Friday, April 30, 2010

To Market We Go to Find the Future of the Portland Winterhawks

Bantam Draft Day was good to us: And, we got some players who may very well win the Winterhawks' prize for most unusual or original name, thereby at least tying our current prize winners and Swiss talents extraordinaire Nino Niederreiter and Luca Sbisa. Check this out..among our draft picks yesterday were:

Bryson Gore -- Forward, Lethbridge, 10th round, 214th overall.
Steen Cooper -- Forward, Cowichan Valley, 4th round, 74th overall.
Preston Kopeck - Center, Medicine Hat, 3rd round, 60th overall.

Inquiring minds want to know: Is it written somewhere that even the smallest of towns in Canada must have a hockey team, NHL, junior or otherwise? I was just plotting my summer vacay to the Okanagan Valley, and I may have to rethink the timing because every town I looked at has a junior or other type of hockey team.

Major dilemma alert: Pittsburgh is playing Montreal in the second round of the NHL playoffs. My two favorite teams and one of them is going down. Alas, once again how like life hockey is. It's so not fair, but I'm still all in for the Penguins and Chicago in the final.

The game: Pittsburgh vs. Montreal, Game 1, Round 2.

The rules: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 482, Puck Out of Sight. Rule 483, Illegal Puck.

At last, a face-off rule I understand: Rule 482, Puck Out of Sight. Should a scramble take place or a player accidentally falls on the puck and the puck is out of sight of the Referee, he shall immediately stop the play, and the puck shall be faced-off at the point where the play has been stopped, unless provided for in the rules.

Next time you're at a Winterhawks game, try this, I dare you: Well, ok, not really but still, I wonder who would do this and why. If, at any time, while play is in progress, a puck other than the one legally in play shall appear on the playing surface, the play shall not be stopped until the play then in progress is completed by change of possession.

Morals of the story:

The game: It's the "shall appear" that I find intriguing. How exactly does a puck appear? Are hockey teams running a little magic show on the side? Also, why isn't play stopped right away? Personally, I think a contraband puck is reason enough, but I'm finding that hockey really is not for pussies, because basically unless you drop dead or get seriously injured, according to most of these rules, they carry right on.

Life: Do you ever have those days where you wish you could just go out of sight like a puck? Just for a little while now and again, I'd love it if I could just disappear such that life versions of Referees like bosses and traffic police and aggressive salespeople in Nordstrom just couldn't see me for a few minutes and they would have to stop what they were doing and go back to a face-off spot and hide until I'm done shopping, turning without signaling or blogging from my work computer.

Next up on 5/1: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 484, Puck Striking an Official. Rule 485, Stopping/Passing the Puck with Hands.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Was a Long, Strange Trip from Bankruptcy to the Playoffs

The games: Phoenix vs. Detroit. Montreal vs. Washington.

So, my team went down to the Red Wings: But considering where Phoenix started, first round of the playoffs exceeded expectations. And I don't say this often, because I am admittedly not a girly girl and was very likely a boy in another life...but here it is:

It truly does warm the heart to see the fans on their feet, cheering Phoenix in the handshake line the same as if they'd won, and to see the Coyotes raise their sticks to acknowledge the audience. There. I said it. I feel better. I've had my girly girl I can go back to using the f-word, banning pink from my wardrobe, home decor and bathroom accessories and logging onto to watch the Brett Ponich vs. Andy Blanke fight for the zillionth time.

And how about Montreal?: I had a bet with my friend Mike about the first round, and I was only right about one team in each conference. But I have never been more glad to be wrong about the Washington vs. Montreal series. I wanted to go with my heart on the Habs, but I went with logic. Never again. Felicitations, Les Habs, and bonne chance.

Back on the home front: It is just under two months to the NHL Draft and tomorrow is the Bantam Draft. The Portland Winterhawks' near future is already bright, and tomorrow we await results from the Bantam Draft to see how much brighter it will be in the long term. As for the NHL Draft, we have 6 players who are eligible and all are ranked somewhere on the Central Scouting List: Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Troy Rutkowski, Taylor Aronson, Brad Ross and goalie Mac Carruth. And yes, I will be sitting home watching the full NHL Network coverage of draft day. Duh.

And, even though I know this probably won't happen because of the draft order and all, here are my picks for where I'd like to see these players land:

Ryan: Vancouver Canucks. Genius playmakers are always in style, but they are even more fashionable when they are roaming freely around my favorite city. Backup choice: LA Kings.
Nino: Chicago Blackhawks. A worldly boy in one of the world's best cities, playing for a team that's just as hot as he is right now.
Brad: Philadelphia Flyers. An easy choice. Brad leads the Hawks in penalty minutes.
Troy: Pittsburgh Penguins. Outstanding defenseman going quietly about the business of scoring a goal now and again. Plus, he was brave enough to serve as Nino's chauffeur for most of the season. He can handle anything after that.
Taylor: Anaheim Ducks. He's from that part of the world, and they need all the help they can get to come back around into the playoffs next year, especially if it's a high-scoring defenseman.
Mac: Dallas Stars. Marty Turco is out. They need fresh talent. And he'd join former Winterhawk and Dallas captain Brenden Morrow on the roster.

Will any of these predictions happen? Probably not. But as I'm finding in the playoffs, sometimes it's better to vote with your heart.

Oh right, the rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 480, Puck Out of Bounds. Rule 481, Puck on the Net.

480, Puck out of Bounds: When the puck goes out the playing area or strikes any obstacles, other than the boards or protective glass above the ice surface, the play shall be stopped and the face-off shall take place at the nearest point on the imaginary line from where the puck was shot or deflected, unless otherwise expressly provided in these rules.

481, Puck on the Net. When the puck is lodged in the outside netting of the goal net for more than three seconds or held against the goal net between opposing players, the Referee shall stop the play and a face-off:
1. At the nearest end-zone face-off spot.
2. At the nearest neutral zone face-off spot if, in the opinion of the Referee, the stoppage has been caused by an attacking player.

Morals of the story:

The game: I will never again be able to listen to the post-game/intermission go-to cliche "we just have to get pucks on net" the same way again. What's wrong with "pucks IN the net?" I mean, really, you don't want a puck ON the net, now do you? And who decided the three second minimum? I say give it three minutes and let them go at it to get it out of there. There's bound to be one or two fights in the meantime...what's the harm?

Life: In life, I prefer to be out of bounds. As often and as freely as possible. I like to be everything I'm not supposed to. I like saying and doing the thing nobody wants to hear or has the balls to do. Living a nice neat life where I graduated from college, got married before 30 and had 2.3 kids with the matching dog, cat and goldfish is fine if that's really what you want. If it is, then run don't walk to that life. But I don't and I never have. Many a boyfriend left and married their ex-girlfriends instead of me because I didn't fit their checklist for an ideal wife. One of them even showed me his, and it included: younger than him (I was two years older) preferably no taller than him (I was 2 inches taller in bare feet), willing to live in the suburbs (I'd rather die), love dogs (walk around picking up poo in a little bag? no thanks) and give up my season tickets to the Rangers because he didn't like it that I went to hockey games with my guy friends (so clearly, that attempt at a relationship didn't work out). Oh, and the ex he married? I hear she's taking him to the cleaners on the divorce...seems she didn't like the other item on the checklist: not minding while he slept around with other women.

Like I said, I live outside the boundaries and I like it that way. Even if you live the nice neat little life and you like it, good for you, but may I suggest you bust out now and again. Who knows, you might actually like it.

Next up on 4/29: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 482, Puck out of Sight. Rule 483, Illegal Puck. Rule 484, Puck Striking an Official. And the Portland Winterhawks' Bantam Draft results.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Hereby Declare That Phoenix Shall Be Propelled Into the Second Round of the Playoffs

The game: Nashville vs. Chicago. Montreal vs. Washington.

So maybe the Predators aren't a rat-squat team after all: I mean, they did have the good sense to acquire Shea Weber, but how in the flip are they only one goal behind Chicago at the end of the second period? It boggles the mind.

On the other hand: I definitely owe my friend Mike a beer. Or two. San Jose and LA are out. Buffalo was just ousted by Boston. But I'm still all in for Montreal taking the Capitals out, especially now that they have forced a Game 7. Vous allez, garcons.

And I'm still all in for Chicago vs. Pittsburgh in the final: So far, so good. Chicago just took out the Predators, and as a result, they will get a second round rematch with Vancouver. Note to self: Get a hold of playoff tickets and take weekend trip to Vancouver to view said game (s).

Speaking of unlikely outcomes: take Detroit out of these playoffs, if you would please. They've won enough Stanley Cups and gotten into enough playoff finals, thank you.

But I am a little sad for New Jersey: Because I love Zach Parise. He's definitely going on my personal NHL Cutie Pie Watch List. I love the story about how when he was little he would go to bed early because that's what NHL athletes did. I don't know if he does that anymore, but it's a good story.

And finally, back on the WHL playoff front: Thank you Tri-City Americans for taking the Vancouver Giants out of the picture. Now mind, come fall the Americans will once again return to their rightful place as one of the Portland Winterhawks' arch rivals. But for now, thank you for defeating the Giants, who simply had to go...and good luck.

Now, on with the rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 472, Goal and Assist Awarded to the Player.

472.a. A "Goal" shall be credited to in the scoring records to the player who propelled the puck into the opponent's net. I love it. Propelled sounds like a rocket scientist scored the goal. Let's face it, hockey players are big, young and beautiful, but rocket scientists they are not.

