March 30, 2007
Very busy, stressful week at work so I wandered out to clear my head and bought myself a treat -- the new release of Neil Young Live at Massey Hall 1971. My parents could tell you the hours and hours and hours I spent listening to Neil Young as a kid and so far, we're both still going. Him more than me, I think.
This disc is well worth buying. When he introduces "Old Man" and "A Man Needs a Maid" as new songs he just wrote, it's pretty jarring and you realize this guy is probably the greatest Canadian musician of . . . maybe ever? He's been great for a long time. Well, except for that period when he put out a whole bunch of albums too close together and I couldn't figure them out. But he's been consistently great for a long, long, long time.
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Pad is off to a lacrosse refereeing clinic tonight, Chris is at a birthday party, Laura is doing some shopping and I'm . . . I'm doing this. Hockey on TV. Neil Young on the stereo. An hour that is just mine. And I can't wait for Chris to bounce through the door and tell me about his day.
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The Rangers beat Newmarket 3-1 last night and are off to a 2-0 start in the Bill Buss season ending tournament. They play Woodstock and Applewood tomorrow. No one seems to terribly invested emotionally in this, which is a good thing.
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Chris has his last Dick Decloe skating session of the winter tomorrow. He loves this extra ice, just loves it. Dick is great with the kids and the Saturday afternoons at Twin Rinks became a ritual for us and some other families we know who also attend. Will I miss it next week? Um, no. We're ready to move on.
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Chris just came through the door, loot bag in hand. Better go see if there's anything good for me. Later all. Enjoy the weekend.
March 29, 2007
Say hello to the Print Management Solutions Wolfpack, MOHA's 2007 Atom Red champs. Congratulations guys.
March 29, 2007
The minor bantam AA Rangers beat Caledon last night 2-1 to win their Tri County final two games to one. Congratulations to all the guys. It was a very close series and the better team won!
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The minor bantam A Rangers opened a season-ending tournament in Mississauga last night with a 4-1 win over Humber Valley Sharks. I thought the Rangers looked pretty good in the first period and then things kinda got . . .I don't know. Messy. Neither team looked very good and apparently the Rangers were a little less not good. Both teams looked like they have moved on to other sports, at least in their heads.
Anyway, a win is a win I guess. They play again tonight vs. Newmarket.
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If you coach hockey, or manage a team, and you ever wondered what would happen if you used a non-rostered person on your bench to fill in because someone was absent, well, read this to find your answer.
A pretty tough lesson .for the Thornton Tigers peewee hockey team.
And today's follow up story on why the other team protested in the first place is also pretty interesting. Read it here.
In a house league game inside your own association, no one is going to get too exercised about this stuff. But at higher levels competing against other centres, and in tournament play, the rules are the rules. In fact, in house league there's a lot of leeway granted to volunteers who want to help out on a team at practices or to swing a gate sometimes. The one single thing there's no leeway on is a PRS certification. If you are going to be around the kids, you have to have one.
A real bummer for the Thornton kids, though.
March 28, 2007
Things are kind of quiet these days, with the exception of the lacrosse clinic Monday, the lacrosse meeting last night and the last (!) hockey tournament of the season starting tonight at Applewood in Mississauga. Work is busy. The weather comes and goes. I have a head cold. So, more witty musings when things get better.
The minor bantam AA team looks to win the Tri County title tonight in Caledon. The series has been very close and is tied 1-1. Tonight's game decides it.
March 27, 2007
It turns out the young man who collapsed while officiating the minor bantam AA game at Glen Abbey on Saturday night is a blog reader, and he sent a nice note to say he's feeling well and has none of the symptoms that laid him low during that game. He said he started the game feeling fine -- all was normal.
After he collapsed he said a racing heartbeat was the most obvious symptom, even after he had been down for sometime, but whatever was behind it confounded the medical teams. After a couple of sleepless days he feels fine again.
He also wanted to extend a very sincere thank-you to all who helped him out during that scary few minutes (not sure if it was scary to him, but it was for the rest of us.) In particular, the EMS staff, the fire fighters, the emergency team at the hospital, and Charles, the AA minor bantam trainer who acted with great confidence and poise in taking control of the situation the instant that the ref went down and was a constant voice of comfort while everyone waited for the EMS pros to show up.
So, let's hope that whatever it was, it's gone now and Zach is back patrolling the ice soon.
March 26, 2007
Below are the very happy Atom Blue Wranglers, league champions!
And this is one seriously happy hockey player. Way to go Steven!
March 26, 2007
Almost forgot! My buddies Gavin and Adam and the rest of the peewee AE Rangers won the Tri County championship on the weekend. Way to go guys!
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Riverside and Quinte tied yesterday afternoon, so the minor bantam A final is five points to three for Quinte. That series resumes next weekend. A lot of driving!
March 25, 2007
The AA minor bantam Rangers lost 4-2 in Caledon -- tying that series 1-1. Drat.
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Dave Cochran and his band of Vikings won the atom white house league championship over a very talented group of Lumberjacks led by Peter Ratcliffe. I know Peter is taking some comfort in his other son's Tri County minor peewee A championship earlier this week. I understand the Viking coaches wore Viking helmets and orange wigs, while the Lumberjack coaches wore shirts and ties and lumberjack coats. I need photos people! Tip for next year -- draft Stephen Naylor. He's played on the last three championship teams in his age group, a stunning feat.
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The atom A Rangers also won a Tri County title on Sunday, beating Woolwich, and the peewee AE team did the same thing last night. Well done guys.
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The Wranglers won the atom blue title over the Flyers in a thriller. Michael (Dr. Zero) B., who toiled for my own hapless Wranglers three years ago, was the winning goalie. Brendan G -- a member of my winning team a year ago -- gets the repeat. And Stevie E. gets his championship, and no one ever deserved one more. I said I'd be there and I wasn't -- I hope his mom forgives me. But I thought about them all day and was getting regular updates by Blackberry. Way to go guys!
March 25, 2007
Busy doesn't begin to describe the weekend thus far (it's Sunday morning in our house.)
So -- I neglected to mention that Chris had a practice Friday night, so after rushing home for that I jumped in the shower after getting him off the ice, then took Pad over to Glen Abbey, dropped him and ran to River Oaks were I hoped to watch the atom A Rangers win the Tri County title. Woolwich had other plans, so the deciding game in that series goes this afternoon in Woolwich.
