Good Hockey

A Graphic AHL Adventure, Featuring Toddlers, Free Auto Inspections, and No Robots
Share |

The Cumberland County Civic Center is easily the ugliest building in Portland, Maine. Along with the rest of the drab corridor of Spring Street that it sits on, this unfriendly-looking slab of concrete and glass is a prototypically mind-numbing example of late-century urban utilitarianism. It seemed all the more unappealing on the first bone-chillingly cold day of the year, December 18, 2011, when I ambled under its eaves. I was on my way to see the local American Hockey League franchise, the Portland Pirates, compete against the Eastern Conference leaders, the St. John’s Ice Caps.

What is the Eastern Conference, and how does one get to be its leader? What, exactly is the AHL’s relation to the NHL? Where is St. John’s, you ask? These are all good questions. After watching the Pirates get beat up by the Ice Caps, and engaging in some low-yield research, I’m still not certain I know the answers to them.

This much I know for sure: St. John’s is a city in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, on the northeastern tip of the island of Newfoundland, which is about as far east and north as you can go and still be in North America. The Ice Caps franchise has a history as circuitous and confusing as the backstory on a Marvel Comics superhero, complete with name changes, outfit changes, unexpected reversals of fortunes, and swift departures from one home base to the next.

The Ice Caps’ website has a page with the somewhat biblical title “How the Ice Caps Came To Be.” I expected to read through a series of begats and behold-unto-thems: After four and thirty years, the Manitoba Moose begat the top affiliate for the Vancouver Canucks, and they said ‘come, let us build an arena,’ which they built of brick. And water did they freeze for a rink. Not quite, but pretty close: “On June 8 the team got approval from the AHL. On June 9 the announcement was made, and then the work began. A logo was created, a name was chosen, and a team was built. On Oct. 7 the team played its first regular season game.” Sifting through the polite Canadian PR jargon, what it boils down to is that the Ice Caps, formerly the Manitoba Moose, were booted out of Winnipeg to make room for a new NHL franchise, the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, the original Jets having left town back in ’96 to become the Phoenix Coyotes—who were recently on the verge of moving back to Winnipeg to become the Jets again, until the Atlanta Thrashers did just that.

Such is the tangled biography of a typical AHL team, and the Portlands Pirates’ history is similarly spotted. Minor league hockey teams are batted around like loose pucks, even by comparison to clubs in similar tiers of baseball or basketball. The big thing to know about these Pirates is that this is technically their first year in Portland. While there’s been a Pirates team here since the mid-‘90s, that club was an affiliate of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. But this past spring, Buffalo sent their Portland boys to New York to become the Rochester Americans. A new squad of Pirates, affiliated with yes, the Phoenix Coyotes, came to town.

Northern New England is one of America’s hockey strongholds. Hockey is in the blood up here. Locals enthuse and obsess over the Bruins more in a few days than the poor Phoenix Coyotes might manage in a month. The original incarnation of the Pirates came to Portland in 1993, only a year after the departure of the Maine Mariners, who had held court at the civic center since 1977. Before that, the North American Hockey League’s Maine Nordiques played in nearby Lewiston. Portland without hockey would have just been weird, but that doesn’t mean Portland will fall in love with just any old squad of unshaven dudes with a pair of skates and French-Canadian surnames.

Earning fan loyalty takes time. In Section U, just above the visitor’s bench, I talked to season ticket-holders John and Holly, a father and his adult daughter from Kennebunkport.

“It’s hard, you know?” John told me. “These are all new guys for us.”

The family sitting above me, also season ticket holders, were from Freeport, home of L.L. Bean, 15 miles north of Portland. We started our conversation when I misheard them jokingly disparaging “Newfies,” and I replied that I too was a “newbie” to Maine.

“Oh, really?” one replied. “You’re a Newfie too? So is Frank over here—we’ve been giving him a hard time. Where in Newfoundland are you from?”

I told them I was from New York, which caused some polite head-scratching. After awkward pauses, they kindly gave me their thoughts on the Pirates.

“It’s good hockey,” one of the Freeporters proclaimed. “Hockey” pronounced in true New England fashion as “hauwkey.” I heard the same sentiment from Ernie, another genial fan I was advised to speak with (“he works in public relations, so he’ll have something good to say”) and from the portly guy working the Shipyard Brewery beer stand: “It’s good hauwkey.” Maybe because Sunday afternoon is family day at the civic center, or maybe it was a case of classic New England politeness, but I was hard pressed to hear a negative word about the Pirates from anyone. But then I didn’t hear that many positive words either.