472.c. When a goal has been scored, an "Assist" shall be credited to the player(s) taking part in the play immediately preceding the action. In the NHL Rulebook, this is simply the last player to touch the puck prior to the player who scored the goal. But of course this is hockey Euro style, so, mais oui, il son tres jolie.

Morals of the story:

The game: This rule begs the question...what matters more, the number of goals a player scores, or the points? Awards are given for both, and thanks to this rule, it's rarely the same player. More importantly, sometimes the assist is even prettier than the goal. Witness Max Talbot's assist to Geno Malkin, which gave them the go-ahead in Game 2 with Ottawa. Or how about Jerome Iginla's assist (while falling down) to Sidney Crosby for the game-winning goal in the Olympic gold medal game. I could go on, but my point is this....not everybody was meant to score goals, but assisting in the scoring of a goal is every player's privilege.

Life: On the other hand, being the right hand man in life is often regarded as second best, also ran and someone who really never got their shot in life. Many of us are not meant to be leaders, run the company or have the corner office. We are better at shooting the backhand pass to the center, or laying down a big hit so the forwards have space to make a play, unabated. But rarely do we get credited with such actions.

We need a point system in life, whereby not only does the boss get the credit for a great idea, you get one too for thinking of how to make it a reality; or maybe you get two points everytime you stop your spouse from wearing ugly clothing in public; perhaps it's a bonus point for telling your cousin his zipper is down right before he gives a big toast at your other cousin's wedding. Whatever it is, it doesn't have to be big, but like hockey, it should be rewarded.

Next up on 4/28: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 480, Puck Out of Bounds.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Shoot The Puck! I Go In The Goal Crease!

The game: Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa, Game 6, Stanley Cup Playoff Quarterfinal.

Why I chose it: Because the Pens are the masters of the comeback. Because I'm all in for Pittsburgh vs. Chicago in the finals. Because this Peter Regin is totally hot, all around.

Now, this is what I like to see: In the WHL playoffs, the Tri-City Americans are leading the series against the Vancouver Giants 3-2.

And I like to see this even more: Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 3 in OT. The Penguins showing how in 2009, they went from 10th in the Eastern Conference to the Stanley Cup in 3 months, under the tutelage of a rookie coach...and why they should never be underestimated. Want to know why I'm in for them to repeat their Stanley Cup victory? Watch the replay of this game.

Ok, so I sorta get it, but not really: I saw this when I read through the rules more carefully. An intentional offside is made for the purpose of causing a stoppage of play, regardless of the reason. Desperation in my general life experience is never a good reason to do anything.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 471, Disallowing a Goal.

Why not just go for a perfect 10 on this?: There are nine reasons for which a goal is disallowed. And I'm pretty sure almost all of them have happened at least once during these playoffs. These include:

471.1. If an attacking player deliberately kicks, throws, bats with the hands or otherwise directs the puck by any means other than his stick into the goal net even if the puck has been further deflected by any player, goalkeeper or official.

471.2. If an attacking player contacted the puck with the stick above the cross bar.

471.4. If an attacking player stands or holds his stick in the goal crease when the puck enters the goal net, unless he has been physically interfered with, by the action of any defending player so as to cause him to be in the goal crease when the puck enters the goal net, unless in the opinion of the Referee, he had sufficient time to get out of the crease or unless Rule 470 applies.

Morals of the story:

The game: First, and most importantly, where was Peter Regin during the regular season and why wasn't I paying attention to something that hot? Note to self: move to Denmark, where apparently they are hoarding some of the world's best looking hockey talent. Secondly, I still don't know how you have time to get out of the goal crease, but I'll be on the lookout, in the event I should see a 6 foot 5, 2oo-some-odd pound hockey player who's fast enough to get out in enough time.

Life: Why can't we have a disallowed goal for every stupid-ass thing we do in life that we thought was cool at the time, but really wasn't? The goal in this case being the thing we shouldn't have done, such as: moving to New York City with a plan, without money and without back-up, perming my hair in senior year, wearing white pantyhose in public, the all-forest green suit (including matching green pantyhose and shoes) that I wore to the first day of my first job in the Big Apple and letting a few nice guys get away because I was too young to appreciate them. In this case, there would be the life equivalent of a video goal judge who would review said action and give me one more chance, along with some instructions for how to pick a nice, reliable boyfriend next time and some photos of clothing that will not horrify the general public.

Next up on 4/25: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 472, Goal and Assist Awarded to the Player.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Who Says There Aren't Any Hockey Fans in Arizona?

The game: Phoenix vs. Detroit.

Why I chose it: Because I'm still all in for Phoenix to take it. Since Phoenix is on home turf tonight, it's the perfect time for this:

If you grew up in non-hockey towns and countries, like Arizona or Costa Rica, and you are a hockey prepared for the following responses if you ever leave and move somewhere like Oregon:

1. You tell people you're a hockey fan. They assume oh, you must have grown up in Detroit, Chicago or Minnesota, right? No. I grew up in Tucson. Oh, so you just like Sidney Crosby and Malkin, right? Yes, I do, but I actually like the sport. Oh, by the way, I know all 87 NHL rules, plus the IIHF rulebook. And, I'm a woman and I'm not petite and scary skinny and cute and I go to games on my own not just because I'm just tagging along with my boyfriend and I have a brain. Oh. And then they just run away.

2. You tell people you grew up in Arizona. Oh, so you must be a big golf lover then? No, I love hockey. Oh. They then proceed to back up 5 or 10 feet, call other people over to look at you and chat amongst themselves, and shortly thereafter they start calling local authorities on their mobile devices.

Now, back on the WHL front: Excuse me, how exactly is it that Vancouver is tied with Tri-City Americans at two games each? I thought I made it clear the Tri-City Americans were supposed to eat the Giants for a snack. Then again, I did also call for the Giants' defeat in Game 6 on their home ice, so there is still hope for their downfall.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 470, Definition of a Goal.

This is simple enough: 470.1. When the puck has been put between the goal posts below the crossbar and entirely across the goal line by the stick of a player of the attacking team.

But this I had to read twice: 470.4. If a player of the attacking team has been physically interfered with, by the action of any defending player so as to cause him to be in the goal crease when the puck enters the goal net, unless if in the opinion of the Referee, he had sufficient time to get out of the crease. Here's what I want to know: How do you have sufficient time to get out of a little space 4 feet by 6 feet when you're going 80 miles an hour into it?

And at last I know why two players can get credited with an assist: Two assists may be awarded when a player scores after a rebound off of the goalkeeper. Thank you!

Morals of the story:

The game: At last, I get it. The game may seem simple, but the rules aren't. Not even the allowing of a goal, the simplest of all rules. Either they shoot the puck, the puck go in, or they don't. Right? Wrong. But that got me to thinking...once again, how like life hockey is, which leads me to this:

Life: Nothing in life is easy. Not even a phone call. It is my dream to someday once again contact a vendor like HP or Comcast or the phone company and not push 7 buttons to speak to an actual person in another country. And I would love to log onto just one web site to make a purchase or peruse news and not have to fill out the "forgot your password" thing because I have too many bloody usernames and passwords. And, finally...I love my Mini Cooper, but my salesperson helped me program all the little bells and whistles when I bought it and if I wanted to change anything, I'd have to take it back to the dealer to get her help. No, the manual wouldn't help me. I can barely plug in my cell phone charger without electrocuting myself.

Which is why I find irony in my favorite hockey player interview cliche: "we just gotta keep it simple." Or, when they get asked how they won: "we just played a simple game." Why we cannot play a simple game in life, I do not know. But at least there is some comfort in knowing that each year from September to June, for two or three hours each night, in cities all over the US, Canada and Europe there are very young, large, pretty boys keeping it simple. Carry on boys... perhaps someday we'll all get wise and follow your lead.

Up next on 4/24: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 471, Disallowing a Goal.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To Ice or Not to Ice? That Is Still the Question

The game: Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa. Colorada vs. San Jose.

Why I chose it: Ottawa could (and in my opinion, should) go down and Pittsburgh will go on. If only Ottawa hadn't scored that game-tying goal and Pittsburgh hadn't had a goal disallowed for high sticking, we'd be done now. But then again..Hello! Who the heck is Peter Regin? Looks and sounds like a cutie pie player that I must follow from now on. Check out this tidbit on TSN's web site: In his bio, they state Performance: Regin is hot. I quite agree.

And P.S.: I'm all in for Matt Duchene to win the Calder. My second choice is Tyler Myers.

The rule/let's try this again: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 460, Icing the Puck. Ok, I get this part: 460.b, Should a player of a team equal or superior in numerical strength shoot, bat or deflect the puck from his own half of the ice beyond the goal line of the opposing team, play shall be stopped and icing shall be called.

But here's where you lost me: 460.c, A face-off shall take place at the end zone face-off spot of the offending team nearest to where they last touched the puck. So, if they last touched the puck in their own half of the ice, and the face-off puts them in their defending -- not attacking-- exactly does icing help them? And why then, would you do this?

Yes, I'm a girl, but: Let's be clear. I love hockey because I love the sport. I love the rules (sort of), I hate refs (well, not really), I love beer, and I love spitting and swearing and bench-clearing fights. I was buying coffee the other day at work, and the very lovely manager/server who was taking my money found out that I'm hockey fan and he's like "oh, you're from Chicago, Detroit?..." No. I'm from Arizona. "Oh, you just like Crosby and Malkin." Now, I do love them, but let's be clear. There are hockey fans in Arizona. And I love the sport first and the boys second. And for the record, my favorite Penguin is Max Talbot.

