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May 31, 2007

I know regular readers are waiting for me to say something -- anything -- about Anaheim leading Ottawa 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals.

You might not know this, but I don't care for the Senators, but I can respect some of the things they have done.

But, my pre-series analysis -- at least for the first two games -- proved to be pretty accurate. If not for Ray Emery, Ottawa would have lost both games by big numbers. Ottawa's big line has been shut down completely by the physical Ducks' defence. And the Ducks are getting contributions from all over the place.

Let me say again -- Ottawa is a very good team. Now is not the time for them to hit the panic button. But history is not on their side. Thirty times in NHL history a team has won for the first two games of the finals. Only once did that team not go on to win the championship. If I was an Ottawa fan, I'd be saying, "Well, someone has to be second to do it."

With home ice advantage, a fat cop singing O Canada, and more critical, the last change for line matching purposes, I expect the Sens to bounce back big in game three and win handily.

But I still don't think there will be much to cheer about in Ottawa when this is over.

- - -

Pad's debut as a ref in a rep game was uneventful last night. The Oakville Peewee 1 Hawks lost 10-5 to Orangeville, but considering they were down 5-0 after the first period and gave up two late goals, the was closer and more entertaining than you might think. Ben Neeb was the first star in goal for the Hawks.

- - -

John Maguire does a disturbingly good impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. To many hours spent watching the Terminator movies maybe?

- - -

There's a technical term for describing Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez. He's a dick.

Read about what this upstanding man of sterling character did last night in the Jays game. Completely and utterly classless.


May 30, 2007

So, I come home from work the other night and Christopher is all jazzed up because he's taking his guitar to school the next day.

I think, well, this is very cool.

Is he playing for his class or something, I ask?

Nope -- he and a couple of other guys are doing a skit as an assignment and Chris is providing musical accompaniment.

Very nice, says I.

Which guitar are you taking? (We have a lot of guitars. For guitar players, guitars are like hockey sticks to hockey players. More is always better. Chris has an electric and an acoustic. Pad has two electrics and an acoustic. My retirement is heavily invested in McDonalds hockey cards and guitars.)

Anyway, Chris looks at me like I'm insane.

"Dad," he says. "The skit is about energy conservation. It would be pretty stupid to take an electric guitar."

Point taken.

- - -

Speaking of energy conservation, Pad will have to stop conserving his and get up off the sofa tonight and go to Glen Abbey Rec Centre, where's he's reffing his first rep game. Not sure if it's novice or peewee, but hopefully Maguire will be there to yell at encourage him.

Chris and I will be at his house league practice before that, sprinting from Kinoak to Glen Abbey to watch the man in black call the game at 8p.

Pad asks why I come to watch him ref.

"So I can yell at the people in the stands who yell at you!"

"Dad, don't you have something else to do?"

You wish, pal. You wish!


May 29, 2007

What a morning. I'm strictly talking about the weather. I'll warn you now, this entry is a total ramble.

There are some days -- rare, for sure -- that just seem to grab you by the lapels and shake you awake. A bright sun sitting high in what Laura and I in the very earliest days of our life together used to call "a vacation-blue sky" as we'd jump in the car and head off on a day trip or a drive in the country or a week off driving through New England.

It's easy to think in those days we were unencumbered by lacrosse tournaments and three-on-three hockey and rep tryouts and school parent council meetings. But that also wouldn't be true. Those things aren't encumbrances at all. They're the touchstones of this chapter of life, in the same way that in LBK (Life Before Kids) the touchstones included things like me playing golf at 6:30a every Saturday and Sunday while Laura slept ridiculously late and then we'd have a very silly dinner party with friends that went on and on and on.

If not for people calling to arrange car pools to practices or alert us to a time change, I'd have virtually no social interaction outside of working hours.

Anyway, some days a vacation-blue sky triggers memories of not just 20 years ago, but also 35 or 40 years ago.

Like fishing on a spring day.

When I was Chris's age, I fished and fished and fished. I'd fish in the rain and the sun. We'd catch perch mostly and on a really good day, trout. Sometimes we'd jig mud suckers from a railroad culvert and I assure you there was nothing "catch and release" about our habits. (I even took Laura fishing a few times. Seriously. The fish were never safer.)

As a kid, every now and then we'd hear about some older kid who walked up the tracks to the big culvert beyond Ham's Point and landed a Grayling -- these were a larger, land-locked salmon species and whether the name of the fish was correct, that's what everyone called them. To us, they were the white whales of our youth -- almost mythical because you knew you'd never catch one at the foot of the lake, which was pretty much the only place me and my friends were allowed to fish.

Fishing from the BIG culvert -- where legend had it you had to hide behind trees to tie your flies as the Grayling threw themselves at you -- was an expedition worthy of an assault on the north face of Everest, or so it seemed. Mostly, it was off limits because one had to walk three quarters of a kilometre of railroad to get there, and that was forbidden without a parent Sherpa.

In the little railroad community where I grew up, it was a ritual of spring to have grim-faced men from Canadian National Railroad speaking in funereal tones show up with an 8mm projector and show films on rail safety which inevitably ended up with Little Johnny losing an arm, a leg, or an eye. Just FYI, you'd lose your eye by throwing rocks at the train and having them ricochet back at you. Honestly,  it's a wonder I survived childhood at all, because the trains practically ran through our living room, although I don't recall ever feeling the urge to throw a rock at one.