Was it indeed good hockey? Not so good for the Pirates, but the Ice Caps, led by Patrice Cormier’s two goals, looked pretty tight. Cormier, it seems, is a bit of a fallen hero. As a rising star in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Cormier was suspended after viciously elbowing an opponent in the face during the 2010 season (There are dozens of clips of the incident up on YouTube. It’s truly gruesome). He made his pro debut for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, and this season is struggling to crack the roster of the Ice Caps’ parent team, the Winnipeg Jets. If the jeers of “murderer!” from the crowd were any indication, he has a long way to go to live down his past.

Determined to assess the true goodness of this hauwkey, I started thinking about the sport in general. To the eye unschooled in the vagaries of the sport (like, ahem, mine), hockey can look like a gigantic ice-bound clusterfuck, with dudes skating around at breakneck speeds whaling on each other until a penalty is called or the period is up. But soon enough patterns emerge. The rhythm of the sport is sort of a tangled chess match, or maybe more like Connect Four—all the pieces slide into place, and then everything crashes down—a penalty, a fight, a line change, a power play. As any hockey fan will confirm, there is strategy, there is skill at play, and most importantly, there are moments of surprising grace—even for the Pirates.

Like that moment late in the first period when Pirate Brett MacLean, the AHL’s then-reigning Player of the Month, effortlessly glided through the wreckage of colliding skaters and hooked his own rebound into the net for his tenth goal of the season. For thirty seconds, I “got” hockey. The Ice Caps, however, went on to demolish the Pirates, 5–2. Most of the increasingly mild crowd hung around for the entire game—long enough to see the nasty fight in the third period. Toward the end, all the little kids were clutching their skates, amped up for a chance to free-skate on the ice post-game.

Even if the Pirates aren’t recording too many transcendental moments, they do offer cheap seats, cheap beer, and a cozy—if impersonal—stadium. Maybe it was all the puffy vests and kids lugging cold weather gear, but the whole enterprise reminded me of the start of a high school ski trip. A bunch of good-natured folks with unaffected hairdos, waiting around for something to happen.

The AHL experience is one that people seek out, rather than having spoonfed to them by an army of well-paid media merchants. No Fox Sports robot does aggressive victory dances on the side of your television screen. Pirates games are broadcast on both local TV and radio, but you’ll never understand the appeal of an AHL game without having attended one. At the Cumberland County Civic Center, beers are five bucks, you can win a free auto inspection during in-game contests and watch toddler hockey teams stumble around on the ice in-between periods. Maybe toddlers and free oil changes have as much to do with good hauwkey as the team itself.


Share |

Comments

Hello, this weekend is good for me, since this time i am reading this enormous informative article here at my home.
토토

Everything has its value. Thanks for sharing this informative information with us. GOOD works!
QQ Online

Such sites are important because they provide a large dose of useful information ... 사설토토사이트

This was a really great contest and hopefully I can attend the next one. It was alot of fun and I really enjoyed myself..
Vidare till bloggen nu

I just got to this befuddling site in the decently later past. I was truly gotten with the bit of good conditions you have here. Monster thumbs up for making such shocking site page! voyance

This content is simply exciting and creative. I have been deciding on a institutional move and this has helped me with one aspect. voyance amour

Here you will learn what is important, it gives you a link to an interesting web page: BIM Recruiters

Super-Duper site! I am Loving it!! Will come back again, Im taking your feed also, Thanks.
Entrepreneur

This particular papers fabulous, and My spouse and i enjoy each of the perform that you have placed into this. I’m sure that you will be making a really useful place. I has been additionally pleased. Good perform! see here now

I recommend only good and reliable information, so see it: dominoqq

Here you will learn what is important, it gives you a link to an interesting web page: Meditation Classes & Training Course in Rishikesh

It's time to discover your future thanks to a voyance par téléphone available to 0892 22 20 33. This is a voyance discount service which guarantee quality and empathy. Fortune-telling is a passion and an art. There is many ways to predict the future : cristall ball, tarot cards, pendulum... and even nothing but pure talent. Voyance par tel ; our team is always here to help voyance par téléphone

It's time to discover your future thanks to a voyance par téléphone available to 0892 22 20 33. This is a voyance discount service which guarantee quality and empathy. Fortune-telling is a passion and an art. There is many ways to predict the future : cristall ball, tarot cards, pendulum... and even nothing but pure talent. Voyance par tel ; our team is always here to help voyance par téléphone