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Saturday was big game day in atom white, where I convene and we had yet to declare finalists for today's championship game. So, in what was de facto semi-final #1, the Vikings came out flying and beat the Flyers 7-1. A big thrill for coach Dave and his squad and a big disappointment for coach Brian and the Flyers. Just a word about Brian and the Flyers -- if I was going to pick an "atom white franchise of the year" it would be his team. Relentlessly positive, always organized and motivated by helping the kids learn, Brian is what minor hockey is all about. I know he was disappointed yesterday, but he prepared his team well and sometimes things just happen.
In semi-final #2, the Lumberjacks prevailed 3-1 over the Wings, who had a Cinderella run in the playoffs after finishing last in the the regular season. Coach Pete and the Lumberjacks make their first trip to the big dance later today and he is excited and ready. Coach Allan and the Wings were the surprise story of the post season. Again, another affable, prepared, positive guy, Allan handled all the stats duties in atom white, a huge job. The kids on his team were lucky to have him and his coaches guiding them. They had a great year.
So Vikings and Lumberjacks will face off today for all the marbles, Cochrane vs. Ratcliffe! It's going to be fun. It's why we all go to those 6a practices and 8a games and I'm really looking forward to it.
Except, I'm not going to be there.
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I'm sick about it, but Pad was called up late Friday to play for the AA Rangers in their two Tri County final games this weekend vs. Caledon. I told Laura that it they lose Saturday night, then they can't win it all on Sunday, so I'll go to the atom championship with the kids I coach and convene and have watched all winter. Well, the Rangers complicated things (happily) by winning 4-3 last night, so Pad and the AA team have a championship game of their own. And my place is with my kid under such circumstances. Nothing is ever simple.
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The Rangers played well in a close win last night, but the real story was the referee. With about 10 minutes to go in the third and the Rangers ahead, the ref passed out, falling into the boards violently in a heap. It was a scary few minutes as 9-1-1 was called, people scrambled for the on-site defibrillator and the kids and spectators watched in shocked silence.
The good news is that apparently the young man fainted, but it wasn't his ticker. But he may have hit his head hard on the way down. He was removed by ambulance, and word was spread that he was talking and alert and it was not a cardiac issue.
The game resumed after about a 30 minute delay to help the fallen official.
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OK, so BEFORE the Ranger game, Glen Abbey was rocking as the atom AA Rangers took on Whitby with a chance to win their OMHA final -- and they did. It was a close, exciting game and the Rangers were clearly the better team. On a personal note, I have to say it was fun for me to watch big Andrew Kew, a very distinguished alumnus of the Oakville Big Blue Machine, the Initiation Program team I coached years ago -- skating around with the trophy and wearing the captain's C on his jersey. Well done Andrew, well done Rangers and coach Dave Crozier, who won his third straight OMHA title.
During the evening word came in that the Ranger novice A team also won their OMHA final too, so there was no doubt a lot of celebrating all over Oakville last night.
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And meanwhile, way down the 401 in Windsor, Quinte West beat Riverside Rangers 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their minor bantam A final. Game four goes today. As I said to the Riverside mom who has become my loyal correspondent in the Rose City, we have a saying in Oakville: "Go Rangers!"
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So today, Laura is "captaining" awards week festivities at Twin Rinks and I won't be there. Pad and I will trek north for game two of the minor bantam AA Tri County final, and Chris will hang out with his buds at Awards Week. If we get back in time, the single A Rangers practice tonight so we'll race back from Caledon for that, and then tomorrow we'll all go back to work and school to get some rest.
March 23, 2007
Not sure how others feel about it, but for me one of the biggest non-events of the minor hockey season has been the new standard of play and rules emphasis -- basically, the move to more NHL-style crackdown on obstruction, stick work, etc.
We were warned the new standard of play would crash across minor hockey like Godzilla descending on Tokyo or Patrick on a breakfast buffet, but the reality has been more of a shrug.
The good? Well, at the rep level where it was epidemic last year in Tri County, there was probably an 80 per cent reduction in post-whistle scrums, especially around the net. If a player drills someone after the whistle, he gets two for roughing. In short order, the kids mostly stopped doing that. (Funny how that worked.)
The bad: Obstruction and stick work infractions were called on a very haphazard scale. One man's obstruction was another man's finishing the check. For the most part I never knew when one was going to be called and one wasn't and clearly neither did the kids.
In house league white, where I convene and coach, it wasn't much of an issue good or bad. I thought the officiating overall was better than last year (the final minute of last week's game being a notable exception, but honestly I'm not bitterJ ) .
In house league levels where there is full contact, and in rep, I think the people who decide such things need to deal with contact to the head. Not to be radical, but anything short of zero tolerance isn't good enough. Yes, there will be dumb and unintentional penalties. But kids are smart and they'll figure it out if the rule is properly considered, constructed and enforced -- just as they did on the scrumming after the whistle.
It's tough to make a compelling argument against zero tolerance for head contact and there are few things scarier to witness than head and neck injuries.
Most kids want to play hockey, not sit in the penalty box or miss Grade 8 graduation because of post-concussion syndrome.
March 23, 2007
Last night there was a rare sports-free hole in the family calendar (well, after Pad's school basketball game, which they won, BTW). A sports-free hole in the family calendar is like pulling on a sports coat you haven't worn in five or six weeks and finding a 20 dollar bill in the pocket. So, what did we do do cope with that level of excitement? We boys went to a rink to watch a hockey game of course, and Laura went off to do volunteer work for the school.
At Oakville Arena, the minor bantam AE squad played the Humber Valley A Sharks team in an exhibition game. Injuries and a school trip had the Humber Valley team short four bodies, and they missed them, losing 3-1 to the Rangers. It was fun to watch though --the Sharks have three Oakville kids on their team, Pad played with the AE Rangers last year and has lots of friends and classmates on that squad, Chris knows many of the younger siblings, and the parents are a good bunch to watch a game with.
Best quote from an outraged mom on a missed hit was: "What the heck was that! He should have called a, you know, because that was, way after the thingy!"
And she's right. Someone's going to get hurt if we don't curb all the "you know" happening "after the thingy." Write your MP.
