June 29, 2007

On the cusp of the Canada Day weekend, I'll be brief.

I hope there's a lake, pool, seashore, golf course or whatever venue soothes your soul in your immediate future.

Three guesses as to what is in mine -- lacrosse, baby.

We'll be off to Hamilton tonight for an 8p tournament start vs. Welland. We'll play twice tomorrow against Windsor and Akwesasne, and whether we play at all on Sunday depends on how those games go.

Hot off an 11-1 win over Brampton last night, paced by Ryan (Ryno) Adams' four goals, the boys are feeling pretty good. Competition will be tough, so we'll just have to see how it plays out.

Tonight's game requires showing up by 7p, which will require leaving home by noon for the 40 kilometre drive in long-weekend traffic on the QEW. I exaggerate, but it won't be a pretty drive and we'll have to leave early.

Last night at Patrick's game, Chris asked be for some change and disappeared, returning with two home-made chocolate chip cookies from the Glen Abbey Rec Cetnre canteen.

Holding them like trophies, he smiled.

"Soon I'll be eating Grammy's cookies and Nana's brownies," he said, in reference to his grandmothers in Nova Scotia and their dueling culinary capacities.

So, while we're beating the blacktop to the Steel City tonight and tomorrow, our thoughts already are of Cape Breton beaches, the pool and Dave's Lake, New Ashburn and Nana brownies, and cursing at the Blue Jays with my dad.

We'll get home soon. We just don't know when or how yet. Details, details.

Whatever you are doing this weekend, slow down, stay safe, arrive alive.

- - -

Grade 8 grad hardware update: Jake Cussen, a teammate and friend of Pad's, was named male athlete of the year and student of excellence in phys-ed at Montclair Public School. Jake is a great kid, great teammate, loyal friend and gifted athlete. Way to go, Jake.


June 28, 2007

We survived grad. My friend Dave (who also had a grad to attend) abandoned our golf tournament after 13 holes and hit the road. I arrived at Abbey Lane school with three minutes to spare.

I will park my cynicism, documented earlier, and say it was a great night.

If you will permit (and since it's my blog, you can't stop me) a little parental chest thumping.

Patrick made the Principal's List, won the award for excellence in physical education, and got the final award of the evening, the Ontario Principals' Award for Student Leadership.

We are very proud of him. I could go on and on, but I'll save that for him alone.

Suffice to say, sometimes, great moments in parenting don't happen in a rink or on a field.

- - -

Just as good, two other kids on our street won awards for male and female athlete of the year. Pad has gone to school with them since we moved here. His buddy Will is without doubt the best athlete in Oakville who doesn't play hockey (we're still working on him) and Alyssa was a no brainer for the girls' award. They are great kids, too.

Other friends -- lacrosse players, hockey players, among others -- also won awards. It just felt nice to see all those kids proud of what they had done. As usual, I was blown away by how much they all support each other in ways kids of my generation didn't (or if they did, I don't remember it.)

Also, an awful lot of people worked very long hours to make the evening special for all the kids -- the gym was transformed into a Japanese garden, the food was great, the music was wonderful, the student emcees were witty and professional. Thanks to all those who volunteered.

Before I disappear into a day-long meeting, here's the Greenbriar Drive Amateur Athletic Association displaying their hardware. Congrats to them, and all the grads, and good luck next year at Abbey Park High School. The potential this class of kids hold, and those like them all across our town, is staggering. They are incredibly bright, curious and motivated.

Today all the kids will head back for a last day of school with the excitement of summer vacation waiting for them.

Have a SAFE summer.


June 27, 2007

Playing hooky today to go play golf and then tonight is Pad's Grade 8 grad. The golf thing I was invited to doesn't actually start till 1p, and grad is at 7p, and I'm going to be an hour away . . . I'm sure I'll make it in lots of time.

Really. No problem.

- - -

Chris and I were at the driving range last night, sweating heavily and trying not to embarrass ourselves. We were talking about summer and how much fun vacation is -- especially for kids. He was talking about how he loves to go to Nova Scotia and see both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.

In Cape Breton we stay at Laura's parents place -- it's a large bungalow on the Bra d'Or Lakes, and the lots falls away so from the back it's a two-storey. We occupy the lower level, which is fully finished. Chris said staying there is one of his favourite things.

"It's the opposite of home," he said. "You go upstairs to eat breakfast and you go downstairs to go to bed."

Makes sense to me.


June 26, 2007

Chris scored three goals last night at 3-on-3 hockey, which is a big, big deal for him, and it's amplified by the fact that older brother isn't playing summer hockey this year. When Chris scored the third goal, he turned to me, took off a glove and raised three fingers in the air.

I'm more accustomed to people turning to me and raising one finger in the air.

I later told him he deserved a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but given that it was his first hat trick in anything, I cut him some slack.

- - -

A bunch of people have asked for my take on the Leafs performance at the entry draft. Well, I don't profess to know a lot about this, but as usual I have an opinion.

I think Vesa Toskala ($1.38 million) is a very good goalie -- better than Raycroft ($1.8 million). But with Aubin ($525K) already riding the pine and former Team Canada junior phenom Justin Pogge ($625K)waiting for his chance to see some games in the big leagues, the obvious question is: Just how many goalies do the Leafs need, anyway?

Andrew Raycroft will likely be the guy to get an answer on that, although moving him and his contract may be easier to say than do.

Mark Bell was a toss-in on the deal for Toskala, and an expensive one at $2 million. He's going to have to produce more than he has in other NHL stops thus far, but he has skills and toughness so let's see how that goes.

