Stanley Cup ’06 sighting

by Steve, September 28th, 2006

hockeyLast spring I wrote about Alex Charns and his seminal role in the hockey protest movement. At that time, Alex mentioned a joining-up of Canes and Oilers fans outside the RBC Center during the Stanley Cup Final, and now I’ve got the proof:

Canes and Oilers fans

It’s heartening to see rival hockey fans from two different countries coming together with a message of peace.

I told Alex I have to root for the Sabres against the Canes in their season opener next Wednesday, since Portland hero Paul Gaustad is playing for Buffalo. He understands.

Alex wrote a great book about picking up recreational hockey during the NHL lockout, and his belief that a magic puck would save us all from the wrath of Dubya. It’s a great read. I keep meaning to review it here, and maybe I will someday. Or maybe I just did. Here: Buy this book!

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #60

by Steve, September 27th, 2006

Hockey season is upon us: WHL started last week; NHL next week. Our home-town season opener is this Saturday, and we’ll be there with bells on. (Not literally; I really don’t like the cowbell thing at hockey games.) I’m back at the rink on a pretty regular basis, too. I’ve hit the ice twice already this week, and I also plan on skating Friday. Which brings us (with less ado than usual) to this week’s Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Awesome Things About Playing Pickup Ice Hockey!

1. It’s an incredible cardio workout. It is a sprint sport. An hour of ice time gets your heart and lungs conditioned like nothing else I can think of. (Of course, there are some eggheads who want to rain on my parade, showing how it might be dangerous for your heart.)

2. It’s outrageous fun. I mean, even on a bad day, when I suck even more than usual, it’s more fun than just about anything I can think of. It must be the closest thing to flying, short of… well, flying.

3. There’s a certain primitive comraderie. It took me a while to get a feel for it, since there’s not a lot of chit chat. Just a lot of sweating and physical play. It feels kind of good to shove a guy out of the crease or battle for the puck in the corner. You’re all padded up, so it doesn’t hurt (much), and nobody takes it personally (usually). The guy who you just stole the puck from could be on your team next session (or next shift), so even while being fully competitive, everybody’s pretty mellow. There’s no checking unless you want to. Sometimes guys mistake me for someone who wants to, and I just retaliate by taking the puck from them.

4. In the time it takes to put on your shin guards and hockey socks, pull on your hockey pants, lace up your skates, strap on your elbow pads, put on the shoulder pads, wiggle into your jersey, don a helmet and gloves and brandish a big stick, you are transformed from working joe into gladiator. You are two or three inches taller, 35 pounds heavier and armed with a couple pounds of lumber. Anything that was weighing on your mind before you suited up is gone well before your blades touch the ice.

5. When your blades finally touch ice, you are liberated from friction. As you take your first strides across the ice sheet with the cool air on your face, you can feel the tension melt away.

6. The first 15 minutes or so of the session, you just skate around, warming up and working on edges. Or pass the puck with a buddy. Or shoot on the goalie or against the boards. Then the game is on. Sides are chosen based on who’s wearing what color. Typically, it’s something like white and red against blue, gray, black, yellow and green, or white and gray against black and red, but the guy in maroon is on the other side, or there’s two guys with aqua jerseys, and the guy with the white helmet is on our side and the other guy, he’s not playing, he’s just putting around. At any rate, we usually get a good 5-on-5 scrimmage going, and if we’re lucky we’ve got a couple subs per side and a couple goalies. It usually takes a few shifts to figure out who’s on which side, and even then I always end up making at least one or two solid tape-to-tape passes to a guy on the other side because I can’t keep all the colors straight. If we’re short, we’ll play 4-on-4, or 3-on-3 half ice. It’s like herding cats at first, but the anarchy always falls into a groove of some sort.

7. It’s a great equalizer. I skate with surgeons, house painters, software engineers, insurance salesmen, motorcycle mechanics, lawyers and rink rats. The age range is about 8-70 (literally). The doctors and lawyers have nicer sticks and skates, but they’re definitely not the best players. It’s those blue collar guys from Jersey and Quebec and Minnesota with the wood sticks and battered skates you’ve got to watch out for. And the longer I skate, the less often I’m the slowest guy out there. Nice.

8. No penalties. No shame. No icing. No goalies? No problem! Puck has to hit the pipes to score. But nobody keeps track of goals. No pressure.

9. If you’re in the lower 48, you gain entry into an exclusive club where everybody speaks the same language (that nobody outside the club speaks). Talk hockey to your heart’s content in the locker room, and nobody’s eyes glaze over, and nobody tries to talk about basketball. It’s a beautiful thing for a hockey fan to be among others who understand. (You Canadians probably don’t get this one, since you’re all in that club even if you don’t play. It’s a US thing.)