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No such hole in the calendar tonight. Ranger practice at 8:10p at Glen Abbey, so I'll drop Pad there then drive over to River Oaks to catch some of the Atom A Tri-County final (Will, Lucas, Tim, Zack, Nick and the rest of my friends on the Rangers can clinch tonight) then I'll sprint back to GA to pick up Pad. Last weekend of house league convening on Saturday with three games, one of which doesn't matter (the one I'm coaching) and two of which will decide the teams that will play in Sunday's championship game. I think we're off Saturday night and then Sunday will be a blur of Awards Week stuff and yet another Ranger practice.
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The Awards Week schedule, lifted from the MOHA site:
March 22, 2007
Awards Week for the MOHA starts Sunday. It's the biggest week in minor sports in Oakville, as championship games in all house league age levels are staged over the week. It's a lot of work and the Minor Oaks Hockey Moms deserve a ton of credit for the many, many, many long hours that go into making it a success. If you haven't already, you can read my screed on why they charge you $3 at the door -- which is the best $3 you'll spend all year.
But today's epistle is about the magic of the week.
Loyal readers will recall that on the eve of the minor bantam Rangers hosting Riverside in the OMHA semis, I wrote about the buzz that comes with playing in games that really matter. All of that applies in house league, and in some ways, it applies even more.
Yes, there are lots of kids in house league who will end up playing rep some day. But most of them won't, and most of them don't care. Their hockey is generally a game and a practice a week, plus tournaments here and there and the odd extra practice. I remember being eight years old and staring out a classroom window on a Friday afternoon, thinking that this time tomorrow, I'll be playing hockey.
House league hockey is special.
Pad got to play in three consecutive championship games in house league before he moved to rep and we remember each one vividly -- losing 6-1 as the prohibitive favourite; winning the championship the next year, and then losing in the third one after a scoreless overtime and a cruel shootout.
My younger son Chris and his team won in double overtime last year in front of hundreds and hundreds of people on what he still calls the greatest day of his life. Think many atom rep kids ever get to play in front of a crowd like that? I can tell you that mostly, they don't.
House league hockey is special.
Here's another example. An atom player I know is playing in his first championship game on Sunday. I know for a fact that this a guy who in his short career has played on some teams that had challenges. I've exchanged numerous "hang-in-there" emails with his mom over the years, trying to be encouraging, offering whatever support I could. His parents take a keen interest, are relentlessly positive and supportive, and his hour in the spotlight on Sunday is a big, big deal for him, for them, for their family, for the team. I'll be there, cheering for S (but you won't hear me over his mom.)
On Sunday afternoon when the atom blue, white and red championship games are played it will be loud, crowded, noisy, electric. It's a carnival atmosphere, a winner-take-all pressure cooker where heroes will forge moments that will become timeless and grander with every retelling years from now. Celebrations will be had, hearts will be broken, life lessons will be learned.
House league hockey is special.
If someone you know is playing in Awards Week, don't let them meet you on the street a month from now and say "You shoulda seen me!" Get up, go to the rink, and watch games that really matter. Be there. See them. Support them.
Hockey league hockey is special.
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The Ranger AA atom squad beat Whitby 4-3 last night, to tie that OMHA championship series at three points each -- both teams are 1-1-1. Game four is is Whitby tomorrow night.
March 21, 2007
It was fun to watch the Leafs win a game over a good team last night, even if the Wade Belak-Cam Janssen fight seemed a little too much like a contrived, made-for-TV event. We have a standard saying in our house when the Leafs are on TV:
"Oh look. Wade Belak's in a fight." And then we all laugh.
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We're Leaf fans. Always have been dating way back to growing up in Nova Scotia. But we're also realists. And the pomposity of the Leaf nation branding slogan -- "The passion that unites us all" -- has also been turned upside down in our house. When we see it, it becomes, "The passion that unties us all." We think that's funny, plus Leaf spelled backwards is fael, which sounds like fail, which . . . well, you get the idea. We watch too many Leaf games.
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The atom A Rangers beat Woolwich last night and can win the Tri County championship with a win Friday at Glen Abbey at 8:10p. My scouts tell me Lucas was a hero between the pipes for the Rangers. Some good seats are still available for Friday, but the season ticket holders are hoarding the platinums.
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House league Awards Week starts Sunday at the Twins Rinks. I will talk in greater detail about this tomorrow or Friday. In the meantime, I've have received a lot of feedback about this blog entry I wrote back in February -- all of it positive. To the many parents who have asked if it's ok to share it, the answer is yes.
March 20, 2007
The seasons are changing -- and not just with the arrival of spring this evening.
Lacrosse sticks are starting to clutter the mud room and garage -- along with, not yet instead of -- hockey sticks. Pad has been doing pre-season lacrosse training for six weeks when he could fit it in around hockey, including last night and tonight. (Fitting it in is no bargain -- school basketball game at 3:45p, then hockey practice at 5p, then lacrosse tonight.)
Chris is biding his time for house league lacrosse to start.
An interesting development this year is that Pad has not signed up for summer three-on-three hockey for the first time in years. He'll do a camp in April, and another late in the summer, but we're saying farewell to the 10:15p Friday night starting nights at Ice Sports. Chris will still play once a week in an informal group with friends.
Wayne Gretzky, who enjoyed some success at hockey, has often spoke about how at the end of hockey season as a kid he'd toss his skates in the back of a closest, grab his ball glove and that was it till September. I like the sound of that right now, given that I see about seven to nine hockey games a weekend and three to five practices a week.
I mean, who wants to sit in a cold arena all spring when you could be sitting in a lawn chair in the cold spring rain watching field lacrosse? Sticks. Balls. Mud. Violence. Go Hawks!
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Interesting tidbit number 2 -- Pad is going to referee lacrosse this year and takes the course next weekend. Mostly he'll get to do peanut and novice house league games I would imagine, which generally come with the intensity of three kittens with a ball of yarn. Nonetheless, the first person to yell at the referee had better be leery of Laura. Really, really leery. You've been warned.
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Have you noticed how every game the Leafs play now has the words "must win" etched in the story somewhere? Well, tonight's latest must-win game is against New Jersey, the most boring and most successful team of the last decade.
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Am I the only one who wishes the OMHA would update the playdown section of their web site every day? If you're going to bother posting this stuff, at least update it. It's annoying. I do know the Oakville atom AA team plays game 3 tomorrow night at Maplegrove at 7:30p. I know they tied the first game, but the result of game two appears to be an OMHA secret.
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Meanwhile, the Oakville Rangers novice A squad leads their OMHA final 2-0 over Orillia. Game three goes Friday at Maplegrove at 7:40p. They could win it all at home.
