Saturday, February 26, 2011

I've moved to Kukla's Korner

The news: At last, I am officially one of the bloggers on Kukla's Korner ( This is a great opportunity and I am very proud to have been chosen to be part of Paul's hockey world.

What's the same: You'll still find all the same content you do here, but with a little more focus on the NHL.

What's different: The name (Above the Glass) and the location.

The local angle: The new title refers to my big picture take on the sport, and it's also named for my Portland Winterhawks season ticket seat.

Speaking of which: Fear not, Winterhawks family and fans. I'll still be featuring the Winterhawks on the new blog, and I'll be boosting my coverage on oregonlive as we head into the playoffs, NHL Combine and the draft. Be assured there will still be plenty of information and news about the Hawks in both places.

The indirect link: If you go to the general Kukla's web site, hover over the "Blogs" toolbar to click on it, or scroll down to the right side for the list of blogs. I'm second. I encourage you to go the general web site first, as Paul and his bloggers have a lot to offer. My personal favorites are The Confluence (Pittsburgh Penguins), The Malik Report (all things Red Wings), Beasts of the Southeast (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Canucks and Beyond.

The direct link:

For followers: You can continue following me on my new home. There is an RSS feed link on my blog. Or, even better, here is the direct URL:

Parting shots: Thank you to all who have followed, visited or read this blog since its inception in 2009. I appreciate each and every little kibble, visit and follower. I hope you will continue to share in my adventures on the new home. And Portland fans can keep tuning in on That will continue as is, and thanks to my press pass, look for photos in the coming months. And the archives of 87in107 will continue to live here, so you can peruse favorite past entries anytime. It has been my pleasure to provide you with information and entertainment here, and I look forward to continuing to do so.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There are too many men playing hockey tonight

The games: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Phoenix Coyotes. Edmonton Oilers vs. Colorado Avalanche.

Why I chose them: Honkin' tall French Captain is back in fine form, the score is Tampa 8, Phoenix 3 with seven minutes to go in the third period. And there's Guy Boucher, mais oui. Matt Duchene is back. That means one current and three potential Calder nominees (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi) in one game. Good enough for me. So is this: Honkin' tall French Captain there racked up five points (one goal, four assists).

The other game: Portland Winterhawks plays tonight in the second of two games against Prince George Cougars.

You don't see this everyday: In last night's game between Portland and Prince George, both teams got coincidental penalties for too many men on the ice. If the WHL rulebook is similar to the NHL, yes this is possible. Here are the key highlights:

Rule 74, Too Many Men on the Ice:

-- Players may be changed at any time during the play from the players' bench provided that the player or players leaving the ice shall be within five feet of his players' bench and out of the play before the change is made.

-- If in the course of making a substitution, either the player entering the game or the player retiring from the ice surface plays the puck with his stick, skates or hands or who checks or makes any physical contact with an opposing player while either the player entering the game or retiring is actually on the ice, then the infraction of "too many men on the ice" will be called.

-- A player coming onto the ice as a substitute player is considered on the ice once both of his skates are on the ice. If he plays the puck or interferes with an opponent while still on the players' bench, he shall be penalized under Rule 56 - Interference.

Early bird special: He's not even on our roster yet, but keep an eye on the Portland Winterhawks' first round pick in the 2010 Bantam Draft, Nic Petan. He just played in the Canada Winter Games, which features young hockey players 15 and under. He was on Team BC, which won the tournament. More importantly, he racked up the game winning goal and four assists in the final gold medal game and the stick he used to do so will henceforth be living in its new home in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Oh yeah, he's all of 16 (as of March 22), he's all of 5'6" and among his teammates on Team BC: Steen Cooper, running a very close second to Steele Boomer for best hockey name, ever.

In the meantime, we must make this happen: Ryan Johansen continued his blitz with two goals last night. He nearly had a hat trick about two weeks ago, save for a late video review that handed it to Brad Ross. So Portland readers, to refresh, we must all take a pre-game moment to repeat the following: Hat trick. Ryan Johansen. Hat trick. Ryan Johansen. I know we can make this happen.

Morals of the story:

The game: Like life, the devil is in the details. Or not. Notice that this rule does not define putting an extra player on the ice without pulling the goalie qualifies as a penalty. So math would not be one of the details you need to worry about, then? Discuss.

Life: There should be a rule like this for commuter gridlock. Once there are too many men on the highway, anyone who attempts to hit the freeway after that should be "penalized" by being made to return home, indulge in the extra cup of coffee, tea, whatever and try again at 9 am, when the rest of the rat race is safely esconced in cubeville in Corporate America.

Next up: The ongoing futile but noble attempt to understand the cap room rule.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does Pittsburgh's payroll range have room for another Niskanen-Crosby fight?

The game: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins.

Why I chose it: The rivalry continues, with two new players in tow following today's blockbuster trade with the Dallas Stars that sent Alex Goligoski to the Stars.

Oh the irony: The two Dallas players who will call Pittsburgh home for the rest of the season are James Neal and Matt Niskanen, the latter of which is best known for being the other half of a rare Sidney Crosby fight.

Ok, now I'm nervous: Anaheim Ducks' GM Bob Murray has stated in an inteview that he is concerned about Jonas Hiller's health. According to the latest reports he has a balance problem. Ok, I still don't freel any better. Goalies with balance problems, especially ones who are the reason I watch the Ducks, is generally not good. Equally scary is the fact that we've reached the point in the season that the injured reserve list of NHL teams on any given day is bigger news than trades, points or final scores.

The rule: Article 50, Team Payroll Range System; Lower Limit and Upper Limit; Payroll Room; Lower Limit and Upper Limit Accounting.

I'm reading slowly and carefully through this section, lest I should miss an important detail: The second half of (b) (i) "The Upper and Lower Limits of the Team Payroll Range shall be determined in accordance with the following formula" reads as follows: If a significant one-time increase or decrease in League-wide revenues (e.g. by reason of the addition or loss of a national television contract or the scheduled opening of one or more new arenas which is expected to result in a significant increase in League-wide revenues) is anticipated the next League Year, the parties will endeavor to estimate the expected increase or decrease and incorporate that estimate into the above-stated formula for calculating the adjusted midpoint. After adjustment for the revenue growth factor, the Payroll Range shall be constructed by adding $8 million to the Adjusted Midpoint to establish the Upper Limit, and subtracting $8 million from the Adjusted Midpoint to establish the Lower Limit.

Morals of the story:

The game: At last, a math equation I understand. Add a number to get the upper limit. Subtract a number to get the lower limit. On occasion, the NHL keeps it simple. Just like it should be.

Life: With the current economy still not showing official signs of improving, we need a rule like this, whereby if some poor soul should happen to experience a sudden downturn in salary due to a layoff, then his or her severance package range should be reconfigured to account for the sudden loss of guaranteed income to cover more money over a longer time, thereby protecting him or her from foreclosure and repossession of car and/or large household electronics.

Next up: Backtracking to what defines hockey related revenues. A word of caution, though: It's 24 pages long. I'll be doing the Cliff's Notes version.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's hockey day on my couch

It's hockey day in America, and that means: I'm not going anywhere. Not to the store. Not to the gym. Zip. It's a national holiday for hockey fans, and I therefore must devote my undivided attention to NBC's games of the week, the NHL Networks' pre-Heritage Classic extravaganza and of course, the Heritage Classic. Then maybe I'll go to the store to replenish the snack supply. Because a girl can get hungry sitting on her ass watching all that hockey.

It was hockey night in Portland: The Winterhawks kicked off the local festivities with Pink the Rink night, in which the ice was indeed pink, the team sailed to a 6-3 win over the Chilliwack Bruins that also clinched them a playoff berth and New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter scored his first hat trick of the season:

The rule: Article 50.5, Team Payroll Range System; Lower Limit and Upper Limit; Payroll Room; Lower Limit and Upper Limit Accounting.

50.5 (i) The Upper and Lower Limits of the Team Payroll Range shall be determined in accordance with the following formula:

Preliminary Hockey-Related Revenue (HRR) for the prior League Year multiplied by [x] the Applicable Percentage (as defined in Section 50.4(b) of this Agreement, minus [-] Preliminary Benefits, divided [/] by the number of Clubs then playing in the NHL, shall equal [=] the Midpoint of the Payroll Range, which shall be adjusted upward by a factor of five (5) percent in each League Year (yielding the Adjusted Midpoint) until League-wide Actual HRR equals or exceeds $2.1 billion, at which point the five (5) percent growth factor shall continue unless or until either party to this Agreement proposes a different growth factor based on actual revenue experience and/or projections, in which case the parties shall discuss and agree upon a new factor.

Morals of the story:

The game: So presumably, this is before taxes, then? And yes, the plus, minus, multiplied and divided by signs are in the actual rule. Just in case a team tries to get out of this on a they couldn't read the actual words.

Life: I've always wondered how companies determine salaries for their employees. They must use a formula like this, only with a few variations: the working middle class employees' salary shall be determined by adding the total potential hours worked and the talent/experience of said individual, divided by what the company actually thinks they are worth even if it's less than their actual value, minus the amount of money that must be reserved for executive salaries and bonuses, multiplied by the minimum wage the employee would be earning if they didn't have the ambition to claw their way to middle management. I didn't major in accounting, but I'm pretty sure it equals less than $100,000.

Next up: Part 2 of the Lower and Upper Limits.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An NHL team must have a salary room of their own

The game: Montreal Canadiens' vs. Edmonton Oilers. Jordan Eberle is back. James Wisniewski is out. Eberle and Ryan Jones just scored 15 seconds apart to make it 3- 1 in the third period.

In case you need to put the name and the talent to the face: Oregonlive has a great feature about top prospect Ty Rattie, complete with photos. Read all about it at

The rule: Article 50.5, Payroll Range System; Lower Limit and Upper Limit; Payroll Room; Lower Limit and Upper Limit Accounting.

