Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nobody Panic...I Have a Backup Plan

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Spokane Chiefs (WHL playoff series) Game 6. The Hawks led the series 3 -2 going in and we had the chance to take the series on home ice. Plus, it was Chris Francis' 21st birthday. And it's his final season in the WHL. How cool would victory be just for him? It had all the makings of a perfect game.

But as in life, the best laid plans usually go awry: Despite several comebacks to cut it to a one goal lead, and a standing room only in the final minutes of the game, we fell 4-3. It's back to Spokane for Game 7. Anyone who knows their personal stories knows that nothing has come easy for the Winterhawks, either as individuals or as a team. It is only fitting that we are going to Game 7.

The quirk: Spokane has won all three of their games on our ice, and we've all three of our games on theirs.

Which means: There is still hope.

Plus, think about it this way: The only thing better than winning at home will be showing them up in their own arena.

Which is why I had a backup plan: Game 7 Shootout.

And since the refs in Portland couldn't be bothered with the rules last night, neither will I. Instead, I will take it upon myself to refresh them on a few:

1. When Brett Ponich smack talks a player who got up in his face with an almost high-stick, that's not holding. That's hockey. He's the Captain. He's taller than a Christmas tree and he could eat you for breakfast if his billets ran out of Wheaties. Get over it.

2. As one of our resident European players, Nino has too much class and dignity to get into a fight and draw a stupid penalty. So just tell the Spokane players at the beginning of the game to get a better hobby.

3. There needs to be a special rule for this: There is nothing I would love more than to see Ryan Johansen throw a punch. Or two. Or three. It would be even more fun than watching Nino learn to parallel park, better than Brett barbecuing a linesman and even better than watching Luke Walker (while still in full post-injury face gear) head butt an opponent when the refs broke up an almost fight. Any fight Ryan gets into, because of its unique and rare quality, should automatically be counted as a clean hit and let the game proceed onward, thank you very much.

And what is up with Kyle Beach grabbing someone else's second star last night?: I hate him more than those girls with the sign, so here's what I propose boys: Go home, take a nap. Take two. Eat some protein (or a ref), do whatever it is teenage boys do to get amped up and then go to Spokane, lay it down and annihilate that first class twit in his own house.

Moral of the story: Nobody panic. We came this far. If you can see the finish line, you can cross it. Here's the thing: If you have a huge "could have" moment when you're young, like say... not kicking the crap out of Spokane just because you were tired and frustrated...it will haunt you the rest of your life. Hockey is a lot like life. And the biggest rule of all is the same for both: Come out swinging and play to the buzzer. It's the only way to live and it's the only way to play.

And if that cheesy little tidbit that sounds like a line out of "We Are Marshall" doesn't do it, think about it this way: If our season ends on Wednesday, I will go into immediate and serious physical withdrawal that will require medical attention. If you win, not only will you be advancing in the playoffs, you'll be saving a season ticket holder's life.

Next up on 4/1: Back to whatever rule I promised before. Oh, and popping open a bottle of champagne to toast our victory over Spokane.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Six is the Magic Number

The game: Game 5, Portland Winterhawks vs. Spokane Chiefs (WHL). Pittsburgh vs. Toronto.

Why I chose them: Game 5 - Duh. We're on for Game 6 tomrrow back on home turf. We're up by 3 games in the series, and in an odd coincidence, all three were won on the road. That's why I have a backup plan in case we lose at home again tomorrow: Game 7 shootout. NHL: Pittsburgh's clinched a playoff berth, so it will be interesting to see how they play between now and then. Giguere is kicking it and asking later between the pipes. Games on.

The final scores: Portland 4, Spokane 3. Pittsburgh 5, Toronto 4 (SO).

Monday updates:

Good news from the WHL afterlife: Kurtis Mucha has signed with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder, the AA team for Edmonton Oilers prospects, many of whom go on to the NHL. He's already got his first win under his belt, in a game against Vegas over the weekend. Yes, Virginia, there is hockey in the desert. Get over it.

Could be a sign of things to come: Game 6 tonight, 7 pm, Rose Garden. We are up by 3 in the series and a win tonight advances us to the next round. It's our own version of the Canada vs. US gold medal game. The winner will either tie it or take it. Here's the deal: I'm no good with numbers, I don't like the word can't and I don't care about the odds. I vote for Spokane = TOAST. With butter.

The rules: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 400, Players on the Ice. Rule 402, Start of Game and Periods. Rule 410, Change of Players and Goalkeepers.


Rule 400, Players on the Ice. Teams shall not have more than six players on the ice at any time while the game is in progress. Bench minor penalty for too many men on the ice. Quirk: Not only do they list out the six players, they show the words in a configuration that mimics their position on the ice.

Rule 402, Start of Game and Periods. The teams shall start the game defending the goal nearest to their player bench.

Rule 410, Change of Players and Goalkeepers. a) Under the conditions set out in this section, the players and goalkeepers may be changed at any time during the play or during a stoppage of play. b) If, during a substitution, the player entering the game plays the puck or makes any physical contact with an opponent while the retiring player is actually on the ice, there shall be a penalty. Bench minor penalty for Too Many Players on the Ice.

Morals of the story:

The game: These rules are like the 9 to 5 rule for corporate America. It's the hockey version of where to be, the rules you have to follow while there, and when you can work-share with another colleague. And if you don't, there's a penalty, just like an office. Except in this case you get to sit on the bench instead of getting your pay docked for being five minutes late.

Life: I need the too many men on the ice rule for fighting my way off the bus, train or other mass transit en route to work. If people getting on the Max train make contact with me or impede me while I'm trying to exit instead of waiting for me to get off and make room, they shall not be allowed to get on the train and instead serve a bench minor in the form of waiting two to five more minutes for the next train.

Next up on 3/30: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 411, Change of Players and Goalkeepers from the Player's Bench During Play.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Spokane

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Spokane Chiefs Game 3 (WHL). Tampa Bay vs. Boston Bruins.