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I meant to mention yesterday that from what I saw, and what the results are thus far, the 2007 version of March Madness is pretty boring. All four number 1 seeds advanced, and not a single double-digit ranked seed survived the opening weekend. So, if you were hoping to slap on the raccoon jacket this weekend and cheer for the Chippewa College Fighting Missionaries, forget it. Not an underdog in sight.
March 19, 2007
For me and thousands of others it's back to the routine today as March Break ends, March Madness pauses, and we all March Back to work.
But I thought I'd use the train ride in for a few words on brotherhood -- not global, stretch-your-arms-around-stranger-on-the-next-continent stuff, but actual brother-to-brother stuff.
Patrick did something for Chris this past weekend that I didn't think I'd ever see. He got out of bed at 7 a.m. to attend his brother's second last game of the season. Patrick will be in a lacrosse referee training course next weekend and will miss the last game. This was his last opportunity to see Chris play this year.
Having Pad attend makes a big difference to Chris, who gets dragged to virtually every Ranger game with few exceptions. And to his credit, by the time the playoffs rolled around he had become one of their biggest fans, vowing to paint his face blue had they made the OMHA finals. Riverside made sure that didn't happen, but Chris was the guy in the Ranger jersey with the curly blond hair, cheering noisily, PSP in hand, high-fiving the Oakville guys as they came on and off the ice. Aside from Pad, two other players -- Jack and Cole -- were particularly kind to Chris on various road trips and what not, elevating him to "Little Buddy" status.
But it was always Big Brother that Chris wanted to play for and in front of -- Pad's presence validates the effort, defines that the game matters and ensures that his younger brother's team matters just as much as the Rangers. When Pad is in the stands, Chris knows.
So it was a difficult conversation on Friday night when I pointed out to Chris that Patrick was not yet home from practice at 10:15p and he most assuredly would not be getting up to attend the early morning atom house league action on Saturday.
The bottom lip stuck out a bit and the eyes got watery.
"Why is it," he asked as purely as only a 10-year-old can with a slight quiver in the voice, "that I have to go to every one of his games and he never gets out of bed to see me play?"
And then he walked away. Any effort to explain the sleeping patterns of teens, the rigours of Pad's hockey, lacrosse, basketball and music schedules, or anything else would have seemed lame at that moment. So nothing more was said.
Minutes later Patrick galumped through the door, the usual pile of smiles and sweat and hair and teeth and braces and Powerade. He was informed that tomorrow was the last chance he'd have this season to see Chris play, and Chris wanted him there. No comment.
Ultimately, the decision was his, he was told, but either way he had to tell Chris what his plans were for Saturday.
The next morning, because of a short bench symptomatic of March Break, Chris played centre for the first and perhaps only time this season. As a coach, you value players at every position who can deliver. But kids, well, they all want to take the faceoff. So, playing centre was a big deal for Chris.
And when the puck dropped on the morning of St. Patrick's day, Patrick was there -- not in green, but in his Ranger jacket, something less than beaming but nonetheless doing the heavy lifting that comes with being a big brother.
And Chris looked up from the ice to him, figuratively and literally, and skated with all he had.
After the game -- a 5-4 loss on a goal with less than 10 seconds on the clock -- Patrick told Chris they deserved to win and that he played great, both of which were true, the latter more so than the former.
"I played centre! Did you see?"
Yes, he saw.
You only get a few years to be a Ranger. You're a big brother forever.
March 19, 2007
Quinte West beat Riverside 3-1 on Sunday, so that OMHA minor bantam final is now tied two points each.
March 18, 2007
Riverside won game 1 of the OMHA minor bantam finals, beating Quinte West 8-5 yesterday. Game 2 is today.
- - -
My Eagles lost 5-4 on Saturday when we found ourselves down two men with a minute left and the Wings scored the winner. How did we end up down two men? That's a story for another day. That circumstance will be on my season's highlight reel, as will the parental rants I have to endure as convener for the age group. I honestly don't mind the ranting -- it's the sneering I don't care for. But I guess that's why I'm there.
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The playoffs in our atom house league division are coming down to the final weekend to decide who goes to the championship game. Four teams are 3-1, and they all play each other on Saturday. The math is simple -- win your game, win a spot in the final. Good luck to everyone!
March 16, 2007
The gasoline supply crisis that gripped the GTA for two or three weeks seems to have passed, as all -- or most -- gas stations seems to be open again. And the global price for gasoline dropped four dollars a barrel this week. So, why is gas still over a dollar a litre? Conversely, if an oil rig worker in the Gulf of Mexico gets a head cold, prices at the pump jump 20 cents. This is a pet peeve. Indulge me.
March 16, 2007
Well, I warned you blogging would be light this week. And it has been. I've mostly stayed away from work-related things with the exception of some email and a some conference calls. Chris had a couple of practices, Pad has had three with another tonight with the AA squad, and everyone is sleeping in a bit this week. Tomorrow Chris and the Eagles played their second last game of the season at 8a and as far as I know right now, his big brother has Saturday off, which is just weird to contemplate. What will we do with ourselves?
- - -
Not everyone has had a quiet March break. My good friends on the Atom Red Monaghan Sports Pub Vikings went to Oshawa this week where they impressed all the babes and won the tournament, going 4-0 and allowing only five goals. As with most atom teams in Oakville, I have friends on this squad too, including Action Jackson S., Iain "Big Train" S., Brandon "Moose" J., Thomas "Vroom-vroom" V., and Brendan "Hat Trick" D., whose heroics for my team in last year's championship minor atom game is still inspiration today for folk songs and several made-for-TV movies. Here's a picture of the guys reflecting quietly on their glory:
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Meanwhile, I understand the Evan L. and the rest of the Atom Red Print Management Solutions Wolfpack also won a tournament, but I don't have many details or any pictures so for now, you just have to take my word for it.
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I promise not to go on about March Madness, but I will say this. Over the years, it's a safe bet that a lot of money has been made betting on Duke to win games. I'm guessing yesterday a lot of money was lost, and a lot of office pools turned upside down, because Duke lost in the first round for the first time since before Christopher was born. Duke, historically, is not just a lock to win in the first round, they are practically a lock to get to the Sweet 16, which they had done nine times in a row. Anyway, Virginia Commonwealth apparently didn't get the memo and that's that. BTW, the last time VC advanced past the first round, Ronald Reagan had just started his second term, I was single, Wayne Gretzky was an Oiler, and WHAM had two of the top three songs of the year. WHAM? Ewww.
