Hockey Night in Portland

River City Jaguars vs. Tri-City

You may not know this about Portland, but on any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday from October through May, you can probably catch a hockey game. There were three games in town this weekend.

I just got back from watching the River City Jaguars take a tough 5-1 loss to the Tri-City Titans out at Valley Ice Arena in Beaverton. The Jags are Tier III Junior A team, with players from Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, and even Slovakia. They play in the 13-team Northern Pacific Hockey League (NORPAC), with teams in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The Portland Winter Hawks, members of the elite Canadian major junior Western Hockey League, played Friday and Saturday at the Coliseum.

Portland is a hockey town from all the way back to 1914, when the Portland Rosebuds were the first professional hockey team in the United States. The Rosebuds were also the first US team to play for the Stanley Cup, in 1916, which they lost to the Montreal Canadiens.

The original Rosebuds folded in 1918, and were replaced by another team of the same name for the 1925-26 season. Most of this team went on to form the Chicago Blackhawks in 1926, one of the “Original Six” NHL teams. From 1928 to 1931, Portland had its first incarnation of the Portland Buckaroos.

Portland vs. Seattle, 10-20-2007

Portland had two semi-pro teams between 1942 and 1951, the DeCicco Tire Tiremen and the Hancock Oil Oilers. The Portland Eagles also played during this period, including one season as the Portland Penguins (not to be confused with the latter-day Portland Penguins in Maine).

In 1960, the second coming of the Buckaroos made their home in the then-brand new Memorial Coliseum, one of the finest hockey arenas on the west coast. The Buckaroos played in Portland until their league folded in 1975, winning eight regular season championships and three post-season championships.

In 1976, the Portland Winter Hawks became the first US team of the Western Canada Hockey League (now the Western Hockey League), part of the elite major junior Canadian Hockey League. The Hawks continue to play at the venerable Coliseum, and are now one of five US-based teams in the WHL. Many, many Hawks have go on to play in the NHL, including recent graduates Brandon Dubinsky (New York Rangers), Paul Gaustad (Buffalo Sabres) and Braydon Coburn (Philadelphia Flyers).

The Hawks play a grueling 72-game season, with games all across western Canada, as far east as Manitoba. At any given game you can see the best junior hockey players in the world, from the friendly confines of one of the first major hockey arenas on the west coast.

This is a unique, gritty Portland subculture. Grab an overpriced beer and the concession stand, take your seat, and enjoy one of the finest entertainment values in Portland.

8 Comments so far

  1. McAngryPants (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 6:39 am

    Yeah Hockey! He shoots. He SCORES!

    Ah…good times. good times. now to go watch some Coaches Corner

  2. McAngryPants (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 6:40 am

    hmm…my HTML in the above seemed to have gotten stripped. Coaches Corner=

  3. tenstringesquire (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 10:54 am

    Great post!

  4. chris (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    Something about going to a Hawks game is so vintage Portland to me.

    Good historical info on Portland Hockey. You should collaborate a piece with Dan Haneckow over at Cafe Unknown.

  5. Annie (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

    You can catch hockey any night of the week in Portland!! Sherwood Ice Arena has game pretty much every night – ability ranges from novice to unbelievable!

    If you’re a female interested in the sport check our the Portland Phoenix: We’re a novice women’s team that’s #1 objective is to have fun & learn.

  6. Steve (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

    “Something about going to a Hawks game is so vintage Portland to me.”

    You mean something other than the vintage arena?

    But seriously, I know what you mean. It’s one of the last places you can get a taste Portland’s unpretentious blue collar roots on a mass scale. The Coliseum just adds to that atmosphere.

    Everybody who moves to Portland should experience this, just to get that sense of how things used to be before Portland had any pretension of being hip and trendy.

    Forget fru-fru haute cuisine, pinkie-extended micro-swill, espresso and smart growth…

    Drop the puck!

  7. Steve (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 6:06 pm

    Annie, thanks for the mention of women’s hockey. I’m going to do another post about opportunities to play hockey in Portland soon, both for kids and old farts like me.

    You’re right, there’s some kind of game, whether beer league, youth league, or competitive junior on pretty much any given night. (And I forgot to mention PSU has a team now, playing at Mt. View.)

    The top-end beer leagues at Sherwood, Valley and Mt. View can actually be pretty fun to watch. At the other end of things, my wife would rather watch paint dry than watch me play pick-up at Valley.

  8. Steve (unregistered) on November 20th, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

    If you’re interested in the history of the Buckaroos, complete with many historic photos and scans of game-night programs, etc., here’s a site I totally forgot about:

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