There are no Autograph Lines in Heaven

by Steve, March 3rd, 2008

hockeyI 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.

Looking for Hockey?

by Steve, November 18th, 2007

hockeyMy latest post on Metroblogging Portland is all about hockey in Portland, focusing on the Jaguars, Winter Hawks, and the history of the game in the Rose City. (Did you know the first US team to play for the Stanley Cup was the Portland Rosebuds, in 1916?)

A Quiet Weekend in Hawkey Town

by Steve, November 1st, 2007

hockeyThe Portland Winter Hawks (2-13-0-0) got off the bus in Medicine Hat, Alberta this morning, and got right on the ice for practice after a 940 mile overnight bus trip from Portland. They’ve got a brutal three-in-three against Medicine Hat (12-3-2-0) tomorrow night, Lethbridge (9-7-1-1) Saturday and Kootenay (7-10-2-0) Sunday.

Hopefully the Hawks can overcome bus legs, gain some confidence, and pick up a few points on this 1,772 mile central swing.

The Jaguars are off this weekend, and back in action November 10 and 11 against Seattle at Valley.

The Portland State University Vikings are on the road to the Tri Cities for three-in-three this weekend. One game against Columbia Basin and two games against Walla Walla.

I’ve saved the ugly news for last: The Fort Vancouver Pioneers have ended their season early, due to a conflict with their league over transportation. I kind of wondered how they were going to manage the travel, given most (all?) of the other teams were in B.C. And I had doubts about how well organized the WHA was. Now we know. I’m not sure what the future holds for the Pios, since I believe some of their front office guys earned lifetime bans from USA Hockey. The WHA, an independent league, may have been their last best hope for continuing as a hockey club.

So it goes.

Portland Weekend Hockey Roundup

by Steve, October 26th, 2007

hockeyLet’s start off with the newest game in town: the Portland State University Vikings have their inaugural home game tonight and another game tomorrow night, both against the University of Puget Sound at Mountain View Ice Arena in Vancouver Wash. I’m not sure if Portland has ever had college club hockey before, so this is kind of cool. I know a few of these guys from stick time at Valley, so here’s a big shout out to them. Go James! Go Steve! Go Head Butt! Go Vikings! Admission is just $5, so “Get off yer butts and cheer,” as my high school principal once yelled at the nerd squad at a pep rally. But I digress.

The River City Jaguars take their show on the road to Medford this weekend for three games against the Rogue Valley Wranglers. The Jags are the winningest team in Portland, with a 10-4 record. You’ve gotta hope things don’t get too out of hand against the NPHL expansion Wranglers, who have yet to manage a win. The Jags are back in town November 10.

The Jaguars are on a roll this year, led by five skaters with at least one point a game: Rudy Pino (15-7-22), Spencer Murphy (10-8-18), Nick Guzman (6-10-16), Kevin Nighbert (6-7-13), and Everett Mayers (4-9-13).

The WHA league-leading Fort Vancouver Pioneers (7-1-0) are on the road in B.C., for a pair of games against an evidently non-league team in Lillooet. (The WHA site is woefully lacking in information.) The Pios are back in town the weekend of November 2.

Last but not least, the Winter Hawks (2-10-0-0) have a tough three-in-three schedule this weekend, starting with a game in Kennewick, Wash. tonight against the first-place Tri-City Americans (11-3-0-0). They’re back home Saturday, taking on Eastern Conference Brandon (7-5-0-1), and Sunday against a very strong looking second-place Spokane (9-2-1-1). The Hawks got their first home win of the season last Sunday against Saskatoon (3-9-1-0).

More Hockey, Less School!

by Steve, October 5th, 2007

hockeyThat’s the word from Jeff over at ClearTheCrease.net, a new Portland hockey blog. I told him, yeah, I’m sick of this shit, too. And nothing cleanses the political palette like a good hard skate or a night of hockey.

We’ve got junior action this weekend in Portland, with the Canadian Major Junior Portland Winter Hawks taking on the Everett Silver Tips Saturday night at the Memorial Coliseum, and the USA Hockey Tier III Junior A River City Jaguars hosting Tri-City at Valley Ice Arena in Beaverton. The Jags have a rematch with Tri-City on Sunday.

If you’re looking for some intense entertainment this weekend, you might want to check out some of what the Portland hockey scene has to offer. Jaguars tickets are $7, general admission. Valley Ice Arena is old school, with the hard wooden benches and disgusting restrooms, but it’s a more casual viewing experience. They’ve even got a mascot this year, and my five-year-old had fun at the season opener a couple weeks back.

Winter Hawks tickets start at $10 for the cheap seats, and go up to $21 for the best (kids’ tix are $5-$14, I think). That’s a bargain to see some of the best junior hockey players in the world.

Go Hawks! Go Jags!

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory…

by Steve, September 17th, 2007

hockey…of the coming of the screens.

The replay screens at Portland’s old Memorial Coliseum, that is. I stopped by the ticket office this morning to pick up tickets for the Winter Hawks season opener Friday, and saw the screens with my very own eyes. The Hawks have a daunting opener against the Memorial Cup champs Vancouver, but who cares! It’s hockey season!

In other hockey news, the River City Jaguars opened their season on a high note this weekend at my home rink, sticking it to the Eugene Generals 5-2 in both games. I caught the first two periods of Saturday’s game, and the Jaguars, cellar dwellers for their first three seasons, look poised to make some noise in NorPac this year. Head coach Joakim “Swede” Falt told me last week this could be their year, and I have to agree. They’ve got a solid core of returning veterans, the cross-town rival Pioneers are gone from the league, and other teams that have dominated them are rebuilding.

I skated with some of the Jaguars at stick time last Thursday and Friday, including Slovakian defenseman Lukas Kovacsik, who survived my slash to his unprotected shin Thursday (he was standing in the crease!) and contributed a goal in Sunday’s game. This kid has an unbelievable first pass out of the zone and a hard shot. With a little more meat on his 6′ 4″ frame, I could see him moving up. I don’t know how it would work out with his visa and the Winter Hawks and their Euro import situation, but I could see him in a Hawks jersey before the season is up.

Now… fewer than five days till puck drop in the WHL… Go Hawks!

Why I (usually) stay away from Jr. B

by Steve, October 30th, 2006

hockeyA junior B hockey fight spilled off the ice last week in Calgary, turning into a free-for-all that left a linesman unconcious after taking a kick to the head. All players and coaches from both teams were suspended indefinitely. Today, the league, Hockey Calgary, announced it was suspending two players for two years and one parent for one year from attending any junior hockey events in the city. A 21 year old spectator was charged with assault.

Repeat after me: It’s only a game.

Our two local Junior B teams provide a full slate of fights when they play, thanks to their respective dominance (Ft. Vancouver Pioneers) and fecklessness (River City Jaguars). When games get lopsided, the gloves come off. The Jaguars are 0 and 13 this year, so you know they’re frustrated. Especially when they’re on the receiving end of 16-2 thrasings. The Pioneers, on the other hand, lead the conference with a 12 and 2 record. Not much to build a cross-town rivalry on, so I’ve pretty much stayed away from the local Junior B scene this year.

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!