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 him...it'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.

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