More Hockey, Less School!

by Steve, October 5th, 2007

That’s the word from Jeff over at, 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

…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!

Drop… The… Puck

by Steve, August 29th, 2007

Here’s Thirteen reasons I’m glad hockey season is almost upon us.

1. Winter Hawks owners Jim Goldsmith and Jack Donovan seem to have struck a lease-to-own deal with the city and Paul Allen’s arena management company to install Goldsmith’s replay screens in the Memorial Coliseum.

After a whole lot of bluster on Goldsmith’s blog with the boss (later removed) and with an assist from play-by-play guy Andy Kemper who questioned the “moral compass” of a couple city commisioners, Hawkey Town’s new hero Randy Leonard contacted Goldsmith and worked a deal with the Hawks, Allen’s people and the city, approved today.

2. That means I will eat crow (I said I’d believe there are replay screens when I see them installed) and buy a ticket package this year

3. which means I’m going to be seeing some hockey.

4. Live.

5. Real soon now.

6. (Hopefully they’ve cleaned the stinkin’ beer lines from last season at the old Coliseum.)

7. I love the old Glass Palace.

8. And I love the smell of the ice.

9. School’s back in session next week, so us old farts can reclaim the lunch hour scrimmage at the old rink.

10. Which means I can get my tired old arse back in shape (at least somewhat!).

11. It’s been a really long and interesting off-season for the Winter Hawks, and also for me.

12. But I’m ready to get back into the game.

13. See you at the game!

So Long, Scooter!

by Steve, August 2nd, 2007

Dean “Scooter” Vrooman, the “Voice of the Winter Hawks” for 25 years, has tendered his resignation.

So the shake ups continue in Hawkeytown. The coaching change wasn’t a huge surprise, but this one came out of nowhere. Scooter had hinted at the end of last season that his role with the team may be changing, but I don’t think this is what he was talking about.

Scooter is a class act, and says he wasn’t forced out.

Still, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on. Will G.M. and former owner Ken Hodge be next? What about Innes Mackie? (Hodge and Mackie are what remains of the “three amigos” who brought Canadian major junior hockey to the U.S. in 1976. The third, Brian Shaw, died in 1994.)

Junior hockey fans all across western Canada and the U.S. know that Scooter was one of the best in the business. Listening to his game call on the radio was always the next best thing to being there. He was old school — always a bit of a homer — and his passion for the game in general and Hawks in particular was contagious.

There will be no replacement for the Scooter. Sure, they’ll get someone to do the broadcasts. But they’re going to have to retire his blazer and hang it from the rafters a the Memorial Coliseum next to all the championship banners he was a part of.

This is a huge loss to the Portland hockey community.

Paul Gaustad in the Tribune

by Steve, July 27th, 2007

We interrupt my latest public schools rant to bring you some hockey news. Portland’s print media are generally ambivalent at best about hockey in the Rose City, despite the game’s storied history here and the fact that we have an elite Canadian Junior team that plays at least 36 games a year here.

Over the last year, the Tribune has been laudable in bucking the anti-hockey trend most notable over at Thee O. Today, they publish a great piece on Beaverton boy and Buffalo Sabres center Paul Gaustad, who trains at my local rink. With all the Joey Harrington hoopla, it’s nice for a character guy like Gaustad to get a little ink.

A New Era for the Winter Hawks

by Steve, July 18th, 2007

The Portland Winter Hawks announced today that they have not renewed the contract for head coach Mike Williamson.

The new ownership group that took over the team last season, vowing to stick to business and let the hockey guys run hockey, have instead stepped into the thick of it. Director of player personnel Gord Loiselle resigned this spring, and now this.

I’ve not been a big fan of Mike Williamson as coach. He’s been very consistent in middle-of-the-pack finishes and early playoff elimination. His teams have also consistently led the WHL in penalty minutes, a stat that either indicates a lack of discipline or nothing at all, if you believe the Hawks’ broadcasters. His record as head coach is pretty darn close to .500. I thought we could have used a new coach two seasons ago.

That said, I’m a little nervous about owner Jim Goldsmith as director of hockey operations. Longtime G.M. and former owner Ken Hodge has been very loyal to Williamson, and for the good of the team’s future, maybe this had to be done. But hopefully Goldsmith will allow Hodge latitude in choosing the next coach, and maybe we’ll even get to see Hodge return to his old spot behind the bench as interim coach.

Hodge is a legend in the WHL. He was instrumental bringing Canadian major junior hockey to the United States, and it would be a shame if he were pushed out by the new ownership group. He brought this team to Portland over thirty years ago, and was instrumental in all of its successes over the years.

Mike Williamson is a great guy. The few times I personally interacted with him, he was always pleasant, and he obviously has a great love of the game and a great interest in being a teacher. I wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do next.

Thirteen Great Things About North Portland

by Steve, April 19th, 2007

You may have noticed that I’ve gotten really bad about writing these lists. For a while, it was a good impetus to write every week, but lately I’ve been pretty uninspired. Also, I don’t exactly fit in with the “TT” crowd, and I’m not good about visiting everybody’s blog to leave comments. Most of my online reading is political, and my writing tends that way, too. That’s a whole different ball of wax than most of the TTs, which tend toward the personal. Plus, I haven’t even been able to come up with thirteen things the last couple of times. Lame!

But since I’ve written some pretty snarky things about North Portland and Portland Public Schools lately, I thought I owed one to North Portland. Here goes. (Let’s see if I get to thirteen on this one.)

