Sawblades Gets 'The Axe'

financial trouble sends Sawblades skidding

Brent Widmark, photos by Andrea Paulseth

The Eau Claire Sawblades were supposed to be well into the inaugural season of the Wisconsin Junior Hockey League. They were supposed to have a full roster of players looking to draw the attention of college scouts. The players were supposed to be staying with billet (or “host”) families, who were supposed to be financially compensated. Coaches were supposed to get paid. Ice time at Hobbs Arena was supposed to be paid for and used. None of that has happened.

Hobbs Ice Center told the Sawblades that they could no longer use their ice until they were paid, a debt that is now $9,850. What has followed has been lies, rumors, accusations of theft and sabotage, and broken promises, all resulting in a lost season for players who signed on with the WJHL.

The WJHL’s director, Scott Schwendeman, 26, was supposed to appear at Hobbs on multiple occasions to make payment, but Hobbs manager Stu Taylor says that he has not had contact with Schwendeman since Nov. 5. About the Sawblades ever returning to Hobbs Ice Center, he said, “Each day that passes presents less of an opportunity for them.”

Former Sawblades coach Todd Holmes should have been paid for two months of work, but it also never happened.

“None of us have been paid,” Holmes said of the league coaches. “The Rhinelander coach got paid two checks and they were both bad.”

Holmes was let go by the league last week but it is unclear why. WQOW in Eau Claire reported that Schwendeman said it was “due to many infractions.”

The new Sawblades coach, David Kohn said Schwendeman told him Holmes was “released a week ago because he felt that it wasn’t his responsibility to do the GM job. He thought that he could be just a head coach and that’s it.”

About that accusation, Holmes says that Schwendeman wanted him to hire more staff for the Sawblades. “I wouldn’t hire anybody that he couldn’t pay. It wouldn’t have been right for me to wreck their lives and not get paid.”