Why I chose the NHL game: Honkin' tall French Captain and Honkin' tall defenseman Zdeno Chara together in one game. Men who meet the minimum height requirement of 6'4" meet each other on the ice. I'm in.

The final score: My boy getting it done - Tampa 5, Boston 3.

The final score on the WHL game: Portland beat the odds-makers and won 2-1, on the road, as they have done against this team all season.

Why I chose it: Because I knew they would.

On a more somber note: Former Portland goaltender Kurtis Mucha, traded in a high profile move to Kamloops last fall that still has some Portlanders, including me, in a bunch, ended his WHL career on the bench. He was replaced in an attempt to turn around the team's series with Vancouver, but to no avail. The Giants swept the series and so ends the career of one of Portland's most loyal and memorable players. I sincerely hope a team somewhere, NHL, minor league or whatever, gives him another chance. He deserves it.

This is how crazy I am about tonight's Portland vs. Spokane Game 4: I'm listening to it on 95.5 and I'm following the live chat on the Winterhawks web site. Oh, and I'm watching the Ottawa vs. Buffalo game because hey, I have to have at least three hockey-related things going at all times or I will require medical assistance.

Oohhhh, I smell a victory and a forcing of Game 6 on home turf: Spokane just pulled their goalie in the first period after he let in two goals on four shots. According to the broadcasters, Spokane is looking visibly worried.

And way to go: Chris Francis, who is playing in his final WHL season, scored an assist on the first goal and scored the second goal. And, he's from Vegas. I'm a fan of any player who also grew up in a desert and either plays or loves hockey. Especially if he's going out with a bang.

I'm thinking hat trick: Chris just scored a second goal.

Six is the magic number: No hat trick for Chris, but we forced a Game 6 with the victory in this one, Portland 4, Spokane 2. And I'm updating at the end of the first period, Game 5. We're up 2-0. Oh yeah, I smell victory on home turf.

Now, the rules: Annex 4, Duties of the Officials. A4.24, Timekeeper's Duties, A4.25, Announcer's Duties, A4.26, Penalty Bench Attendant's Duties.

My favorite highlights:

A4.24, The timekeeper records everything from the game countdown before the game, start and end of the periods, the 15 minute intermissions, actual playing time, penalty minutes and start and finish of time-outs. Also, A4.24 d) In the event of any dispute regarding time, the Referee's decision shall be final.

A4.25, Announcer's Duties. The announcer shall announce by means of a public address system: awarding of goals and assists, penalties, end of penalties, when one minute remains in the end of the first and second period, when two minutes remain in the third period. The Annex 3 also spells out the required wording of announcements. It doesn't include what our guy does here in Portland, where the WHL requires that a penalty must be announced twice. Our announcer has a unique way of noting that "Two minutes to Ross for hooking at 10:12. That's Ross with the hook at 10:12."

A4.26, Penalty Bench Attendant's Duties. The Penalty Bench Attendant shall be responsible for:

1) Providing a penalized player, upon request, with the correct information as to the unexpired time of they penalty. In other words, he has to answer if a whiny player asks "how many more minutes do I have to sit in this stupid ass box?"

2) Allowing the penalized player to return to the ice at the appropriate time upon the completion of the penalty.

3) Notifying the Scorekeeper if a player leaves the penalty bench before the end of the penalty. So who stops the twit who does this and tells him to sit his ass back down?

Morals of the story:

The game: Scorekeeper's and attendants are like middle managers in corporate America. They have a lot of important responsibilities, but they don't really have any power. I say they upgrade the Penalty Bench Attendant's responsbilities to include grabbing the little sucker who gets up before a penalty ends and dragging his weenie ass back to the bench. And yes, I would put "weenie ass" in the wording.

Life: Crap! I am a middle manager by day. I need a better day gig. Maybe I'll trade it up for one of these jobs. Only I could never be the announcer. I'd be too tempted to go "off script" now and again. For example, "That's Todd Kennedy with a major and game misconduct for the hit on Doyle. That's Todd Kennedy, coward and immature child with no sense of personal morals, with a major and game misconduct for knocking Doyle unconscious and possibly ending his season." Or, "That's Brad Ross, stellar player and NHL prospect, in the box again. That's Ross, spending too much time in the penalty box for someone so talented."

Next up on 3/28: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 400, Players on the Ice, Rule 402, Start of Game and Periods, Rule 410, Change of Players and Goalkeepers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Hockey Rules

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Spokane Chiefs in games 1 and 2 of the WHL Playoffs.

Final scores: Game 1, Spokane 5, Portland 4. Game 2, Spokane 4, Portland 2.

Ok, so the Spokane Chiefs are toast with a small t: But still, the Hawks fought them right to the buzzer and never gave up, even when they goofed. We've learned our lesson and we're better against them on the road, anyway. I'm picturing a Game 7 shootout myself.

Best play: Captain Brett Ponich scoring in the late part of the third period to cut the lead. It was too little too late, but it was the sign of a good leader stepping up and flat-out cool because as a d-man he doesn't get on the scoreboard every day.

The rule: Section 2, Officials and Their Duties. Rule A4.20 Off-Ice Officials.

My favorite highlights: A4.21 Scorekeeper's Duties Before the Game. The Scorekeeper shall obtain from the Manager or Coach of both teams the list of all eligible players. He shall complete the Official Game Sheet with the following information:

1. Name, position and number of each player, indicating the Captain and Alternate Captains by placing the letters C and A in front of their names.

2. All data concerning the game, such as location, date, names of the home and visiting team and names of the officials.

The scorekeeper records on the official game sheet the goals, number of the scorers and players to whom assists shall be awarded, players on the ice at the time the goal was scored, all penalties imposed, penalty shots awarded, and time of entry of any substitute goalkeeper. Lastly, no request for changes in any award of points shall be considered unless they are made by the Captain of each team before the conclusion of actual play in the game or before the Referee has signed the Official Game Sheet.