I've talked about this before and I'm sure I will again. But I wonder sometimes what my kids will recall as adventurously romantic when they're my age. We program them into sports and activities because they're not allowed to run off unsupervised to a lake or into the woods or whatever. Less because we don't trust them -- we do -- than the cold fact that we don't trust what's out there. (Not to mention that having our kids out there competing and achieving validates us all as parents, right? Right? That's a topic for another day.)

Instead of sombre lectures from the gray-faced men of the CNR, our kids rehearse school lockdowns.

Anyway, as I ride the train into Toronto, I ask myself if I'd feel better about such things if I lived in Halifax or Ottawa or Big Pond but inevitably, the answer is no. No, those demons are a fact of life in child rearing wherever you are, and besides, my kids' have made their lives here, rich with interesting friends and families and things they like. Who am I to argue?

But if I live to be 100 -- and I won't -- every time I see a really blue sky I think of good things done, and good things yet to do. The list gets longer every day. And that's a good thing.


May 28, 2007

The bantam 2 Hawks under coach Mark Harper won the bronze medal Sunday at the provincial field lacrosse championships. Congratulations to all the members of the team.

Peewee 1 and Peewee 2 both lost in the semis and settled for 4th. Still, very good showings.

I had asked a loyal correspondent for a guest blog appearance to wax poetic on the performance of the teams I didn't see on the weekend, but he had to go to a rink. So, suffice to say Oakville was well represented, and a medal was brought home.

- - -

OK, about the NHL finals.

I know EVERYONE thinks Ottawa is going win.

Well, I've managed to set aside my distain for the Senators to take a cold, objective view of this one.

Anaheim finished the season with five more points than the Sens, playing in the tougher Western conference. So, let's not book  the parking lot at the Paladium Corel Centre Scotiabank Place just yet.

For example, it you were going to start a hockey team and you had to pick Ray Emery or J.S. Giguere as your goalie who would you take? Exactly. You'd take Giguere.

And if you were building a defence, would you take Chris Phillips and Wade Redden, or would you take Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger? Exactly. No disrespect to the Ottawa guys, who have played great thus far.

Now, if you were going to pick a go-to line, Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson get the big edge over the Ducks, who are more balanced offensively, but not nearly as dangerous or explosive.

The Ducks play a much more grinding, physical game than what the Sens have seen thus far in the playoffs, and they were relentless in taking the body against the Red Wings. Spezza et al haven't seen that sort of hockey yet. Will the wheel-and-shoot offence hold up in the face of the Ducks' tough D?

On the other hand, the Sens really are explosive and can blow open a game fast. And thus far, Emery has played great. If their top line continues to confound defences, and Emery plays well, the Sens will win.

But I'm betting on the Ducks -- they have more Canadians in their lineup than the Sens, and goaltending and tough defence trumps one hot line in playoff hockey, whether it's the NHL, minor atom house league or Ranger bantam rep . Defence wins.

Ducks in six.


May 27, 2007

Well, that was a bit of a disappointment.

The bantam 1 Hawks went 0-for-three Friday and Saturday at the provincial field lacrosse championships and as a result, they're done. No more field lacrosse. All three games were quite close but whatever snap or magic they had a week ago had moved on. Time to focus on box lacrosse now.

Their magic may have actually migrated over to the pee wee 1 team, which turned the stunning trick of beating Orangeville and Halton Hills in the same day.

It's tough to put that accomplishment in perspective for non-lacrosse readers, but those two teams are always near the top of the heap. So they will be back today for the medal round, as are the bantam 2 team and I think the midget 2, and possibly others.

But not us. We have a free Sunday and nothing planned.

- - -

Stanley Cup finals -- remember those? -- start tomorrow night. I'm not sure anyone cares. I will offer a prediction tomorrow. I've not yet made up my mind and I can't remember which teams are in the finals. I have to go look it up.


May 25, 2007

It has been an unusually busy week at work and at home and the weekend will be jam-packed too. I'm sure John M. will write to correct my facts here, but I think six of eight Oakville Hawks field lacrosse teams will be in action at the provincial championships in Kitchener starting this afternoon and through the weekend. I regret I won't be there today but hope to be around for the rest of it.

Pad and the bantam 1 squad were seeded number 1 from western Ontario and open tonight at 5p versus Oshawa, before taking on archrivals Orangeville tomorrow morning.

I can only speak with a small degree of authority on this, but there were a lot of people who thought the bantam 1 squad would have trouble competing in the "A" level. All that thinking, and all excuses, ended last weekend when they took down Orangeville. Hard work, a high level of fitness, and a hot goalie can take a team a long way.

Congratulations to all the Oakville teams that have made it to the provincials, and good luck this weekend. - - - -

Not only will I miss a field game tonight because of work, I also missed a box lacrosse game in Orangeville last night. A few weeks ago Pad and the bantam 1's played their first box game of the season against Orangeville and lost 11-0.

Last night -- in Orangeville -- they lost 6-4 with an empty net goal. The Hawks have stopped reading the scripts from other years seemed intent on pushing back hard against the strongest teams in Ontario.