Morals of the story:

The game: Where is Ryan Johansen when I need him? When I was chatting with him at the pizza thingy, he said something about how icing was a scoring opportunity. I thought I understood it, but when I saw this rule for a second time, I still don't get it. How is being trapped in your defensive zone a scoring opportunity? It boggles the mind almost as much as why I think WHL referee Matt Kirk is such a cutie pie. It's just wrong to crush on a ref, I know, but I do. I can't help it.

Life: So, I looked this up online and apparently icing is what players do to avoid playing defense. If this is right, then we do this way too much in life. Let's face it...we spend more time playing defense in life than attacking. We fend off people who tell us our dreams are stupid, we watch while our bosses take credit for our work, and if you're a tall woman you deal with men who don't like it that you can look them in the eye and forget about above it. It's too easy to ice the puck and give up. Most people live lives of loud fears and silent dreams and they give up before they get to the attacking zone in life. They ice the puck and they never know how good it could have been.

The way we should live it is like this Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa game: they are tied at 3 and they are going to a second OT...because nobody is giving up or backing down. Icing is called in hockey and it should be called in life to save us from ourselves. Next time you think about icing the life puck, don't. It's too easy, and it will never lead anywhere but down.

Next up on 4/23: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 470, Definition of a Goal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Don't Touch the Puck, Don't Look at the Puck, Don't Feed the Puck Snacks

The games: Chicago vs. Nashville and San Jose vs. Colorado.

I still need a verdict on this one: Danny Boyle scoring into his own net -- sort of -- 51 seconds into OT after a scoreless game against Colorado. Did he score into it or did he just make it all too easy for O'Reilly to get the game winner? Inquiring minds want to know.

What's up with this Chicago vs. Nashville game: And why is Nashville up by 3 due to a goal on a penalty shot? And how are they leading the series 2-1? I love Niemi, but I love honkin' tall French captains and goalies like Cristobal Huet even more. And I love it more when they are in the net stopping rat-squat teams like Nashville from scoring.

*Back home on the WHL Playoff front: The Vancouver Giants continue their semifinal series against Tri-City Americans, which is currently tied at 1-1. Vancouver must go's a moral imperative. Preferably in Game 6 on their home ice, with a large scoring deficit, like say...9 -0. That would be good.

*To refresh: My hometown team the Portland Winterhawks lost to the Vancouver Giants in Game 6, Round 2 on home ice. So, obviously the Giants must be prevented from advancing any further in the playoffs. And, their punishment must fit the crime (as noted above).

But not to worry, because here's a super-cool nibble from the Winterhawks' latest news: Nino Niederreiter has been invited to tryout for the IIHF World Championships in May. Is there anything he hasn't done this year? He already became a superstar at the World Juniors, where he helped Switzerland reach the semi-finals and beat Russia for the first time, He played in the CHL Prospects game, is ranked 12 on the final Central Scouting Report, and predictions are running high that he could be the highest drafted Swiss player ever taken in the NHL Draft. Oh, and he was named to the World Junior All-Star Team and the WHL Western Conference Second All-Star Team. Friends, as I've said, if you are not already tuned into his frequency (or that of his very talented and very humble teammate Ryan Johansen), I suggest you do so. Because it's about to get very loud.

Smartest goalie switcheroo of the playoffs: Tuuka Rask getting it done for Boston. Halak's doing a good job for Montreal, but I wouldn't want to be him in the wake of Ovechkin's essentially telling him to man up. After something like that, might as well carry a man-purse/"carry all" onto the ice and just get it over with.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 451, Delayed Offside Procedure.

Here it is, but darned if I understand it: If an attacking player precedes the puck into the attacking zone, but a defending player is able to play the puck, the Linesman shall raise his arm to signal a "Delayed Offside," except if the puck has been shot on goal causing the goalkeeper to play the puck. The Linesman shall drop his arm to nullify the offside violation and allow the play to continue if:

1. The defending team either passes or carries the puck into the neutral zone.
2. Or, all attacking players immediately clear the attacking zone by making skate contact with the blue line.

But wait, there's more: "Immediately" means that the attacking players shall not touch the puck, or attempt to gain possession of a loose puck, or force the defending puck carrier further back in the zone. Because God forbid we should follow the commonly accepted definitions of immediately...such as right now, on the double...or pronto.

Morals of the story:

The game: Is there anything you ARE allowed to do with the puck in this rule? Why not just throw a few more in there for good measure: Don't look at the puck, don't pass the puck, don't talk to the puck, don't feed the puck snacks. Let me say this... I've met some hockey players in my day and I must say, a lot of them were not what I'd call the brightest bulbs on the tree. But there are some brains trapped in there somewhere, because anyone who can figure out rules like this has got to have some intellect. Especially if they are the Captain, and have the privilege of conversation with the Referee. Sorry boys, I will never again think that you are big, dumb, pretty boys. Well, ok, you are big and pretty, but next time somebody asks me, I'm vouching for your brains too.

Life: Have you ever been asked to do something stupid at work because somebody else did something stupid and you had to help them out of it? If you have, I think you'll agree we need this rule in corporate America.

If senior leaders make a foolish business decision and "cross the blue line" with an impulsive decision without thinking about the long term consequences of their actions: The Referee shall raise his arm, blow the whistle, and point the employees who know what they are doing and tried to warn said leaders of the vagaries of their actions to one of nine face-off spots, where they will face-off in an attempt to move the decision back in the right direction before anyone within or outside the company suffers the consequences.

Next up on 4/21: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 460, Icing the Puck.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How the Grinch Almost Stole the Vancouver vs. LA Game

The game: NHL Playoff quarterfinals, Vancouver Canucks vs. LA Kings.

Why I chose it: Duh. See previous entries for details.

Final score: LA 5, Vancouver 4 (in OT).

How LA beat Vancouver: Simple. Anze Kopitar flashing his brilliance with the winning OT goal.

Somehow I don't think this helped: At all home Vancouver games there are two fans dressed like the Grinch in full lime green bodysuits who stand next to the opposing team's penalty box for the sole purpose of taunting the offending player. If I were them, I'd rethink my strategy. 'Cause LA is not backing down. And they are definitely not giving in to Dr. Seuss.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 450, Offsides.

Definition: 450.a. Players of an attacking team shall not precede the puck into their attacking zone. 450.b. The determining factors in deciding an offside are:

1) The players' skates position: player is offside when both skates are completely over the blue line in his attacking zone before the puck completely crosses the line.

2) The puck position: the puck shall have completely crossed the blue line into the attacking zone.

And for this offense, the following face-off rules apply: 450.c. In violation of this rule, play shall be stopped and a face-off shall be conducted:

1) At the nearest neutral zone face-off spot if the puck was carried over the blue line by the attacking player. There's three more depending on where the offense occurred, but here's the one I don't understand:

3) At the end face-off spot in the defending zone of the offending team if, in the opinion of the Linesman or Referee, a player has intentionally caused an offside. Why would you do this? If you get busted, you lose the advantage. I fear I will never really understand hockey in all its intentional offside, boarding, interference glory. But that's ok...because really, if I did, I'd turn into one of those fans who are one tantrum away from a heart attack. No thanks. I go to games to de-stress, thank you.

Morals of the story:

The game: Ok, just once, I want to see a player do this: Stop at the blue line while in possession of the puck, put one skate over the line and then push the puck past it. Then put the one skate back and stand there. Just to watch the Ref try to figure out how to call it. It would be better than watching the fans who are one bad call away from a total breakdown.

Life: How many times are we all guilty of being offsides in life? Not looking before we leap. Running ahead impetuously without thinking or planning. That's what I did when I charged off to New York in a 1988 Toyota Corolla, with $3000 and a dream. Sounds exciting, right? Wrong. Advice to those who are thinking the same: never leave your hometown without money, without a plan and without backup. Someone should have called an offsides on me the minute I drove across the George Washington bridge and saved me from the city and myself and all the stupid things I did. That being said, here is my advice for avoiding being offsides in life:

1) Don't take that next job just because the one you have now sucks and you want out, even though that next one isn't what you want. And if it's the opposite and the job looks really ideal and has that corner office and nice salary, ask yourself "if it's so great, why did someone leave it?" "Could it possibly be the psycho boss who calls you on your vacations and micromanages you to the point where you have to have your emails and the exact duration of your lunch hour supervised?"

Yes, this happened to me once. Or twice. I was in my early thirties, with a college degree and a fancy job title and all, and my boss actually came out of her office as I was attempting to leave for my legally permitted lunch hour and asked "where do you think you're going?" What was I supposed to say? "Sorry, master, don't look upon my hideousness, I only wanted a morsel of food." Give me a break. I heard a rumor after I quit that she never found another person who was willing to eat her crap all day and eventually they found a reason to fire her. Last I heard, she was working as a "consultant" and her millionaire husband was divorcing her to marry a trophy wife. Translation: She didn't have to work ever again and was in fact spending her divorce settlement money on Botox and dating/financially supporting 25-year old starving artist/waiters.

