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April 28, 2011

Heading for the airport shortly, so . . . very briefly:

-- Bruins win. Sorry Habs fans, but I hate to say I told you so.

-- I was six for eight on predictions in the first round, which is respectable. It gets tougher now.

-- Nashville over Vancouver in six.

-- San Jose over Detroit in seven.

-- Washington over Tampa Bay in six. (Back to top)

-- Boston over Philly in seven.

 

I'll be back. Wheels up to Vancouver shortly.

 

April 27, 2011

OK. So for the time being there are still two Canadian teams left in the NHL playoffs.

Frankly, it would have been a much more interesting story if Vancouver had managed to lose last night (just imagine all those people taking a one-way cab ride to the Lionís Gate Bridge), but we cynics canít always have our way.

Game seven for the Habs coming up.

If you know someone who is a Montreal fan, please torment them.

- - -

Are you getting up in the middle of the night to watch The Royal Wedding?

Me neither.

Iím sure theyíre lovely folk and in spite of the groomís epically dysfunctional family he seems to have turned out about as well as one could hope given his odd upbringing.

But when it comes to all things Royal, Iím a bit of a republican Iím afraid.

While I recognize that the Queen is Canadaís constitutional head of state, Iím not thrilled about it. To my mind, Canada is enough of a country to have its own head of state: home grown, landed immigrant, or whatever.

But giving the job to someone whose single qualification is that she was next in line by birth seems a tad arbitrary to me.

I oppose hereditary succession for my countryís head of state in the same way that I oppose hereditary succession for heart surgeons, auto mechanics, hockey coaches, gas station attendants, and just about anything else you can name. Just because my dad is a skilled machinist doesnít mean you want me within 100 metres of the lathe, okay?

Iíve always been a fan of a merit-based system in business and governance.

Call me crazy.

Donít get me wrong. I hold no ill will toward Her Majesty and her family. But I think making her son king, and his son king, and (you get the drift) based on heredity is, um, really bad policy.

So, owing to the vagaries of life, sport and business travel, I will presumably be fast asleep on the west coast when Will and Kate hitch up. I wish them well and a lovely blender is being Fedexíd to the palace with our best wishes.

But Iím taking a pass.

Ta!

- - -

For the record, itís not like I havenít had my fill of Kateís future inlaws.

Her future grandmother in law passed me in a motorcade in 1977 (or 1976, I forget) when I was on the golf course, competing in the Nova Scotia Junior Menís Golf Championship. It was a big open convertible. She waved. I waved back. It was magical. I hear she still talks about it.

Years later as a young reporter I covered Kateís late mother in law on her first trip to Canada as a married woman, when she and Charles came to Canada. I will summarize the visit, and my contribution, thusly:

Nothing much happened.

But Diana was young, new, and smokiní hot. Reporters came from around the world and they were occasionally fun to sport about with, especially the Aussies. Thatís a story for another time. I bought new shoes that gave me blisters. Thatís my recollection of Diana. That, and the fact that every male reporter covering the tour claimed she made eye contact with them. Only one of us was actually right.

The next royal to get in my grill was Andrew, Charlesí little brother, Willsí uncle. Etc etc.

It was 1985 and Andrew was still a prince then, and single, so he had not yet lined up at the registry of motor vehicles to change his name to the Duke of York. Or, York, Duke of.

In those days he was the family rock star, post Falklands War, Koo Stark, and all of that. There was no chance he would ever be king Ė his mom plans to live to be 125 and his older brother will likely do the same so Randy Andy was left to tour the colonies and do things like celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Canadian navy, which is how we came to have a conversation at a reception.

We spoke for a few minutes and it was perfectly banal which is the way the House of Windsor likes these things. I remember he was witty and short. Youíll have to wait for his autobiography for his insights on the House of Arnold, which needs new windows.

A couple of years later I was forced to cover Prince Edward, who is even further removed from the throne than Andrew but far, far more boring. Nice guy. More banal small talk. But no sense that you were conversing with a guy who dodged armed Exocet missiles in a helicopter during an actual war or consorted with porn stars. The guy was ruthlessly polite.

Pity.

The Queen herself was in Ottawa at least once while we were there, but I thankfully didnít have to be a part of the coverage team chronicling the exchange of bouquets with excited school girls.

I actually admire the Queenís resolute dedication to her lot in life, which honestly for all the privilege is not a job youíd want. But having said that, I was always happy to not have to be on a royal coverage team when the straws were drawn.

Anyway, that was my brush with greatness if youíre into that sort of thing.

I was going to try and find my old press passes but I never had time to look. If I find them on the weekend, Iíll post them, replete with photos of a much younger me, probably rolling my eyes because I had to cover a royal tour.

- - -

Not sure I will be updating here for the next couple of days, but weíll see what the schedule brings.

I think I will spend my lunch time looking for a Nashville jersey to wear Granville Market to scare the locals.

 

April 26, 2011

Panic.

Have you ever experienced a moment of sheer panic? Or, several moments perhaps?

Panic can take different forms.

Say for example youíre clearing brush and undergrowth from the side of your house on an otherwise lazy spring long weekend and you inadvertently do something (youíre not really sure what) to the natural gas regulator/meter on the side of your house and it starts making weird noises. It may or may not involved a fire axe. Itís no time to point fingers.

Or, say youíre the gold-medal winning Olympic goalie, generally regarded as, if not the finest hockey goalie in the league, then youíre at the very least one of them. And after enjoying the best NHL season in your teamís history and cruising through the first three games of the playoffs, you basically forget how to stop pucks. Or beachballs. Or possibly even your car. Perhaps you wish you had a fire axe.

What is worse in the 2nd case is that your panic triggers a wave of anxiety that sweeps most of western Canada and a fair part of the rest of the country, too. That circumstance is worse than a possible gas leak that really, worst case, might level two, maybe three houses. Tops. Probably involving Leaf fans, so, no great loss.

What is happening with Roberto Luongo and the Canucks isnít just a monumental collapse, although it is that, too. Itís the materialization of every fear, every insecurity in British Columbia for 40 years. And that is, that the Canucks will always find a way to screw things up.

Pad has to skate tonight but weíll be home in plenty of time to see how this ends. If I turn on the TV at 1030p or 11p tonight and there's a diesel locomotive in flames on the ice at Rogers Arena, I would not be in the least bit surprised.

Youíd pretty much have to be a riverboat gambler to bet on Vancouver.

And even if they win, this is a now a team with as fragile a state of being as is possible for a room full of pampered 20-something millionaires.

That Luongo was denied the start in game six and then had to play anyway because of an injury to his understudy is Shakespearian in drama. And naturally, Roberto gave up the winner in OT. If he had been the OT winner, all would have been forgiven.

Not any more. Not for one second.

