Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Everyone has a blindspot

You never realize the true meaning of "there's no place like home" until you've either traveled to or lived in places far away from your home. I've done both, and there truly is no place quite like Oregon. I spent last weekend in Santa Monica, where the Independent Spirit Awards were held on the beach at the pier, five minutes from my hotel. It's currently 74 degrees there and there's no shortage of shopping, eating and people watching opportunities. But where was I on Friday and Saturday night? In my five-star hotel room, watching the Portland Winterhawks play the last of their Central Swing games. Can you say nerd alert, boys and girls? If you really want to be horrified by my evening plans in the land of skinny perfect people, I was also watching the tail end of a Blindspot marathon. What did it all teach me about hockey? I have a few ideas. 

Waiting is the hardest part. Blindspot returned after three months at the same time the NHL trade deadline passed. I thought the Feb. 29 return of my new show would never get here, but it was worth the wait. As for the trade deadline, after all the waiting and anticipation, the news was really more about who wasn't traded. For fans who fancy ourselves armchair GMs, it was admittedly anti-climactic. It's a good thing Kurt Weller and company were here to save the day with the return of my favorite show. In one of the episode's best stunts, four FBI agents shoot four terrorists, all in perfect synchronized unison. This seemingly effortless maneuver would come in handy in a hockey game. Imagine a 4-on-4 where players each had a puck and did the same thing. You'd never need the 3-on-3 overtime or shootouts again. 

Put family first.  Pascal Dupuis Tweeted something that's often forgotten in the hype over deadline day: "always a stressful day for families." Mind, some players want to be traded away from their teams but for many, deadline day means saying good bye to your other family; your teammates. It might be exciting to watch from a distance, but for the players and their families, it's one of the most stressful days of the year. Here in Portland, the WHL deadline day was also quiet for the Winterhawks. Talk this season has been more about the players who were traded earlier in the season, and why those players were never given a chance to develop here. Winterhawks player development is noticeably lacking in favor of the coaches' over-reliance on top players and in particular, the team's top goalie. The good news is there's a lot of talent on this year's roster and every interview I've done with players leads to the same quote: "we have a great group of guys this year."  It's comforting to know that the boys are having a good time and that they do have such respect for each other, because they have hit the stretch run in a somewhat unfamiliar place for many local fans: they haven't officially clinched a playoff spot yet. While hopes are high for another playoff run, I have admitted locally that I don't mind if the season ends early. I'm off to Australia in 46 days, where yes, I'm traveling 8,107 miles to watch the start of the AIHL season.  But back to topic: I think all fans would agree that one of the things that makes hockey so special is that hockey teams and fans alike are family. When all is said and done, that's why we keep coming back every season no matter what.

Keep the enemy closer.  For my two cents, the best line in Blindspot's winter return is Agent Patterson telling the officer who just investigated her that she has just done the math "in my head, where math is done. Please don't interrupt." The math pertains to her backseat driving Jane/Taylor through the landing of a rapidly descending aircraft. In watching this scene, it occurred to me that Agent Patterson would make an excellent video coach. Puzzles, technology and analytics are her game; give her a roster full of hockey players and let her do the replay math, et voila! Victory. 

Ya' wanna go? If you haven't tuned in to Blindspot yet, I would suggest doing so for the sheer pleasure of watching Marianne Jean-Baptiste kick everyone's collective ass as Assistant Director Mayfair, who is harboring secrets of her own. The amount of crap Mayfair takes from her colleagues, superiors and self-righteous internal affairs investigators equals zero. She'd make an equally kick-ass referee. Or, if you envision her as a player, an enforcer.

Trust me. The showcase revelation in Blindspot occurred in last November's mid-season finale, when Jane discovered that the full-body tattoos, the amnesia and being placed at the FBI were all her own doing. As she struggles to understand why she would do this to herself, her trust of her FBI family is called into question. Ditto for whather she can trust Oscar, who appears to have been her fiance. Likewise, in hockey if you can't trust your teammates, you're dead in the water. One of the most important aspects of a team's success are often underappreciated: chemistry and trust. That is, until you watch a team that seems to be lacking these key ingredients.  The Portland Winterhawks have a lot of individual talent on their roster, but if you listen closely you'll hear local fans muttering that the players "look like they've never played together." There's a reason for that. Constant line changes are Head Coach Jamie Kompon's signature move. The good news is that the Winterhawks all trust each other collectively and the team leaders are doing their jobs; it's why they are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. What I'd like to see in the stretch run is more trust and chemistry on individual lines, and not just because that's my personal peeve: it''s essential to a successful playoff run.

"An area where a person's view is obstructed." 

"An area in which a person lacks understanding or impartiality." 

- Two of the dictionary definitions of blindspot

Everyone has a blindspot. It's a really good thing I traveled across the country to the East Coast and back again before the new episode of Blindspot aired: the central plot revolves around a missing airplane and the aforementioned scary landing. I love travel, but I hate turbulence on airplanes. I know it's only air, but like Jane Doe, it's the lack of control that scares me. I have no problem with players slamming into glass, fights, blood, sweat, spitting, and swearing in hockey, but when it comes to air travel, I'm a total wuss. Turbulence is my blindspot. As a passenger on airplanes, our view of turbulence is obstructed because you can't see it at all; it's caused by air.  I don't care if it is just air, I become irrational when it occurs while I'm flying the friendly skies. So you may be wondering how I'm going to tolerate 24 hours of travel to Australia. 1) What's waiting for me on the other side is worth it. 2) I refuse to let fear stop me from getting there.  

Moral of the story: When we learn to drive, we're taught to check our blindspot before merging lanes or in Portland, before we turn a corner around a bike line. But how often do we take a moment to check the other blindspots in our lives?  In 46 days, I'll have no choice but to check mine and deal with it before I board an overnight flight to Melbourne. Think about it this way: Don't be afraid to check your blindspot now and again. Fear and vulnerability make us human; what we do in response makes us stronger, smarter and braver. 

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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