The Portland Winter Hawks

Say you find yourself on vacation in Portland, Oregon. Your NHL team is driving you batty, but you need a hockey fix. What do you do?

Why, you go to see the Portland Winter Hawks of course!

I find the system of minor league hockey pretty confusing. I don’t get it at all, and frankly, I have very little desire to figure it out. All I know is that there are a bunch of unaffiliated hockey teams tucked in various corners of North America. The Portland Winter Hawks are one of these teams. Whatevs.

Today I rounded up four (4) non-hockey fans and a toddler, and the six of us headed out to see the Hawks play the Silvertips.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: to my fairly untrained eye, the Hawks do not appear to be very good at hockey. To be fair, I have never seen non-NHL hockey, so to me the whole thing looked kind of Bad News Bearsy. Also, my ability to turn the home team into an ineffectual mess with my mere presence at the arena seems to extend beyond the NHL and into the minor league systems.

This was the situation when we had to leave the arena due to a toddler meltdown:

I tried to comfort the Winter Hawks by telling them that the Sabres can’t score when I’m around either, but I don’t think they bought it.

Speaking of Sabres, did you know that Goose was a Winter Hawk back when he was a zygote? I found this giant portrait of a younger, more innocent Goose hanging in the “Winter Hawks in the NHL” display.

Something about this picture makes Goose look like he should be a supporting character on “Leave It To Beaver”. It’s like, 1950s Paul Gaustad.
Maybe you already knew that Goose was a Winter Hawk back in the day…..but I bet you didn’t know about this:

Look! It’s baby-faced Nolan Pratt! I don’t spend nearly enough time yammering about how much I like Nolan Pratt on this blog. I promise to do better.


I probably should have tried to bond with this random dude over our shared Goose appreciation, but I was feeling shy.

My only real beef with the Winter Hawks is that their logo is a Chicago Blackhawks-style Indian. I’m just not into marginally racist logos, and so I couldn’t bring myself to buy a hat, which I certainly would have done otherwise. (I just looked it up, and the Winter Hawks’ logo is the exact same logo as the Blackhawks’ logo. What gives, Winter Hawks? You can’t even be bothered to come up with your own racist logo? LAME.)

The best thing about the Winter Hawks game was that I could not have possibly cared less about the outcome. Yeah, I was cheering for Portland, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest when they didn’t win. It was pretty enjoyable to watch a live hockey game in which I didn’t feel the urge to leap off a balcony in despair. Instead of feeling all angsty about the game, I merrily ate delicious hotdogs and observed the local diehards. (FYI, local Winter Hawk diehards = awesome.)

All in all, I can recommend the folksy and affordable Winter Hawks experience. Some hockey is better than no hockey, so if I lived in Portland I would happily attend Hawks’ games. Go Hawks!

30 Responses to “The Portland Winter Hawks”

  1. 1 Blitzen January 14, 2008 at 5:58 am


    OK – I can wade in here a bit. The Portland Winter Hawks are part of the Canadian Hockey League Major Junior system. These are the kids that make up a large part of the draft each year (although the NCAA system is producing more NHL-draftees each year). The Hawks are part of the Western Hockey League; there’s the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Hockey League. These are 16 – 20 year-olds playing for their hockey dreams. It’s really great hockey (I’m a big Ottawa 67s fan – Brian Campbell is an alumni). The Hawks are the worst team in the entire CHL (about 60 teams total) so it was not a good bet that you would have seen the best that major junior can offer.

    You may have accidentially seen a future NHL star!

  2. 2 Blitzen January 14, 2008 at 6:01 am

    Oh – one more thing….they at least broke the record for a teddy bear toss (who keeps track of these things?)

  3. 3 Amy January 14, 2008 at 9:22 am

    I did know that Goose was a Winter Hawk, but not Pratt.

    It was pretty enjoyable to watch a live hockey game in which I didn’t feel the urge to leap off a balcony in despair.

    Those exist? Please bring some back home with you!

  4. 4 ToonTom January 14, 2008 at 10:00 am

    You could compare the CHL to the American college system as this is where the NHL drafts Canadian players from. The three leagues (WHL, OHL and QMJHL)send their champions to play for the CHL title, known as the Memorial Cup. It’s probably the hardest trophy in all of sports to win because you basically have two or three years to build a team before the players are a) too old or b) drafted and off to play in the NHL or AHL.

    Another interesting trend – the WHL (with the other leagues catching up) has an education fund for all players. For every year you play in the league, they’ll pay your tuition and books at a Canadain university. As a result, there’s something like 90% of college players with junior hockey experience. It’s made for a more mature, experienced college game.

  5. 5 Courtney S.F. January 14, 2008 at 11:28 am

    The next time you come to Big Texas, we will have to go see the Rampage, unless of course it’s WNBA season.

  6. 6 Mags January 14, 2008 at 11:39 am

    my ability to turn the home team into an ineffectual mess with my mere presence at the arena seems to extend beyond the NHL and into the minor league systems.

