Parekh Sale Cancelled, Windsor Spitfires Restructure Ownership

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 Dr. Azim Parekh of the Smiles First Corporation near Toronto is off the table.

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.

Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers
Bob Boughner is now an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks. (Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

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.

Wyatt Johnston Windsor Spitfires
Wyatt Johnston, Windsor Spitfires draftee. (CHL Images)

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 majority stake in club‘, Windsor Star – 5/30/19).

The sons may get a camp invite in August, but will likely play elsewhere next season.

Status Quo and Stability

The Cypher Systems Group will now try to be more hands-on as majority owners. Boughner will watch the club from San Jose while Rychel remains as general manager.

2017 Memorial Cup Erie Otters Windsor Spitfires
Windsor Spitfires’ general manager Warren Rychel isn’t going anywhere. (Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

Boughner told the Windsor Star that they’ve been asked about the team before, but these were the first serious negotiations. Fans were leery and the team owed everyone some honesty.

“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 majority stake in club‘, Windsor Star – 5/30/19).

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 team and city.

“… 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:

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All restructuring will be finalized when the OHL Board of Governors meet next week. Right now, after two months of whirlwind questions and few answers, stability has settled over the WFCU Centre.

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.