I wish I could have been there.

- - -

I missed the game last night because I was attending the annual dinner of The Canadian Press, Canada's venerable independent news agency which also happens to be my employer. In now our 90th year of operation, CP grew out of a need to tell Canadians what was happening to our troops in the fields of France during the First World War. Since then, it has grown into Canada's only independent news agency and become the leading informer of Canadians in the real-time, digital news era. Ninety years after Vimy Ridge, we are the only Canadian news outlet to have been in Afghanistan since Canadians arrived there in 2002. It was appropriate on the occasion of the agency's 90th anniversary, our speaker last night was Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of defence staff -- our top soldier. What impressed me most about Hillier was that when he was asked, "What was the worst day you have had as CDS?" he didn't hesitate, and he corrected the question from "day" to "days" and he then recited, off the top of his head, the day and date under his watch when Canadians have died in the service of their country in Afghanistan. Sadly, there have been many.

And when my BlackBerry buzzed this morning with the news of another Canadian death in that country, I instantly thought of Hillier and how his list just got longer, as it surely will again in the weeks ahead.

Do not doubt for a second that the men and women of Canada's armed forces are working hard under enormously trying and difficult circumstances to improve the lives of people who have lived with war and tyranny for 30 years. They deserve our thanks, our respect, and our prayers for a safe, speedy, and successful conclusion to their assignment.

The people we send to Afghanistan to cover the war come back and tell moving stories of the people they meet, who come from a different culture but want nothing more than to make a living, see their children grow up safely and educated, and maybe watch them play soccer on a quiet evening.

I'll think of that this weekend in Kitchener.


May 24, 2007

It was tough to read the story about the boy shot to death in a Toronto school on Wednesday. It was horrible and you can read more about it here. Barely older than one of mine. It was tough to read this story.

Parenting, as readers here all know, is a lot of work with a lot of reward. Not work like digging ditches, convening a minor hockey division, or pretending to do yard work while your wife cleans the house. And not reward like buckets of gold coins, fancy cars, or cool vacations (but for future reference, I will accept any of these from my kids once they enter the real world.)

No, the work is more like delivering your kid to Kitchener on a Friday afternoon in May for a 5p field lacrosse game when one parent has a VERY ILL-CONCEIVED 3:30p Friday afternoon meeting that will run until at least 5p and ensure he will miss the game. Or work like trying to do Grade 5 math you've long since forgotten.

The reward is listening to your kid banter with his friends and teammates and understanding that in spite of you he's growing up and making friends and developing unique interests and making his own mark on the world.

The reward is coming home from a very long day at work and your kid waiting to show you the three track ribbons he won that day, or to show a good mark on a tough school assignment.

It's a cool thing to watch up close and I think until you've gone through it with a teenager -- as I am for the first time -- it's easy to lose sight of how tough the world is today for kids.

Their personalities take shape. Their choices have reward and consequences. They infuriate and inspire you between bouts of heart-melting thoughtfulness and forehead-slapping acts of self absorption.

I think it's normal for parents to hope their kids achieve a higher level of achievement -- however they may define it -- than we did.

I think as parents it's natural and normal to look around and try to take the measure of how your kids are doing. Are the grades high enough? Are their friends relatively normal, pleasant, well-mannered, and supportive? Is your kid a good friend to his buddies? Does he have lots of interests? Does he have a couple of interests that he wants to excel at? Does he fit in? Does he stand out? As a parent, am I doing all I can to help cultivate those interests? Am I helping him make good choices? Is he learning things from me, as well as his coaches, friends and teachers? When he worries, do I know what he's worrying about? Is he drinking my beer? As a parent, do I know who he respects and listens to?

Which brings me back to where I came in. It was awfully difficult to read the story about the boy killed in the Toronto school.

My point -- if I have one at all beyond saying that I cannot imagine what it must be like to go through what that family now faces -- is simply a reminder to take time to celebrate and support your kids.

I know it's trite and maudlin and cliche and a hundred other things.

And I'm not trying to sound preachy, but I'm sure I do. Yes, my kids do things that piss me off. But almost every day I watch my boys do things that make me proud, whether it's on a playing field, in a classroom, with a musical instrument, or at home in a quiet corner with a book.

I can't say with any certainty that they always get the recognition those deeds deserve. And every now and then something happens to remind me how lucky we are as parents to have these guys illuminating our life.

One of those reminders came yesterday. And it was a tough story to read.


May 23, 2007

I've been stuck in off-site meetings all day, and will be tomorrow, and the day after that. So, clever and entertaining things aren't really happening to me.

But thanks to the miracle of email, I can report that at the Halton board track meet today, Pad finished third in the 1500 and 800 meter races, and was on the 2nd place 4 X 100 team, while Ranger teammate Brody Langley won the 1500. Another teammate, Nick P., was part of the winning relay team. And another Ranger, Robert McLaren, jumped high enough to sail over his mom's head and he won the high jump.

Well done guys!

- - -

The Ducks will play the Sens in the Stanley Cup finals. You can't help but think that NBC is banging its corporate head against the wall somewhere with this dream matchup. Most Americans couldn't find Ottawa on the best day they ever had, and most Canadian don't want to find it.

They are both very good teams, but it's not a matchup the TV guys wanted to sell soap and beer. My prediction will come later.