    That’s not you. The Hawks are just BAD (this year) (they were also bad last year, but not this year). Tips/Hawks have a nice little rivalry too (just ask Mara or me).

    I’m glad you had a good time!

    And you saw a couple of future NHL good guys, at least on the Tips side. I know very little about the Hawks, sorry. Leland Irving (goalie. I don’t know if he played or if it was Barry) is a Flames prospect, Zach Hamill was the nr. 8 pick last year and belongs to the Bruins, ummm… Taylor Ellington is with… some team, and Kyle Beach is supposed to go somewhere in the first round of this draft.

  7. 7 Mags January 14, 2008 at 11:40 am

    not as bad as this year. Urgh. Sorry.

  8. 8 Katebits January 14, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for the education, Blitzen and ToonTom! I have to admit, I was kind of hoping one of my readers would clue me into the CHL system…..last night when I was writing this post I was feeling waaaay too lazy to figure it out. I overheard another fan saying that almost the entire team was new, so I kind of figured that accounted for a lot of their, um, messiness. I was pretty surprised by how young they are. Babies! I didn’t mean to suggest that all CHL hockey was bad or anything, I was just trying to be funny about how different they looked than the Sabres.

  9. 9 Katebits January 14, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Hey, Mags! I totally thought of you while I was there. No Reekie! :(

  10. 10 Katebits January 14, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Oh and Blitzen, I LOVE that video!

  11. 11 blitzen January 14, 2008 at 12:02 pm


    The OHL also has the same generous education package. Dave Branch is the president of both the CHL and the OHL so I would be surprized if it’s not CHL-wide. If you check the rosters of just about any Canadian university varsity hockey team, you will see a whole lotta former CHL players.

    As for the Memorial Cup, I already have my tickets for the 2008 event in Kitchener. Was at the Sens game last night and the Gatineau Olympique team was sitting in the corporate box behind our seats as Claude Giroux was performing the ceremonial puck drop at the game (he was a memeber of the Canadian gold winning team and the WJHC). I mentioned that if the 67s don’t make the Mem Cup (which is likely), I expect the Olympique to make it so I can still cheer for a local team. We are so fortunate here to have two major junior teams and an NHL team.

  12. 12 blitzen January 14, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Isn’t that a great video? Many junior teams do a teddy bear toss before Christmas as a way to get toys for families that might not be able to afford them. The protocol is to toss the bears onto the ice when the hometeam scores its first goal.

    Our teddy bear toss in Ottawa wasn’t nearly as successful. Our seats are close to the glass so we not only get to toss our bears (and duck for cover) we get to re-toss the short-falls.

    It’s one of the fan events that fans most look forward to.

  13. 13 Glenn January 14, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    OMG….we need to start a teddy bear toss tradition in Buffalo… that’s the most joyous video of hockey fandom craziness I’ve seen! Man, if I was the MC, I’d be all over it!

  14. 14 alix January 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    My cousin plays for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, Katebits. They are really fun to watch and won the Memorial Cup last year. I was at the final and it was probably the greatest hockey experience I’ve ever had(mostly due to the Canucks failure in the playoffs)So if you’re ever in Vancouver… :)

  15. 15 Meg January 14, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I case you’re wondering, Kate, the Sabres currently have a handful of prospects in the QMJHL, one (I think) in the OHL, and none in the WHL.

  16. 16 blitzen January 14, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    The next NHL entry draft (June 2008) is being held in Ottawa and it’s open to the fans. I plan on attending the first round which is normally the first night. This year’s draft looks pretty good and we have seen a number of the top 20 prospects play in our arena (Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, Hodgson, Del Zotto and our own Tyler Cuma). It will be great to see these kids get called up and join their new teams.

  17. 17 blitzen January 14, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Except for the poor kid that gets drafted by Toronto – that kid we will feel sorry for.

  18. 18 Matt January 14, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Except for the poor kid that gets drafted by Toronto – that kid we will feel sorry for.

    On the plus side, he’ll probably get NHL playing time right off the bat. Not really good for one’s development, but good for the ego…

  19. 19 Mags January 15, 2008 at 7:04 am

    No Reekie! :(

    I know *bawls* At least he’s happy with his new team (scored a goal! Go boy go!)

    I love teddy bear toss :D

  20. 20 danielleia January 16, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    You should have said hi to the goose wearing jersey man!!! I saw this kid with a Sabre hat on when I went to NYC. I debated on whether or not to say something to him because he was only 13 I bet and I’m about 7 years older than him but I did anyways (just how I roll). I’m like… HEEEEY GO SABRES!!!!! He looked a little freaked at first but then he just laughed. His mom was walking way ahead of him and she turned around and smiled. Me and my friends made it a goal of finding Dru. We saw him… in a picture at MSG. Turns out the Rangers’ only game that week was in, get this, Toronto. Ha.

  21. 21 Sam January 16, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Hi Katiebits, I just stumbled across this blog and I must say that is HILARIOUS! I love the way you write. And I also love the Sabres.