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Another weekend of must-win Leaf hockey, if you still care. In Washington tonight, in Montreal with the Habs tomorrow. Everything has playoff implications now. Personally, I think the best thing to happen would be if the Leafs missed the playoffs again and people in Ivory Towers were called to account for MLSE missing TWO consecutive seasons worth of hockey playoff revenue to pad the already swelling bottom line. But with the Raptors doing well, the gang at the ACC will get their pound of flesh from sports fans in Toronto and the Leafs may end up being a seasonal afterthought.
March 13, 2007
We're just back from the north country where we spent a couple of days alternating between eating, talking, reading, snowshoeing, tobogganing, sleeping, eating . . . you get the idea. Chris saw 13 wild turkeys, I learned that snowshoes don't prevent you from sinking in the snow, you just don't sink to the bottom, and we got to enjoy a late winter warm spell with friends. 6a practice tomorrow for Chris -- back to reality!
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March Madness starts Thursday. When I was in high school and university we used to take the NCAA men's tournament very seriously and the great thing about it was that no matter how little you knew about college basketball, in March you could join everyone else on the planet and become an instant expert. People who didn't know a Tar Heel from a Volunteer or a Wildcat suddenly became an authority who once explained the basic of the game to Red Auerbach.
March 12, 2007
Blogging will be light for the next couple of days as I distract myself with my family and friends. Nonetheless, I expect there will be interesting moments and I'll try to keep track of them for the general amusement of all.
Just FYI, the other OMHA minor bantam A semi final -- first team to six points -- went to a sixth game last night with Quinte West finally prevailing over Stouffville. Four of the first five games went to overtime. So Riverside meets Quinte West for all the marbles. Should be a good one.
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One of the minor bantam Rangers' most loyal and most appreciated supporters is in hospital recuperating as many of the rest of us start March break. Every single person associated with this team has her front and centre in their thoughts and prayers, and we're all pulling for a speedy recovery for Mrs. L. A knowledgeable hockey fan with a wonderful sense of humour, we wish her and her family the very best of everything in the days ahead.
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Does anyone know who won the Stoney Creek-Oakville atom AA OMHA semi-final game Saturday night? It was a must win for Oakville, but the OMHA site hasn't been updated.
minor bantam AA team secured a spot in the Tri County final with a 4-1
The atom A team rolls toward the Tri County final as well, after crushing Guelph 10-1 on Saturday.
Did I mention that I saw seven hockey games on Saturday? It's hard to keep up, but there are a lot of Rangers at a lot of levels giving it everything they have right now. If you get a chance, get out and see a game.
March 11, 2007
The Rangers still had the ice that had been allocated for the game five of the OMHA semis, so the boys got together and did their own thing today. And their own thing was a very fundamental reminder that hockey is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.
They scrimmaged. The goalies played out. Two others kids played goal. It was goofy and loose and there was lots of laughing.
As noted earlier, the games that really mean something are important. Sometimes, the games that mean nothing at all are good too.
- - -
I meant to share this one earlier: Thursday night I was at Maplegrove watching Patrick's practice. As I walked in, a Brampton kid -- peewee A I think -- was there with some of his buddies half in their gear, getting ready for a game. As I walked by he smiled broadly, looked right at me and said: "I'm cool!"
"I said, I'm cool!"
His pals were watching me closely for the reaction.
I said that's interesting. Where I grew up if you had to tell someone you're cool, it probably meant you aren't actually cool.
"Hey mister! That's not very nice!"
His teammates were killing themselves laughing.
March 11, 2007
The Rangers are done -- the Oakville ones at least. The minor bantam A squad lost 3-1 with an empty net goal to Riverside, who will move on to the OMHA finals.
The Riverside team was stronger and congratulations to them. They were well prepared, worked hard, played clean, and earned their spot in the finals.
Oakville has much to be proud of. This team went deep into the OMHA tournament, a prospect that looked very distant and iffy back in the autumn. The kids worked hard, they forged friendships, and most of all they learned from the people who manned the bench and took the time to teach, for which we're also grateful. They all learned things on and off the ice that they will carry with them for years.
So did I. I'm still learning, too.
Good luck Riverside. Let me know how it goes.
Well done Oakville. You did your association, your town and yourselves proud.
Also, a special thank you to the many friends and friends of friends who came out to support the team Friday and Saturday. It meant a lot to the boys to look up and see so many friendly face and to hear the voices. Thanks.
- - -
Meanwhile, my Eagles lost a 4-2 game to the Vikings in atom house league action, which means there'll be no championship game for me and Chris this year! My kids actually played well, just not well enough. Chris particularly had a jump in his stride yesterday.
March 9, 2007
Sometimes things don't work out the way you plan. That's life.
Riverside spanked Oakville's minor bantam A Rangers 5-0 Friday night to take a death grip on their OMHA semi final. They did a lot of things well, out skated us, and earned the win.
The little things matter and they mattered big for Riverside, who now need only a tie tomorrow to put this one to bed.
Our guys tried, make no mistake about that, but for two periods Riverside gummed up the middle of the ice so well that there just wasn't much for our Rangers.
Ironically, the shots favored Oakville 21-19, largely on the strength of a 10-4 advantage in the third. But shots aren't goals and the Riverside goalie earned his goose egg.
Saturday is another day and Oakville will have to step things up considerably. We know what they can do.
But sometimes things don't work out the way you plan.
- - -
As a public service, some info on where to get skates sharpened in Oakville:
Corbett's Source for sports is the one I recommend. Click here for a map.
National Sports is also easy to get to. Click here for a map.
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March 8, 2007
"Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
-- Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days
This has been a fun week at the blog -- interesting emails from near and far and many, many people enjoying the rivalry that's popped up between the dueling Ranger bergs of Oakville and Riverside.
Starting Friday, the 13 and 14 year olds on those teams will resume their pursuit of a spot in the OMHA minor bantam A championship series. It is very, very hard to get to an OMHA final.
The teams have reached a point in the season where they are playing games that really matter. And I can assure them they won't soon forget them.
At their age, Rangers on both ends of the ice are immortal and the opportunities to play "games that really matter" seems boundless.