2) If you've already made the mistake of dating some guy because you figured this was the best you were going to do, and it turns out he was dating his ex-girlfriend who he was planning to go back to all along, don't do it again with a guy who gives off the same red flags.

3) Never give up in the search for a decent apartment, even if it means holding out for a little while where you are. And whatever you do, don't give in and rent one with a view of a brick wall, the neighbor's clutter-ridden backyard and a stove that breaks down every other time you use it because the pilot light blows out and you might as well use it for storage.

Not that these things happened to me in the Big Apple, but if they did....take my advice and heed it well, little dreamers. It's easier to get lost than you think.

Next up on 4/20: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 451, Delayed Offside Procedure.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Put The Face-Off Down and Walk Away

The games: Montreal vs. Washington and Vancouver vs. LA.

Why I chose them: Duh. It's NHL Playoff heaven. Plus, it's the first time I haven't either been at a Winterhawks game or listening to one. I can only last one or two days at the most without hockey on my radio, on my TV or on my brain. I tried going longer than that once. It wasn't pretty. It was like the time I got up on a Sunday and declared that never again would I drink wine or latte, go a day without going to the gym, or eat a cupcake. I don't know what I was thinking. But I know I'll never do it again.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 442, Procedure for Conducting Face-Offs.

I didn't even think about this until just now: 442.b. The players shall be positioned squarely facing their opponent's end of the rink, approximately one stick length apart, with the blade of their stick on the ice on the white spot of the face-off spot. That explains why you always tip the puck behind, I didn't know they faced off against their opponent's end of the rink. I thought it was just the opposing players...I didn't notice the rink part. Go ahead, call other people over to look at this entry and laugh at me. I don't care. But wait, it gets better. I didn't even notice that there was a white spot in the face-off spot until I read this rule. Really.

Sometimes it's good to be on the road: 442.d. However, when the face-off is at the center ice spot the player of the visiting team shall place his stick first on the ice.

And if you're thinking you don't need to abide by these rules: If the player facing-off fails to take his proper position immediately when directed to do so by the official, the official shall order him replaced for the face-off by another team-mate on the ice. If a player enters the face-off circle, the Referee or Linesman shall blow the whistle to re-face-off the puck, unless the non-offending team gains possession of the puck.

Final scores: Montreal 2, Washington 1 at end of the first. Face-off in the LA vs. Vancouver game is at 7 pm Pacific.

Morals of the story:

Game: There is no bullshit to the face-off rules. You get less than one stick length into the circle or you don't put your stick in the little white spot, or you fail to report on time to your position, in comes your back-up. It's also the one rule that gets violated pretty much 100 percent of the time. I don't even remember a game where at some point, players didn't get waved out for one or more of the face-off violations.

Life: I want a referee to follow me around in my daily life and substitute a player for every time people violate the life version of the face-off. For example:

1) If you are standing in line in Starbucks and it takes you longer than a minute to order coffee, he will escort you to the back of the line so you have more time to think about what you want BEFORE you get the register.

2) If you are walking in front of me on a city street and keep weaving back and forth because you need to keep your cell phone reception going, thus making it impossible for me to pass you safely, my referee will simply pull up in a large bulldozer and scoop you up off the street so I can go on my way.

3) If I am driving the normal speed limit in a parking lot (10 - 15 mph tops), and you go tearing through it thinking that you don't need to stop or go the speed limit like the rest of us, then my referee will bravely jump in front of your car, put up his hand and demand that you stop. If you are smart and don't run him over, he will forcibly remove you from your car, escort you to the passenger seat and give you a brief refresher on how to drive safely and with respect to the fact that you are not the only driver on the road.

Next up on 4/18: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 450, Offsides. And after that, my favorite... Icing the Puck. It even comes with a picture.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Coach Turned Back Into a Pumpkin Before Midnight, But It Was Still A Great Party

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL Playoffs, Round 2, Game 6).

Why I'm still writing about it: Because the 2009 - 2010 season was the first, last and only year for THIS team. The turnaround team. The team that staged the biggest one-year turnaround in Winterhawks' franchise history. The fairy tale team we will always remember for showing us it is time to believe again. And whose story ended a little too early when we lost to Vancouver in Game 6 on home ice.

Why you should pay attention to the Winterhawks even if you're not interested in junior hockey: Because eight of our players (possibly more, if the Rangers have the good sense to snatch up Luke Walker) will potentially be entering the NHL over the next one to three years. Two to watch for next season: Winterhawks Captain Brett Ponich (St. Louis Blues) and Stefan Schneider (Vancouver Canucks). And one who is my personal bet for entering the NHL early: Ryan Johansen. Anaheim Ducks prospect Luca Sbisa is likely returning to the Ducks' AHL affiliate or possibly back to the NHL. And definitely look for Nino Niederreiter...if you are not already tuned in to his frequency or Ryan's, I suggest you do so. It's about to get very loud.

Note to self: Sign up for the pay-per-view program so I can watch the Tri-City Americans eat Vancouver for a snack in the Western Conference finals.

This is why I love the playoffs: Montreal just took Washington down in overtime in Game 1. LA and Vancouver are tied at 2 and it's also going to overtime. Pittsburgh lost to Ottawa in Game 1 by one point. Phoenix beat Detroit. It's anyone's game and it's a long way from over. I have a bet with my friend Mike about the first round winners. These are my choices: Pittsburgh, Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo (East), Chicago, Phoenix, LA, Colorado (West). I know I will lose, but I don't care. I vote with my heart and I stick to my story.

This is why I hate rules: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 440, Face-offs.

Could somebody at least use some logic writing these things? 440.b. All face-offs shall be conducted exclusively:

1. At the nine face-off spots or,
2. On two imaginary lines parallel to the side boards and extending from one netural zone face-off spot to the other neutral zone face-off spot.

Excuse me, isn't the definition of exclusive one and only? Not nine and two. This is why I needed a math tutor all through high school.

But wait, I think I might finally get the icing rule: 440.e. Face-offs shall be conducted at the end zone spots of the attacking team:

1. When the puck is iced by the attacking team.
2. After an intential off-side by the attacking team.

If I'm right, these two moves are penalized because basically, they are cop-outs when you want to buy time, change players or avoid playing defense. Lame. Not as lame as diving/embellishment. But definitely lame with a small l.

Morals of the story:

The game: The playoffs seem like a long, slow process when they start, but they aren't. For the teams who are eliminated, they are gone in an instant. For those lucky enough to make a deeper playoff run, you still get to June and wonder what just happened. Like life, it's over far too soon and it's never long enough.

Life: My personal hockey season started with a road trip to Everett for an NHL pre-season game between Tampa Bay and Phoenix. At the time, Wayne Gretzky was still the Coyotes' coach and nobody had really taken notice of Steven Stamkos. The Portland Winterhawks had narrowly survived leaving the city altogether. I'd never heard of Nino. I hadn't met Ryan. I hadn't started this blog.

But here we are in April. I learned all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook, just like I always wanted to. The Winterhawks ended the season on home ice in Round 2 of the playoffs. In between, Nino exploded, Luca went to the Olympics, Ryan bypassed all his draft-eligible teammates to sit pretty at No. 10 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters and I spotted Anze Kopitar wandering around the Memorial Coliseum while he was in town to watch his brother Gasper.

But it just started and it went by way too fast. Ah like life hockey is. So here's the deal: Enjoy the party for as long as you never know when somebody might turn the coach back into a pumpkin.

Next up on 4/17: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 442, Procedure for Conducting Face-Offs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Because We Love Them and They Are Still Beautiful

The game: Game 6, WHL Playoffs, Round 2, Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants.

The final score: Vancouver 3, Portland 1.

So down comes our playoff run, but I'm already plotting the future: First, look for a new blog dedicated solely to the Winterhawks come this fall. More to come on that. Also, I'm already counting the days until Stefan Schneider suits up for the Canucks, and trying to do the math on which teams will snatch up the six Winterhawks who are in the running for the NHL Draft in June.

Plus, the major dilemma of trying to triage the WHL playoffs and the start of the NHL playoffs is now solved.

And, it provides much more time and opportunity for this: Rechanneling our playoff energy into hoping for Vancouver's defeat at the hands of the Tri City Americans. Join me. I think we can do it.

Now, as for Game 6 and this season, know this... if you are a whiny stat blogger, Tweeter, etc. who wants to pontificate about why we lost last night, will we ever get another Memorial Cup, the goaltending situation, blah, blah, blah, stop right there. Here's another way to look at the Portland Winterhawks' 2009 - 2010 season:

1) We weren't even in the playoffs last year. At all. Period. This year's Game 7 winner against Spokane will always be ours. More specifically, it will always be Ty Rattie's. And if the Winterhawks ever remove the video of the game-winning goal from their web site or YouTube channel, complete with the huge victory pile at the end, I will march my ass to the Winterhawks' front office, and stand in the reception area crying until I turn blue in the face and they put it back. I don't care if you put in an archive...but do not remove that thing. EVER.