Part 2 of (a) Overview of Operation of Team Payroll Range: For purposes of calculating any Club's "Payroll Room" at a given point in time, the Upper Limit for such League Year shall be measured against the Club's "Averaged Club Salary" as defined below. Any Club with an Averaged Club Salary that is less than the Upper Limit has available Payroll Room in the amount of the difference between the Averaged Club Salary and the Upper Limit. As set forth below, if a Club has Payroll Room during a League Year, the Club may use such Payroll Room to contract for or otherwise acquire additional Player Salaries and Bonuses. A Club may contract for or otherwise acquire additional Player Salaries and Bonuses only to the extent of its Payroll Room, subject, however, to certain limited exceptions as set forth herein.

Morals of the story:

The game: Of course there's an exception. How else could you get away with the Kovalchuk deal?

Life: Think of all those gazillionaires on Wall Street who never would have made all that money if there was an Upper Limit on unscrupulous stock trader salaries. And if they did, they would have been traded away to a lesser brokerage firm for a lower salary. And all those working class citizens who socked away their money in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and whatever else wouldn't be putting off retirement or coming out of it altogether to make milkshakes at McDonald's.

Next up: Article 50.5, (b) "Lower Limit" and "Upper Limit."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

There's always payroll room for outrageous NHL salaries

Score!: On Monday, I went to the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club pizza night thinking I'd either defend my title as the fan who buys Ryan Johansen a pizza, or I'd win nothing at all. I ended up with something in between. I won the auction for a hockey stick signed by all of our NHL draftees for the bargain bid of $65. There was nothing like meeting Ryan, but this will do very nicely, thank you.

The game: Edmonton Oilers 4, Dallas Stars 1. There is hope.

Mini bummer alert: The Flyers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout 4 - 3. I'm about to watch the replay, but I'm guessing it also involved Guy Boucher flipping his lid and yelling at refs. When you can't have victory, you can have hot French coaches bugging out en Francais. Game on.

As that festive time of year known as the trade deadline approaches, you may hear tell now and again that a team doesn't have salary cap room and therefore must dispatch a player, or that they have a lot of room and can afford to acquire bigger, better talent. What does it all mean, you may wonder? I think it has something to do with this:

Article 50, Team Payroll Range System: 50.5, Team Payroll Range System; Lower Limit and Upper Limit; Payroll Room; Lower Limit and Upper Limit Accounting.

Let's start with this: (a): Overview of Operation of Team Payroll Range. The Team Payroll Range created by this agreement consists of a Lower Limit and an Upper Limit during each League Year for permissible spending by each Club based on its Averaged Club Salary. Team Payroll provisions do not permit clubs to have Averaged Club Salary below the Lower Limit. Nor does the Team Payroll Range permit the team to have Averaged Club Salary above the Upper Limit, except for 2 limited exceptions provided in this Agreement, with respect to bona fide, long-term Player inuries or illnesses, as set forth in Section 50.1(d) and with respect to the "Performance Bonus Cushion" as set forth in Section 50.5(h).

Morals of the story:

The game: What's missing here is the third "as set forth in" provision that allows once great teams like the New Jersey Devils to acquire over-hyped, underperforming talent that demands $100 million plus over the next decade. Key to this provision is the requirement that the player is not required to pull their weight or produce key returns on investment like goals, assists or all around team leadership.

Life: We have lower and upper limits for salaries in Corporate America, but nothing says a certain salary is too high or too low. Hence most companies are "run" by executives who make too much and the actual work that keeps said companies really running is done by people who make too little. Companies should try the food service system, where everybody makes a flat fee as required by law and the real money is earned through tips for exceptional service. If you work on the top floor of a building and make more money than God while spending most of your day in your fantasy whatever league, making paper clip forts and waiting for someone else to tell you how to take charge, then you make your little flat fee and go home. On the other hand, if you work on the middle or lower floors, but you have gone above and beyond your job description each and every time you take on a task, then you get that automatic 20 percent gratuity they tack onto room service, plus whatever else satisfied customers add on top of it. You save diligently, buy a bar in Mexico and eventually end up serving little drinks with umbrellas in them to the CEO and his buddies who have all lost their hair, their jobs and their wives. Justice sometimes takes a while, but it's always worth it.

Next up: The second half of the overview, which defines "payroll room."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Get ready Columbus, Ryan Johansen is coming your way

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Seattle Thunderbirds.

The stats:

-- Winterhawks 8, Thunderbirds 2.

-- Portland went 6 for 7 on the power play, a season high.

-- Rookie defenseman Josh Hanson netted his first WHL career assist. Stay tuned. He graduated from high school at 16...imagine what he'll do once he starts getting more ice time.

-- Seth Swenson scored his second goal of the season, one week after scoring the first (which by the way, was the first time he'd scored in a year). The player to watch in the playoffs.

-- Columbus Blue Jackets' top prospect Ryan Johansen scored two goals in two minutes in the second period, and was thought to have scored a third for the hat trick. A video review led to the final ruling that the goal was in fact scored by his linemate Brad Ross on a deflection.

-- Oh, and the almost hat trick goal? Brad scored that 39 seconds after Riley Boychuk dove to put one into the Seattle net. And, it was on a power play.

-- Later, in the third period, defensemen Taylor Aronson and Joe Morrow scored three minutes apart. Are you with me so far?

You can read all about it here:

Like I said, when Brad and Riley stay out of the box, they know how to dazzle: Brad did not rack up one single penalty minute. Riley only got a four minute minor early in the game, and then he got on with the business of scoring.

Taylor and Joe never give me but a few words in interviews, but who cares?: Defensemen who score like that can stand there and pick their noses while I'm talking, I'd still be impressed. Well, ok, maybe that's a bit extreme. Hold the boogers and give me a quote whenever possible. And by all means, do carry right on with the scoring.

So Portland's getting on with the business of scoring, but meanwhile back in Pittsburgh: That goonfest against the New York Islanders was just the start of the Twilight Zone that is the Penguins:

First, Mario Lemieux isn't pulling any punches either. He issued this statement about the events of the other night:

Second, when your bus collides with a car and you are in full gear and need to get to an outdoor practice in Central Park: Hail a cab, of course. It is New York City, after all (

About that almost hat trick and the player who scored it: I first took notice of Ryan Johansen during an early season game in 2009, when he gave a good shove to an opponent and laid down a play that led to the Winterhawks scoring. I don't remember who the opponent was, or what period it was or what the score ended up being. But I remember looking down to take note of the player: Johansen, number 19. Little did I know that about five months later, I would meet him.

It was all a single moment of chance. I picked the winning ticket at the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club pizza night, where I bought him a pizza and he got to sit at my table. In the course of about an hour, I learned the following:

-- Why hockey players love golf: it's outside and non-hockey related. But contrary to my belief, it has nothing to do with being allowed to wear ugly pants in public.

-- That Nino Niederreiter does not in fact ride around in a town car with Troy Rutkowski at the wheel, chirping orders at him ("turn left up here, it's faster....turn up the heat, it's cold in here...can we stop for a snack?")

-- That Ryan had no idea he would go fourth in the 2010 Entry Draft, one spot ahead of Nino. In fact, he was more interested in talking about how cool Nino is than he was in talking about himself.

Moral of the story: Get ready, Columbus. Something very special is coming your way.

As for the rest of the NHL's future: If you've not already done so, I'd suggest you tune into the frequency of the following Winterhawks prospects and rookies:

-- Ty Rattie. It took me three tries before he realized I was talking about him and not the team when I asked him "what's it like to be awesome?" I don't remember the last time he went without an assist or a goal in a game.

-- Sven Bartschi. Switzerland's newest gift to Portland puts Swiss cheese on his Subway sandwiches, gives the very best soundbites, scores one-handed breakaway goals (, and has already played in the World Juniors and the Top Prospects game. Easily a top ten draft pick this year. Ditto for Ty.

-- Joe Morrow. First, let me be clear. Joe is one of the most quiet, shy, polite and totally upstanding players on this team, who would never pick his nose during an interview. Never. Period. Exclamation point. He likes to score breakaway goals whilst diving ( When he's not doing that, he likes to score slapshots from the point. And he knows how to drop the mitts. In the latest midterm draft rankings, he was ranked 16th overall. Defensemen tend to go later in the draft, but Joe is my dark horse candidate for a surprise first round pick.

-- Tyler Wotherspoon. He's racking up the points of late, including a perfect beauty (or two) in a recent 8 - 2 routing of the Tri-City Americans (

-- Seth Swenson. As he picks up more ice time, he's picking up more goals. I spoke to him recently, and the coaches have been pushing him to work on all aspects of his game, especially finishing his scoring chances. Mission accomplished. Look for a big finish this season and a stronger 2011 - 2012 season. He shared the Portland Winterhawks' academic achievement award last year with Vancouver Canucks' prospect Stefan Schneider (currently playing for the AHL's Manitoba Moose).

-- Josh Hanson. Graduated from high school at 16, just in time to come to Portland and play hockey. I've only met him once, during which interview I goofed and asked him where he was going to high school. In case you want to know just how dinged out I was: the article about his graduating early was located on, where I also blog. Way to go, Scrappy Doo. Not one of my finer moments, to be sure.

-- Jason Trott. Still working his way up to some serious ice time, but he has already notched up his first WHL goal and he must be taking fighting lessons from Riley, because he's pretty good with dropping the mitts too.

-- Brendan Leipsic. I believe he's officially the smallest player on the Winterhawks' roster. Not that you'd notice, because he gets back up when you knock him down, he likes to chirp and he doesn't take anyone's crap. Oh, and if you need someone to score on penalty shots and shootouts and what not, he's your boy. And, he wins hands down for best goal celebrations. When he notched his first WHL career goal, he went totally airborne when he slammed into the glass. I don't mean like he just jumped off his feet a little bit. I'm talking totally, completely airborne. Genius. Along with teammate Derrick Pouliot, he was recently chosen to wear one of the As for Team West at the Under-17 World Challenge. Keep him on the radar for the following in 2012: World Juniors, Top Prospects Game and the NHL Entry Draft.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

You tell me, you were watching it

Audience participation: I was at a Portland Winterhawks game, so I didn't see this..but can someone explain how this happened? New York Islanders 9, Pittsburgh Penguins 3. Wait, don't answer that, I got it: combined penalty minutes: 346, including 12 fighting majors.

I don't know how this happened either: Tri-City Americans 5, Portland Winterhawks 0. But I think it might have something to do with this: per the web site, Portland PIMs 51, Tri-City Americans' PIMs 25.

