Hawks Lose to Seattle In a Shootout
I’m sorry to report that the Portland Winterhawks lost to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday, October 2nd, 2010. I feel like I kind of won though, because I had a pretty decent time at this hockey game. I walked into the Rose Garden about 10 minutes deep into the 1st period. I have to be upfront with you and let you know that I’m not really much of a stadium guy. I try to avoid large gatherings of people, and have a difficult time standing inside of expansive, ceiling heavy structures. So, I wasn’t completely psyched about having to surmount both of these obstacles in order to get to some sweet sweet hockey. These thoughts were weighing pretty heavily on my mind, and within moments of entering the building, I promptly exited through a no re-admittance stairwell. Events that transpired earlier in the day had left me completely unable to communicate with a human being in a non-suspicious way, but with fool’s courage, I sweet talked my way back into the building. One club level stair climb later, I was in section 201 and ready to watch some fights.
I recoiled with horror upon arriving in red 201. I paid five dollars more than I probably should have in order to bump my ticket grade up to the non-family section. The last thing I need when I’m taking in a hockey match is the accusing eyes of a father, the protective warding stare of a mother, and the relentless babble of babby. I thought I was making a cool move by getting a pricey ticket. I thought I’d be in the sort of section where men in Marmot brand jackets drink Widmer brewed beers, and make off-color jokes about the bedroom world of a middle-aged couple. I was slightly disappointed to discover that my game buddies consisted of a man in sweat pants with an oxygen tank, seemingly hell bent on spending his last moments on this earth screaming and coughing at teenagers passing a puck around; a boyfriend/girlfriend couple that took every opportunity to ham it up for any potential camera man that might look their way; and a man in a “Big Dawg” t-shirt, proudly proclaiming to the world that not only does he require clothes that are made out of multiple pairs of other clothes, but that he had also “just farted” while I was reading his shirt. The entire scene put me ill at ease, and I felt everyone’s hateful glaring as I slowly ascended the staircase to M3. It was at this moment (10:35 into the 1st period), as if hearing the force of my awkward climb, Winterhawk’s #25 Taylor Peters took it upon himself to fling a puck past Seattle’s goaltender, immediately drawing all attention away from my section mates. Taylor was this year’s co-winner of the Winterhawk’s scholastic award, and is apparently quite a young scientist. I accepted his gift and quickly took my seat. The Winterhawks had tied the game at 1-1.
Everyone seemed really happy about the goal, and that made me happy. Here’s a thing about Winterhawks games that sort of sucks though; they play AC/DC’s “TNT” every time a Winterhawk scores a goal. Winterhawk mascot Tom-A-Hawk’s myspace page (www.myspace.com/tom_a_hawk) has this song listed as the “official Winterhawk’s goal song”. This is really bad news for my relationship with the Winterhawks, because I can’t stand AC/DC. I think of this music as a thing that is played by cars that have raised portions of them so that the car can suck air in or something, and cool down its engine? Anyway, AC/DC probably plays on cars like that all the time. My joy experience with the scoring of a goal can not be summed up in this way, and I found the whole thing to be distracting. As I was thinking about this and writing it down, I heard the GF portion of the BF/GF cam hams say to her BF “I don’t like how that guy is just sitting there writing things down”. He responded with a “HUH?” and then quickly turned around, stared thoughtfully at me for a moment, and then pointedly asked “ARE YOU A JOURNALIST?”. I responded with “no, not really, just on the Internet sometimes”. He assured me that I had his complete permission to use anything he said in whatever news article I was composing. This was regrettably the most interesting thing that came out of him. This level of contact with a stranger had unsettled me, and the euphoria of the goal had been replaced with the paranoid look-a-rounds of a man who has done the world wrong.
