Above the Glass
by Samantha on 05/03/12 at 07:25 PM ET
Tonight, the Portland Winterhawks get a second chance to win the Western Hockey League title, when they face off against the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 1 of the WHL Championship series. They made it to the finals last year, only to lose in a heartbreaking Game 5 against the Kootenay ice. Prior to this, the last time the Hawks got a chance to take back to back runs at the title was 1982 and 1983. In ’82, they won the WHL title. In ’83, they went on to become the first American team to win the Memorial Cup. As the NHL roars through the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the same time, it got me to thinking about second chances, and how they are just as precious in hockey as they are in life.
Why wait when you can create? The Winterhawks’ second chance to add a shiny object to their collection nearly didn’t happen when the Kamloops Blazers roared back in the second round of the playoffs, forcing a Game 7 that the Hawks won to advance to the semi-finals. Once there, they swept the Tri-City Americans to get here, which was an achievement in itself. For most of the regular season, the Tri-City Americans’ had pretty much dialed the Winterhawks’ number, until Oliver Gabriel helped them solve the riddle by scoring his first career hat trick and leading the team to their first regular season win over the Americans. It’s a lot like life; there are those times when fate does the job for you, but most of the time, if you want a second chance at something, you have to create it. And that the Winterhawks have. This time around, they are ready to take it.
Of course, fate works too. For those who don’t know, the Winterhawks used to be the Edmonton Oil Kings from 1951-1976. In ’76, the Oil Kings moved to Portland and became the Winter Hawks. On their inaugural 1976-1977 roster was defenseman Dave Morrow, the father of current Portland Winterhawk and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Joe Morrow. The Morrow family, by the way, is from the Edmonton area. Flash forward to 1983, when the Winterhawks became the first American team to win the Memorial Cup. On their roster that year was current Edmonton Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal. On the Edmonton Oil Kings current roster is Mark Pysyk, Joe’s best friend from back home who is also a defenseman. The latter of which should make for some interesting conversation on the charter flight to Portland for Games 3 and 4. The games tonight and tomorrow open in Edmonton, and both teams will travel down to Portland on the same charter flight, with league personnel seated in between them. So you see, fate conspired with the Winterhawks to bring us all to this day. It is no ordinary game day this one. It comes with history, fate, family connections and friendship. It’s a lot like life…live it long enough and the past and the present will eventually collide to put us at a crossroads. In the case of the Winterhawks, that time has come. And like life, it’s what they do with it that matters.
Second chances are a lot like Game 7. You have to appreciate every moment, learn fast from every mistake and treat it like it’s your last chance; because it is. To be sure, some people are lucky enough to get a lifetime of second chances. Like Liza Minelli, who once declared that “my whole life is a comeback.” But for most of us, a second chance in life only comes around once. All of the games in this series, however many it takes to win, must be played like Game 7. Because when it comes to second chances, it’s the only way to play and it’s the only way to live.
One more shiny object never hurt anyone. Sitting on my kitchen counter right now are five tickets; two for Games 3 and 4 in Portland and three more for the remaining games, if need be. Those last three tickets represent more than entry to the Rose Garden or Memorial Coliseum. They represent the three games that the boys wanted to win so badly to get the WHL title that eluded them last year. Sitting here now, hours away from face off in Edmonton, you can’t help but think will they? Will the Winterhawks take the second chance they made and run with it? I believe they will. It’s a lot like life. Second chances happen for a reason: to finish business, to win what was lost, to get more time than was given, and to get it right where you did not before. For the Winterhawks and their fans, the WHL finals are all that and more. And so, tonight at 6pm Pacific Standard Time the Portland Winterhawks will commence a run at the second chance of a lifetime. This time, I know they’ll cross the finish line.
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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