I think the pressure will really, really be on the Leaf brass to land a top-flight winger during free agency season, which starts July 1. The salary cap issue will be a problem in getting that done. But at least Hal Gill ($2 million, +11), Jeff O'Neil ($1.5 million, 20 goals, 42 points) and Nik Andropov ($1 million, 18 goals, 33 points) will all be back.

We got that going for us.


June 25, 2007

There's an alert out from the CSA International that goalie parents should pay attention to. WJD Pro Helmets, made and distributed by Jaguar Sports of Caledonia, ON., are at the centre of this one. Read the full press release here.


June 25, 2007

I meant to mention this on the weekend but got distracted. Eric Purcell, who was captain of the minor bantam A Rangers last winter and a sparkplug with few equals in terms of grit and work ethic, recently set a Halton Catholic District School Board record for his age group in the 800 meters.

Eric -- Pad's hockey teammate last season -- clocked in at 2:19.42, shaving a remarkable 2.58 seconds off the previous record.

We all knew Eric was fast -- he's a perennial favourite in cross country meets and his point A to point B speed on the ice is stunning. This latest achievement is really something. Way to go, Eric.


June 25, 2007

Christopher had a good weekend.

I sometimes wonder how Chris likes being the younger brother. Most days, I don't think he thinks about it. But there are many, many days in our house where everything, by necessity, revolves around getting Pad to a game or practice or something.

Chris is more focused on having fun than he is on things like making rep teams or whatever. But as 10 year old boys go, he's a pretty special piece of work -- secure, smart, confident, and articulate with a sense of humour that ensures no shortage of friends.

And while he doesn't play rep sports, that's not to say he doesn't have a sense of the big moment, a big game. And such was the case Saturday when his house league lacrosse team played in the bronze medal game on Gala Day. Chris played goal.

I'm not exactly sure where the notion began that Chris can play goal, and play it well. But it's there and frankly, he's not bad. Actually, he's pretty good.

And on Saturday he was outstanding. Our guys were out shot, but they won 6-3 or 7-5 or something (I don't actually remember the score.) Chris made at least eight really key saves, including a painful one.

After making an initial save, one of his leg pads got turned around and the rebound hit a fleshy part of his leg. Down he went.

The ref called time and out I trotted. It was a stinger and he just needed a minute.

"It hit me on the leg, dad," said Chris, as the refs and the trainer attended to him.

"Buddy, you're the goalie. It's supposed to hit you."

Everyone -- including Chris -- laughed and he got to his feet.

The he asked the question only a goalie would ask.

"Did it go in?"

Nope. You stopped it.

Gala Day was a huge success. No problems or hassles, the volunteers showed up, my iPod survived, everyone had a good time and my car fits in our garage again until the next event. So, for house league lacrosse, that's a wrap.

One last picture of the big guy in action on Saturday. He played like a champ between the pipes.



- - -

Our weekend started Friday evening at the Oakville Waterfront Festival where we went to see my cousin John perform with his bandmates in illScarlett, preceded by the B.C. band Faber Drive  and followed by David Usher (who we didn't stay for.)

illScarlet was great and what struck me was how many people (ok, kids) there knew the words to many of their songs. Their current single, Nothing Special, is number 16 on The Edge 102.1 FM chart and still climbing. Their new album comes out on July 10. Here's my rather animated cousin John on stage Friday. Yes, he's in mauve. Or as Chris would say, pink.


It was a fun evening to sit under a blue summer sky and listen to music and people watch. Pad abandoned us for a gaggle of hockey and lacrosse players and naturally he ended up in front of the stage -- the mosh pit -- where he emerged later with a smile and a slightly split lip, chattering about the experience.

- - -

So, Pad refereed three Gala Day games Saturday and was timekeeper for three more and then sprinted off to the home of his bantam 1 Hawks lacrosse coach for a night out with the boys. Drop off at 7p, pick up at 10p. The coach hired a limo to get everyone to a bowling alley and away they went.

We handled drop off duty, another set of parents were going to do pick up


By all accounts, the boys had a grand time, even if the evening went later than scheduled (Pad arrived home at 11:45p, after his mom packed it in for the night.)

It wasn't till the next day that we learned things got a little rowdy, which I'm told didn't sit well with the proprietor. Interrogations continue.

- - -

On Sunday, me and Chris did what Canadian athletes do in the off season. We went fishing. He really wanted to go, the day was beautiful so away we went. We landed some fish and returned them all to 16 Mile Creek to fight another day. We had a great time. A picture is worth a thousand words.


- - -

Chris cleaned up after fishing and bolted to a late-afternoon birthday party at a pool. And I settled in to relax finally, right?


No, me and half a dozen other shovel-wielding parents converged on Abbey Lane Public School to dig the hole for the tree that is the gift from the graduating class to the school. It was 30 degrees but one of the moms brought some cold beer, which we enjoyed while learned the horror that is soil management in the Glen Abbey neighbourhood.

As you dig, the first three or four inches in smooth sailing. And then you hit clay. And it's quite extraordinary that anything at all grows in Glen Abbey. We dug a hole about five feet across and maybe three feet deep which was big enough to hold the root bulb on the tree, which was about 12 feet high.

And for a bonus, we got to dig three more holes for some decorative shrubs.

Sarcasm and whining was the order of the day, as we moved through the clay. It was really less like shoveling and more like chipping, but many hands make light work etc etc and we got through it in about 90 minutes, including a lot of time spend leaning on shovels, a call to a garden centre to get advice on tree planting, a trip to a garden centre for soil and fertilizer, a run for more beer, and two trips for barrels of water.

Mission accomplished. I hope the tree survives. I'm betting the kids will take credit for the work.


June 22, 2007

There's an old, stupid joke that I remember from elementary school.

How do you know when there's five tonnes of bananas under your bed? You're closer to the ceiling.