    Thought I’d throw in some comments instead of just lurking..

    It’s funny that you went to a WinterHawks game, I have a friend who used to live in Portland when Goose was there and she always talks about how much she had a crush on him. I love the picture of him! he does look really young and innocent.

    I have not been to a CHL game but I’m very familiar with minor league hockey, which is somewhere between jr and NHL I guess. It’s great times though, and there are teams all over creation, so it’s easier than you think to find a game!

    Also, many minor league teams do the Teddy Bear Toss, it was a tradition that I greatly enjoyed in the years I followed the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers and Utah Grizzlies. I think it would be great for NHL teams to do something like it.. wonder why they don’t?

    And just a comment about the CHL education fund, it’s good that they are helping the Jr. players to go to Canadian college because if you play Major Jr hockey, (which involves a small weekly monetary compensation for the players), you cannot play in the NCAA. just a bit of trivia..

    Anyway I’m sorry to ramble so much in my first comment but I’ll keep reading and I hope you don’t mind the additions!

  22. 22 Katebits January 16, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Sam! Thanks for delurking with such an awesome comment! Chime in anytime. The more the merrier!

  23. 23 Audrey March 3, 2008 at 1:22 am

    I’d stumbled across your blog and had to write a little something. It’s so original and creative!
    I live in Portland and am a massive Sabres fan, especially the Goose. I’d like to point out, in case you were unaware, that Michael Funk, in Rochester, is also from Portland. He’s another favorite of mine.
    Thanks for the awesome blog!

  24. 24 Katebits March 3, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Audrey! Thanks for reading the blog and for chiming in! I had no idea Funk was also a Portlander. I’ll say hello to Goose for you! :P

  25. 25 mara in pdx March 31, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Ooh, ooh, a chance to spout Hawks-related trivia!

    The Winter Hawks became the first US-based major-junior hockey team in 1976, when the Edmonton Oil Kings were purchased and moved to Portland. The owners had connections with the then-owners of the Chicago Blackhawks, close enough that the Blackhawks donated sets of their used jerseys for the fledgling junior team to wear. In old photos of the Winter Hawks, up until the early 80s, the Hawks have the Chicago ‘C’ on their shoulder. Eventually it got changed to a ‘P.’

    I actually have one of theold Chicago-Portland jerseys, rescued from a storage room at the arena during a cleaning work-party. It’s from the set used in 1973-74 in Chicago, and used for several years in Portland.

    And the Hawk Head (that’s what we call it–more PC than ‘Indian Head,’ I guess) logo is actually NOT the same as Chicago’s anymore. The Hawks worked with northwest tribes to redesign the logo in a more accurate and less stereotypical way a couple of years ago. The skin isn’t that awful yellowish color and the forehead and nose are a little different. And he’s not smiling as much.

    And yes, the Hawks were VERY bad this year.

    See ya ’round IPB!

  26. 26 J. Wilcox October 10, 2008 at 1:52 am

    In response to the confusion on the “logos”, this was taken from Wikipedia in full…

    The Winter Hawks wear jerseys similar to those of the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League, causing some to erroneously assume that the Winter Hawks are a minor league farm team of the Blackhawks. In actuality, the jerseys originally worn by the first Winter Hawks team were a used set of Chicago jerseys obtained through connections between the owners of the two teams. In early photos, the old Chicago jerseys are identifiable by the letter C with crossed tomahawks on the shoulder crest. The Winter Hawks eventually changed the C to a P.

    In recent seasons, the Winter Hawks have worn a unique alternate jersey, which is black with a red and white Portland skyline and the word PORTLAND around the bottom hem. Currently, they wear a white alternate jersey loosely based on a Montreal Canadiens jersey. Instead of the Canadiens’ ‘CH’ logo, the jersey has the word PORTLAND in outlined letters across the front stripe, and is black where the Canadiens jersey is blue.

    The Portland-Chicago connection runs even deeper, as the Blackhawks were founded in 1926 by Frederic McLaughlin, who simply bought the contracts of most of the members of the Portland Rosebuds and brought them to Chicago.

  27. 27 Nabeel March 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    The Blackhawks were originally a Pro team in Portland called the Rosebuds. The team folded somtime in the early 50’s, all the players contracts were bought and the players were relocated to Chicago. The Winterhawks ended up wearing the blackhawks jerseys cause management was to cheap to buy or design jersey’s, so they bought a bunch of old Blackhawk jerseys from the team, and made them their game uniforms, interesting huh, and Cam Neely was a Portland Winterhawk too

  28. 28 Portlandism April 6, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    The Blackhawks actually ripped off the logo. They also bought most of the players contracts from the Rosebuds when they were starting…since Portland had a team first.

    Might want to do some homework next time.

  29. 29 John Sheldon July 25, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I just like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again right here regularly.
    I’m slightly certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff proper right here!
    Good luck for the following!

  30. 30 sean November 10, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    I’m the guy in the goose jersey….hi

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