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Above the Glass

From the Dub: Rocket Power

Tonight, the Portland Winterhawks are playing the second of back to back games with one of my other favorite teams in the WHL: the Kelowna Rockets. First, because they have the balls to put a big scary lake monster right on their jersey and second, because they reside in one of my favorite parts of the world. Oh, and as the current BC Division Champions, they happen to be a really good hockey team.

Logo ogopogo: I’d always wondered why the Rockets have a dinosaur-looking creature on their jerseys. Luckily, some smart person invented Wikipedia: the logo pays tribute to ogopogo, a cryptid lake monster that is said to live in Okanagan Lake. The most common description is a 40 to 50 foot long sea serpent. In short, it’s the Loch Ness monster of Canada. And if that isn’t enough, they were the 2010 - 2011 BC Division Champions. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Of course, you don’t need a big scary logo on your jersey when you have this: Shane McColgan and Brett Bulmer. If you haven’t already taken note, I’d suggest keeping them on the radar. They might come in handy in another 5 to 7 years when you are picking your fantasy league hockey teams. Bulmer was playing in his first Rockets game of the season last night, after being returned to the Rockets by the Minnesota Wild. Between them, they either assisted or scored on four of Kelowna’s five goals in last night’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Portland Winterhawks. 

Even I know that numbers matter: Brett Bulmer is a 19-year-old right winger who hails from Prince George, BC. Personally my hat’s off to anyone from that part of the world. Not an easy place to get to from my part of the world (once a year the Hawks trek up there in some monster 16-hour plus bus ride) and sounds like it can be pretty brutal come winter. But adversity, whether it be the weather or life, can breed tenacity, fortitude and fearlessness. And indeed it seems to have done so in Bulmer’s case.  Drafted 39th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2010, Bulmer played nine games for the club before being returned earlier this week. Rather than sitting on the bench grumbling, he roared back in his return last night with four points (two goals, two assists). What impresses me even more is this: classified as a late bloomer, he was only 5’7” during his bantam draft year and wasn’t selected in the WHL draft until the 11th round, 223rd overall in 2007. Flash forward three years and he is now 6’3”, drafted highly and he just returned from pushing the 9-game envelope in the NHL. He doesn’t need a scary lake monster on his jersey to put me on high alert. I’m already there.

Gotta love a player who’s the same height as me: Shane McColgan is not the biggest player on the Rockets’ roster (5’9”), but if you’ve ever seen him play you know he commands attention. He hails from California, and was the only U.S.-born player taken in the first round of the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft. Oh and there’s this: he was runner-up to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the WHL Rookie of the Year Award in 2010.

How’s this for a hockey birthday?: McColgan was born on New Year’s Day in 1993. Not sure if it had anything to with the New York Rangers drafting him 134th overall in the 5th round of the 2011 Entry Draft, but it probably didn’t hurt either.

Why draft one Colton, when you can have three: The Rockets’ roster is full of good hockey names, among them they boast three Colto(e)ns: Right winger Colton Sissons (who turns 18 today), center Colton Heffley, and defenseman Colten Martin. In September, Sissons was named the Rockets new captain. He is eligible for the 2012 draft and was one of 37 prospects invited to the the NHL’s 2011 Research and Development Camp.

Plus, I pay attention to any team with quirky connections to the Portland Winterhawks, like this: In 2004, the Kelowna Rockets won the Memorial Cup for the first time in franchise history. That was conveniently also the year that they hosted the tournament. The format that gives the host team an automatic berth in the tournament began in Portland in 1983. That was the first time the Winterhawks won the Memorial Cup, and the team also made history by becoming the first American team to win the prize. In 2009, the Rockets returned to the Cup when they beat the Calgary Hitmen to win the WHL Championship. They made it all the way to the finals before losing the Windsor Spitfires.

And this: Among the Kelowna Rockets most famous alumni is Nashville Predators’ Captain Shea Weber, who earned his spot on the Rockets’ roster as a walk-on at training camp. Former Winterhawks’ goalie Ian Curtis was taken four spots after reigning Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers in the 2005 Bantam Draft. Myers played for Kelowna before jumping ship to the Buffalo Sabres, the future employers of Riley Boychuk, who has signed with the team and is now playing for their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Luke Schenn is also an alumni, and Brad Ross may one day join him on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster. 

Proof that hockey is everywhere: The three American-born players on Kelowna’s roster hail from Southern California and Texas.

Or you could just drive down the road a bit: Center Carter Rigby hails from Penticton, BC, which is about an hour’s drive from Kelowna.

Final score: The Kelowna Rockets play the Portland Winterhawks again tonight at Prospera Place. It is the final game of the ‘Hawks 17-day, 9-game road trip.  Whatever the score tonight, I know that neither team is going down without a fight. The Rockets may have been at the losing end of the scoreboard last night, but they pushed it all the way to a shootout. They are a force to be reckoned with here in the Dub, and if you are watching the junior leagues, this is one of my teams to watch. You can tune into the game on AM 1150. Or follow Rockets color commentator Gord McGarva on Twitter for the inside perspective on the team: @GordMcGarva.

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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