The ominous clouds over the WFCU Centre in Windsor have lifted. After a chaotic two months of rumours and questions, the Windsor Spitfires’ ownership settled the confusion on Thursday afternoon. They’re no longer selling the club.
There was plenty of uncertainty for the Spitfires and their fanbase in April and May as a potential sale was looming. While the club released a statement shortly after the OHL draft in April, neither the fans nor the hockey community got much comfort from it.
Thursday afternoon it all came to a head and some stability has found its way into the Rose City.
Parekh Deal No More
Spitfires’ co-owner John Savage made the announcement that the sale involving
Instead, Cypher Systems Group, who took over for Pete Dobrich in 2013 and includes John Savage, his brother Stephen, and Brian Schwab, now owns the majority stake. Spitfires general manager, Warren Rychel and Bob Boughner, assistant coach of the San Jose Sharks, remain minority stake holders. The club did not comment on specific percentages.
In early April, rumours surfaced online about the Spitfires being for sale. Parekh was confirmed as the buyer. As a courtesy, Rychel drafted Parekh’s sons in the OHL Draft and Under-18 Draft.
Those selections, combined with the Spitfires’ 2019 first-rounder Wyatt Johnston not reporting, were the tipping point for many people. It sent social media into a frenzy, which caught the attention of the Spitfires’ ownership group.
While negotiations with Azim were heated, John told the Windsor Star that the deal couldn’t get done, and they listened to the community. The feedback was far from positive.
“… that comes into consideration as to who is taking over the team,” he said. “If I said Wayne Gretzky was coming over to buy the team, the fans would be (fist bumping). Here’s an unknown commodity … out of Toronto … and that was part of the overall consideration when you look to sell to someone … Part of that weight is what it means to the local community,” (from ‘Sale of Spitfires to Parekh off as Cypher Systems Group opts for
The sons may get a camp invite in August, but will likely play elsewhere next season.
Status Quo and Stability
Boughner told the Windsor Star that they’ve been asked about the team before, but these
“People maybe lost confidence that we may be moving on and somebody might be taking over. In retrospect, we wish things might have happened in a different way, but we wanted to be honest with fans,” (from ‘Sale of Spitfires to Parekh off as Cypher Systems Group opts for
People both inside and outside of the organization were unsure about the future. Schwab told CTV that uncertainty doesn’t help anything and this deal brings some stability to the
“… the players were wondering if this is the right place for them to play, the draft choices were wondering about that, and even the staff was wondering,” he said.
The Cypher Systems Group has become a mainstay in the community. On top of the Spitfires, it has also purchased several buildings downtown for restoration. They also own the LaSalle Vipers Jr. B and Lakeshore Canadiens Jr. C. It’s all part of their commitment to Windsor-and-Essex County.
Here are the Cypher Systems Group in 2013 when they first bought a share of the club:
All restructuring will be finalized when the OHL Board of Governors
The offseason will be busy for Rychel as the club enters the next phase of its rebuild. As the summer unfolds, the team remains in good hands.
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.