All eyes Ė fairly, or not Ė will be on Luongo tonight in what is the biggest game of his life. Perhaps the 2nd biggest game in Canucks history (after the 7th game loss to the Rangers in the finals in 1994.)

Luongo HAS to be the starter. When you go to the prom, you dance with the guy who brung ya, as they say back in Windsor Junction.

Theyíre playing your song, Roberto. Time to dance.

- - -

The drama in Vancouver has sidelined the Montreal-Boston series which Iím now declaring, for all intents and purposes, to be over.

The Habs have lost three in a row, just like the Canucks (although their goalie and actually their entire team has been far, far better.)

I think the Habs go down tonight, too, rendering Canada without a home team in the playoffs.

- - -

As for that incident with the gas meter?

There was no explosion and no leak and never any danger of one, but your faithful hero didnít know that at the time so we (I) called Union Gas and they sent a helpful young lad around for a look-see.

Indeed, there was a problem with the regulator on the gas meter but no gas leak. Apparently my gentle, loving nudge from a 12-pound fire axe (we have aggressive weeds on that side of house) set something within the device to vibrating, a rather common occurrence I was told, regardless of whether axes, pruners, weed whackers, hedge trimmers and other implements of destruction are involved.

The bit about the fire axe is actually just there for comic effect. What set the regulator to vibrating was me extracting the trunk of a large weed wedged between the gas line and the house. (Note to all gardeners: when your weeds are big enough to have trunks, you have a problem.)

When all was said and done, I harvested enough weeds, vines, (trunks) and other annoying vegetation that I really didnít want crawling up my house and around, over and through my fence to fill seven lawn compost bags.

Neither of my healthy, strapping teenage sons raised a finger in support of their father in this effort, which shows they are smart, too.

My lovely bride did prepare a great meal and helpfully handed me the phone to call Union Gas. The Union Gas guy left us with a shiny new regulator.

To all of which I say, Happy Earth Day.

 

April 20, 2011

Junior A rookie camps are starting to open around the GTA.

Thereís no denying that these sessions where minor midget and midget graduates put themselves on show for junior coaches are a revenue opportunity for the hosting teams.

But itís also true they create genuine opportunities for kids who want to work hard and are looking for a new set of eyes to evaluate them.

We first went to one two years ago after Padís minor midget AA season in Oakville. Frustrated and fed up, he wanted out.

The politics (everywhere, not just Oakville) are such that midget players are not going to get the needed Permission to Skate paperwork to attend midget tryouts elsewhere. Your home centre owns you.

So, the only other option was to write a cheque and go to a junior camp and let it be known youíre there and hope a you catch someoneís eye.

And two years ago, Pad got banged around pretty good at his first foray into this world, but he was seen by fresh eyes and found a route out of Oakville.

Different camps take different forms. The routine at Padís is that the rookies do drills and scrimmage among themselves for 90 minutes. And then one of the rookie teams stays and scrimmages for an hour against a small squad of returning vets.

It gives the coaches a chance to see what the rookies can do at the higher pace (and the vets enjoy what they call ďfresh meat.Ē)

Pad got to skate as a vet last night so we were back at the rink and the 2011-12 season is on. I donít know about him but I was far more relaxed than I was two years ago when he was 15 facing the veterans.

He said the vets were instructed by the coaches specifically: no fighting, no punishing physical plays. No hurting the kids on Day 1.

I wish they had that rule two years ago!

- - -

It was after 11p last night when we got home last night. I went to bed fairly shortly thereafter, but I had lousy nightís rest and woke up again and again.

Every time I did it seemed to be raining harder than it was the last time.

Thunder. Lightning. Frogs banging against the windows.

No wonder I couldnít sleep.

- - -

I donít exercise enough. I try to make time but  . . . itís not easy. And sitting at a desk all day or moving from one meeting room to another only underlines why I should exercise more.

And that goes for you, too. (No, not you. You.)

Anyway, the New York Times offers advice from experts on the best exercise to do, if you only have time to do one.

Sadly, lifting a bottle of beer repeatedly until it gets lighter is not on the list.

Click here.

- - -

There has been more coverage in recent months and more overall attention paid to head shots in sports generally, and hockey specifically, than perhaps ever.

Well, almost ever. If you cast your mind back to 1905, youíll recall that 18 (yes, thatís correct) young men died playing college football and hundreds more were critically injured. President Teddy Roosevelt demanded changes to the game (notably the elimination of the flying wedge) that made it a lot safer to play. Letís all agree that 1905 was a worse year for head injuries in sport than 2011.

But, 2011 is bad enough, thanks, and if your kid had a concussion this year you'd agree.

The NHL has a fairly serious problem on its hands and seems to be moving at glacial speed to deal with it. Every time they seem to do something right (like Matt Cooke of the Penguins getting suspended for up to 17 games for a head hit) they do two things really dumb (like giving Tampaís Steve Downey and Pittsburghís Chris Kunitz one game each for recent head hits.)

Below is the video of Kunitz actually raising his elbow and leaning to make contact as he targets Simon Gagne in the head. Amazing. It's deliberate targeting of an opponent's head.

 

 

Oh wait. Make it three dumb things.

Raffe Torresí hit on Brent Seabrook of the Hawks, to me, fits the textbook definition of the blind-side hit that the NHL says it is cracking down on. Unless Seabrook has eyes in the side or back of his head (Iíve checked many photos, and he doesnít appear to) then this was a head shot from the blind side.

Look, hockey is a tough game and it's fast. NHL hockey is the toughest hockey. And playoff hockey means people are hitting to put you out of the game. I get all that.

But itís nothing but a total lack of respect for an opponent and the game if the guy youíre trying to put away doesnít see you coming.

Torres was suspended for the first two games of the Vancouver-Chicago series for a head shot on Oilersí rookie Jordan Eberle.

His punishment this time?

Nada. Nothing.

You take a look and decide for yourself.

 

Read more here and try to make sense of how the NHL polices head hits in the playoffs.

Maybe someone needs to die. Honestly, it feels that way.

I mean, if Sidney Crosby, the smile that illuminates the NHL's billion-dollar brand, gets a head shot that ends his season and there's not even a penalty called, what chance does Brent Seabrook have?

The truly scary thing is that people like me and you spend a great gob of our adult lives loving the game and encouraging our kids to play. And we watch the games on TV together and smart kids see what it takes to get ahead and they learn that you better be tough and hit hard and damn the consequences.

A coach told my kid once that the next time someone even grazes his goalie, that guy better be airborne when he hits the glass. The unspoken but clear "or else"  was, you sit.

While this is very good news to goalies everywhere and in fact is the way the game is played and policed by players, my point is that unless the NHL changes, nothing else in hockey at any level will change.

Those of us who love hockey love the big hit.

But we don't love seeing kids hurt -- kids who will never get more from hockey than the simple joy of playing now and in beer leagues later.