What went up had to come down: Two nights ago in Spokane, Portland scored five goals in just under 2 minutes in the first period. And it went uphill from there. You can read about both games here:

Note to Ryan Johansen's parents: We have victory. At last, I got an original quote. I was so impressed I showcased it as 'bite of the night on oregonlive: "we didn't play the game in the moment." Of course, it was about a losing game, but's progress.

Or, you can always the ole turn an answer into a question technique: When I asked Ryan (who just took over as the Columbus Blue Jackets' top prospect) what exactly happened out there he said "you tell me, you were watching it." I believe the key was penalties, penalties, penalties for Portland. Ryan and Sven Bartschi agreed: in fact they pointed out its how Tri-Cities beats us most of the time.

You can't score from the box, my little rookies: Sven has spent four or more minutes in the box for the last three games. He didn't have much of a reason, except for plain old bad luck.

Morals of the story: Not sure how the Pens fell to the worst team in the league. I'm not sure I want to. I don't know how the Hawks ended up in the box and not on the scoreboard. But sometimes it is just as simple as getting away from your game, not living or playing in the moment and simply running out of luck. The Hawks need four points and Seattle needs to lose four in order for the team to clinch a playoff berth. The Pens need to stop losing to one of the worst teams in the league. For now, the luck has run out and they will have to find some other ya' know....playing the game in the moment. It works in life, so it should work in hockey.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A playoff journey starts with a single trade deadline

This is yet another reason why I own a Mini Cooper: I popped into Rasmussen Mini for a quick repair and some smart cookie had tuned into the Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens game on the waiting room TV. So, since I was held hostage to an original six matchup/boxing match:

The games: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens. Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks.

The scores: Boston 8, Montreal 6. Chicago 2, Edmonton 0 going into the third period. But Jordan Eberle is back, so not all is lost.

187: number of combined penalty minutes in the Boston vs. Montreal game.

Goalies are the new enforcers: Carey Price and Tim Thomas went at it, in a pretty even fight where both goaltenders' jerseys were removed. To refresh on the rule regarding jerseys and fights:

47.13, Jerseys: A player who engages in a fight and whose jersey is removed (completely off his torso), other than through the actions of his opponent in the altercation or through the actions of the Linesman, shall be assessed a game misconduct penalty. A player who engages in a fight and whose jersey is not properly tied down, and who loses his jersey in that altercation, shall receive a game misconduct penalty.

Standing penalty bench only: In the NHL Rulebook, the penalty bench has to be built to hold 10 people, including the penalty timekeepers. Of course, it doesn't tell you what size people it should hold. Like, for example, 8 foot 10 NHL defensemen. That might explain why -- after a line brawl near the end of second period in the Boston vs. Montreal game -- players were standing in the penalty bench because six from each team went to their respective boxes.

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this update from Portland: The Winterhawks just scored 5 goals in 1:59 late in the first period in a game against Spokane. The first goal was scored (shorthanded) by Taylor Peters, who was invited to the Pittsburgh Penguins' training camp last fall, and the rest were the work of NHL draft picks (Brad Ross, Riley Boychuk, Ryan Johansen, Craig Cunningham).

It is midway through the second period, and they are now leading Spokane 7 - 2. Winterhawks' goal number 6 was courtesy of Craig and thank you 2011 draft prospect Joe Morrow for number 7. Oh, and wait, we're up to 9 - 2. Number 8 and 9 were courtesy of Brad Ross, with the hat trick (number 8 was a breakaway). And he just came back from a minor concussion that kept him out of the last Winterhawks' game. For those who've been following my oregonlive blog, the Brad Ross breakaway curse is broken. The guilty party must be on vacation.

Tick tock: With the trade deadline looming, it seems appropriate to cover that article in the NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Less is more: In Article 1, Definitions, "trade deadline" shall have the meaning set forth in Section 13.12(j) of this Agreement.

13.12(j), Transfers to/from Minors: A player may be loaned to a club of any League affiliated with the League at any time up to 3 pm New York Time of the 40th day immediately preceding the final day of the regular season (the "trade deadline").

Morals of the story:

The game: Oh. So that's why it changes from year to year.

Life: If we had a trade deadline for milestones in life, would it stop us from slacking and procrastinating and proclaiming that someday we'll move the coast of Spain to write a best selling novel? If we knew that if we didn't achieve the goal, produce the novel, lose that weight, whatever, that we would be toast by a very specific deadline, would we let it slide? Discuss.

Next up: I may be forced to take a detour for some post-Winterhawks reflection. We are now up 10 - 5 as I post this.

Monday, February 7, 2011

NHL Rule 48.1: No bumps to the noggin. Sort of.

The games: Vancouver Canucks vs. Ottawa Senators. Edmonton vs. Nashville. Chicago vs. Calgary.

Why I chose them: Jordan Eberle and Shawn Horcoff are back. The Oilers just shut out the Predators. The Vancouver vs. Ottawa game is in high-def, a rarity on Center Ice.

Back to the future: With concussions and head hits in the news these days, I thought this would be a good time to refresh on the newest addition to the NHL Rulebook.

The rule: NHL 2010 - 2011 Rulebook. Rule 48, Illegal Check to the Head.

What it is: 48.1, Illegal Check to the Head. A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted.

What they do about it: No minor penalty provision. They go directly to a major penalty and an automatic game misconduct. The Referee, at his discretion, may also apply a match penalty if in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head. any player who incurs a total of two game misconducts under this rule, in regular or Playoff games, shall be suspended automatically for the next game his team plays. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.

Aha. I see what's wrong with this rule: The punishment doesn't fit the crime. I mean, really, what's a few game misconducts and a suspension going to do to the offender, except piss him off a little? In the end if you bump a guy's noggin, eventually you come back. Trouble is, the guy you whacked usually doesn't, because he can't.

That is why I say let's give this a try: If you wonk a dude's noggin hard enough to take him out for the season or longer, then you are suspended for the same amount of time it takes to him to fully recover and return to the game. And if he has to retire because of your antics, then guess what? Better brush up that golf game, 'cause in my book you'd be toast.

Come on now, Sam, that's a little harsh now isn't it?: Nope. Head hits are a cheap, cowardly and easy way out of a hard situation. You want to beat a top 10 team or a player like Sidney Crosby in a huge game during the stretch run or playoffs? Play a better, faster, smarter game. If you are good enough to get into a top line in the NHL, then you are good and smart enough to find a better way than blind side/open ice hits to the head. Period. End of rant.

The Sidney Crosby factor: Is the League paying more attention just because it's him? Maybe, but think about it this way: it's just another way he's changing the game. Concussions have ruined players' careers and lives when they were still in their prime. The most exciting thing about players like Malkin and Crosby is that the best is yet to come, provided they recover properly and fully from their injuries. To miss out on what they will contribute to the sport in the next 10 to 15 years would be truly unfortunate and tragic.

Yeah, Sam, but lots of players got hit in the head and they went right on playing: Right you are. Eric Lindros carried right on, and we all know what happened to him, don't we?

Morals of the story:

1) The punishment needs to fit the crime, and it needs to apply to every player, every time. It works for disciplining little children, it should work for the NHL.

2) Smart players should find a smarter way to deal with their opponents. Like, ya' know, the kind of goals that Jordan Eberle scored in his first NHL goal. Or Derek Stepan's hat trick in his NHL debut. Cool, smart stuff like that.

3) Like life, when you're seriously injured in hockey, it's always better to take the long view. Coming back for a batch of playoff games may seem noble and necessary at the time, but if it means not ever playing to your potential again or missing part of the next season, it's not worth it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hey, I know, let's get all our star players on the injured reserve list at the same time.

The games: Anaheim vs. Colorado (2/5), Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo (2/4).

This is not good: Jonas Hiller is not in the net, due to fatigue and lightheadedness, according to the team.

This is really, really not good: Evgeni Malkin, as many had predicted, has a serious knee injury. His ACL and MCL are torn. I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that tearing any body part that ends in CL is not good.

The Portland Winterhawks are in a bit of an injury rut as well: Team Captain Brett Ponich underwent surgery on his left knee Thursday. Oliver Gabriel is out for the season due to shoulder surgery. More painful than the injuries is that because they will both be overagers next season and have signed with their NHL teams, it is unlikely we'll see either of them on our ice again. One game, one injury and they are done. Just like that. And just like the NHL, no one is invincible. But it is particularly hard in this case, because Brett came to Portland at an all-time low with the team, and finally, this year we are in an ideal position to contend for the Memorial Cup. While Brett will no doubt provide other forms of leadership, the likelihood it will be of the on-ice variety is very small. And Oliver is one of the team's best underdog stories. He wasn't drafted in his eligible year, got invited to the Columbus Blue Jackets' training camp in 2010, and ended up signing with them. No one is more deserving of a chance to lift very large shiny objects than Brett and Oliver. And so they shall, if the team continues winning like they are now. I find in general that early hardship in life means one of two things: 1) great character and success later in life because you learn the lesson and you survive it well, or, 2) you keep going down the rabbit hole because you don't handle it well. I've met Brett and Oliver, and for them, I'm all in for option 1.

Speaking of winning, you can read all about Portland's late game heroics against Edmonton here: Hint: it involves a strong first period, a slightly lazy second period, and a reinvigorated third period, during which two empty net goals were scored in 17 seconds. Look for more ice time and goals from Seth Swenson, who scored last night for the first time this season. Or if you are his teammate Nino Niederreiter, with his very cool Swiss-German accent, Seth Svenson.

Ok, this is just creepy: I'm up to the Article in the Collective Bargaining Agreement about injured reserve lists. 16.11, Injured Reserve List:

(a) A Club may place a player on the Injured Reserve List if such player is reasonably expected to be injured, ill or disabled and unable to perform his duties as a hockey player for a minimum of seven days from the onset of such injury, illness or disability. It goes on to explain that if the player continues to be injured or ill at the time training camp starts, he will still be eligible to be placed on the list.

(c) To paraphrase: Players on the Injured Reserve List may travel with the team, attend team meetings, participate in practice sessions with the active roster. They may also have access to the team's training and medical facilities during regular business hours, but the team may restrict their access during times when the active roster is expected to be there, and for reasonable periods of time before and after that.