10. Water from a filthy porcelain water fountain never tasted so good.

11. When work is a drag, it’s gives you a reason to get out the door in the morning. Just a few hours at the job before it’s stick time!

12. It’s a healthy, constructive outlet for aggressive energy. Nothing like an hour of hard skating to dissipate some anger.

13. Fun + excercise = what’s the catch? It definitely doesn’t seem right that something this fun would be good for you. There’s got to be a catch… Oh yeah, it’s kind of expensive. $7.20 a session to skate, plus several hundred dollars worth of gear. But I think it’s worth it. Totally guilt free pleasure!

See you at the rink!

So close I can taste it…

by Steve, September 26th, 2006

hockey entryThe beer at the old Memorial Coliseum, that is, where the Portland Winter Hawks will play their home opener this Saturday. The natives are definitely restless over at the Oregon Live fan forum, with a handful so bitter about the killing of the radio deal they are convinced the new ownership group is bent on driving the franchise into the ground.

Never mind the piles of money they’re dumping into the old Coliseum and media marketing. The fact that this is a rebuilding year for the Hawks is somehow pinned on the new owners and their lack of savvy in marketing the team. At least by forum gadfly MrCS, who maintains that Donovan should have taken over on the condition that Hodge fire head coach Mike Williamson at the end of last year.

The fact is, Jack Donovan took over the business side of the team and left the hockey operations to long-time GM Ken Hodge. A prudent move, since he has no hockey experience. Even if he knew hockey, it wouldn’t make sense to walk right in and micromanage the hockey side. For the record, I am not a supporter of Mike Williamson. He’s a real nice guy, but he’s had his chance to do something with the Winter Hawks. But given that this is a rebuilding year (and would be under any management), with only a handful of returning vets (none of them proven scorers), it wouldn’t make much difference if Deputy Dog were head coach. We’d still be rebuilding, and an odds-on favorite to be the one team in the US division to miss the playoffs.

My bottom-line take: Win or lose, t’s still the best game in town. Even if it’s only on the visiting team, we’re going to see some first-rate hockey played by futre NHL stars in the classic Memorial Colisuem with tasty beer poured from freshly replaced lines, and eventually watching replays on the best replay screens in town. The new kids are going to be fun to watch develop, and a couple of them might have some surprises in store for us (Frazee, Sjodin, Langweider).

(By the way, in case you aren’t paying attention, the Hawks lost their first two games on the road 6-3 to Kamloops and 9-0 to Vancouver. Ouch.)

Birds of a Feather

by Steve, September 25th, 2006

hockey politics
It can be a lonely feeling being a lefty hockey fan in the US. It’s lonely enough being a hockey fan south of the 49th parallel. But add a dose of socialism to the mix, and people just think you’re a freak of nature. (Witness the common response to my “More Hockey Less War” bumper sticker: “Aren’t they the same thing? Ha ha ha.” Why no, I feel obligated to point out, civillians aren’t typically killed, impoverished and driven from their homes by hockey games. But I digress.)

Of course, our neighbors to the north don’t find it ironic to be hockey fans and progressive-minded. And I skate with some pretty leftish guys, many of whom are from the Northeastern US and Canada. So maybe it’s just that people on US left coast just don’t get it.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find another lefty blog out there written by a guy with legit hockey cred. Michael Brub is a leftist right winger, whose off-ice life involves some kind of hoity-toity academic nonsense. No, seriously, he teaches lit and cultural studies at Penn State, and has a great sense of humor in his blog.

Today’s entry, “Who’s out to get you?” is about Bill O’Reilly’s new enemies list, er, I mean “book”. Michael saves us the pain of reading O’Reilly’s pap by publishing the full enemies list, which, I was pleased to discover, contained not only the Hanson brothers, but also Sideshow Bob and Julie Andrews. I went ahead and added a few of my own (I can’t believe he left of Reggie Dunlop and Joe McGrath).

Anyway, see, I’m not crazy.

By the way, I finally got to see “Les Chiefs”. What a trip. I’ll try to write a review of it this week.

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #59

by Steve, September 20th, 2006

meIt’s been a while since I’ve done one of these here Thursday Thirteen thingies. Actually, I’ve taken a couple weeks off blogging altogether due to real-life business and lack of inspiration. Then suddenly last week, I was hit with a burst of creative energy, and I threw together some new “More Hockey Less War” merchandise to try to support this blog (baby needs a new Web server!).

Last week, in honor of the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I considered doing “Thirteen Ways George W. Bush Has Made the WorldLess Safe” (e.g. legitimized the use of terror and torture as geo-political tools, provoked the Muslim world with brutal invasions and occupations of holy lands, bumbled into Al Qaeda’s trap of a “clash of civilizations”, green-lighted Israel’s brutal rape of Gaza and Lebanon, etc.). But I never got around to it.

