There are no Autograph Lines in Heaven

by Steve, March 3rd, 2008

I admit it… I’m a bad hockey fan. It’s usually about this time of year that I realize I haven’t seen a hockey game, in person or on TV, for a month or more. Then I look up and realize that all the local teams are finishing up their seasons.

The Jaguars were swept three games to none in the first round of the NORPAC playoffs Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week. PSU finished their season last month.

So, having realized the local season is slipping away, I went to see the Winter Hawks take on the Kelowna Rockets last night at the ol’ Memorial Coliseum. Not having seen the Hawks for over a month, I was cautiously optimistic that I’d see some improvements in both the team and the presentation of the game.

I was sadly disappointed.

On the ice, the team continues to struggle getting the puck out of their own zone (it doesn’t help the the defensive corps has been plagued by injuries), and they continue to have a very hard time establishing offense. The Hawks ended up losing 2-1, but were out-shot 37-17. Their lone goal came late in the third period on a power play with the goalie pulled.

Off ice, the “replay screens,” the jumbo center-hung video screens, were on the fritz for the first period. For the second period, they were on, but only showing graphics — no video. In the second intermission, they tried to bring up some video to show a live interview with Christian author Karen Kingsbury.

It turns out it was “Faith Night,” but no amount of praying could get the big screens to work. When they did work, earlier in the season, they were pretty harsh. Very bright, but pretty low resolution, and the picture was very jerky due to ancient analog video equipment feeding the digital screens through analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion.

Last night this was so bad, it looked like they sent the video feed over Skype to Russia and back. The frame eventually just froze on an unflattering view of Kingsbury and her interviewer from the local Christian radio station. Kingsbury was saying something about how her fans are her friends, and “there are no autograph lines in heaven.” The whole thing completely broke down, and they just blanked the screens for the third period.

This is pretty symbolic of how far this franchise has fallen under the leadership of Jim Goldberg, a self-proclaimed “winner” who’s turned in two of the worst seasons in the history of the Western Hockey League. Things have gotten so bad, the league calls the situation in Portland the top priority of the WHL, and has mandated that Goldberg replace himself as Director of Hockey Operations.

Hopefully there are no New York City barkeeps buying major junior hockey teams in heaven, either.

The good news last night was that I was surprised to learn that the Oregon High School Hockey League was having their championship game immediately following the Winter Hawks game, and I stuck around for three exciting periods of co-ed high school hockey, followed by a five minute overtime and a three-round shootout. The PIL (Portland) took the shoot-out to beat the Pacific (Southwest suburbs) team 3-2.

The Winter Hawks have three more home games this season, including Friday, March 7 against Everett, Saturday, March 8 against Seattle, and Sunday, March 16 against Spokane. The March 8 game will feature a Memorial Cup anniversary celebration with appearances from 1983 and 1998 championship team members and Dean “Scooter” Vrooman, the erstwhile voice of the Hawks, as master of ceremonies.