May 21, 2007

While the rest of you were enjoying the weekend, a whole bunch of Oakville kids were off representing the town at the provincial field lacrosse qualifying tournament, and in many cases doing it in fine style.

Pad and the bantam 1 Hawks engineered a stunning upset of Orangeville at noon on Saturday, dumping the perennial powerhouse 14-9. Brennan Donville was the star of the game between the pipes for the Hawks, playing the best game I've seen him play. It was a dominating performance and he carried it over into the night game with Guelph (an 11-2) and the Sunday 8a start against St. Catharines (a 11-7 win.) A 3-and-0 weekend sends the bantam ones to the provincials next weekend in Kitchener, the first team from the west to qualify for the tournament. Six Nations won a spot later, by also beating Orangeville. Or as one dad put it, the team that helped invent lacrosse against the team that acts like it did.

The bantam 2 Hawks went 3-0 yesterday and looked well on their  way to qualifying as well, as were the midget 2 Hawks.

It was a colourful weekend -- I saw for the first time a spectator (an Orangeville mom) ejected from the game for verbally harassing an official, and one of the Guelph coaches challenged one of our coaches to a fight early in our game last night. After a quiet word from the referee, he barely opened his mouth for the rest of the game, which was probably a good thing for all concerned.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun with three return trips to Guelph but the driving was worth it. The heavy frost and temperature of 4 degrees this morning gave way to bright skies, melting frost and  . . . a temperature of 10 by the time the game ended. Unlike Sunday -- when shorts and sandals were the attire of the ill-advised -- we all dressed more warmly today.

Once I get all the photos in from the weekend, I'll post the brilliant one Rick Andersen got of an Orangeville kid trying to remove Pad's head. Fortunately, he failed, but it made for a great photo.

- - -

Sens advance to cup final. No comment.

- - -

Pad refereed Chris's house league lacrosse game on Saturday and I was behind the bench. We lost a close one, 8-6, and the ref did fine. I hardly at to hurl any abuse at him and only threw one water bottle.



May 18, 2007

I'm playing hooky from work today. I recommend it occasionally.

- - -

The bantam 1 Hawks won 11-10 over Brampton last night in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggests. But the Brampton guys kept grinding and made a game of it right till the end. Pad got his first box goal of the season, Tyler played like Tyler, Brian took no guff, and the Hawks are now 3-2 in box play.

The weekend ahead has a lot of lacrosse. House league with Chris tomorrow and a rare triangulation of family interests. Chris is playing, I'm coaching Chris, and . . . Pad is reffing the game. One bad call -- just one! -- and the water bottles and extra sticks and the ice bucket are all coming over the boards!!

Well, probably not. But that's what I'm telling him. He says if I open my mouth once, he'll toss me.

Then on Sunday and Monday the Hawks start into the provincial field qualifying tournament in Guelph. We're hoping there will be no truck fires on the 401 this weekend.

Speaking of which, everyone please drive carefully. Long weekend, lots of crazy people, etc.


May 17, 2007

Two Oakville lacrosse players have been selected for Team Ontario -- Jackson Hulbert, of the peewee 1 Hawks, and Tyler Albrecht of the bantam 1 Hawks. As far as anyone can recall, it's the first time any players from the Oakville association have made the Ontario teams, which will compete later this summer in the nationals.

These players are obviously talented athletes, but they are also great kids with great families. Last night at Glen Abbey their parents were beaming and well they should be. Success doesn't just happen and a firm, supportive guiding hand (not to mention chauffeur) doesn't hurt the chances either.

Their success is being celebrated by the entire Oakville Minor Lacrosse Association, which only a few short years ago was extremely challenged to say the least.

Thanks to the efforts and dedication of a broad group of people, lacrosse in Oakville is now thriving with more than 800 registered players. Rep teams in box and field are having good seasons at all levels, and the defending national junior B champions, the Oakville Buzz, are undefeated thus far in 2007.

Once again, all the best to Tyler and Jackson. Go Hawks!

- - -

Speaking of the Hawks, Pad and the bantam 1 squad lost to Halton Hills last night a week after engineering an upset over the heavily favored HH team. The final scored of 10-4 didn't really reflect the game -- it was 6-4 in the third period. But the better team won last night.

- - -

My Sens (hack, cough, choke) lost 3-2 to the Sabres last night. Maybe the jinx is finally kicking in. It will be interesting if the Sabres can manage to win the next one at home. The Sens might start feeling the collar get a little tight.

- - -

The Minor Oaks Hockey Association annual general meeting is a week from tonight, May 24, 7:30p at Town Hall on Trafalgar. I'd offer you my proxy but I understand all executive and board positions that were up for re-election or election have been filled by acclamation. Sadly, the popular Team Oakville autograph booth will not be set up at the AGM -- I have a work commitment that evening and my smarter, better half will be watching Hawks lacrosse. I expect a full report from my occasionally loyal army of spies correspondents.

- - -

I have an old Precor step machine I want to get rid of. When we finished our basement a few years ago, the ceiling was too low to use the thing (we replaced it with a treadmill). Anyway, it's in good shape, fully assembled and it's a very good piece of equipment -- hydraulic cylinders instead of the pulley system you see on lighter models. I'm giving it away. Email me here if you want it. You have to pick it up. No returns. 


