A vague, glancing view of a Portland Winterhawks game may stir theories of copyright infringement in Blackhawk fans. Thankfully, there are no laws being broken, but a similar crest on the front of the jerseys isn’t the only likeness that the two teams share.
Chicago has one of the longest running streaks for consecutive sellout crowds. The fans in Portland are walking through the doors in droves, as the Winterhawks games are constantly being sold out. In fact, Portland just celebrated its 8 millionth game attendee to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
This year, the Winterhawks have reached 100 points in the regular season for the fourth straight year, currently only the second team in league history to do so. They are sitting at the top of the Western Hockey League as the U.S. Division Champions for the second straight season and the third time in four seasons. The Winterhawks have set a team record 21-game winning streak, coming just one game shy of tying a league record. Portland is already prepping for the post-season, as they clinched a playoff last month.
The Blackhawks have totaled 100 points or more only nine times in team history, with the last century mark coming in 2011-2012. Chicago has been Division champions 15 different times, including last season. And there is no forgetting Chicago’s 24-game streak without a regulation loss last year, breaking through the previous league record of 16 games set by the Anaheim Ducks.
While the Blackhawks are Stanley Cup Champions in 2013, 2010, 1961, 1938, and 1934, the Winterhawks were WHL Champions in 2013, 1998, and 1982, and were Memorial Cup Champions in 1998 and 1983.
With all those numbers flying around, the teams must have a long history of on-ice performances.
The Blackhawks were founded in 1926; currently they are playing in their 88th year in the NHL. Portland is currently hanging banners around town celebrating 100 years of hockey. While there has been professional hockey in Portland for the last century, the Winterhawks were founded in 1951, only 63 years ago. So while the Winterhawks havn’t been around as long as the Blackhawks, Portland-style hockey has been around longer.
With all those positive numbers and droves of fans coming through the doors, there must be something special to see on the ice. There is. In Chicago, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are the stars the fans know and look forward to. Over in Portland, Brendan Leipsic got the fans excited with his between the legs shot. The ESPN highlight made it to number three on their Top Ten Plays at the end of January. That move made Leipsic the WHL player of the week, the second straight Portland player to claim that title as Derrick Pouliot took the honor just previously.
As of now, there are four Winterhawk players listed in the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings for the upcoming draft: Chase De Leo (26), Alex Schoenborn (57), Keegan Iverson (64), and Dominic Turgeon (130).
Some Winterhawks may even make their way to Chicago. That was the case for current Blackhawk favorite Marion Hossa. Both he and his brother Marcel, who spent some time in the NHL before heading over to the Kontinental Hockey League, wore Portland jerseys. Keith Brown also played for Portland before spending a considerable amount of time in Chicago, where he is now considered a Blackhawk Alumni, to the delight of older fans.
While fans may see those names in the draft go to any of the NHL teams, the Winterhawks are a junior affiliated club of the Minnesota Wild. The WHL is one of three leagues making up the Canadian Hockey League and Portland is one of a handful of American-based teams.
Even the mascots are similar. Tommy Hawk is beloved by youngsters in Chicago while Tom-A-Hawk was introduced in Portland in 1999.
But getting back to the original visual, the uniforms for the two teams look alike. The reason for that is perhaps the most interesting connection between Chicago and Portland.
When starting a hockey team, one of the most important things you need to be recognizable to fans are uniforms. That rule applies now as it did in 1951. Back then, the original Winterhawks team needed uniforms and Frederic McLaughlin came to the rescue.
If McLaughlin sounds familiar to Blackhawks fans, it’s because he helped found the team in Chicago. McLaughlin bought the Portland Rosebuds and sent an used set of Blackhawk uniforms to Portland to be used out west. Upon close inspection, Portland game photos show the “C” with crossed tomahawks on the shoulders of Winterhawks players. Though that “C” has been since been replaced with a “P.”
In some old memorabilia fans will see the name “Black Hawks;” the team name in two words. That was changed in 1986. Similarly, Portland was known as the “Winter Hawks” until 2009 when the team announced that “the space announced its retirement. They, like Chicago, now only have one name instead of the two.
On the surface, the teams seem to have nothing to do with one another. Different leagues, different levels of professional hockey, different cities, even different time zones. But both the Winterhawks and the Blackhawks have a lot more in common than what’s jus ton the surface. Although, even at a quick glance the teams look similar on the ice.
We can thank Mr. McLaughlin’s penny-pinching for that.