Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Do you still believe in miracles?

February 22, 1980 changed my life; growing up in Arizona and California, it was the first time I ever watched an actual, live hockey game. Looking back now, that epic Olympic matchup between the United States and Russia changed my life in more ways than I could have imagined as a geeky 12-year-old watching from my family’s living room. Sadly though, the world outside the rink isn’t as terribly different as the one we were living in then: a depressed economy, war, and global turmoil make it hard to have hope in much of anything.  All of which came flooding back to me while watching the heavy rotation of “Miracle” on cable this weekend. I couldn’t help but remember why that victory was about more than the game, and it got me to thinking…do miracles still happen in hockey?

Between the lockout and the WHL sanctions against my hometown team, it would be easy to answer no to that question. But take a quick trip around Twitter and you’ll see why I believe the answer is yes, miracles, good things and good people still do happen every day in hockey. Here are just a few reasons why:

“Still believing. Hope you are too.” Like many of you, I follow Jack Jablonski on Twitter, where he posted that a few weeks ago. In Portland, we are very proud to welcome rookie Keegan Iverson to our city. Keegan has chosen to wear number 13 on his Winterhawks jersey to honor Jablonski, his best friend from back home in Minnesota. In a recent interview with the Oregonian, Keegan told them that “believe in miracles” is one of Jablonski’s mottos.That's why I follow Jablonski on Twitter, because his Tweets are a constant source of positive, youthful and inspiring energy. He reminds us all that even under the most adverse of circumstances, we can choose to have hope and to believe. 

“Lockout, not cool.” Derrick Pouliot posted this upon learning of the NHL’s decision to lockout players at the start of the 2012 – 2013 season.  Nothing quite expressed the collective opinion of fans, players, agents and owners quite as succinctly or as honestly or Derrick did. Once the lockout started dragging on into the loss of the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, it seemed that all hope was lost and the season would soon follow. So it’s pretty much a miracle that the NHL was able to save even part of the season.

“I love Chase.” Portland fans know that you can’t miss this sign nor its owner; the one and only Miss Maddy, Chase De Leo’s number one fan. Whilst we were all sitting here wringing our hands over the lockout and flipping our lids over the Winterhawks’ sanctions, Maddy was busy picking her favorite player of the season and preparing a matching sign. Last year her favorite was Brad Ross, who has moved on to a new life with the Toronto Marlies. So the torch has been passed to Chase, Portland’s resident ladies man and all-around heartbreaker.  I can personally guarantee you that there is a reason to have faith in all that is good and beautiful about hockey: Maddy’s her name and hockey’s her game. 

“The Portland Winterhawks are the 2013 U.S. Division champions.” Even before the WHL issued history-making sanctions against the team, the Winterhawks were expected to contend for another title or two this season. But what they have done in the wake of those punishments has gone above and beyond even the pre-sanction expectations. They are the first team in the CHL to reach 100 points, which they did faster than any previous Winterhawks team. They were the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth. Most recently, they set a new franchise record for most road wins in a season. But it was last weekend that may have been the best example of the Winterhawks’ season so far. On February 15, the shared 19th birthday of Taylor Leier and rookie Adam De Champlain, the team lost to the Tri-City Americans 6-2 in a home ice game that was televised on Root Sports. Within 24 hours, however, you’d almost have forgotten that lapse in the Winterhawks’ otherwise stellar play. Why? Because on Saturday night, mere hours after the Winterhawks defeated the Vancouver Giants 4-3 in OT, the Tri-City Americans defeated the Spokane Chiefs. The math added up to the Portland Winterhawks clinching the U.S. Division title for the third time in two years and the 12th time in franchise history. Monday, the Winterhawks defeated the Spokane Chiefs 8-3 in a belated birthday celebration for Taylor, who had a six-point night. In one weekend, they went from watching the Ams deservedly steal the spotlight to guaranteeing that another banner will soon hang from our rafters. Which is why I wholeheartedly believe the answer to this Tweet is yes:

"You can always hope, right?” This one’s courtesy of Winterhawks rookie Alex Schoenborn. Undrafted in the Bantam Draft, Alex was signed by the Winterhawks on January 9, 2012. He’s a good, solid player with a lot of promise who is currently on loan to the Wenatchee Wild for the remainder of the season. Between that and the sanctions, it’s not exactly what he probably thought this season would be like, but he still believes there is always hope. He’s right: like life, hockey never goes quite according to plan, but that’s not a reason to give up on it. I’ve profiled several of the Winterhawks’ rookies throughout this season, and I’ve never seen even a hint of disappointment or anger for the sucker punches that are the WHL’s sanctions. Instead, the Winterhawks are choosing to have hope. Translation: They are choosing to win. Shouldn’t we all? That’s why I say yes, Alex, you can and should always hope. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

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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