May 16, 2007

The wind, lightning and rain last night meant meant field lacrosse practice was gassed, which was in fact a bit of good news on our street. Pad and a couple school mates on the Hawks' team had been at track and field all day and truth be told, they were fried.

Pad ran the 1500, 800 and 400, as well as doing the high jump, long jump, and triple jump. He enjoyed a very good day but you wouldn't have detected that in his disposition last night, which could charitably be described as ugly. And that was because he had to finish reading a book for school today. So instead of lounging around last night, he was reading. Reading. Reading.

For Pad, reading ranks just above self-performed appendectomy and just below garbage/recycling duty. It's not that he doesn't like to read, there are just a lot of more interesting and sometimes passive options. Like TV.

So, that got me to thinking.

There are lots of books in our house, the vast, vast majority of which are dragged in by Laura, an uber-reader who often has two or three books on the go. I tend to read books less -- not out of lack of interest, but lack of time. I read a lot of material related to work when I'm on the train, and when I'm home there's rarely (never) time to just sit and read.

Chris -- who incidentally finished third in his age group's 100-metre final yesterday -- loves to read. And Pad doesn't mind it, once he gets into a book. But if he has to read 60 or 70 pages in a night to finish an assignment, it becomes work and stops being fun.

Both my boys really like fact books -- like the NHL 2007 Almanac, or the Guinness Book of Records, that sort of thing. Chris will often pour over the NHL stats while eating breakfast and will point out between bites of toast that Wayne Gretzky won the Lady Byng Trophy four times.

As a public service to all parents of reluctant-reader boys, here's a link to a Times of London list of 160 must-read books for boys. An accompanying story explaining the list is here. It's an interesting list (the Guinness book is number five on the list) and you'll be sure to find something to appeal to lacrosse/hockey/soccer players of all ages. Given that it is a British list I suspect the content tilts European, but many titles are familiar and I'm sure most can be had via Chapters and Amazon online.

I'm told A Short History of Nearly Everything is particularly good.


May 15, 2007

Well, my start-cheering-for-the-Sens-because-they'll-start-to-lose strategy is really paying off! Yesiree, the Sabres have the Sens right where they want them, lulled into a false sense of security. I think I'll go check and see how my Bre-X stock is doing while waiting for Game 4.

Buffalo has been a big disappointment in this series while Ottawa is clearly not reading the email I'm sending them encouraging them to fold the franchise.

- - -

Roy MacGregor is a colleague and columnist with The Globe and Mail that I know from my years in Ottawa. He's as fine a person as you will find anywhere, and he has great insight. In today's column, he puts forth the notion that the Senators are slowly, grudgingly, becoming Canada's team. Roy is a great writer and nice guy but I think he's lived in Ottawa too long. For starters, I think it's pretty tough for Canadians to embrace anything with the word "Ottawa" in its name. But the column gamely draws possible parallels to the Flames of a few years ago, and the Oilers of last year. The difference being that those teams were underdogs from mid-market Canadian cities that Canadians related to because of their hard working, over-achieving, can-do ethic. As opposed to the Senators who are chronic under acheivers and are in, you know, Ottawa. (Ottawa is where your tax money goes. I'm pretty sure it's Daniel Alfredsson's fault. Seriously.) I think there's about as much chance of Canadian embracing the Sens as there is of Canadians dumping democracy and installing me as a benevolent dictator, touting free beer, free icetime, and other initiatives sure to be popular with the male half of the population. But come to think of it, let's not be hasty and rule anything out.

- - -

With HD service now restored we've quickly caught up with all the significant cultural developments in the world -- namely, the two latest episodes of The Sopranos. After several hours of meandering plot this season, the plot finally took a big, dramatic, jaw-dropping turn this week. The first time I've ever seen someone killed by the "pinch-the-nose" method, too. I'm going to buy the soundtrack for The Departed today. If you don't watch the show, none of this means anything. If you do watch the show, then you're nodding appreciatively at my wit and insight and probably thinking maybe Canada needs a benevolent dictator. Or maybe just a different benevolent dictator, depending on your view of the world.

- - -

The other show we watch regularly is 24. And this one is starting to strain even the tiny shred of credibility that comes with American network television. Jack Bauer is a cartoon character now. But it would be cool to have the president of the United States on my speed dial, if for no other reason to get tips on the whole "benevolent dictator" groundswell. (See the 2000 U.S. presidential election for more info.)

- - -

I wore my iPod last night while watching the bantam 1 Hawks lacrosse practice, after watching Chris play three-on-three hockey, after rushing home for lacrosse and hockey. If you listen to Andy Curran's version of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" (turned up really, really loud) from the CD Borrowed Tunes, the team almost looked cool practicing. But as soon as the song ended they returned to looking like 13 and 14 year old boys smacking each other with sticks.


May 14, 2007

So, mid-morning Sunday, Pad and I are driving back from the 8a game in Fergus. Just before Milton we passed a tractor-trailer on the side of the road with black smoke flowing from the cab. It wasn't till we got past it and I could see in the rear view mirror the six-foot flames leaping out from under the hood. There was a cop on scene and we didn't think anything more of it. Truck fire on the 401. It happens.

