Above the Glass
by Samantha on 09/18/13 at 09:40 AM ET
The Portland Winterhawks’ regular season doesn’t start until Friday, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at my pre-season agenda. Last weekend alone, I went to eight games in four days, crossing one state line and one Canadian border to do so. Before that, it was three games on Labor Day weekend at a tournament in Everett and six games at the Neely Cup, the Winterhawks’ annual training camp scrimmages. We’re not even one game into the regular season out here, so it may already be time to dial back the hardcore hockey action before it really gets out of control. On the other hand, being a dedicated hockey fan can come in quite handy on a Friday afternoon at the Canadian border. Either way, I realized that now might be a good time to refresh on the signs that it’s time for a hockey intervention, lest non-hockey appreciating friends come knocking.
Is that thunder I hear? For the past month, weather in Oregon has been nearly perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, no wind, no rain, no unexpected cold fronts. What does it do the day I’m scheduled to leave on an epic road trip? It decides to deliver a five-star thunderstorm to the Northwest, stretching from Oregon to Washington and into British Columbia. As I drove through The Dalles (about an hour East of Portland), the lightning bolts started moving from the mountains, across the Columbia River and onto the highway. Rain was coming down sideways and drivers with no regard for human life, including their own, were drowning everyone else in tidal waves. This is usually the time when rational people would pull over, grab a Big Mac and wait it out. Did I follow their fine example? No sir, not me. Because nothing comes between me and hockey; not even a five alarm thunderstorm, complete with imminent flood. How bad was it really, you may ask? About 15 minutes after I passed through there, a motorcyclist on that same highway was electrocuted by a lightning bolt. Witnesses saw his helmet light up like a Christmas tree. That could have been me, but I figured “hey, a moving target with four rubber tires is harder to hit, I’ll keep going.” More importantly, “hey, I have a hockey game to get to, I don’t have time for this crap!” I made it safely to Kennewick, so the moral of this part of story is: hockey is mightier than the will of nature.
That’s Ms. Hardcore to you. Non-hockey appreciators might not understand why I drove through nature’s fury to watch the first period of a Winterhawks pre-season game in Kennewick at 11 am on a Friday, got back into my car and drove six hours on a desolate two-lane highway to Penticton for two more games that night. Nor would they understand why I drove another hour after that to my hotel in Kelowna, which is next to Prospera Place, home of the Kelowna Rockets. That includes Winterhawks PR director Graham Kendrick, who referred to my dedication as follows: “that’s hardcore, Sam.” I say one person’s hardcore is another person’s dedication.
Hockey is better than a passport. Crossing the Canadian border in broad daylight, in a small car with the back seats down and all cargo very clearly visible to the border agents and with a solid answer for every question, you can actually get across in all of two minutes or less. I’ve discovered an even better way to prove that you are a responsible, safe and trustworthy international traveler: hockey. I told the nice gentleman scanning my passport that I was headed to Penticton to watch the Winterhawks play in the NHL Young Stars Tournament and he asked “which players?” I rattled them off and it turns out he had seen Anton Cederholm play, but wasn’t overly impressed with him. Next thing you know we’re talking about Anton’s physical game and fearlessness and how I think the Winterhawks will develop him for a bright future with the Canucks et voila! Into Canada I go. The agent on the return trip was not so enlightened. When I told him I was in town for the NHL Young Stars Tournament, he proceeded to ask me “what were you doing there?” You know, like, watching hockey games, Sherlock. Thanks for checking. So, it’s not totally foolproof, but it’s worth a shot.
There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. All totaled, the weekend of Sept. 6-9, I watched part or all of eight games, three of which took place in two different rinks five hours and one country apart. After arriving at my hotel in Kelowna and realizing I was across the street from the Kelowna Rockets home base, I actually thought to myself, “I wonder if they’re playing Monday night when I’m free? Maybe I should go check out the schedule and ticket prices.” Because hey, why go try out the awesome restaurant and wine tasting at Mission Hill winery when there’s a game going on right across the street? I restrained from checking out the extra hockey game, but as it turned out one can have the best of both worlds:
What wine goes with hockey? I found a way to combine the wine tasting and the hockey, all in the comfort of my hotel. Wayne Gretzky has partnered with several vineyards to produce Wayne Gretzky Estates wine, including one in Kelowna. They make it, he puts his name on the label and a portion of the proceeds go to his charitable foundation. Personally, I prefer the cabernet sauvignon syrah over the merlot, but check it out for yourself and see what you think.
Morals of the story: 1) Like a lot of things in life, hockey doesn’t come easy but it’s always worth it. 2) Wayne Gretzky and his partners in crime make some kick ass wine which can also be used to loosen up those non-hockey appreciators who think it's time for an intervention. 3) The Kelowna Rockets play hockey in my second favorite city in the WHL. Keep them on the radar this season – the BC Division Champions are already looking good for another great season, as evidenced by the honorable mention on the pre-season BMO CHL Top 10 Rankings.
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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