By Craig Edwards
Friday night was a busy one at the Rose Quarter, as the Blazers took on the Utah Jazz in front of sellout crowd. But after hopping off the MAX, I bypassed the arena soon to be formally known as the Rose Garden and instead headed to Memorial Coliseum. The Winterhawks dropped the puck about half an hour after tip at the Blazers game.
The old glass palace has its detractors, but I think it's pretty cool that the Hawks play nearly all of their home games in the Coliseum and not the Garden. It's THEIR building. They don't share it with the Blazers, or play second fiddle to any other franchise in the building. There are very few instances of that in sports anymore.
The Hawks played host to the Swift Current Broncos. For those wondering, Swift Current is a small town in southwest Saskatchewan that's home to about 15,000 people. Yes, the town's entire population could fit into the Rose Garden... with seats to spare.
I bought a hot dog and soda, then grabbed a seat just above press row, at about center ice. Despite the game next door, there was a good crowd of just under 3,000 on hand (the average WHL crowd is about 4,500). The PA announcer went through the usual speal, asking the crowd not to use laser pointers and airhorns. Of course, he was quickly greeted with a chorus of airhorns.
Now, the Hawks are pretty terrible. Going into this game, they were 5-27 on the season, scoring only 61 goals in 32 games. That isn't going to get it done in a division with Spokane and Tri-Cities, which have scored more than 120 each. The Hawks have also given up 138 goals. In fact, they've probably given up a pair in the time it's taken you to read this blog.
The first period got underway, with Portland getting a penalty right away. Swift Current got one pretty quickly there after, with both guys having to sit in the penalty box. I love the idea of the Sin Bin. It's a like "time out" when you're little. You get to sit in a separate space away from everyone else and think about what you've done.
The first period ended in a scoreless tie. Intermission entertainment included a couple of small radio controlled cars racing around the ice, which was far more entertaining then it had any right to be. Then, the zamboni hit the ice. I really hope no one ever figures out how to make zambonis into weapons, because I'm pretty sure the U.S. is hosed when Canada decides to invade.
The second period was only about 45 seconds old when Swift Current got another penalty. The resulting Hawks' powerplay lasted only 12 seconds, as some nifty and crisp passing lead to Travis Bobbee getting the goal. The coliseum got pretty loud. 3,000 can make a lot of noise in that place.
A little recognized fact about hockey: a lot of substitution takes place during play. In fact, most guys are only on the ice for a minute or so at a time.
Portland jumped out to a 2-0 lead with about six minutes to go in the period, as Kevin Undershute smoked it past the goalie with a shot from about the blue line.
A semi-fight broke out with about 17 seconds left. People condemn fighting in hockey, but then stand up and cheer when it might happen... just a random thought there.
2nd Intermission: More Zamboni fear.
Swift Current lights the lamp for the first time with 12 minutes to go, 2-1 Portland.
But penalties would be Swift Current's downfall, as they got hit for two different 4 minute penalties. You really can't win games when you're constantly down a man. They gave Portland 8 powerplays in all. The Winterhawks put the game out of reach with about five minutes to go, as Viktor Sjodin scored on a powerplay.
With about a minute left, Swift Current pulled its goalie for an extra attacker, desperately trying to get the score tied. I think every Hawks' player was trying to score one of those long-ice empty net goals, but no dice tonight. They wouldn't need one.
3-1 is your final. Goalie Kurtis Mucha made 30 saves to give the Winterhawks their 6th win of the season, and send their dedicated fans, and this TV producer, home happy.