2) Shiny things and big numbers may not be a part of our playoff season, but they were part of our regular season. To refresh: Nino picked up his own personal fan club at the World Juniors, where he pulled a Chris Francis and scored the game tying and winning goals against Russia, carrying Switzerland to its first victory over Russia EVER in the World Juniors. And across town, Luke Walker picked up a gold medal as part of the US World Junior team. Very shiny. Oh, and Nino's one handed shootout goal at the CHL prospects game. We're lucky Mike Johnston had the good sense to draft him last year in the European draft. By the way: A Chris Francis is when you score the game tying and game winning goal, which leads me to my next point:

3) Dash for Cash against Seattle, 2009. It goes like this. We were down by one goal. There was a split second on the clock. Thanks to one of those silly timekeeping rules, Mike Johnston got the ref to put an extra second or so back on the clock. Spencer Bennett tipped the puck to Chris on a face off, and he scored as the clock ran out. Or if you prefer to use the English-to-Nino dictionary, he shoot the puck, the puck go in. People had already begun getting up from their seats to go home. That marked a hat trick for Chris, and he went on to score the game winning goal in a shootout. Nine months before, he had suffered a personal loss and was considering leaving the team. Plus, dude, he also grew up in a desert and is a hockey fan/player. I have to like's a moral imperative.

4) Come two to three years from now, current Winterhawks are going to be all over the NHL like white on rice: Brett Ponich just signed with St. Louis, Stefan (who was never taken in the NHL or Bantam Drafts) is off to Vancouver, Spencer was drafted last year by Calgary, and six players are on tap for the June draft. I'm personally putting early money on Luke Walker beating all the odds yet again and heading to the New York Rangers, even though he was never taken in the NHL draft.

5) New Year's Eve. 2009. Shutout against Seattle. Skating with players. Enough said. And speaking of Seattle:

6) We went 12-0 against them this season. We also swept the series with Prince George, which included a stretch of away games that came complete with an 18 hour (one way) trek to their neck of the woods. Again, enough said.

7) Eric Doyle recovered from a concussion and was healthy enough to return to the line up and play his final WHL game in a do-or-die playoff match-up, instead of watching from the sidelines. Sometimes victory is about showing up. Kudos to Eric for a job well done and a season well-played.

8) There were at least two sell-outs in the Rose Garden this year. I know because I was there. But at this late hour, I honestly forget the games. It doesn't matter. We did it. Like I said, sometimes victory is about showing up.

9) We snatched up Olympian and Anaheim prospect Luca Sbisa at the trade deadline. Even before, you could kinda tell something big was coming our way, because Mike Johnston was way too quiet when he was queried by local media about whether he was going to make any big trades. All his interviews were like "trading? What trading? There's no trading going on here. I don't know what you're talking about." But in the end, it made it all the more exciting to open up the Oregonian and read that a prized NHL prospect was coming to town.

10) The best is yet to come. The playoffs this year were just training for next year. We will be back. And we will be better. And we will be louder. For the players who must leave us this year, it was on a higher note than previous years. I watched every inch of Game 6 from ten rows above the glass and behind the player's bench, and I can tell you that every second of that game was played like it should be: out loud, in your face, and without apology. On that last note, players...if you happen to see us fans while wandering around Portland next season, do not hang your head and do not apologize. There is no reason to. You're what? 17 years old, on average? Please...there is much hockey to be played and more than a lot of life to be lived.

Moral of this story: This season for Portland Winterhawks fans was a lot like the geraniums I just planted in my little porch garden this weekend. It's a little early, and they will probably get eaten alive by all manner of bugs and frost and rain in the next few weeks, but I bought them away. Why? Because I love them and they are still beautiful. Ditto for the Portland Winterhawks.

Up next: The immediate purchasing of Portland Winterhawks season tickets for the 2010 - 2011 season, and the NHL Playoffs. And yes, for non-Portlanders, back to the IIHF rules.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Shoot the Puck! The Puck Go In!

The game: There is absolutely no game whatsoever to highlight here. No NHL match up. No WHL do or die playoff game. BUT:

Tomorrow will make up for it: It's Game 6 of the WHL Playoffs, Round 2, against the Vancouver Giants. In the Rose Garden. We win or we're done. It's that simple. If we go to Game 7, that will also be on home ice. Also, tomorrow is the day the NHL picks the order of the teams for the June draft. Six Portland Winterhawks are in the running for that. Four have been invited to the NHL Scouting Combine in June. All will likely be snatched up, and talk is already circulating that a few will leave us early to enter the NHL next season.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 430, Determining the Outcome of the Game.

What's the same as the NHL Rulebook, in a good way: The team scoring the greatest number of goals during the three 20 minute periods shall be declared the winner and shall be credited with two points in the standings.

What's different, but that's ok: In a game where a winner shall be declared, the game shall be prolonged, by an actual time "Sudden Victory" overtime period. In the NHL, this is referred to as "Sudden Death." But notice, in Europe and international play, they prefer to think of the glass as half full. And they're right. It is sudden death for one of the teams, but that also means that it is indeed "sudden victory" for the other.

Once again proving that Europeans do it better than we do: They keep it simple. They keep it honest. And they keep it positive. Which might explain this, which will serve as tonight's moral of the story:

In the Portland Winterhawks' Game 5 victory over Vancouver on Saturday, top NHL prospect Nino Niederreiter racked up two goals and one assist for a total of three points. When interviewed afterwards about his performance, he said simply "I shoot the puck. The puck go in."

Now mind, Nino is 17 and still learning English and American culture, but he nailed it. Wanna know how we're going to win and force Game 7 on home ice? Wonder how the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to survive the playoffs and bring another Stanley Cup back to Steeltown? Nino's got the answer.

That being said... next time your head starts spinning with thoughts of NHL playoff seeds, MVP Trophies, scoring titles, NHL draft lottery picks, Game 6 outcomes and who's going to be in net for Portland, think about this: winning isn't that complicated. They shoot the puck. The puck go in. Sometimes, in hockey and in life, it's just that simple.

And to refresh, sometimes my thoughts are more entertaining than reality: Nino is also now a licensed driver, if he passed the test. Why do I have an image of him being pulled over for speeding in some zippy little European sports car and explaining himself in a similar fashion to the Oregon State Highway Patrol?: "I step on gas. Car go very fast."

Next up on 4/14: Well, either I will be in mourning because the Winterhawks season will be over, I'll be really excited for Game 7 on Wednesday and/or I'll be totally distressed because Game 7 is the same night as the first night of NHL Playoffs. These are good problems to have...I shall report back.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's a Good Day to be a Hockey Fan

The games: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders. Boston Bruins vs. Washington. Flyers vs. Rangers.

Why I chose them: Because I want to see Sidney Crosby hit 50 goals in the regular season. Because I want to see the Rangers get into the playoffs again, at last. Because I want to see if the Bruins can do this again:

Best play, EVER: Boston Bruins scoring three short-handed goals on one penalty kill.

Running a close second: Steven Stamkos becoming the third youngest player to score 50 goals in the regular season.

And this: The Portland Winterhawks (WHL) have lived to fight another day and they return to Portland this Tuesday for Game 6 against Vancouver. My advice to them: Ignore the fans, the home ice, the game day press and the chat rooms and whatever you did on Saturday, please do that again. Plus, how awesome would it be to play a Game 7 on home ice?

But mini bummer alert: Defenseman Taylor Aronson is down with an injury. I saw some chat room somewhere that it wasn't that bad, since defensemen are easier to replace. Dude, not the one who's leading all rookie defensemen in scoring! I will think positive thoughts for a speedy recovery and slightly evil ones for the tiddlywinks who don't realize that good d-men are hard to find. And harder to lose during the playoffs.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 422 , Time-Out.

So, not just the Captain has the privilege of conversation: 422.b, During a normal stoppage of play, any player designated by the Coach may ask the Referee for the time-out. The Referee shall report the time-out to the Scorekeeper.

Is it a rule or a math textbook?: 422.d, Each team may take their time-out at the same stoppage of play, but the team taking the second time-out shall notify the Referee before the end of the first time-out.

Hey look, it actually comes with a picture of the imaginary line: If the game is stopped for any reason that is not specifically covered in the rules, the puck shall be faced-off at the nearest spot or imaginary line where it was last played. The imaginary face-off line spans the distance between the two red spots on either side of the blue line. So...there's four red face-off spots and two imaginary lines.

Morals of the story:

The game: Today is the last day of regular season play for the NHL. 82 regular season games, 30 teams...and only 16 will go on to the playoffs. Last year, Anaheim was in and Pittsburgh was almost out. Detroit was considered a lock in 2009, and this year Pittsburgh is defending the cup. On the WHL front, in 2009 the Winterhawks' season was done and not exactly one for the record books. Anything can happen in a year. On that note:

Life: NHL and WHL playoffs are like a second new year. Which means as fans, we also have the chance to start over. We can go back on that diet, start over with the vow to eat from the four food groups, stop spending money on $3 lattes...whatever. In the spirit of the playoffs, I will now renew my resolutions to do the following:

-- Watch something other than hockey at least one night a week.
-- Only spend $3 on latte once a week instead of every day.
-- Not use the f-word when referring to hockey teams I don't like. I already did it once this morning, so I'll try again tomorrow.
-- Rethink my personal conviction that extra-crunchy Cheetos are in fact a food group (dairy) and therefore are an acceptable food substitute during playoff games.
-- Attempt to actually be a girl and manicure my nails, put some makeup on in the morning so I don't frighten children and small furry animals, and wear some orange blossom body lotion and perfume so other people don't have to smell the disgusting effects of my occasional hot flashes.

Next up on 4/12: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 430, Determining the Outcome of the Game. No clue what happened to Rules 423 to 429, but this is an international rulebook after all, so we'll just go with the flow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Winner Shall Be Declared After I Figure Out This Rule

The games: Pittsburgh vs. Atlanta. Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL Playoffs, Round 2, Game 5).