Every dad and more than a few moms at the rink will be able to confirm otherwise. You only get to play a certain number of "games that really matter" in your life, and for most of us that door closes pretty snuggly by the time you finish high school. But you'll never forget those games if you live to be 100.
I remember a few, even in bantam -- losing a best-of-five championship series in five games, three of which went to overtime (Halifax over East Hants, city over country. We were devastated, but that's a story for another day.)
Two kids on that team went to the OHL (one to the Windsor Spitfires, in fact!!). Another stayed in Nova Scotia and was eventually invited to the Montreal Canadiens training camp. I was a role player on a very good team but I'll never forget those friendships and the coach's bark and the highs and the lows and the life lessons that I didn't realize I was learning.
I ended up competing against kids on the Halifax team in other sports -- high school basketball, soccer, golf, whatever. We always shook hands because we knew each other from the rinks. It wasn't until later in life when I knew some of them better in university that I learned how much they respected our team. And how much they hated coming to our rink because while they knew they could win, they also knew they would have to pay a price. I found that an eye opener because that's exactly what we thought about them.
And we always talked about hockey. It always came back to hockey. And those games that I thought were just important to me? It turned out, even years later, they were really important to them too.
I hope the kids on both Ranger teams this weekend, and all kids playing games that really matter this weekend, understand a little bit of that around them now. These are glory days. And while you can't live in the moment, you can live for the moment, wild at heart.
And at 13, you absolutely live for a game that really matters. These games matter.
So, game on.
- - -
Pretty simple really. Riverside is in the driver's seat. Up three points to one. They've beaten Oakville once, Oakville hasn't won yet. One tie. This series is Riverside's to lose.
Does that mean Oakville can't win? No. Not at all. But I'd rather be up 3-1 than down.
Oakville has a hole to climb out of and Riverside may already have a glimpse of the finish line.
It will be an interesting game Friday night -- an Oakville win means we play Saturday and Sunday; a Riverside win means they can finish it on Saturday.
For Oakville, a season that started around a camp fire in damp field in late August and has had many twists and turns and bumps along the way comes down to the next 72 hours.
I'm sure the same is true for Riverside. I've seen them play and they are very good and no team gets this close to an OMHA final without commitment and talent.
Friday, 8 p.m. River Oaks. See you there.
March 7, 2006
OK, it's time to give friendly guidance to the Riverside Rangers, who will visit Oakville this weekend to play our own minor bantam A Rangers as their OMHA semi-final continues.
Top 10 Things to Do in Oakville on a Friday or Saturday Night? Good question, with interesting answers from many readers. Thanks to all for your contributions. We all have too much time on our hands.
The consensus opinion is - - there’s really not much to do in Oakville on a weekend night. Nonetheless, here are suggestions within striking distance of Oakville. Left to their own devices we’re sure the Riverside Rangers will entertain themselves. But blog readers, with varying degrees of humour and intensity of support for the home team, offered the following. Some are funny, and some are actually good ideas. We hope Riverside enjoys their stay. These are not in any particular order:
10. Go to the Drive-In. It’s actually open and maybe a good place for a rival team to go and stay up too late, freeze and fill their bellies with junk before a big game!! http://www.5drivein.com/
9. Stay at a hotel with no elevator and get a room on a high floor. Encourage the kids to run the stairs all night. This hotel should also have a large indoor water park for the boys to swim in for hours and hours. Several blog readers suggested variations on the “swim till you puke” theme. The Oakville Rangers thank them for their continued support.
7. Playdium. This is a pretty good suggestion. A short drive down the 403 – lots for the kids to do and there’s a bar for the parents to hang out in for a while. Or, Mainway Sports and Games in Burlington. Batting cages, beach volleyball, floor hockey, and lots of other stuff. Yes, there’s a bar.
6. Go to Toronto and get scalpers tickets for the Leafs-Sens game. Yeah right. Maybe the people in Riverside have a lot more money than us. But, it is an option. Prices drop after the game starts – be patient!
5. Stand in the fields north of Dundas manning the Rob Burton Arena Construction Vigil. OK – this is an “inside Oakville” joke, but one of my favourite suggestions. Rob Burton is the new mayor, elected in part on the frustration of hockey parents with the low ratio of rinks to kids in our town. We’re waiting with shovels in hand to break ground for a new multi-pad facility, or the second coming, whichever is first. Be first in line to join the fun!!
4. Toronto Marlies host the Hamilton Bulldogs at the Ricoh Coliseum in AHL action on Saturday. Small venue with lots of great seats. Good hockey. Cheap! Pay for cheap seats, then move to the expensive ones when the game starts. Click here for ticket info.
3. Yeah, we know you can see the Red Wings any time. But drive to Buffalo and get walk-up tickets for the Sabres-Devils. It’s only a 90 minute drive unless you get strip-searched at the border, and what fun THAT could be for the whole family! Four out of five dentists in Oakville recommend Sabres tickets over the Leafs. Cheaper, better hockey, and almost always available, as opposed to expensive, poor hockey, and impossible to get. Don’t forget your passports and/or birth certificates. Feel free to stay up late!
2. We were going to suggest a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, But their visiting hours aren’t the best for Windsor’s schedule this weekend. But it’s March Break and some people may stay over. It’s worth the trip. You can see black-and-white photos of the last time Toronto won the Cup! If you are staying over, the Royal Ontario Museum is also worth a look – see the dinosaur bones that date back to the last time Toronto won the Cup!
1. Pay a visit to the World’s Most Expensive Tree © at Bronte Road and marvel at Oakville tax dollars at work. Hug the tree. Throw money at the tree. BE the TREE. Read more here.
Tomorrow we'll tee up the weekend action. Thanks again to all for your Oakville entertainment suggestions!
March 7, 2006
The Top 10 Weekend Activities list for the Windsor folks will be posted later today. So, there is still time for suggestions. Thanks to the many who have contributed so far. Be funny, or offer serious good ideas.
March 6, 2007
It's a cold and odd start to the week. Cold, because it was -22 this morning not counting the wind chill, and odd because the police closed the Gardner Expressway and parts of downtown Toronto to save the good people of the city from having chunks of ice fall on them from way up high off the CN Tower.
Now, that seems prudent to me -- I'm the type of guy who will never win a lottery but the way 2007 has gone so far would fully expect a chunk of CN Tower ice to find me.
