Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Play on!

The major junior hockey season ended this past weekend with the Memorial Cup Final, in which the Windsor Spitfires won their third title. All three league title holders (Seattle, Erie, Saint John) were eliminated. We now turn our attention to the Stanley Cup Final, but in a few short weeks the North American hockey season will be over. It's comforting to know that in Australia, fall and winter sports are in full swing. The AIHL and Aussie Rules Football seasons are well underway. Like hockey, Aussie Rules might look to the unfamiliar eye like organized chaos, punctuated by whistles, stoppages of play and the occasional argument with officials. But there is one thing I do understand; the call from umpires to "play on!"  It's a good reminder that as the hockey season goes out with a bang, there are plenty of other sports fish in the sea. 

We're all on the same team: The Seattle Thunderbirds made an early exit from the Memorial Cup last Tuesday. I have to admit, I felt bad for them. They won their first WHL title in franchise history, only to watch their high hopes crushed with three consecutive defeats at the Memorial Cup. It's all the more reason to keep this particular U.S. Division enemy closer: they will be seeking redemption next season, all season long. But still, I do feel for them. That's a hard way for any team to end their season. In the long run, it's only going to intensify their rivalry with Portland. Not that the rivalry wasn't already intense, but I"m just sayin'. The U.S. Division is the place to be this season. Speaking of local headlines:

Rumor has it: On Friday, the Portland Winterhawks sent out a press release that the team was making a major announcement on Tuesday, but they didn't tell the media what it was. But here in the WHL rumors and secrets don't stay secret for long. Several reliable sources let the cat out of the bag over the weekend. On Tuesday, it was confirmed. Kieffer Bellows has left Boston University and signed with the Portland Winterhawks. It's a game changer for the team. I haven't seen that much excitement over a player, particularly media coverage, since Seth Jones. The next day, the team announced that Assistant Coach Oliver David is returning to the Dubuque Fighting Saints as their Head Coach. I was happy for him, but sad to see him go. Coach David was a welcome addition to the Portland community and the Winterhawks. All the boys spoke very highly of him and I know local fans wish him well. Other signs that the off-season is full swing here in the CHL include players signining contracts with pro teams, trades and the Erie Otters signing off for the season after returning home from the Memorial Cup Final. It won't be long now before the major junior hockey season starts all over again. In the meantime, here a few ways to embrace the off-season and play on:

Start your engines: The Monaco Grand Prix is the marquee Formula One race of the season. It's high speed meets the high life. Something dramatic and unexpected always happens there and this year was no exception. Last year's winner Lewis Hamilton started in 13th on the grid. He fought his way to a 7th place finish, which team boss Toto Wolff classified as an "optimal result" given the circumstances. Daniel Ricciardo finished third again, and it was good to see him celebrate it after last year, when a ghastly error by his pit crew cost him what looked like a guranteed victory. It's shaping up to be Ferarri's year, as Sebastian Vettel drove to the team's first victory at Monaco since 2001, followed closely by teammate Kimi Raikkonen in second. Raikkonen had started on the pole, his first since the French Grand Prix in 2008. Needless to say, the awkwardness between the two teammates on the podium was obvious. I attended the Australian Grand Prix this season and it's really not that different from hockey. It's basically a hockey game, with cars and drivers instead of pucks and players. The action moves to Montreal the weekend of June 9 - 11. Like hockey, it's loud, it's fast and there's plenty of beer flowing. What's not to like? If you're in Montreal next weekend, tickets are still available online. Give it a try - you'll see what I mean.

It's winter somewhere: If F1 isn't your thing, you can turn your attention Down Under, where the Australian ice hockey season is well underway. Their All-Star Weekend is June 3 - 4 in Melbourne. All games and competitions will take place at O'Brien Group Arena. If you reside in Melbourne or are just visiting, tickets are on sale now and the arena is within the free tram zone. For those of us who will be 8000 some-odd miles away, we can livestream all AIHL games on their YouTube channel, including the All-Star Weekend. 

Play on! I realize that this column might be a little premature, since the Stanley Cup Final is the biggest event of the season. But for major junior hockey fans, the season is over. Whether we like it or not, it's time to play on. It's easier said than done. The end of the hockey season is a lot like the end of a relationship. In this case, it's our relationship with hockey. But for us, it's not a break-up, just a break. And like relationships, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. A little over a year ago, I hadn't even heard of Aussie Rules Football. I can't imagine not being a fan today. It opened my mind to a whole new world, including the United States Australian Football League, which includes the Portland Sockeyes (women) and Portland Steelheads (men). The off-season doesn't have to suck. Think about it this way: it's not the end, just the start of something new. And it could change your life. If you occupy your off-season with new food and drink adventures, make note Portland:

P.S. Melbourne coffee is coming to Portland.  Proud Mary Coffee is opening in June on Alberta Street. Follow along on Instagram as they gear up for their grand opening in the Rose City:  www.instagram.com/proudmaryusa. Learn more at http://www.proudmarycoffee.com

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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