A derivative of that joke is taking place in my garage.

How can you tell it's almost time for lacrosse Gala Day? Your car is closer to the street.

The reason that my car is closer to the street is that it won't fit in the garage because of the boxes of t-shirts, soon to be joined by boxes of trophies. For some reason our place is an unofficial warehouse for this stuff till Saturday -- just as garages of some other families I know are sometimes filled will smelly bags of lacrosse goalie gear, lacrosse balls, etc. etc.

You can pretty much tell what the season is by what is piled up in our house for other people -- just as often piled in the living room as the garage. Hockey stuff -- rep orders of gear bags, jackets, and sundry other things -- dominate in the late summer and fall.

Then there's the warehousing of Pampered Chef inventory. Laura hosts two or three parties a year for a friend whose business is this stuff. It lingers until picked up.

There are school orders -- Paws Wear, as the Abbey Lane Public School clothing order is known. Guess who coordinates the ordering of this? And guess whose living room is the warehouse?

Then there's lacrosse gala day, which I've already covered.

And plus, with Pad graduating from Abbey Lane next week, our living room has been home to giant, home-made decorations to adorn the school gym and give the kids memories that will last . . . until July probably. The graduation motif is some kind of Buddhist/peace thing. Completely lost on me, I'm afraid.

Sorry -- I'm notoriously cynical about "Grade 8 graduation."

I'm all for celebrating the academic and athletic achievements of the leaders in the school population. And I'm all for the kids having a dance. Blow your brains out.

But the net effect of the entire exercise is a logistical firestorm that seems on a par with a Harvard medical school commencement, and it's being repeated at every Grade 8 grad in Oakville and southern Ontario generally.

Having said all that (and I feel better, truly) I do acknowledge that for most of these kids this is the only school they have ever known so far. Pad has attended Abbey Lane since we moved to Oakville late in 1998. So the kids have an attachment to the place and they will turn a page as they prepare for the emotional move 800 metres to the west next September to attend Abbey Park High School.

When I finished up at Georges P Vanier Junior High School, there was no dance, no grad ceremony, nothing. We were handed a report card and given a three minute head start before the principal released the hounds.

Why, when I was a boy . . . .

By the way, my new working theory is that Pad will always have to attend a school with the word "abbey" in its name. And that may limit his career options, unless he wants to be a monk, and judging by his behaviour I'd say those odds are low.

- - -

Oakville Waterfront Festival tonight. IllScarlett. Be there.

Tomorrow -- lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse. The whole family is involved. Handing out shirts and trophies. Playing music. Herding volunteers. Refereeing. Coaching. And of course, playing.

Sunday, me and Chris are going fishing, then he has a birthday party and I've been conscripted to help dig a hole for a tree being planted by Pad's class. Considering the athletic horsepower in his class, you'd think the boys could handle it but it has something to do with liability waivers. It's not OK for kids to sever a toe or dig into a hydro line while planting a tree. It's not OK for me to do it either, but I can sign a form waiving liability if that happens. I feel the love.

Enjoy your weekend. Plant a tree.


June 21, 2007

Hockey Canada yesterday announced the names of the 26 kids who will play in this summer's under-20 Super Series against Russia. And there are four Oakville boys on the roster.

-- John Tavares, the high-scoring forward who plays for  Oshawa;

-- Sam Gagne, the London Knights star a a certain top pick in this week's NHL draft;

-- Steve Mason, the London Knights goalie and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect;

-- Stephan Legein, Mississauga Ice Dogs forward and another name that will go in the draft this weekend.

- - -

In lacrosse action, Pad and the bantam Hawks are off to Acton tonight to play Halton Hills. Chris and I will be missing this one as we're off to his last house league practice of the year before Saturday's Gala Day games. Chris will be back in net for the final game of the season. There are still good seats available if you haven't got you tickets yet!

- - -

Speaking of tickets, will we see you this weekend at the Oakville Waterfront Festival? We're all going on Friday evening. We're looking forward to all the fun stuff, but mainly we're going to here my cousin John, who bass player for the red-hot band illScarlett. They will rip it up. These guys are the real deal folks, if I do say so myself. All Mississauga boys (although one has deep roots connecting him to Nova Scotia), they've been toiling hard at the long, long road that it takes in the music business to become the oxymoronic overnight sensation. Freshly signed to a deal with Sony, they're just back from California where they've recorded a new CD; the first single from that effort, Nothing Special, is all over The Edge 102.1 FM, and if you want to get out a support local guys who just may be on the brink of breaking through, Friday night is your chance. They will be opening for David Usher on the main stage at around 7:30p. You can hear their new single at http://www.myspace.com/illscarlett (it will play as soon as the page loads, so if you're opening it at work, consider yourself warned. But it it's best played really LOUD.) If you miss them here, they'll be all over southern Ontario this summer, including the NXNE festival and Wakestock. You can also download the single at iTunes and Puretracks.ca.

You can get info on the waterfront festival, and tickets, here.

How's THAT for a promo?


June 20, 2007

Pay no attention to this. I'm messing with code and trying something out. I'll probably put an eye out.

 Technorati Profile


June 19, 2007

Just a last word about Father's Day.

I saw a website today that had a bunch of recollections from people about the good natured lies dads tell kids to explain things they can't explain, or to just have fun.

For example, we I was a kid and we'd go to the beach, my dad would tell us that seagull tracks in the sand were, in fact, snipe tracks. Snipe lived in the water, only came ashore rarely during the day, and we should go try to find one. I never have.

For years now, whenever we drive by a field with cows, I'll make up some yarn that relates to the positioning of the cows and the weather, If it's sunny and the cows are lying down, I'll say, "It's going to be hot and sunny because the cows are lying down." If it's raining, I'd say, "It's going to rain, because the cows are standing by the fence." As recently as our last trip to Peterborough, Chris asked me if we would be passing any cows on the way. Why, asked me. "So I can tell whether the weather will be good."