Something has to change and change has to come from the top.

 

April 18, 2011

There are many wonderful things about spring field lacrosse I miss.

I miss the drives in the early mornings when Pad and I would talk and listen to his music Ė he always got to pick the music.

I miss the people Ė the other parents and in particular four or five regulars who I/we always sat on a sideline with, trading banter and quietly (and good naturedly) making fun of each otherís kids when they screw up. (That may sound a little cruel, but it actually becomes fair game once they each annoying midget age.)

And I miss the game itself. Field lax is a great sport.

But, Iíll tell you what I donít miss.

I donít miss sitting on a sideline in April in Waterloo or St Catharineís or wherever in the pouring rain, driving sleet, and ripping wind.

Legions of lacrosse parents were subjected to all that and more on the opening weekend of field lacrosse and I feel for you. And yeah, for the record, Iíve done it.

Iím sure you will all emerge stronger and as better members of the community for bonding in support of your kids while risking hypothermia.

Thatís my story and Iím sticking to it.

Me? I woke at 6:30a on Sunday morning to the sound of sleet and freezing rain strafing the bedroom windows. I smiled, pulled up the covers a little higher and then went back to sleep for three more hours.

It was glorious.

Sorry.

- - -

Saturday morning the house league season started for box lacrosse. Once we navigated the parking lot, playing conditions inside Glen Abbey Rec Centre were warm and dry.

Chris and Pad reffed together and I stayed to watch for the first little while and all seemed in control. A parent spy later reported that they did a great job Ė with Chris looking not at all like a rookie and Pad taking time to help position the young players on the floor before faceoffs.

I had to run to National Sports before the games to get Chris an officialís whistle, because thereís nothing like waiting until the last minute to do these things.

On the way out of the store, a small munchkin was selling chocolate bars in support of some worthy cause or another.

It was pouring rain.

ďPlease buy a chocolate bar, mister?Ē

He said they were $3 each, two for $5, five for $10 and if I gave him $10 heíd give me one free.

So I gave the kid $10. He gave me six chocolate bars (that are not nut safe so we canít actually eat them in our house) and I walked away. Actually, it was raining so hard I ran. He looked like a drenched rat, though.

Once we got to Glen Abbey, the usual army of volunteers had things as well in hand as was possible.

The clock on the blue floor wasnít working properly, but a workaround was manufactured.

And a long-time volunteer watched the peanuts and tykes stream in, candidly admitting that he has spent so much time in midget he can no longer tell the difference between the young athletic therapy students who work the games as trainers, and the moms of the tykes and peanut players.

I assured him that I was there to help. Laura rolled her eyes and said it is going to be a long spring.

- - -

Later Saturday afternoon the rain was relentless so we settled down in front of the TV and watched the final episode of Mildred Pierce on HBO.

Thereís not a lot of good TV on anymore, but this was fairly well done and Iíd recommend it if you have the HBO package.

Depressing by times though and youíll be excused for wanting to murder Evan Rachel Wood.

- - -

After dinner, there was nothing else but hockey to watch. We flipped all over looking for something Ė anything.

Finally I found the original 1981 film, Arthur on MPIX Ė with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli.

Laura was sceptical that it wouldnít hold up very well Ė 30 years can date a movie pretty badly.

The verdict? Itís still a good film. So good that Laura fell asleep leaning against me on the sofa, and I drifted in and out while the rain kept falling outside.

Laura wanted me to put a survey on the blog asking people how many of you fell asleep on the sofa on Saturday or Sunday, induced to nap by bad weather and a cozy house.

I think itís safe to assume most of us did.

Except for those standing on a wet, freezing sideline, it really was that type of weekend.

- - -

Other weekend stuff:

Finished reading: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. (Five stars out of five. We love John Irving.)

Finished reading: Donít Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards, by PJ OíRourke (Three stars. A sarcastic look at the tenets of American democracy by my favourite satirist.)

Started reading: No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy. (Yeah I saw the film. But who doesnít enjoy a rollicking good yarn about a remorseless murdering drug dealer? I canít wait for the musical!)

Started reading: The Best Laid Plans, by Terry Fallis. (Laura wants me to read this Canadian political yarn and then write something better (not necessarily politics) to make us rich. Right. Iím on it. Anyone have any thoughts? Email me!)

 

April 15, 2011

Someone asked me today how busy my weekend will be.

It was someone with a family grown and moved on Ė close enough to pop in, but far away enough to be elsewhere. He likes to torment me with tales of weekend leisure when my winter weekends are spent in rinks.

This weekend actually is shaping up as quite civilized.

The latest instalment of the never-ending Harry Potter saga (Harry Potter and the Under-funded Pension from Hogwarts or something) comes out today. Chris is a big, big fan and has a posse of friends coming over after school to eat popcorn, pizza and watch the movie, probably more than once.

Pad is Ė what else? Ė skating, and then working out.

House league lacrosse season opens tomorrow.

Chris will make his official debut tomorrow as a lacrosse ref, working the floor for money on one end of Glen Abbey while his brother is on the other side.

But other than that, the only scheduled events are hockey and baseball games on TV, sleeping a little late on Saturday and waking to the sound of what is forecast to be torrential rain, comfortable in the knowledge that I can pull the covers up and just listen to it for a while with no trains to catch, or anything pressing to do.

I may drag Laura to Golftown Ė but given that she saved the flyer from the newspaper, perhaps she will be dragging me.

If she behaves, Iíll let her buy me lunch.

The din of electioneering will inch ever closer to all our doors, Iím sure.

But this weekend represents a bit of a lull in lifeís battles.

No fundraisers to dress up for, no hockey parties to attend.

A cold spring rain to weather for a day, but thatís OK, too.

I donít really have anything interesting today Ė just a little end-of-week optimism for a quiet weekend with family spent in the pursuit of nothing in particular.

Stay dry.

If youíre enduring tryouts, good luck with it.

Have a great weekend.

Hug the kids.

- - -

Oh -- one more thing.

Any bold teamoakville readers want to help out the Toronto Star with a new feature?

Click here.

 

April 14, 2011

I think Iím going to have to get a hobby.

Monday night . . . I spent time with my family.

Tuesday night . . .  I had to get Pad to a brief hockey team meeting and then I spent time with my family.

Last night . . . I spent time with Laura.

Tonight . . . Laura has a lacrosse meeting and then weíll hang out.

The absence of fields and rinks right now is a little weird.

I think sheíd like me to get a hobby, too.

- - -

Speaking of which . . .

When I was about Chrisís age I spent a summer working in the locker room at a golf club near Halifax. Basically I cleaned shoes and washed towels and did odd jobs around the clubhouse.

I only did it for one summer because I wanted to work on the grounds crew so I could be outside.

But the club house gig was fun in its own way.

I met a lot of the men I used to caddy for (this was the pre-golf cart era) and some of them were incredibly good to me over the years.

