Above the Glass
I went bowling for the second time in my whole life this past Monday with some of the Portland Winterhawks. As I did last time, I learned a few lessons, picked up a few good tips for better bowling, learned what to watch on TV and finally, how to explain an injury in the politically correct WHL-approved way. And once again, I’ve found that when it comes to the NHL’s future, you are what you bowl.
Over the past two weekends, the Portland Winterhawks were subjected to the uglier side of hockey in two back-to-back losing games with the Spokane Chiefs and a routing of the Seattle Thunderbirds. These included an incident in which security stood idly by while the players were put at risk by a drunk fan, a scoreboard that read Garbage instead of Portland and verbally kicking a goalie while he was down. I would have been twerked just as much if it was a different team and not my hometown boys, because said behavior wasn’t just an insult to my team. It was an insult to this sport and everything that is good about it. Which got me to thinking about the tips I would give to fellow fans about how to stay classy in hockey.
Well, of course other than the obvious: I share my January 26 birthday with Wayne Gretzky, so obviously hockey was my destiny one way or another. Now, normally I write about what hockey can teach us about life, but in this case I have also realized that getting older (I’ll be 44 on Thursday) has taught me a few things about the sport. Like, for example, my advice for what to do (or not) if the anthems of your youth are now being played as elevator/background music in a store or office building.
Like the Tampa Bay Lightining’s 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Or the one where Ryan Johansen helped the the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. And finally, here in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Winterhawks slayed a Goliath of their own by beating the Tri-City Americans 5 -1 in a franchise record-breaking home win. So, why is it that one game can matter more than all the rest put together? I think I’ve figured out part of the answer.
In addition to being a full-bore hockey fan, I’m also a full scale sci-fi nerd. Which is how I came to be watching the Firefly marathon on the Science Channel yesterday whilst hunkering down for a blizzard here in Oregon. And it was then that I realized many of the morals of Firefly’s stories can be applied to hockey. If you’re new to this blog, welcome and one thing to know about me: I’ll find hockey truths in everything. Including 12 some odd episodes of a cult favorite sci-fi/Western TV series that was grounded before it had a chance to fly.
Tuesday was trade deadline day here in the WHL, where more than a dozen teams picked up a few things, like new captains (Vancouver Giants), NHL talent that may or may not return to the Dub (Tri-City Americans) and of course, Bantam Draft picks. Today’s entry is a fan’s guide to the wildest, weirdest and biggest trades that have reshaped the league’s rosters for the second half of the season and playoffs.
If you haven’t heard of him, you might want to tune in. Taylor is a forward for the Portland Winterhawks who spends his free time writing screenplays, blogging, repressing violent impulses against bad drivers and saving drowning kayakers from the polluted waters of the Willamette River on New Year’s Day. On the ice, he is one of several players who wear a rotating A and he likes to do stuff like score game winning goals in overtime in games versus formidable foes like the Moose Jaw Warriors, home team of Dylan McIlrath and Quinton Howden, among others. He’s making the headlines around these parts this week for that goal, and the rescue on the river. So you won’t be surprised to learn that the young man behind the headlines is equally interesting.
I was going to use this weekend to do the same thing as most people: reflect on the year gone by, make resolutions I won’t keep and make predictions for the second half of the season. But then I got distracted by the Star Wars New Year’s Day marathon on the Spike network and out went my New Year’s plans. It was then that I realized that not only is “The Empire Strikes Back” the best of the Star Wars movies, it’s also chock full of dialogue that could just as easily be used by players to chirp at each other, as code amongst coaching staff about game strategy, and as replies to reporters.
I was going to call this entry “Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em” to express my thoughts on the Blue Jackets and Islanders not using Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter properly. But then Ryan went and scored two goals in one game, and Nino got more ice time, and both have crossed the 10-game threshold. Since the likelihood of them being returned to Portland at this point is less than zero, I decided instead to offer my own fan-friendly tips for making the most of one’s prized draft possessions. Call it the ABCs of using prospects wisely.
The World Juniors have just gotten underway, but alas Team Canada’s jerseys do not have the names of Portland Winterhawks on them. Good thing Team Switzerland will play later today, led by Flames top prospect Sven Bartschi. Here in Portland, our motto for the next week is Go Switzerland! But let’s not forget that elsewhere in Canada, hockey’s future is playing in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge. The Winterhawks are proudly represented in this tournament by rookie sensation Nic Petan, who is all of 16. He has the privilege of playing on a line this year with Sven and Ty Rattie, and together they have collectively already racked up more than 130 points this season. It may be a little early to make draft predictions about Nic, but you may want to put him on the radar now. Because his frequency is about to get very loud.
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