Above the Glass
by Samantha on 04/09/11 at 05:19 PM ET
Hockey can be a sport of uncommon grace and staggering beauty when played at its purest, highest level: think Evgeni Malkin’s no-look backhanded hat trick into the Carolina net during the 2009 playoffs. Or Jordan Eberle’s first NHL goal. Sometimes the things that make it ugly can be beautiful in their own sort of way: like Sidney Crosby dropping the mitts with Matt Niskanen. And sometimes it’s just plain ugly: like it was Thursday night in Portland, where one thing led to another and the Winterhawks fell to the Kelowna Rockets 5-1. Nobody said it was fair and nobody said it was pretty. But it got me to thinking: what if hockey rules applied to life? What if you could punch that annoying boss at work and all you got was a five minute penalty? What consequence would you suffer for getting out of the car and high sticking the turd who slips into that prime parking spot at the last minute, knowing full well you were sitting there waiting for it? If you don’t know by now, sometimes I have thoughts. And they’re way more entertaining than reality.
Really, there’s no such thing as a “ban” on things: My mother loves hockey too, because “if you don’t like what a guy’s doing, you just hit him.” She’s right. I’ve read and blogged about the entire NHL Rulebook and nowhere does it say you can’t do anything. It just defines the penalty and tells you the punishment if you do it. But it doesn’t stop guys from dropping the mitts, high sticking, goaltender interference or sadly, from direct, targeted hits to the head. Plus, most rules that govern penalties and such come with a little thing called “in the judgment of the referee” or “in the opinion of the referee.”
Which might explain what happened in Portland on Thursday: I’ll spare you the gory details and stick to the highlights. It started out ok, with a few minor penalties, some chirping and an early goal by Kelowna’s Zak Stebner. But then Geordie Wudrick starting chirping at Brad Ross during a pile up in the Kelowna net and it kinda went downhill from there. Brad would go on to be ejected from the game with a five minute major for charging and a game misconduct for a hit he laid down on Zach Franko. Brad has been suspended indefinitely pending further review of the play and Franko is down with an undisclosed injury. But it started with Wudrick’s yapping. Brad took the bait and that’s all it took for the rest of the team to follow him. Troy Rutkowski scored Portland’s one and only goal, but he got high sticked on the way to doing so. Ryan Johansen rang one off the post on a pretty wide open net and several attempts by Nino Niederreiter and others missed the mark. A cruical mistake by goalie Mac Carruth on a Kelowna breakaway by Shane McColgan then gave the Rockets a 2-1 lead. But the event that turned the tide of the game was a call that never happened. Brendan Leipsic got high sticked, went down and the lack of a whistle or penalty led to momentary confusion for Portland and a scoring chance for McColgan. His goal (the second of three that led to a natural hat trick for him) took the wind out of the Winterhawks’ sails and they never recovered after that. Although Brendan did make sure people know he’s not taking any crap: in the third period he leveled Brett Bulmer right into the Portland bench and Brendan went down right on top of him. Oh and by the way, Leipsic is 5’8” and Bulmer is 6’3”. Tayler Jordan, who is legendary around these parts for once squirting a ref in the face with a water bottle, left the bench to exchange choice words with Bulmer. And there you have it. It was one of the uglier nights in recent Winterhawks’ history, but it’s only Game 1. The advantage of losing your cool early is you still have time to recover. And Brad’s loss is Riley Boychuk’s gain. Normally on a checking line with Tayler Jordan and Taylor Peters, he got upgraded to take Brad’s place alongside Nino and Ryan. Riley is my unsung hero to watch and I hope he uses this chance wisely to show what he can do.
Life gets ugly too, only we don’t get to hit a guy just because we don’t like what he’s doing: But what if we did? How awesome would it be if you could just punch your incompetent boss who takes credit for your work to get ahead and you wouldn’t lose your job, you’d just go cool out in an empty conference room for five minutes? If I were in charge of life’s rulebook, these are just a few of the things for which I would render punishment:
1) For the theft of intellectual capital and cruel and irrational behavior by people with VP next to their name who should really have a title that better describes their incompetence and lack of judgment and their ability to get promoted by delegating their job description to others who actually know what they are doing: a) If the employees whose work was stolen and/or pride wounded decide to punch said executive right in the face during a death by powerpoint meeting, no penalty shall be assessed other than giving him or her a 10 minute coffee break to go buy latte on the company’s dime. b) If the VP loses control and attempts to do same to the underlings from whom they are stealing freely, the target of their anger is free to defend themselves as they see fit, with no punishment rendered. Defending oneself may include punching, biting, kickboxing, squirting water bottles, four letter words, kicking and hair pulling. Other undignified behavior of your choice is also permitted.
2) If you were raised to think that stealing a prime parking spot at the mall during the holiday season from a single mom with three kids who’s been waiting patiently for that spot for the better part of a minute is acceptable behavior, then said victim of your crime is free to get out of the car, open the door and high stick you freely with a large object of their choosing. Once you recover you will be required by law to have a local garage alter your car’s transmisison such that every time your car pulls into a parking lot and you begin a series of quick braking and steering indicating that you are yet again attempting to steal said space, it will automatically kill the engine, leaving you dead in the water of a crowded parking space, subject to honking and verbal abuse from others who are now stuck or boxed in by you, forcing you to call a tow truck for assistance.
3) Anyone who thinks that the advent of modern technology like the iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Kindle or iPad means that you can use these devices in inappropriate locations (including but not limited to libraries, buses/trains, bank teller lines, and bathrooms) to discuss the intimate personal details of your life that no one else wants to hear no matter how important you think you are, there will be only one punishment. Permanent banishment to a desert or arctic wasteland with a black and white television that gets the two cable access channels produced by the dude who is also the mayor and owner of the nearest town of fewer than 100 people, a typewriter with a broken ribbon and a rotary phone with no answering machine. Period. No exceptions.
1) Portland Winterhawks fans may challenge me and say Thursday was the result of bad refereeing and to a certain extent you’re right. But that is no excuse for the players’ poor decisions and judgment. The boys are ultimately responsible for their actions and reactions to the events of any game. I also know them enough to know that they will learn the lesson and that comebacks are what the Winterhawks do best. I still have hope for a better Game 2 and beyond. After all, how could it get much worse?
2) If you live in Portland, own a cell phone, are using it to commit the above offenses and you see me on a train, in a line, etc….run. Very far away.
3) If you live in Portland and try to steal a parking space from me during the high peak of shopping season…well, see, this is why I will never go shopping at the high peak of the holidays ever again. Because containing violent impulses becomes just a wee bit more challenging when you are in your forties and the thief in question is an ignorant teenager on a cell phone. See number two for advice on what to do in this situation.
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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