Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Hockey first. Period. No exceptions.

It was only a few short months ago I was on injured reserve, with way too much free time on my hands. Flash forward to September, at which point the last 90 days of my life disappeared into thin air. And I'm not even talking about how busy the hockey season has been. I'm talking about a little thing called my day job, where it's expected that we sacrifice our family and personal time, including well-earned vacation, for work. It all got me to thinking how some people have their priorities out of whack. For the past 90 days, that included me. Clearly it's time to get with the program and put hockey first, like it should be. Just how does one get back on track and keep hockey top of mind, all the time, no excuses, no exceptions? I have a few ideas.

"I always remember that hockey is the most important thing in my life." - Flyers prospect Taylor Leier, in answer to a question in his Portland Winterhawks Booster Club rookie profile, asking "What would you tell young kids who are just starting out about what it take to get to the next level?(NHL)" 

"He was all hockey, all the time. Nothing else." - Ryan Johansen's mom in an interview on Winterhawks' parent's weekend, in which she described his dedication to hockey above all the other things 

Hockey first. The Portland Winterhawks' 15' - 16' season is comprised of one of the most ridiculous schedules I've ever seen. It's marked by random weeknight road games, too many games that compete with Trailblazers games and thusly the Trailblazers traffic. For the players, it's an even more ridiculous road schedule. It doesn't help that the Winterhawks aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto. Losing sucks and it sucks even more when you remember the championship seasons like they were yesterday. Oh wait, in Portland they were yesterday. Add in 10 - 12 work days during the day and it's easy to get distracted from one's priorities: too easy. At times like these, it's best to follow the advice of  young hockey players and keep it simple by remembering that hockey is the most important thing in my life. However, if you have a job that cuts into hockey time, it's also time to get creative:  

  • Call me. Conference calls are a good cover for multi-tasking replays of the previous night's game highlights, checking game notes for upcoming games and generally tuning out reality. The easiest way to do this is put the instant message on "do not disturb" with a note that you're "presenting." Or you can just tell your boss you have to "actively participate" in the whole 60 minutes. Translation: You're answering questions during the one minute you actually have to participate and tuning out 59 minutes of chatter while you multi-task game highlights on your NHL app. 
  • Take note. If you're trapped in an actual live meeting after hours because someone else's lack of planning became your emergency, seat selection is key. The back of the room is best, where no one can look over your shoulder while you silently watch opening face-off on your mobile device, under the guise of "I'm expecting a call from an important client." A good way to make it look like you're actually paying attention is to jot down a note now and again and of course, nod your head like you're listening. 
  • Let's do lunch. One of the ways I put thr game first is what I like to call a "long hockey lunch." This crafty getaway is usually presented as "I'm on deadline for the blog and I have to go interview some Winterhawks." As long as I keep an eye on work emails and answer a work call if need be, I'm allowed to break away. Ironically, when I keep an eye on work emails as instructed, no one ever calls or emails me. It's magic.

"An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure."  -  The dictionary definition of hobby

If it's not hockey, it's not a hobby. Sure, I've been busy lately deciphering the anagrams on "Blindspot" and figuring out how this hot new show is a lot like hockey and training for the Shamrock Run, but let's face it: those aren't nearly as important or exciting as hockey. Therefore, they don't really count as "hobbies." That honor is reserved for hockey. Fans may not have the pleasure of playing in the NHL for ridiculous amounts of money, but we do have one universal thing in common with players that connects us all: we are all about hockey, all the time. That includes our fellow hockey fans in Australia, where it's currently the off-season/summer. I can't help but be insanely jealous of Australian-based tweets like "Summer is here!" while I throw another log on the fire. Speaking of which: 

Change of seasons. Australia's hockey season will get underway while the WHL and NHL seasons are nearing their respective conclusions. Which explains why the Australian Ice Hockey League's 2016 All-Star Weekend will take place in June. Therefore, I'd now like to thank Australia for developing and promoting ice hockey in their country: thanks to them and the magic of modern technology, it's possible to watch hockey year-round and therefore avoid the dreaded off-season. Also, if anyone from Australia happens to be reading this blog post, can I just say that I'm already jealous of anyone who calls Melbourne home? I've never seen the Melbourne Ice play because I just dicovered them a few months ago, but you can tell them they have at least one fan in Portland, Oregon.

"Hockey fans are a family." - Local Portland Winterhawks fan Derek Harper, via Twitter

Family first. One of our work colleagues just got promoted such that she'll now be our manager, and I'm happy it's someone I actually like. But I feel for her: anytime you put a managerial title next to your name, it means more time at the office and less time for hockey, family and the like. It made me realize that I've never been promoted to that level because I don't want to be. Nobody looks back on their life in the end and says "I should have watched less hockey" or "I should have spent less time with family." Job titles and companies come and go. The family that is hockey is forever. When it comes down to it, that's what matters. That's why my primary New Year's resolution for 2016 is simple: I'm all hockey, all the time. First on the list of things to do: trekking to Melbourne, Australia for the start of the Ice's hockey season. Stay tuned. 

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BrendonTO's avatar

This is great! I’m going to need to add some of these tricks to my repertoire in the new year…

Posted by BrendonTO on 12/06/15 at 05:06 PM ET

KelseyAnn's avatar

Man, I wish I could take long hockey lunches!!

Posted by KelseyAnn from Ahwatukee, Arizona on 12/06/15 at 10:55 PM ET

KelseyAnn's avatar

Nobody looks back on their life in the end and says “I should have watched less hockey” or “I should have spent less time with family.”

Oh, and amen to this.

Posted by KelseyAnn from Ahwatukee, Arizona on 12/06/15 at 10:56 PM 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