Anyway, some of the things on this web site I saw were pretty funny. Including Dads telling kids that:

-- airbags are filled with popcorn, so when you crash you can snack until help comes.

-- ATMs have monkeys inside handing out money

-- Polyesters are animals in Australia killed to make cheap fabric

-- The ice cream van only plays a jingle when its out of ice cream, so there's no sense in chasing after it.

Being a dad is the best job I'll ever have and learned from the best.


June 19, 2007

I'm not sure what life's like in your house right now, but for the Greenbriar Amateur Athletic Club, everyone has moved on to summer.

Bedtimes have become a loose guideline as opposed to a firm target.

There's a lot of sitting around in the backyard and kids running in and out. Neighbours pools are open and the invitations are accepted appreciatively. Most meals (with the possible exception of breakfast, and I'm not ruling that out) are being cooked on the barbeque.

And, lacrosse Gala Day is almost upon us and that will be the exclamation point that spring is over, summer is here and everything will take on a little less urgency for a time.

Or at least, that's the hope.

- - -

Aside from marking the end of house league lacrosse, the end of school and the start of summer vacation season, Gala Day is a celebration of the kids. House league kids in lacrosse don't typically ever get to play a tournament. They don't travel to different towns to play. They play against and with their friends once a week. The nine-week season is short compared to the marathon that is September to April hockey.

There's less pressure. Coaches are driven crazy because at least half the kids on every team show up for games 30 seconds before the game starts.

But that's house league lacrosse. And that's part of the charm.

There are no white boards with markers or extra practices or practice jerseys. When kids register, they are allowed to say which kids they would like to play with, and which coach they would like. Within the boundaries of avoiding stacking a team, those requests are met.

Which is to say, it is nothing like house league hockey. Minor hockey is larger and more complex and has to have a rigid structure. House league lacrosse? Like I said, part of the charm is that  it doesn't have to be like hockey, and few people take it quite so seriously.

And for volunteers like us, and many others like us, Gala Day -- where every kid gets a t-shirt and an award of some kind -- the is a validation of how much the kids appreciate it. Rep players don't get an Oakville lacrosse t-shirt -- only the house league kids and coaches.

And for weeks and weeks after, wherever you go in Oakville, you will see those shirts everywhere, like a badge of honour.

Gala Day is Saturday at Glen Abbey, from 8 a.m. till 7 p.m. on both floors. It will be a blast.

- - -

Last night Pad and the bantam Hawks held a gloves-sticks-and-helmets-only workout at Glen Abbey -- 45 minutes of running the trails and then an hour of stick skills work on the floor. Having played five games in the previous four days, and the temperatures and humidity creeping up, the coaches will often ease up to let bruises heal and allow for a little team building in the teaching process.

With The Killers on my iPod I walked the track at the high school for an hour (the absence of cartilage in my left knee long ago ended my running days) and it was a great evening. Two other lacrosse dads ran lightly while a huge orange sun settled over the trees and two young high school track athletes did the lonely spade work which is their solitary confinement -- clearing hurdles when no one but a coach is watching; running lap after lap after lap by yourself, trying to find an edge. A couple of kids kicked a soccer ball around. The neighbouring ball diamond buzzed with the banter of baseball and the occasional crack of bat on ball. I did about five kilometres and then went home to shower before retrieving Pad, who had a great night.

He was excited to tell be how he and two others were so far in front of the pack on the trails that they got lost, which given the sense of direction in our house didn't come as a complete surprise. They eventually found their way back to the rink without a GPS.

The big treat of the night was that National Lacrosse League star Blaine Manning of the Toronto Rock ran the practice. Having Blaine Manning run a lacrosse practice would be the lacrosse equivalent of having someone like Brendan Shanahan show up to run a hockey practice. The kids were thrilled.

- - -

The calendar says we have a few days to go, but in our house it's already summer, baby. Pass the sunscreen.


June 18, 2007

Events of the last day compel me to urge you to drive carefully. Awful things happen on our highways and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it.

But sometimes there is.

The next time you're on the 401 or QEW going 135 kilometres an hour, slow down. So you get to Orangeville four minutes later because you're going 118 kilometres an hour. Big deal. You and your kids will be safe.

If the guy behind you really wants that 12 feet of highway in front of you, let him have it. It's just not worth the ugly consequences of reacting to aggressive driving by driving aggressively.

Slow down.


June 18, 2007

Well, after building up a 4-1 lead the bantam Hawks folded and lost 7-5 to Guelph in the final of the lacrosse tournament last evening. Pad wasn't in a very good mood, nor, I suspect, were many others.

On the flip side, the novice 2 Hawks were trailing Burlington 4-0 after one period and rallied with five straight goals en route to a thrilling 6-5 win in their final. And that was a win well worth celebrating.

The Hawks peewee team was also in the tournament, but I'm not sure how they fared.

The bantams will practice tonight in oppressive heat, which may be good for the soul. Otherwise, they'll just sweat a lot and smell badly.

- - -

After the game in Guelph we sprinted home with enough time to see Tiger play the final two holes of the U.S. Open, but given the conditions none of us expected Woods to pull a rabbit out of a hat. And he didn't, and Argentina's Angel Caberra was -- to my mind anyway -- a surprise winner. Caberra isn't exactly a flash in the pan. He's previously finished in the top 10 in half a dozen majors. But there's no doubt this was his career defining day.


June 17, 2007

Hi all. Hope the dads are having a good Father's Day, whatever that means in your household.