1. Great transportation. We’re two blocks from light rail transit, just a bit more to I-5. We can be downtown in 10 minutes by freeway or 15 minutes by train.

2. Hockey. The home of the Winter Hawks is in North Portland, just four light rail stops away.

3. Real neighborhoods. The streets are laid out in a grid. There are sidewalks. Parks. Nice old houses. Tree-lined streets.

4. Great views from the bluff.

5. More and more, nice urban amenities like bakeries, restaurants and shopping within walking distance.

6. Socio-economic diversity.

7. My choice of churches on Sunday.

8. The Peninsula Park sunken rose garden.

9. The Peninsula Park Community Center and pool.

10. The Portland Ship Yard on the site of the old Swan Island airport. This is viewable from the bluff, especially from University of Portland. It’s pretty cool to see the big ships in dry dock, and the old, gigantic tankers in fresh water storage before they’re sailed or towed to Asia to be scrapped.

11. My lovely wife.

12. My beautiful children.

13. My happy home.

Edited Friday, 4/20/2007: I can’t believe I forgot the St. Johns Bridge.

OK Hosers, Watch This

by Steve, March 2nd, 2007

From Salon’s Video Dog, a friggin’ hilarious video staring former Winter Hawk Nicholas Vachon:

Skills Challenge Shenanigans

by Steve, January 28th, 2007

The Winter Hawks held their annual Skills Challenge today at the Memorial Coliseum. We took the kids to see the light-hearted intra-squad competitions, including the hardest shot, most accurate shot, fastest lap, and the finale, a 10 minute, non-stop three-on-three game.

New York Rangers property (and former Winter Hawk star) Brandon Dubinsky was in town for a visit, and graced the crowd with a little on-ice interview with Scooter during a break.
No sooner did they get to talking, than Dubi was sucker punched with a cream pie from behind.
He was a good sport…
And even shared some with Scooter.
Aw, it barely even got on him!

Later, somebody handed a mike to Kurtis Mucha, asking him if he wanted to give Dubi any grief. He took the mike and asked, “Does that jacket come in men’s?”

Wacky Mommy Doesn’t Care for the Fighting

by Steve, January 14th, 2007

hockey…she told me so. But when you decide at the last minute to skip trying to get rush tickets to see a play and instead go see your last-place Portland Winter Hawks take on the league leading Everett Silver Tips, there’s a good chance things are going to get out of hand. Especially when these teams see a lot of each other (Portland managed to beat Everett in Everett last night, 3-1).

Portland played with Everett for two periods, helped out by an extended 5 on 3 power play that yielded a tying goal. But then things started to fall apart in the third. When Everett scored their fifth and final goal at 11:30 of the third, making it 5 to 2, I started looking for Portland tough guy Frazer McLaren to pick a dance partner. But it was 16-year-old Tayler Jordan who got things started at 16:27 with Everett’s Brenan Sonne. This one looked like a draw to me. Then off the ice with them! As soon as the puck was dropped again, 5’11”, 185 lb. Matt Sokol squared off with Everett’s Kyle Beach. Beach is 6′ 3″ and pretty much had his way with Sokol, virtually undressing him in the process. To the showers, boys! Then we had to watch a whole minute and a half of hockey before we got a couple of big guys going at it with 6’6″, 216 lb. Max Gordichuk getting some good licks in on 6’4″, 224 lb. Moises Gutierrez.

With a minute 50 left to go, the crowd was yelling for big Frazer McLaren to get into it, but he spent the balance of the game on the bench.

And Wacky Mommy turns to me and says, “How can you like this sport, with all this fighting?” Somehow she forgot that we were going to go to a play, but she was the one who said, nah, let’s go see the Winter Hawks instead. Seriously, I’m not making this up. And you know, Wacky Mommy always says you can just screw so much and drink so much.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. John, AKA Peatycap, AKA Sig from and has a point about a lack of emotion in the NHL. I exchanged some e-mail with a friend in Minneapolis who recently caught a Wild game, and also commented on the lack of aggression. The guys blame the new rules enforcement, which we’re also getting in the WHL this year, but they seem to overlook several years of emotionless clutch-and-grab trap hockey that preceded the lockout. They (correctly) target Gary Bettmann as an incompetent assclown of a manager and marketer, and they also are correct that the rules enforcement has gone too far (though I think we disagree on the degree). But I don’t think that’s what’s killed the emotion in the NHL (especially with an eye on how boring the clutch-and-grab and trap game had become).

The real issue is far deeper than zero-tolerance. I saw more emotion on the ice tonight than I’ve seen in ten games in the NHL this season, and a couple of obstruction penalties going both ways didn’t do anything to quell it. These kids are playing their asses off, because they don’t know if they’re going to make it to the next level or not. Intense intra-division rivalries are the norm in Major Junior hockey, even when it’s a league leading Everett, with 69 points, taking it to Portland, with a lowly 30 points. Maybe the pros just make too damn much money to give a shit night after night, and maybe the fact that they’ve “arrived” makes them complacent. I guess that’s why I’m a junior hockey fan, and I’ve never been too excited about the idea of the NHL in Portland.

I understand why Peatycap’s bitter. He’s a Capitols fan, fer Christ’s sake. Shit, now that Jack Abramoff’s buddies can’t take Congress out to the sky box, the team’s probably going to have to pull up stakes and move to a real hockey town. Just don’t come to Portland, okay? (I hear Las Vegas is looking for a team….)