Morals of the story:

The game: The Scorekeeper is like the big brother of hockey. Every minute of every play, every goal, every assist and every goalkeeper substitution is observed and reported. And it's on paper, signed and permanent. No matter how good, perfect, awful or imperfect a game is, it's recorded permanently for future IIHF reference. Thank god they don't have a scorekeeper for real life, or I'd be in a special prison for smart people who make stupid choices about fashion, their hair, their boyfriends, their majors in college and moving to New York City without a plan, without money and without backup.

Life: I want the job of Scorekeeper for corporate meetings at my company. Only in the office version, I will write down the name of all attendants, indicating the idiots and time-waster-off-topic-detractors by placing an I or T next to his or her name. No request for changes shall be made unless requested by the time waster types before the official end of the meeting, and ONLY if they sign an affadavit promising never to take the meeting off topic again under pain of death.

Next up on 3/24: Section 2, Officials and Their Duties, A24 Timekeeper's Duties, A4.25 Announcer's Duties, A4.26 Penalty Bench Attendant's Duties.

Friday, March 19, 2010

They Will Join Us or Die, Master

Ok, so I'm not really gonna' kill anyone, but: You really should join us if you can. Tomorrow, March 20, 7 pm, Rose Garden. It's the first time the Portland Wintherhawks are in the playoffs in four years. It's Saturday and the weather is phenomenal. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

And if you are going to be there: Repeat after me. Spokane Chiefs are T.O.A.S.T. With extra-crunchy peanut butter. Period. End of story.

As I warned, this is a full-on, WHL/Portland Winterhawks pre-playoff hype-o-rama: I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I have a pretty good idea and it involves cooking Spokane to a crisp. And I also know where we've been. It was only 7 months ago we met Seattle in the pre-season, in a nearly dead arena on a Saturday night. Here's the rewind, in case you missed it (aka top 10 great moments this season):

10. Going to the first pre-season game. And knowing something big was coming.

9. Trekking to Seattle on the Booster Club bus trip to Seattle to lay siege to the Thunderbirds from the rafters.

8. The victory over Tri-Cities on Feb. 10 that put us in the playoffs.

7. Being in the audience at the Rose Garden on Jan. 30 for a 10,000+ sellout against Seattle.

6. Meeting the future of the NHL in Ryan Johansen at the Booster Club pizzy thingy.

5. Ian Curtis backstopping us to a long-awaited victory over the Vancouver Giants on January 24.

4. Brett Ponich pounding Andy Blanke on Dec. 18, complete with a salute to us afterwards. Vintage Winterhawks for years to come. You can check it out on hockeyfights.com. Just search Brett and Andy. You'll see what I mean.

3. Ian Curtis shutting out Seattle on New Year's Eve. I've been to Times Square, London and Montreal on New Year's Eve. But nothing rivals a good shutout and skating afterwards with the future of the NHL.

2. Spencer Bennett scoring the first goal to send bears flying at the 2009 Teddy Bear Toss. I forget who it was, maybe Ryan?, who hit one of the bears that got stuck in the netting and the announcer followed it with "correction, six-thousand, one-hundred twenty-ONE bears." I might be off a little on the number, but I'll never forget that little bear coming loose from the netting, and thinking about where it might end up when it got distributed to the community.

1. Chris Francis scoring the game tying goal against Seattle in a face-off at the Dash for Cash, with 2 seconds left, after Mike Johnston got the referee to put an extra second or so back on the clock. I think that will officially be the last time people leave a game thinking it's over AND lost. That was a hat trick for Chris and he also went on to score the game-winning goal in a shootout. Bonus moment: Nino Niederreiter pulling a Chris Francis of his own with the game-tying and game winning goals for Switzerland against Russia in the world juniors, the first time they had ever beaten Russia.

So, even if you aren't coming tomorrow: Know this...tomorrow night, a gaggle of 16 - 20 year old boys who gave up a normal adolescence (if there is such a thing), their hometown friends, their families and pretty much everything else will begin the path to the Memorial Cup. Backing them in the audience will be everyone from elementary school children in the Junior Hawks program, to families, to retired couples to the player's parents and 40-something bloggers who have faith that they will show us why.

As for me: I haven't been this excited about a sporting event since the night I saw the Rangers raise the banner for their 1994 Stanley Cup. And, I have prime Grade A seats about midway up above the player's benches. Maybe we don't have experience, and it will take more than wanting it or youthful exuberence to make it to the Memorial Cup. But we are here, right now, and we are in. And the most exciting part about tomorrow night? As good as it's going to be, the best is yet to come. Game on.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Presenting the Linesman's Version of the Game

The games: Pittsburgh vs. Boston, Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo.

Why I chose them: I would not want to be the team that plays Pittsburgh after a brutal loss like the one last night in Jersey. And I was right. Pittsburgh blanked the Bruins 3 - 0. Oh double crap! Tampa just ate it against Buffalo: final score Sabres 5, Lightning 2.

Favorite play: One night after being pulled from Devils game, goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury got his first shutout of the season.

Back on the home front: In exactly 48 hours, Portland Winterhawks fans will be knee-deep in the team's first playoff game in four years, on our home ice. Spokane Chiefs are up first in a best of 7 series that begins Saturday at 7 pm in the Rose Garden. Now, what to say about this one...oh right...the Chiefs are TOOOAASSSTT! Look for a full-on pre-playoff extravaganza in tomorrow's entry, complete with my top ten super cool things about this season.

The rule: Section 2, Officials and Their Duties. Rule 4.7 Linesman Duties, A 4.10, Two Official System, Referees Duties During the Game.

Highlights: The linesman appear to have more duties than the Referees, at least on paper. Plus, they have to present their version of an infraction or offense if requested by the Ref to do so. Among the Linesman's duties are blowing the whistle for any infraction of the rules concerning:

-- Offsides.
-- Icing.
-- Puck out of bounds, unplayable or interfered by an ineligible person.
-- Encroachments occurring during a face-off.
-- Injured players.
-- High sticking the puck.

Also: The Linesman shall only blow the whistle and report to the Referees penalties concerning:

1. Too many players on the ice.
2. Sticks or anything thrown on the ice from the vicinity of the players' or penalty benches.

