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Dec 30, 2011

I'm checking in to assure you that I haven't entirely checked out, but I haven't missed the blog much either.

I hope you all had a relaxing and fun Christmas, whatever form it took. I did.

I did something this week I've never done before -- I got up and went shopping on Boxing Day. I am not the world's most keen shopper at the best of times, and no, I wasn't overcome with material need.

But one of my kids was and for that reason and that reason alone I braved the madness.

Chris had spied a great deal on some high-end headphones at Future Shop and with some gift cards and Christmas cash burning a hole in his pocket, his motto was "the sooner, the better."

I told him that the store would be open at 6a if he was really, really keen. Fortunately, he looked at me like I was nuts and suggested we go at 9a. And we did.

Oddly we were not the only shoppers that morning from our house -- Pad was up much, much earlier to meet a friend in Burlington for a day at the mall. Good luck with that.

Chris and I arrived at the store just before 9a and while it was busy, it was hardly insane. We walked in, found the headphones we wanted (he got the last black pair; after that only purple was left) and then we went to the 50s Diner on Speers for breakfast. Later we popped by Mojo Music to pick up a guitar strap for his new Gibson Les Paul Jr., and that was it for Boxing Day.

Hot turkey sandwiches that evening and falling asleep on the couch were the order of the evening.

Sleeping late, eating and drinking good food, and some moderate time in the rinks has been the order of the week.

- - -

I've never been much on New Year's resolutions and I'm too old to start now. But I do intend to stop eating so much good food -- soon, I promise. There's no magic bullet for better health -- eat less, eat less junk and more healthy stuff, exercise more. I think that covers it.

Pass me that salad, please.

- - -

The next few days will feature more food, more junior hockey on TSN, an occasional Leaf game, and a Blades practice or three. Chris and his team may have some ice time. I hope to read a bit.

We'll still sleep late for a few more days and next week the long climb to spring begins.

As of this moment there is little exotic planned for New Year's Eve (at least that I know of) and that suits me just fine.

So, a hearty Happy New Year from the management and staff of Teamoakville.com. Thanks for dropping by sometimes, an a big thank you to those of you who sometimes write to say what you like or don't like.

We enjoy mail.

I'm going to end 2011 with a video of Chris and his band playing at the Abbey Park High School variety show on the last day of school before the holidays.

The group calls themselves Things and Stuff. Anyone who has ever met Chris will not be surprised to learn that he is the guy out front in the Santa hat, singing and playing lead guitar. His career as a vocalist was born of necessity -- the female member of the group either wasn't available or wasn't interested in singing in front of 400 students and Chris knew all the words, so he stepped up.

I've never heard of the band or the song they cover here (An Awful Lot of Running to Do by Chameleon Circuit) but I was nonetheless impressed that it sounded like music, that he was completely at ease at the mic, and that all the kids listening seemed to be supportive of the four kids performing.

Pretty cool.

Happy New Year. May 2012 be happy, healthy, and prosperous for you.

Stay safe, and hug the kids.

Just press play . . .

 

 

Dec 23, 2011

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

-- John Lennon

 

Indeed, it is Christmas. This will be the last entry before the big day -- Santa duties beckon.

One more hockey game to put behind us tonight and then some wrapping and a run to the grocery store, hopefully followed by genuine down time with Laura and the boys.

Every family has its traditions at this time of year and we're no different.

Since we have virtually no family in Ontario, it's just the four of us huddled at home. Tomorrow night we'll cook lobsters and munch seafood appetizers much the same way we have done every Christmas Eve since we got married. The boys will probably have steaks and we'll circulate between the kitchen and family room until time comes to sit in the dining room and dig in. Yes, I still read The Night Before Christmas.

Christmas morning is less of an early morning marathon than it used to be when Lego and Power Rangers and Rescue Heroes and other toys carpeted the landscape. The boys will sleep later and the gifts won't require assembly, and I miss that part a little. The Harry Potter Lego set with 978 pieces always gave me something to do for the rest of the day while Chris would hover over me asking how much longer it would be.

The boys and I will make fresh squeezed orange juice for Laura for Christmas morning, and we'll add some champagne to make it a little more festive while eating fresh jam-filled pastries. After the exchanging of gifts, we'll hit the phones and talk -- for a long time -- to parents and siblings back east.

There's a 20-pound turkey waiting to be cooked and Laura will work her magic on that in the afternoon and we'll eat by 7p or 8p, making sure that there's plenty of turkey left for the Boxing Day's hot sandwiches and fries. Home made pork pies, Nanaimo bars,  brownies and other treats will be passed around for dessert. And probably for breakfast the next day, too.

We've taken to joking that the difference between a Cape Breton Christmas breakfast and a Cape Breton Christmas lunch is that at lunch, you substitute wine for tea.

After Christmas dinner, I'll do the heavy lifting of the cleanup and then we'll hit the phones again. By 10p we'll sit in front of a movie that we've seen 100 times and Laura will fall asleep before the Griswolds pick out their tree.