(d) Once a player is placed on the Injured Reserve List, the Club can replace him with another player, but he doesn't count against the player's active roster. However, the injured player and his replacement's salary and bonuses both count against the team's actual club salary and averaged club salary.

Morals of the story:

The game: Of course the money counts, and the player doesn't. The NHL is still a business after all. And who wants to hobble to team meetings on their crutches or in bandages and braces and what not, only to be kicked out when the active roster shows up? Injured reserve makes it sound like you're still important to the team, but according to this rule, you're not.

Life: This is a bit like the laws that govern work-related injuries and disabilities. Theoretically it should protect you long enough to let you rehab the injury, and not encourage you to take advantage. While there are some people who truly didn't mean to hurt themselves and just got unlucky, there are also those who scam the system and take advantage, hurting everyone in the process. Pity is, a lot of the time the people who really want to get back to work can't and the ones who are scamming don't want to work.

Therefore, with our new government taking power, I suggest a new system whereby we follow the NHL injured reserve list rule, which does have a provision for discipline by the commissioner if he feels the team has taken advantage of the rule. Kinda like he did when Jersey circumvented the salary rule. Of course all that means is that Kovalchuk makes two million dollars less for two years less. On the other hand, they are losing talent because he is eating their salary cap, so there is still punishment. But still, some discipline is better than no discipline.

Next up: 16.12, Non Roster Player.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do the time, get your own room

The games: Dallas Stars vs. Boston Bruins. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Nashville Predators.

Why I chose them: All of these teams boast a former or current Portland Winterhawk on their roster or in their system (Brenden Morrow, Braydon Coburn, Craig Cunningham, Taylor Aronson). Simply put, it's a must.

B equals C: Today, Portland Winterhawk Captain Brett Ponich underwent surgery to repair his left knee. Chatter is already afoot about who would wear the C in his place. This being hockey, there's probably some goofy WHL hockey rule that says someone else has to wear it while he's recovering. But if it's not buried in legalese somewhere, I say leave it where it is. There's more than one way to lead, and it doesn't always involve being on the battlefield that is an ice rink.

Speaking of goofy rules: Article 16, League Schedule; Playing Rosters; Reserve Lists; Practice Sessions.

16.8, Travel Requirements: No Club shall be required to travel on the day of an NHL Game if the average scheduled flight time for the airplane on which the Club would travel is greater than two and one half hours; provided however, the foregoing shall not be applicable if the Club has played an NHL Game on the day before.

16.9, Single Room Accommodations: Any player who has played 10 professional seasons under an SPC and has played in 600 NHL Games (including NHL Games dressed for Goaltenders) shall be entitled to elect to have single room accommodations for all Club road trips.

Morals of the story:

The game: So, basically anything that interferes with the time-honored tradition that is the game day nap is not allowed. And if you've put up with 600 games worth of another player's snoring and not lining up his shoes (which, apparently, Sidney Crosby does) then yeah, I can see where you've paid your dues and you are entitled to get your own room. And by the way, I line up my shoes too. I also leave my clothes in a neat little pile on a chair. So no, I don't think it's weird. Of course, I am also a full scale nutter who likes things a certain way, but that's a whole other problem.

Life: What if you had the travel rule for 9 - 5 jobs? No employee shall be required to show up right at 9 and work all day if they worked overtime until well after 8 pm the night before. Nor shall they be required to stay after 5 if they got up at o dark thirty to attend a breakfast event that started at 7 am and that they had to attend so their company could look good in front of potential clients who really, aren't going to buy your products just because you got up at o dark thirty to eat rubber eggs with them. Furthermore, if any employee is asked to work outside these very specific restrictions, they shall be entitled to a one hour nap, undisturbed, under their desk or at another suitable location to be mutually agreed upon by the employee and their employer. They will be allowed a fifteen minute grace period thereafter to wake up, wipe the drool off their face and eat a small chocolate snack before returning to work.

Next up: 16.11, Injured Reserve List.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Maybe I'm just allergic to non-hockey days

The game: LA Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders.

Why I chose them: Anze Kopitar vs. Taylor Hall. The Pens seek to keep the wins going against the Islanders, minus the two-headed monster. What's not to like?

Coincidence, allergy, or just plain cooties?: There was no hockey anywhere on Monday. And Monday night, I came down with a monster cold. Coincidence? I think not. I now have proof that not watching hockey can actually make you ill. There should be a new rule for that: the NHL shall guarantee that all days during the regular season will be active playing days with at least one game on all said days.

The other rules: Article 16, League Schedule; Playing Rosters; Reserve Lists; Practice Sessions.

16.6, Practice Sessions: Practice sessions shall be scheduled at reasonable times in accordance with the general practice of Clubs in the league.

16.7, Game Times: The NHL agrees not to schedule the start time of any Regular Season or Playoff Game before 12 noon (local time). If the League seeks an acception, the NHLPA has to consent.

Morals of the story:

The game: So, if the rest of the League likes to get up at noon and practice from 1:30 to 4, then you can too? Excellent rule. Unless of course, the rest of league likes to get up at 0'dark thirty and complete practice before breakfast. And just so we're clear, if you live on the West Coast, some games do start before noon, just not local time.

Life: I need the NHL workday schedule. I barely function before 10 am, and I much prefer not to start my day until at least noon. I have no problem with ending my work day around 10 or 11 pm, but alas my schedule is not in accordance with the general practices of other working professionals. So into every workday I go, half asleep and useless until my mid-morning snack around 11. Such is life. And like hockey, nobody said it was fair. And nobody said it keeps a reasonable schedule.

Next up: 16.8, Travel Requirements; 16.9, Single Room Accommodations.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Today shall be an off-day for hockey fans

The distraction/some people can go days, weeks, even, without hockey: I'm not one of them. I'm watching a mix of Lord of the Rings, All-Star Game replays and my Firefly DVDs to distract from the fact that there are absolutely no NHL games on tonight. Zip. Zilch. Diddly. It's just wrong. But 12 more hours and all will be right with the world once again.

Get well soon: No sooner had Portland Winterhawks fans swallowed the news that Oliver Gabriel (signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets over the summer) was undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, than we learned today that Captain Brett Ponich (signed with the St. Louis Blues last year) will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. He may also be done for the season.

The Tri-City Americans are indeed bad luck: Brett suffered that injury during a Tri Cities game on January 18.

Injured players, no hockey games, what's a girl to do?: Well, I guess I could try to cover this rule:

NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, Article 16: League Schedule; Playing Rosters; Reserve Lists; Practice Sessions.

16.5, Restricted Days. (a) No NHL game, practice or travel to a city other than the Club's home city shall be scheduled on the day prior to Christmas Day. Christmas Day shall be an off-day for al purposes, including travel, and no Club may request a Player's consent to play on Christmas Day for any reason. No NHL game shall be scheduled on the day after Christmas Day, except an NHL game that is to be played against a Club where the average scheduled flight time between the cities involved would not exceed two and one-half hours.

(b) No NHL game, practice or travel to a city other than the Club's home city shall be on the day prior to the All-Star Game. The day of the All-Star Game shall be an off-day for all purposes, including travel, and no Club may request a Player's consent to practice on the day of the All-Star Game for any reason.

Morals of the story:

The game: Somehow I don't think the NHL figured in what qualifies as "average scheduled flight time" during the blizzard-o-rama that is blitzing the Northeast every other weekend or so. Because if they did, then this rule would have to include another section entitled "airport weather strandings" in which they outline what the league can and can't ask of players who are trapped in Dulles Airport, for example.

Life: Did you notice that, thanks to technology, people don't really go on vacation anymore? They take a "working" vacation in which they check email, answer voicemails and never really disconnect. If you want to take a real vacation like the good old days, you have to leave a message that says "I will be in a third world country studying the mating habits of rare birds and therefore unreachable by cell phone or Crackberry, please call my assistant if you expect to get any business done today." That's why we need this rule for Corporate America. No work, semblance of work or attempt to work shall take place on the day before an employee leaves for vacation. A vacation shall consist of 5 or more days in a row, which will be off-days for any and all reasons. On the day of the employees return, no employer may request that the employee actually work or do anything resembling work. The employer may request an exception to this rule, but they are advised that no employee who is properly self-medicated will agree to it.

Next up: Article 16, Practice Sessions, Game Times, Travel Requirements, Single Room Accommodations.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The key to succeeding in the NHL: show up

The only NHL game in town: The All Star Game Skills Competition.

In case you're wondering how they got there: The Collective Bargaining Agreement Article 16.14, All Star Game, states that The Club or NHL must provide first-class airline accomodations to any Player selected to play in the All-Star Game.

The only WHL game in town I'm interested in: Seattle Thunderbirds vs. Portland Winterhawks.

You're never too old to be awesome: Nicklas Lidstrom notched his first hat trick this season, at age 40.

It was a new low for mispronunciations of Portland's roster (or high, depending on how you see it): Among the numerous botches of our players' last names by FSN broadcasters last night:

Brendan Leipsic: Leepsic (it's prounounced Lipe-sick, unless there's something Portland doesn't know).

Derrick Pouliot: Pouli-AT. (proper pronunciation: Poo-lee-AHT).

Tyler Wotherspoon: Witherspoon. So many broadcasters and announcers have twerked it, he should just change the spelling of his family name.

Sven Bartschi: Burt-chi. (it's Bear-chee, with a litle rolling R).

Good news: Tayler Jordan returned from injury in the Tri-City Americans vs. Portland Winterhawks game last night.

But it was to no avail/"They're snake bit in this barn": That's what the FSN broadcasters said about Portland's bad luck on the road against the Ams, which continued last night with a 5-2 loss for Portland.

Of course he scored a hat trick, he has a hockey name: Captain Kruise Reddick scored three of Tri-Cities' goals. Adam Hughesman and Connor Rankin joined him on the scoreboard.

