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Aug 31, 2007

It's very nice to see three Oakville boys -- Steve Mason, Sam Gagne, and John Tavares -- doing well with the Team Canada juniors in the series with Russia. If I'm not mistaken, these guys played a lot or most of their high-end minor hockey somewhere other than Oakville, but their hometown is still here. Maritimers know that home is important.

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It's Labour Day Weekend. Three movie suggestions with a Labour Day or end of summer thread:

1. Stand By Me. Rob Reiner's timeless treatment of a Stephen King novella. It's not a horror story. It's a story of four boys and an adventure. A great, great film.

2. The Flamingo Kid. Starring Mrs. Wayne Gretzky, Janet Jones. It's a good time killer for a final summer weekend. Janet's pretty easy on the eyes in this one too, if you like that sort of thing. Me, I like it a lot.

3. Meatballs. Honesty, was there ever a better summer movie made that your kids will love that captures all that teen and pre-teen angst but doesn't preach at you, it just makes you laugh? Admit it. You haven't seen it in 20 years but you remember you laughed out loud when you watched it then. You will again. "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!" If you don't remember that line, rent the movie.

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What was your favourite moment of the summer with your family?

Mine wasn't Wednesday, when I stubbed my big toe -- hard -- into a wheel in the barn at Ben Eoin. The toe nail actually buckled and I bled like a skewered pig and the pain lasted for hours, one of those low, sickening, throbbing pains in the pit of your gut.

Anyway, I know you're out there, so share a summer story with the blog readership. I'll lightly edit entries and protect your identity. Email me at the usual place, here.


Aug 31, 2007

Well, we're back.

The journey home was cramped and uncomfortable, but otherwise unremarkable except for the repeated attempts to leave the house without forgetting something and me trying to take a knife on board the plane.

Leaving Nova Scotia is always tough on all of us, mostly on the boys, and especially on Chris. My younger son has the biggest heart of anyone I know and as much as we all look forward to summer vacation, it is the most special to him. He loves hanging out with his grandparents and uncle in Halifax, riding his aunt and uncles' boat, watching the "cat explosions" at our friends' Kevin and Pam, jumping off Grammie and Dave's dock, sleepovers with his cousins, eating brownies and chocolate chip cookies, and everything else that comes with a visit home. And when it's time to leave, he has a tough time with it, and who wouldn't?

Anyway, he soldiered through the day like the great guy he is and he's glad to be home to his "stuff."

While packing up we realized that Chris had left his favorite lacrosse hat at his cousins', so that meant we had to schedule an extra stop en route to the airport. And then two minutes out of the driveway Laura discovered she left her iPod behind, so back we went for that.

At the security checkpoint at the airport, my Swiss army knife was found in my computer case, so I was relieved of that bit of hardware. I wasn't trying to do an Osama bin Gerry, but rules are rules. Since it was Cape Breton, they felt very bad about it, however, and agreed to hold on to it till my father in law popped by later in the day, which he did.

I finished off East of Eden about 15 minutes before the plane landed, and we managed to get four suitcases and a hard-shell golf club case (plus assorted backpacks and computer and PlayStation bags) into a single van and we were homeward bound.

After running about for enough groceries to last us 18 hours until a full order is filled, Pad and I ran off to get him new shoulder pads, new gloves, and a new stick. Then we grabbed a quick bite and headed off to midget fall field lacrosse tryouts, followed by a bantam Ranger AA practice. So, we didn't exactly ease into the routine.

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Today, me and Chris are off to Future Shop to get my new iPod. My old one died, RIP. I figure since I got it in February 2005, it was on for four to six hours a day, pretty much every day. So it was well used. And the good news is, when I bought it I actually spent the extra $65 on an extended warranty, which I never do. Except on little tiny expensive and virtually unserviceable things like iPods. So, the new iPod is free. Which is good, because after the trip to Corbett's for hockey gear yesterday, free is all I can afford.

After that, Patrick and I are off to find him a new bike, most of which he's paying for himself. He starts next week at Abbey Park High School, which is less than a kilometre away, but he would prefer to ride. Fine by me.