And finally: When requested to report to the Referee, the Linesman shall immediately give his version of the circumstances with respect to deliberately displacing the goal from its normal position.

He shall immediately give his version in case of:

1. Bench minor penalties.
2. Major penalties.
3. Misconduct penalties.
4. Game misconduct penalties.
5. Match penalties.

Morals of the story:

The game: The Linesmen get all of the work and none of the glory. They're not really in charge of the game and decisions and rulings about penalties, goals or any other activity. Plus, they have to tell the Ref right to his face "no, dude you were wrong, it wasn't boarding, the player being hit put himself in a vulnerable position." Kind of like being asked to rat out your co-workers in the office with your version of who's really responsible for that screw up on a press release.

Life: I want my own personal Linesman, who will escort me everywhere during normal business hours for the purpose of giving his version of penalties involving my life, which of course will always put me in the right and expose other people's wrongdoing. These will include:

-- Explaining to the authorities why I had to get out of my car and stop traffic to have words with the driver behind me to let him know that in fact, tailgating me and turning on your brights periodically will not make me go faster and get a speeding ticket on my impeccable driving record just because you didn't set your alarm this morning.

-- Apologizing on my behalf to the fashion police for my lack of fashion sense, my even greater lack of interest in makeup, nail polish or hair curlers and promising to them that I will never again leave the house with wet hair and unfiled nails.

-- Pointing out to any man I even consider dating that the following criteria will apply: no second date if you ask me how tall I am and tell me I would look better in flat shoes instead of the four inch heels that put me pretty near 6 feet tall; no further dates whatsoever if you think because I choose to be single and childless that it means I'm totally casual and non-committal too and I won't mind if you sleep with me for sport or cheat on me and finally; of course, anyone who is not himself his own personal 24/7 hockey channel -- for him, no dates at all, no second chances, no nothing. Into the circular life file with you dude.

Next up on 3/19: Excuse me in advance while I digress into an all-Portland Winterhawks entry of positively giddy and thoroughly unbridled pre-playoff hysteria.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don We Now Our Festive Video Goal Judging Apparel

The game: Vancouver vs. New York Islanders. Phoenix vs. Tampa Bay.

Why I chose it: Because there are some very strange people in green bodysuits banging the glass. Because I've never seen John Tavares in action. #1 draft pick and the Green Hornets in the audience. Required viewing, if you ask me. As for the other, see previous entry. Same reason, just substitute Phoenix on the comeback for Pittsburgh.

The rule: I was going to cover further duties of the linesmen and refs, but the IIHF Rulebook is broken up in weird ways, and I came across this one instead:

Rule 321, Goal Judges. 1. The goal judges shall wear officials' sweaters. In the visual aid photo labeled "referee discussing with video goal judge" the judges are wearing argyle sweaters, windbreakers and ID cards on lanyards. 2. If, after the start of the game, it becomes apparent that a Goal Judge is guilty of giving unjust decisions, the Referee shall appoint another Goal Judge.

But that doesn't mean you can't rock an argyle sweater: Just be careful about how old you are, what color it is and how you accessorize. For example, Portland Winterhawks Ryan Johansen and Gasper Kopitar are quite capable of totally rocking argyle sweaters because they are very tall junior hockey players with lots of potential and famous relatives.

Oohh did I say that out loud?: Now, if for example, I wanted to tell Ryan and Gasper that "it's bad enough that golf is your primary hobby ... you really should dispense with the preppy sweater and wear rock concert t-shirts and piercings like every other young person your age"...I wouldn't. Because they are not your average teens and they are expected to be way more grown up than I was at that age, so they can wear ugly sweaters and participate in grown up sports if they want to. Golf, after all, is just a sanctioned excuse to wear ugly clothing in public anyway. Plus, as we all know, my idea of fashion at 17 involved white pantyhose and a hairdo that made me look like an overpoofed poodle, so I am really in no position to judge.

The final score: New York Islanders are up by one at the end of the second, after Vancouver just cut the lead to 3-2. Oh crap, the Islanders just scored again! Scratch that: 4-2 in the second.

The game: Ok, this is hockey, so I want to know how it becomes apparent that an unjust decision has been made. Emphasis on "apparent." Because this is hockey, after all, so as long as it's invisible and not readily obvious, it's ok. Like cheating on taxes or fudging your health history a little to get health insurance. Which all works fine until you're caught. Look at this way...even Tiger Woods got busted eventually. I hope he enjoyed the ride, 'cause that is OVER. Speaking of unjust decisions, what about unjust fashion choices? If I had to wear the same ugly sweater to work everyday, I'd make a lot of bad judgment calls just to get back at the color blind twits/executives who made me wear it in the first place.

Life: I want this rule for people who impede my success at work, loud tenants in my apartment building, bad drivers, people who talk loudly on cell phones in inappropriate locations and public nose pickers who think the rest of us collect boogers too and that we won't mind while they violate culturally accepted social norms at an 8 am all-team meeting. If, after the start of my average weekday, it becomes apparent that other people are impeding my career goals, cutting me off in traffic, grossing me out and generally annoying me, I shall appoint other, more dignified, non-booger loving and polite people in their places.

Next up on 3/18: Recovering from St. Patrick's Day and Section 3, Officials and their Duties. Back to additional duties of Referees and Linesmen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Roger, Over and In

The games: Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay. Portland Winterhawks vs. Seattle Thunderbirds (took the Booster Club bus to see the regular season closer in Seattle).

Why I chose them: Oh please...honkin' tall French captain back in fine form, Sidney Crosby on a post-Olympic tear, Evgeni Malkin back in the groove. Game on.

Their game's in turnaround: As for the Winterhawks, they conclude the regular season with a 3-1 victory over archrivals Seattle, over whom we have now gone 12-0 for the season. Not but a year ago, this entry would have been the last about them, because our season would be over now and likely with a loss to Seattle. Instead, thanks to a scheduling glitch, we will open our playoff run at the Rose Garden next weekend against Spokane, who have the actual home ice advantage. So maybe we don't technically have the advantage, but next Saturday and Sunday, we will. It's the chance to be there as the Winterhawks open a playoff run for the first time in four years and send 'em off to Spokane in high style. Be fashionable...join us.