Dude, give it up: The Islanders have suspended Evgeni Nabokov for failure to report for duty. This might top the Kovalchuk deal in terms of delusions of grandeur. You're 35, nobody in the NHL thought you were worth your salary, the KHL let you go, you're lucky Detroit and the Islanders wanted you. You're not going to help a team get to the Cup with your whining. Report for duty, man up and you might at least help a struggling team get closer to the dream. And, hey, here's a concept: you get to keep going to the rink and you keep getting paid to do so. How does a player get from Nino Niederreiter, who just wants to make the Islanders' roster next year, to this BS? Somewhere along the way we all get lost, and NHL quasi-superstars are no exception.

Good time to refresh on this rule: Exhibit 1, Standard Player's Contract. The Club may from time to time during the continuance of this SPC establish reasonable rules governing the conduct and condtioning of the Player, and such reasonable rules shall form part of this SPC and the Agreement as fully as if herein written. For violation of any such rules or for any conduct impairing the thorough and faithful discharge of the duties incumbent upon the Player, the Club may impose a reasonable fine upon the Player and deduct the amount thereof from any money due or become due to the Player. The Club may also suspend the Player for any violation of such rules.

Morals of the story:

The game: Get over it. If you are lucky enough to play in the NHL and get paid the accompanying outrageous salary, show up and shut up. The end.

Life: If I failed to report for duty to my job, I'd be toast too. That is why I show up, sometimes I shut up (when called for) and I do what they pay me for. May I suggest NHL players follow my fine example. Because at least they get to do something they love -- even if it is for a losing team -- and that's a privilege most people will never experience.

Next up: Article 16, League Schedule: Playing Rosters: Reserve Lists: Practice Sessions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Signs you need a hockey intervention

1) Planning your Friday night consists of figuring out how you're going to simultaneously watch and actually pay attention to the All Star Game Fantasy Draft and the Portland Winterhawks on FSN while listening to Todd Vrooman and Andy Kemper on the local radio station. And figuring out which pajamas to wear while doing so.

2) You are in a French restaurant eating lunch and watching the Turner Classic Movie Channel they've got playing in the background and you realize that Hey! That actor looks exactly like Mike Milbury!

3) You spend precious hours on a Wednesday night Googling WHL Referee Matt Kirk to see if any new articles have popped up about him. Because major junior league referees are so popular, you want to make sure you didn't miss anything that might have run in the past 24 hours.

4) You turn on the Center Ice channels on your cable system and get no games on any channel at all. In a panic you call Comcast to inform them that hey, I just paid off this package deal this month and I thought I still got another three months worth of hockey on these channels, how come you switched them off? And declare that you, the consumer in this tough economy, are not standing for any monkey business from your cable company, who's already ripping you off as it is. Only to be told that "ma'am we're looking at our programming here and it says there's a break for the All Star Game until January 31st."

5) You wonder why even the pants that had room to grow in them don't fit you, not realizing that it has been caused by a regular diet of barbecue nachos, beer and salted pretzels.

6) You spend your lunch hour filling out a customer feedback form on to inquire as to whether it's just an error on or it's true that the Pittsburgh Penguins don't make grown up pajamas or matching sheets for large sized beds.

Not that any of these things actually happened to me... but ya' know, if they did... I'm here to help loyal readers learn from the wisdom of my experience.

As for what to do in the event of said realizations: You could try turning off the NHL Network, canceling the Center Ice package and selling all your remaining Winterhawks season tickets on eBay, but that would lead to permanent brain damage and possible death, so I recommend a 24-hour cleansing ritual (after the All Star Game is complete of course) in which you leave the television off, put the season tickets in a drawer, drink nothing but juice and water, and eat a small handful of peanut butter filled pretzels every two hours. By the next day, you should be able to live like normal people and only watch one hockey game when you get home at night instead of six simultaneously while surfing hockey blogs like this one for things you didn't already know about hockey. Of course, this didn't actually work for me, but I like to keep an open mind and hope that others will be more successful in their attempts.

Oh, and the Portland Winterhawks gave me my birthday present, a 9 - 2 routing of the Chilliwack Bruins, just like I asked for:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Note to the Portland Winterhawks: no, I'm not a whiney stat blogger

The games: Portland Winterhawks vs. Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds and Spokane Chiefs.

The final score: It went like this: Portland won, all three of the other teams lost. Portland reclaimed the number one spot in the U.S. Division of the WHL.

It was also a mini parents' weekend: Due to the back-to-back schedule of the games, several of the players' parents were in town for the weekend. And I see somebody pinged this blog from Langenthal, Switzerland (Sven Bartschi's hometown) and I have a follower from Ty Rattie's family. Welcome all. I hope you like what you read here. Now, I know all y'all like the blog, but I hear tell your sons are not so convinced that bloggers speak the truth. And indeed most of them do not. But this one does. And here's what I know:

1) Behind the great plays and great playmaking are great players.

2) Three cliches in one interview are quite enough. And that includes you, Ryan Johansen. You're an original player, I know you can think of an original quote.

3) Whiney stat bloggers are what my father called T for Tacky. Pay them no mind and maybe if we're really, really lucky, they'll go away when they realize no one's listening.

And this: The NHL is a beautiful, imperfect, scary, ugly place full of unbelievable highs and totally unforeseen lows. Kinda like life. The players who call Portland home for now will soon see what I mean. But in the meantime, you need not fear all the crazy lady who writes about you on oregonlive. I mean you no harm, and hey, I might actually think you're really cool.

I've done it once, and it worked, so here you go. Feel free to share with fellow parents, your sons, and whoever else might need convincing. And for those of you who keep up with the oregonlive blog, excuse me while I go buy a warm and fuzzy cat.

Dear Portland Winterhawks,

Thank you for coming to our city to play hockey. I know you don't necessarily get to choose what city drafts you or trades you later, but you did choose junior hockey over a normal teenage existence. And for that we are grateful. And by the way, that other's not so normal and it's not so fun. You didn't miss anything. But if you hadn't come here, you would have missed what I hope was the time of your life. And all those silly questions you answered after the OT winning goals and Sunday 5 pm losing games and playoffs and almost wins on Nino bobblehead night? They just might come in handy one day.

For our part, Portland fans are proud to say that we knew you when. We remember where we were on June 25 when the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders called your names. We wrote about it, even. And some of us sat at home the next day and waited for the rest of the Winterhawks' names to be called. So if someone ever asks you what it was like to play here, we hope you think well of us, as we do of you.

As for the "experts" who hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace, never mind all those ugly things you hear and read and see out there. Real fans don't go there, we don't do that and we don't listen to the chatter. Neither should you. We know that you just went from Portland to the draft to international tournaments to Prospects Games to three games in a row on a weekend. And we applaud you for your fortitude and your grace. It's more than most of us had at your age, or will ever have.

Whiney stat bloggers, my friends call them. I'm not one of them, in case you hadn't noticed. Need proof? Read on. And in the meantime, remember that there are some of us who really do believe that behind the great plays are great players. We have seen the future and it's name is Ryan, Nino, Brad, Taylor P., Taylor A., Tayler J., Oliver, Stefan, Mac, Luke, Riley, Brett, Spencer, Ty, Tyler, Joe, Sven, William, Craig, Brendan and Derrick. I'd say make us proud, but I already know you will.

Yours truly,


The ten things I know for sure:

1) When they aren't hanging 10 in the penalty box, Brad Ross and Riley Boychuk know the meaning of dazzle.

2) When they aren't busy squirting refs with water bottles and punching out opponents who go after their teammates, Tayler Jordan and Brett Ponich are two of the nicest, most mature young men you will ever meet.

3) When he's not busting out his latest litany of cliches, Ryan Johansen is a genius playmaker who has more of an edge beneath the surface than you might think.

4) Brendan Leipsic may be small, but he is mighty. He's like those little toys called Weebles, which we used to play with when I was growing up. They wobble, but they don't fall down. And in Brendan's case, they get back up when they do.

5) Taylor Aronson and Joe Morrow don't give you but a few words when you interview them, but they say it all with their game winning goal set ups and their slap shots from the point into "wherever the goalie isn't."

6) Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi are.... well, they're Nino and Sven. They love chocolate, they score goals, they give the best quotes and at 17, they crossed several continents and an ocean to live their hockey dreams. Switzerland has given the world watches, chocolate and Jonas Hiller. And they have given us Nino and Sven. Thank you.

7) Ty Rattie will never get a swelled head because he's too busy using his noggin to plot new and exciting ways to assist, score and nab the game winning goals in Game 7 playoff nailbiters against Spokane.

8) Taylor Peters took honors physics, fights with precision and has firsthand knowledge of Consol Energy Center from the inside. Oh, and his quotes? They're kinda like his fights: wickedly smart, brutally honest and always worth quoting.

9) Keith Hamilton, whether he just misses a shutout or just gets to play for a game or two to back up Mac Carruth, is like a kid who just got a new toy for Christmas. Happy he got the toy he wanted, and happy to tell you about it afterwards.

10) Craig Cunningham lost a C and a team he'd played for his entire junior career in a trade that sent Spencer Bennett and Teal Burns to the Vancouver Giants. But if you talk to him or meet him up close, it's like he was always here from the start.

Beggars can't be choosers: unless their name is Evgeni Nabokov

The news: That crap-ass waiver rule isn't working for former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov either. After being put on waivers by Detroit, he was snatched up by the Islanders and refuses to report for duty. Ummm...maybe somebody needs to remind him that he just got released from the KHL, where he was relegated because the NHL couldn't find a place for him, and he should take what he can get. I know the Islanders aren't doing so hot right now, and you do go to the lowest bidder when claimed off waivers, so I kinda understand. But dude, it beats looking for the kind of jobs that are listed on the back of a matchbook.

Meanwhile, back in Portland, where the NHL's future is appreciative of their good fortune, the Winterhawks racked up three wins in three nights: And they weren't small games either. The points earned in Sunday's OT dazzler over the Spokane Chiefs helped put us back ahead of them in the division after we had taken a brief pause for the number 2 spot. Read all about it here:

I have to write about hockey. It's a moral imperative: Wednesday is my birthday, and I share it with Wayne Gretzky, Montreal Canadiens' prospect Louis LeBlanc and depending on which story you believe, January 26 is also the date of the first hat trick in hockey.

