January 04, 2012
Taylor Peters of the Portland Winterhawks isn't exactly known for his offensive prowess, so his highlight-reel goal to beat the Moose Jaw Warriors 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night sure seems like it would be his standout moment in a very young 2012.
Not even close.
On New Year's night, Peters, along with the son of his billet family, embarked on a dangerous kayak rescue mission in pitch darkness to pull a drowning man to safety from the rough currents of Portland's Willamette River.
A self-described "ecstatic, eccentric guy," Peters took to his personal blog Monday to describe a harrowing situation in which he emerges as a far bigger hero than he could ever be in a hockey game.
As Peters dined with his billet family and their son Sunday evening on the houseboat they share along the Willamette, they heard the sounds of a man screaming outside.
We'll let Peters pick it up from here in his own words (in a blog post titled "Kayaking 101: How There's a Good Chance I'm 2/3 Batman"):
Now, being the uncommon situation that it was, I had folded it and neatly placed it into my 'Tom-Foolery' category. "Crazy kids," I mumbled to myself ironically. I was about to dive into the cake mouth first when I was called out to the dock. Sure enough, out in the darkness of the water was a voice shouting for help. Intrigued, I kept listening as any attempts to communicate with the voice were rendered useless.
It was at this point that our kayaks were to be put to use.
My disdain for the whole situation quickly faded to my new found interest in it. So I pulled on a pair of swimming shorts and climbed into one of our two kayaks. My billets son, visiting over the holidays, piloted the other. And with that we shot out into the unknown. (Blades of Glory)
From there, Peters and his companion were able to locate the man in the water using only the lights from other houseboats in the area.
"We used the reflections to find his silhouette in the water," Peters said after Tuesday's game.
The man in the water was one of a pair of kayakers who got caught in the current and didn't have the strength to paddle out. Their boat capsized, sending both into the frigid river. One man (the one who shouted for help) was able to get to the shore, but his friend wasn't as lucky.
"He wasn't moving much when we got to him," Peters said. "But he was able to hold on to my kayak and I pulled him to shore."
On his blog, Peters said paddling back to shore took "what seemed an eternity of the hardest kayaking I'd ever done." It's likely crucial that Peters is a young athlete in outstanding shape, which allowed him to break free from the current.
Living along the river, where his billets own kayaks, also helped Peters negotiate the situation:
"This is my fourth year living there, and we've had the kayaks a couple of years so I've been out on the river before. I've never been out in the dark, though, so it could've gone a lot worse. It was just instinctual."
Soon after Peters and his billet "brother" had pulled the man to shore, the Coast Guard arrived on the scene and took over. Peters said it appeared the man was suffering from hypothermia.
That, however, is all he knows about the man whose life he saved.
"They just disappeared into the night," Peters said. "I haven't heard anything from the guys but they seemed pretty thankful at the time."
A Delta, B.C., native, Peters is one of a handful of Winterhawks who have emerged from the team's "dark ages" of 2006-09 to play a key role in Portland's reemergence as a WHL power.
He's never been a big offensive threat (his 22 points this season, including 8 goals, are already a career best) in his four seasons with Portland, and is better known for the contributions he makes off the scoresheet as a third-line centre.
Off the ice, he's looking to change the perception of hockey-playing teenagers through outlets like his blog.
"People are quick to put (hockey players) into this box that we're simple, non-intellectual people," Peters said Tuesday. "I want to show that a lot of hockey players are smart guys and can put a thought together."
Peters, who has a wide variety of interests that he says change almost on a whim, is currently into the idea of being a doctor and is taking an anatomy and physiology course.
He admits that some of the things swimming around in his head are tough to share with his teammates.
"Some of the stuff I joke about goes over their heads," he said with a chuckle, carefully adding that "that's not a knock on them."
"These guys are my family," he continues. "I know what makes them tick and what to talk about with them.
I could talk about quantum physics with them and they'd look at me like I'm an alien."
Writing is also a passion for Peters, who says he'd be interested in covering hockey as a writer or broadcaster in the future when his playing days are over. But his creative bursts don't always lead to a finished product now.
"There's so much out there I could totally get into," he says. "I get into books and I start writing a book, then I decide I don't want to do that anymore. Then I start writing a screenplay and decide I don't want to do that anymore."
Considering the week he's having, he just might want to give that screenwriting career another shot.
Scott Sepich is a WHL contributor to Buzzing the Net. Follow him on Twitter @SSepichWHL. (Photo: Portland Winterhawks)