Oh yeah, and I was going to blog about our day last weekend at the Country Jamboree. “Last chance to cowboy up this summer!” said the promotional materials. We got free tickies courtesy of a local hockey team, so we put the kids in their cowboy boots and headed out to the ampitheater for some local band that wouldn’t stop. We were hoping to catch the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but they weren’t scheduled to play for several hours after we showed up. And there was no monster truck, as we had been led to believe there would be. And the promised NASCAR racing turned out to be little radio controled cars. So the kids frolicked on the lawn, and the wife enjoyed the cover tunes, and we all ate a bunch of crappy concession food and went home with tummy aches well before the national acts came on.

And this has me thinking about all the Wacky (and Not-So-Wacky) Things I’ve Done in the Off-season. With summer pretty much washing down the storm drains in Portland, it seems like a good time for a summer retrospective, so here’s what I did:

1. Went to the Country Jamboree. What were we thinking?

2. Went to the stock car races.

3. Drank far too many Mojitos, which led to many unproductive afternoons, and ultimately prompted Wacky Mommy to quit drinking. I’ve basically quit, too. Turns out that dinner out is at least 10 bucks cheaper when we don’t order drinks.

4. Went to a couple few minor league baseball games.

5. Got really agitated and upset about the conflagrations in the Middle East.

6. Took a month off from playing hockey.

7. Bought Wacky Girl a new bike for her seventh birthday, and helped her figure out how to ride without training wheels. What a trip to see your first born take flight like that. She’s been looking so tall and grown-up lately, but on her bike, all padded up and with her big helmet on, she just looks tiny.

8. Grew a great garden, with tons of beans, tomatoes, cukes, spaghetti squash, potatoes, Hungarian wax peppers, and chilis. And basil. And pumpkins that took over the front yard.

9. Put in a winter garden of broccoli and kale. The new plants are really enjoying the recent turn of weather (rain) we’ve been having.

10. Went to the beach a few times. New approach this year: day trips! It’s only a couple hours to get to Canon Beach from here, and you can spend the whole day on the beach and come back and still have half your weekend to drink Mojitos in the back yard.

11. Went camping (but only once). More next year. Kids loved it.

12. Went to Winter Hawks training camp to check out some of the new kids and get an early hockey fix. They’ve got some great young talent, but a lack of returning offensive power. It’s going to be a tough year for the Hawks, but we’ll still get to see some first rate hockey in town this season (even if it’s the visiting team).

13. Got a cell phone. Me. With a cell phone. Sheesh.

Okay, summer’s over, schools back in session, and hockey season is so close I can hardly stand it. Drop the puck already!

Drop the puck!

by Steve, September 18th, 2006

hockeyMan, this off-season has been looooong! What with war, war, and more war and with stick time at local rink jammed with pros running drills at one end and kids clogging up the other, I am absolutely jonesin’ for hockey. Since the pros are all back with their teams and the kids are back in school, I’ve been getting back on the ice for the lunch our scrimmage sessions (and boy am I out of shape).

The local junior B teams, the Jaguars and the Pioneers, started their seasons this past weekend. The local Canandian major junior team, the Portland Winter Hawks, have played a handful of pre-season games, and start their regular season on the road this weekend on the road. The home opener is September 30 against the Kelowna Rockets.

There’s some good news/bad news on the Winter Hawks front, as the new owners have announced a new media deal. The good news is that they’re going to televise most (if not all) home games and at least one away game. The bad news? No radio. This has got the old farts over at the forum totally up in arms. I think it’s too bad they couldn’t keep it on the air, but it just doesn’t make economic sense. And the TV deal is sure to bring in a lot more fans. Audio of all games will be web-cast.

The other good news is that they are putting replay screens back in the the old Memorial Coliseum, and they’re doing other upgrades there, to. The Coliseum is a beautiful old barn, built in 1960 in an architectural style way ahead of its time. It’s pretty run down, but with a little TLC, it will really shine. The Winter Hawks are playing all but 6 of their home games there this year (another bone of contention with some of the old farts). Last year, they played half of their home games in the much larger, much more modern Rose Garden, home of the NBA Portland Trail Blazers. I like the Colisuem, because it was built for hockey (the old professional Western Hockey League Portland Buckaroos), and it is a much more intimate venue (something like 10,000 seats for hockey, compared with something like 20,000 in the Rose Garden). Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, but I kind of like that.

Oh, and hey, I designed a new t-shirt:
More Hockey Less War t-shirt
Drop The Puck!