Why I chose them: I'm still trying to figure out how Atlanta pushed Pittsburgh to an overtime last time. It's win or go home for Portland. If we lose tonight, we're done. Sadder, though, is that it would be the last WHL game for Chris Francis, Stefan Schneider and Eric Doyle.

This wasn't exactly what I had in mind/final score: Atlanta 1, Pittsburgh 0. Well, at least they didn't go to OT again. Portland had a 3-0 lead midway through the second, which we just lost in 1:37 during three consecutive power plays and three consecutive Vancouver goals. Oh wait...we're back thanks to a goal by resident playmaking genius Ryan Johansen...we're up 4 - 3 at the end of the second.

The rules: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 419, Ice Cleaning. Rule 420, Timing of Game. Rule 421, Overtime Period.

Pretty standard fare, except for this: 421, Overtime Period. In a game where a winner shall be declared, the game shall be prolonged by an actual time "Sudden Victory" overtime period. If no goal is scored, game winning shots shall apply. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if there's a winner declared, what do you need an overtime for? Perhaps its the European meaning of "shall be declared"... as in the winner "shall be declared" AFTER the overtime. Also, if no goal is scored, how can there be a game winning shot? I give up. There may be hope for the Winterhawks, but there is none for me.

Seriously, do we need a rule for this?: 419, Ice Cleaning. Referee has the authority to remove a build up of snow around the goal post or on the goal line near the net. And they look so authoritative when they're squatting down scraping ice into a pile, don't they?

Morals of the story:

The game: Getting to the top is easier than staying there. Atlanta has nothing to they didn't. Portland has everything to they aren't. So far.

Life: I now have a new way to de-stress at work when I'm taking more crap than I get paid for. I will just picture my higher-ups at my cube, removing a build up of lint and croissant fallout around the garbage can or near the line of "floor fur" around my file cabinet. Because after all, only they have the authority to do so.

Next up on 4/11: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 422, Time Out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Never Mind the Injured Player, Get That Puck Back Over Here

The games: Chicago vs. Colorado (NHL). Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL Playoffs, Round 2, Game 4).

Why I chose them: Because apparently, there's baseball games on my Center Ice hockey channels, and Versus is showing the Chicago vs. Colorado game. Dude, get your baseball crap off my hockey channels. The regular NHL season isn't over yet.

I'm the most boring woman in Portland: I'm a little too excited about pan frying the trout fillet in my fridge. But in my defense, I just spent three weeks on anitbiotics, steroids or pain medication, and I couldn't and didn't eat any normal food. Unless you consider whole wheat crackers and Reese's peanut butter chocolate eggs to be normal food.

Coffee, tea, or Boston?: The Bruins are in the hunt for a playoff spot, but it depends on the Rangers and whether John Tortorella calls somebody's bluff and actually starts a fight.

As for the Winterhawks: Did I call it or what? Six is the magic number. The Central Scouting Report reveals that six Winterhawks are in contention for the draft: Ryan Johansen (jumped to 10 from 16), Nino Niederreiter (up to 12 from 14), Taylor Aronson (leads all WHL rookie defensemen in scoring), Brad Ross, Troy Rutkowski, and goalie Mac Carruth.

But let's reflect on last evening's festivities for a moment: If you're a dedicated Sidney Crosby hater, you might want to skip this section. Best move last night: In the last-ever regular season game in Mellon Arena, Sidney Crosby came within a hair's breadth of being the first player to reach 50 goals. Originally he had it, but it was overturned on a post-game review. He's also reached the 500 point mark and is in a serious hunt for the Rocket Richard Trophy. He's all of 22 and in less than one year's time, Crosby has won the Stanley Cup, carried the Olympic torch and scored the winning goal in the gold-medal Olympic game (after being notoriously excluded from the 2006 roster).

Friends, haters, fans and others....what had YOU achieved at 22? Myself personally, I can make no such claims. My big achievement at 22 was surviving finals week and successfully avoiding a hangover the morning after my college graduation. That being said... as for hockey's boy wonder, you don't have to like him, but at least have some respect for what he's done for the sport. We all benefit from it in the end. For example, more public interest in him means more hockey on Versus, TSN, CBC, NHL Network and NBC, where we can watch an actual sport, instead of flippin' baseball.

The rules: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 416, Injured Players. Rule 417, Injured Goalkeepers.

Proof that there's no crying in hockey, and pussies can go home: 416.1, If a player is injured and cannot continue to play or go to the bench, the play shall continue until his team has secured possession of the puck, unless any team is in an immediate scoring position. Never mind that open ice hit that gave a young, talented player a concussion that must be treated immediately or he'll suffer lifelong damage, get that puck back in our mitts.

And if he does try to show what a man he is and come back into the game: If an injured player returns to play before his penalty has expired, the Referee shall assess additionally to this player a minor penalty.

And if you're a goalie, just shoot yourself, because nobody is going to have a shred of sympathy for your weenie little netminding ass: 417.1, If a goalkeeper sustains an injury or becomes ill, he shall be ready to resume play immediately or be replaced by a substitute goalkeeper.

Final scores: Chicago 4, Colorado 2 with 9 minutes to go in the third period. Vancouver 3, Winterhawks 2 about midway through the second. The quirk: Nearly all the goals in the WHL game have gone to video review.

Morals of the story:

The game: Hockey is not and will never be for pussies. My mom likes it because, and I quote, "if you don't like what some guy did, you just hit him." True, I did grow up in a desert, but clearly hockey is in the blood.

Life: What with swine flu and flesh-eating bacteria and the return of smallpox and such, most companies, stores, etc. have adopted an attitude and policies that basically amount to "don't bring your germs in here." After my recent barrage of illness, medication side effects and weird hand thingys, I'm on board with this philosophy. However, even in cootie-fearing corporate America, there are those employees who fancy themselves little office versions of hockey players, in that they come in sick, injured or carrying all manner of germs because they want to avoid using vacation time to be sick, or because they get paid by the hour and it's lost paycheck money.

Here's the deal: Being a tough guy is fine in hockey, because let's face it, who wants to watch a bunch of pussies faking an injury or illness? If I want to be bored, I'll watch major league baseball. But in life, if you think you're coming down with something catching, be a wuss and stay home. If you want to supersize the wussiness, check into an emergency room. I don't care. Just don't bring your cooties anywhere near me. Because if you do, I will not be responsible for my actions and this blog entry will disappear.

Next up on 4/10: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 419, Ice Cleaning. Rule 420, Timing of Game. Rule 421, Overtime Period.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Don't Care Who's In and Who's Out...I Freakin' Love Playoff Mania

The games: St. Louis vs. Chicago (NHL) and Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL Round 2 Playoffs, Game 3).

Why I chose them: Chicago has clinched a division title and a playoff berth. Portland Winterhawk Captain Brett Ponich may be playing for St. Louis next year at this time, having just signed with them after being drafted in 2009. As for the Winterhawks, it's exactly why I love the playoffs in any's do or die time. There's no in between..we either go big or go home. Games on.

Major bummer alert: Anaheim is out of the playoffs. After coming within sight of the Stanley Cup finals last year, sending a record number of athletes to the Olympics, and crawling out of a very large hole to come within 3 points of 8th place this year, they are done. Plus, cutie pie Swiss goalie is still injured anyway, so that would have still put a damper on it.

On the other hand: Phoenix is in the playoffs for the first time since I don't even remember when. And they were in an even bigger hole than Anaheim. And how can you argue with this?....

Best play: Rookie Matt Duchene scoring the winning shootout goal last night against Vancouver to put Colorado in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The only thing more perfect was Evgeni Malkin's back-handed, no-look hat trick into Carolina's net during last year's playoffs. On that alone, I'd hand the Calder to Duchene right now.

Also: I'm off pain meds and steroids. Which means: this is the best glass of red wine I've ever had in my life. EVER.

Ooh, did I say that out loud?: Matt Kirk is refereeing the Portland vs. Vancouver game. I will now admit publicly to a huge crush on said official, who works in Vancouver by day as a corporate lawyer. Not that I would waste my precious free time Googling WHL refs to find out that they work as LAWYERS by day, but if I did...

The rules:

Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 413, Change of Players from the Penalty Bench. Rule 415, Change of Goalkeeper During Stoppage of Play.

So, this explains why some players come off the penalty bench directly to the player's bench and some go right back into the game: 413, A player serving a penalty, who is to be changed after the penalty has been served, shall proceed at once, by way of the ice, and be at his own player's bench before any change can be made. I love that they specifically say "by way of the ice." Like the player's going to just wander out into the stands and meander his way back on foot?

As for the goalkeepers, they are pretty much stuck in their little crease: 415, During a stoppage of play, goalkeepers shall not be permitted to go to the player's bench except to be replaced or during a time-out. Violation is punished with a minor penalty.

As for rule 414: It's nowhere to be found, not even in a list of outdated rules. Maybe it's like 13th floors or whispering "shutout" when it's 3-0 with 2 minutes to go in the third. You know it's there, but you just don't say it or think it.

Morals of the story:

The game: I've said it once, I'll say it again. Give the goalkeepers some space! Now I see why it's easier for them to meltdown on occasion. If you had to stay in a little 4 foot by 6 foot box, with limited range of activity allowed within a little trapezoid, and you could only go to the bench under one or two select circumstances while your teammates get to roam freely all over the ice and come and go from the bench, you'd go insane too.