But -- if they close the Gardner, why wouldn't they close Lakeshore? Yeah, I know part of Lakeshore runs under the Gardner. But part of it doesn't. I don't get it.
- - -
Chris has opened up what may be an insurmountable lead in the minor bantam A Ranger hockey pool, much to the consternation of people who pay much attention to these things. I'm not really sure how he's managed it, but he is very excited.
- - -
The Leafs host the Caps tonight in the latest must win game. Given that the Leafs don't play great at home and don't play great against teams with worse records than them, I fully expect them to lose.
- - -
Given the amount of traffic coming here from Windsor in the last 10 days, and given that the Windsor-based Riverside Rangers will be coming to Oakville this weekend to play the Oakville Rangers in games three and four and maybe five of their OMHA minor bantam A semi-final series, as a public service I'd like to offer them a Top 10 list of things to do in Oakville on a Saturday night. Email your suggestions to me here and I'll aim to post a list in the next day or two. But please, send ideas! Funny, serious, sarcastic, anything!
March 5, 2007
The Rangers hit the ice again for practice tonight and while I could guess the things they'll be working on I won't spell them out here because I know our friends in Windsor are listening. On the other hand, Riverside is obviously well coached and those gentlemen know exactly what Oakville did better on Sunday than they did Saturday.
The nature of the Oakville-Riverside series (first team to six points) guarantees there will be two games in Oakville next weekend, and maybe three. Friday night at 8p at River Oaks, and Saturday afternoon at 3p at Oakville. For pictures from game two, click here.
In the other semi-final, Quite West (they eliminated Cobourg) is up 2 game to none on Stouffville.
- - -
Meanwhile, back in Tri-County, Burlington leads the Tri-County playoffs with a 3-0-0 record, followed by Ancaster at 3-1-0, Brampton 2-0-0, and Orangeville 1-1-1. The biggest news would appear to be that Woolwich beat Hespeler 5-4 to notch their fourth Tri County win in 35 regular season and playoff games.
March 4, 2007
Game two of the OMHA minor bantam semi-final went to overtime and ended in a 1-1 tie. The rule is first team to six points -- Riverside has three, Oakville one. It was a great hockey -- you aren't likely to see a better one actually.
More details tomorrow. We're all tired, one of us is sore, and there's laundry to be done.
Oakville was a different team today. Both teams competed hard and have lots to be proud of. Oakville had the edge in shots 37-28. We had a goal called back in the third because of a crease violation. Much nashing of teeth followed.
Thanks to the Riverside folks for making us feel at home. We enjoyed all those cheers of "Go Rangers!!"
A granddad of one of the Riverside kids emailed us some very nice photos, which I will add to the Rangers site tomorrow. In the meantime, here's one of his great action shots from Sunday's game:
March 4, 2007
Here's the view from our hotel window in Windsor -- it's actually a lovely hotel, and I bet some of the rooms have great views. Ours just happens to be of the world headquarters of Spartan Sling Manufacturing Inc. I never knew they were sharing space with Myers Towing.
March 4, 2007
The minor bantam A Rangers lost a 4-2 opening-game decision last night to Riverside, a win that was well deserved by the home side; a decision I think I can say was something less than Oakville's best effort. If one were to make excuses the easy culprit would be sluggish legs from a long ride down during the afternoon. But let's not make excuses -- they won, Oakville lost and it will require a better effort this afternoon in game two to keep the Ranger season from being pushed to the brink in this best-of-five series.
Our guys were barely OK through two periods, trailing 4-1 at that point. Oakville owned the third period, outshooting Riverside 7-2, but by that time Riverside was playing like a team with a three-goal lead and the outcome was really never much in doubt.
Having said that, I think there are adjustments that can (and will) be made to make a better effort today.
I have to say a word about the hospitality of the Riverside parents and coaches. Wonderful, friendly, welcoming folks -- not that any of us would have expected anything other. But they were generous in their offers of directions, places to eat or hang out and generally conducted themselves in a manner that would make their association proud.
About the only inhospitable thing they did was beat us, and I have no problem with that!
Sometimes at these types of things the parents don't speak or mingle, but rather eye each other suspiciously from afar, leaning against arena walls like kids at a junior high dance. We're glad it's otherwise and look forward to returning the courtesies next weekend.
- - -
After the game we went out to dinner, as a team. Having had given the restaurant (which purports to specialize in the entertaining of young people -- arcade games, pool tables, big screen TVs, etc.) more than 24 hours notice of our reservation for 35, you might have thought they'd have planned for it. You'd have been wrong.
We had one server, until we complained, then we had two.
I could go on and on but there's little to be gained. Suffice to say it took 106 minutes from when I ordered a Caesar salad and a burger for it to arrive. And among adults, my food was among the first served. Three monkeys with trays and crayons could have done a better job. It took more than 50 minutes for them to get around to bringing the drink order.
We were hungry and tired and nerves frayed over the course of more than a hour and a half of sitting around. The 10p curfew was pushed back till 11p because by 10p, no one had eaten.
Anyway, enough. We're putting that lamentable experience aside and looking forward to a jaunt across the river to score some crack, watch gang violence, and shop at Target.
The good face of Windsor will be on display once again for game two this afternoon, and in the shadow of the skyscrapers of Hockeytown, the Oakville Rangers will be fed, watered and ready.
- - -
March 3, 2007
My Eagles lost a 2-0 nail biter today to a better team, but to a man, they played very, very well. They came out and competed hard from the opening faceoff. We had a goal that was in and not counted -- the ref just missed the call. That's hockey, and it would have made the game 1-1 at that point. No matter. We played hard, the other guys won and we'll work hard again next week.
- - -
We're in Windsor now, having made the glorious journey in very good time under windy but mostly clear conditions. Snow lake snow here and there, but nothing serious. Geographically there's really not much to commend Windsor to others. Flat and non-descript, the fields around the city are bare and brown -- it's so flat, a friend from here told me, you can watch your dog run away from home for two days. Game time is still two hours away. I'll pop back later with a score.
- - -
A couple of days ago I mused loudly in this space about what a sad commentary it is that the Canadian gasoline supply chain is so fragile that one refinery fire and short rail strike could plunge Ontario's gasoline supply into chaos. From the email I received, others agreed. And in today's Globe and Mail, a pretty good review of the how's and why's of this set of circumstances. You can read it here.
