Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

I went on vacation, the NHL went shopping

I’ve learned yet another thing or two about hockey this past week. First, a lot can happen in one week: while I was off sleeping eight hours a night, every night, nibbling my way through the Public Market on Granville Island and lounging by a hotel pool, players like Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr went to the dark side. Second, you can learn a lot from shopping in Victoria, BC and the free agent frenzy: like the fact that hockey is first and foremost a business, that Ryan Johansen likes bowling, and that NHL teams have in fact, embraced fuzzy slippers in their swag collections.

I stand corrected: I have made much fun of NHL teams for not embracing fuzzy footwear in their clothing collections. At last, I found a pair at MVP Sports on Fort Street in Victoria, BC. Among the teams who have embraced adult-sized slippers are the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The question is, what would Brian Burke say if he found out his team makes pink fuzzy slippers with their logo on them? Discuss. Or, if you prefer, go shopping.

Yeah, but does he own his own bowling shoes?: I bought a copy of “The Next Ones: Hockey’s Future Stars” at Munro’s Books, largely because it highlights the exploits of Ryan Johansen and Brad Ross, among others. In response to the question, what is something about yourself that most people don’t know? Ryan answered “I like to go bowling with my friends.” His linemate and fellow superstar Nino Niederreiter owns his own bowling shoes, so at least we know who one of those friends is.

I have more in common with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Brad Ross than I thought: In response to that same question, he replied “I’m really not a morning person.” In a Winterhawks profile video, he stated that his pre-game ritual includes a 2.5 hour nap. Next to blogging, sleep is my favorite hobby, preferably when it lasts well past 10 in the morning or takes the form of a serious power nap.

How the mighty have risen: In the book, Lorna Shultz Nicholson writes this about Ryan before he became one of the most promising future stars of the NHL: “Ultimately, he was drafted in the 7th round, 150th overall, in the 2007 WHL bantam draft by the Portland Winterhawks, but it was clear, by the lack of correspondence, that they weren’t all that interested in him.” That is, until head coach Mike Johnston blew into town and came calling. And the rest is history. If you live in Columbus, you might want to drop a Tweet to the team about where their first round draft pick can perfect his strike technique. I know he would appreciate it.

Are you sure there isn’t a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that bans moves like this?: Whilst I was shopping amok in Victoria for hockey kibbles and bits, Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr defected to the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s like that scene in the “Empire Strikes Back” where Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker “come with me, it is the only way.” Only instead of declaring “I’ll never join you” and jumping into the space tube to be saved by his sister, he goes with Vader.

Obviously, Florida works for him: I was rather looking forward to Sean Bergenheim’s rise as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s ongoing comeback. Apparently he and his agent thought differently, and off he will go to Sunrise. Plus, let’s face it, once you’ve tasted the best of both worlds (hockey on the inside, sunny enough to go golfing year round outside), why would you want to leave?

What can we learn from this past week’s vacation/free agent frenzy?:

1. Hockey is after all, a business and everyone has a price. That includes Pittsburgh players who are legendary for their entire career’s achievements and those who are quasi-legendary for two goals scored in a Stanley-Cup winning Game 7.

2. Canada knows how to celebrate its national holidays in high style. In this case, Canada Day (July 1). I recommend trekking to Victoria, BC to enjoy the festivities, full-on patriotism and all around good time if you have not already done so.

3. Canada knows hockey. The majority of the boys highlighted in that book (which exclusively features Canadian players) have since been drafted and one went on to win a Stanley Cup in his rookie season (Tyler Seguin).

4. Anything is possible, in life and in hockey. Ryan Johansen alone is proof. And what if Tyler Seguin had gone first in the 2010 draft to the Oilers and not second to the Bruins?  Just like life, nothing is certain: today’s favorite player can become tomorrow’s enemy. A player who started out in junior just wanting to make the roster can get sidetracked by outrageous salary offers and God knows what else along the way. All the more reason to enjoy watching your favorite player while he’s still playing on your favorite team, to cheer for your favorite junior player while he’s still in juniors and get that jersey autographed before it becomes a collector’s item.

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Expect a scathing article to come out about you leaving your post to go on vacation when the most important day on the hockey calendar occurred.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 07/06/11 at 11:35 AM ET

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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