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The two squads that play out of the Oakville Crusaders Rugby Club -- the Lancers and the Knights -- have both qualified for the provincial final four on Sept 9. Lots of hockey players on those rosters. From reviewing their records, one would have to think both teams are heading into the provincials with high expectations of success. When I was marginally involved in rugby, it was about getting covered in mud, then sitting in a pub singing very rude songs, drinking beer and meeting women. My knees woes made for a short and unremarkable rugby career, but I held my own on the other parts of the tradition. I'm reliably informed that with the possible exception of the beer part, the rest is pretty much still true 25 years later for these teens. And that's good. It's a great sport.


Aug 29, 2007

Today is the last full day we'll be in Nova Scotia, as we head home tomorrow morning.

We left Halifax on Sunday after enjoying a great few days with friends and family. On the almost-four-hour drive back to Ben Eoin we were reminded of some of the idiosyncrasies of Nova Scotia drivers.

Not all highways in Nova Scotia are four lane divided, like you see around Toronto. So there are passing lanes built into these highways every few kilometres to allow the lead footed to pass the Sunday drivers. In theory.

But the Sunday drivers tend to treat the passing lanes as "go fast" zones. So, a mild-mannered driver cruising at 85 kilometres an hour and backing up traffic behind him for half a kilometre will, upon reaching the passing zone, speed up to 125, thus allowing almost no one to pass. When he has completed the passing zone, he returns to 85 kilometres an hour.

Maybe it's not unique to Nova Scotia, maybe it's part of human nature. But it's annoying.

When we left Halifax, Chris kept asking when we would eat. Laura said we'd stop when we go to New Glasgow -- a little more than an hour from where we got on the highway. But super dad missed all four exits to New Glasgow ("honest, I'm pretty sure the NEXT one is where the fast food outlets are") so we blew right past and did another half hour of driving to Antigonish. Chris survived just fine.

Monday was spent on mostly doing nothing, or if we did anything of consequence, I don't remember it.

Tuesday was spectacular and we golfed, and then we were out in the bay in the boat, and then we ate and talked and hung out.

This is Chris running off the dock and launching himself into East Bay. And yes, it's THAT much fun:

This is the sort of thing kids can do for a very long time, and each jump seems more exotic than the last. Laura even did it, but I promised I wouldn't show that picture.

Pad's been enjoying himself and preparing for hockey season. There's not really a good running area near where we are, so he swims 100 lengths of the pool each day -- about a kilometre in total -- which gets the ticker pounding just fine.

The weather this week has been sensational, which accounts for my complete absence of blogging. Below are pictures taken just before sunset of the view from the deck of the house, looking left, centre and right. Honestly, how much time would you spend at your computer with a view like that?




It's hard to tell from the middle picture, but the dock is just below the screen house you see below the pool. There you can find me for 20 minutes late in the afternoon, reading, staring at the bay, or falling asleep.

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Hockey beckons. The Oakville minor hockey conveners meet  Tuesday night, the big general kickoff meeting is Thursday and before you know it, parents will be yelling at me because their kid (insert grievance here.) I'm kidding. There are really very few complaints.

The rep kids are already on the ice and back-to-school sales seem to be overtaking Christmas as the prime retail shopping season.

Today's agenda is busy for me -- I have to clean my father-in-law's SUV that we've been driving, and I'll cut the grass (there's a LOT of grass) and clean the pool too, all hopefully by early in the afternoon.

The sun is shining so the afternoon will be spent in the restless pursuit of enjoying ourselves.


Aug 28, 2007

I've gotten emails from readers asking if I've retired from blogging, and one ordering me to start writing again. I promised I would. I lied. Golfed today, then boating. Now it's Miller Time.

I promise a full accounting tomorrow before noon eastern time. Thanks for your patience!


Aug 24, 2007

I am reliably informed that Orangeville, not Whitby, won the midget lacrosse provincials. Opps #1.

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I am equally informed that the bantam AA Rangers weren't on the ice last night. Saturday night is the first ice time. And we still won't be there. Opps #2.

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We had a ridiculous amount of fun golfing at Ashburn yesterday where moments of mediocrity illuminated stretches of scary golf. It wasn't THAT bad, but the new course is one of the top courses in Canada and it takes a toll. The good news is that I managed to break 100 for the third time in three tries on the this vacation, and Pad showed us what sort of creative things can be done when you drive a golf ball into the inside of a golf cart.

Plus, the head broke off his driver -- a sign of his unharnessed power, or the sign of a cheap golf club?

Anyway, we had fun and we barbequed steaks afterward and told lots of lies about how good we once were.


