Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Identity Theft

On March 23, the Canadian Hockey League officially announced that playoffs and the Memorial Cup had been cancelled. It wasn’t a surprise, but it’s still devastating. The Kelowna Rockets will not get another shot at hosting the Memorial Cup anytime soon. The CHL’s announcement noted that the next Cup will take place in the OHL in 2021. For junior hockey fans across the league, it’s game over. Here in the void that's usually overflowing with hockey, I've gained a new perspective on what it truly means to be a hockey fan.  

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Lost opportunity: The Portland Winterhawks finished the season as the U.S. Division and Scotty Munro Champions, guaranteeing they will hang at least two banners next season. The Winterhawks were lucky. They probably would have ended the season in those same positions. They were on cruise control and could have returned to the Memorial Cup for the first time since 2013. We’ll never know now. They will never get the shot. It’s not as bad as Kelowna, who made some notorious trades to take a run at the championship. I like Kelowna. It’s one of my favorite towns in the Western Conference. I feel for them and I hope they get their shot again one day.

Exception to the rule: There was some good news in the Dub these past few weeks. For the first time in WHL history, a player has been granted exceptional status. Connor Bedard will be eligible for the 2020 Bantam Draft and he will be eligible to play in 2020-2021 as a 15-year old. How good is he? Born July 17, 2005, Bedard is a 5-foot-8, 165-pound forward who played for West Vancouver Academy’s U18 team in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League (CSSHL) last season, where he scored 43 goals and 41 assists for 84 points in 36 games. His name was already on the radar and by all accounts, he will live up to the hype. The review process was administered by BC Hockey with a Hockey Canada Special Evaluation Panel assembled to evaluate Bedard’s potential in the areas of hockey skills, academic ability, and his mental and physical maturity. The Regina Pats hold the first pick in the 2020 Bantam Draft, which will be held online on April 22. You can read the full first-round and second-round order here

BTW: Exceptional player status has been granted five times in the OHL and once in the QMJHL. Among the previous players are Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad. Most recently, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status in the 2019 OHL Priority Draft. Drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs, Wright went on to lead the entire CHL in rookie scoring with 66 points in 58 games.

Identity theft: Oregon has been on a strict stay-at-home order for two weeks. All non-essential business is closed, non-essential travel is banned, and social distancing is required.  I have no problem with doing my part because it helps save lives, but I will say this: Two weeks with limited outside contact is a test of one’s fortitude, character, intelligence and endurance.

Here in the deafening silence, where hockey once overflowed, I’ve had time to think about its place in my life. Hockey is part of my DNA. It’s not my side hustle. It’s not a hobby. It’s who I am and has been for as long as I can remember. With the game on hold until further notice, who am I? What else have I done in my life that has the same meaning and purpose?

Being a hockey fan is about more than the game. It’s family. It’s everything. Love of the game is the one true thing that holds steady no matter what. It binds us and makes us whole. When the WHL announced the official end of the post-season, I felt like all that had been stolen from me. Everything that I am, everything that I’ve ever done, was gone with it.

What’s a girl to do in a situation like this? I have the answer. Their names are John Gage and Roy DeSoto.  You can blame two weeks on near-lockdown for this one. With nothing else to do, I busted out the box set of my favorite childhood TV show, “Emergency!” I learned more than I thought I would.

We’re on our way, Rampart! “Emergency!” aired on American television from January 1972 through July 1979, counting the TV movies. It spanned nearly the entire decade and is directly responsible for the growth of the paramedic profession. In January 1972 when I was just four, it was a replacement series starring two unknown actors in a show about a profession that was still emerging. Flash forward nearly 50 years and gear from the show has been inducted in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in the public service section. The iconic engines and squad car now live in their permanent home at the LA County Fire Museum. Back in the seventies -- before VCRS, DVRS, cable television, YouTube and streaming online -- you had to watch an episode of TV when it was airing. Every Saturday at 8 p.m., a new episode was like a hockey game. It was must-see TV. Who can forget the iconic image of Squad 51 and Engine 51 turning left onto the streets of Los Angeles, heading out to save lives, rescue small children and put out fires?  You always knew firefighter/paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto would take care of business. Give them 1000 feet of rope, a drug box, the Biophone, a pair of scissors and a fire extinguisher, et voila! They’re good to go.

We’re all in this together: My favorite TV show and my favorite sport have a lot in common. They are a reminder of the best that all of us can be when put to the test. The Portland Winterhawks participate in firefighter training to build chemistry and camraderie and develop teamwork. Other teams in the Dub do the same. Some of the Winterhawks have even considered firefighting as a job if hockey doesn’t work out. The principles learned are the same in both professions: teamwork, dedication, sacrifice, selflessness and passion for something that’s much more than just a job. This last point is my point. Hockey is the one true thing that binds us, always. It’s what we love and live for, no matter what. No one can steal that from us. And to the real John Gages and Roy DeSotos out there right now risking their lives for us, I say thank you, now more than ever.

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TreKronor's avatar

Well written as always!

Posted by TreKronor on 04/06/20 at 05:31 PM ET

Steeb's avatar

Thanks for the writeup!

I guess I really should go to some Winterhawks game, then, eh? I keep meaning to, but never made the time. Definitely more effort on my part once it’s back! I do want to be a fan, but have a hard time with the logo… lol

Don’t remember why I was thinking about it, but I recently remembered Emergency! and how it used to freak me the hell out as a kid! I never missed an episode, tho.

Posted by Steeb on 04/07/20 at 01:38 PM ET


Thanks all for reading and commenting. I have definitely learned to appreciate even a losing Winterhawks game now that there aren’t any at all.  I think we will all appreciate them even more next year. Hope you make it out to a game when we are up and running again. Thanks again for taking the time to read this.

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 04/07/20 at 05:17 PM ET

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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

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