Saturday, October 30, 2010

Do the Kelowna Rockets Like Butter On Their Toast?

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Kelowna Rockets (WHL).

The score: Portland 4, Kelowna 2.

The news: Nino Niederreiter is back. His line with Brad Ross and Ryan Johansen is therefore back. Note to self: Book plane tickets for the Memorial Cup final.

Want to know why this line is so special?: Personally, I recommend meeting them. If that's not possible, visit YouTube and for bites and bits on the number 4, 5 and 43 draft picks from 2010. Here's the choice tidbits I've rounded up since meeting them and their parents:

Brad: I spoke to his father last night about the best or most important advice he gave Brad growing up. If you've seen him play, you know there's a reason Brian Burke was willing to trade something else away to draft Ross at #43. He's agressive, fearless and loyal to his teammates on the ice. But meeting him will tell you something you might not expect: according to his father he's "a total teddy bear." And I couldn't agree more. His father taught him well: know the difference between when it's ok and necessary to be aggressive to make things happen on the ice, and when to leave it behind off the ice. Be on lookout Toronto fans, something very special is coming your way.

Ryan: Growing up, the number 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft was all hockey, all the time. Yet, even when it came time for draft day, his mom told me what one might expect, that it was surreal and unbelievable. Ah yes, but that's what makes it so great. Ryan not only sent all the mock drafts out there crashing in flames, he also altered the course of the rest of the draft.

Nino: Thank you New York Islanders. We know you have big plans for him, but so do we. For now, it's the all-Nino, all Kelowna-is-toast weekend. But what's coming...that is the best part of all. There was no tournament or game Nino didn't play in last year, except for maybe the Olympics. The most exciting part of all is that the best is yet to come. And here in Portland, all we have to do is buy a ticket to watch it.

Trivial pursuit, Wall Street style: I participated in a press scrum that also included our local ABC affiliate, whose reporter noted that by playing 9 games in the NHL, Nino had already earned $100,000. He just turned 18 last month. When I asked him about his experience in New York, he said "I went a lot into the city." Among his favorite things: shopping on 5th Avenue, where he purchased some nice coats and suits. It boggles the mind. 18, on the loose in Manhattan with six figures. But no one is more deserving or appreciative than Nino. He fully understands his good fortune, he takes none of it for granted, and his main goal this season is: "this is a great team. I just hope we can make something really special here."

Now, how does one earn $100,000 in one month at 17 or 18, you might ask. Well, funny you should mention it:

I don't have a law degree and I'm not certified in accounting, but I'm pretty sure somewhere in here, the truth lies: Article 9, Entry Level Compensation. 9.1, d (i) I the event an 18 or 19 year old player signs an SPC with a Club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL games in the first season under that SPC, the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level Season shall be extended for a period of one (1) year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a Player who is 19 according to section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs an SPC. Unless a Player and Club expressly agree to the contrary, in the event a Player's SPC is extended an additional year in accordance with this subsection, all terms of the SPC, with the exception of Signing Bonuses, but including Paragraph 1 Salary, games played bonuses and Exhibit 5 bonuses, shall be extended; provided, however, that the Player's Paragraph 1 salary be extended in all circumstances.

Morals of the story:

The game: I'm not entirely sure on this one, except that even the lowliest of minor league players -- which the Ross-Johansen-Niederreiter line will never be -- gets paid more than I'll ever make in a given year.

Life: oregonlive fans will forgive me for repeating something I posted over there this morning, but Ryan really did say it best. When he was returned to Portland by the Columbus Blue Jackets, he sent Nino a text that said simply "I'm on my way back to Portland. Feel free to join me." And thanks to the New York Islanders, Nino did.

One thing I hear consistently from all of the Portland Winterhawks is how great the team is, and that simple note is proof. My own youth was anything but special, but being the late bloomer that I am, the best years of my life came later. Much later. So perhaps that's why I harbor just a tad bit of jealousy when I see how much youth is not wasted on the young with this team. The most envy-inducing part is that they know how lucky they are, they appreciate it and I have every confidence they will never forget where they started. Everyone moves through life at their own personal velocity, and mine just took a while to pick up speed. My hope for this weekend's double header with Kelowna and for all the Winterhawks is that theirs continues picking up speed and never slows down. Something tells me I have nothing to worry about.

Next up: I'm off to pursue a dangerous, intriguing and what I'm sure will be most entertaining pursuit, courtesy of a recommendation from Spencer Bennett's father. I'm going to learn to play hockey once and for all, and you'll be reading about it here and over on Now mind, you may see gaps in this blog as I may be laid up in an emergency room with all manner of injuries. But I shall take my cue from Ryan, who according to his mom, when he would lose, just became more determined and worked harder. Stay tuned.

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