By the end of the summer of 1974 I could identify most of the men at the golf club simply by looking at their feet Ė street shoes or golf shoes, I polished them all and I knew everyone.

There were a few guys who hung out at the club pretty much 24-7. When I was a kid I found it remarkable how much effort these guys put into their golf games (and playing cards.) As an adult I now know that they were also pretty lousy dads because they were never home.

But of this crew, a few would always come in to the little shop I worked just to chat and tell dirty jokes, etc. Many of them had kids my age and I competed against their sons in hockey or high school basketball or track or whatever. So there was always stuff to talk about.

One day I asked one of these guys about the amount of time he spent playing golf and whether his wife played. I remember his answer vividly:

ďNo, my wife doesnít play and I donít encourage it.Ē

His reply set off gales of laughter from others in the locker room who over heard the exchange and chortles to the effect of ďdonít worry kid. Youíll understand soon enough.Ē

I wasnít a Rhodes Scholar but I also didnít need to wait 30 years to get the joke. They simply preferred being on a golf course to being at home and mowing the lawn.

I prefer being on a golf course occasionally. But I prefer the company of my family Ė and seeing all the things kids do as they grow up Ė more than I prefer missing those things. I learned that from my dad, who didnít miss much of my unremarkable sporting life as a teen, though Iím sure there were days he wished he was somewhere else.

Fast forward to married life.

When we met, Laura knew she was getting involved with a golfer but my golfing habits suited her just fine. I played every Saturday and Sunday morning, teeing off usually between 6a and 7:30a. I played with the same three guys and the future wives/future wives were all friends.

By the time I would finish playing, shower, eat lunch, sit around and tell lies about things, and eventually drive home, usually Laura was still asleep. She liked to sleep in back then.

So, it didnít matter to her if I was golfing, hiking, ice dancing, training with illegal militia, rum running, gardening, tending to our grow op, or anything else. As long as I left the house quietly, all was good.

Career encroached first on golf. And then kids. And as the kids got older and more active, I got older and less active Ė well, busier, but my activity was less self-interested. In other words, no more golf.

And now, weíre starting to see the wheel turn one more time.

Our slothful teens think nothing of sleeping until 1p. As a couple, weíve started doing things on weekends like going out to breakfast and/or lunch, and hanging out in the parking lot of Whole Foods and mocking people for how much they spent on romaine lettuce.

And my spouse, who once slept through my weekend golf, is now obliged to actually borrow a set of clubs once, maybe twice a year to play in corporate outings.

And she enjoys it.

So two weekends ago I went on eBay and I found a brand-new set of ladies clubs for sale for $50 (thatís not a typo). It included a bag, head covers, bag stand, everything. The shipping and customs duties pushed the transaction to $140, but I figure that was still better than any similar package I could get here.

Itís supposed to rain and be cold this weekend, so I doubt we will get to the range. But thereís always Golftown. Sheíll need a glove, right? And last night we talked about package green fee rates at local courses. With the boys in tow, weíre a self-contained foursome.

So yeah. I need a hobby I think.

Itís spring time and everything old (but me) is new again.

Iíll be the slow moving guy with the leggy blonde with the hot new clubs with the baby blue graphite shafts.

Golfing with my wife. Iíll report back when we actually attack a course together Ė I donít think weíve done that since July 1993, two months before Pad was born when we brought Jasper Golf Club in the Rockies to its knees.

But really. Who wouldaí figured?

The new sticks!

 

April 12, 2011

Itís time for the NHL playoffs Ė the longest, most gruelling tournament in the professional sports world, IMHO.

In Canada, everyone is talking hockey.

So much so, that surgeons in British Columbia have been gently reminded by their professional governing body to knock off the hockey talk during surgeries.

Seems like a good idea to me.

Read more here.

- - -

First round matchups and fearless predictions:

East:

Washington vs. New York Rangers: The Rangers limped into the playoffs. Washington has Ove. Caps win in five games.

Philadelphia vs Buffalo: Flyers in six. Ryan Miller is an all-world goalie, but the Sabres donít have a lot left after that.

Boston vs Montreal: The most hyped matchup of the first round. Personally, I donít think Montreal can match up to the Bruins physically, and Carey Price will be challenged to play as well as Tim Thomas. Bruins in six.

Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay: Even without Sidney Crosby, the Pens had a pretty respectable season. But this is a toothless version of the Pens, playing as they are with their captain and Evgeni Malkin. I think the Pens have slightly better defence and goaltending so Iíll pick them to make it through, but I say that without a lot of conviction. Pens in seven.

 

West:

Vancouver vs Chicago: Yeah, yeah. Everyone knows the Blackhawks have had the Canucksí number for the past two years. But guess what? This isnít the same Chicago team that won the Cup last spring. Ravaged by the salary-cap induced fire sale of talent, this team is a shell of its former self. And Vancouver is finally looking like they have something goiní on. Canucks in six.

San Jose vs. Los Angeles: OK Ė insert your San Jose playoff joke here. I like a lot of things about the Kings. Youth. Toughness. Speed. Upset special: Kings in seven games.

Detroit vs Phoenix: Detroit is unlikely to win the Cup this year, but they wonít lose in the first round. Wings in six.

Anaheim vs. Nashville: Anaheim likes their chances this spring. I like Nashville who ride a hot goalie into the playoffs. The flashing yellow light for the Preds is their attack, which doesnít match up well with the Ducks. But sometimes you have to follow a hunch. Nashville in seven.

- - -

Regarding the Leafs and the playoffs:

It occurs to me that from 1998-99 through the lockout season of 2004-05, the Leafs were respectable. Six years in a row in the playoffs, two semi-final appearances. The lockout years was the 7th decent season for the Leafs Ė they were undefeated!

Then, using the lockout year as the first year of a new seven-year run . . . the Leafs have not enjoyed a single playoff game. Not one in seven years.

OK. So, does any of this sound plausibly biblical?

Seven years of feast? Seven years of famine?

Hello? Class is in:

In the Bible, Joseph was the son of Jacob, and had a fairly dysfunction relationship with his brothers who didnít like that he was dadís pet. So, they beat him and left him for dead, the deciding at the last moment to sell him into slavery.

But Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams and quickly became favoured in the royal household as top slave. Joseph interpreted a bad dream for the king Ė he foresaw seven years of bumper crops for Egypt to be followed by seven years of famine. But the pharaoh of the day acted on Josephís prediction and saved excess grain (think: draft picks) from the good years to see the country through the bad years.

Everyone lived happily ever after. Joseph became president of hockey operations and grain and moved to Detroit.

So, Iím thinking that NEXT YEAR will start a new run of seven good years for the Leafs.

And honestly, could anyone come up with a plausible reason why my theory isnít as good as anyone elseís?

The next coach of the Leafs should be someone named Joseph.

