Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Don’t be jealous now

For those still awaiting the start of the NHL pre-season, you can always tune in to us out here in the Dub, where 12 WHL teams have opened training camps and more will follow this weekend. That includes the Portland Winterhawks, whose camp includes the Neely Cup, a four-day extravaganza ending with a shiny object named for one of the team’s most famous alumni. I’m still sorting through what to watch throughout the league, but I can tell you the future is bright here in the Rose City. Our draftees made the most of summer, several injured players are back and ready for action, and there is plenty of talent on the horizon.

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There is hope, Columbus

During the off season, I try to remember that between players training in the off season, and youth hockey camps and the Stanley Cup traveling about, there is hockey somewhere. This week, that somewhere is Portland, Oregon, where the Winterhawks will open their training camp. Among the question marks for us is whether or not some of our highly drafted players will return to Portland this season or stay with their NHL teams. We are already preparing ourselves for a Winterhawks roster without Nino Niederreiter. But some hold out hope that Ryan Johansen will return to us this season. For Ryan’s sake and that of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I hope he stays with his NHL team. Because it’s what he wants and I want him to be happy. And because I assure you Columbus, there is hope: its name starts with an R.

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What wine goes with petting the Stanley Cup?

In case you’re wondering where the Stanley Cup has been the past 48 hours, I can assure you we are taking good care of it out here in Portland, where it is visiting ice rinks, downtown squares and being generally worshipped. We lined up, we saw, we petted, we hugged, we kissed and we photographed it. Tonight, it will also make a stop at a local bar, but of course.  Clearly, a second viewing is in order this evening. More pictures, more worshipping and more whatever will follow. That being said, the main question is what adult beverage goes with such a momentous event?

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I wonder if they’ll let us touch it?

Whilst we wait out the final days of the off-season, Portland hockey fans will get a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and greet the Stanley Cup. Next Wednesday, August 17, courtesy of former Portland Buckaroo and Boston Bruins’ scout Tom McVie, the Cup is making an appearance in Pioneer Square. Fans will get to view it, have their photo taken with it and partake of some family-friendly festivities. I’m pretty sure they won’t let us touch it, but I can guarantee that if they do, I will avail. It also got me to thinking about “The Day With The Cup” that the players get, during which they can pretty much do anything with it except drive over it with their cars. What if fans got their own day with the Cup? What would we do?

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Everything old is new again

Seeing all these new, enthusiastic bloggers here on Kukla’s is making me a wee bit nostalgic for this time last year, when I was a newbie. Welcome all. It also made me realize I’d better get it together and start reporting some actual news from here in my sector. That being said, those of you who are looking for more junior and minor hockey are in luck. I will be expanding beyond my Portland Winterhawks universe to cover the Western Hockey League this season. There’s plenty happening out here in the Dub, and I’ll do my best to bring more of it to you.  In the meantime, it’s only 26 shopping days until the Hawks open training camp, so here’s a little preview of the up and coming players and other tidbits to tide you over.

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Gotta keep it simple

In the ongoing search for mature, responsible off-season hobbies, I was sure decrypting the math that goes into the plus/minus rating would keep me busy for several days. I envisioned a complicated formula devised by MIT graduates that used a top secret combination of morse code, algebra and calculus like multiplying the number of games played by the number of goals scored minus the number of goals allowed plus the number of players on the full roster, minus the number of players on the ice at the time the goal was scored. Imagine my surprise and delight when, at last, I discovered an NHL rule that is exactly what it sounds like: a statistic that measures goal differential, it awards a plus to players on the ice at the time their team scored a goal, and a minus to players on the ice at the time their team allowed a goal. Genius. Now that I know what goes into the on-ice math, it occurred to me that there isn’t a rule for the things that can’t be calculated with math, like heart, soul, character and other intangibles that make a player who he is. But what if there was?

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So, no overtime pay, then?

Readers who were brave enough to read my last entry will be pleased to know that I have found a useful, grown up hobby: reading and interpreting choice bits from the Collective Bargaining Agreement. On tap this weekend: Article 50, which governs hockey-related revenue, player salaries and bonuses. So far, I only have one question. Is there anything for which NHL players don’t receive a bonus?

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Proof the hockey off-season is too long

There are several things you probably shouldn’t hand a hockey fan, especially one who has a blog or two, notably too much free time without hockey. Because some of us, whilst trolling the newspaper for a summer movie (like say, the new Winnie the Pooh movie, for example) to fill the weeknights where hockey would have otherwise been the night’s entertainment, come up with thoughts like what would happen if Winnie the Pooh enforced the Collective Bargaining Agreement and/or the NHL Rulebook? If you are brave and crazy enough to continue reading this entry, then you deserve to know that during the hockey season I’m a totally normal person who reports on relevant news like prospect profiles, WHL news tidbits and my thoughts on the latest trades and what not. But here in the off season, without junior hockey, barbecue nachos or Center Ice to occupy my free time, my mind tends to wander. Yes, there’s plenty to occupy the off-season, ‘tis true. But I see that the trained hockey blogging professionals have that turf covered, so I am here to offer a little levity in the midst of it all. That being said, don’t ask me where I came up with this idea. No clue. But that never stopped me before. So here you go: what if a cuddly little bear all stuffed with fluff enforced the NHL’s rules and what not?

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It gives a whole new meaning to summer camp

Among the many shiny, happy ways I am filling the dark days of the off season is keeping track of all the cool things the Portland Winterhawks are up to this summer. For those drafted by the NHL, it means development camp and media interviews and what not. For a select few, it will mean an additional trip to the World Junior development camps. Younger players like Josh Hanson, Brendan Leipsic and Derrick Pouliot have already secured a spot or will be vying for a chance to play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, which involves the chance to travel to the Europe and represent their country in an international competition. I’m happy for them, but I must admit that keeping track of the Rose City’s rising stars made me wonder what the heck I was doing at their age and why didn’t it involve playing hockey and/or a $900,000 entry level contract? Because not everyone is meant to become an overnight sensation at 18 and not everyone gets to hear their name called on draft day. Which made me realize that the road to adulthood is not unlike the road to the NHL. Well, except maybe the NHL pays better.

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Ah,youth

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer here in the Pacific Northwest. The perfect time for several Portland Winterhawks to dispatch to NHL development camps. Among them are the obvious: Calgary Flames first rounder Sven Bartschi and defenseman Joe Morrow, who is off to Consol Energy Center this week. Among the not so obvious is forward Taylor Peters, who has already seen the inside of Consol, having been invited to the Pens’ training camp last fall. This year, it was the Minnesota Wild who came calling. Keep Taylor on the radar. He’s not the name on everyone’s lips at the moment, but he may be in the near future. Watching while our players make the most of their precious youth makes me outwardly proud and inwardly jealous that it’s all still ahead of them and the possibilities are still endless. But not all is lost here in middle age. Those of us who were the boys’ age when cavemen were still experimenting with fire can still hang on to our youth, even if only in our hearts and minds. It just takes a few less regrets, a few more workouts, and a lot of faith.

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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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