Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: #happybus

That’s the Twitter hashtag that junior hockey fans will often see in their Tweets after their team wins a road game. For the Portland Winterhawks, it usually means a rowdy bus, on which a really bad horror movie is usually shown. When you consider who the opponents are in the WHL, a road win is even more impressive. But that’s not stopping the Portland Winterhawks from barreling through the stretch run at high speed in pursuit of another championship season. Up next: a rematch tonight with the Tri-City Americans in Portland that could put the teams dead even in the U.S. Division. Sure, it’s a home game, but just like life, it’s still a happy bus moment and those don’t roll by every day. You have to enjoy the ride while you can. I have a few tips for how to do so.

Put safety first: In Kent, Seattle fans are fond of chanting “Portland Sucks” and the police are usually called to games to break up fights or other altercations, often between Seattle fans fighting amongst themselves. In Spokane, it can be downright dangerous to even set foot in the rink wearing Winterhawks gear (which braver fans than I have done). The last time I did so, an alcohol monitor with his job title right on his t-shirt stood idly by while an obviously inebriated fan took a dangerously close swipe at the Winterhawks by trying to all but crawl over the glass. And there’s always Everett and their infamous cowbells. For fans and players alike, surviving an away game in the junior league with your safety and sanity intact is equally important to the points you earn for a win. In fact, I think there should be some kind of extra point awarded to any team that gets attacked by fans or others and escapes from the rink unharmed by anything other than pucks, hits and falls.

Do the math: Even I know that it matters. And in this case, it can actually be fun. Who knew? For example, the team recently went a new record setting 19-game home winning streak, before it was ended by the Vancouver Giants. But the team roared back two nights later when Sven Bartschi scored his first hat trick three different ways (even-strength, shorthanded, power play) and notched an assist on the game winner to put up a four-point night, but of course. This past weekend, two wins on the road put the Winterhawks within one point of the U.S. Division title. And it’s not just the team that’s chasing an important number. Goalie and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth is one win shy of the Portland record for wins in a season by a goalie. So you see, even if all you did was the math, it still adds up to the Winterhawks soaring at cruising altitude in the heart of the stretch run. You can follow him on Twitter to see how it all works out (@mactruthcarruth), but something tells me that he’ll be riding the happy bus on that one. Or, you can always follow Cam Reid (@CantReid23), who scored his first WHL career hat trick last weekend, a mere month or so after blowing into town at the trade deadline. Speaking of which:

Tweet wisely: I see the boys are using it freely and wisely to keep up on the latest developments on The Bachelor, the new favorite, must-see show of the week for growing young teenage boys ‘round these parts, who don’t get out as much as you might think. I hear Emily’s down, the bachelor likes Courtney but he’s apparently a loser for doing so and the boys are in a bit of a mutiny against him because he didn’t pick their favorites. Ah, youth. Of course, I laugh at them but I do the same thing on trade deadline day and free agent frenzy when my favorite players don’t stay or go where I want them to, so who am to judge? But still, if you want to keep up with The Bachelor and join the conversation, now you know where to go. 

Put family first: Because no matter what happens or how the season turns out, they’ll still be behind you. Which might explain why Joe Morrow proudly Tweeted that for the 19th consecutive year in a row, his mom is his valentine. Ditto for Nic Petan, who simply sent a Happy Valentine’s Day greeting to his mom, who is on Twitter. It’s like Joe put in his hashtag: #doinitright. They’re class acts, our boys, and that’s why Joe and Nic are two of my favorite players.

Think and live every day like it’s the playoffs: While the NHL plots its next big moves at the trade deadline, here in the WHL, we are already looking ahead to playoffs and the 2012 Entry Draft. For teams who have clinched a playoff spot, they could easily cruise to the end of the season without a care in the world. Nice idea, except for the part where just like life, when you can see the finish line you want to cross it as the winner. When you have a winning season like the Winterhawks did last year, when they won the U.S. Division and Western Conference titles, you become your own hard act to follow. And anything less simply will not do. And so, even with playoffs in sight, there is still much work to be done. Which might explain why every game from here to the end of the regular season feels a whole lot like playoffs. Because every point counts and one losing game can lose you those precious titles. it’s a lot like life: you have to to live every day like it’s your last, because you never know when it really might be. 

The moral of the story: Every day of our lives should be a happy bus, but alas it cannot always. Life in general should be lived like the stretch run and playoffs, where every minute counts and it’s all a big deal. But let’s face it, every minute doesn’t count when you’re folding laundry or taking out the garbage. But every now and again, when we rack up a win of our own in life, even if only for a short time, we can ride the happy bus. Personally, I celebrate with a Star Wars movie and a glass of wine. Maybe a massage and another glass of wine. But hey, if you want to follow the Winterhawks’ fine example and throw water bottles at each other and watch a horror movie, feel free. Happy buses don’t roll down the highway every day. Whatever you do and however you do it, enjoy the ride while it lasts. Because anything less simply will not do.

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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