In ours, today that means a quiet start to the day and then running back to Guelph for the final of the Chuck Miller Royal City Lacrosse Classic. Pad and the bantam Hawks made the final by virtue of their 2-0-1 record in preliminary play, with wins over Mississauga and Sarnia and tie with the hosts from Guelph.

And today, they'll play Guelph for all the marbles.

We'll be reporting in later with scores and highlights.

- - -

Meanwhile, Chris and his house league Shamrocks ran out of luck yesterday, losing in the semi-finals. But it was a great run for the kids and they'll be ready to have fun next Saturday at the Oakville Minor Lacrosse Association gala day. One of the best days on the sports calendar in our house and in our town.

Glen Abbey will be rocking!


June 15, 2007

Happy Father's Day weekend to all the busy sports dads out there. I'm writing from the Gate 15 departure area at Halifax International Airport, having just had lunch with my folks, saw a little of Oakmont eating alive the world's best golfers and then sprinting here to get back to Toronto.

I spent most of the last 24 in meetings or receptions but it was fun to see old friends and colleagues.

Halifax is a great place to visit and I only wish I had more time to spend and the rest of my family were with me. But as is typical, a busy weekend awaits at home.

Pad and the bantam 1 Hawks are off to Guelph even as I type to play in a weekend tournament (I get the coveted driving duty for the 8a game tomorrow.) They lost last night at home to Orangeville, so maybe they'll be annoyed and carry a little red-ass into tonight's game.

Meanwhile, Chris and his Shamrocks are in the house league peewee semi-final tomorrow as the underdogs. The boys (and one girl) have been playing really well lately and it wouldn't at all surprise me if they put up a better showing than some expect.

That's all I have time for -- sorry there's nothing witty on poignant here today. A weekend of watching young men smack each other with sticks will surely provide fodder for an update.

In the meantime -- dads everywhere, try to take a minute to relax and enjoy.

- - -

One quick Father's Day recollection -- in 1995 I was just settling in as CP bureau chief in Ottawa. Pad was only two. He was sick and Laura had to work, so I took a day off to stay home with him. The US Open was on TV, my boss called me at home to complain and envy me not being in the office, and the sun was shining. In between golf broadcasts, I put Pad in the wagon and walked the short distance along the bike path behind our house to the Ottawa River, where we threw rocks and fed ducks.

By Saturday, Pad was feeling better and we repeated the routine daily. That was a great Father's Day weekend.


June 13, 2007

Patrick and the rest of the lacrosse team were at dryland training last night at Ice Sports, most of it outside in the ridiculous heat, though it didn't seem to bother them much, and what they were doing wasn't all that strenuous. I stopped in to wait for him on my way home from work.

His school band had a "concert on the lawn" thing so he had to bail out early and we arrived just before showtime so he could grab his sax and set up.

It was a beautiful evening -- cloudless and warm and younger siblings ran wild through the nearby park as parents opened lawn chairs in the shade of a big tree and settled in to enjoy the show.

Some of these kids are really, really good -- um, Triple A, to put it in the context of this space's usual content.

The jazz band played first and Pad got to perform a short solo which he did well.

After they finished, jazz band blended in with the concert band for the major part of the show. But before the concert band played, two sisters -- both Abbey Lane Public School students, and both students of the Royal Conservatory of Music -- played violin.

I don't know how to describe it beyond saying, you had to be there.

They played so beautifully and confidently, it was as if the birds in the trees stopped singing to listen. Little kids in the park stopped playing and walked over and just stood and listened, arms hanging limply by their sides. Kids going by on bikes and skateboards stopped in their tracks, mesmerized. They were that good.

It made the hair on my arms stand on end, it was such an electric moment.

When they finished, the kids in the band cheered more loudly for them than any of us adults did, and we gave them a really big round of applause.

But these kids -- all of them -- support each other in ways we never did when I was a kid. The concert band kids stomped and cheered the jazz band. The concert band cheered the violinsts (and the very, very good flutist later). And they all supported each other.

Anyway, it was a really nice evening and I was proud my kid was part of it. And I was also proud that our education system is turning out young people like those young violinists, and all the rest of the members of the concert band. Some people are doing things right, and the proof was there to see.


June 12, 2007

A regular reader with knowledge of such things passes on a friendly and timely reminder: if you have not yet registered your child for hockey in Oakville for next winter, do it NOW. Today.

Some age groups are already on the cusp of having waiting lists. And when the divisions are full, they're full.

Oakville continues to grow quickly. The only new ice we expect to see will probably come with an ice age. So, demand outstrips supply and kids get put on waiting lists.

I coach, I convene and every September since 1999 I've organized a house league evaluation skate for different MOHA divisions as my kids moved through the system. And every September, some frazzled mom or dad shows up with a forlorn looking kid, pleading to be allowed to skate and promising to drop of the registration paperwork "on Monday."

Um, no.

I have no problem telling such parents that they are idiots. I have big trouble looking an eight-year-old kid in the eye and telling him he won't be playing hockey. In most cases, these people aren't even on a waiting list. They just show up expecting somehow, the waters will part and they will be miraculously transported to the front of the line. It just doesn't work that way.

Unless you want to drive to Milton or Acton to play, save yourself and your kids a world of hurt. Register NOW. Today.

In fact, go to this link, print the form, fill it out, write a cheque and drop it off on your way home. Today.

We now return to regular programming.

- - -

Mats Sundin is going to sign a one-year deal with the Leafs. I'd say there's a good chance Mats will be playing in the western conference by March, for a team contending for the Stanley Cup. Darcy Tucker will be captain. I will continue to sit in my lawn chair on Yonge Street awaiting the parade.

