Friday, May 07, 2010

Karmanos wins OHL service award

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Plymouth Whalers’ owner Peter Karmanos, Jr. is the recipient of the Bill Long Award for Distinguished Service, presented in recognition and appreciation of outstanding contributions to the OHL.

"It is an honor to be recognized with the prestigious Bill Long award,” said Karmanos. “I have had the privilege to be an owner in the OHL for the past 26 years, having just finished our 20th year with an American franchise. I've always done this because for me it is fun to be involved with the No. 1 development league in the world and I take pride in seeing the players develop both on and off the ice.”

Karmanos, a native of Detroit, becomes the first American to win the award, initiated in 1989 to commemorate the efforts and contributions of Bill Long during his days in the OHL, spanning over three decades as a coach and manager of the Niagara Falls Flyers, Ottawa 67’s and London Knights.

“I have enjoyed the relationships I have built, not only with the players that have come through our team, but throughout the league as well as other recipients who have won this award in the past,” Karmanos added. “Hockey is a great game and I wanted to give back to it on as many different levels as I could."

Karmanos has demonstrated a passion and expertise for hockey since the late 1970’s when he founded the Compuware Youth Hockey program which remains as one of the elite programs in North America.

He joined the OHL with the purchase of the Windsor Spitfires organization in 1984. After a slow start, Windsor improved every season under Karmanos, culminating in an OHL championship in 1988 with the league-best record of 50-14-2. The Compuware Spitfires came within a game of winning the Memorial Cup in 1988, losing the final game to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Karmanos sold the Spitfires to local ownership in 1988 and was awarded an expansion franchise for Detroit on December 11, 1989. The Detroit Compuware Ambassadors became the first OHL team based in the United States. The team, now known as the Whalers, has made the playoffs in every season except their expansion year of 1990-91. The team has won 10 divisional titles, two OHL regular season championships, and has reached the OHL championship finals five times, winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions in 1995 (pictured) and 2007.

“I cannot say enough about what Mr. Karmanos has meant for the growth of hockey at all levels,” OHL commissioner David Branch said. “He’s brought in and developed so many great people and has had a great influence in our league and other leagues. He provided us for the very first time as a league a team in the United States, which has been so beneficial for us and helped us grow the Ontario Hockey League.”

The Whalers have enjoyed uncommon stability under Karmanos’ watch. In Plymouth’s 20-year history, the team has had just five general managers and eight head coaches. The Whalers have had over 90 players selected in the National Hockey League Entry Draft, with Bryan Berard taken first overall by Ottawa in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

Karmanos’ success with two OHL franchises led him to purchase the National Hockey League’s Hartford Whalers in 1994, moving the team to Raleigh, N.C., in 1997. Right in the middle of purchasing the Hartford Whalers, Karmanos built Compuware Arena in Plymouth Township in 1996. Compuware Arena is a year-round multi-purpose facility that is home for the Whalers and other local hockey organizations.

In December 1997, Karmanos was chosen as one of four recipients of the National Hockey League’s Lester Patrick Award. Originating in 1966, the award is given annually to individuals who are recognized for "outstanding service to hockey in the United States."

Photo courtesy Plymouth Whalers

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