Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

We’re passing through turbulence, please fasten your seat belt

When four days of business travel got put on my work calendar during the heart of hurricane season, I knew I was in for it. Last week, the pre-cursor to Hurricane Joaquin passed right up the East Coast, where some blissfully unaware colleauges decided it would be a good time and place for client meetings. I used to call New York City home and my time there was a lot like my business trip: too long, turbulent and a daily battle to keep up with the skinny, pretty people who surrounded me. What does it all have to do with hockey? I can think of one or two lessons learned from life at 30,000 feet. 

Do the math. I spent 10 hours in an airport, 17 hours in the air and exactly four hours meeting with clients.  Dallas Stars prospect Taylor Peters once reminded me that a hockey game only lasts 60 minutes on the clock and it's what you do with the other 23 hours of your day that determines how that 60 minutes will turn out. Mental and physical preparation, rest, nutrition, conditioning and comradarie with teammates all contribute to the success of both an individual player and the team. The same is true of being a fan; you can't survive a season of hockey and daily life without: rest, hydration, proper nutrition and the proper attitude to survive a game, no matter what the outcome. Just FYI: Cheese trays on planes, airport food and a complimentary glass of cheap wine on a plane do not count as "nutrition." Trust me on this. 

Play through the pain.  I like to think I'm a pretty hearty person who can survive almost anything, be it pucks and players hitting the glass in front of me, fights, blood and hockey players sweating right on my newly washed sweater. Hockey can be an ugly business and after six seasons of covering the Portland Winterhawks, I'd like to think I can handle it all.  That is, until you put me in a locked plane at 30,000 feet with turbulence literally roaring outside while your pilot literally flies right through the middle of it. Then I turn into the adult version of the screaming toddler next to me who kept throwing her stuffed rabbit over the seat. What got me through it was remembering that hockey players go through the equivalent of turbulence in every game they play and they never complain. They get hit, punched, kicked, knocked down, shoved, boarded and charged, resulting in being stitched, iced, numbed and wrapped. And then they go right on with the game. Mind, "playing through the pain" shouldn't include playing through serious injuries like concussions and broken legs, but let's face it; it does. Being injured in hockey is pretty much a right of passage. Sitting for four hours in hot air rising and cool air descending pales by comparison. By the time I got on the plane home to Portland, I barely noticed the slightly bumpy descent that started somewhere over Pendleton. Moral of the story: Playing through pain is how you learn to be smarter, stronger and tougher than you thought you could be.  

Get a clue. I admit it, part of the reason I chose Phoenix as a layover was so I could pick up some Arizona Coyotes swag in the airport gift shop. So you can imagine my surprise when I found the gift shop woefully devoid of even a clearance rack of Coyotes t-shirts. Surely there must be something stashed in the back, so I asked the fine young man at the counter "where's the Coyotes gear?" to which he replied "who are they?"  I know hockey in Arizona is about as logical as putting an NHL team in Las Vegas, but the Coyotes are a lot like my business trip; they've survived everything the NHL and the City of Glendale have thrown at them and they're still here. The least they deserve is a shelf of baseball hats in the airport gift shop. Speaking of hockey in unlikely places, my plan to trek to Australia next spring for the opening of the AIHL season is starting to take shape: stay tuned. 

We're passing through turbulence, please fasten your seat belt. 21 years ago, I left Portland to live in New York City, sight unseen. I'd only been there once on vacation, but I was sure that it would be like all those movies I'd watched in my youth. What I found instead was a $1500 one-bedroom in Hoboken, a job that paid just enough to pay the rent and the constant reminder that I was an outsider. Looking back now, the easiest way to explain what happened to me was that I loved New York; it just didn't love me back. I don't regret passing through the most turbulent decade of my life, because it was also a lot of fun and included a front row seat at the New York Rangers Stanley Cup banner raising. That alone made it worth it. But it took leaving Manhattan to realize that home was right where I'd left it: back in Portland. What does it all have to do with hockey? Turbulence on an airplane is a lot like 60 minutes of hockey: nerve-wracking, non-stop, rocky, and if you're the ding-dong who stands up when the captain tells you to sit down, downright dangerous. I only had to live with it for four days. Hockey players endure turbulence their entire careers and they never complain because they know it's all a small price to pay for living the dream. Whether you're trekking to the East Coast in a hurricane or rising through the ranks of junior hockey to get that NHL entry-level deal, the universal truth is the same:  we all have to pass through turbulence to find the place where we belong. 

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jhpcarrier97's avatar

I am glad you went on to write the article and explain yourself cause when you started out I was thinking the article was going to be about your escapades in the mile high club!

Posted by jhpcarrier97 on 10/04/15 at 09:42 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