Winterhawks win over Vancouver fans

Red-hot Portland hockey team has been skating along since 1976

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



 Photo Gallery: Winterhawks

The Portland Winterhawks hockey team has won over a lot of Vancouver residents.

More information

Winterhawks Website:

Winterhawks Booster Club:

Winterhawks remaining 2012-2013 home game schedule

2012-2013 Winterhawks picked in the NHL Entry Draft:

Taylor Leier, LW, Philadelphia Flyers, DOB: Feb. 15, 1994

Brendan Leipsic, C, Nashville Predators, DOB: May. 19, 1994

Ty Rattie, RW, St. Louis Blues, DOB: Feb. 5, 1993

Derrick Pouliot, D, Pittsburgh Penguins, DOB: Jan. 16, 1994

Tyler Wotherspoon, D, Calgary Flames, DOB: March 12, 1993

Mac Carruth, G, Chicago Blackhawks, DOB: March 25, 1992

Seth Jones, D, draft eligible and will probably go in the first or second round. DOB: Oct. 3, 1994

Winterhawks first round NHL draft picks:

1978: Wayne Babych, third overall by St. Louis

1978: Brent Peterson, 12th overall by Detroit

1978: Larry Playfair, 13th overall by Buffalo

1979: Perry Turnbull, second overall by St. Louis

1979: Keith Brown, seventh overall by Chicago1980: Dave Babych, second overall by Winnipeg

1981: Jim Benning, sixth overall by Toronto

1982: Gary Nylund, third overall by Toronto

1982: Ken Yaremchuk, seventh overall by Chicago

1982: Jim Playfair, 20th overall by Edmonton

1983: Cam Neely, ninth overall by Vancouver

1983: Alfie Turcotte, 17th overall by Montreal

1986: Dan Woodley, seventh overall by Vancouver

1987: Glen Wesley, third overall by Boston

1987: Dave Archibald, sixth overall by Minnesota

1993: Adam Deadmarsh, 14th overall by Quebec

1994: Jason Wiemer, eighth overall by Tampa Bay

1997: Brenden Morrow, 25th overall by Dallas

1997: Marian Hossa, 12th overall by Ottawa

2000: Marcel Hossa, 16th overall by Montreal

2002: Jakub Klepis, 16th overall by Ottawa

2003: Braydon Coburn, eighth overall by Atlanta

2010: Ryan Johansen, fourth overall by Columbus

2010: Nino Niederreiter, fifth overall by N.Y. Islanders

2011: Sven Baertschi, 13th overall by Calgary

2011: Joe Morrow, 23rd overall by Pittsburgh

2012: Derrick Pouliot, eighth overall by Pittsburgh

Ask the Haly family to decide on a favorite NHL team, and the gloves might drop for a bench-clearing brawl.

Tom Haly is a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, his father's favorite team.

Tom's son, Matt, likes the Colorado Avalanche, because the family lived there for a while when he was growing up.

Tom's mother-in-law, Myrna Shannon, prefers the Toronto Maple Leafs, because she grew up in Canada.

And Tom's wife, Zina? Maybe the Los Angeles Kings, because she used to live in L.A., but that's not her main hockey team.

"Mostly, I'm a Winterhawks fan and a (Winterhawks center Brendan) Leipsic fan," Zina said with a grin. "And a fan of their players when they go to the NHL."

Mention the Winterhawks to the Vancouver family, and suddenly they're all pumping their fists in unison to the power chords of "T.N.T." by AC/DC. That's the song that blasts on the loud speakers whenever the 'Hawks score a goal.

They've been going to games together for more than a decade, and Tom and Zina have been season ticket holders for three years. It's the one team the whole family supports with equal passion. And there's plenty of season left for new fans in Clark County who want to join them, they said.

"I think it's the best game in town," Tom said. "The kids (on the team) are playing because they love the game. It's just a pure expression of sport. It's fun to watch them putting everything on the ice like that."

While the NHL was locked out in a contract dispute for several months — its shortened 48-game season starts on Saturday — the Winterhawks and other teams in the Western Hockey League have played consistently since their season started on Aug. 31.

And the Winterhawks are on fire right now. Despite having their coach and GM Mike Johnston suspended for the rest of the season after some issues with the league, the team has only lost one game since late November.

They've won 14 in a row going into tonight's game against Lethbridge at the Rose Garden.

"Our forwards are little, but they're so quick," Tom said, sitting in the stands watching the Portland-Spokane game last Friday. "We're like gnats. Everybody's playing really well."

The WHL is one of a group of leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League. WHL games are a great place to check out up-and-coming talent, said Graham Kendrick, the Winterhawks' spokesman.

"This is really the highest level of hockey below the NHL," Kendrick said.

As a junior league, WHL players can be ages 16 to 20 and can be drafted by a professional team after they turn 17. After they're drafted, though, they may remain with the WHL for more seasoning before being called up either to the NHL or the American Hockey League, which is the primary professional minor league for the NHL.

The Portland team was founded in the 1976-1977 season, and since then more than 130 of its players have been drafted by the NHL, including Cam Neely, Brenden Morrow and Adam Deadmarsh, who all went on to become big-name NHL stars.

In the current Winterhawks lineup, six players have already been drafted and a seventh, defenseman Seth Jones, is likely to be picked first overall in the NHL entry draft in June, Kendrick said.

"It's quite possible he'll go on to play in the NHL next year," Kendrick said.

The Winterhawks biggest rival is undoubtedly the Seattle Thunderbirds, although games against the Everett Silvertips, Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs also tend to get fans pretty riled up, said Stuart Kemp, president of the Winterhawks Booster Club.

"Seattle right now actually has a former Winterhawk as their head coach," said Kemp. "And Everett? Their director of player personnel was our head scout until last year."

The team plays in both the Rose Garden and the neighboring Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Right now it plays about half of its games in each, but once renovations are finished in the Coliseum, most of its games will be played there.

"Personally, I like the Coliseum," Kemp said. "I think the sight lines are better. It's also gritty and has an old-school feel. On the other hand, The Rose Garden, it has more amenities and better lighting."

Kemp, who lives in Vancouver, said the team is well aware of its fan base in Clark County. About 20 percent of the booster club members live on this side of the river, and team members often hold public meet-and-greets here.

"There are a lot of Winterhawks events that happen in Vancouver, and they know they have a lot of fans here," Kemp said.

Game packages are a pretty good deal, Tom Haly said. Tom and Zina's season tickets cost $1,050, including parking and playoff games, he said.Individual tickets range from $18.50 to around $50, depending on seat location. And parking can cost anywhere from $5 to $8 or more.

Booster Club members can get discounts on ticket packages and other items, Kemp said.

The club also puts out a $3 program that explains the WHL rules and provides detailed information about the players.

"We always love new people and we love introducing them to the game," Kemp said.

Beyond learning the rules, new fans should also remember that play is ongoing, he added. If you get out of your seat and try to come back while the teams are on the ice, you'll have to wait for a penalty or other play stoppage to return.

The game has three 20-minute periods and two 20-minute intermissions, and like soccer, it doesn't stop for commercial breaks.

"An entire game lasts about two hours and five minutes (if you include stoppage time from penalties)," Kemp said. "And there's a lot of action to keep up with."

The Haly family said they'd love to have more Clark County fans join them in the stands. Longtime fans love to educate newcomers about the game, and it can be a great place to meet new people, Zina said.

"You get a good seat and you end up with more family members because you adopt your neighbors," Zina said. "It's a great time. We love our Winterhawks."