It may seem boring if you think you already know how the next couple of days will play out, but it's not. Every year brings new memories.

I'll get to sleep in a bit finally. Chris and I will watch some movies and Pad may even join us. Laura will bake and fuss in the kitchen, which is her version of relaxing -- perhaps she'll get to read for a change. She's been so busy she hasn't picked up a book for more than 10 minutes in the last two months.

I hope whatever your family does to mark Christmas or whatever else you celebrate in your home, that you are surrounded by people who care enough to make old traditions feel new again.

- - -

For the second year in a row, the San Jose Sharks have assembled a festive "home shopping network" guide for fans. It features many of the team's big names like Thornton and Marleau and is pretty funny.

Jamie McGinn seems to get singled out for a lot of ribbing -- the sale features matching Jamie McGinn cabbage patch dolls and, get this, the Jamie McGinn game-worn princess suit, "never worn in the corners" and by getting one you too can be "the belle of the brawl."

The video is about eight minutes long, but there are some funny moments.

 

 

 

Chris will be out at a party tonight while Laura and I will be at the Blades game. They play Georgetown again and it promises to be a good one. If you're considering coming to a game, this would be good choice.

Pad's team held their Christmas party last night complete with Secret Santa gift exchange. The idea was to spend little and make it funny.

Pad is not, and never has been, a rah-rah guy in the room. Quiet, get the job done, take care of your teammates, take care of business.

But the team knows what he's about -- on and off the ice. He's regarded as being among the players most committed to fitness and he's a physical player. Very physical when required.

Below is his present from his Secret Santa, which was a home run with Pad and the team. They call him Arnuuulldd:

 

 

 - - -

Merry Christmas to all of you out there.

There will be lots of hockey for many of you -- the Richard Bell tournament will lurch into action on Dec 27 and kids from all over the world will be here.

Three cheers to those of you opening your homes and billeting kids -- the year we had three minor midgets from Finland stay with us remains one of the greatest family experiences we have enjoyed in Oakville, and that's really saying something.

Regardless, haul your butt to a rink and cheer on some kids. There will be good hockey.

You can find a schedule here -- it's a bit clunky but you're not just good looking, you're smart too and you will figure it out.

Also, members of the Oakville Blades will be around the rinks this week selling tickets for the Pink in the Rink lottery, with the goal of raising $25,000 for breast cancer research.

The boys will be happy to pose for pictures, sign autographs for kids, and take your money. Please welcome them warmly.

That's it for me. Stay safe and enjoy your family.

Hug the kids.

 

Dec 22, 2011

Spent another exciting evening in Georgetown watching the Raiders and Blades maul one another. The two teams appear headed for a playoff collision later in 2012 -- five meetings this year so far, four one-goal games and two went to OT.

The Raiders prevailed last night 2-1 but it was a barn burner, with the Blades failing to convert on a penalty shot in the last minute to tie the game.

The teams collide again tomorrow night at Sixteen Mile and there's no reason to expect the calibre of play and the ill will between the teams will change much.

- - -

I've taken some days off this week to shop, sleep, and shop. I also went shopping. The stores are getting busy and the inventories are slimming out. If you haven't started yet, you might want to consider it.

- - -

I received a bunch of emails in the last month from Oakville rep parents suffering from player assessment sticker shock. For reasons that none of them could completely articulate, the rep team assessments in Oakville nearly doubled in many cases over last year.

Ranger teams are assessed for extra costs they incur that house league kids don't -- like more games, more practice ice, more officials, two sets of jerseys, etc etc. Ice is the big cost.

One parent told me his son's team built a team budget in late summer/early fall based on last year's rep assessment, which was slightly more than $8500. This year, that cost is $16,000, give or take.

A non-scientific random sampling of rep parents resulted in similar stories.

The parents I spoke with say they were told the bulk of the added cost is additional ice time. But there are still folks scratching their heads.

It's been a few years since I had a kid in the Ranger program, but $8500 feels low to me. Maybe last year was an aberration of some kind? If anyone wants to illuminate the dark corners of my mind, email me.

As with everything, context matters.

Rep hockey in Oakville is still cheap compared to the GTHL -- at least at the AAA level.

Rep fees for top AAA teams in minor bantam, bantam and minor midget routinely hit $8000 to $10,000 PER PLAYER. Even in younger age groups, the fees hit astronomical pretty quickly.

We only ever played one year in the GTHL (AAA midget) and I think our cost was $5300.

No regrets for us, but your mileage may vary. Check local listings.

- - -

Not that the editorial committee at Teamoakville thinks she needs any enhancement, but we did find this one funny, and we're certain the Peel school teachers will too.

Jennifer Aniston, on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, trying on a vibrating bra.

I have no idea what the point is of a vibrating bra. After watching this, it would seem Jen-Jen (that's what we call her) and Ellen seem equally baffled. Jennifer is wearing more than just a neck tie. Sorry.

It's Christmas and there's nothing else to write about. Sue me.

