Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

The Upside of Down

2017 has been a long, strange year for me personally. I had a lot of good times and adventurous travel, but I had a feeling something might go awry. And indeed it did, when I was laid off from my non-hockey day job last week. The upside is that I've had more free time to focus on hockey. And it occurs to me that there are also lot of hockey-related lessons to be learned from being temporarily down on your luck. 

Vancouver is the new Portland: I can remember the first time I met Sven Baertschi at Portland Winterhawks training camp in 2010. He was not even 18 yet, and had only been in town a few days. He was eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, where the lucky winner was the Calgary Flames. When Sven was called up to Calgary the next season on an emergency basis, it was the hockey equivalent of an actor walking the red carpet at the Oscars. But you never know how things will turn out. Sven was traded to the Vancouver Canucks on March 2, 2015. The last time I caught up with him in Portland, he was loving his new team because "Travis Green knows how to get the best out of me." Sven's resurgence with Vancouver is proof of that. He enters tonight's game against the Las Vegas Golden Knights with 13 points on the season; he's racked up 6 goals and 7 assists, including the game winner on Tuesday versus the LA Kings. He is joined on the Canucks roster by former Winterhawk defenseman Derrick Pouliot, whose early promise with the Penguins had faded, even more so after he was cited in Wilkes-Barre Scranton for public intoxication. Derrick is still in his early days with the Canucks, but things are already looking up. As an aside, let's not forget Ryan Johansen, whose talents didn't really shine until he was traded to the Nashville Predators. In life and in hockey, being traded to a new team is often a big step up, not down. 

Things happen for a reason: Let's face it. Nobody likes it when our favorite player is traded to another team, especially if that player is a star attraction. Case in point: will Edmonton fans ever really get over Wayne Gretzky's trade to the LA Kings? I think I know the answer. Case closed. Here in the Dub, change is the only thing that remains the same. Overage players graduate to the next big thing and trades reshape a team's future. One of the biggest headlines in 2012 was a multi-player deal that brought Seth Jones to Portland. Further back in the Winterhawks history, our version of the Wayne Gretzky-to-LA trade came in 2009, when the Winterhawks traded beloved goalie Kurtis Mucha to the Kamloops Blazers. Kurtis had toughed it out with the team through hard times, and to say Portland was heartbroken is a gross understatement. The team received a pick in the 2010 Bantam Draft in return, but the upside of the trade was bigger than a draft pick: his name is Mac Carruth. Trading Kurtis made room for Mac's development. Then a newly-signed rookie, Mac Carruth would go on to become the winningest goaltender in Winterhawks history and was a key element of the 2013 run to the Memorial Cup. Will we ever get over the team's decision to trade Kurtis? Not really, nor can we ignore the contributions Mac made to the team. Kurtis landed on his feet and ended up pursuing an education at the University of Alberta, where he won two consecutive CIS national college championships as the Bears' starting goaltender. In March 2017, Kurtis hung up his mask to join the Edmonton Oil Kings as a Goalie Development Coach. The Portland Winterhawks will make a stop in Edmonton on November 25. If Kurtis' coaching skills match his talent as a goalie -- and I'm sure they will -- the Winterhawks will have their work cut out for them. 

As we rest, we are getting stronger: This is what strength and conditioning coach Rich Campbell and the coaching staff instill in the Winterhawks. Rest is an essential part of an athlete's success, especially when they are injured. The pre-season headlines in Portland focused on the timetable for Henri Jokiharju's return after he was injured at the World Junior showcase. The team was careful in managing his injury and he has come back even better than before. In the NHL, the return of Auston Matthews is currently among the hot headlines. The next time you are watching the clock for the return of an injured player, remember that the goal is to return at full strength, not halfway with a nagging injury. Rest is how we all get stronger. It's true in hockey and it's true in life. 

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TreKronor's avatar

remember that the goal is to return at full strength, not halfway

Very true. I hope everything works out for you and your able to tackle a new challenge.

Posted by TreKronor on 11/16/17 at 06:30 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Sorry to hear about your job layoff Samantha. Iv’e experienced it a few times when I was working. Not fun. sick

Posted by bigfrog on 11/16/17 at 09:35 PM 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