Aug 23, 2007

Played golf in perfect weather at a place called The Links at Penn Hills on Wednesday. My front nine was not great and whatever mojo I had invented a week earlier in Ingonish was gone. I struggled to a 52 on the front. I righted things somewhat after number seven and played the next eight holes in two over, which for me is good. I finished the back with a 44 after sand trap trouble, but 96 is still OK given how little I play.

Pad hit some good shots but I think was a little weary of the slow pace of play and the hours in the sun. We'll attack New Ashburn today and try to remember the good shots from Penn Hills.

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Six Nations won the bantam provincial box lacrosse title, which isn't a surprise to me at least.

Halton won the peewee title, and Whitby won the midget crown.

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While Pad is doing his best Tiger Woods impersonation again today, his teammates on the bantam AA Rangers -- well, most of them -- will hit the ice tonight for their first ice time of the pre-season. Ice time started a week or so earlier this year for the rep teams and the change caught most teams by surprise I think. Also, with so many rep-level lacrosse, baseball and soccer players involved, a lot of families (like ours) are only now squeezing in a summer family holiday. Pad will be on the ice next week. Given the pace he's grown in the last year he needs pretty much new everything in the line of equipment. Oh well.


Aug 22, 2007

We're in Halifax eating way too much. Today, Pad and my friend Kevin and I will play golf and later I'll complain that my knee hurts.

The weather is terrific -- sunny and 24 -- and I've just about eaten my weight in my mother's brownies and strawberry-rhubarb pie.


Aug 19, 2007

Some families argue during the raising of a Christmas tree. For us, I think it's the packing of suitcases and the loading of a car that tests our mettle (although there have been a few interesting moments over the years during the festive seasons too.)

Anyway, we snarled and packed and loaded the vehicle on Saturday, left Ingonish and headed back to Ben Eoin, not a moment too soon either because not a stitch of clean laundry was left among the four of us, the forecast called for Biblical rains, and the boys were in need of a change of scenery.

The 90-minute drive was unremarkable and the heavy rain didn't start till well after the car was unloaded and we were all inside complaining about the weather.

Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying the coldest winter of his life was the summer he spent in San Francisco. Nova Scotia's summers have their share of such moments, too.

Thankfully, the good people at Environment Canada haven't figured out all the quirks of Maritime weather. Today's forecast -- Sunday -- was depressing. Rain, more rain, fog, drizzle, chance of thunder showers. Given that it rained so much Saturday afternoon and night -- Saturday night the rain seemed to be coming at the windows sideways and in great volume -- a forecast for more rain set us to thinking perhaps initial plans for an Ark should be considered.

Rain and high humidity gave way to what is, as far as I can tell, the uniquely Maritime news bulletin of "poor drying conditions." No where else that I know of do the local media and weather people keep you abreast of the odds of your clothes drying on the line. But it happens here, and drying conditions on Sunday were very poor indeed.

Grim news for us, with loads of laundry and many 100-per-cent cotton, don't-machine-dry at any cost articles that needed a clothes line.

But, those government forecasters had no clue it seems. Early clouds today gave way to sunny skies and big, puffy white clouds and by mid afternoon I was no longer yelling at the boys to stop fighting over the PS2, and instead was yelling at them to share the pool toys. Dry conditions were excellent after all, and you'll be relieved that my children have clean clothes again.

I spent a lazy hour sitting alone on the dock of the bay (please resist the urge here to break into song) and I made a considerable dent in this week's reading project, John Steinbeck's East of Eden.

Monday will see us hit the road for Halifax to visit my folks, some friends, and run amuck on Spring Garden Road.

Updates will be forthcoming as developments warrant.


Aug 17, 2007

Overnight thunder storms rattled the shutters while lightning lit the sky and rain pelted our tiny cabin. It was glorious.

I was awake for only part of it -- I find overnight rain storms to be a calming, a left over trait I developed in my youth. I used to work as a student on a golf course grounds crew -- my specific assignment was mowing the greens, using those self-propelled, walk-behind mowers. I had to be at work by about 5a. If it was raining, or if it had rained so much that mowing would scalp the fine-cut greens, we didn't work and I could sleep in. I've always enjoyed an overnight rain.

Anyway the day wasn't rainy but it was grey and muggy and the beach was sodden. The boys were not keen on beach activity. But I persuaded them to try a different beach further down the coast, and the images that follow kind of speak for themselves.