Life: At some point, most of us get stuck in life's creases. It could be small things like an office cubicle, our cars in rush hour, a small apartment, tiny airplane seats, or the one scrap of a seat way in the back at a sold out concert. On a bigger scale, we take on mortgages, car payments and credit card debt that can make us feel very small and trapped. Except in life we don't get to go back to the bench after we've served the penalty. Continuing on the playoff theme of "do it or else" I propose my own life rule for "change of players after a stoppage of play." It would go like this:

1) During a stoppage of play during which they will be given the chance to rethink their life choices: Individuals who choose to give in and not to break out of life's traps will not be permitted to be replaced by some other idiot who hasn't figured it all out yet...until said individual can demonstrate that they are willing and able to take the chance and seek their dreams no matter how scary it is.

2) If said individuals choose at a later time to break out and pursue their dreams, they will be permitted to proceed to the bench to be replaced during the next stoppage of play by some other idiot who still wants to earn his or her mortgage payment by working in a little cube all day.

Next up on 4/9: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 416, Injured Players. Rule 417, Injured Goalkeepers.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Note to Self: Self-Medicate BEFORE the Game Next Time

The games: Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancover Giants (WHL Playoffs, Round 2, Game 2). Boston vs. Washington (NHL).

Why I chose them/major bummer alert: I had hope for the Hawks until last night. But alas, our playoff run may very well come to an end on the road in Vancouver. As for the NHL. I'm only watching this game because nothing else is on tonight. Plus, with baseball season underway, there's all this baseball crap taking up the empty NHL Center Ice Channels. Dude, don't put your lame baseball programming in my hockey space. It's just wrong.

But this might have set up one of the worst weeks on record: Final score (WHL), Vancouver 7, Portland 4. Before the game, I went to buy a tuna sandwich at Subway and they were out of tuna. The hell continued at the game, where I could not consume a beer because I can't drink any adult beverages until I'm off steroids and painkillers. Plus, I just read that Peter Mueller, my favorite story from the trade deadline, is out with a concussion after producing some excellent results in his first month or so with Colorado.

There's always Wednesday: At which time I will be off meds, on a very large glass of red wine and listening to the Winterhawks take back what is ours from the road.

Until then, back to the rules: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 412, Change of Players Procedure During Stoppage of Play. They should just call this the five-second rule:

412.a. Following a stoppage of play, the visiting team shall promptly place a line-up of players on the ice for play and no substitution shall be made until play has resumed. The home team may then may any desired substitution which does not result in the delay of the game. If there is any undue delay by either team in changing lines, the Referee shall order the offending team or teams to take their positions immediately and not permit a line change.

412.b. The procedure shall be carried out as follows:

1) The Referee shall take his position for the start of the next play, and the Linesman dropping the puck shall proceed promptly to the location of the face-off.
2) The Referee shall allow the visiting team five seconds to make their player changes.
3) After the five seconds, the Referee shall raise his arm to indicate that the visiting team shall no longer make a player change.
4) With the arm still up, the Referee shall allow the home team five seconds to make their player changes.
5) After the five seconds, the Referee shall drop his arm to indicate that the home team shall no longer make a player change.
6) As soon as the Referee drops his arm, the Linesman conducting the face-off shall blow the whistle, which signals to both teams that they shall have have no more than five seconds to line up for the face off.
7) At the end of the five seconds, or sooner if the facing-off players are ready, the Linesman shall drop the puck. It shall not be the responsibility of the Linesman to wait for the players to come into position for the face-off.

Ok, math majors: How many total minutes does it take to make a line change after a stoppage of play? Also, what if the Referee and/or the Linesman are tired and drop their arms too soon? Is there a do-over? Does the team so affected by said action get an extra second to report to the face-off? I'm serious...'cause there's no answer for that in this book.

Morals of the story:

Life/game: There is a reason the playoffs (NHL or WHL) matter more than the regular season. Because there are no second chances. Because you have to make it happen. Right here. Right now. There's no tomorrow. You go in. You do what you need to do. And you get out or go on. We should live this way, but we don't. Most of us play like there's another game tomorrow and we'll get it right next time. In the spirit of the WHL playoffs and the approaching NHL playoffs, I propose that we all try the following in our lives this week:

1) Try something you are afraid of. At the very least, try something new: food, movie, book. Whatever. Just do it.

2) Stop procrastinating. Whatever it is, if you at least take the first step today, you'll be closer to your dreams and goals than you are right now.

3) Believe in the impossible. I stole this one right from a press release about one of our most popular Winterhawks, Nino Niederreiter. It's from a Swiss-German expression that basically means believing in the impossible makes the impossible possible.

3) See through the noise. Watching the Winterhawks play Vancouver this weekend was a lot like trying to tune in your favorite song on a static-ridden radio station. You know it's there, and you can hear it, but not quite. But if you remember the pre-iPod and CD player days, you know if you really wanted to hear that song, you just listened though the noise anyway.

Vancouver got to the Winterhawks early because they got inside our heads and made a lot of noise. Just like life...only in the everyday world we are detracted by noise that comes from other people, societal expectations and constant advertising and marketing in our faces. Surviving the playoffs is a lot like surviving life -- you just have to keep listening even when the static interferes. Look at this way: just like driving in your car, sooner or later you'll drive back through a place where you can hear the song clearly.

Next up on 3/7: A very large glass of red wine, hope for the Portland Winterhawks and Rule 413, Change of Players from the Players' Bench and 415, Change of Goalkeepers During Stoppage of Play. Speaking of math: Also on deck, the search for the missing rule 414.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

No...I Said WIN on Home Ice This Time

The games: Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL).Pittsburgh vs. Atlanta.

Why I chose them: WHL - I don't remember. Oh right, I think it had something to do with declaring that we were going to win on home ice this time. Why didn't I just whisper "shutout" and get it over with? Plus, I wanted to see Colby Armstrong face off against his former teammates, but he's on a two-game suspension for elbowing some dude.

The final scores: Vancouver 9, Portland 6. No, that's not a typo. Pittsburgh 4, Atlanta 3 (in OT). Excuse me, how did a rat-squat team like Atlanta force an overtime on the defending Stanley Cup champions?

So, major bummer alert all around: The Hawks go down. On a Saturday. On home ice. With a nearly sold-out crowd. Armstrong's out. My fave cutie pie Swiss goalie for Anaheim is down with an injury and Tampa just ate it against the Rangers yesterday. Plus, Luongo let in, goals the other night against LA? Just shoot me.

On the other hand, there's nowhere to go but up: The Penguins are in the the final days of their games at Mellon Arena and looking to end it with a bang, and Gonchar and Malkin are back in the lineup. As for the Hawks, how could they do any worse?

Plus, the final minutes of the Hawks game was a humdinger: Brett Ponich ended up in an instigating, misconduct, unsportsmanlike, fighting pile that also involved Brad Ross and Taylor Aronson, all of whom got kicked out of the game. I think Brett might have actually eaten someone alive for real. It was hard to tell....but he did look pretty hungry. But you gotta love Luke Walker - he just played on and didn't take any crap. Right to the end. Look out Rangers fans, he may be coming your way in the next year or so. Stay tuned...he's worth waiting for.

Now I love line brawling, foul language, dirty looks, dirtier words, mitts flying, helmets off, sticks on the ice, who started what and why fighting: But I think the Hawks might have eviscerated our starting lineup due to the fact that most of the penalties happened in the waning minutes of the game.

So now would be a good time to refresh on a few of the physical foul rules (all of which happened in the last five minutes of the Winterhawks game, at or after the buzzer): NHL Rulebook, Section 6, Physical Fouls.

-- Rule 47.1, Fighting. A fight shall be deemed to have occurred when at least one player punches or attempts to punch an opponent repeatedly or when two players wrestle in such a manner as to make it difficult for the linesman to intervene and separate the combatants.

-- Rule 47.4, Clearing the Area of Fight. When a fight occurs, all players not engaged shall go immediately to the area of their players' bench and in the event the altercation takes place at a players' bench, the players on the ice from that team shall go to their defending zone. I'm not exactly sure what happened at the end of the Winterhawks' game, but it definitely wasn't this.

-- But I'm pretty sure this did: Rule 47.16, Third Man In. A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation.

Morals of the story:

The game/life: Home ice does not automatically equal advantage. The Penguins had quite a mighty winning streak on the road this year, coming within just a game or two of being perfect on the road. Ditto for the Winterhawks. I sympathize. I love travel and I never really feel at home unless I'm on a plane, in a strange city or speaking a language that isn't my own. Some people aren't meant to stay in one place. Some of us, it seems, are better in the world that is not our own. If that's the road to Vancouver, BC, then so be it. I trust that 9 goals in one night on home ice in game 1 of round 2 of the WHL playoffs will serve as a turning in which we turn the other way and lay waste to Vancouver. And, as for Pittsburgh... thank god Malkin -- my favorite cutie pie forward who's way smarter than he seems -- is back. That was the longest week and a half of my life.

Up next: Hold that thought. I can't drink any adult beverages while I'm on all these stupid pain and steroid medications, and what's left of the Winterhawks may eat it on home ice again tomorrow. I might possibly die in my sleep on Sunday night from a lack of beer and winning playoff hockey on home ice. I shall report back on Monday if I'm still here. Wait a minute...what am I thinking? I have a month's supply of Vicodin at my disposal...and there's no rule banning fans from taking a painkiller during games, when required under desperate circumstances. Stay tuned...