So, the regular season ends on a high note and the best is about to begin as the playoffs commence on home turf. Oh, and there was a nifty little section-clearing fight at the game last night, between two Seattle fans. Really. I don't know what was more entertaining...Ryan Johansen's crafty little goal off a rebound from Taylor Aronson, or that fight.

Now, as for the rule: Section 3, Officials and Their Duties. Rule 300, Appointment of Officials and Rule 310, Game Officials.

Highlights: The actual officials are very similar to the NHL...two refs, two linesmen, two goal judges, one announcer, one timekeeper, two penalty bench attendants and one video goal judge.

But there are a few modifications, such as: Annex 4, Duties of the Officials. A4.1, Incapacitated Referee or Linesman, Before the Game. If, for any reason, the appointed Referee or Linesman are prevented from appearing, the team leaders shall agree on a replacement Referee and/or Linesman. If they are unable to agree, the Proper Authorities shall appoint the officials. Note there is no mention of "misadventure" as a reason. It's simply understood that if an official would like to have a misadventure, he can do so, but he will be replaced.

And some things never change: A4.4, Three Official System, Referee Duties Before the Game. The Referee shall have general supervision of the game, full control of game officials and players, and his decision shall be final in case of any dispute. Before starting the game the Referee shall assure that the appointed officials are in their respective places and satisfy himself that the timing and signalling equipment are in order. He shall order the teams on the ice at the appointed time for the beginning of each period.

Morals of the story:

Life: Never count a lost team out. One year ago, the Winterhawks were done. Finito. And very nearly gone from Portland altogether until new management and new coaching swooped in and launched one of the most impressive sports turnarounds in the Winterhawks' history. With the University of Oregon football team becoming the new Jailblazers and the debacle that is Greg Oden, Portland can take great pride in knowing that young boys who are just past the legal driving age are about to put themselves and the city in the spotlight and they have done it the right way...honorably.

The game: As for this rule..."satisfy himself that the timing and signaling equipment are in order?" I love it. Never mind the IIHF or the fact that the equipment might be hanging on by a thread, if the ref is satisfied, game on.

Speaking of driving: The night I met Ryan Johansen, he told me Nino was going the next morning to get his driver's license and until then Troy Rutkowski had been driving him around town. I know this isn't true, but why do I have an image of Troy driving around in a Lincoln Town Car with Nino in the back, going "no, turn right up here, it's faster....can we stop for a snack?... turn the heat up, it's cold in here." Now I know he would never do that, but I couldn't help it. Sometimes thoughts just come into my head. And sometimes they're more entertaining than the reality of two teenage boys driving around in a beat up Toyota trying to find a decent radio station in Portland.

Next up on 3/16: Section 3, Officials and Their Duties. Referee and Linesmen Duties continued.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It Takes More than an Imaginary Line to Measure Up

The games: Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey, Tampa Bay vs. Washington, Portland Winterhawks vs. Chilliwack Bruins (WHL).

Why I chose them: Ummm, let's see, how do I explain this? Oh right... duh.

The rules: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 250, Puck. Rule 260, Measurement of Equipment.

You can go green if you want to: 250.a, The "Puck" shall be made of vulcanized rubber (same as NHL) or other material approved by the IIHF and be primarily black in color.

Do the math. I dare you: 250.b, The dimensions of the puck shall not exceed:

Diameter - 7.62 cm
Thickness - 2.54 cm
Weight - 156 to 170 gms

Final scores: Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2. Devils 3, Penguins 1. Crap! Chilliwack just scored at 2:38. Oh wait, now we're talking...Taylor Peters just scored. Less than three minutes in and this is a hockey game with a capital H.

What? No imaginary line?: 260.a, The Referee may, at any time and at his own discretion, measure any equipment. 260.b, The Captain of a team may make a formal complaint against a specific dimension of any equipment. The Referee shall make the necessary measurement immediately. However, no goal shall be disallowed as a result of any measurement. Like the NHL, if the complaint is not sustained, the requesting team gets a bench minor. Likewise, if it is, the guilty player is given a bench minor. This differs from the NHL Rulebook in that there is no specification that illegal equipment must be taken to the penalty bench for the remainder of the game.

But if you were thinking you'd outsmart a 5-on-3 Power Play, forget it: 260.d, If a Captain of the team that is two men short in the last two minutes of the game or at any time in overtime, requests an equipment measurement that proves to be legal equipment following the measurement, the Referee shall award to the non-offending team a penalty shot.

Morals of the story:

The game: I want to interview the expert who can tell me how, in a fast game like hockey with all the talent that the NHL is currently hoarding, you'd even know the other team was playing with illegal equipment. I can see it if one guy is scoring a whole lotta' goals without really making an effort... then that's definitely questionable. And, I can see why a team that's already at a disadvantage in a 5-on-3 would take the chance and call the other team out. But why else would you do it? If you're wrong and it's not sustained, the penalty's on you.

Perhaps another pizza thingy with the Winterhawks will reveal all. After all, it only took Ryan Johansen mentioning "scoring chance" for me to get the icing thing. Perhaps after a few slices of pepperoni with extra cheese, I will get it. But since the next pizza thing isn't until well into next season, make a note to check back later, on the off chance I ever figure this one out.

Life: What if, before you left your house every morning, a referee came to your house to be sure you measured up, and if you didn't, you'd be penalized? I'm thinking of things like fashion (or lack thereof), how clean (or not) your car is and whether or not you bothered to make your bed before leaving the house. If we were given a bench minor for such offenses, would we think twice before leaving the house with hair wet from the shower and no makeup? Would we put the ugly dancing Santa holiday sweater down and walk away?