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Father's Day is this weekend and I'm lucky enough that I'll get to see my dad later this week on a business trip to Halifax, where we can complain about the Blue Jays' bullpen in person instead of on the phone. This is the week where golf ball and neck tie sales soar off the charts. Since my dad despises ties and doesn't golf any more, I'll have to be more creative. Laura's dad golfs, but also isn't a big neck tie fan. I dunno. We'll figure it out.

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Christopher's turn in goal last weekend for his lacrosse team has him thinking he might like to do it again. Because in the tradition of legendary Oakville 'keepers like Donville and Maguire, what is more fun than having hard rubber balls hurled at you? If you bet me that either of my kids would ever play goal in lacrosse, I'd have said you were nuts. If you told me it was going to be Chris, I'd have seen stunned. But the big guy makes believers out of his teammates. And if a goalie can do that, he's done a lot.

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So, I know this has nothing to do with anything. But. I actually said to Laura on the weekend, gee, with Paris Hilton in jail and Lindsay Lohan in rehab, People Magazine may go out of business. Man, was I wrong. Paris is now claiming to have found God and a new purpose in life. As far as I can tell, Paris Hilton has contributed nothing to society, has dined out on her grandfather's good name, and got what she deserves. It would be too much to hope that she could get a life sentence for her drunk-driving parole violation. But a man can dream.


June 10, 2007

Regular readers -- especially those who tune in during hockey season are well familiar with the high regard I hold for my long-suffering assistant coach, Jacques, and his son Cameron, my goalie for three years and regular on my team for four years.

Cameron has turned in many heroic performances for his teams over the years. This week, he was a true hero.

Buried deep inside the weekend edition of the Oakville Beaver is a story with the headline, "Child Flees from Burning Home."

It was Cameron. With loss and damages in excess of $250,000, it was a major blaze. Cameron had the good sense, once he understood what might be happening, to get out and call 9-1-1 from a neighbour's house. As parents we talk to our kids about stuff like this -- or we should. And while we pray such things never happen, we also hope our kids are smart and cool enough to do what Cameron did.

Sadly, too many stories like this have grim endings. Jacques' family have a lot of inconvenience ahead in the months to come as they rebuild. The material stuff is well covered by insurance, and Jacques reports the insurance people have been excellent.

It could have been much worse.

Jacques asked me to write about what happened, just to remind people to talk to their kids, have a plan, and most importantly, ALWAYS check your smoke detectors. Laura's dad is an insurance adjuster and we know more horror stories about house fires than we could ever tell. We have 11 smoke detectors in our house. They all work. Don't laugh.

I'll leave the final word on this to my friend Jacques, from an email he sent me. It says it all.

"Just a word for the wise: PLEASE CHECK YOUR SMOKE DETECTORS. As I was told if we didn't have working smoke detectors the outcome could have had a very sad outcome, I get emotional just thinking about it. Also parents should discuss with their children what they should do in case of a fire if there are alone."

June 10, 2007

Patrick got home around midnight on Friday, and then slept for 12 hours (after offering a variety of lame excuses to his mother about why he didn't call more than once.) On Saturday he refereed three lacrosse games and was time keeper for two more. It's just after 11a Sunday and he's still in bed.

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Chris played goal for his Shamrox house league lacrosse team yesterday, backstopping them to a 9-1 quarter final win. Here's a grainy pic of the big guy in action.


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Click here to read about the day Guy Lafleur stole the Stanley Cup.


June 8, 2007

Laura is worried Patrick has been abducted in Quebec during his school's trip to Montreal and Quebec City. Armed with a $20 Bell calling card, I heard from him Tuesday night for about five minutes. Since then, radio silence.

Now, I suspect if he had actually been abducted, someone would have called. So this is really a case of a kid away from home having a good time.

What has his mom in a knot is that other kids are calling home each night. Other kids talk to their moms. (Other kids report Patrick is well.)

I was looking at this trip as an early dry run for when he eventually toddles off to university. But now I suspect Laura won't let him wander further away than Sheridan College, or perhaps home schooling will become an option.

Ya shoulda called, big guy. It's your problem now.

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The weekend is almost upon us and . . . no lacrosse!!

Well, by "no lacrosse" I mean, no "rep lacrosse." No travel. No 8 a.m. game in Kitchener or Peterborough. No hemorrhaging of money from the wallet. No punching our own significant hole in the ozone layer as we drive all over hell and creation, burning fossil fuels and emitting CO2 gases in the name of our national sport.

Our ecological footprint will be smaller this weekend -- Chris plays at Glen Abbey tomorrow, and Pad refs three games there too. Practically walking distance.

Of course, the barbeque will be on a lot this weekend. And probably the air conditioning. And the grass needs to be cut. . . 

But at least we'll be home!

- - -

On the day the Ottawa Senators were eliminated from the Stanley Cup tournament, the New York Islanders unloaded Alexi Yashin -- once upon a time, the team's purported savior. What a bizarre story this guy's career has been, now ending up with $17 million to make him go away, which says a lot about how badly the Islanders (as dysfunctional an NHL franchise as there is) wanted to see him gone. One fears John Ferguson, Jr., is on the phone with him now.

Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail wrote a great column about it, which you will find here.

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If, after you're finished reading Roy you are left wondering how anyone short of Wayne Gretzky in his heyday could command a 10-year contract, I'd say, "Good question." What's odder is that Yashin's 10-year deal wasn't the longest in the NHL. It wasn't even the longest in the Eastern Conference. In fact, it is not even the longest contract on his team. The longest player contract in the league belongs to Islander goalie Rick Dipietro, who signed a $67-million, 15-year deal last year. I actually think Dipietro is a pretty good goalie. If he's still going to be good in 2019, with a couple of years to go on his contract, is not a bet I'd make.

