Posted by: bkivey | 26 April 2014

Sports Northwest

An update on local professional sports teams (like you care, but it’s my blog). Teams are ranked according to how well they’re doing.

Portland Winterhawks

Sport: Hockey (Major junior)

Point in season: playoffs

Season record: 54-13-0-5

Recent accomplishment: Won Western Conference.

The Winterhawks have won the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League (WHL) the last four years. Prior to an ownership change in 2008, they were perennial doormats in the league, but are now known as the ‘Evil Empire’ to their opponents.

The ‘Hawks won the WHL Championship in 2013, but lost to the Halifax Mooseheads for the Canadian Hockey League trophy (aka Memorial Cup). That was some of the best hockey I’ve witnessed. They’ve already made it to the WHL Championship, and look well poised to contend for another Memorial Cup.

Portland Trailblazers

Sport: Basketball (NBA)

Point in season: playoffs

Season record: 54 – 28

Recent accomplishment: Beat Houston Rockets 2 – 0 away in first-round playoffs.

The Trailblazers were everybody’s darling early in the season, when they came out and set the league on fire. A mid-season slump, coupled with a LaMarcus Aldridge injury didn’t do them any favors. This was the first season I watched or listened to every Blazers game, and they have some weaknesses. They don’t take care of the ball particularly well; many games feature double-digit turnovers, and they have trouble scoring in the paint.

The Vegas line was that the Rockets would win in five, and I agreed. This is why I’m not a sports prognosticator. Coach Terry Stotts has been a master of the impromptu play during the season, and he appears to have cured the Blazers of most of their ills for the playoffs. It’s almost like watching two different teams. The Blazers have a good chance to get to the second round of the playoffs since 2000.

Portland Thorns

Sport: Soccer (NWSL)

Point in season: early regular season

Season record: 2 – 0 – 1

Recent accomplishment: Beat FC Kansas City to go to the top of the table.

The Thorns are Portland’s only championship team (NWSL 2013), and enjoy rabid support from a city primed for soccer by the Timbers. The most recent game (and home opener) on 26 April had over 14,000 in attendance for a women’s soccer game played in the rain. There are venues in the league with only 1/3 the capacity.

I was most impressed that the Thorns won all of their playoff games last year, and the championship game, on the road. That’s a tall order, I don’t care who you are. The Thorns are playing to high expectations this year, and so far are doing a better job than their male counterparts.

Seattle Mariners

Sport: Baseball (MLB)

Point in season: early regular season

Season record: 9 – 14

Recent accomplishment: Haven’t lost all of their games.

The Mariner’s aren’t very good so far this year. MLB  has the longest season of any of the American professional sports, so there’s still time to turn the season around, but the early returns aren’t encouraging. They can’t hit, and the bullpen, good in 2013, just isn’t getting the job done. The infield has made some really silly errors. New manager Lloyd McClendon has kept his players on a short leash, but some serious changes need to be made. Unfortunately, the organization doesn’t have an especially strong farm system.

The team was projected to win 80 games this year, but even that modest goal is in jeopardy. People in Seattle (and the Northwest, since they’re the only baseball game in town) will watch the Mariners, but we’d sure like to see some wins, or an ability to play the game.

Portland Thunder

Sport: Football (AFL)

Point in season: early regular season

Season record: 1 – 5

Recent accomplishment: Won against Jacksonville Sharks.

The Thunder are the newest franchise in the “are they still in business?” Arena Football League. I last attended AFL games in St. Petersburg watching the Tampa Bay Storm (still a team). Sure, it’s not NFL, or CFL, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s football that’s all offense, all the time.

The somewhat misnamed Thunder (there are very few thunderstorms in this part of the country) have been struggling in their inaugural season, but they do have one more win than the vaunted Timbers.

Portland Timbers

Sport: Soccer (MLS)

Point in season: early regular season

Season record: 0 – 3 – 4

Recent accomplishment: Um, none.

The Timbers made a splash last year when they won the MLS semi-final Western Conference over arch-rival Seattle and contended for the Conference Final. Coach Caleb Porter has stated on several occasions that the club’s job is to “bring home hardware”. This looked likely last season, but this year, the wheels have fallen off. Their opponents appear to have solved the Timbers, as they have the worst record in MLS to date.

The fans are just as loud, and the atmosphere is still energetic, but those same fans expect results, especially at home in front of the best home crowd in MLS.




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