So, in's partay week: Monday is also the 19th birthday of one of my favorite Portland Winterhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Taylor Peters. Taylor wasn't drafted this year when he became eligible, but I'd keep an eye out for this story. The Winterhawks have quite a few players who went to the NHL via the non-traditional route (Oliver Gabriel - Columbus, Stefan Schneider - Vancouver) or on the second try (Luke Walker - Colorado Avalanche, Riley Boychuck - Buffalo Sabres). I am trusting Taylor to keep up the tradition.

Oh, and it's All-Star Game weekend, but major bummer alert: Sidney Crosby is definitely out for the Game and won't even travel to the game as he recovers from a concussion. Malkin is a maybe. Jordan Eberle is out of the skills competition. As we already know, Jarome Iginla is out and Danny Briere is in. What's a girl to do? Good thing I don't know the first thing about how to conduct a fantasy draft, or I'd be toast right about now.

Next up: Someday I'll understand it, but since NHL players don't get it either, I will just move on from the waiver rule to the next totally unintelligible rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

To refresh, the NHL's waiver rule totally blows

The game: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils.

Duh: Minus the two-headed monster, the Pens were blanked by the Devils 2 - 0.

Nabokov to Detroit? Not so fast: The Detroit Red Wings have signaled their intent to sign Evgeni Nobokov, but he still has to clear waivers and it's apparently unlikely that he will. Not but a few days ago, the St. Louis Blues signed Kyle Wellwood and San Jose snatched him up. It's the six degrees of hockey separation. The Sharks are Nobokov's former team.

I don't have a Harvard degree like Craig Adams, but I will now attempt to review how the Scooby Doo cleverly disguised as a high-paid lawyer came up with this one:

NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, Article 13, Waivers and Loans of Players to Minor League Clubs.

Let's tackle one bullshit rule at a time. Since he's been in the KHL, I believe this applies for Nabokov: 13.23, In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the regular NHL Playing Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first cleared or been obtained via Waivers.

Oh wait, I think I've got it: "Waivers" means the process by which the rights to a Player are offered to all other Clubs. Aha! It's the great equalizer: everyone has to have a shot at a player before a team hoards him all to their little salary cap selves. And who exactly gets first dibs on these exclusive players and their rights, you might ask? That's why I'm here:

Part 1/the easy part: If only one Club makes a claim to a player on Waivers, then the Player is transferred to that Club.

Part 2/the fuzzy part where I go make martini and re-read it: If more than one team makes a claim to a player, he shall be transferred to the team that has the lowest percentage of possible points in the League at the time of the request for Waivers.

Praise whatever you believe in, I finally understand something in this flippin' agreement: This is exactly like those sales where they give you 20 percent off any item, but it's 20 percent off the lowest priced item on the sale rack not the brand spankin' new, more expensive item they just put on display this morning. Hallelujah and let there be light.

Back in the junior leagues: The Portland Winterhawks are in the middle of a hockey blitz this weekend. They will play all three nights this weekend: Friday night they will play in Everett and they must turn around and play Seattle at 2 pm on Saturday. They top it off with a 5 pm Sunday game against Spokane. Personally, I think it's an evil conspiracy between the Portland Trailblazers (who must use the Coliseum Saturday night) and the WHL Schedulers to make us play our archenemies back to back. Good for Hawks fans. Not so much for the players, who I predict will get a little punchy come Sunday, literally and metaphorically.

That being said, for players like Ryan Johansen, who informed me that he will not be keeping me entertained with so much as a smidgen of a little scrap because he's never starting a fight, ever, unless it's for one of several exclusive reasons, including defending a teammate or to get the guys fired up. In that case, may I suggest he take the opportunity on the bus ride to or from Everett to review this easy guide from Down Goes Brown on "How To Fight When You Don't Want to Fight." For Ryan, may I suggest employing the best case scenario.

Next up: Check out to keep up with me and the Winterhawks fight tally this weekend.

Here comes hockey's future

The game: The CHL top prospects game, Toronto, Ontario.

The score: Team Orr cruised to what sounds like an easy win over Team Cherry, 7 -1. And that was only with one Portland Winterhawk on their roster (Sven Bartschi). Team Cherry had the other three (Ty Rattie, Tyler Wotherspoon, Joe Morrow).

Small and quiet, but mighty: That one Portland Winterhawk is Sven Bartschi, who was pretty quiet at the World Juniors (Team Switzerland). He did make a splash at the skills game, though, with a one-handed, through the legs breakaway shot, and he scored during the game last night. And he's certainly making noise out here in Portland. Sven may be small and a little more quiet, but just wait. Big things will be coming in a 5'10", soft-spoken package. Ditto for Joe, who is also a bit shy, but has a really nifty sense of humor. As evidenced by his full-on diving shot during the breakaway competition. When I asked him once what was said during a Portland line brawl with the Kamloops Blazers, Joe told me "some inappapropriate things were said." Genius. Three guesses as to what the inappropriate things were. He also gave me this choice bit when I asked him about his gift with goal-scoring slap shots from the point: "I just looked for where the goalie wasn't." Ah, if only hockey were that simple.

Names who are not Winterhawks to watch: Take your pick. The list is long and distinguished and most of it plays in the QMJHL:

Would you like fries with your routing?: Huge scoring differences were apparently the order of business last night in the NHL too: Rangers 7, Toronto 0. Minnesota 6, Calgary 0. Enough said.

If you want to keep up on all things junior hockey, this is the place to be: True, I'm a tad biased because they link to my oregonlive blog, but even if they didn't this is one of the best reads out there when it comes to all things junior hockey, and the prospects game.

Ok, it's not just me, the waiver rule in the collective bargaining agreement is messed up: No sooner had he been signed by St. Louis than Kyle Wellwood was put on waivers and snatched up by the San Jose Sharks.

Up later this evening: look for a refresh on that stupid waivers rule. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When in doubt, link to your favorite hockey things

The news: But we liked being number one. The Portland Winterhawks have dropped to second place in the US Division. The team is tied with Spokane in points, but has lost more games. Hence, the #2 spot. I think. I'm not good with math, but I'm pretty sure more losing = slipping in the standings.

Alas, we shall carry on, but without our superstars, who are off showing off their skills (literally and otherwise) at the CHL Top Prospects Game. It's the second year in a row we have dispatched four players: Sven Bartschi (#6 on NHL Mid- Season Rankings, #14 on Bob McKenzie's rankings), Ty Rattie (#11 on NHL Mid-Season Rankings, #17 on Bob McKenzie's rankings), Joe Morrow (#16 on NHL Mid-Season Rankings, #33 on Bob McKenzie's rankings), and Tyler Wotherspoon (#33 on NHL Mid-Season Rankings).

Read all about them here: – Bob McKenzie's mid-season rankings – NHL mid-season 2011 Entry Draft rankings

Joining them at the prospects game will be Team Orr Captain Ryan Nugent Hopkins, who is blogging all season long about his experiences leading up the 2011 Entry Draft:

And his team the Red Deer Rebels aren't too shabby either:

And if you want to read all about the Top Prospects, of course there's a web site for that. There's probably an app for it too, but darned if I know what it is since I only just learned how to use the space bar on my cell phone text tool:

I wonder if Nino gave him any good tips for good moves: Last year, Nino Niederreiter, who went on to become the highest drafted Swiss player in the NHL's history, wowed with a one-handed, backhander during the Showdown Breakaway Contest:

This year it will be his teammates' turn, as Sven and Team Orr compete against Ty and Joe and Team Cherry. Tyler will participate in the Hardest Shot competition.

Just in case the media tunes in to Portland's frequency during the skills competition today and the game tomorrow, here is Ryan Johansen on TSN to remind you of how to properly pronounce Oregon (hint: it's not Oreygone):

And if you want to see who else is watching the prospects, head East:

Or if you just want to learn about how to tell if your team bus is on fire, read NHL Players Letters to Santa and pick up tips for dominating the NHL Fantasy Draft, this is a must:

Happy reading! Whilst our prospects are back East dazzling, self-respecting hockey fans in Portland will be reporting for duty at the Memorial Coliseum at 7 pm sharp to watch the Winterhawks take on the Tri-City Americans. Look for an update on oregonlive tomorrow.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Portland Winterhawks fans like being number one, if you don't mind

The games: Montreal vs. Rangers, Edmonton vs. LA, Chicago vs. Nashville. Portland Winterhawks vs. Kamloops Blazers.

Why I chose them: Mike Cammalleri is back from his battle with strep throat cooties, Anze Kopitar vs. Taylor Hall, and thanks to recent losses, Portland's #1 division and conference standings are on the line tonight. Feels kinda like a playoff, now that I think about it.

Prospect watch: Non-Portlanders tuning in to the CHL Top Prospects Game this week should keep an eye on the following: Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie, Tyler Wotherspoon, Joe Morrow. Sven is on Team Orr, the others are all on Team Cherry.

A for the A: Ty Rattie has been named an alternate captain for Team Cherry. Ty and his linemate Sven Bartschi are the Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter of the 2011 Entry Draft. Look for Sven and Ty to go top 10, very likely close to one another. And don't worry about NHL greatness going to their heads. I've spent quality time getting to know them, and if who they are now is any sign, nothing of the sort will be happening. When I asked Sven about his goals for this year, he told me "I just hope I get to play a lot." Done. When I asked Ty what it was like to be awesome, he thought I was talking about the team. It took me three questions before he realized I was asking him what it was like to be awesome personally, and even then he still credited good linemates and teammates as part of his success. I'm in for Joe going top 20, and at least one mock draft is with me. Mike Morreale of has him going 16 to the Colorado Avalanche, which would be supremely cool since they already drafted two other Winterhawks (Luke Walker, Troy Rutkowski).

He got lucky twice: I was most distressed when Portland traded Spencer Bennett and Teal Burns to the Vancouver Giants. But we gained an equally awesome play in Craig Cunningham and Spencer and Teal are wasting no time helping Vancouver rock the house. Check it out here: The first time I interviewed Spencer, ironically enough it was a winning game against Vancouver in which he scored two goals. When I asked him about his success that night, he said "I got lucky twice." And so he did. Carry on boys. If you hear a Winterhawks fan cheering you the next time you're back in Portland, it was me. I did it. And I'll do it again.