When Changing Players, Use Your Imagination

The games: New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (4/3, WHL).

Why I chose them: Cutie pie goalie Henrik Lundqvist and honkin' tall French captain on the same ice at the same time? Please. Game on. Portland vs. Vancouver - Duh. Round 2 here we come.

The final scores: New York Rangers shut 'em out 5-0. Good thing I like both sides, or this would be a major bummer alert. Portland vs. Vancouver face off is at 7 pm, Memorial Coliseum. Join us. It's pouring rain outside...what else are you going to do?

As for Round 2: Let's try winning on home ice this time around, shall we? I see we followed my advice and cooked Kyle Beach and his peeps to a crisp in their own house, and I was right about a dramatic Game 7 end to Round 1. It's my new good luck charm. I'll write it here and it will happen. End of story. Games on.

The rule: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 411, Change of Players and Goalkeepers from the Player's Bench During Play.

It's easy, just use your imagination: 411.a. The players and goalkeepers may be changed at any time from the player's bench while the game is in progress, provided that:

1) The changing players and goalkeepers are within an imaginary area limited by the length of the respective player's bench and 3 m from the boards, as illustrated on the opposite page,

2) The changing players are out of the play before any change is made. Bench minor penalty (see Rule 573).

It is my revised New Year's resolution to be able to memorize everything there is to know about face-offs, including when, where and why: 411.b. If, when a goalkeeper leaves his goal crease and proceeds to his player's bench for the purpose of substituting another player and if the substitution is made prematurely, the official shall stop the play when the offending team gains possession of the puck. The ensuing face-off shall take place at the center ice face-off spot, except in cases where the offending team would gain as a result a territorial advantage, in which cases the face-off shall be where the stoppage of play occurred (See Rule 440g).

Morals of the story:

The game: Either use your imagination or don't. If you're going to define the area as imaginary, then don't limit it. Let the little whippersnappers run wild. As long as they don't engage in play, what's the harm? A few extra men on the ice never hurt anyone. Except Don Cherry, who is still blamed for losing a Stanley Cup because he couldn't count.

Life: We need more imaginary lines and areas and such in life. For example, when on the train, other individuals shall stay within an imaginary boundary around my person, defined as at least two bodies' worth of personal space. Any attempt to encroach on this space shall result in said parties being removed from the train for a face-off in front of the train. Winner of said face-off will be allowed to re-enter the train, provided they stand in accordance with the personal space bubble, as defined above. Or...offices for middle managers in corporate America shall be defined by an imaginary area of the manager's choosing, which will include but not be limited to a corner office with a large window, space for a cabinet into which he or she can fit a small mini bar, a large couch and a wide screen TV, in the event said professional becomes bored with their 9 - 5, three-martini lunch, suburban dream/nightmare and needs to escape for a few hours.

Next up on 4/4: Section 4, Playing Rules. Rule 412, Change of Players Procedure During Stoppage of Play.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What Wine Goes With Round 2 of the WHL Playoffs?

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Spokane Chiefs in Game 7 of the first playoff round. We had been perfect against them on the road all season, and had taken the lead in the series 3 - 2, also all on the road.

The final score: I hate to say I told you so, but I sorta did. It went to a 20 minute overtime, and in US vs. Russia Olympic gold medal fashion, we beat Spokane 5-4. Although I was mistaken about the shootout. If the first 20 minute overtime runs out, they just play another overtime instead of a shootout. Also, the replay of them piling onto one and other in an on-ice victory celebration will never get old. Ever.

But still: Can you say comeback? We were down 2-0 at the end of the first period. Led by NHL legend-in-the-making Nino Niederreiter, we roared back to tie the game at 4 in regulation.

Experience preferred, not required: Early predictions and critics had us going down in this round, what with our blown opportunity to win Game 6 at home to take the series and our apparent lack of motivation early in games. Lack of experience was blamed. Forget that. Three of last night's goals were scored or set up by rookies. Nino, Ryan, Taylor and Ty are all 18 or under. That's right... three of the four are top NHL prospects and all are playing in the WHL for the first time this season.

But their experience off the ice cannot be overlooked as an equally important asset: I don't like whiny hockey ranters because they never take the time to see the qualities and talents in players that you will never see on a scoreboard and never read in a scouting report. And it is these qualities of character, grit, determination and leadership that are equally key to making a successful run at the playoffs. For example, did you know that many of the Winterhawks have already been through far more challenging times than a playoff run?:

-- Overage player Chris Francis, in his final season this year, suffered a devastating loss last season when his father died while he was on the road with the Hawks in Canada. At the time he was considering leaving the team after several losing seasons, and was not actually playing. Enter Mike Johnston, new management and a new attitude. In addition to being our Most Valuable Player this year, Chris is the team's leading scorer for the regular 2009 - 2010 season.

-- Luke Walker and overage player Stefan Schneider were never taken in the Bantam Draft and never snatched up when they became eligible for the NHL Draft. Stefan was signed earlier this week by the Vancouver Canucks and won this year's team awards for sporstmanship, scholastic achievement and best defensive player. Earlier this year, Luke brought back a gold medal from being on the winning World Junior team and he is being watched closely by the New York Rangers.

-- Ian Curtis, after being bumped around from one WHL team to another and never building momentum as a starting goaltender, found a home in Portland and twice this year was named CHL goaltender of the week. He also backstopped us to notable shutouts against Seattle on New Year's Eve and again against Vancouver in late January, stopping a way too lengthy losing streak against the Giants.

-- Captain Brett Ponich led a fundraising effort to help a childhood friend who was paralyzed in a pool accident. Portlanders answered the call and some very lucky fans won prizes ranging from signed jerseys to a personal car wash by rookies to dinner with Chris, Luke and Brett. I would have gone for the dinner, but at 42, I would have required several chaperones in order to avoid going to the pokey.

Major dilemma: I can't pick a best play: Nino's snapper to score the first goal in the second period and put us back in the game....Ryan getting down low in the crease with the second goal... perhaps Riley Boychuk realizing that Reid hadn't stopped a shot and sending it into the slot...or maybe Luke Walker's game-tying shot that took us to overtime. But let's face it...that final winner by Ty Rattie with a nice setup by Taylor Aronson takes it.

So, in the spirit of dramatic Game 7 I-told-you-so overtime wins: Here is a refresher on the OT and shootout rules for playoffs in the NHL:

Rule 84, Overtime: 84.5, Overtime - Playoffs -- In the Stanley Cup playoffs, when a game is tied after three (3) twenty (20) minute regular periods of play, the teams shall take a fifteen (15) minute intermission and resume playing twenty (20) minute periods, changing ends for the start of each overtime period. The team scoring the first goal in overtime shall be declared the winner of the game.

Never blog under the influence: I'm taking Vicodin for some weird hand injury that happened while I was asleep. I'm so whacked out I almost wrote something praising Kyle Beach for leading his team to a noble finish to their season. I better wrap this up or the next thing you'll know I"ll be declaring that head hits are ok in certain circumstances, like it's ok as long as you don't like the way the opposing player glared at you in the second period.

Morals of the story:

Oohh did I say that out loud?/Life and Game: I will admit that I had my doubts too, until I found out that we had won every game against the Chiefs on the road. And I almost tuned out Andy Kemper's broadcasts from the road. But a funny thing happened while the players were on the bus to Spokane. I tried, but I couldn't turn the radio off:

-- Because I still believed we stood a chance. Even if we lost, we did it. We made it to a place no one thought we would.

-- Because I hate could have...what if I didn't listen and we won and I missed the game of the century?

-- Because I refuse to join the ranks of nitpicking, naysaying, number crunching anti-fans and ranters.

-- Because I love the idea of being a silent fan, listening on my computer or in my car, cheering from my couch and believing in something bigger than myself.

-- Because a gaggle of 16 - 20 year old boys believed it was possible. Why shouldn't we?

Here's my theory about all those naysayers, ranters and so-called fans who sit in the stands and cross off players they don't like from the free roster they hand out before games. (Yes, I know where you sit and I can find you if I want to. Be glad I don't know how to operate my cell phone camera.). It goes like this:

1) If we as adult fans believe in the impossible (like say, making it to the playoffs and round 2 to boot)... then it means we have to recall what it was like to be young like the players, and to believe in anything no matter what because you didn't know any better and you really believed you could do it.

2) As such... we'd have to think about all the dreams we had that didn't work out or that we sold out to the highest bidder, and all the things we once believed in that faded from our view as life got in the way.

3) Then we'd have to dig even deeper and realize that some of those dreams are over...long past being possible and real. Redemption makes for great comeback stories, but let's face it, it's always better to live it right the first time around.

My parting shot to fellow Hawks fans: In the early days of this blog, I wrote about how even though I think the Philadelphia Flyers are crazy, they play the way we should live: Out loud, without apology and in your face. The Portland Winterhawks will need to play that way to get deep into this playoff run. I have no doubt that they will. As fans, we have the chance to follow their lead by forgetting our own mistakes and leaving our lost dreams in the wind...even if only for a few months. The real question is... will we?

Next up on 4/3: Playoff mania continues with a preview of Game 1 of the second round WHL playoffs: Portland vs. Vancover game on home ice. And yes, I'll get back to the rules. I promise.