Rooting for the underdog isn’t easy, but it’s almost always interesting.
Consider the case of Adin Hill, a former Portland Winterhawk. The Canadian-born goaltender spent much of his career in a backup role, ricocheting between the National Hockey League and the minors, traded from team to team like an unwanted sports card. In 2022, Hill landed on the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster, starting in only 25 games during the regular season.
Practically nobody would have pegged him to become this year’s standout player in the NHL playoffs, but that’s what happened when injuries picked off the team’s other goalies. Hill rose to the occasion with a spectacular series of saves that made it impossible not to cheer him on as he helped lead the team to its first-ever Stanley Cup.
What does Hill’s story have to do with this year’s Best of Portland issue? Everything.
Sure, Hill’s journey took him across the ice of Veterans Memorial Coliseum. But it’s more than that. It’s that his comeback resonates with Rose City residents who’ve been told the bloom is off for more years than we care to count. Our annual celebration of underdogs, unrecognized efforts, overlooked places, and charming misfits is testament to the city’s enduring greatness, even in the face of adversity.
In addition to Hill’s miracle on ice, the long shots we applaud in this issue include a 28-year-old director who became the youngest American recipient of a James Beard Award thanks to his YouTube short on a BIPOC cart pod; a no-tech hobby—paint-by-number—and the small business that’s riding its improbable resurgence; a bar dedicated to classical music that’s hosting opera karaoke; as well as the triumphant return of good ol’-fashioned pro wrestling without the dated stereotypes.
Perhaps there’s no better example of a dark horse, however, than Jeppson’s Malört, the spirit whose flavor is almost universally loathed. Yup, even the intensely bitter liquor has a Portland fan base that meets up weekly for shots and discussions about the booze’s merits.
As always, we’ve invited you to weigh in on your favorite local bars, restaurants, shops, events and people. Year after year, we have an enthusiastic response to our Readers’ Poll—further proof that Portlanders are still passionate about this city.
While it may be tough at times to be Portland’s cheerleader, remember that you’re never on the sidelines alone. There’s a reason why we root for the underdog to begin with: The fight is just as thrilling as the win.
—Andi Prewitt, Arts & Culture Editor