Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Blaze of Glory

On Friday, the Portland Winterhawks will take on the Kamloops Blazers in the second round of the WHL playoffs. It is no ordinary series, this one. The two teams have a history that goes way back, and both boast all sorts of good hockey names, NHL talent and winning records. Portland finished third in the Western Conference this year, right behind the second place Blazers, who ended the season on top of the B.C. Division. I find that when one is getting amped up for a playoff series against an opponent like the Blazers, the top priority is to meet said opponent. So I did. Well, ya’ know, on paper.

What’s in a hockey name?: Everything, if you’re on the current roster of the Kamloops Blazers. There are only but a few players without a good hockey name. From the looks of things, they adhere to the two hockey name minimum: 

Chase:  Captain Chase Schaber and Right Wing Chase Souto

Cole: Left Wing Cole Ully and and Goalie Cole Cheveldave

Jordan: Right Wing and top prospect Jordan DePape and Defenseman Jordan Thomson

Tyler: Defensemen Tyler Bell and Tyler Hansen

Honorable hockey name mention: Ryan Hanes, Brayden Gelsinger, Brendan Ranford (one to watch, in my book. He’s the team’s leading scorer with 92 points in the regular season), Brandon Herrod, Brock Balson, Bronson Maschmeyer, Cam Lanigan, Brady Gaudet and Austin Madaisky (a top prospect who’s also fond of dropping the mitts. Last time he was in Portland, he refused to get in the penalty box and then protested vehemently when he finally did).

In case hockey doesn’t work out, maybe he should consider skiing as an alternative: Center Aspen Sterzer is from lovely BC after all.

Oh Captain, My Captain: The Blazers have an added incentive for doing well and making it this far or farther in the playoffs: two of team’s owners are named Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla. The others include Kamloops native Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor. I wouldn’t really want to have to explain a losing game or season to them, because if you slacked off and phoned one in, they’ll know the reason why and you’ll have no excuse.

But at least they’re good for a few free breakfasts now and again: The fifth owner of the team is Tom Gaglardi. His other job is serving as CEO of his family’s company, Northland Properties. They are the parent company for a number of businesses, including Denny’s Restaurants of Canada.

They have more shiny things than we do: In fact, they have more shiny things than the whole of the WHL. Over the course of their franchise history, the Kamloops Blazers have won five Memorial Cups.

Maybe we should all move to Kamloops: Since moving there, the team has only missed the playoffs twice in 30 seasons.

And if playing isn’t really your thing, you can always coach: Among the distinguished former coaches of the Kamloops Blazers are Ken Hitchcock, Tom Renney and Don Hay.

It’s all in the family: Portland Winterhawk and Penguins top prospect Joe Morrow comes from a true hockey family. His father Dave played for the Winterhawks briefly in their inaugural season in Portland. His older brother Josh played for Kamloops for two seasons. While there Josh Morrow wore the same jersey number as his brother: #7 (he was also drafted in the 7th round of the 2002 Entry Draft). I saw him play in a few games and from what I saw he was a good player and fearless fighter. But his chance at an NHL future was derailed by botched shoulder surgery. I’ve not had the privilege of meeting Josh Morrow, but if Joe and the brief interaction I had with their father at training camp is any indication, I’d put down money that he’s a good person too. On one of the Blazers past rosters was Gord Walker, who played on the 1983 Portland Winterhawks Memorial Cup winning team. He is the father of Luke Walker, who played in Portland before moving on to his current gig with the Lake Erie Monsters.

Trivial pursuit/P.S.: Portland fans who’ve seen me write about lucky number 13 might be interested to know that in each of his last three seasons in the WHL, Josh Morrow racked up 13 points.

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it: In the more distant past, the Hawks and the Blazers have met in nine playoff series and one round robin round. The Hawks won four of the series, including the 1987, 1989 and 1993 West Division Finals to advance to the WHL championship series in each year. Flash forward to March 2012, when the Winterhawks’ last game against the Blazers went down the hard way: Kamloops scored five times in the third period to defeat the Winterhawks 5-1. And so, the past and present will collide in the Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum on Friday. And history will repeat itself. The only question now is who is doomed to repeat the losing part of it? This isn’t an easy series in which the answers aren’t easy either. It’s anyone’s game this time around. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do know this: The Winterhawks won’t forget history. They remember well, our boys. And they rebound well. If I were Kamloops I wouldn’t be getting too comfortable or ride too high on that 5-1 win. And if I were the Winterhawks, I would remember that Portland will always be behind you. Always. Period. No exceptions.

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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