Further, it you'd like to read the Oakville Beaver's take on the supply challenges in our town, go here. Fully one third of the gas retailers in Oakville are now closed. Given the billions of dollars made off Canadians by oil companies from resources that frankly belong to Canadians, it's a pathetic state of affairs. Canadians are still waiting for industry and political leadership on this one.
March 2, 2007
I had to do a little loop around Oakville today. The gas woes aren't abating. Six of 10 stations I passed were closed.
Esso at Third Line and Upper Middle -- open
Esso at Third Line and Speers -- closed
PetroCanada at North Service and Third -- closed
PetroCanada at Morden and Speers -- closed
Canadian Tire at Fourth Line -- closed
PetroCanada at North Service and Dorval -- closed
Esso at North Service and Dorval -- closed
Esso at Dorval and Speers -- Open
Sunoco at Third Line and Speers -- Open
Shell at Third Line and Speers -- Open
March 2, 2007
OK OK. I was wrong. It WAS a real winter storm. It was a genuine mess on the streets of Oakville yesterday and it was more than a little challenge getting home. I left the office early and caught the 4:10p train, which usually takes about 25 minutes to get to Oakville. It took about an hour and 15 minutes and when we finally got to Oakville there was a massive crowd on the platform shivering in the sleet. They literally cheered when the doors opened and the sardine commuters poured out.
The cheering was short lived.
They had been told the train was heading for Toronto -- it wasn't. It was continuing west to Hamilton. And to make it worse, another train had just left Oakville minutes earlier -- the station announced THAT train was going west, so no one got on. Instead, it headed east for Toronto.
So, the cheering turned to anger pretty fast and as I headed for the parking lot the poor sod on the PA system was saying he was trying to get the Toronto bound train to come back. Those people may still be there for all I know.
When I got home -- and honestly, the drive -- while slick and slow -- wasn't bad, everyone behaved on the streets -- it took 10 minutes to get the car in the driveway. There was a lot of snow, and it was wet and heavy. Sort of like driving in chocolate-chip cookie dough.
After changing into my ski pants I went out and fired up the snow blower and Chris and I attacked the street. We did our driveway, the one next to us and two across the street, as well as a lot of sidewalks. I was headed for Fourth Line when I finally said enough and came in.
quick shower I
Finally got home at about 10:30p after dropping off Jake. Given that I had a 6a practice with Chris, that was a full day. No problem sleeping last night!
- - -
Pad and the Rangers will gather for a team meeting and chalk talk tonight in advance of travelling to Windsor tomorrow to open their OMHA semi final with Riverside Rangers. Chris has an early game tomorrow and then we'll hit the road.
March 1, 2007
So, at this early hour March has come in like a lamb but the forecast is for grim conditions later. I'll boldly predict this storm will have been over-billed. No snow day. No chaos. Rain, wind, and slush. Canada!
Wait and see!
- - -
Pad and Chris were supposed to have a school ski trip today but that was gassed last night in a flurry -- actually a blizzard -- of phone calls as administrators wisely figured the risk of driving home in freezing rain from Barrie was not worth it. The kids were bummed on two counts -- first, no ski day, and second, school wasn't cancelled and the sun was actually shining at 7:30a this morning.
It wasn't shining at 5a when I dragged Chris out of bed for our 6a practice -- my second 6a curtain call in three days for those of you keeping score at home. We had a pretty good turn out considering the early hour and the predictions of weather Armageddon, and I was in a particularly foul mood so all things considered, the morning was a success I guess.
And I'll be back at the rink tonight at 9p for the Rangers and their late-evening workout because . . . well, because that's what we all do.
- - -
Hey, have you tried to buy gasoline in Oakville recently? It's starting to feel something akin to shopping in a low ranking mid-1980s Soviet Bloc country. I keep reading how PetroCanada has closed 25 of more than 225 or so stations in Ontario, ditto for Esso, Shell starting to feel the pinch, etc.
Last night I went out in search of gasoline.
PetroCanada at North Service and Dorval. Closed.
Esso across the street. Closed.
Petro Canada at Speers and Morden. Closed.
Finally I settled into a line at the Esso at Speers and Dorval where people jockeyed for a spot at the pumps like it was a bread lineup in the 1930s. There were easily six to eight cars waiting at every pump.
I'm all in favour of supply and demand and free-market economics.
But . . .
Am I the only one who thinks that oil companies making billions and billions and billions in profit need to do a better job of being accountable on this matter? Gasoline is not an accessory in our economy. It is a necessity.
I understand a fire and a rail strike can create havoc with managing the supply chain. But really, this wasn't Hurricane Katrina or anything approaching it. If the supply chain is so fragile that the engine of Canada's economy -- namely, southern Ontario -- is faced with what is frankly a fuel supply crisis, what would it be like if there was a really big, medium or long-term problem? The answer would appear to be, "We'd be screwed."
We don't use a lot of gasoline in our house, but lots of people do, whether for work, or commuting, or whatever. They are being failed by oil producers who make billions of dollars off their patronage. It would appear to me those oil companies don't really have much of a Plan B -- Plan B doesn't have to replicate the status quo, but geez, shouldn't it be a little better than this?
Where's the industry leadership on this? Where's the political leadership? The silence is kind of deafening.
Does anyone else wonder why?
- - -
Speaking of supply chain management, I mentioned a while ago that I lost my snow shovel. I thought maybe I could wait it out till next winter but it keeps snowing. So after I finally get some gas in my car I went to Canadian Tire to buy a snow shovel. I went to the "seasonal" department.
It was Feb 28. If I wanted to buy a garden hose, tulip bulbs, a grass rake, a Roto-Tiller, a lawn sprinkler, a garden gnome, fertilizer, gardening gloves, or a weed whacker, I'd have been in good shape.
But, since our lawns and gardens are covered with a frozen mass that compares fairly well to the Columbia Ice Field, I won't be needing those things for another 10 or 12 weeks.
No, what I need in February is a snow shovel.
The slack-jawed youth helping me on this quest pointed out that they had shovels but some inventory was redirected to snowier climates because of the mild December and January. Yes, well, I replied, this is Canada and it's February and there's now lots and lots of snow and apparently there's going to be more and I need to be able to move some of it around.
It took some work, but they found me a shovel. It's a nice one, too. They have two left, if you are also in the market. (I considered buying the others and hoarding them, but I didn't want to profit off the misery of others. For more on this, read the annual reports of big oil companies.)
So, let it snow, baby. Let it snow.