Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

The beauty of not taking sides

For the Stanley Cup final, I’m left to choose between two teams that I like, but am not necessarily fiercely loyal to. Because of a lost bet with my friend Mike, I have given a slight edge to the Bruins, mostly out of friendship. So truth be told, I really haven’t taken a true side in the final. There is something strange and lovely about being neutral, like sleeping at night, paying attention in meetings at work and not spilling wine all over myself and my couch when a perfectly good team blows a perfectly good scoring opportunity. There are other reasons too, and some of them started right here at home in Portland, Oregon.

It’s literally a win-win: No matter which side takes home the big shiny object, I will be happy. I will be happy for Mike if his team wins, but as a Northwest girl I would be equally excited to see the Canucks take it after so many close playoff calls in recent years. Plus, it’s not often the Stanley Cup finals come to our neck of the woods, so I’m enjoying the ride.

Victory begins at home: For me, there’s a homegrown reason to root for both teams. Both have connections to the Portland Winterhawks. Jannik Hansen played here from 2005 - 2006 and helped set up Vancouver’s game winning goal in Game 1. Andrew Ference was part of the Winterhawks’ 1998 Memorial Cup championship team. But the local connection I love best is Cam Neely, who was a rookie on the Portland Winterhawks team that won the Memorial Cup for the first time in 1983, becoming the first American team to do so. Neely is just as revered around these parts as he is in the NHL. Each year, the team concludes training camp with a competition for the Neely Cup, which is named for him. Looking at his achievements, you’d never believe that Cam Neely has never won a Stanley Cup as a player, with either of his teams: the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins. I love the stories of Herb Brooks and Dan Bylsma and Guy Boucher, whose playing careers didn’t necessarily end in shiny objects, but who went right to the top once they started a new life as coaches. That’s what Cam Neely’s story will be if the Bruins win. It’s too perfect, especially since he played for both teams. So, I’m giving a slight but not overly loyal edge to the Bruins. 

Beauty sleep: Normally during hockey season sleep is what I do when I’m not watching or writing about hockey or attending Winterhawks games, and that’s pretty much about two hours of my day. So the end of season and off season are good for one thing: beauty sleep. Plus, when you are staying neutral during key playoff games, you can actually sleep eight hours in a row without worrying about whether your team is going to tie it up in the next game to force another game, win game 7, whatever.

I don’t look pretty in pink: I’m lucky that my employer allows me the free time I need to pursue my hockey-related hobbies, but they do prefer that I keep the extracurricular hockey activity to a minimum while at work. That’s another benefit of not taking sides: staying gainfully employed. Spending copious amounts of time at work distracted by hockey-related news and tidbits is an express elevator to getting a pink slip and hitting the unemployment line. I’ve been stone cold fired before, twice in one very ugly year. Without the worry of what my team is doing to get ready on game day, or needing to check the post-game analysis from the night before to see why they lost or won, I can spend more quality time staying employed by doing what my employer pays me to do. Too many people would kill to have a job right now, so I am thankful to have one at all, let alone one that allows for the occasional hockey distraction.

Moral of the story: There is beauty in neutrality, but there are also downsides to not having the usual passion for one team or another. Normally, when it’s a huge game day, I can feel the earth move. Everything I do throughout the day, no matter how mundane, has meaning because the big game, the Game 7, the Game 5 that will force a Game 6, is going to make me really excited, really depressed or give me something to look even more forward to the next day. When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, I was about to graduate from grad school the next morning. I had been on my own journey to lifting my own version of the Cup. Even though it was just a piece of paper, it was the same feeling. I watched them win in a bar/restaurant that was on the grounds of an RV park by the edge of the McKenzie River, just east of Eugene. It was the middle of nowhere, but it felt like I was right in the middle of a big city and a big hockey arena. I won’t have that this year, but I also don’t have to get up on the morning after the winning game with a hangover of sorts because my team lost. I know that whether it’s Boston or Vancouver, I will wake up happy. That’s the way every day of our lives should be.  The beauty of not taking sides is that for the next two weeks, I know I will wake up and be glad for the days before and the ones that are about to come.

 

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I’m right there with you Samantha.  Of course there’s nothing equal to watching one’s beloved team win the Cup (gosh, has it been 4 years already?).  But this year I can watch the game purely for my love of the sport, unstressed by penalty kills, missed calls and missed goals. I’m thrilled when games are tied up and go into overtime simply because there’s more hockey for me to enjoy.  There’s only a week more to go (or less!) before the long days of summer set in….

Posted by Frosty on 06/05/11 at 02:41 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