It was at this point in the evening that my mind began to wander. I love the sport of hockey, but I kind of consider it to be more of a participant’s sport than a spectator’s sport. Junior hockey doesn’t present a strong case against this line of thought either. Most of these young men are aged 15-20. Some of them were recently drafted into the NHL, and the rest of them are fostering dreams of following suit. This isn’t very conducive to a “let’s do what it takes to win this game atmosphere”, and I find that what ends up on the ice tends to skew towards a demo for scouts rather than a battle for playoff berths. The game felt like those moments in high school gym class when you have to play basketball, and some of the people that you have to play against are also on the school’s basketball team. You don’t want to play against those guys, and those guys probably aren’t that interested in playing against you. So, I wandered. I thought about the slight tinge of guilt that I felt every time I clapped for the Hawks. Their logo is the same as the Chicago Blackhawk’s logo. As a longtime Red Wings fan, it felt like sleeping with the enemy. I was able to excuse myself for cheering though, because I reasoned that this is the same sort of thing as selecting an out of state team to represent you in an EA sports game; a temporary vacation from familiar banners.
Another Winterhawks goal at 15:48 in the 1st snapped me back into the action. This one was by #18, Brad Ross. I noticed that people in the arena seemed to clap louder at Brad’s accomplishment than they had for Taylor’s, so I drew a little star next to Brad’s name. This guy was a 2nd round draft pick this year, which is cool, but he ended up going to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is absolutely not cool. The Maple Leafs are the filth of the NHL. The Maple Leafs are the Scott Summers (Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men) of the NHL…a team dressed up in history, and with iconic color schemes…but ultimately limp and running on the fumes of an early dynasty. At this point in the game, I also noted that the Hawks were outshooting Seattle 16 to 2. That’s sort of amazing actually, and always raises the question of whether the opposing team has an excellent goalie, or if the home team is just taking crappy shots. I’m sad to say that Saturday’s game featured the latter. Portland put a lot of shots on goal, but very few of them seemed destined to go in. The intermission horn blew, ending the 1st period, and I felt no remorse.
Intermissions are leaps and bounds my favorite part of any sporting event. They are essentially a showcase of all that is delightfully horrible with humanity. It’s a 20 minute landslide of T&A, cash prizes, and superficial moments of fame. I’m not trying to say that I am opposed to any of these things by themselves, but when they all line up like this, it’s difficult for me to turn a blind eye to the futility of the laughter that the non-capacity crowd shared together that night. It began as all great intermissions begin, with a dance number from the Winterhawk’s Rose Bud dancers. I like the Rose Bud dancers, and I won’t bad mouth them here. They are sponsored by two separate tanning salons, and I think that’s pretty funny. As a team though, they seem pretty legit. After the Rose Buds were done provoking questions of “how do they dance on the ice like that without falling?” from the audience, it was time for a group of six paraplegic men to come out and show everyone that they were still able to play hockey without employing power from their legs. I guess this was supposed to be sort of a nice thing, but it was sullied for me because they played the theme to “Kids in the Hall” the entire time that these guys played hockey. This catapulted the event into sketch territory, and I was left confused as to whether I was supposed to cheer, nod approvingly, stifle uncomfortable laughter, or try to politely ignore the whole thing. I ended up just clapping, and waiting things out. I was quickly rewarded with an event that is by far my favorite moment of any Winterhawks game, the kiss cam. Here’s how much of a creep I am. I went to a junior hockey league game on a Saturday night, by myself, and my favorite part of the entire event was the six minutes that I spent watching couple kiss each other on the jumbotron. I don’t even care though, I think the kiss cam is a beautiful thing. What happens is, the camera people at the stadium find couples, and then they point their cameras at them until the couples kiss. So simple, but yet, for me, a complete affirmation of the power of love. The best kiss cam moments are when older couples show up, and they still kiss each other. It just gives me hope or something, I dunno. I think it’s nice.