As a grown up Garanimal, I would be so totally busted if we did. I'd never get out of the house. I'd set the League record for bench minor penalties for leaving my bed in disarray, not bothering to blow dry my hair because it's raining outside and what's the point, and wearing questionable fashion ensembles that would cause other people to get into car accidents and text their friends in horror ("OMG. I just saw a woman in shoulder pads, white pantyhose and a green suede handbag with fringe. She's heading towards 3rd and Jefferson.")

The future starts now: I'm off to Seattle tomrrow for the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club bus trip to watch the last regular season game. For the first time in far too long, the best is yet to come as we prepare to enter the playoffs. Home ice advantage has yet to be determined, but if even one game is played in the Rose Garden, it will be one more than last year. Join us if you can. You won't be disappointed.

Next up on 3/14: Section 3, Officials and Their Duties. Rule 300, Appointment of Officials.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rule 88: No Bumps to the Noggin. Period. Exclamation Point.

The games: Portland Winterhawks vs. Everett Silvertips (3/9). Chicago vs. LA Kings (3/10).

Why I chose them: They chose me. It was the last Winterhawks home game in the regular season. LA vs. Chicago is like picnic time for grown up hockey teddy bears. Cristobal Huet, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Anze Kopitar together on the ice. No other motive required.

Back on the home front: We blanked Everett 3-0 and it was Mac Carruth's first career shutout. Most importantly, the power play didn't suck. Also, pooh to the ref who broke up that almost fight between Ryan Johansen and Rissanen. It's not like Ryan starts a fight every three seconds...that's what would have made it so cool. When nice Canadian boys who generally stay out of the fray go for it, I say get out of the way and let us enjoy the moment.

Detour ahead, for tonight: I was going to write about the next rule in the IIHF, but head hits are on top of mind for the NHL, and they are definitely on my mind, so pardon me while I digress for this entry.

Here's the new proposed rule that emerged from the NHL's GM meeting: The vote was unanimous on this one. "A lateral, back pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or is the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

Extra note about why this is important: Rules in the NHL Rulebook do not say "don't do something or its not permitted, banned, etc." They just define the offense (boarding, clipping, charging, etc.) and outline the penalty. But intent and harm and/or injury do result in more serious penalties or supplemental discipline.

Why this will not likely be an easy one to implement and enforce: Telling players they can't hit another in any manner is a lot like telling kids they can go in the toy store, but you won't buy them anything. Even though many players probably agree that head hits are not cool, dude, I'm sure there is also a bit of ire about "where is the line drawn?"

Now as we all know: I love a good clean hit. Fighting is my favorite rule to see broken. I encourage full-on line brawls with mitts flying and jerseys off and helmets on the ice. I love watching guys go at it in unmitigated macho BS when they're tied at 3 in the third with 15 seconds to go. But head hits are not clean, they are not necessary and they are not cool, dudes.

Here's the thing: Players who are good enough to get into the NHL as early-round draft picks, get a good deal with a good team and stay there are good enough to find a better way to win. Head hits are the mother of all cheap shots, which I hate with an unmitigated passion. But there is a bigger reason that I hate them, which transcends the game. Here it is:

Here in Portland, we are privileged to watch the future of the NHL live and in person several nights a week. I want to see those players go on to play in the League for many years to come and live up to their full potential. Head hits are not a "sit home and take some aspirin and do some physical therapy and we'll see how you are in a few days" injury. They are life threatening, career ending and permanently brain damaging. Whether someone is hit early in their junior career or later when they get to the NHL, if it's hard enough and serious enough, you're done. In the junior league, players are an average of 17 years old. Their lives haven't even started, their dreams haven't been realized and one serious head hit can end it all. Goodbye NHL dreams, hello "would you like fries with that?"

So, if that's not enough for you, think about it this way: As fans, we are also robbed when a player goes down from bumps to the noggin. I want to watch my favorite players play as much as I can, for as long as I can. When somebody goes down due to post-concussion syndrome, especially early in their career, we are left only to wonder how far they could have gone and how much athletic greatness they might have achieved. "Could have, should have, would have" is no way to live life and it's no way to play hockey.

We know whereof we speak: Portland recently had an unfortunate front row seat to this issue when defenseman Eric Doyle went down hard at a Tri-Cities game. Todd Kennedy has been suspended for seven games, but Eric may be out for longer. Why shouldn't Tri-Cities lose their player for as long as we lose ours? At a minimum. But it's still not enough. What if Eric has sustained long-term damage? No punishment will ever fix that. He is up and moving around in the bleachers at recent games, so hopefully he will be alright. In this case, it's also brutal because this is his final season in the WHL and it may well be over.

Here's my suggestion for punishment in the WHL, which I say we test out if we have to play the Tri-City Americans again during the playoffs: If Todd Kennedy shows up on our ice again during the playoffs, I vote for a full scale public shaming in place of the suspension. Instead of kicking him out for seven games, his teammates will be ordered by the WHL to ignore him in the locker room, not speak to him on the bus, not call or text him to see if he wants to hang out in off hours and not share food with him at team dinners for the full duration of the time it takes Eric Doyle to recover. A suspension sends a message to other players that they shouldn't follow his example, but a punishment that sends a message to the offending player he's a coward: priceless.

Next up on 3/12: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 250, Puck. Rule 260, Measurement of Equipment.

Monday, March 8, 2010

When in Doubt, Colour Coordinate

The games: Portland Winterhawks vs. Tri-City Americans. Montreal vs. Anaheim.

Best play: Winterhawks' rookie defenseman and NHL prospect we should all pay more attention to Taylor Aronson scoring the difference-making goal in the waning seconds of the second period.

Why I love the Walker-Francis-whoever line: They never give up on a play or a scoring chance or anything else, for that matter. Ever. Period. Exclamation point.

Hey look, there is sportsmanship in hockey: Jordan Staal stepped forward after the Rangers game to admit that he didn't touch the puck in the game winning goal. The goal was eventually credited correctly to Evgeni Malkin.

I told you so: Final score Portland Winterhawks 6, Tri-City Americans 3 = T-O-A-S-T.