Fast forward to 3p, when we were heading back to Fergus for the 5p game. What a mess. Apparently shortly after we drove by the truck, the entire rig was consumed by flames. There were explosions. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

But east-bound traffic was backed up to London.


That's a lot of backup. One lacrosse dad who left Fergus after us was stuck in traffic between Guelph Line and Milton for five hours.

We didn't even bother to look at the 401 on the way home. We took Highway 7 across to Acton and caught the 25 south from there.

I have to say Laura probably has had better Mother's Days. The present we bought for her didn't show up (it was an Internet order.) She got up at 5:15a on Sunday to make sure me and Pad got out the door to Fergus. We got home from Fergus too late and too tired to go out anywhere, so she made dinner. In summary, she acted like a mom. We owe her big, we always do. Sometime when she least expects it, she'll be ambushed with niceness.

- - -

The bantam 1 Hawks won the nightcap last evening, winning handily over London to improve to 3-1 in field play. Our long-pole players are really playing well, as is our goalie, who doesn't wear shin pads and took a couple of hard balls to the legs this weekend. Offence seems to be coming from more and more players, which I think is a good sign.

Provincial qualifiers start next weekend in Guelph. The long weekend. Doesn't matter. I love field lacrosse. I'm no authority on the game, but sitting in the sun in a lawn chair chatting with parents on a glorious spring afternoon while our children slash and hack away at other people's kids and receive the same in turn, what could be better?

- - -

Having been without my HD service since May 3, I've come to know the Cogeco cable people very well. Some of them are genuinely interested in helping. More of them, unforunately, are clearly idiots who have not a clue about customer service. The saga is too long to get into here, but since May 3 we've gone through three HD boxes, two service calls, and probably 75 calls to their help desk. We learned the cable signal to our house was fine, so it must be the box. We learned the signal to our house was weak, and a new line was strung to the house. We learned three times it must be the box. We learned swearing doesn't help.

Anyway, the service was working last night. Cogeco has not heard the last of me, though I'm sure they already wish they had.

Laura's favourite line from my conversation with the service desk Saturday night: "OK, here's what we're going to do, and when I say 'we' I mean 'you.'

Basically I said I'm not calling any more. You're going to call me. In 90 minutes, to check on the download and see what happens. I was quite adamant. I think I scared him. And he called, right on schedule. And overnight, the download seemed to work and the box is functional, for now.

But Cogeco Cable is now on the list, with the Ottawa Senators and some other people I won't name. It's a very special list.

If anyone out there knows a senior ranking member of Cogeco's executive team, email me here.

- - -

It's always bigger news when Canada fails to win a gold medal, but this hockey team succeeded. World champions for the third time in five years. The panic about the state of Canadian hockey is generally overstated and not really relevant to the way most of us connect with the game anyway. Sure, it's great that our millionaire hockey players are better than everyone else's millionaire hockey players. The kids get excited, we feel good about ourselves, blah blah blah.

I get more excited about how much fun Christopher has at three-on-three and how excited he is when he scores, or watching Pad's team work hard and succeed. I can't relate to millionaire athletes or MSLE. Cheering for the Leafs, as was noted recently on a radio program I listen to, is like cheering for the government. Or, in this case, the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund. Let's Go Teachers' Pensions!!!

What a farce.

Anyway, what was my point?

Oh yeah. Canada won a gold medal in hockey. Read about it here.


May 13, 2007

I'm back in Oakville, grabbing a few down moments to add some pictures to the bantam 1 Hawks' web site and tell you about their exploits.

The big news was a huge 3-2 win over Halton Hills, in Acton, on Thursday night. Yes, it was worth the drive. It was the first box loss for the 1993 Halton cohort in 49 games over three years. I wish I had been there, but there are some very spiffy photos of the action here. So, after the thrashing they endured to open the season, the Hawks are now 2-1 in box action in a very tough loop.

- - -

Meanwhile, the field season continues. And continues. And continues. Actually, I love watching the field games, but an 8a start both today and yesterday was cruel (given that the games were in Waterloo and Fergus) and we have to goes back to Fergus for a 5p game today.

Yesterday, they blew a lead in the 4th quarter and lost 9-8 to St Catharines, but they rallied in the afternoon and cruised to victory over Kitchener-Waterloo.

This morning was another comfortable win over Brampton. Pad scored his first field goal ever, and Brian Cole continued to fill the net with balls at a manic pace. In the 12-8 win over K-W on Saturday, Brian had 11 points -- five goals, six assists. He also ran for mayor of Waterloo and won (well, he would have if he had thought of it.)

- - -

Lots of jokes at the field this morning about Mother's Day, but the truth is for most of the moms on our team, there's nowhere else they'd rather be than watching the boys play field lacrosse. OK, maybe a spa. Or a beach with a book. Or asleep. They're a great bunch and to them and all moms, I hope you had a great day.


May 12, 2007

As I peck at the keyboard it's about 5:30a at Winnipeg International Airport, the Prairie sun just beginning to rake the dark sky with fingers of pink and blue. I was up at 4:30a to check out and bolt for the airport for the flight home, which will in turn immediately give way to frantic drive to Waterloo for -- yes -- a field lacrosse game, the back end of a Saturday double header for the bantam 1 Hawks that will be followed by two more tomorrow -- again at 8a and 5p -- on Mother's Day. In Fergus. Whoever makes the schedule for these things is a sadistic prick.