The rule: 16.4, Active Roster Size: Playing Roster. (a) For the 2005/6 season and thereafter, there shall be a maximum of 23 Players on each Club's Active Roster at any one time, provided, however, that on the date of each season's Trade Deadline, a Club's Active Roster may be increased to any number of Players the Club, in its discretion, so determines, subject to Article 50 hereof. (b) Except in case of emergency, there shall be no reduction of the required minimum Playing Rosters of the Clubs, below 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders.

Morals of the story:

The game: This is like one of those complicted math equations from high school. If two trains leave the station at the same time and one makes three stops of 10 minutes each on a route with 20 stops and one makes one stop of 10 minutes on a route with 25 stops, which one will arive at the next station first? I thought this sport was all about keeping it simple. So are there 23 players on the roster, or aren't there?

Life: It could be a good and bad thing if we had this rule for Corporate America during the bad economy. On the one hand, if companies were required to keep their full employee roster, nobody would have to worry about being fired. On the other hand, our spend now, pay later culture would never have a wake up call to make us think about our spending habits, and rethink whether the rate race is really worth it. We don't have a legally binding agreement that makes it so, but getting fired, job hopping and the like are just life's way of pushing us towards the roster we really belong on. I find it best not to fight fate, because a lot of the time it leads you right where you should have been all along.

Next up: NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, 16.5, Restricted Days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

184 days of hockey isn't nearly enough, but I guess it will do

The game: Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks.

Why I chose it: Because Vancouver vs. Rangers and Philly vs. Boston just isn't doing it for me tonight.

I'm pretty sure I picked the right game, though: Edmonton's up 3 - 0 as the clock is running out on the second period. Plus, Center Ice has the game in hi-def. Things are looking up.

Not so much in Portland: Where we fell to the Spokane Chiefs 4 - 3, as part of operation "wait until the third period to show up and score." They hit the road to Kelowna and Kamloops for weekend games, where I suggest employing operation "show up in the first period and keep showing up until we win."

Prospect alert: On the other hand, next week Portland will dispatch four sprightly young things to the CHL prospects game. This year, we will send Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie, Tyler Wotherspoon and Joe Morrow. It's an even split: two defensemen (Tyler and Joe) and two top-ranked forwards (Ty and Sven). All are sitting pretty in the mid-term scouting rankings. Look for Ty and Sven to easily get drafted top 10 in 2011 and keep an eye on my personal dark horse favorite for a top 20 draft pick, Joe Morrow.

Hey look! A rule I understand: 16.1 League Schedule (82 games), 16.2, Playoff Games (four rounds, with each series in each round having a maximum of 7 games).

But I learn something new every day: 16.3, Length of Season. Without the NHLPA's advance written consent, the Regular Season will be scheduled over a period of not less than 184 days. Each Club will play at least one NHL game during the first three days of the Regular Season and at least one NHL game during the last three days of the Regular Season.

Morals of the story:

The game: So, this would be the no cop-out rule, where you must show up and play in the waning days of the regular season, even if you are out of contention for the playoffs. This is where I mention that nowhere in this rule does it say you have to like it.

Life: Clearly, workaholic America needs this rule. Unless employees provide advance written consent, no company shall make their staff work beyond the standard 40 - 45 hour work week or check email/messages/call in to conference calls whilst on vacation. If company wishes to seek special dispensation and overwork employees to the point where they become useless and unhappy, they must submit said request in writing to employees a minimum of 30 days in advance, so staff may have ample time to review said request before tearing it to shreds, throwing it in your face and telling you to piss off.

Next up: 16.4, Active Roster Size; Playing Roster. 16.5, Restricted Days.

Things you didn't know you didn't know about hockey

The game: Spokane Chiefs 4, Portland Winterhawks 3 (WHL). Apparently, operation we'll show up around the middle of the third period is still in effect for the Hawks.

Other than that, here is what I learned: I had two Australians sitting next to me who had never watched a hockey game. Of all the people to sit next to, they picked me. Oh, the irony. They asked me "now, you can explain this game to us, right? And I thought I could, until they hit me with a few choice bits I had to go look up. But I got a few right without assistance. So in case you need small talk for your next office party:

What's on the scoreboard?: The score of each team, the period, the shots on goal, the saves and the player and his penalty time left.

So, the ref just decides to stop play so they can fix the ice? The ref decides everything.

Do they have other events in this building? Yes. How long does it take to melt the ice? Dude, I didn't major in physics.

How thick does the ice have to be? At least two inches.

How long does it take to make the ice? It took master NHL icemaker Dan Craig and his crew one week to set up, paint and properly freeze Heinz Field for the Winter Classic.

Why did they hold the face off on that circle? Because it's held on the face off spot closest to the penalty or the stoppage of play (e.g. goalie catching a shot in midair).

That is what I know. As for why we lost to Spokane, no clue, but you can read all about my attempt here:

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Ducks went down, the Winterhawks went trading

The distraction: The University of Oregon just lost a heartbreaker to Auburn in the BCS national title game.

The WHL trade deadline report from Portland: All quiet on the last minute blockbuster trade front. The team made a quiet swap of two prospects, both of whom keep our roster full of the most popular hockey names. Read all about it here:

Crosby's down, so are the Pens: Duh. I missed it, but apparently the Boston Bruins pulled out their signature move and scored four goals in the third period within mere seconds or minutes of each other, to defeat the Penguins 4 - 2.

So, no national title for Oregon, no win for the Pens, no blockbuster trades. But there is this: On Central Scouting mid-term rankings for the 2011 Entry Draft, four Portland Winterhawks are sitting pretty: Sven Bartschi (#6), Ty Rattie (#11), Joe Morrow (#16), Tyler Wotherspoon (#33). A beacon of hope on a sub-zero Monday, in which we are battening down the hatches for a snowstorm tomorrow night. Or worse, just in time for game day on Wednesday. This happened last year, and the game started nearly three hours late and I ended up staying at a nearby hotel. Stay tuned.

Tonight's mini moral of the story: The problem with luck is it always runs out, as it did for the Pens and for the Ducks. Or, you can do as the Winterhawks did this weekend and make your own luck. And if that luck comes courtesy of the five players who have returned from international tournaments, so be it. Whatever it was, they racked up back-to-back victories against Seattle and Everett this weekend, so I say carry on, boys. I'm already in the midst of paying for my playoff tickets, and I fully expect a return on my investment.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Outrageous NHL superstar salaries shall be greater than the Team Salary Range

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL).

Why you should come out and watch it if you live in Portland: Because our full roster is back for the first time in nearly a month. Because it's the chance to see our newest acquisition William Wrenn make his debut. Because we lost on New Year's Eve to Seattle, and there's nothing like a little revenge on a Saturday night.

We interrupt your regular programming on the NBC network: Sidney Crosby is out for a week with a mild concussion. What's a girl to do? I guess I'll just spend more time Googling Guy Boucher.

Rebuilding, what rebuilding? There's no rebuilding going on here: Devils Captain and Olympic Gold Medalist Jamie Langenbrunner was dealt back to his orginial team, the Dallas Stars. Lou Lamoriello claims it's not rebuilding, but did say "with the status of our payroll, we were not going to re-sign Jamie next year." Translation for the hockey to English dictionary: We blew our salary cap wad on one player who hasn't returned on his investment and who doesn't need to since you guaranteed him a multi-million dollar paycheck for an eternity, so we have to purge any players who are actually worth more but who we can't pay because we don't have money left to go around.

Now might be a good time to focus on the salary cap article in the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

Article 50, Team Payroll Range System:

Uh-oh. There's math involved: But I think I get this part: For each League Year there shall be a "Lower Limit" and an "Upper Limit" at or between which each Club must have an Averaged Club Salary. The range between the Lower Limit and the Upper Limit shall be known as the Team Payroll Range.

But this is where I get a little fuzzy: Preliminary HRR for the prior League Year mulitplied by the Applicable Percentage minus Preliminary Benefits, divided by the number of Clubs then playing in the NHL shall equal the midpoint of the Payroll Range, which shall be adjusted upward by a factor of five percent in each League Year (yielding the Adjusted Midpoint) until League-wide Actual HRR equals or exceeds $2.1 billion, at which point the five percent growth factor shall unless or until either party to this Agreement proposes a different growth factor based on actual revenue experience and/or projections, in which case the parties shall discuss and agree upon a new factor.

Morals of the story:

The game: Aha. Now I see how New Jersey got away with the Kovalchuk deal.

Life: There should totally be a rule like this for executive salaries in Corporate America: the exorbitant, undeserving salary of CEOs and VPs who delegated their way to the top without actually working shall be determined by multiplying the number of individuals who actually respect said leader by his or her salary and bonuses, then divide by the number of employees who hate him or her, minus the hours said individual spends building paper clip forts and padding his or her expense report instead of working and leading to arrive at the salary midpoint range.

Next up: The results of the Portland-Seattle match up and Article 16, League Schedule: Playing Rosters: Reserve Lists: Practice Sessions.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yeah, I definitely cursed it: Russia 5, Canada 3

The game: World Junior gold medal game, Canada vs. Russia.

You could say they defended their silver medal: But that's not what happened as Canada lost 5-3 to Russia after leading 3 - 0 going into the third period. Russia scored 5 unanswered goals in the third, three of which happened within five minutes of each other.

Maybe they should have changed places with the Pittsburgh Penguins: Who beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 8 - 1 in their first post-Winter Classic game. I've said it before, I'll say it again. You don't want to play the Pens in the wake of recent losses. They are the kings of comeback.

The only question was who didn't score?: Well, actually, Sidney Crosby. Or Steven Stamkos. But Crosby did grab an assist, so the streak is back.

Alas, comeback was not the order of the day for Canada: I believe one of my friends calls it a thermonuclear meltdown: Plain and simple...they let the game slip away. Russia took over and Canada never got back in it. But that doesn't mean Ryan Johansen's star shined any less brightly, that Jaden Schwartz was any less brave or that Brayden Schenn was any less spectacular. It just means that they learned one of life's biggest lessons at the worst of all times: never take anything you have for granted. You never know when you might lose it.

So yeah, I think it's safe to say I definitely cursed hockey this week: But the good news is, I don't think there are anymore epic, life-changing games I can ruin.

