Above the Glass
by Samantha on 03/27/13 at 11:18 AM ET
The Senators signed the Portland Winterhawks’ Captain to a three year entry level last week, just as the WHL playoffs were getting underway. We thought it would never happen after the Colorado Avalanche took a pass on signing him. Of course, we probably should have known it might take a while. Nothing about Troy’s path to the NHL was easy, but that’s what makes his story so great.
Can’t isn’t in his vocabulary. I talked with Troy recently about his favorite memories of Portland and what advice he’d give to young players about making it to the WHL. His answer: “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t or won’t play here one day.” He knows whereof he speaks. Troy was never selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, making the Portland Winterhawks’ roster at 16 as a listed player. Fast forward to 2010, when he played in the Top Prospects Game and went on to be drafted 137th overall by the Colorado Avalanche. Or perhaps we should just skip right to the start of the 2012 – 2013 season, when Troy was named the 37th Captain in Winterhawks’ history. On the day he signed with the Ottawa Senators, he had racked up a career-high 61 points in the regular season, ranking him second among all WHL defensemen. He’s third all-time among Winterhawks defensemen in career points, and tied for first all-time among Hawks blueliners in career goals. Troy did play indeed play here for his entire junior career and he will leave Portland with an NHL entry level deal in his pocket. Can’t was never part of his vocabulary while he was here, and I doubt it ever will be. He’s built to last through anything:
He’s 100 percent bulletproof. This season Troy became the franchise leader in games played and consecutive games played. He didn’t stop there. WHL playoffs are underway, where Troy has become the Winterhawks’ sole leader in playoff games played at 58. His 33 career playoff points ties him with Brandon Smith for sixth in team history. His favorite game among all of these: Game 2 in the WHL Championship Series versus Kootenay. The Winterhawks were down 6-2 going into the third period after taking 18 consecutive penalty minutes during the second period. They roared back in the third with three goals, cutting the Kootenay lead to 6-5. The Ice pushed the dagger right through our hearts when they scored goal number seven on an empty net, but I agree with Troy; that is still one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Why? Because the team wasn’t the only thing that roared back; the noise from the standing room only, sold out crowd reached over 100 decibels in the final minutes of the game. On what it was like for the players: Troy told me “Joe Morrow was standing right next to me and I couldn’t hear him.” Troy has seen and done just about everything in his five seasons with the Portland Winterhawks; you could run the Zamboni right over him and he’d stand back up and keep playing.
He causes happy accidents. One of my favorite games from early last season was a 3-2 win over the Everett Silvertips in a shootout, courtesy of final Winterhawks shooter Derrick Pouliot. With one Everett shooter still to come, Troy -- thinking the shootout was over and the team had won -- went onto the ice after that zinger to congratulate Derrick. But maybe it was a good luck charm: the team did go on to win after all. Besides, it symbolizes the best of who this team is and who Troy is as a leader: they put teammates first, they are loyal to one another to a fault, and they celebrate teammates' goals the same, if not more, than their own. Goof though it may have been, the reason behind it was a good one.
He comes in handy on bowling night. Most of the Winterhawks busy themselves in their free time with homework, sleep, NHL video games and the latest episode of “The Bachelor.” Troy doesn’t partake of the latest Bachelor antics. He occupies his free time with the occasional basketball game and perfecting his bowling and arcade game skills. Last season, Troy and his Winterhawks teammates pooled tickets they won playing arcade games at Big Al’s to purchase a vintage snow cone machine, which currently lives in the kitchen of Ty Rattie’s parents. From what I understand, nary a snow cone was ever produced around these parts before it moved to its permanent home. So if you see Troy around Ottawa next season, feel free to buy him a snow cone and send the bill to Portland; we’ll cover it.
It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Portland has been privileged to watch Troy grow from an undrafted rookie to a team leader and NHL prospect. It seems like he just got here, and now it’s time for him to fly; all the way to Ottawa. He’s a solid, consistent, quietly confident leader who would be a sound investment for any NHL team. Don’t be fooled by the boy from Edmonton and his quiet demeanor; because beneath it lies the heart, soul and fortitude of an entire roster who by the way, throws one mean punch. Troy Rutkowski is a solid, sturdy player and person who will outlast us all. Portland was privileged to know him for just five seasons. If fortune smiles on Ottawa, you’ll know him far longer and even better than we did; here’s hoping you 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