On the other hand, if I was Dipietro or Yashin, I would have signed too!


June 7, 2007

I mentioned a couple of days ago that Chris and I bought fishing gear this week. Tonight, we broke it in.

We went to the Kelso Conservation Area near Milton and I'm happy to report all the fish have been conserved for another day. We got bites and nibbles but we caught nothing but the rays of the sun settling in a warm southwestern Ontario sky -- on us and us alone, practically desolate in that little urban parkland.

We walked through tall grass and trees and talked and laughed and broke in our new tackle and declared the day a great success for fish and optimists everywhere.

The fish should not get cocky. Like the Terminator said, "We'll be back."

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With Laura and Pad both away, the house has been quieter and the routine a little off. I was putting Chris to bed the other night and he remarked how quiet it was. I asked him what he meant.

"Music," he said. "You and mom always have music on and I listen to it when I fall to sleep."

We listen to a lot of music. After 7:30p our house is sure to have music on.

Now, let me explain that while Patrick has actually said to me, "Dad, can you turn the music down I'm trying to do my homework", for the most part we have the music down low by 9 pm. (On school nights at least.)

But it's funny how habits become creature comforts for those around you and changing the routine can change everything.

After an evening of conserving fish, Chris went to bed and I was listening to Neil Young's Prairie Wind.

He went out like a light. I'm not far behind.

We had a good day.


June 7, 2007

Me and Chris stayed up to watch the Ducks take possession of the Cup, even though it was late for a school night. Ottawa may be able to console themselves with making the final and perhaps shaking the "choker" label and all of that, but they weren't much of a match for the Ducks.

It was the weakest showing by an Eastern Conference team since Carolina lost to Detroit in five games in 2002, and is probably the worst showing by the East overall since 1998, when the Wings swept Washington.

Anyway, full points to the Ducks. The better team won and they lost only four games in the playoffs, which is pretty remarkable.

Chris and I watched the game on NBC. The picture was better, and they had Pierre Maguire, who is terrific. We flipped back for the CBC intermission shows to hear everyone talk about all the Duck goals being flukey.

One was, for sure. Another one or two should have been stopped. But Ray Emery didn't lose this series. It would have been a sweep if not for him. And Daniel Alfredsson looked like the only Senator who really came to play last night.

Spezza and Heatley are in for a long summer.

And is there a lesser known star in all the NHL than Andy McDonald? Undrafted out of US college hockey, he has 61 goals in the last two seasons and 163 points and a Stanley Cup ring.

The Niedermayers and Gigeure and Selanne and Pronger and others played big roles in the victory. That's what big players do. Ottawa's big players, except for Alfredsson, didn't do that.


June 6, 2007

Chris and I are not the party animal we thought we might be. Very quiet night last night after an early morning to get Laura to the airport and Pad to the bus. We did some homework, then went to Canadian Tire and bought fishing rods and some tackle and a tackle box.

Then we did what we always do when it's just me and Chris -- we ordered Swiss Chalet, ate in front of the TV and started to fall asleep by 9p.

Pad called home from Montreal last night and I think tried his best to sound like he wasn't HAVING THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. There's lots of food, so the trip would be considered a success by him for that reason alone. But seeing the old city in Montreal is pretty special any time, and doing it on a school trip without your parents makes in that much better, I'm sure. Today they were doing some more sightseeing then boarding a bus for Quebec City -- lots of history, including the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where the French lost to the British in overtime.

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I'm guessing the Ducks won't need overtime tonight, but it will be close. And the Sens may surprise everyone and play a complete hockey game. But I think if the Sens aren't out in front early, the fat lady will be singing.

It will be a cliche-o-rama on CBC and NBC tonight.

Go to the Beer Store and buy a 2-4. Every time you here one of the following expressions, take a drink. Stop when you fall over. I'm sure I've missed some, but this will get you going:

Do or die.

No tomorrow.

Backs against the wall.

All the marbles.

Now or never.

Must win.

Behind the eight ball.

Down but not out.

Clawing back.

In the driver's seat.

It's their's to lose.

One game at a time.

Gritty determination.

- - -

Daniel Alfredsson stands accused of firing a puck at Scott Niedermayer in Monday's game. Alfredsson is not my favourite player but if he was trying to do anything, I think he was trying to excite his teammates. He's a captain, that's what they are supposed to do. I don't think I'd be thrilled if Patrick rifled a puck at a competitor. But if he ever gets to captain a team in the NHL finals, I think I'd expect him to do whatever it takes to lift his team. I'm prepared to let this one go.

In Alfie's case, it didn't matter. He couldn't have lifted his team Monday night with a Sagadore crane.

Is that big of me, or what?

Me and Chris will be watching tonight, cheering for the team with the most Canadian boys (but only because it's not Ottawa.)


June 5, 2007

The Ottawa end of the Sens-Ducks played out pretty much exactly as I predicted. I think this one will be over tomorrow night.

Funny thing -- after the first three rounds, Daniel Alfredsson's name was so synonymous with Conn Smythe that you would have thought he helped build Maple Leaf Gardens. Suddenly, talk of playoff MVP for the Swede has all but stopped and his linemates have disappeared. If not for Ray Emery, this series would have been a sweep.

The Ducks are doing exactly what the Leafs did to beat the Sens in the playoffs year after year after year -- relentlessly taking the body. The Sens aren't used to it, they look like they're tortured by it and the Ducks look like schoolyard bullies looking for Wade Redden's lunch money.

The Sens are still a good, skilled team and they may have one more win in them. But they don't have three straight wins over the Ducks in them.

- - -

Chris and I are going to get him a fishing rod this evening. Any good recommendations on where to go? Email me please.