Or Ramases.

- - -

Lauraís new golf clubs arrived and theyíre pretty cool for a cheap set of ladies clubs. Normally Iíd say ďnothing but the bestĒ for her, but since she uses them just once a year, I think this will suffice for now.

I told her when she can drop a three iron on the back tier from 220 out and stick it, Iíll spring for the Pings.

Iíd post a picture of the new sticks but I donít have one. Maybe if she reads this sheíll send one later.

- - -

School lunches have posed a challenge for families Ė and usually, moms Ė since schools were invented.

I grew up eating peanut butter sandwiches. Ironically, one of my kids is severely allergic to peanuts and we had to become advocates of peanut-safe schools.

Laura does a great job of preparing hearty lunches for the boys. Chris isnít too fussy. Padís lunch has to meet the following list of requirements:

a)      There has to be lots of it.

b)      Thatís it

Anyway, a school in Chicago has mandated an end to lunches from home, issuing a decree that every student has to pay $2.25 for its version of the nutritious lunch.

You can imagine how thatís going over.

Read more here.

- - -

Chances are you donít remember this, but 150 years ago today the US Civil War started.

History buffs and amateur war historians have studied the bloody conflict for decades, and to me the most remarkable thing about the war is that the country not only survived the conflict, but came out stronger.

More than 625,000 people died in the Civil War Ė more Americans than died in all the rest of the wars that country has fought combined.

Staggering.

The war eventually ended on another spring day, April 9, 1864. Five days later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Click here to see a photo gallery of images of the leaders of the war and photos from the battlefields.

 

April 11, 2011

Too busy to really do this today so this will be brief.

I spent great gobs of Saturday doing two things: watching the Masters and preparing a gourmet meal for Laura, who had to be out of town all day and wanted to come home and not cook.

If you want more details, youíll have to ask her the next time you see her.

All I will add is that it didnít involved a barbeque and one recipe was invented 100 per cent from scratch in my head, and it was deemed good enough to be served by her at a bantam hockey party the next day.

Am I awesome?

The only thing that could top that would be if her own, brand-new set of golf clubs arrived today from California.

Wait Ė is that the doorbell?

How do you spell awesome?

- - -

The Masters. What to say?

I think when this one was over, the crew had to take Jim Nantz out back and hose him off because it was the superlative-palooza on Sunday afternoon with every name imaginable taking a run at winning the thing.

For a brief time, I led for a couple of holes until I pulled my approach shot on 15. Itís my damn arthritic left knee. Anyway, if you blinked, you missed it.

Totally unheralded and unknown Charl (missing the E and S on the end of an otherwise sturdy name) Schwartzek birdied four holes in a row coming in to win the thing.

Tiger made a run.

Roy exploded, but did so with grace uncommon in one so young.

Adam Scott lost, which as one friend remarked is just as well, because no one with a putter that long should be allowed to win a Masters.

You donít need me to post a link. Use Google. There are many out there.

- - -

Between Pad skating in the afternoon and Chrisís teamís season-end party, I did not get to spend Sunday in the monk-like seclusion that is my preferred manner in watching the Masters.

But there was free food at the party and cold Corona, and these things balance out in life.

Coach Rick and his band of loyal bench staff deserve accolades and recognition for their work with the finest, friendliest group of bantam house leaguers I have ever known.

The boys were lucky to have such men guiding them and I mean that quite sincerely.

As I have said before here, coaching is a privilege, not a right. Coaching well is a gift, not a given.

And 15 year old boys need help with more than just the skills of the game, they need mentors to look to in life. The Jets got all that and more from Rick and his team.

Irene, the teamís hockey mom, was amazing. Thereís really no other word (and those who know me and the company I keep know that I have a very high standard against which to regard team hockey moms.)

Irene is elite. Among the best you will find anywhere and a strong case can be made for drafting her first in the midget house league draft next September and then filling in the team accordingly.

My only regret from bantam house league season was that I had to miss so many games. I hope minor midget will be kinder to me and our wonky schedule, because I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Iím grateful for the parental leadership Chris had on the team.

Iím thrilled at how well this group of young men enjoyed each otherís company on the ice and away from the rink, too.

Iím appreciative of the efforts of Brian and Adele, our convener and senior convener, who guided the division so ably and did their best to shield so many of us from the administrative stuff that can be soul destroying when those in the minor hockey bureaucracy attempt to fix what isnít broken.

Farewell to 2010-11.

Bring on summer.

See you at the rink.

 

April 8, 2011

Itís Masters weekend, which is a truer sign of spring than Maple Leafs hogging all the good tee times or me sitting in a lacrosse rink.

On the one hand, I agree with those who think watching golf on TV is akin to watching paint dry, womenís basketball or curling. Generally I use it as an excuse to nap in front of the TV.

But . . . The Masters is different. Itís a ritual of the change of seasons, itís a truly international event and golf is really hard.

The very good news is that having been the target of nasty memos from the HR department about my accumulated vacation time, back in January I booked off every PD day the kids have for the rest of the school year.

And lo and behold, a serendipitous confluence of happy circumstance in which today is, in fact, a PD day AND itís the Friday of Masters weekend.

I hear Jim Nantz whispering my name through the towering pines and magnolias.

Geezers like me will remember that, incredibly, it is 25 years ago that Jack Nicklaus won his 6th green jacket.

I remember that Sunday afternoon vividly. It was 1986 and I was alone in my apartment in Halifax watching his incredible run to the championship at the age of 46. Friends actually started calling me to see if I was watching.

Jack shot a 30 on the back nine at Augusta on the Sunday afternoon when it matters most. Try doing that sometime.

Because it's Masters weekend, I apologize now for anyone offended by my lack of interest in anything they have to say or do this weekend.

I will return to regular programming on Monday.

- - -

The Leaf season will limp to an end tomorrow night, hosting the Habs.

Montreal is assured a playoff spot although they have not been playing great.

The Leafs Ė until that visit to New Jersey Ė have been playing great and will miss the playoffs.

So, the potential for a decent game exists.

I can almost guarantee that Iíll miss the start of this one as I will be watching the end of the third round of the Masters!

- - -

Chris and the bantam Jets will convene one last get together on Sunday afternoon, navigating around the 767 parked in Coach Rickís driveway to hang out and have fun after pelting one another with paintballs in a cold wet field. Fun!

These kids were a great bunch to be around this winter Ė a true team that supported one another from the top of the lineup all the way through.

The parents will gather in the kitchen and tell lies. Fair warning: my attendance is in doubt due to the aforementioned Masters.

- - -

So, my schedule for the next three days looks like golf on TV, and . . . some other stuff.

- - -

Every now and then -- very rarely -- I come across something low-cost that I know will be a perfect gift for someone.

Yesterday was such a day.

