockey League.

The Portland Winterhawks in September 2019. IMAGE: Keith Dwiggins.

We won't get to see Sabrina Ionescu make the Final Four this weekend, and the Blazers probably weren't going to make the playoffs anyway.

But before sports went away for good, Portland did get its first championship since the Thorns won the National Women's Soccer League final in 2018: The Portland Winterhawks have claimed the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for best regular season record in the Western Hockey League.

Needless to say, there won't be a parade.

Of course, in North America, regular season success typically comes without prestige. Try as Major League Soccer might to emulate European football, its "Supporters' Shield" for best overall record is not the biggest prize. But in the new COVID-19 reality, it's the best we've got.

Led by defenseman Johnny Ludvig and goaltender Joel Hofer, as well as four-year vets Lane Gilliss, Matthew Quigley and Jake Gricius, the Hawks had an extraordinary year that included a 21-game winning streak, a 26-2-2-2 home record—those last two figures are overtime wins and losses, respectively—and a .770 winning percentage.

"It's hard to finish first in your league," says Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston, who just completed his 10th cumulative season in Portland. "We've had great teams in the past, and I think we've only won it three times [before]."

The victory does come with an asterisk attached: The Western Hockey League cut its season short, with five games left to play and the Everett Silvertips nipping at the Hawks' heels.

Still, a win is a win. The last time Portland took home the Munro Cup, in 2013, it also won the Western Hockey League playoffs. The league canceled this year's playoffs March 23, but according to Johnston, this team's roster was a year ahead of schedule. So instead of wondering what might have been, he's looking to next season, even as the franchise faces the same financial and logistical uncertainty as everyone else.

While Hofer and Ludvig will probably start their National Hockey League careers, the Hawks will get back breakout star Seth Jarvis (42 goals and 56 assists), as well as four more players who are expected to be picked in the 2020 NHL draft. All will remain in Portland for at least another season.

And when the Hawks finally do get back on the Veterans Memorial Coliseum ice, two banners will be raised.

"We won our division, we won the league as far as the regular season," Johnston says. "We'll get pennants for those things, and we'll acknowledge it at that time."

Related: The NBA Has Suspended Its Season After Utah Jazz Player Rudy Gobert Tests Positive for Coronavirus.

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