Above the Glass
You may be pleased to know that there is a beacon in the middle of the NHL lockout darkness; and he’s playing right here in the Dub, right now. Hope springs eternal here in the junior leagues, and in this case hockey’s hope is named Oliver Bjorkstrand, a Danish rookie forward who looks like he’s 12 and plays like he’s 25. You may not have heard of him yet, but you will.
I opened my personal calendar this week to a horrifying reality that I knew was coming, but had ignored until now. Between now and October 28, there are no NHL games and alas, there is only one Portland Winterhawks home game. What’s a girl to do? I know: watch a slightly creepy, really smart, well-written and well-acted TV show filmed right here in Portland: Grimm. If you’ve tuned in, you know it’s full of strange characters, stranger plotlines and bizarre creatures who seek to harm the human race. In spending way too much free time bringing myself up to speed, I realized Grimm’s creatures have some eerie similarities to hockey.
Last weekend, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot let one ripper of a shot fly into the Kelowna Rockets’ net, giving the Portland Winterhawks a 1-0 win and Cam Lanigan his first WHL career shutout. But it’s important to note that the game winning goal happened late in the third period, after two periods of missed opportunities had flown by; which may be why Derrick responded to my declaration of “that was the best goal ever” with “it was the luckiest goal ever.” He had a point; the luck that guided that perfect shot into the net disappeared the next night when the Rockets won 4-3 in the final 59 seconds of the game. Which got me to thinking; in hockey, is it better to be lucky or good?
I was plotting yet another “lockout, not cool”* type entry, when I realized such rants are an exercise in futility. Instead, I have endeavored to find some measure of goodness in the middle of all this muck. I am very fortunate that the goodness once played hockey in Portland, and that many are now in the AHL, where we can continue to enjoy watching or listening to games from afar. For those who may be looking to do the same whilst we wait out the second NHL lockout in less than a decade, kindly allow me to refresh you on a few of my favorite hockey things.
Waiting for the NHL and NHLPA to get their act together on the CBA is a lot like watching water boil; the more you stare at it, the less progress seems to be made. Too bad there's not a Hockey Fan Association at the table. If we had anything to say about it, this would be long past over and done by now. Which got to me thinking, what if fans had a say in the CBA negotiations? If you could plead the fans' case for working it out, what would you tell them?
Sitting here in the blissful aftermath of what Michael Phelps has achieved, it’s hard to believe his storied Olympic career is over. Which may be why so many experts are saying he isn’t done, despite his public declarations that he’s hanging up the Speedo for good. But he’s right; he has nothing else to prove. That’s part of the challenge; how will he ever outdo himself? Life may not hold adventures as lofty as history-making Olympic greatness, but there’s still plenty of life to be lived and plenty of adventures to be had. In all of his Olympic interviews, he’s made it clear that he’s ready for the next big thing. In that case, may I suggest that he give hockey a try?
In the off season I can be found in a galaxy far, far away from the ice rink, doing laps at my local community pool. This year, I’m cutting into quality workout time to watch the aquatic events at the Olympics. I can see from my Twitter feeds that my fellow hockey fans do not all appreciate the finer points of my favorite water sport. Maybe they just don’t realize that the two sports aren’t that different. That’s why I suggest that the next time you turn on the Olympics to a swimming event, think hockey.
The Nashville Predators roster is looking a lot like the Portland Winterhawks these days. Thanks to the past few years’ Entry Drafts and the current free agent frenzy, the team now has numerous Winterhawks (past and present) on their current roster or in their system, including Paul Gaustad, forward Cam Reid, defenseman Taylor Aronson and forward Brendan Leipsic, acquired in the 3rd round of the 2012 Entry Draft. Brendan is known around these parts as a fearless, chirpy and gritty forward who is also a crafty little goal scorer. He’s a good solid choice by a good solid team; just don’t ask him to cut his hair.
As the NHL’s best and brightest prepare to descend on Las Vegas, it occurred to me that there are so many other things for which the league could hand out even more shiny things. Similar to the technical Academy Awards, the league could hold a second awards ceremony to honor NHL personnel who just did the little things throughout the season, like refraining from swearing, repressing violent impulses and using Twitter responsibly.
The NHL Entry Draft looks to keep the off-season exciting for us out here in the WHL, where the league is well represented in this year’s Central Scouting rankings. Among the players expected to go highly are a number of defensemen, including Everett Silvertips Captain Ryan Murray and Portland Winterhawk Derrick Pouliot. But there is also a less exciting flip side to draft excitement: some of the best players in the world may never be drafted, never play in the NHL even if they are, or not have the career that was expected of them. The reasons range from injury to roster needs to the things like discipline, professionalism, courtesy to fans and media, and off-ice conduct. Which got me to thinking, what if the Central Scouting Rankings included the X Factors that can determine a player’s readiness and ability to handle the next step in their careers? Would things like having a good hockey name, using Twitter responsibly and respecting what Ty Rattie calls the 7th man affect whether a player will be drafted and make it in the NHL?
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