Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Samantha on 08/30/10 at 01:58 PM ET
Help me welcome Samantha to the KK blogging world. She has great insight on our game and I have always enjoyed her past blogs.
Her KK blog, like all the other new bloggers, will be up and running sometime in September and yes, there are more bloggers coming.
Hello from Portland, Oregon, where I live and will be blogging for Kukla’s Korner. I’ve been blogging about hockey for about a year now, and I’m very honored and excited to be joining the KK community. If you’ve already visited 87in107, then you know how I ended up here. Sometimes I wonder myself. I grew up in Arizona (pre-Coyotes), and my hometown had exactly one ice rink. But that didn’t stop me from discovering hockey. Of course, it was on television and far away in Lake Placid in 1980. Despite my humble beginnings in a desert, I still thought I knew and understood the sport. Until the 2009 playoff season, when I was watching Malkin’s no-look, back-handed shot into the Carolina net, and I realized that I didn’t even know what a hat trick was. And I certainly didn’t know the rules. So I learned them: all 87 in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, the 30th anniversary of the day I discovered hockey. Since then, I’ve learned the entire IIHF Rulebook and I’m moving on to the collective bargaining agreement and anything else that strikes my fancy.
The name of the blog on KK will be changing to “Above the Glass” but the spirit of the original will remain the same. I’m all about the big picture and what hockey can teach us about life. The title is somewhat personal, as it represents the location of my Portland Winterhawks season tickets. It’s also more relevant to the focus of the blog going forward and my take on the game. I lay no claim to being an expert on stats, who should be traded where or who will snatch up the free agents that are still on the market. What you will find here is my own personal theory of relativity. That is, how hockey and how it relates to life, and what we can learn from it even when it makes us crazy. I’ve posted this introductory entry as a preview. And if you’d like to see more, 87in107 will remain active until it moves here. My favorite thing about hockey is that I’m still learning about the game, so I welcome feedback that will help me understand the sport and give me ideas for future entries. In the meantime, thanks to Paul for the opportunity and I hope you like what you see here.
It’s too easy to get lost
The local angle: This past weekend, the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks conducted their training camp, complete with the intrasquad Neely Cup, named for one of the team’s most famous alumni. A gaggle of teenage boys rolled into town, many looking to make the roster for the upcoming season. Many are returning players, but the rookie hopefuls were just vying for their chance to be the next Ryan Johansen or Nino Niederreiter. And none of them are worried just yet about long-term NHL deals and multi-million dollar salaries. Well, ok, maybe in their dreams they are. But for the immediate future, they’re concerned with making the roster, dealing with high school or college and living in a new city. In the case of the players who were drafted by the NHL, their biggest goal is to stay with their NHL team after training camp. If the WHL players do make the Winterhawks’ the roster, for their efforts they will be rewarded with a small stipend that is connected to their age and experience with the team. For the more experienced, older players this means a whole $400 per month. One of my favorite stories comes from the Winterhawks’ public relations director, who relayed a tidbit about the time that 2009 Calgary Flames’ draft pick Spencer Bennett had just cashed his stipend, and all the other players got excited because that was a lot of money to them.
Meanwhile, back on the New Jersey Devils farm: Kovalchuk’s handlers are rethinking his strategy now that his multidecade, gazillion dollar deal has gone to the dogs. Not to mention, he’s probably pissing a lot of players right off now that NHL is poking around their long-term deals. No matter how worthy we think the player might be, such deals set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Somewhere in between, the truth lies: Like say, Columbus, Ohio, the future home of Winterhawk Ryan Johansen, drafted 4th overall by the Blue Jackets. And who is one of the most polite, confident, smart and talented players I’ve had the privilege of meeting in my lifetime. Or Uniondale, New York, future home of Ryan’s linemate Nino Niederreiter, already touted to be the future captain of the New York Islanders. And who told reporters in the days leading up to the draft “I just want to go higher than 14.” Done: he was drafted 5th overall.
Which leads me to this: How do players go from just wanting to make a major junior roster and get their $400 stipend, to pouting in an NHL corner because they can’t have $100 million? When do they lose sight of playing for love of the game? And this: it’s too easy to get caught up and lost along the way. In hockey and in life.
I know, because I’ve done it myself: When I moved to New York City in 1994 with $3000 and only those possessions that fit in the trunk of my 1988 Toyota Corolla, I was like any artist. I boldly declared that I’d never give in, give up or sell out in pursuit of my dream of being a writer. That is, until I got there and found out that $30,000 a year didn’t exactly buy what it did in Portland, Oregon. The big paychecks I made on Wall Street and 5th Avenue by day started to look a little too good. If I said I loved every job I ever had, I’d be lying. There were more than a few that I took for the salary and the perks. But just like the Kovalchuk deal, what goes around, comes around. In the summer of 2003, I was fired twice in one year from two different jobs, both of which had a salary of more than $80,000 and came complete with a corner office and grade-A view. And so my adventure in the rat race came to an end. Which brings me to this:
Moral of the story: It’s too easy to get caught up in the game and in life. We let too many things and too many people get in the way of what we love and why we watch. For example, I will never fully forgive the NHL and the player’s union for not preventing the lockout by any means necessary and causing me to go a whole season without hockey. It still physically pains me to watch a replay of Game 7 in this year’s Montreal vs. Pittsburgh playoff series. I think cheap shots should be penalized and repeat offenders who put other players in hospitals should be punished more severely. But I still remember when I watched Mike Eruzione’s winning goal go into the net and I remember exactly where I was when Malkin scored that no-look, backhanded hat trick into the Carolina net.
It all reminds me of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Only in my version, no one can take away our enjoyment of the game unless we let them. So go ahead, get tweaked about the Kovalchuk deal and how Montreal let Halak get away or whether or not NHL athletes will play in the next Olympics. Just don’t let it detract you from why you watch in the first place. Nothing is worth that.
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