Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Play on!

The major junior hockey season ended this past weekend with the Memorial Cup Final, in which the Windsor Spitfires won their third title. All three league title holders (Seattle, Erie, Saint John) were eliminated. We now turn our attention to the Stanley Cup Final, but in a few short weeks the North American hockey season will be over. It's comforting to know that in Australia, fall and winter sports are in full swing. The AIHL and Aussie Rules Football seasons are well underway. Like hockey, Aussie Rules might look to the unfamiliar eye like organized chaos, punctuated by whistles, stoppages of play and the occasional argument with officials. But there is one thing I do understand; the call from umpires to "play on!"  It's a good reminder that as the hockey season goes out with a bang, there are plenty of other sports fish in the sea. 

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From the Dub: Keep the enemy closer

It's not often you will find Portland fans saying anything about the Seattle Thunderbirds that doesn't involve a four letter word, but let's face it: they have earned their place in the Memorial Cup. After capturing their second consecutive WHL Western Conference title, they made history when they won their first-ever WHL Championship. It's even more epic when you remember that last year, they wre eliminated from the WHL finals by the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Seattle Thunderbirds aren't just representing the league at the Cup: they are also representing the Western Conference and the U.S Division. They will be smarter and stronger for it next season, which is exactly why I'm keeping our chief U.S. Division rival closer. 

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From the Dub: We’re All On the Same Team

This weekend, the junior hockey world headlines were dominated by two very different but significant events: the unveiling of the Swift Current Broncos Memorial and the World Junior Championship. We also received an update that former WHL player Craig Cunningham's health has improved as he starts down the long road to recovery. It's all a good reminder that at the end of the day, we're all on same team. 

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Start Your Engines

It just occurred to me that I haven't posted on this blog since August, largely due to the fact that I'm also a Formula 1 race fan. The battle for the Formula One Drivers' World Championship may be decided next weekend in Brazil. If Nico Rosberg wins, he will capture the title, regardless of where his Mercedes teammate and current world champion Lewis Hamilton  finishes. On six previous occasions, the title has been settled in Brazil, including Hamilton's world championship win in 2008.  Rosberg would be following in his family's footsteps: his father Keke won the world championship in 1982. But it's what happened last weekend at the Mexican Grand Prix that made me realize why I like Formula 1 racing so much. You guessed it; it's a lot like hockey. 

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From the Dub: Play On!

At first glance, Aussie Rules Football looks like really well-organized chaos. Stay past the first quarter and you'll begin to wonder "who invented this sport and how high were they when they did so?" If you're new to the sport, your perception of Australia's beloved national pastime probably goes something like this: Beer. Watch first half. Meat pie and another beer because obviously trying to understand this game while sober is an exercise in futility. Watch second half. Stumble home. But take a closer look and it's really a lot like hockey. And I'm not just talking about the beer.

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Location, Location, Location

When I declared several months ago that I was traveling 8,107 miles one way to watch hockey in Australia, I wasn’t kidding. I did it. And I’m here to tell you that if you get the chance, you should go. In fact, June would be an excellent time to trek Down Under, seeing as how John Scott and Wayne Gretzky are going to be there next month. Oh, and there was that gold medal the Australian hockey team just won at the IIHF World Championships (Division IIB). Hockey in Australia is rising and now is the time to check it out for yourself. 

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Everyone has a blindspot

You never realize the true meaning of "there's no place like home" until you've either traveled to or lived in places far away from your home. I've done both, and there truly is no place quite like Oregon. I spent last weekend in Santa Monica, where the Independent Spirit Awards were held on the beach at the pier, five minutes from my hotel. It's currently 74 degrees there and there's no shortage of shopping, eating and people watching opportunities. But where was I on Friday and Saturday night? In my five-star hotel room, watching the Portland Winterhawks play the last of their Central Swing games. Can you say nerd alert, boys and girls? If you really want to be horrified by my evening plans in the land of skinny perfect people, I was also watching the tail end of a Blindspot marathon. What did it all teach me about hockey? I have a few ideas. 

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From the Dub: Do the math

There's nothing like an invitation to your 30th high school reunion to make you realize that your day, if ever there was one, is over.  Even worse is the realization that in the minds of the teenage hockey players you interview on a weekly basis, you're old. In fact, I'm younger than some of the Portland Winterhawks' parents. So you'll understand that when said invite arrived in my mailbox this week, I thought it was junk mail and almost threw it away; I even laughed at the poor soul who had to deal with the reality that three decades of his or her life had just blown by like a hurricane. That is, until I turned it over and realized it was addressed to me and was in fact from the high school I attended in my senior year. I started thinking about where the past 30 years went and what did I have to show for them? That's when I realized that the math on every major achievement and milestone in my life added up to one thing: hockey. 

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Home Is Where the Hockey Is

My birthday wasn't supposed to be January 26 (Australia Day and Wayne Gretzky's birthday); it was supposed to be Valentine's Day. But I decided it was go time a few weeks early et voila! My fate was sealed. It only seemed right to plot a vacation to Australia on my birthday. That is, until I discovered that there is hockey Down Under and it's played during our off-season, which is their fall/winter. If all goes well and my employer gives me the time off, I'm off to Melbourne and Sydney for the start of the Australian Ice Hockey League regular season in April. The Melbourne Mustangs have already made me feel welcome and I haven't even touched down in their city yet. It all made me realize that after a lifetime of living in different cities from San Diego to Tucson to Portland to New York and back again, there's really only one place that feels like home and you can find it almost anywhere. 

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From the Dub: The Son Also Rises

When Dominic Turgeon was signed by the Portland Winterhawks in early 2012, local fans' thoughts didn't automatically turn to the team's new recruit: everyone who's being honest automatically thought "I can't wait to meet his father." On the off-chance you don't know who I'm referring to, Dominic's father is five-time NHL All-Star Pierre Turgeon. Aside from being a dead ringer for his father, Dominic has carved his own path to the NHL. It didn't start out on a easy note and if the Winterhawks' performance this season is any indication, it's not going to end easily. But that's what makes his story worth telling. His father may be the name we all know, but if you've been following Dominic's junior career, you already know that he's made a name for himself. 

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com

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