Portland Through the Eyes of a Saskatonian

by Steve, October 26th, 2007

Met a little girl, her name was June
A little bit south of Saskatoon

– Sonny James
hockeySaskatoon StarPhoenix reporter Cory Wolfe got on the bus with the Saskatoon Blades for their ten day, five game road trip a lot south and west of Saskatoon, through the US Division of the Western Hockey League. The trip included a stop in Portland this week, the southern most city in the league. He’s posting a diary of his trip on the StarPhoenix Web site.

It’s very interesting in a number of ways. First, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at life on the road for these student athletes, who not only play their junior careers away from home in most cases, but also endure a grueling 72 game schedule with at least one lengthy road trip each season. (It’s 1,200 miles from Saskatoon to Portland. The Brandon Wheat Kings, who are here this weekend, are traveling 1,500 miles from home ice.)

It’s also interesting to see our city, our team and our aging facility (Memorial Coliseum) through the eyes of a visitor.

After a 3-1 loss to Tri-City in Kennewick, Wash. on Saturday night, Wolfe and team rode the bus through the Columbia River Gorge to Portland.

2:10 a.m. Bus arrives at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. Players unload their bags and leave their gear to dry overnight. Blades forward Ondrej Fiala, who played in this building plenty as a member of the Everett Silvertips, points out the arena’s quirks: tiny benches and springy boards.

On a two-day layover in Portland, Wolfe and crew ate twice at the Portland City Grill, and appreciated the view. They made a trip to Lloyd Center, where they got a few chuckles about the ice rink there and the general lack of knowledge they discovered in the locals.

2:38 p.m.: The hotel shuttle delivers the elders – coaches, trainers, etc. – to the Lloyd Center shopping mall. The complex features a skating rink with boards but no glass. Curling rings are painted on the ice surface.

“Do people actually curl here?” I ask a guy in a nearby kiosk.

“Yeah,” he says enthusiastically.

“But the ice isn’t even pebbled,” I reply. “Curling ice has to be pebbled so the rocks will slide.”

His smile drops. I don’t think he knows what I’m talking about.

“Well,” he says after a pause, “I think it’s just a bunch of guys who come early in the morning to get away from their wives.”

“Oh.”

4:05 p.m.: Blades trainer Graham (Spike) Watt feigns giddiness when he sees the Zamboni resurfacing the mall’s skating rink. Even though we’ve witnessed this routine thousands of times before, we sidle up to the boards and watch. Beside us, a retired couple really is in awe of this magical machine.

“I’ve seen them on TV,” says the woman, “but I didn’t know what they did, so I asked the driver. I didn’t know if they polished it or put water on it.”

We play dumb.

“So what DOES it do?” I ask.

“It sprays water on it and then it freezes!” she says as if she’s discovered the Caramilk secret.

“Ohhhh,” I reply. “Crazy!”

Nice read Cory!

His most recent entry as of this writing was last night from Everett, Wash.: “10:53 p.m.: Bedtime. Tomorrow we check out. Then it’s on to Seattle for a game, followed by a 20-hour bus ride home…”

Think about that. Twenty hours on a bus after nine days on the road.

(Thanks to “lionshockey8″ on the Oregon Live Winter Hawks Forum for the tip.)

One Response to “Portland Through the Eyes of a Saskatonian”

  1. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    “I think it’s just a bunch of guys who come early in the morning to get away from their wives.”

    heh heh heh. You *say* you play hockey for the cardio, but you’re not kidding me, bub.