This first image is where Pad and Chris, to the left, say: "Hey, that could be a decent sized wave."


OK, the next image is where they say, "Um, yeah. That is going to be a big wave. Bigger than we thought."

In image three, they had already processed the thought that they should run. But you can't out run that kind of wave and if you get caught too close to shore, you can get hurt. So, here they're deciding to ride it out. It's going to be quite a ride.

In picture four, I'm counting heads and making sure the number of bodies that went under the wave come out the other side, especially the two on the left. They did.


We stuck around and rode a few more waves after that, but never saw anything as big as this one. It was about 12 to 15 feet, which is a lot of water. Very cool.



Aug 16, 2007

We awoke today to sunshine and a sky bluer than a Hank Williams song. I took my place on the deck with book, beverage, and Blackberry and enjoyed the peace.

The waves were the largest of the week, which I took as a portent of a great day ahead for the boys -- they both like jumping into, over, and through waves, and body surfing is popular too.

We headed for the beach and Chris as usual led the sprint into the water, which he reported was colder than yesterday, but not bad. Patrick followed, then me.

We weren't in very long when we realized that the waves were building in number, in size and intensity. It became such that in fact two waves would be breaking at the same time, both of such huge size that it became pretty much impossible for us to stay in the water without anyone getting hurt. Under normal conditions, the idea is to ride over, or dive into, a wave. But when the wave starts breaking where you can no longer touch bottom and keep your head above water, you have a problem. Incoming waves meet outgoing waves, an undertow is created . . . not good.

Both boys were glad to get clear of this double-breaker juggernaut, and we sat on the beach drying off and watched the waves in awe. In the top photo you can just see the top of Chris's head as the wave rolled past him. In the second photo, they are both dwarfed by a wave. Pad is six foot one, so that will give you an idea of how much water we're talking about.

For the record, Laura was the only one who didn't go in the ocean today.

After lunch we walked the beach and then headed off in the car for Warren Lake, which is a lake apparently named for . . . Warren.

It's a fresh-water lake, and although it was windy, the water was considerably warmer than the ocean and Chris gave it his two-thumbs-up seal of approval. This was my attempt at an artsy picture of Laura and the boys swimming in the late afternoon sun on a perfect, sun-drenched August afternoon.


Aug 16, 2007

Meanwhile back in Oakville, the bantam 1 lacrosse Hawks -- or most of them, anyway, gathered this week for their season-ending party. Obviously Patrick wasn't there, but he thought of the guys often. Before we left on vacation, Patrick's coach stopped by with a couple of things for Pad since he was going to miss the party. The highlight was a cheque for $1 million. Before a key game with Orangeville, a team our coach really, really, wanted to beat, he told the boys the player to score the first goal would get $1 million. Oddly enough, Pad -- who wasn't a goal scoring machine or anything but clearly knows what a million bucks is -- scored that first goal.

The faux cheque came signed and mounted like a good trophy should be and holds a place of honour. It meant a lot that the coach followed through. I've tried to cash it four times, to no avail.

Thanks to all the coaches for all you did for my kid and all the kids. It was a blast.


Aug 16, 2007

And still with Oakville news, Dick Decloe is emailing people with news of his winter clinic plans. For those who are interested in Dick's clinics -- and they are, in my view, good ones -- here's his message:

Opening January 1st in Oakville…New home for the Dick Decloe Hockey Academy!


Dear Parent,


As most of you are probably aware of by now, I started my own Hockey School back in April after the Town of Oakville purchased the Dominion Twin Rinks.  I have been operating summer camps at the Twin Rinks and will do so till August 31st.


Beginning September 1st ,we will be limited in the services that we will be able to provide.  The town of Oakville has decided not to give us any prime time ice for the 07-08 season.  In addition, I did not get any afternoon ice for private lessons.  What I did get, was a few early morning hours and 20 hours of Shooting Range time at the Twin Rinks.  As a result, I will not be offering any fall classes, nor afternoon private lessons during the fall! 


The only class that we will able to continue with is our Thursday 10-11am Women’s class!


Shooting lessons are available beginning September 4th at the Twin Rinks (Joshua Creek Arenas)

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday…4-8pm and Saturdays 8am-12pm.


