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

I inquisitive more enthusiasm for some of them trust you will give more data on this subjects in your next articles. plag tools

Son dakika futbol haberleri ve transfer gelişmelerine tarafsız şekilde maglup.com'dan ulaşın. Futbol severlerin buluşma noktasına davetlisiniz.Futbol Haber

On the off chance that your searching for Online Illinois tag sticker restorations then you have need to go to the privilege place.We offer the quickest Illinois tag sticker recharges in the state. Urgence plombier

#1 SABS Approved Plumbers In Pretoria East. Lood die loodgieter plumbing Pro is located in Pretoria East and we service the whole region. We provide Professional Water Storage Services, Solar Geysers, Plumbing, Leak Detection, Heatpumps, Gas Installations, Geyserwise services in Pretoria and surroundings. water leak detection device

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

I understand this column. I realize You put a many of struggle to found this story. I admire your process. write my essay for me

Customary visits recorded here are the most straightforward technique to value your vitality, which is the reason why I am heading off to the site regular, hunting down new, intriguing data. Many, bless your heart! "puzzle games"

Hmm… I interpret blogs on a analogous issue, however i never visited your blog. I added it to populars also i’ll be your faithful primer. voyance par telephone

It should be seen that while asking for papers accessible to be acquired at paper creating organization, you can get unkind perspective. If you feel that the specialist is attempting to cheat you, don't buy inquire about task from it. usu

I would recommend my profile is important to me, I invite you to discuss this topic. bola tangkas

I found this really helpful. I hope you continue to put out great content like it. Vashikaran Specialist

You re in purpose of actuality a without flaw website admin. The site stacking speed is astonishing. It sort of feels that you're doing any unmistakable trap. Besides, The substance are perfect work of art. you have completed a fabulous movement regarding this matter! online günlük

I found this really helpful. I hope you continue to put out great content like it. personal alarm pendant

We also do window and gutter cleaning. Getting the professional pressure washing company that has been serving Vancouver West Side.. Moss removal from roofs is one of our most soft after projects, let us help you clean your house. Vancouver window cleaners

Montezuma is a cool 5-reel slot game providing an awesome bonus feature. With 30 active pay lines, this is a slot game with symbols hitting “five of a kind” very often. It’s fun and it provides in-game as well as in-bonus high payout possibilities. On top of that, Montezuma’s “Bonus Guarantee Feature” it guarantees that, at the end of the free spin bonus, you will win at least 10x bet play montezuma slot free

Very good topic, similar texts are I do not know if they are as good as your work out. tangkasnet

I also wrote an article on a similar subject will find it at write what you think. 123moviesfree

Here at this site incredibly the essential material assembling so everyone can esteem an extraordinary game plan. best sex cam reviews

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

This is an awesome article, Given such an extraordinary measure of data in it, These sort of articles keeps the customers excitement for the site, and keep sharing more ... favorable circumstances. HARDCORE PORN

I unquestionably appreciating each and every piece of it and I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post. NUDE GALLERIES

You re in purpose of actuality a without flaw website admin. The site stacking speed is astonishing. It sort of feels that you're doing any unmistakable trap. Besides, The substance are perfect work of art. you have completed a fabulous movement regarding this matter! FREE NUDE GALLERIES

I no doubt valuing every single piece of it. It is an unfathomable site and not too bad grant. I have to thankful. Awesome work! All of you complete a mind blowing blog, and have some unprecedented substance. Continue doing wonderful. fb88 webcado123

Very nice blog and articles. I am realy very happy to visit your blog. Now I am found which I actually want. I check your blog everyday and try to learn something from your blog. Thank you and waiting for your new post. ΑΠΟΦΡΑΞΕΙΣ ΚΟΡΩΠΙ ΤΙΜΕΣ

I think this is a useful post and it is extremely valuable and educated. in this way, I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this article. ukrayna üniversites

I use only high quality materials - you can see them at: urgent printing toronto

Your texts on this subject are correct, see how I wrote this site is really very good. domino qq

Welcome to the party of my life here you will learn everything about me. free movies online

The milk pudding does not require skill, all you need is to mix the ingredients with the aid of a blender and take to bake for a few minutes in the oven. In addition, it is a dessert that suits all occasions and pleases almost 100% of palates. brigadeiros

They're delivered by the absolute best degree engineers will's identity recognized for your polo dress making. You'll discover polo Ron Lauren inside select exhibit which incorporate specific classes for men, ladies. clash royale Hack

Thanks a lot for sharing us about this update. Hope you will not get tired on making posts as informative as this. casino

I unquestionably appreciating each and every piece of it and I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post. ΜΕΤΑΦΟΡΙΚΗ ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΗ

Freshen up your car with Bel-Air Fresheners. Get custom and uniquely styled air fresheners that smell great and makes a statement. bel-air fresheners

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. incontinence pants

I use only high quality materials - you can see them at: starbucks secret menu

As a matter of fact I read it yesterday yet I had a few considerations about it and today I needed to peruse it again on the grounds that it is exceptionally elegantly composed. online günlük

You possess lifted an essential offspring..Blesss for using..I would want to study better latest transactions from this blog..preserve posting.. เว็บแทงบอล

Your blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Aquatic Exhibits

I like to recommend exclusively fine plus efficient information and facts, hence notice it: como fazer brigadeiro gourmet

Hmm!! This blog is really cool, I’m so lucky that I have reached here and got this awesome information. karamba

When you want to see your future, the voyance amour can help you. By a simple call to 0892 22 20 22, you will meet a fortune teller able to provide you a complete and serious voyance gratuite par tel. She will give you all the informations you need about love, work, projects, fate...

This blog is about heat pumps and underfloor heating and cooling systems use in residential applications. pompe de caldura

I propose merely very good along with reputable data, consequently visualize it: present perfect tense in hindi

My Essay Writer is the go-to source for the completion of academic assignments. If you are screaming out “Write my essay for me,” you’ve come to the most elite essay writing service write my paper

It is amazingly decent to see the best subtle elements introduced in a simple and understanding way. TCM clinic online

The most interesting text on this interesting topic that can be found on the net ... Tools

Gives you the best website address I know there alone you'll find how easy it is. watch cartoons online

Mmm.. estimable to be here in your report or notify, whatever, I repute I should moreover process strong for my have website want I play some salubrious further updated busy in your location. como fazer brigadeiro gourmet

You want to find a voyance en direct where you be allowed to ask all your questions and obtain answer about future, love relationship, work or else ...? So your voyance tel is waiting for your call to 0892 22 20 33, with a complete team of french fortune-tellers able to reveal you what you want to know.

It is fine, nonetheless evaluate the information and facts around this correct. https://headquartersnumbers.net/|www.headquartersnumbers.net|headquartersnumbers.net|headquartersnumbers|Pizza