Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

This is why we are #allin

For hockey fans here in the WHL, Wednesday night is proving to be a Game 7 extravaganza. On the NHL front, some of us are biting our nails because our favorite teams are on the verge of being swept (or not, depending on your team). And here in the Dub, the outcome of two game sevens will determine who will vie for the Western Conference Championship. In Portland, the Winterhawks will face off against the Kamloops Blazers for the chance to advance and defend the title. Across the league, the Tri-City Americans and the Spokane Chiefs will do the same. Sitting here waiting for face off, I started thinking about the Twitter hashtag the boys are using during the playoffs: #allin. If you’ve ever met any of the Portland Winterhawks, you know they mean it. They believe it. And they live it. Shouldn’t we all?

#allin is the only way to play and its the only way to live. NHL playoff hockey is special because it’s a winner take all, do or die, maybe you’ll get punished by Shanahan maybe you won’t depends on how he’s feeling today extravaganza. In the junior leagues, it’s especially beautiful and painful, because we know that a Game 7 may also be the last time we see some of players in action on home ice. Some fans around these parts have already thrown in the towel on the Winterhawks, because they dropped the last three games after coming dangerously close to a sweep of the Blazers last week. I truly do hope by gametime tonight they’ve changed their tune, because the only way to go is #allin. I can’t speak for other fans, but to me it’s not even a choice. It’s a must. In life and in hockey.

Our team deserves the best of us too. Ask almost any fan and if we’re being honest, we’ll tell you that we exepct a winning team in return for our money. We expect a team that makes us proud with sportsmanlike play (well, ok, sometimes unsportsmanlike play is downright fun, but you get the idea), a winning attitude, and a scoreboard to match. In return, our team also deserves the best that we have to offer them. Whatever happens tonight, my only hope is that when the Winterhawks leave the ice they will always be proud to have played in Portland. I know from talking with them that they already are. Part of the reason can be found in what transpired yesterday when the Winterhawks’ bus finally arrived back home after losing Game 6 in Kamloops. The bus had broken down en route, but waiting at the other end were fans with signs, babies in jerseys and the like. It was a small but mighty crowd that I regret I couldn’t join due to work. If you saw that crowd, you’d never know the boys dropped yet another heartbreaking game. And if that was 3pm on Tuesday, imagine what it will be like tonight at 7 pm in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. I already am, and that’s how I know the best is yet to come. 

Nothing worth winning comes easy. If the Hawks had swept the Blazers in four games, it would have meant a bigger hill to climb against the Chiefs or the Americans, both archrivals against whom the team has won and lost huge games. If the second round had come as easy as the first, the Hawks would not have been battle tested and ready for the semifinals. The higher you have to climb to get to the peak, the more rewarding it is when you get there. Just check out this video from 2010, when rookies Taylor Aronson and Ty Rattie combined for the game winning goal against Spokane in a Game 7 overtime thriller. It was Ty’s rookie season and his first goal of the playoffs. We still talk about it around here, and it cemented Ty’s place in Winterhawks history. Flash forward to 2012 and he’s already racked up two hat tricks in the first round, and he’s leading the league in playoff points. Ty’s meteoric rise to the top looks easier than it was if you only look at the numbers. And indeed, it was a long road back to the top for the Winterhawks. One that could very well lead to the chance to defend the Western Conference title. Giving up now would be easy and definitely a lot less stressful. But in hockey, as in life, taking the easy way out is rarely the right way to go.

It’s how we play that matters. As long as how we play is #allin, I’m good. I will of course be better if that ends in a winning game for the Winterhawks. And by play, I mean players and fans. Sure, we can sit here and curse the Mickey Mouse officiating and bad timeout decisions by the coaches. And we could get up and leave early if the battle goes ill in the third period. But I much prefer to give the boys something to remember us by. Last Saturday, the Winterhawks lost a Game 5 at home that could have clinched the series. Instead, they had to board a bus for the 8-plus hour ride back to Kamloops. But Sven Bartschi told the media aftwards that he was humbled by the fans who stayed in their seats to the very end, and that he would think about that on the bus to Kamloops. I hope he looks up and sees the same thing tonight. No matter where life takes them, I hope our players will always remember that fans showed them how to make a graceful exit. Win or lose tonight, I know that we will.



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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