Greetings from Portland, Oregon, temporary home of eight picks from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. That includes the 4th and 5th overall picks, Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. It wasn’t always this way. Last year at this time, the Portland Winterhawks were very nearly the worst team in the WHL, we hadn’t made it into the second round of the playoffs and we certainly weren’t home to a small minivan full of NHL prospects.
What a difference a year, a new owner and a few well-chosen prospects makes. Today, I paid out the second of several installments on Winterhawks season tickets. It’s the first time I’ve ever owned season tickets to anything, even hockey. This is in addition to my cable package with the NHL Network and the NHL Center Ice Package.
Since I’m investing in hockey the equivalent of a down payment on a small car, it got me to thinking about why we even watch the game in the first place. It’s violent, loud, bloody, smelly, vulgar and ruthless. No place for a respectable girl, my grandmother would say. Why, then, do I love the NHL Network, bobbleheads, fatheads, beer and shameless use of profanity? No clue about the fatheads and the bobbleheads, but I do know this:
1) Portland’s not an NHL town, but we are home to its future. On the first-round draft day, die-hard fans hunkered down in a bar on 4th and Morrison and waited. As it turned out, not very long. All our hopes were far surpassed when when we heard the Columbus Blue Jackets announce “...from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, Ryan Johansen.” By being chosen fourth, Ryan sent nearly every mock draft out there crashing in flames, according to NHL.com. If that’s true, then Nino Niederreiter pretty much incinerated what was left, going right after his teammate to the New York Islanders. Forget about Taylor vs. Tyler and trading playoff stars for conditional picks in the 2011 draft. You had us at 4 and 5.
2) Hockey is everything I’m not: loud, rude, ruthless, shameless and fearless.
3) It’s a sport where the only way to win is to play the way we should live: out loud, in your face and without apology.
4) The first time I saw a hockey game was the first time my father and I agreed, at last, on a sport we both liked.
5) Even after learning all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook and the entire IIHF Rulebook, I’m still learning.
Everyone has their own reasons for tuning in, but this year mine are closer to home: Ryan, Nino, Brad, Taylor, Troy, Luke, Mac and Riley. They are young, talented, and coming to an an NHL town near you. I’ve seen the future, and this season, it’s the best reason of all to watch the best sport in the world.
And if you’re on prospect watch this season, I’d add them to your list: in addition to Nino and Ryan, keep an eye out for Brad Ross (43 - Toronto), Taylor Aronson (78 - Nashville), Troy Rutkowski (137 - Colorado), Luke Walker (139 - Colorado), Mac Carruth (191 - Chicago) and Riley Boychuk (208 - Buffalo).