Above the Glass
by Samantha on 04/04/14 at 11:32 AM ET
Both my blogs have been woefully neglected because the past two weeks went like so: 1) Celebrate the Portland Winterhawks’ victory in Game 1 of the WHL Playoffs by getting rear-ended at a stoplight by a sketch driver with sketch insurance. 2) Get a medical procedure bright and early at 9 am on a Monday. At least the doctor visit provided some much-needed inspiration for this blog. He told me a story about the time he went to a Winterhawks game and accidentally cheered the opponent’s goal. I’ve made the same mistake in the heart of the stretch run, when exhaustion and distraction have taken their toll, so I’m not one to judge. Instead, I came up with a few tips for non-hockey loving friends and family about enjoying the game.
With the second round of WHL playoffs underway and NHL playoffs soon to follow, here are my top five tips to share with non-hockey friends about enjoying the game:
Never leave your wingman. Whether it’s a friend who accidentally cheers the wrong team in an outburst of well-intentioned enthusiasm or our favorite team hitting a rough patch, standing by them is one of the things that make this game great. It’s painful to back a team that’s backed itself into a corner, but that’s exactly what makes it so important. Rookie defenseman Keoni Texeira recently told me that the best part of being a Portland Winterhawk is “the fans. They always support us even when we’re losing.” Of course Keoni doesn’t remember when the team won 11 games all season and he’ll never have to know what that’s like. Mind, if our boys phone it in and take stupid penalties, we’ll give them a piece of our minds at the end of the night. But his soundbite is a good example of how sticking by a team can pay off in the long run: the Winterhawks are about to commence Round 2 of the playoffs in the hunt for a fourth Western Conference title and a second WHL title. That’s why I never leave a losing game early, because I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Hockey fans in Portland have been basking in it since 2008, when Bill Gallacher bought the team and Mike Johnston took the reins as head coach. That doctor who cheered the wrong team goes to work every day and helps save people’s lives; including mine. He’s provided me with the best medical care I’ve ever gotten in my life, so he can go right ahead and cheer the opponent in my book. For his own safety, however, I might suggest that his friends point his well-intentioned enthusiasm in the right direction next time.
Act like a GM. There is one universal truth about all hockey fans; we all love to analyze, critique and generally spend all of our free time breaking down every detail of the game. I always laugh at myself a little when I’m predicting how the Winterhawks will do in playoffs or what I think of a particular line, because as fun as it is, it’s all a guessing game. I have no influence over the decisions Mike Johnston makes about lines, discipline, game strategy or which players the team signs or trades. That is out of my control as a fan. But one thing that’s totally in our control and is equally important to all the video and statistical analysis and game strategy is this:
Embrace the role of the 7th man. The 7th man is what Chicago Wolves forward Ty Rattie used to call fans when he played for the Portland Winterhawks. Follow the team on Twitter and you’ll see the same Tweet after every game “thanks to the best fans in the league.” The job of the 7th man isn’t just a job, it’s a privilege. No matter what BS is happening in the rest of life, at the end of the day the Winterhawks always appreciate our efforts to support them. We get an A for our efforts every time, even when nothing else in life rewards us the same. In Portland, A for effort usually means this:
Get loud or go home. This one is easy, largely because you’ll be joined by several thousand fans in your enthusiasm. When in doubt, do this:
Follow the leaders. If you’re new to the game and not sure which team to cheer, wait until you hear a very loud horn and the crowd starts cheering in unison to an AC/DC song, banging the glass and spilling beer on the fans in front of him or her, then join them. It’s the 100 percent foolproof way to know you’re cheering the right team.
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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