Above the Glass
For hockey fans here in the WHL, Wednesday night is proving to be a Game 7 extravaganza. On the NHL front, some of us are biting our nails because our favorite teams are on the verge of being swept (or not, depending on your team). And here in the Dub, the outcome of two game sevens will determine who will vie for the Western Conference Championship. In Portland, the Winterhawks will face off against the Kamloops Blazers for the chance to advance and defend the title. Across the league, the Tri-City Americans and the Spokane Chiefs will do the same. Sitting here waiting for face off, I started thinking about the Twitter hashtag the boys are using during the playoffs: #allin. If you’ve ever met any of the Portland Winterhawks, you know they mean it. They believe it. And they live it. Shouldn’t we all?
Tuesday night, the Portland Winterhawks set a blitz of new records and racked up a whole scoresheet full of new stats: two players scored two shorthanded goals in one period exactly 33 seconds apart, Brad Ross scored four goals and Taylor Peters racked up all three of his assists on shorthanded goals. But alas, what went up came back down as they fell to a more desperate Kamloops Blazers team 5-4. For my part, I didn’t really need a few more lines or my face or more gray hairs. And I certainly didn’t need a friend telling me this morning that I should chill out because “it’s just a game.” We all know it’s much more than that and playoffs are even bigger; the question of the day is why. If hockey’s just a game and playoffs don’t matter, then how come I just aged about 10 years last night?
On Friday, the Portland Winterhawks will take on the Kamloops Blazers in the second round of the WHL playoffs. It is no ordinary series, this one. The two teams have a history that goes way back, and both boast all sorts of good hockey names, NHL talent and winning records. Portland finished third in the Western Conference this year, right behind the second place Blazers, who ended the season on top of the B.C. Division. I find that when one is getting amped up for a playoff series against an opponent like the Blazers, the top priority is to meet said opponent. So I did. Well, ya’ know, on paper.
The WHL playoffs got underway this weekend, and less than a week later the Portland Winterhawks are one game away from eliminating the Kelowna Rockets in a 4-game sweep. The Rockets are a is fighting to stay in the series and they will receive reinforcement tonight with the return of Brett Bulmer, who has already served a one-game suspension in Tuesday’s game. Which is deceptive when you realize that he racked up 23 minutes of penalties in Game 2, including three kneeing penalties, the final of which resulted in a game misconduct and the suspension. Did the punishment fit the crime? Of course not. It’s hockey, after all. No one said it was fair. But the bigger issue is player safety; at what point is it clear a player is beyond caring about who he hits or hurts? This is the junior leagues, but the same topic has been just as hot in the NHL. Which got to me to thinking about hits, fights and other on-ice violence: How far is too far? Why do players cross the line into recklessnes and injury to opponents? And how do the people charged with enforcing player safety make the right call?
Right about now the one and only Sven Bartschi is in your town, getting ready for his NHL regular season debut. It’s hard to lose him right when the Portland Winterhawks are locked in a tight race for Division and Conference titles, but we are thrilled for him. Come Friday, you will get a glimpse of what we have been privileged to watch for the past two seasons. So allow me to share with you what he’s been up to these past six months, along with some tips for taking the greatest of care with your prize.
With the WHL regular season nearing its end later this month and the NHL Entry Draft drawing ever closer, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at a few of the draft-eligible Portland Winterhawks who are on the verge of breaking out. One of my favorites is Taylor Leier, an 18-year-old left winger from Saskatoon who significantly increased the value of his draft stock this past weekend when he scored the game winning and empty net insurance goals in a game against the Tri-City Americans, with whom the Winterhawks are in a heated race for first place in the WHL’s U.S. Division. When he’s not busy improving his draft chances, Taylor is getting ready to play on Canada’s U-18 ball hockey team in the World Championships this June. Which is why now would also be a good time to tune into Taylor’s frequency; because it’s about to get very loud.
Yes, I know “proper” in a sport like hockey is somewhat subjective and open to interpretation, but still…there are just certain rules of the road we should all observe to ensure our mutual enjoyment of the game. Now, as fans we all know the basic rules of the road, and we drive safely. But I’m sure we’ve all seen and perhaps had a choice word or two with the small but mighty band of individuals who, shall we say, commit numerous moving violations over the course of a game. Like, for example, getting drunk before the game, wearing yellow shirts and sweatpants and performing a dance routine after every goal long after everyone else has sat back down and the puck has been dropped for the face off. Inspired by a recent run-in with said individual, I’ve put together this handy reference guide on how to enjoy the game responsibly.
That’s the Twitter hashtag that junior hockey fans will often see in their Tweets after their team wins a road game. For the Portland Winterhawks, it usually means a rowdy bus, on which a really bad horror movie is usually shown. When you consider who the opponents are in the WHL, a road win is even more impressive. But that’s not stopping the Portland Winterhawks from barreling through the stretch run at high speed in pursuit of another championship season. Up next: a rematch tonight with the Tri-City Americans in Portland that could put the teams dead even in the U.S. Division. Sure, it’s a home game, but just like life, it’s still a happy bus moment and those don’t roll by every day. You have to enjoy the ride while you can. I have a few tips for how to do so.
I must admit, I fell asleep during part of the Super Bowl yesterday, but I saw enough to know that I will probably never convert to being a football fan. Just as I was waking up from my catnap, the Patriots were allowing the Giants to score, and the Giants player who scored was purposefully trying not to, and in doing so he essentially fell down in the end zone. I thought maybe I was still asleep or it was an ad making fun of the game. But apparently there was a totally strategic reason for it, which I get. But once I woke up fully, it got me to thinking, what if goofy things like that or other football plays, rules and halftime entertainment happened in hockey?
If you tuned in to the CHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday, you may have heard Derrick Pouliot’s name mentioned on average about every five seconds. Which will happen when you assist on the game winning goal and display some stellar play all around. The 18-year-old defenseman currently plays for the Portland Winterhawks and is currently sitting pretty right at number 10 among North American Skaters in the Central Scouting Midterm Rankings. You never know how things will work out, but I’d put my money down at this point that Derrick will go in the first round of the 2012 Entry Draft. But for the time being here in Portland, the boy who is also affectionately known around these parts as Pooh Bear is going about the business of being a teenage junior hockey sensation. So here are my top reasons why you most definitely should bother tuning in to his frequency.
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