Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just Sell Me My WHL Playoff Tickets Now

The game: Portland Winterhawks 6, Kelowna Rockets 1 = Toast. With extra crunchy peanut butter.

What better way to celebrate Halloween: Than to lay siege to the visiting team, and to watch while junior-player-to-watch in the next NHL draft Ty Rattie continues his flaming hot point-scoring streak. You can read all about it on my posts over at

Oooohhh, as a loyal Pittsburgh Penguins fan, did I say that out loud?: Until they shutout Carolina the other night, the Pens were starting to irritate me. And I'm a loyal fan. I don't usually get irritated with them or their players, coaches, whatever. But they'd get on a roll and win a few really nice ones, and then down it would all come with a St. Louis overtime loss. Win or don't dudes. I don't need to grow any more gray hair waiting for you to play a consistent game.

Draft watch: Two of last night's goals were scored entirely by NHL Draftees (details can be found on oregonlive). Among them, Nino Niederreiter...just in case you were wondering how long it would take for him to get back in the groove. And he notched an assist last night. So I think we can forget about that whole "he will need time to adjust back to junior hockey" thing.

A sign that the times have definitely changed for the Winterhawks: When I was chatting with some of their parents last night, one of them just told me "we'll see you next time, or definitely at the playoffs." Just like the playoffs, like it's a done deal already. I have no doubt it is. But only a year ago, it was if, not when. With Nino's return, we have sealed the deal. But we also lost something of value this week, and I felt compelled to take up equally valuable blog space to ensure that it was not lost in the Nino shuffle.

Gone but very much remembered: On a more somber note this week, the Winterhawks also parted with overage goaltender Ian Curtis, who had only been with the team for one season after a fairly tumultuous junior career. It was not so different last year, but then it was Ian who was chosen to replace beloved long-time Winterhawk goaltender Kurtis Mucha, who was traded to Kamloops. I never had the pleasure of meeting Ian personally, but I loved his story because it reminded me of my own, and because at least for a season here in Portland, it had a happy ending. He was the first goalie drafted in the 2005 Bantam Draft, going number 23, only four spots after Tyler Myers. Chosen a bit later in that same draft were Kyle Beach and Jordan Eberle.

We all know how their fates turned out, but Ian's went down a different and more unexpected road. Traded away from Swift Current to Prince George before he really got a chance to shine, he then ran into injury and what are said to be personal issues with that team. Eventually he was sent to the BCHL, a move thought by many to be the end of his hockey career. For a short time, he went back home to Abbotsford, BC and was handing out resumes at local businesses. Enter Mike Johnston and the Portland Winterhawks, who found Ian when he played on a summer league with Johnston's son. In the short time he was here, he earned CHL goaltender of the week honors twice, shut out Seattle in our annual New Year's Eve game, and helped us end a too-long losing streak against Vancouver. Ian when he shines is a truly talented goalie. But fate and injury and circumstances beyond his control may have kept his star from ever shining as brightly as it should have.

If you are his parents or family and you found this blog, thanks and do leave a comment with his hockey whereabouts. I will be sure to add him to my ever-growing Excel spreadsheet of former Winterhawks to keep an eye on. And if something else is in his future plans, very best wishes to him wherever he lands. I hear he used to sing a Kings of Leon song to Gasper Kopitar in the car on the way to the rink, so my personal vote is for rock star. I shall keep an eye out either way.

Morals of the story:

Life: Like I said, Ian's story is a smaller, shorter hockey version of my own. Going back to when my parents up and moved us to Oregon in my senior year in high school, through college (where I was not what one would call the best student), to the ten years I spent putting a square peg in a round hole in New York, my own path to success was anything but easy. Those ten years in the Big Apple included personal loss, being in the wrong place at the wrong time on September 11, getting caught right in the middle of the power outage that shut down the whole city in August, getting mugged on my own doorstep in broad daylight and serving on a jury in an ax murder trial. But in the end, I finally figured out that my future might be in a place I never planned.

So to Ian and anyone else to whom this might be relevant, here's the deal: sometimes the future you never saw coming can turn out to be better than the one you planned. 20 is not old and there are many other ways to be part of hockey that don't involve 60 pounds of goalie gear. But to find the future, you have to let go of what you thought it would be. It was our pleasure to welcome you to Portland, and I don't think I'm alone in wishing you the very best wherever you land.

Next up: With the help of a law dictionary and a few Advils, I shall return to attempting to understand the NHLPA's collective bargaining agreement.

No comments:

Post a Comment