Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

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.

After only one quick trip Down Under this year, there's one thing I can tell you for sure: Australians are the purveyors of some awesome slang terms. Nowhere is this more true than Aussie Rules Football. If they don't mind, I suggest we borrow a few of these terms for our own hockey purposes.

They play an (almost) 200-meter game. First things first. An Aussie Rules Football game is played on an oval about 165 meters in length. The purpose is to kick the football between two goalposts through a series of kicks and passes down the oval. Think shots on goal, with a way bigger goal to aim at.

Lost in translation. If you've ever tried to explain hockey terms like deke, dangle or spin-o-rama to your non-hockey loving family or friends, try clanger, blinder or my personal favorite, speccie:

Clanger. A bad mistake. In hockey we could use it to refer to pucks ringing (clanging) off the post.

Blinder. A great performance. I think hockey would have a very different use for this word. Considering how many referees here in the Dub put on blinders while officiating, I think we could use this to refer to the officials.

Speccie. Refers to a player catching a football in spectacular fashion. If he jumps over another player while doing so, that player is called a step ladder. I can think of several uses for this in hockey, like a perfect play that leads to a game-winning goal, the overtime game winning goal that propels your team to the WHL finals, or the hat trick that Oliver Bjorkstrand scored on my birthday (January 26, Australia Day) three straight seasons in a row. In Oliver's case, I think he'd qualify as a frequent flyer, a player who catches a lot of speccies.

Daisy cutter. A ball kicked barely above the ground. Its counterpart, a ball traveling on a curved trajectory, is called a banana. So in hockey, a daisy cutter would be a player who scored by using a deliberate kicking motion and a banana would be a puck flipped over the glass in a delay of game penalty.

Major. A goal scored between the two taller posts in Aussie Rules Football is called a major and it's worth six points. Score between the smaller posts and it's one point. You also earn one point if the football hits the post; imagine how the fate of many a hockey game would have been changed if hockey did the same.

Marker. When a player catches a ball kicked at least 15 meters without being touched. Think icing, without a whistle.

And you are? You have to hand it the Australian cricket players who invented Aussie Rules Football as a way to stay fit in the off-season. They came up with some clever names for their positions, like ruck, rower and back pocket. These could work in hockey too, only a ruck would be a rookie, a rower would be a forward and back pocket would be the goalie.

Don't we know you? 19-year-old Richmond Tigers player Daniel Rioli is part of a true sports dynasty. The Riolis are all legends in Aussie Rules Football, notably his uncles Dean, Maurice and Cyril. He's also a dead ringer for St. Louis Blues forward Ty Rattie, himself a legend who was declared the number one greatest player in Portland Winterhawks history by the Oregonian.

Play On! This is my very favorite Aussie Rules Football call. If I understand correctly, when an umpire blows the whistle and declares "play on!" it indicates that no one has done anything wrong and they can carry on cutting daisies, putting on a blinder and kicking bananas. It's also a good representation of Australians themselves. You could run over them with a truck and they would get back up, have another pint and play on. Like hockey players. Australians are fearless, sturdy and built to last. In life and in sport, they know how to play on. Here in Portland, we are about to play on and mean it. After two seasons of watching a once glowing franchise struggle under a head coach and GM who was simply in over his head, we can look forward to better days ahead. The conquering hero returns as Mike Johnston retakes his place as the Vice President, Head Coach and GM of the Portland Winterhawks. You can already tell change is in the air by the upgrades to the fan experience, the top-notch player signings and the long overdue decision to move training camp to Veterans Memorial Coliseum. We'll get our first real look at the U.S. Division next weekend in Everett, where I'll be reporting on what to expect from our corner of the WHL this season. The future is now and we will play on in Portland, because something tells me this season is going to be a speccie.

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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