Morals of the story: Like life, a hockey game (or tournament) never goes the way you planned. And rarely just the way you wanted. Canada thought they had Russia under control, and they didn't. Nino Niederreiter went into the tournament with a promotion from breakout star to Captain and he ended up in the box during a crucial game. And Jaden Schwartz after already having been through more than enough, broke his ankle early on and wasn't able to even try to help his team on the ice. I truly do hope that one day the boys realize that warts and third period meltdowns and all, there was beauty in the midst of the disapointment:

1) Prize for coming back to still do well: Switzerland still finished at a strong 5th place, earning them a chance to return next year. They will play in Group A in Calgary. Hey! You learn something new every day: not every team in the world gets to join the fun. Only the top 10 teams are eligible to attend and compete in the World Juniors. And next year it will be in Canada (Calgary and Edmonton). No, I didn't know that. Go ahead, Facebook, Twitter, call your friends. I'll wait. In the meantime, allow me to issue a safety warning for Team Canada: Boys, if you lose again next year on home ice, you will need to enter the junior leagues' player witness protection program, where you will be forced to watch a loop reel of this year's game at least three times a day and the background music in restaurants, stores and elevators will consist of fans booing you.

2) Prize for oustanding sportsmanship and teamwork: Jaden Schwartz's teammates helping him literally hop out onto the ice to receive his medal. It almost made you forget the score, and it definitely reminded you that the players are better than what happened in that third period.

3) They're all stars in Portland too: Ryan Johansen was named to the tournament's all star team, Nino got promoted to Captain and Sven Bartschi made his first trip to the tournament. I guarantee you when the conquering heroes return, they will be welcomed. Damn the third period meltdowns and fifth place finishes.

4) Meanwhile the younglings did very nicely too, thank you very much: Over at the Under-17 World Challenge, Portland Winterhawks Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Leipsic were named Captain and Alternate Captain of Team West, respectively. They also racked up some pretty serious points and assists, and although it wasn't quite enough for a medal, they finished a still-respectable 6th.

Bottom line: Even two years ago, Winterhawks fans did not have international tournaments to cheer for, or players in prospects games or anything else of the sort. Disappointing though the final outcomes may have been, I hope one day the boys who trekked across the country or across the border realize that what they did these past few weeks was still pretty remarkable. And maybe, if we're really lucky, the hard lessons of this year's tournament will be our gain in the stretch run and the playoffs. Wanting to win is never enough. No matter what the score, the way to win is to do as the Russians did and play like you need to. And you never take any team or game for granted. Hurry back, boys. We have struggled through our own losses without you, and that, I think, will be enough of that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I think I cursed hockey this weekend

The game: Canada vs. USA (World Juniors).

It's the all-Ryan Johansen and Team Canada show: Canada led by 3 going into the third period, courtesy of a third goal on the power play by Johansen. His linemae Zach Kassian put them ahead even further with a fourth goal with 15 minutes to go in the third.

Well, they are teenage boys after all: Ryan and Nino Niederreiter got a taste of NHL things to come when they faced off in a quarterfinal game yesterday, complete with chirping and shoving and little digs at each other. Get your ya-yas out now, boys. Because back in Portland, it's back to business as teammates and linemates.

Revenge is best served cold. Really cold.: Canada 4, USA 1. Canada faces Russia in the gold medal game, after cake walking right over the US.

What a difference a year makes: Last year at this time, Ryan was on deck for the CHL prospects game and still learning the finer points of WHL hockey. On his first try at the World Juniors, he heads to the gold medal game. So the story ends a little differently for Nino than he had hoped, but Switzerland still has the chance to at least finish 5th or 6th before returning home. Perhaps it was a loss for Team Switzerland, but for Portland it is always a win when our players compete on a world stage. And let's not forget Sven Bartschi, who has already delivered on early promise and he's just getting started. It's a good day for Canada, and a better one for Portland Winterhawks fans. You. Go. Boys.

Way to be cool, dudes: All the US players skated over to Jack Campbell to offer what looked like some encouraging words for a job well done. The IIHF agreed. Both goaltenders were named player of the game.

But back on the WHL, NHL, whatever-HL front: I might have to stop watching so as not to curse any more players or teams. To refresh, in the past four days, the Winterhawks lost a huge New Year's Eve game, the Pens lost the Winter Classic on their own ice, Switzerland lost to Canada in the World Juniors and Nino spent the final minutes of the game in the box, and now my favorite rookie Jordan Eberle is day-to-day with an ankle injury. I blame myself. I cursed it all. In case you were it wasn't the rain in Pittsburgh, it wasn't the officiating in Portland. I did it. And I promise not to watch hockey for 24 hours as penance. AFTER I'm done watching the Canada vs. USA game. And maybe the Boston vs. Toronto replay. Then I'll repent.

The only thing more pissed off than me right now: Team USA's bench. They looked so sad as that clock wound down. What a difference a year makes, indeed.

I was going to recap the top hockey moments of 2010, but Down Goes Brown did it better than I ever could: If you're not reading this blog, you should be.

Parting shots: You could tell by Nino's post-game comments and the Team USA bench how much the sport means to the players, and how much it stings when they lose. But lost in the unfortunate penalties and the blockbuster games that didn't quite go as I had planned, is the fact that precious few players get the privilege to even play in the World Juniors, Winter Classic, Olympics, whatever. Sidney Crosby has done all three, plus the Memorial Cup and times two for the Classic. Shiny things are pretty, but making it that far at all and playing honorably to the very last buzzer is prettier. This weekend, Portland welcomes home our conquering heroes, medal or no. Because for now, they are ours. All ours. Because they did us proud. If you live here, join us if you can. It's Saturday at the Rose Garden, what's not to like?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's the all Portland Winterhawks, all the time show

The games: Winter Classic. Canada vs. Switzerland (World Juniors).

About the Classic: Kudos to the Washington Capitals and Eric Fehr for getting it done. Boo to the NHL Network for making it all about the weather. So it rained and the puck bounced a little. Get over it. In Oregon, we do everything in the rain. Except wear fashionable attire.

Maybe they should have followed Washington's fine example and used a different goaltender: Biggest bummer of the night was watching a bad goaltending decision by Marc-Andre Fleury that allowed Eric Fehr to score the second Caps goal of the night. The Pens never looked like they fully recovered from that, and down came their game in front of 68,000 some odd fans on their home ice. As my little cousins like to say, it was a really big ouchy. The Pens have entered a mini-skid at the worst possible time. But I do feel good for the Caps that they are entering an upswing at the best possible time. Plus, how awesome would it be to be John Carlson? Last year he was scoring the winning goal for the US at the World Juniors and now this. Nicely done.

It's the Portland version of the Russia vs. US 1980 Olympic game: It was the all-Winterhawks game as Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi (Team Switzerland) faced off against Ryan Johansen and Team Canada. Ryan is also Nino's linemate. Final score: Canada 4, Switzerland 1. Ryan goes back to his hotel as player of the game, having scored Canada's game tying number after Switzerland claimed an early lead, and pretty much setting up or assisting every other goal or chance. One of the TSN broadcasters (Pierre McGuire, I believe) said "whenever he's on the ice, something's happening." The win sets up a re-match/showdown between the US and Canada. Any self-respecting junior hockey fan will find a way to feign illness, personal emergency or other fake event to get out of work and watch it. Switzerland gets the dubious honor of playing the loser of the Finland vs. Russia game for placement at 5th or 6th place.

Oh, the irony: The power play on which Ryan scored happened because Sven was in the box for slashing.

Don't quit your day job on the forward line: Nino finished the game in the penalty box, after getting an unsportsmanlike penalty for trying to stop Zach Kassian's empty netter. Last year, he was the breakout star of this tournament. This year, he spent the last minute or so of crucial game on the bench. Hey, it's hockey. Nobody said it was fair. But Nino rarely takes an unsportsmanlike penalty, so it was especially hard to watch. On the other hand, it's a sign of his passion and commitment to doing all he can to try and help his team.

Anything was possible: Before he left for the tournament, I asked Nino what he thought the outcome would be if Switzerland ended up facing Canada. He struggled to come up with an answer and then said "Why not Switzerland? Anything is possible." Thanks to Switzerland's early goal and Benjamin Conz' stellar goaltending, for a time, it was. But alas, Canada is on a mission to avenge it's gold medal loss last year and they very nearly lost the chance to do so in the game to Sweden. And nothing much was going to stand in their way. Maybe the Swiss coaches didn't know that if you want to win, you have to feed Nino a chocolate snack every hour, on the hour.

The quirk:

Today, nearly all the match ups in the NHL involve a past or current Portland Winterhawk:

Dallas (Brenden Morrow) vs. St. Louis (Brett Ponich, 2009 Entry Draft)

Columbus (Ryan Johansen, 4th overall 2010 Entry Draft) vs. Nashville (Taylor Aronson, just signed a three-year entry level deal with the Predators)

Chicago (Marion Hossa, Mac Carruth, drafted 191st 2010 Entry Draft) vs. Anaheim (Luca Sbisa)

Phoenix (Jason LaBarbera) vs. Minnesota Wild (don't think they have a Winterhawk on board, but Mac is from there. Close enough).

Philadelphia (Braydon Coburn, who still has his Oregon number on his cell phone) vs. Detroit (former team of Marion Hossa).

Vancouver (Stefan Schneider, currently playing with AHL's Manitoba Moose) vs. Colorado (Troy Rutkowski, Luke Walker, currently playing with AHL's Lake Erie Monsters).

New York Rangers (Brandon Dubinsky) vs. Florida Panthers.

No wonder I'm annoyed and I bought a lot of food that's bad for me at Trader Joe's: Inside of a week, the Hawks gained a great new player and lost 2, they lost our New Year's game, the Pens lost the biggest game of the year except for the Stanley Cup final on their own ice and Sven and Nino didn't unleash an underdog win over Canada. Not exactly the week I was planning. But Ryan did get 'er done with Canada, Craig Cunningham scored a hat trick for Portland, Teal Burns and Spencer Bennett are on fire in Vancouver, and the Canada vs. USA rematch awaits. Now...what's a good excuse for leaving work tomorrrow around 4? Think, think, think.

Next up: The outcome of the USA vs. Canada game and updates from any further blockbuster trades for the Winterhawks (WHL trade deadline is January 10).