Reason you should brave the Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday night: It is the last regular season home game and the last time Chris Francis and Stefan Schneider play on home ice during the regular season. It's not the "last" last time: We'll see them again in the playoffs, which get underway next week. But still, it's a milestone and we should still be there to send them all off to the last road games of the season and the playoffs in style.

I'm averting my eyes: Anaheim went down to Montreal in a heart-breaking shootout, where Jonas Hiller had the puck, let it go and it slipped behind him into the net. Their battle to fight back to the number 8 spot and get into the playoffs slipped just a little further away.

The rule: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 240, Uniforms.

Choice tidbits: 240.a. All players from each team shall be dressed uniformly in sweaters, pants, stockings and helmets (except for the goalkeeper who is permitted to wear a helmet of a different colour to the rest of the team). Sweaters, including the sleeves, and stockings shall be of the same colour.

I would not want to be the team that has to do this: If, in the opinion of the Referee, the uniform colours of the competing teams are so similar that there is the possibility of miscalling a penalty, it is the responsibility of the home team to change their sweaters, if ordered to do so by the Referee.

So, no mullets then?: If player's hair is long and obscures the name plate or number on the sweater, the hair shall be worn in a pony tail or under the helmet.

The morals of the story:

The game: Stockings? Why do I suddenly have an image of grown men in lederhosen doing the chicken dance at the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest? On the other hand, there's no rule about webbing, so presumably it's ok to dress like Spider-Man in European competitions. The whole matching thing is like Garanimals for hockey. If your team has an animal as its mascot, even better. Zebra pants go with Zebra sweaters and Zebra stockings. Perfect.

Life: I must say, the one good thing about working in Corporate America is that at least you get to choose your own wardrobe, but there are some people that let's just say, could use a little help from the IIHF. If you see either of the following running amok around the water cooler, perhaps you could suggest the matching pants, stockings and sweater scheme to them:

1) Young people who don't know yet that just because you were smart enough to wear the tie and business shirt, doesn't mean you can get away with accessorizing it with pink hair and two or three nose rings.

2) Their polar opposite...any man near retirement who has given up altogether and is wearing a large oversized sweater over the beer belly and loose pants, with the one gray hair that's hanging on for dear life wrapped around his head three or four times...and a desk that if fire inspectors ever saw it, they would have to cite the company for multiple violations.

Oh, and by the way, note to naysayers who don't think much of the Portland Winterhawks' playoff chances: How do I put this so as to be polite? Oh right. This is hockey. Never mind. Who cares if we only make it a few games in? WE ARE IN! We are officially turned around from where we were last year, which if I recall correctly was nowhere. Personally, I bought my playoff tickets already and I have budgeted for additional charges. I suggest you join me.

Next up on 3/10: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 250, Puck. Rule 260, Measurement of Equipment.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Here Today, Toast Tomorrow

The game: Phoenix vs. Colorado.

Why I chose it: Newly traded Avalance forward Peter Mueller faces off against the team he played for only days ago. Funny how the trade works. You're here one day, and literally gone tomorrow. I like him, so I hope the fresh start will deservedly jump start his career.

For Portland Winterhawks fans: Repeat after me. Tri-City Americans are toast.

For Portland Winterhawks players: Repeat after me. Tri-City Americans are toast. No excuses. No exceptions. Here's the thing: nobody can get inside your head unless you let them. But just in case...If we must allow three goals into our net in rapid succession, could we wait at least 5 minutes in between them? And maybe if we could slip our own goal into theirs in between that to even it up, most appreciated.

And no, I don't care if there's a huge line brawl at the end of the game with mitts flying and total carnage and swear words I've never heard of. In fact, I'm counting on it. Well, that and a bigger number on our side of the score board. Go forth and conquer boys. Have faith and know that Portland will be behind you.

Final score: Phoenix 3, Colorado 1.

The rule: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 230, Goalkeeper's Equipment.

I didn't make this up, it's right here in the book: Abdominal aprons, extending down the front of the thighs on the outside of the pants, are prohibited. I would certainly hope so. It's a hockey game, not an episode of Iron Chef America.

Oh and backing up just a second: Rule 227, Mouth Guard. 227.b. All players in the age category under 20, and not wearing a full face mask, shall wear a custom made mouth guard. I didn't even think about the custom made part. I just thought everyone got the same mouth guard/chew toy that they then proceed to literally chew up and spit out and replace every week or so.

The morals of the story:

The game: The goalkeepers have to wear a freakin' lot of equipment, including special "goalkeeper's skates" of approved design. It's the hockey equivalent of being a woman, only we have to wear pantyhose, bras, skirts, jewelry and handbags of approved design. On the other hand, if they didn't, hockey teams would have to employ about five or six backups to fill in everytime the number one guy got clocked by a slap shot.

Life: Speaking of uncomfortable office professional wear, I think there should be a similar rule for working professionals. Only in my rule, I would ban more things than I'd allow. For example: 1) On women, orthopedically correct but ugly shoes will be banned at all times unless said individual has a note from a doctor that said footwear is necessary. 2) No suits that look like you stole them from your husband and just wore jewelry to make it look like it's a girlsuit. 3) No evil eyes on other women just because they wore high heels and a skirt that actually make them look a woman and not a man with dyed hair and a pearl necklace.

Next up on 3/7: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 240, Uniforms.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Strap In and Warm Up ...or Else

The game: Colorado vs. Anaheim, the former with newly acquired forward Peter Mueller in tow.

Why I chose it: Cutie pie goalie is back, all Olympians are present and accounted for, and Portland Winterhawk/Anaheim Ducks prospect Luca Sbisa was just recognized in the pre-game ceremony. Do I need another reason? I think not.

For Portland Winterhawks players: Ok, let's try this again. Saturday Night, Rose Garden, 7 pm: Tri-City Americans are toast. T-O-A-S-T. Toast. With extra crunchy peanut butter. Here's my theory: I don't know squat about defensive plays or overplaying goaltending or not creating scoring chances or whatever else is out there in bloggerville. They got inside the net because they got inside your heads. Figure out how to put a stop to that, and the rest will follow. And if you could put a stop to it before Saturday, that would be preferable.