I was poking around in an HMV and found two books of Chuck Norris jokes. Chris was practically born to consume Chuck Norris jokes.

The books a pulp stock -- ridiculously cheap. Just like the laughs inside.

Sample: Anything with Chuck Norris's signature is considered legal tender in Belgium.

There are 799 more of these waiting to make you groan!

- - -

Since itís the weekend, some silly videos.

The first is Bruce Lee playing table tennis. I can't say that I ever played much table tennis, but if I did I bet it would have looked a lot like this.

But note that heís not using a paddle Ė heís using numchucks. (How do you learn to do that? Why would you want to?)

 

- - -

The next one is also table tennis. This time, a sport-drink fuelled penguin. We had lots of pets when I grew up: dogs, cats, budgies, more dogs, more cats, fish, even a turtle I think. We never had a penguin. Maybe we should have.

Hey -- I thought this was funny. Just press play.

 

- - -

I have one more video for you -- sort of a "flash mob" meme done with the co-operation of an awful lot of people and Quebec network TVA. If you don't read French, the gist of it is, an awful lot of plastic bottles never get recycled and end up in the oceans, rivers and lakes, among other places. Do you part.

You have to be a little patient with this one, but it's worth it. It's only two minutes.

For the record, I get the same reaction on my street when I take the garbage out without being asked.

 

 

- - -

OK. That's it for me today. I'm getting the snow tires off the car. I'm going to the grocery store.

And I may take the garbage out without anyone asking me to -- we'll see how the day goes.

Enjoy you weekend. It's supposed to hit the mid-teens here tomorrow.

Drive safely.

Hug the kids.

 

April 6, 2011

I guess hockey season is officially over.

No Ė not because the Leafs are officially out of the playoffs (Iíll get to that in a minute), but because I spent the best part of two hours in a rink watching lacrosse last night.

Chris made his debut as an officially sanctioned lacrosse referee Ė albeit one in training mode.

He and two other rookie refs spent two hours officiating at Oakville Hawks novice and peewee rep tryouts Ė a training session. Two of them were on the floor at a time, rotating off every 15 minutes or so, then getting some feedback from the associationís referee in chief.

From where I sat Chris did a good job.

He got good advice from his mom when she dropped him off Ė blow the whistle HARD! Ė And he looked, acted and sounded like a guy acting with authority.

Sheís right, too. Thereís nothing worse than a ref who blows a whistle like heís trying to let someone nearby sleep.

The goal should be to burst eardrums.

- - -

Chris wonít actually be playing lacrosse this season Ė heís retired.

But one door closing is the sound of another one opening and heís looking forward to rugby with his high school team.

His older brother played high school rugby for a couple years, too, and really liked it. But the schedule conflicted with his hockey plans.

For now, Chris has no such issues and last weekend we set out in search of cleats.

Padís old cleats from rugby and field lacrosse were pretty much a perfect fit for his ďlittleĒ brother (a misnomer if ever there was one hung on a six foot one inch Grade nine student) but those boots are no longer made for walkiní.

I think those cleats last saw competition when the midget 1 Oakville Hawks won the bronze medal at the 2009 Ontario field lacrosse championships. When we dug them out on the weekend, Pad warned us that they were pretty beat up.

He was right.

National Sports had a decent selection and an appropriately cool pair of size-12 Adidas cleats were secured in exchange for a smile from Chris and an appropriate allocation of coin of the realm.

They are now covered in mud, drying out in the garage, which is the intended outcome for all new cleats.

Soggy field conditions have delayed his first taste of real competition. More later.

- - -

Some rather sobering news has emerged from last weekís CFL Playersí Association meeting in Las Vegas.

The average life expectancy for professional football players is 55 Ė and some insurance carriers peg it at 51.

Repeated hits to the head are found to contribute not only to shortened life spans, but also a rate of mild cognitive impairment Ė aka early onset Alzheimerís Ė that is five times that of the general population.

Read more here.

- - -

Oakville Blades host the Wellington Dukes tonight in game two of the OJHL league final. The Dukes took the opener 5-2 on Sunday.

- - -

In April 2004, Chris was just eight years old. His old brother was 11 Ė a house leaguer who had not yet played a single game of rep hockey (he now plays junior A.)

Which is to say, there is much water under the bridge since the last time the Leafs played a playoff game.

And to the surprise of absolutely no one, they wonít be playing one this year, either.

My boys can be easily excused Ė and so can you, for that matter Ė if they have no recollection of the heady days of the spring of í04.

Tiger Woods was the best golfer in the world back then.

George W. Bush was still in his FIRST term as president.

Pat Quinn was coach of the Leafs.

The Leafs finished that season with 103 points, 5th best in the league. In the first round of the playoffs they beat the Ottawa Senators in seven games before losing in six in the next round to the Flyers.

Perhaps we would have all enjoyed that spring a little more if someone had thought to tell us that the next NHL season would be cancelled entirely, and then the Leafs would miss the playoffs entirely for the next six seasons in a row after that.

That is, by a wide margin, the worst run of futility in team history. Even during Harold Ballardís heyday, the Leafs never missed the post season more than two consecutive years. (In fairness, it should be noted that the standard for qualifying for the playoffs was so low in those days that my peewee teams in Nova Scotia came close to making it.)

On the one hand, the 2010-11 Leafs battled valiantly to the end, and over two and half months, not some lame eight or 10 game spurt.

But whether this showing is what we can look forward to next season, or just a mirage fuelled by a hot goalie and the freedom that comes with nothiní left to lose (I feel a Kris Kristofferson song coming on!) we wonít know until next fall.

Read more here.

- - -

On many Sunday mornings Ė well, almost afternoon usually Ė Laura and I have usually been up for a long while. The boys, usually, have yet to make an appearance.

And one tried and true way to jar them from their teenage comas is when their mother throws on what country folk would call ďa feed of bacon.Ē

Not everyone eats, or even likes bacon. But everyone loves the smell of cooking bacon.

Having been blessed with a pair of healthy T-Rex level carnivores, I know of what I speak.

The bacon cooks slowly. Thereís rarely a rush on a Sunday morning in our house anymore. The days of clamour to get to a 7a hockey practice or make the drive to Guelph for a 10a field lacrosse game . . . well, as I have dutifully reported here before with melancholy, those days are gone for now from our house.

At least until such time that another generation follows along and I get to live long enough to be a codgerly geezer hauling a lawn chair to a distant, damp sideline to implore my legacy to break someoneís legs.

So, yes.

On Sundays, you will find bacon. And you will find sleepy-eyed teens arising around noon to walk into walls and each other in search of that miracle meat Ė always served with their motherís home-made pancakes. Sunday morning is a happy time.

And the preceding 229 words are a long way to say (as if exploding waistlines and rampant coronary disease are not evidence enough) that itís not just us.

