Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

What my birthday taught me about hockey

Well, of course other than the obvious: I share my January 26 birthday with Wayne Gretzky, so obviously hockey was my destiny one way or another. Now, normally I write about what hockey can teach us about life, but in this case I have also realized that getting older (I’ll be 44 on Thursday) has taught me a few things about the sport. Like, for example, my advice for what to do (or not) if the anthems of your youth are now being played as elevator/background music in a store or office building.

Every moment counts. When you reach the point in life where the road in the rearview mirror is equal to or greater than what’s in the front windshield, someday becomes now. If there’s something in life or hockey I don’t control, I don’t worry about it because I literally don’t have the time to do so. I appreciate the shred of youth I’m hanging onto by a thread, because I know that clock on that is going to run out at any moment. I think it’s for this same reason that Dwayne Roloson and Teemu Selanne are playing the best hockey of their careers. They are making it count and rocking it as hard as they can, while they can. Because they know the party’s almost over. Speaking of which, here’s one way to recognize when the party that is youth has ended:

Thank you, ma’am. I’m not sure when it started, but this is now the standard response I get when I pay the 20-something hired help at the grocery store, Starbucks or local restaurants. As if that wasn’t bad enough, over the weekend I was minding my business in Safeway, pondering the purchase of low fat multigrain muffins versus powdered sugar/raspberry filled doughnuts, and a Duran Duran song came onto the overhead music. Worse was the horrified expression on nearby teenagers’ faces when they saw me singing along. So here’s the deal: If the anthems of your youth are now background music, your day, if you ever had one, is O.V.E.R. Stop with the botox, take those retro acid washed jeans to the Goodwill post haste and put the miniskirts down and walk away. Because you aren’t fooling anybody. By the same token, hockey players should follow the same advice and recognize when it’s time to retire to a lucrative career as a TV analyst, coach, GM or other non-playing hockey professional. These days, I’d go by the Twitter rule: If people half your age or younger are Tweeting about when you’re going to get a clue and leave the game with your dignity intact, you’re done.

Help! I’ve fallen into the generation gap and I can’t get up! There are really cool things about covering junior hockey: 1) You get to know the NHL’s future before they get to the show. 2) You can live vicariously through their youthful adventures. 3) You get an up close and personal look at the inner workings and business of hockey.

On the other hand you are also interviewing teenagers and young men who don’t really know what life was like before cell phones, laptops, Facebook and Twitter. They speak in codes that I don’t understand and they listen to music by bands I’ve never heard of. That being said, it’s also important to note that the Winterhawks are tippy top, Grade A awesome players and people. And I mean it when I say that behind the great plays are great players and every conversation with them is a source of great soundbites. But still, no matter how cool I think I am with my press pass and my vast knowledge of the game, the sad reality is that compared to hip, cool, hockey-playing teenagers, I am in fact, a dork. Case in point: When I first went down to interview the boys last season, a few of them came out of the locker room, looked at me, and went back inside, not realizing they were supposed to talk to me. The Winterhawks’ PR director eventually connected us, but I’ll never forget that look on their faces that just said “What is that and what is it doing down here?” These days, I am proud to say that they know my name, a few of them follow me on Twitter and accordingly I get the “Hey Sam” as they are filing out of the Rose Garden dressing room after a game. I’m not sure if I’ve been elevated from major dork status, but “Hey Sam” is a sign of respect and recognition that I am proud to have earned since those early days.

The moral of the story: You can learn a lot about hockey from life/birthdays. It’s pretty simple really: life is too short. Enjoy the ride. And whatever you do, don’t ever sing along to Duran Duran in a Safeway.

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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