Limited private lessons shooting lessons and team instruction are available in the early morning hours. I apologize for the lack of programs, but obviously there is not much I can do.  If you wish to book shooting lessons or privates, please do so immediately, as spaces are very limited.


EXCITING…NEW FACILITY!        (Speers Rd. & 4th Line in Oakville)


Due to the lack of ice from the town, we have decided to build our own arena! This facility will allow our school to flourish and provide us with an abundance of ice time!  It will include 2 ice pads (125 x 45ft), as well as a large 30 x 40ft. shooter pad. 


As soon as I can work out the schedule I will notify everyone and begin to take registrations. We will be offering winter classes for both Rep and House league players, camps, private skating & shooting lessons, team instruction, 3-on-3 leagues etc.


If you wish to contact me,

Telephone: 905-542-1997





Dick Decloe






Aug 15, 2007

Pad and I were up early -- early in vacation terms anyway -- for an 8:20a starting time at the Highlands Links, ranked by Golf Digest as one of the 50 best public golf courses in the world. An old Stanley Thompson layout, it offers spectacular vistas of the ocean and the Cape Breton Highlands, over some pretty tough golfing terrain. Rolling, undulating fairways rarely offer a flat lie, but the course is fair and rewards the patient player.

My strategy was simple -- be like Tiger at Royal Hoylake in 2006 where he won The Open Championship and leave the woods in the bag. I'm a decent iron player so I figure I'd just take a lot of trouble out of play by doing my best to keep the ball on the fairway.

Pad just wanted to grip it and rip it, but he too soon realized that the Links takes no prisoners. Unlike many courses today where a hook or a slice will land you on an adjacent fairway, this course simply eats your golf balls. Four feet off the fairway is, generally, bear food.

I made the turn in 44, which given the way I've played for two years (the context to that being that I've played maybe five times in two years) was cause for riotous celebrating. However, since there were still nine holes to play, that would have to wait.

Long story made short: I stood on the 18th tee needing a par for 89. 407 yards into the wind, slightly uphill, I had to hit a drive far enough to give me a chance to get home in two. So I tempted fate (because I'm an idiot) and hit a three-metal. Much to my amazement, I split the fairway with a slight draw, but got no roll -- the course was soaked after heavy overnight rains. So, I'm now 168 away and I take out a six iron. Should have hit a five. I grooved the six right at the stick but it caught the corner of a front bunker. One more club and I'd have been golden. I got out of the trap OK but left myself an impossibly long putt, which I almost made but didn't. I tapped in for a 90 that to a hacker like me felt like a 70.

Pad's numbers were higher, but that wasn't the point for either of us. It was five hours together sharing a great morning. Like so many kids he has one of those impossibly long swings that flows naturally and makes my back hurt just to watch. If he had the chance to play more, I think he'd get good, fast. Nice high finish, eh?



After golf, we went back to the cabin where Chris was waiting for us to go to the beach. The surf was up which made for some prime-time wave diving and surfing. Generally, this is an activity I prefer to watch, not participate in -- there was a time when getting rolled on the ocean floor by incoming and outgoing waves would have seemed like a great idea, but not now, thanks. I like things just the way they are -- all those vertabrae in a particular order and shape, for example. But it sure did look fun and the boys -- Chris in particular -- had a great time.




Aug 14, 2007

Quiet morning here in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Technically, we're in a tiny part of the village that's outside of the park (hence the private cottage, not government owned.) But we're no more than a Tiger Woods five iron one way or the other from being in the park.

I'm really hoping for nice weather today.

Monday proved to be more grey than blue and by dinner time it was raining. We never actually got so far along as to actually swim yesterday but there were still baseballs and lacrosse sticks and footballs and things hurled on the long and deserted beach, which -- with the exception of two other people -- we had entirely to ourselves -- all four kilometres or so of it. Pretty remarkable.

As the rain fell last night we sat on the verandah and read and enjoyed cold beer (me) and red wine (her) and the crashing waves, and the boys retreated to the "real world" pursuits of PS2 (yes, we brought it for moments like this, plus it plays DVDs) and the Comedy Network (our temporary home has satellite TV. Now THAT'S roughing it.)

This morning the rain seems to have passed. It's only about 18C, but it's early. To the south and west, there are white clouds and blue patches of sky. To the north and east, leaden grey clouds blend with the flat ocean such that one can't really tell where the sky starts and the sea ends. There's also an odd orange band of colour in that grey sky, not really like anything I can recall seeing at this hour of the day (it's about 9:30a).

