Portland is a hockey city. I’m not kidding, it really is. Well,maybe not so much today, but deep inside every Portlander there isa hockey fan hiding out.
Did you know that Portland was the home of the firstprofessional hockey team in the United States? Yes sir, thePortland Rosebuds were established in 1914, starting a longlove-hate relationship between our dear city and professionalhockey. In 1916 they lost a best of nine game series against theMontreal Canadians, becoming the first U.S. team to compete forLord Stanley’s cup.
Some of you may have heard about the Portland Buckaroos of theold Western Hockey League. I learned about them from my neighbor.He had pictures of the old Buckaroos teams and countless stories togo with them.
Actually, quite a few people went out to see the Buckaroos. Theteam came to Portland in 1960, once the Memorial Coliseum wasfinished. They set a single-game attendance record that season andwent on to break the league attendance record. They were a realdown-home type team; they practiced at Lloyd Center, for crying outloud.
But this is all we have left of the Buckaroos. My grandma, not asports fan by any means, remembers them and loved going to theirgames. The Buckaroos now live only in stories, dating theirtellers.
The NHL is approaching some very turbulent times. The ownerswant a salary cap. The players don’t. And neither side is willingto relinquish their position. Many feel that if the players strike,the league will never recover.
The players feel that a salary cap will keep their salaries,well, capped. They won’t get paid what they’re worth. The player’sunion doesn’t go as far to say that the owners would be institutinga form of slavery, but the talks have just barely scratched thesurface, so we’ll see what happens when the nails come out.
Owners allege that they’re losing money. This is probably true,but surely not to the extremes that they’re claiming. They see thesalary cap as a way of making the game more profitable andexciting.
The players are in a tight spot. The NHL is using theridiculously profitable NFL as their model for how salary caps canwork. True, the NFL is the most profitable and exciting league inprofessional sports, but hockey in not on the same level.
As the NHL playoffs head into Conference Finals, you may want tobring out the suppressed hockey fan inside of you. This might beyour last chance to witness the NHL’s glory before the league goesunder.
The games start Saturday, and if you have a chance, watch a fewperiods. When your grandkids ask you about the “old NHL,” you’ll beable to tell them you were there when it went kaput. Heck, youcould even make up some fantastic stories like my old neighbor did,who would know the difference?