- - -

Last night I had to attend an industry function. Those who know me know I'm not a coffee drinker -- Diet Pepsi is my beverage of choice. So last night I cleverly put a small bottle of DP on ice in my hotel room so I'd have it to enjoy when I got to the airport. Except, you're not allowed to take liquids through security so my lovely, chilled bottle was tossed in the garbage before my eyes and I'll have to settle for Diet Coke from a vending machine. It's not the same, as any loyal Diet Pepsi drinker will tell you. My day is off to a great start.

- - -

Happy Mother's Day to moms everywhere, especially all the moms in my life -- my mom, my wife, my mother in law, my sisters, my sister in law, just to name a few. They all are terrific moms and if not for their truly selfless commitment to family, nothing would ever get done in the world. I could probably go on and on about all the great things my mother did for me over the years, including as recently as last week offering to come help out in Oakville during a frantic time this week on the family calendar. My mom being of a certain age and experience, this was a generous but taxing offer for her and we declined and insisted she stay put with her feet up.

Or I could go on about the number of hours Laura volunteers each year -- most weeks our living room looks like a warehouse, filled with school t-shirts (as it is now), hockey jerseys coming or going, or boxes of "stuff" from a Pampered Chef party someone had at our house for some cause or another. School. Hockey. Lacrosse. Whatever. She never stops, although I wish she would sometimes. She and others like her are remarkable. Somewhere among the lacrosse fields of Waterloo and Fergus, and the rinks of Glen Abbey, and the laundry room and the kitchen and the shower, we'll pause with hand on heart and mark Mother's Day 2007. Literally, even as I finish writing this, slightly past 5:30a, I just got an email from her saying she and the boys have hit the road for Waterloo and game one of the double header, like a bunch of other moms all over southwestern Ontario this May morning.

Happy Mother's Day.

Is there Diet Pepsi in the fridge?


May 10, 2007

Conference finals start tonight, but I'm still in Winnipeg working hard to keep democracy flowing and Canada free and all that yada yada.

Pad and the Hawks are hoping it's worth the drive to Acton tonight where they play Halton Hills, a lacrosse team which is, by reputation early in the box lacrosse season, significantly better than the Orangeville squad that slapped them around last Thursday night.

We're hoping for the best.


May 10, 2007

One of the companies we do business with threw a huge bash at a Winnipeg casino last night -- great party, great entertainment, etc etc.

On the way out, a buddy of mine decides to slide $5 into a slot machine. You get five pulls -- a buck a throw.

On the first pull he wins $1200. On the last pull, he wins $5. So, he nets $1200.

He took  the money in $100 bills, and we walked out and went back to the hotel.

We each bought a bottle of diet Coke in the lobby. I paid.

Then we called it a night. Party on!

- - -

Bantam 1 Hawks beat Brampton 9-7 in Brampton tonight. Way to go guys. Sorry I missed it.


May 9, 2007

Greetings from sunny Winnipeg where it's 33, dry and smog free. Out here on business so blogging hasn't been what it should be.

To get right down to business, I was an awful 2-2 in the predictions for the conference semi finals, so let's try to redeem things a bit.

Eastern final: Everyone knows I hate the Sens. But they keep winning anyway, mostly because they're playing great. I've cheered for the Leafs all my life and they haven't won a Cup in 40 years. So . . . I'm going to cheer for the Sens. Sens over the Sabres in seven. Let's see if my jinx is transferable.

In the West, I've been predicting the Ducks would go all the way but I'm changing now to support the Wings. I think the Wings have something special going on. And as much as I think Hasek is a looney, he's playing great. And Chris Chelios is an inspiration to all of us who still think that there's a chance the phone will ring and someone is going to offer us a shot at the big time. Chelios is 45 and trains by riding an exercise bike. In the sauna. AFTER the game. And he puts ice over the thermostat to drive up the temperature. Players half his age run in the other direction when they see him dragging his bike into the sauna. Wings in seven.

- - -

Pad ran in the Halton relays yesterday, the 4X100 and 4X400. They didn't medal, but they were Top-10 in a competition that had about 40 schools. Reliable sources tell me bantam Ranger rear guard Robert (Robbie) McLaren was the star of the show for Abbey Lane PS, chewing up track like a roto-tiller to make up lost ground. We'll be looking for that speed on the end-to-end rushes in September!

- - -

Bantam 1 Hawks are off to Brampton tonight and obviously I'm missing this one -- the Winnipeg-Brampton commute is too much for me. I'm also missing Chris's Shamrocks' practice. Dad of the year, that's me.


May 6, 2007

It's late in the evening on Sunday and I'm only now thawing out from a chilly but sunny day in Guelph. The bantam 1 Hawks managed a split in their 2007 field lacrosse debut, losing to Six Nations 11-6 in the dreaded 8a game, but bouncing back with a thorough 12-8 win over Hamilton at noon.

It was windy and a bit raw and parents were for the most part horribly underdressed for the day, especially the brave soul in shorts (no, not me). The team doctor had fuzzy gloves and a hood and looked ready to summit Everest at any moment, but the rest of us shivered the morning away with jokes about our own stupidity.