If you look east to Halifax where I was born, you will find on the outskirts of that colourful port city the town of Bedford. Bedford is built around the shores of Bedford Basin, the most inland portion of Halifax habour. Itís really a very large, safe bay, famous in Canadiana as the staging area for the Allied convoys that crossed the Atlantic during the Second World War, delivering supplies to the beleaguered United Kingdom, and troops to the war effort.

Bedford is to Halifax what Oakville is to Toronto. Smaller. A little quaint. A little self-important. More prosperous and touch elite in some corners, relative to the surrounding bergs.

And in Bedford they also really enjoy their bacon.

Unfortunately, the folks in Bedford have not yet perfected disposing of all the bacon grease that comes with cooking the prized pork.

So much bacon fat has accumulated in the sewer pipes in a Bedford neighbourhood that it has started to cause some pretty significant problems Ė like flooded basements.

We Ė and by ďweĒ I mean ďLauraĒ Ė are careful to never dispose of bacon fat down the sink drain. And should she ever catch a household representative of the Y chromosome disposing of it in such a cowardly, dastardly, and possibly expensive manner, then  . . . well.

You can imagine what she might do.

She might do a lot of things.

But she might consider telling the guilty party to click here and learn a thing or two.

 

April 5, 2011

Today, a sermon on:

Rep tryouts.

Two words that -- depending on your age, experience, playing level, connections, money, attitude . . . and oh yeah, talent Ė can inspire, terrorize, or both.

Not that Iím a resident grey-beard or anything, but I get asked a lot of questions by younger, better looking parents about rep tryouts, rep hockey, when is the right time to jump on the rep hockey treadmill, and more.

The easy answer is: itís not a one-size-fits-all world.

And thatís true. On our tyke hockey team I can think of four or five kids who could play rep next year. The question posed by some of those parents to me was, should they try out now?

My worldly advice? It depends.

It depends on your familyís circumstances and how much you are willing to let hockey divide and conquer your household.

The only really useful piece of advice I can offer is, ask lots of questions.

The first lesson I learned about rep hockey once Pad made the lofty Ranger peewee AE team years ago was, well, this isnít so bad.

I found that much of the hysteria around travel and practices was overblown. Yes, itís more. But it was manageable.

But it did mean sacrifices Ė I couldnít always be at most things for both kids. So weekends often meant us running in different directions. And Pad missed things with his friends. And his weekend skiing/snowboarding fell away considerably.

Rep hockey costs more, too. It depends on how much fundraising your team does Ė some raise the entire team budget through sponsorships and/or annoying and alienating friends by inviting them to pub nights and silent auctions so you can have the honour of helping pay for their kidsí hockey assessment.

So for us, the team assessment usually ranged from $1500 to $2000 a year. (In the GTHL, at older age groups, assessments start at about $4,500 per player and go up to $9,000 or $10,000. Iím not kidding. Ask lots of questions.)

But when is the right time to make the leap? Or to try to make the leap? And should I go to the GTHL?

Hmmm.

Pad was cut a couple of times before he made it in Oakville. And I can honestly say very few kids are blessed with what was then his relentless focus on the positive. (Upon being cut in minor atom, he told me happily that ďthey want me to come back next year, dad!!Ē)

Other kids donít cope so well with being cut. And whether itís the Walk of Shame or a list of names posted on the wall, getting cut generally sucks.

Tears. Kicked garbage cans. Faces buried in hands. Ranting, spitting and muttering.

And thatís just the parents.

But kids have special wiring. They want to move up because of several factors (presented in reverse order of importance):

-- higher level of competition

-- more ice time and skating

-- peer recognition

-- a really cool Ranger jacket.

 

Our entry into the rep world was fun and easy. Nice coaches. Good parent group. And AE hockey is the lowest level of rep there is, so it was an easy transition.

And it was also the right time in terms of our kid and our household.

I know a few kids who have played rep from novice onward through midget. Thatís great for them. But I also know more kids who played rep in novice and by the time they were teenagers, they had enough.

Itís one thing to be playing a Sunday afternoon minor atom game in Hespeler. Itís quite another to be standing in Orangeville at 9p on a Monday night in January as a 16 year old.

But thatís all years down the road. What about now?

You have to know what makes your kid tick and decide if he/she is ready for the travel and commitment Ė and giving up stuff like friendsí birthday parties, skiing, etc. It happens.

You also have to ask yourself if your kid has a shot, and is he mentally ready to be cut. (Or if you are ready for that possibility. Honestly, it can be pretty traumatizing, depending on the kid.)

And then there are the politics.

Politics?

Yeah Ė things like parent coaches, sponsorís kids, and friends of the coaches. It happens. We were mostly lucky, but there are lots of horror stories out there.

Personally, we never really had a problem with parent coaches -- we left Oakville before our kid played AAA (and thereís a book in that odyssey some day). At AE, single A and AA, Pad was always coached by a parent of someone else on the team and treated very well.

The main reason that parent coaches are there is because finding non-parent coaches willing to be in Orangeville at 9p on a Monday night in January is hard.

But make no mistake Ė in some associations, at some levels, there are cliques. Two or three or four dads coaching together, year after year. Naturally their kids are on the team. And their kidsí friends sometimes get favoured consideration. And the sponsorsí kids. And so on.

And then thereís you.

So, like I said -- ask lots of questions.

In a perfect world, there would theoretically be no parent rep coaches. I think thatís a stupid thought for two reasons Ė first, itís not realistic, and second, a lot of parent coaches are excellent and Iím happy they coached my kid.

So, donít tar everyone with the same brush. But . . . ask lots of questions.

Realistically, there should be no parents on the bench at AAA bantam and up, and especially in minor midget and midget. Those are important years in terms of future opportunities and objective, fair coaching matters. And if thatís not achievable, then at least have the coach and his main assistant be non-parents.

MOHA does a pretty good job of this, better and better all the time.

If your kid has the tools for rep hockey, it can be a great ride. I know from experience.

But honestly, with the benefit of looking back at 13 years in MOHA, we had just as much (or more) fun in the house league system, too. It doesnít have to be all-or-nothing in either direction.

Parting thoughts:

If youíre new to tryouts, manage your kidís expectations so he/she isnít totally devastated when cut.

If the team has parent coaches, ask questions. (Did everyone get equal ice time last year, save for the last five minutes of close games? Is the coachís kid the QB of the powerplay and on the first PK unit? Do they even have PK units? If the answers are no, yes, yes and yes, thatís a flashing yellow light. Ask more questions.)

Understand the commitment, in terms of money and time Ė not just time at the rink, but time you wonít be spending with your other kid(s).

Ask yourself if another year honing skills in house league is really such a bad idea.

Because the biggest myth around rep hockey is that if you donít get in early, you never will.  Itís just not true. Some of the best minor midget and midget AAA players in town played house league until peewee.