Anyway, I'm sure you don't really care about the meteorological report from my vacation, but in the absence of sports, this is what passes as news for me today.

Laura's sister and two kids will drop in today, and then leave (a nearby resort has a spa, and Laura's sister is treating her for her birthday), leaving me with all four kids alone to bark at and herd like a demented Sherpa headed up a parenting mountain.

Assuming the clearing trend continues, I'll send the four kids on a rock-hunting expedition. This beach can yield some of the most remarkable stones -- granite, quartz, sand dollars, sea shells, etc. One look around Christopher's room would attest to this -- it would seem over the years he is moving Ingonish to Oakville, piece by piece.

Tomorrow, Pad and I will tackle the Highland Links, one of the world's premiere public courses, in our annually exercise in self-inflicted humiliation. Golf vexes me I'm afraid. I used to actually be able to play the game, but now I am the weekend warrior equivalent of Ian Baker Finch and David Duval. Golf fans will know what that means, and for the rest of you, it doesn't matter. Pad, on the other hand, shows a growing aptitude for the game except he gets to play only rarely -- lacrosse schedules dominating our weekends such that non-contact sports rate lowly.

For now, there are rocks to sit and ponder upon, and waves to count. I'd better get at it.


Aug 13, 2007

Team Ontario, peewee lacrosse champions of Canada. Photo provided by a proud dad who noted that this may have been the greatest week of his son's life. Ya think??!



Aug 13, 2007

Greetings from Ingonish.

Tyler and the Team Ontario bantams lost in the national gold medal game to Team Iroquois, while Jackson and the Team Ontario peewees won their game, over BC I think. So the Oakville reps to those squads return home with a gold and silver to show for their week, plus (more importantly) dozens of new friendships and stories to tell all winter long. Congratulations to both of them.

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Meanwhile Oakville's Novice 1 team won the provincial B2 championship last night in overtime over Orillia. I hear it was a thriller. Way to go, and congratulations.

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We're just kind of chillin' here, ambling between the cottage and the beach, munching and swimming and tossing footballs and taking things easy.

Here is the view, literally taken seconds ago (around 9a Monday), from where I'm sitting on a cottage verandah pecking away:

Now, if you're feeling REALLY energetic and you walk the 60 feet from here to the beach, which starts where those two chairs in the middle of the above photo are, you can turn left, go here:

Or, you can turn right, and go here:

Those pictures were actually taken around noon on Sunday. You can see how unmanageable the weekend crowds were. Chris was in the water so much Laura started calling him Aquaman. (The water was around 21C). And whenever Chris was in the water, one of us was there too, usually more than one. There was a sand castle project that lost the battle for our attention and affection to silly football games in the water. And there was barbequed chicken for dinner, followed by 'smores on the beach. You can't tell from this photo, but Chris was covered in melted marshmallow pretty much up to the elbows. A sign of a successful day, all in all.



Aug 10, 2007

Almost forgot to mention. Oakville Hawks' bantam 1 star Tyler Albrecht and the rest of Team Ontario will play Team Iroquois tomorrow in Whitby for the national championship. What a thrill for all those guys. Wish I could see it.

Meanwhile, Oakville Hawks' peewee 1 star Jackson Hulbert and the rest of Team Ontario will play British Columbia for the national championship. And again, I wish I could see that game.

Good luck to all the kids. Play hard. Make something big happen!


Aug 10, 2007

Vacation. Finally.

A cousin house sitting for us with his (he assures us) house-broken dog. Larger and more intimidating than the yappy dogs next door (he calls them "appetizers") the house and fish are in good hands.

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I spent the afternoon today poolside and dockside, watching the boys and one of their cousins splash under a very blue Cape Breton sky. Tomorrow we decamp from Laura's folk's corner of heaven to Ingonish, high along the Cabot Trail, PO Box Middle of Nowhere. We're all looking forward to it.

Below is a picture of Pad catching some air off the end of his grandfather's dock on East Bay, and a photo of Chris popping up after recovering something off the bottom of the pool.


Tired from the two hours spent running from the bay to the pool (the pool feels like a hot tub after a jump in the bay) Chris is now in the basement building a fort with his cousin -- tearing apart the sofas, stacking cushions, draping blankets and towel in a complex structure.