I thought the boys acquitted themselves well on the field and are showing signs that they can be competitive in the field game. Lots of strong individual performances -- Sam, Tyler, Brennan, Adam, Alex, and Will to name a few, but there were others for sure.

They looked sharp in the new jerseys, too. sort of Notre Dame like. Here's Will G. setting up a break out.

Even the new guys did their bit. Nothing wrong with a split.

- - -

Meanwhile, the peewee 1 Hawks, with one of the loudest, most sun-burned fans in Ontario, have won their first two box AND first two field games. Could we have a contender on our hands? Anyway, a great start for the PW1 guys. Way to go.


May 5, 2007

Chris's lacrosse team, which opened their season on the wrong end of a lopsided score, tied last week, and today won 10-5. That's better! Maybe some of that will rub off on big brother and his Hawk teammates tomorrow in Guelph!

- - -

I'm starting to think Chris will be a riverboat gambler. His runaway win in the minor bantam A Ranger hockey pool is well known to regular readers.

Today was Kentucky Derby day. The last couple of years, the four of us have gathered to watch the race and each of us -- more or less blind to the intricacies of horse racing -- pick a horse to cheer for in the race.

Chris picked Street Sense, which was 19th in the 20-horse field about a quarter of the way through the race. And of course, Street Sense made one of the most dramatic charges in the race's 133 year history and won.

Which means Chris won.

Just let me say that Chris is not a graceful winner. All he won was a bag of chips. But as he said, "I still won."


May 4, 2007

Well, lacrosse season began last night for Pad. Let me preface this by saying that Oakville fully expects to be on the weaker end of a four-team loop with bantams from Orangeville, Brampton and Halton Hills. Last night's 11-0 loss would indicate that expectation is accurate.

The boys were outgunned but never quit and our goalie stopped his weight in rubber balls. By the third period they seemed to be gathering a little more poise as a team and . . . . well, these things can take time, I guess. The boys trudged out of the dressing room afterwards and Pad got home and iced his knees, not looking happy at all.

But . . . a highlight of the night was that one of the kids from his hockey team came out to see the game, with his dad and little brother. When I told Pad they were there, his face lit up.

"Really?" Yes, really, they came out to support you and lord knows, you needed support. He laughed.

Our friends said they'd be back soon to see how much the boys have improved. Patrick promises the improvement will be large.

- - -

Chris has house league tomorrow, Pad refs a couple game and then we have an off night, which is good because Pad and the Hawks play Six Nations in Guelph on Sunday morning at 8a. Enjoy the weekend, everyone. We will.


May 3, 2007

I find it quite reassuring to know that now that our country has successfully dealt with every major and medium issue that confronts us, like the working poor, child poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, education funding, global warming, the price of gasoline, pollution, equalization, unemployment, under employment, corporate corruption, separatism, regional economic disparity, hate crimes, the war on terror, national security, Afghanistan, supporting an aging population, and just about ANYTHING else you can think of . . . that our elected leaders have time to worry about who Canada's captain is at the World Hockey Championships.

I mean, we really must have aced everything else.

The story continues to unfold here.


May 3, 2007

You may be aware that the Stanley Cup was taken to Afghanistan -- a little morale booster and photo prop for the Canadian men and women serving in that grim theatre. Today's editorial cartoon in the Globe and Mail is positively brilliant. Click here to see it. (If you read this after Thursday May 3, be sure to use the archive calendar on the right hand side to view the cartoon for today's edition.)

- - -

On a related item, a regular reader sends this link to video of the final game of the 1967 Stanley Cup final, which was 40 years ago yesterday. You have to actually look at the Globe and Mail cartoon to appreciate the irony of this. As I have said many times, it remains a goal of mine to see the Leafs win the Cup -- in colour.

- - -

Having lulled the Senators into a false sense of security, the Devils will soon pounce on their overconfident rivals and storm to victory. <Ahem.>

Actually, the Senators look pretty darn good right now and only a fool would be betting against them. That would be me.

- - -

Real, live lacrosse action tonight -- Pad and the rest of the bantam 1 Oakville Hawks vs. Orangeville, a perennial powerhouse. Tonight is box (indoor) lacrosse, Sunday in Guelph they play twice in field lacrosse action against Six Nations and Hamilton. Sunny weather is forecast, which is always better than rain and sleet. Don't laugh. It happens.


May 2, 2007

We had a busy night last evening and for once it didn't involve sports. Pad is in his school jazz band and they and bands from six other Halton schools performed in Oakville last night. The big guy even got to do a wailin' solo on the sax. There were lots of kids we knew -- including hockey players -- and I'm always astounded by how good these kids are. Kudos to the teachers.

 - - -

Pad also played guitar and a lot of the time he's playing Red Hot Chili Peppers or something with a lot of electric guitar. The other night I was working at home and he picked up my acoustic guitar and played -- pretty much note perfect -- Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive. I was impressed, but hey, he's my kid and my kids always impress me. Except when they forget their hockey or lacrosse equipment. Then their Laura's kids.

- - -

Incredibly, box lacrosse season opens for the Oakville bantam 1 Hawks tomorrow night at home vs. Orangeville at 8p.