I thought about the kiss cam for a while, and then the 2nd period started. I spaced out for a lot of this period, but not much really happened. I watched some kids standing up and banging on the glass for a little bit, and that kind of gave me pause. It’s not the fact that kids were banging on glass that tripped a flag with me, it’s the way that the kids went about doing it. It was clear that the patterns of their glass banging had absolutely no correlation with the action on the ice, they were just doing this to try and curry favor with the camera people; a desperate attempt to be on the jumbotron for a bit. Not cool. I spent a lot of time thinking about the ice too. I’ve always loved the smell of ice, because it reminds me of freedom. Growing up in Michigan, I played a lot of pond hockey as a young man. This was a place that my parents would not follow me. It was a place that I had to go alone, and that struck a chord with me at an early age. I was snapped out of this wistful journey by a Thunderbirds goal at 15:38 by #7, Mitch Elliot. Mitch’s Facebook page (http://facebook.com/mitchelliot) lists his favorite quotation as “wat (sic) doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”, so that’s pretty cool. Mitch got his goal because of a lazy poke check by Winterhawk goalie Keith Hamilton. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this goal spawned off a butterfly wing effect that would end up delaying my arrival back home by at least 30 minutes. The horn blew for intermission, with the game tied at 2-2.
The second intermission of the night was a rip-off intermission. The Rose Bud dance wasn’t as zippy as the first one was, and awkward moments of silence couldn’t even be filled with the question of how they were able to dance without falling, because everyone had already talked about that. The only game played during this intermission was chuck-a-puck. I’m into chuck-a-puck. For $5, you get a puck with some sort of unique identifier on it. At the appointed time, you gather around the perimeter of the play field, and then “chuck” your “puck” onto the ice, with the goal of making it land as close to the center of the stadium as possible. I liked chuck-a-puck for three reasons. 1) it was nice to watch all these red pucks arc violently onto the ice. 2) some of the support staff that was standing arrogantly around the perimeter of the rink got hit in the head by poorly thrown pucks. 3) they played “Hot Buttered Popcorn’s” smash hit “Popcorn” during the entire spectacle. I quietly hummed to myself for another 10 minutes or so, and eventually it was time to play hockey again.
The 3rd period of the night was by far the worst period. People smashed into each other a bit, but no one took enough offense to start a fight. There was some high sticking going on, but you could tell that it was the sort of high sticking that happened accidentally. I used this time to tune into the things that fans were shouting from the stands. It’s a weird thing, hearing these fans. I’d imagine that they have the best interests of the team in mind when they shout things at them, but what comes out tends to be things that aren’t very constructive. “GO!”, “SHOOT!”, “WHAT?”, “COME ON!” aren’t actionable items, and I’m not sure how the Winterhawks would respond to these things if they were forced to be made aware of each suggestion. I like the Winterhawks, so I feel bad about saying this, but I was overcome with dread at around the 17:30 mark of the 3rd period. This was simply not hockey that was exciting enough to keep me on the edge of the my seat. I was reminded of something a friend of mine, a recent owner of a second child, said to me about cleaning dirty diapers. I remarked that it was really difficult for me to clean up cat litter sometimes, because of how gross it is, but that things must be way worse for him because he’s constantly having to clean up dirty diapers. He responded with “it’s not bad really, I know that at this point in the kid’s life, everything inside of the diaper is just processed breast milk, so it’s not really that gross of a thing.” I was floored. The perception that this filthy leaving is somehow less filthy because of the “purity of its nature” was mind blowing to me. In those final minutes of the 3rd period though, I think I finally understood what he was talking about. Winterhawks hockey might not be the prettiest thing to watch, but these young men are out there playing because of their love of the game, and their yet unsoiled hopes for the future. Regulation play ended with a 2-2 tie.
Overtime was pretty boring, lots of Winterhawks shots directly into Seattle’s harsh of a goalie. Five minutes later, we were in a shootout. Seattle’s #15, Mercel Noebels (a man who lists HIMSELF among his interests on Facebook) scored the answered shootout goal that ended this game. I immediately rose from my seat and headed home. My life was largely the same as it was when I set out for the stadium earlier in the day.