Pad is off to one side, working out after doing 50 lengths of the pool. Exercise ball, light weights, and a variety of pre-season exercises aimed at keeping him ready for Aug 30 -- the first day of a new hockey season for him when he hits the ice with his Ranger bantam AA mates.

It may seem on a summer day that hockey is a long way off. It's not. And quiet moments by the pool give rise to conversations about goals and aspirations for the months ahead, and important review of the many and valuable things learned last season.

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Before I left Oakville, I made the decision to not coach minor hockey this winter. It's possible -- probable, in fact -- that I will be on a bench as an assistant coach for someone, but after 10 straight winters as a house league head coach, I'm stepping back a bit. I offered to convene a division again. We'll see.

Work commitments continue to pile up more and more, and time is harder to find for coaching. Not the hour on the weekend for a game -- that's the easy part. But the time and energy it takes to properly prepare before practices and games -- that's harder.

Secondly, I'm the only head coach Chris has had. I think he would be well served to listen to a new boss in the locker room -- part of growing up is hearing new voices, learning new things, developing respect for other people who can also be role models and what I call "influencers."

His older brother has been exceedingly well served in this regard. When I stopped coaching him he benefited from the knowledge and wisdom of men who saw what he could offer and worked with it. They still take an interest in how he does.

His first year in rep, he played for coaches who really didn't know him at all. He had to earn their trust and respect, and in return he was given opportunity and knowledge.

Last year, he probably learned more about the game in one season than he had in his entire career to this point. The level of instruction was far beyond single A and despite some challenges on the team, he prospered on a team than made it the OMHA semi finals.

He owes all those men a debt for what they passed on to him. As coaches, we all like to think we leave that kind of footprint behind. It's not always so. Here's hoping Chris, like his brother, gets coaches who understand what makes him tick.

- - -

And now, for some REALLY big news. I'm hearing there will be no 6a practices for MOHA this year. None. Chris went nuts when I told him. He's not a fan of the weekday 6a practice. And really, who is?


Aug 8, 2007

Barry Bonds is the new home run king. Yep, 756 is a lot of homers. I still don't care.

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The Oakville Hawks Tyke 1 team lost in the Ontario provincial finals last night, coming home with silver. Way to go guys. Silver is a great accomplishment.

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Meanwhile at the nationals, correspondent John (Scoop) Maguire reports that both the peewee and bantam Team Ontario squads are 4-0 -- each of those teams has an Oakville rep. Ontario peewees apparently won a thriller in double OT vs. Iroquois. Sounds like some great lacrosse being played. Check out which seems to be the most reliable source of news and scores from the action in Whitby.


Aug 6, 2007

A quiet long weekend for me -- puttering around by myself, eating decently for a guy on his own, and generally staying out the heat and out of trouble.

Laura and the boys are having a grand time in Cape Breton and I'll join them at the end of the week after making all the requisite arrangements for housesitters etc.

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You may have noticed the smiling mug of Tyler Albrecht on the front on the Oakville Beaver this weekend, and inside he shares the photo space with Jackson Hulbert. They are the first two Oakville Minor Lacrosse Association members to make a Team Ontario squad, and they'll be competing for Ontario in the upcoming nationals in (where else?) Whitby. Tyler is on the bantam squad, and Jackson is on the peewee team.

Tyler is a teammate of Pad's, so I spent the summer watching him play and he's a sight to behold when he hits high gear. I spent most of two weekends seeing Jackson, and he is quite simply a dominating athlete on the lacrosse floor. A big, tough, fast scoring machine. I'm certain he learned it all from his older brother (another bantam Hawk).

You can read the story, and even clip the photo and add it to your scrapbook if you're really looking to keep yourself busy, here.

Good luck to the boys at the nationals. Someone be sure to email me results.