June 4, 2007

Covered with bug bites and bruises -- well, Pad has the bruises -- we're back from Peterborough where the Hawks didn't win a lot of games but they seemed to have a lot of fun. I guess that's a decent tradeoff.

The boys closed out the tournament with a 7-5 win over Whitby 2 yesterday to snap an ugly losing streak.

Otherwise, the lacrosse was mostly unremarkable.

We had a really fun evening with the families at the lakeside resort we stayed at, and the boys fished and swam and ran and generally behaved like kids, as did many of the parents come to think of it.

Chris got a new lacrosse stick. And a new ball. And a t-shirt. Consider it little brother compensation for a hot weekend of following the continuing journey of his older sibling and the rest of the team.

One thing I can confidently report is that I've found a rink that's a worse place to watch games than Kinoak. It is the Kinsmen Arena in Peterborough. Poorly lit with terrible spectator seating and horrible sightlines, it is among the worse facilities for watching a game that I've come across, and I get to see a lot of rinks. In the midst of renovations, there were no washroom facilities -- just the port-o-potties outside in the sun and the 30 degree heat. Fun!

If it had rusty spikes sticking out of the floor, the experience would have been complete.

The Evinrude Centre in Peterborough, on the other hand, is terrific. Unfortunately, three of our four games were at Kinsmen. Oh well.

- - -

It was hot and humid in Peterborough, and everyone knows -- or should be able to imagine -- how much fun rinks are in hot, humid weather. Generally, they are just like the weather outside, except more hot, and more humid. A few games were postponed or cancelled at one rink because the floor was sweating and became unsafe to compete on.

Outside of the rinks were the usual array of hot dog vendors and allegedly cold drinks, and, as is typical of lacrosse tournaments, manufacturer reps selling lacrosse stuff.

Lacrosse players of all ages will stand and look for hours at lacrosse stuff piled on a table. Stick shafts. Stick heads. Mesh. Shooting strings. T-shirts. Virtually every kid there, regardless of age, is carrying a stick 24/7. They go to the washroom, they take the stick. They go to McDonalds, they take the stick. They do anything, they take the stick. And about three quarters of the dads do the same thing.

The reason is that good coaches teach young players to ALWAYS carry their stick. It's a familiarity thing -- the more you hold it, the more it will become an extension of your hands and arms, and you'll develop better stick skills. Plus, you can hit your brother with it when the urge comes -- and it will.

Hockey players are not nearly as devoted to their sticks as lacrosse players. And now you know why.

- - -

Chris bought two cool things on the weekend. Or I should say, I bought and he received two cool things.

The first is a new stick, with a green shaft and green mesh in the basket.


Well, Chris' house league team is the Shamrox. His jersey is green.

Never mind that his season only has three games left. And never mind that the odds of him playing for the Shamrox next year are remote. He wanted green.

The other cool thing was the t-shirt. It's black and says "A day without lacrosse is like 900 innings of baseball."

Lacrosse players have this thing about portraying themselves as cooler and tougher than baseball players (a popular lacrosse t-shirt says: The Boys of Summer Play Baseball. The Men of Summer Play Lacrosse."

I know lots of guys who play and coach baseball and some of them are pretty tough. But no one playing lacrosse gets to stand in one place for 15 minutes in the field and then gets to sit in the shade for 15 minutes to rest after their grueling time spent in right field.

On the other hand, some of the things you see on a lacrosse floor can stun you. Never mind the violent contact -- that comes with the turf. I'm talking about the breathtaking displays of pure athleticism you can see -- a guy running at full speed catching a 70-foot pass over his shoulder, cutting toward the net and shooting the ball behind his back into a top corner of the net.

The hits are a great, but watching the athletes be athletes, that's the really cool part. The fitness levels of these guys is incredible. And if you're not fit, you're probably not very good, and never will be.

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Most pro lacrosse players are Canadian, and Peterborough is a hot bed. Pro lacrosse is no glamour sport, though, and here's an illustration of that.

The guy who sold Chris his new stick was Mike Hobbins, a forward with the Chicago Shamrox of the NLL. He's a Peterborough kid, 23, home to play senior lacrosse for the defending Mann Cup champion Lakers.

And on weekends, he's working in a pro shop, stringing sticks for kids.

He and Chris hit it off -- actually, there aren't many people who don't hit it off with Chris. He's a naturally friendly guy. But when they found out they both play for the Shamrox, well, you can just imagine. Chris had a pal for life.

It took  Hobbins 45 minutes to string the new stick with the green mesh for Chris, and Chris stood there and talked to him the whole time and Hobbins smiled for the entire conversation. And he signed the new stick. And he signed Chris' Oakville Minor Lacrosse t-shirt.

Hobbins and the guys he plays with do it for the love of the game and they are great ambassadors for the sport.

Let's see Barry Bonds do that.

- - -

Chris and I are living the high life starting tomorrow -- mom's off to B.C. on business, Pad is off to Quebec on a school trip. I will be teaching Chris the finer points of life.

Like, eating pizza over the sink. For breakfast.

Or, proper technique for drinking milk directly from the carton.

And of course, beer. It's not just for breakfast anymore.


June 1, 2007

Welcome to June.

Busy days here. Last evening was Fun Fair at the boys school, apparently so named because the kids have fun and it's not fair to make parents go through what it takes to set it all up in 35 degree humidity. But, the kids did in fact have fun, money was raised for the school, and thankfully, it's over.

Then Pad and the bantam lacrosse Hawks got spanked bad by Halton Hills in a game where it could be charitably said our boys didn't compete very hard.

Tournament play in Peterborough this weekend. There's no such thing as a weekend off soldier! Suck it up.

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Does anyone have any suggestions on how to dress like a tacky tourist? I need suggestions, fast!