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Peter Kamanos Jr - Totally About Team

Perter Karmanos Jr receiving the Bill Long Award, 2010

It should be no surprise that awards keep piling up for former Compuware Chairman and CEO and Plymouth Whalers owner Peter Karmanos, Jr.  The business acumen and passion Karmanos, Jr. poured into founding and building Compuware Corporation transferred seamlessly into building a hockey empire.

In July of 2013, Mr. Karmanos was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on the basis of extraordinary contribution to the sport of hockey in the United States.

On September. 13, 2010, Mr. Karmanos was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, in recognition of his long-time service to hockey at all levels of the game in Michigan. 

In May, 2010, Karmanos was awarded the Ontario Hockey League’s Bill Long Award for Distinguished Service.  The award is presented in recognition and appreciation of an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the OHL.

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."

Mr. Karmanos founded the Compuware Youth Program in the late 1970’s; took ownership of the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in 1983; and sold the Spitfires in 1988 when he was awarded the first OHL franchised based in the United States, when the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors were founded in 1989.

Ontario Hockey League Commissioner David Branch remembers meeting Karmanos for the first time.  “I can recall Pete coaching a Compuware Bantam team in a tournament out west and being at a Pee-Wee tournament in Toronto,” Branch said.  “Even back then, he was a passionate hockey person building the Compuware Youth Hockey Program.   Pete let it be known he wanted an OHL franchise.  He ideally wanted to set it up in Detroit from the start.”  Branch convinced Karmanos to take over the Windsor Spitfires, who joined the Ontario Hockey League in 1981 with limited success on the ice and not much success in the local community.  “Mr. Karmanos stepped in (to Windsor) and cleaned up the situation,” Branch said. “He retooled it and made them a winner both on and off the ice and on, won an OHL Championship (1988), and went to the Memorial Cup.”

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 December11, 1989.  

“He provided us for the very first time as a league to enter into the United States, which was a huge step for us,” Branch.  “It has been so beneficial for us and helped us grow the Ontario Hockey League.”

Much like Karmanos’ success with the Spitfires the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors started slowly, but after two seasons, the team was over. 500 and challenging every season for the West Division and OHL Championships.

The team – now known as the Plymouth Whalers - has made the playoffs in every season (19 straight years) except their expansion year of 1990-91.  The team has won 12 divisional titles (1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2013), two OHL Regular Season Championships (1999, 2000), reached the OHL Championship Finals five times (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2007), and won the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions in 1995 and 2007.  The team played in the Canadian Hockey League's Memorial Cup championship in 1995 and 2007.

The Whalers have enjoyed uncommon stability under Karmanos’ watch.  In Plymouth’s 21-year history, the team has had just five general managers and eight head coaches.  The Whalers have had over 80 players selected in the National Hockey League Entry Draft.

Karmanos’ success with an OHL franchise in Detroit led to movement of Niagara Falls to Erie, PA in 1996 and North Bay to Saginaw, MI in 2002.  All three US-based franchises have been a success – on and off the ice – for the Ontario Hockey League.

Karmanos’ success with two OHL franchises led him to purchase the National Hockey League’s Hartford Whalers in 1994, moving the team to Raleigh, NC in 1997.  Some of the personnel that contributed to his OHL team’s success (Jim Rutherford, Terry McDonnell, Paul Maurice, among others) moved with Karmanos to the NHL team.  The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006.

Right in the middle of purchasing the Hartford Whalers, Karmanos built Compuware Arena in Plymouth Township in 1996.  Compuware Arena is a year-round facility that is the home for Whalers, Detroit Compuware AAA Youth Hockey Club, Detroit-Novi Catholic Central High School Hockey, and the annual Michigan High School Athletic Association Boys Semi-Finals and Finals.  The arena also is the home for a full-service restaurant (CJ’s Brewing Company), concerts, ice shows, high school and college graduations, trade shows, a drive-in theatre during summer months and much more.

Karmanos founded Gale Force Holdings in 1988 to manage his hockey interests, which include the Carolina Hurricanes and the PNC Arena in Raleigh NC; and the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League and Compuware Arena in Plymouth, MI.

In addition to his hockey and business interest, Karmanos deeply committed to philanthropy.  He had made gifts of more than $50 million to establish and support the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, the only recognized center to be named for a woman.  In 1996, the Jimmy Fund which works to prevent, treat, and eliminate cancer in children and adults, presented Karmanos with a lifetime membership to the Jimmy Fund Council of Connecticut for his volunteerism and contributions.

Pete lives in suburban Detroit with his wife, Danialle and their twin sons, Leonidas and Socrates. Pete now has five sons and eight grandchildren.  Danialle – in  addition to her ongoing work as a nationally acclaimed video producer – founded Danialle Karmanos’ Work It Out (DKWIO), a 501c3 organization that fights childhood obesity by providing kids with the tools they need to make healthy choices.