The rule: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 223, Player's Helmet.

I don't recall seeing this in the NHL Rulebook: 223.a) During the game and during the game warm-up, all players shall wear a hockey helmet with chin strap properly fastened. 223.b) Where a player(s) fail to wear a helmet during the pre-game warm-up in International competition, the standby Referee shall report to the Chairman who shall report to the Directorate or the IIHF Disciplinary Committee. In National competitions, the procedure shall follow the national association rules in this matter.

This is better than the imaginary line: 223.c. A helmet shall be worn so that the lower edge of the helmet is not more than one finger-width above the eyebrows, and there shall only be enough room between the strap and chin to insert one finger.

So, I guess Nino Niederreiter was in violation when he pulled off that one-handed goal sans mitt in the skills game at the CHL Top Prospects Game: Rule 225, Players' Gloves. The players' gloves shall cover hand and wrist and their palm shall not be removed to permit the use of bare hands. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google Nino, Portland Winterhawks and CHL Top Prospects Game or do the same on YouTube. You'll see what I mean.

Final score: Anaheim 2, Avalanche 2 with 4:30 to go in the second period.

Morals of the story:

The game: So, whose finger did they use when deciding on the helmet measurement? The honkin' big Sasquatch whose mitts are the size of footballs or little bony skinny fingers from an anorexic vegan supermodel in training who needed some extra cash and saw an ad in the paper that said "skinny hands wanted?"

Life: I'm a terrible morning person, so I need the pre-game warm-up rule to keep my weenie ass in line. Only in my case it would go something like this: If a single professional who has no kids and no dog to walk and no friends to call at 7 am cannot get his or her crap together and out the door in one piece with hair blow dried and minty fresh breath and coffee already made to put in the little portable mug you bought to save $20 a week at Starbucks by 8 am each weekday morning, so you can walk to the bus stop that's a mere 2 minutes from your apartment, said offense shall be reported to the Directorate for immediate disciplinary action, which will consist of said individual being dragged each morning at O Dark Thirty to an hour long boot camp workout, followed by special forces training on how to make your bed, style your hair and turn the auto-drip coffee pot on -- unaided by self-medication -- before 7 am.

Next up on 3/4: Section 2, Teams, Players and Equipment. Rule 230, Goalkeeper's Equipment.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Have Full Face Gear, Will Travel

The game: Colorado vs. Detroit.

Why I chose it: The NHL is back in action and in the playoff hunt. This is the only game on tonight.

And here in Portland: We face the Tri-City Americans tomorrow night, this time in the Rose Garden. Better venue, better food, better beer, better opportunities for all-out vengeance. Yes, they have our number. On speed dial. But that doesn't mean we need to let them dial it. I said it before and it worked and we won the one game against them, so I'll say it again: Tri-City Americans are Toast. T-O-A-S-T. Toast. With extra crunchy peanut butter.

The rule/I always wondered about this: Rule 224, Player's Face Mask and Visor. 224.b. All players born after December 31, 1974 shall wear, at a minimum, a visor. 224.e. Players and goalkeepers in the category under 18 years and younger shall wear a full face mask. The mask must be constructed so sticks and pucks can't get through. Rule 226.b. Players and goalkeepers in the category 18 years and younger shall wear a neck and throat protector. Rule 224 applies for players:
Born in 1989 - for season 2006-2007.
Born in 1990 - for season 2007 - 2008.
Born in 1991 - for season 2008 - 2009.
Born in 1992 - for season 2009 - 2010.

Best reason for wearing a full face mask that isn't in this rule: Portland Winterhawk Luke Walker, who trekked to the US World Junior tryouts a mere week after being clocked by a puck and enduring what his coaches called the worst injury they'd ever seen. And with what must have been a monster headache and a metal plate in his face, but who still got on the team even after they almost kicked him out of a scrimmage. Did he get a lot of ice time? No. Did he score a lot of goals? I don't recall that he did. Nor did he need to. He went, he beat all the odds, he played, he brought the bling back to Portland. If that doesn't impress you, I don't know what will.

That's enough to impress me, but then again, if that was me I would have moved to a closet with a Walmart sized bag of Reese's peanut butter eggs, a case of wine, a few illegally obtained Vicodins and a very large blanket under which to hide in the event someone actually found me in my secret hiding place. And I wouldn't come out until it all blew over and the sugar rush/Vicodin coma combination wore off. So perhaps I'm not the best person to judge. But still, he could have chosen to bag it and sit on a couch watching re-runs and slurping his holiday dinner through a straw, but he took the path of most resistance. And so, I will file it in my top 10 list of the bravest things I've ever seen.

Final score: Colorado 2, Detroit 2 at 15:00 in the third period.

Morals of the story:

The game: I love it. They make you wear all this face and neck protection as a minor, but the minute you turn 18, good luck and stay out of the line of fire. And if you are returning from a world competition to the WHL in the US and Canada, you can go right back to wearing a mere visor and getting clocked by clearing shots. Plus, how can players get in a serious fight with all that gear on? Half the point of watching a game is lost. Speaking of fights, Portlanders who weren't at the Memorial Coliseum missed one hell of an ending to the third period. It was very nearly a full-scale line brawling misconduct, instigator, unsportsmanlike tangle of foul language, shoving, dirty looks, dirtier words and full-on carnage. Now, I know I shouldn't be condoning such behavior in impressionable young boys, but let's face it. It was really cool. I say let 'em go and sort it out later.

Life: How hilarious would it be if executives in corporate America had to wear some form of a helmet/face gear in meetings? Only instead of age being the determining factor, it would be based on your title and how responsible you are for other people's crap. Say, if you're me for example and you are responsible for the outcome of projects and building stong media relationships, but the buck stops higher up with my directors - maybe I'd just have to wear a visor and no neck protector. But for the presidents and VPs and what not, who have to take all the blame if other people whiff it and as a result tend to go right for each other's throat in an attempt to assign blame elsewhere - definitely full face gear for them.

Next up on 3/3: Going backwards a bit to Rule 223, Player's Helmet.