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.
single men women

I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one cbd gummies

I'm awed, I should state. Once in a while do I go over a blog that is both enlightening and drawing in, and stunning, you ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is basic.. เครดิตฟรี

I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one Greece

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post.
how to copyright your song online

Hi! Thanks for sharing this video. Could you please give me source code for this video so I can put this video on my blog. Thanks! Wheel and Tire Financing

It's really nice and meanful. it's really cool blog. Linking is very useful thing.you have really helped lots of people who visit blog and provide them usefull information. FaceAccess

Cool you inscribe, the info is really salubrious further fascinating, I'll give you a connect to my scene. Costa Blanca Property For Sale

Make the most of mainly premium substances - you will find him or her for: cartomancie gratuite

It is ideal time to make a few arrangements for the future and the time has come to be upbeat. I've perused this post and on the off chance that I would I be able to want to recommend you few fascinating things or tips. Maybe you could compose next articles alluding to this article. I need to peruse more things about it! web design houston

I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one hugo boss watches

llo there mates, it is incomprehensible shaped piece completely depicted, proceed with the extensive work constantly. fossil watches for men

I'm awed, I should state. Once in a while do I go over a blog that is both enlightening and drawing in, and stunning, you ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is basic.. facelift

Friend, this web site might be fabolous, i just like it.
bank nifty tips

Endeavoring to offer significant thanks won't simply be adequate, for the fantasti c clarity in your made work. I will quickly get your rss channel to stay educated of any updates. Pet Financing

Endeavoring to offer significant thanks won't simply be adequate, for the fantasti c clarity in your made work. I will quickly get your rss channel to stay educated of any updates. Pet Financing

I like review goals which understand the cost of passing on the marvelous strong asset futile out of pocket. I truly revered investigating your posting. Appreciative to you! Pet Financing

I at long last discovered awesome post here.I will get back here. I just added your blog to my bookmark locales. thanks.Quality presents is the essential on welcome the guests to visit the site page, that is the thing that this website page is giving. Vocational School Financing

I need to seek destinations with important data on given point and give them to educator our feeling and the article. Vocational School Financing

I need to seek destinations with important data on given point and give them to educator our feeling and the article. Vocational School Financing

The issue you we included above is certainly regard proficient for anyone to work out. the possibility of your article is substantial and It will realize a positive way. Zakynthos 

New Generation Top American brands with great comfort and quality. Shapewear in London

I'm awed, I should state. Once in a while do I go over a blog that is both enlightening and drawing in, and stunning, you ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is basic.. CFA Level 1

You bear through a awesome vacancy. I sanity definitely quarry it moreover personally suggest to my buddys. I am self-possessed they determination be benefited from this scene. Wordpress hemsidan

I have been looking to discover a solace or powerful method to finish this procedure and I think this is the most reasonable approach to do it viably. graphic designer vancouver

This post is extremely easy to peruse and acknowledge without forgetting any subtle elements. Incredible work! Se mer info om bloggen

I'm awed, I should state. Once in a while do I go over a blog that is both enlightening and drawing in, and stunning, you ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is basic.. Se mer information om bloggen

I'm awed, I should state. Once in a while do I go over a blog that is both enlightening and drawing in, and stunning, you ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is basic.. Se mer information om bloggen

This post is extremely easy to peruse and acknowledge without forgetting any subtle elements. Incredible work! cfa ethics overview

I'm awed, I should state. Once in a while do I go over a blog that is both enlightening and drawing in, and stunning, you ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is basic.. cfa level 3 ethics notes

Wow what a Great Information about World Day its incredibly charming instructive post. an obligation of appreciation is all together for the post. law firms in victoria island lagos

In the wake of perusing your article I was stunned. I realize that you clarify it exceptionally well. What's more, I trust that different perusers will likewise encounter how I feel in the wake of perusing your article. web design johor

Wow what a Great Information about World Day its incredibly charming instructive post. an obligation of appreciation is all together for the post. repuestos honda

I like to recommend exclusively fine plus efficient information and facts, hence notice it: Top 10 Best

There are a considerable measure of incredible thoughts in this post. I trust you keep this quality level up so we can appreciate significantly more awesome substance from your side. How to make money Online

Saturam, one of the dataops companies in USA provides a suite of ML-based apps for enterprise data operations, to enable AI readiness faster and smoother through its flagship dataops platform called Piperr.  AI ready data

There are a significant measure of mind blowing musings in this post. I believe you keep this quality level up so we can acknowledge essentially more wonderful substance from your side. Digital Publishing company