The first couple of weeks for the Portland Winterhawks have been a bit of a proving ground. With the team missing many of its key components from the Memorial Cup run, many younger players have had to step in to fill the roles. Enthusiasm abounds, but that doesn't always win you games. In the opener, the Hawks unveiled all the championship banners they accumulated during the Cup run and proceeded to beat the Prince George Cougars 9-2. The following night, it was a 4-3 shootout loss to the somewhat improved Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, WA. The Hawks would come home to lose an uninspired 6-2 manhandling to the Tri-City Americans and some thought the wheels had come off.
A few days of practice and a home return game against the Seattle Thunderbirds seemed to do the trick as the Hawks at one point led 9-0 into the third period, before letting off the gas and allowing 4 goals in 10 minutes and ended the game with a 10-4 shellacking of the Thunderbirds.
The Hawks would get one more home game in versus the Spokane Chiefs which they dominated the first period building up a 4-1 lead and then had to hang on at the end with a last second empty net goal to win 6-4.They now hit a doubleheader on the road versus the Kelowna Rockets. They will get a small home series mid-month before embarking on the "Central Swing" which has been broken up into 2 parts. Typically, the swing would encompass all the teams in one division as they meet only once a year at one time. However, due to building situations, the Hawks will be forced to take two lengthy trips to Central Canada. The first in October will be the Southern Alberta teams and the second, which takes place at the beginning of December, will be to the Northern Alberta teams.
The Hawks started the season without several players that were felt to be critical components of the team and are just now getting the last player scheduled back. Seth Jones, who was drafted 4th overall in the NHL draft by the Nashville Predators, has been told he is staying with the team. There is an option that due to his age of 18, he can be returned to his junior team at any time. The Predators also have up to 9 games to assess Seth's progress and on the 10th game, the team is compelled to pay full salary for the season. Many times in those situations, teams will drop players at the 9th game to avoid the salary cap hit, but Nashville seems to feel Seth is ready to jump in full time and has been partnered with Shea Weber to coach Jones on the backend.
The Hawks have also sandwiched 2 fan events following the Kelowna trip and before the 2 game homestand. On October 8, fans can bowl with a dozen Hawks players at Nicoli's Sports Bar (Formerly Game Time/Players) in Lake Oswego from 6-8pm and then catch 4 players at the Les Schwab in Sherwood the following afternoon from 4-6pm.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club has put together 3 events for community outreach this season. The first is collecting tax-deductible donations in an effort to generate enough to offer a shopping experience for underprivileged youth at Christmas with a Winterhawks player.
Dubbed Shop With A Hawk, the goal set is $3,000 and donations can be made at the Booster Club table at any home game or sent to the Booster Club (PO Box 6768 Portland, OR 97228-6768).
The second is the Hawkey for Hunger Food Drive which will take place at games Saturday November 9 and Sunday November 10. Fans are asked to bring non-perishable food items for the Sunshine Division. Barrels will be at both main entrances on the Moda Center concourse.
The third is the Keeping Portland Warm event for the Union Gospel Mission. The game on Saturday, January 4 at the Moda Center, will be for collecting coats, socks, blankets, sleeping bags and more for the homeless in Portland and surrounding areas. Last year, the Booster Club collected several hundred pairs of socks and over 100 blankets for the Union Gospel Mission.