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Barry Bonds sits on the cusp of setting the MLB record for career home runs. I'm sorry. I just can't get excited about it. The cloud of steroid allegations that will follow Bonds to his grave is a bit off-putting in the context of making and breaking records. Mr. Bonds is also something less than sweetness and light in terms of his public persona. That's his right I guess. But here's the thing that makes me nuts. Barry Bonds -- even if he hadn't suddenly starting hitting home runs again -- would have still been considered the greatest ball player of his generation. He was THAT talented. So, that's why I don't get it. He had it all, and all wasn't enough apparently. When I was a kid I followed very keenly Henry Aaron's pursuit of 714 and Babe Ruth. Aaron always struck me as a good guy who did what he did under enormous pressure -- the race issue and the death threats on top of the pressure of just chasing America's most lionized record. He seemed, to put it in a hockey context, like Jean Beliveau. A gentleman. Graceful and decent. A statesman for the game. No such words will be written about Barry Bonds. Make your own informed judgment on the fairness of that (history will) -- and 756 will still be a lot of home runs. And the record books don't care if you distain the media, or if you're a disagreeable prick. The legendary Ty Cobb would deliberately try to rip open guys' legs when he would slide into a base. He's in the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose bet on baseball from the dugout, and managed to record 4,256 base hits -- more than anyone who ever played. He's not in the Hall of Fame, basically because of a character flaw, not his athletic record.

How will history treat Bonds?

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I watched a bit of the Toronto-LA soccer game last night, just because I couldn't bring myself to watch the NFL Hall of Fame game. I asked a learned soccer friend if I was alone in thinking it's over-the-top goofy that North American soccer franchises try to appropriate a ring of legitimacy by tagging their clubs with European nicknames.

Like, for example, Toronto FC. FC means football club, although football in Toronto means Argos, or the Bills. It doesn't mean soccer.

DC United. Lord help me. DC United. United in gun fire and crack dealers and lying politicians, that's what DC is united in.

My personal favourite is Real Salt Lake. Yes, when thinking soccer and Utah, one can't help but make the leap to compare the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Madrid, home of REAL Madrid, nine-time European Cup champions.  They speak Spanish in Utah, right?

Anyway, to me it makes the league look . . . goofy. That's the only word for it.

It would be like naming an NHL franchise after a Disney movie. You just wouldn't do it. It would doom the enterprise to ridicule and failure. Right?

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2007 Anaheim Ducks. Stanley Cup Champions.



Aug 3, 2007

Happy birthday, Laura. She's 29 -- again! Don't know how she does it, but she is forever young. I'm sure her family will fete her in fine Cape Breton fashion today. Sorry I have to miss that, but I'll be busy here helping to protect democracy.

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Got home from work last night, went to the basement family room which has the ambient temperature of a meat locker, laid on the couch, turned on the TV and slept for 35 minutes. Woke up feeling groggy and stupid. Dragged myself to the computer where I went online and ordered in Swiss Chalet. Mmmmm! Made my way to the main floor family room where I watched three episodes of Entourage, talked to the crew in Cape Breton, ate dinner and then went to bed. I slept like a log (getting up at 3:45a will do that for you) and today I'm ready to attack the day.

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Entourage has become our new favourite show. Season 4 is running on The Movie Network now, but we became so infatuated with the show we rented the first three seasons over the last month and I finally finished those off last night. Episodes are only 23 minutes long, so it's not like trying to catch up on the Sopranos at an hour a pop. Anyway, it's NOT family viewing. The language and banter is a bit raw by times. But wow, the series is rich with fabulous characters -- Ari Gold, uber agent!! -- and the writing is amazing. If you haven't seen it, the premise is a kid from Queens in New York makes it big in Hollywood and he keeps his brother and two best friends -- the entourage -- with him to enjoy the ride. Like I said, not family viewing, but very edgy and funny.

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No sports this weekend to ferry kids to or from. No sweltering rinks or fields. No bad meals at roadside fast food places. No prepping bags of ice for bruises. No dodging traffic on the 401. No trip to Whitby! I might even sleep in.


Aug 2, 2007

Be nice to me today. I was up at 3:45a -- rather, WE were up -- to get Laura and the boys to the airport for a 6:20a flight to Cape Breton. By the time I get to work, they should be there.

I asked Chris what his plans were upon arrival at his grandparents: "Eat chocolate chip cookies and swim."

Sounds like a plan.

Operating on about four hours of sleep, I'm just hoping to get through the day without hurting myself or anyone else. The hour was somewhat ungodly, but traffic wasn't an issue and the airport was pretty quiet, so the first part of the journey was uneventful.

While it's stinking hot here, it's nice but more tolerable there -- temperatures running in the mid to high 20s with lots of sun. They'll have to manage with the pool, and the bay, and the dock, and the boat, and the lobster. They all deserve to get away. My turn in a week or so.

Anyway, they're off and running. Time for me to get ready for work.