So, take a breath. If your kid is that good this year, heíll be better next year and Brian Burke will still find him.

Tryouts and rep hockey can be a great experience and a lot of fun (well, not tryouts. Tryouts arenít really fun unless you are truly twisted.)

But there are great people in the system who will care about your kid and work hard to develop him as a player Ė just like in house league.

But just like anything else thatís new Ė ask lots of questions!!

 

 April 4, 2011

We had an unusually unproductive and lazy weekend so I have little to report.

The Blades won on Friday night to move to the OJHL finals, then lost Sunday night in Game 1 of that series against the very, very strong Wellington Dukes.

The Ranger midget AAA squad failed to qualify for a semi final game at the OHL tournament, but their season was remarkably successful just the same.

- - -

We threw caution to the wind and went shopping at a local noted natural and organic supermarket on Saturday.

I know, I know. I canít afford to shop there, but. We did.

The difference between it and, say, Sobeys or Metro, is thus.

  1. This place is natural and organic, pretty much 100 per cent. And the other guys arenít. And that costs more.
  2. So, given that, this place has a weaker selection of brand-name stuff we like. Like Diet Pepsi. You canít get Pepsi, or Coke for that matter, at this place.  If you want Diet Pepsi, go somewhere else. (We did.)
  3. Did I mention it costs more? A head of organic romaine lettuce was $4.88. I kid you not. Thatís almost enough to get a pair of skates sharpened.
  4. The store does smell amazing.
  5. A block of Balderson five-year old premium cheddar cheese Ė a block slightly larger than two decks of cards Ė was almost $18 (or, three skate sharpenings). At Sobeys (where we bought it later after leaving this place) was less than $12. We saved $6 (or, the price of a skate sharpening at Corbetts.)
  6. Donít even ask me about the price of meat. Really. Donít ask.
  7. This place doesnít actually put the full prices on lots of stuff. They tell you it costs $x.xx per 100 grams. Like the romaine lettuce, which was 88 cents per 100 grams. Laura looked at it and said, wow, 88 cents for a head of romaine at this time of year is a great price Ė and it was really good quality, too. And then I pointed out it wasnít for the whole head. Just the first 100 grams. If they said on the sign, ďRomaine Lettuce $4.88 a headĒ people like us would run screaming from the store.
  8. The quality of the stuff was terrific. First class. All of it. But Iím not sure Iíve mentioned it Ė it costs more.
  9. The service is amazing. The staff are everywhere and they know what theyíre doing. While looking at the cheeses, a young woman asked Laura if there was something she wanted to try. She didnít, but it was awful nice to be asked. And itís like that in pretty much every department and at the cash. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give them a 13 for service. At most supermarkets, you could walk in and start smacking shoppers with a shovel and it would be 15 minutes before anyone noticed. Or at least it feels like that sometimes when youíre standing at the meat counter feeling lonely.

 

In the end, I couldnít get my head around the prices. We spent less than $75 there before heading for Sobeys. But it was one hell of a head of lettuce, Iíll tell you that.

- - -

Two items of note from the local papers on the Leafs.

First, the prognosis for a playoff spot. Or, as they yell in the ER before applying the paddles: CLEAR!!!

As reported here months ago, the Leafs will not make the playoffs. And you can read a Globe analysis on why here.

The gist for those of you who like shortcuts: not only do they have to win their three remaining games, they have to hope the Rangers and Carolina LOSE their remaining games.

Itís one thing to need help. Itís another thing to need more help than, say, democracy in Somalia.

The other thing worth nothing is this story.

The gist of this one is: well, if you have a hot goalie it doesnít hurt for him to have a connection to the Creator. And Optimus Reim is big on his faith and a regular church goer (right here in Oakville, I am reliably informed). Read more here on James Reimerís faith. I think a goalie for the Leafs should have faith.

Lots of it!

- - -

If Teamoakville had t-shirts and coffee mugs to give away, Iíd be running a contest right now for the first reader to correctly identify the MOHA super fan in this photo.

Viewed in historical context of his three terrific sons, it is not a picture of MOHA Awards week action, it is a picture of one of the townís most devoted dads and fans, who can kick a Coleman cooler further than any lacrosse coach Iíve ever known.

Click here!

 

April 1, 2011

I have no pranks today, so relax. Happy April Foolís Day though, just the same.

- - -

Even though they are the classic example of too little, too late, you have to at the very least respect the Toronto Maple Leafs for trying.

Their remarkable and utterly hopeless and futile run at a playoff spot continued last night with a shootout win over Boston.

If only the memo about games in October, November and December counting just as much as the ones in February and March had been delivered back in training camp, the Leafs would likely be runaway winners of the Presidentís Trophy and sitting comfortably atop the Eastern Conference, arguing over which font to use when they inscribe their names on the Stanley Cup.

Maybe next year.

- - -

The Blue Jays season opener is tonight and they will have to do it without me. I may get to see some of the game later on TV, but Iím not counting on it.

As lamentable as professional sports teams are in Toronto Ė and Toronto probably has the worse performing major pro league teams in the world over the last eight or 10 years Ė the Blue Jays should still be an entertaining team to follow this season.

Pre-game story here.

- - -

Since itís Friday, Iíd like to have something clever or witty for you.

Sadly, I do not.

Itís been a long week. I wonít bore you with an accounting of it.

But Iím tired and cranky and a few other adjectives I wonít use.

Tonight Iím going out to a fundraiser in support of a youth club our boys frequent.

Iím not really sure what Saturday holds in store. Sunday has a campus tour for Pad and (surprise!!) hockey.

Depending on whether the Ranger AAA midgets can claw their way to a semi-final and win a spot in the Telus Cup national midget championship later this month, the Oakville minor hockey season could officially end this weekend.

If it does, as I have said before, there is a lot for the association to be proud of from top to bottom. Count Ďem: 12 OMHA championships, a new OMHA record. Three more teams that were OMHA finalists. Six Tri County Champions. Two Tri County Finalists.

And if it doesnít end this weekend, well, Go Rangers!

In the meantime, most of the parents will be kicking back and enjoying the break from practices and games and parkas. At least until three-on-three season starts next month.

Lacrosse tryouts for rep teams will begin seven minutes after the ice is out of the rinks. Soccer goes and goes and goes.

High school rugby, I am reliably informed, takes flight in the next week or so.

So, like the song says, to everything there is a season. (Who knew The Byrds were hockey parents?)

There has been no off season in our house. Pad was on the ice probably 25 days in March and in the gym more than that, preparing for the summer adventures that will hold new experiences for us all. Well, him and me (as driver and financier) at least.

Enjoy the start of the MOHA off season this weekend. I mean, really, really enjoy it.

Rep tryouts begin on April 11. Success and opportunity collide with angst and misery!

Some off season!

Enjoy the weekend. One week until the Masters.

Hug the kids!!

 

 

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