 

 

Dec 21, 2011

The first day of winter. But now the days get longer again!

- - -

In a new family personal worst, we finally got the tree up and decorated last night. I was worried that other people on the street would picket the house if we didn't get things moving soon. Laura and Chris bought the thing on the weekend while I was in Huntsville with Pad.

Pad and I put it up on Monday afternoon. We have this funky tree stand that we never liked, but we tried it again and the tree was up in five minutes. No supporting fishing line to hold it or anything.

I told Pad that if his mother asked, it took us two hours of heavy work. Shhhh. It's a secret.

I put the lights on the tree yesterday afternoon after a morning of shopping, and then when Pad got home from Blades practice last night we decorated the sucker.

While we were waiting to get started, Laura was upstairs and Chris asked where she was. I said she would be down in a minute to order us all around and he didn't miss a beat: "That's a long family tradition, dad."

More running around today. And probably tomorrow. But we're getting there.

- - -

As part of my running around Tuesday I was at Canadian Tire buying a light timer to replace the nearly useless one I bought there two weeks ago.

While standing at the checkout, the woman on the cash was talking with a customer, railing about the abuse she endures all day from store patrons. And I have no doubt it was all accurate. People can be real pigs and sadly it's often folk in retail who get to feel the pointy end of that spear right between the eyes.

At the end of her rant, the young cashier said to the lady, "You get to figure out pretty quick which people were probably born in barns!"

I found that remark more than a little ironic and couldn't keep my mouth shut.

"You know, if it wasn't for a guy born in a barn, we probably wouldn't all be lined up at your cash today."

The lady customer turned and gave me the biggest smile. "That's right. Wouldn't hurt if we all remembered that!"

Funny world. I hope the young lady's day improved as it went on.

- - -

Off to Georgetown to watch the Blades on the road tonight. These teams always put on a great show and they'll do it all again on Friday at Sixteen Mile in the final game before Christmas.

Come on out and support the boys and see some good hockey.

For now, I have to run errands!

 

Dec 19, 2011

In a year of busy weekends, this one was the busiest. None of the participants had the energy to debate the point last night.

It all began late Friday afternoon. Laura was juggling driving assignments to get the snow tires on one of the cars while ensuring Patrick was fed and delivered to Sixteen Mile for 530p, and then she had to hit the road with Chris for the signature event of the night.

Chris and two buddies were attending their first club date, a show at the Opera House in Toronto featuring illScarlett and two other bands. By comparison, Christmas morning will be boring now for Chris.

Laura dropped the boys off just after 7p and lurked nearby to ensure they got in okay. Then she met a friend for dinner and shopping a few blocks away, remaining tightly tethered to the group by text messaging.

When she picked them up at 1145p, they were completely amped up from the excitement and the music.

illScarlett is a favourite of Chris's -- his cousin used to be the bass player until he recently left the band -- so his expectations were high. I asked Laura if the other boys knew the music -- she said the had the band on the stereo all the way in to Toronto and sang with gusto.

They reeked of beer and recreational pharmaceuticals -- it was an all-ages show, so while there was no beer consumed by the trio, they walked through plenty of it in the mosh pit. They all worried their parents would think they misbehaved but, we trust them.

Chris crowd surfed and dove from the stage and generally behaved like a teenager at a concert. He was tired and sweaty and he hung around after to talk with the band and when they found out he was Johnny's cousin he got hugs.

We may have created a monster, only time will tell. But he had a great time and everyone got home safe.

Meanwhile, up at Sixteen Mile the Blades were putting their OJHL-leading 14-game home-ice winning streak on the line vs. the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. I'll spare you the details, save for saying the home team won 4-0.

The best story of the night was that a number of MOHA novices were at the game, including two from our team. One of the kids stuck around and went in the dressing room after the game (the team routinely invites kids in after the game to meet the players) and after much prodding from his dad, summoned the courage to approach Patrick and tell him that he played for Patrick's dad.

Naturally Pad welcomed the conversation and young Cameron burst into the dressing room the next morning to regale me with stories of Pad and the Blades. He proudly showed the picture on his dad's cell phone of him and Patrick in the dressing room, smiling. (Important lesson in here for my kid too, about role models and kids.) Patrick is sort of a shy type and signing autographs still feels new to him. But he's getting the hang of it and Cameron's enthusiasm cracked him up.

Saturday morning the novices had a game on the big ice at River Oaks and skated to a solid 2-2 draw. The large surface seemed to confound the players on both teams a bit -- the angles are different on Sheet B and it's hard to explain why that is to eight year olds. Good game though.

By 430p, Pad and I were back in the car for the road trip to Aurora where the Blades were playing the always tough Tigers. Laura took a pass on the game to wrap presents and then represent the family at a neighbourhood party. I'm guessing people are starting to think she's single because the only place you'll ever see us together is Sixteen Mile.

The Blades lost 4-2 with an empty-net goal in a very tough, physical game. I drove Pad home, then went to the party for 25 seconds and got Laura, took her home, then went to Bronte and picked up Chris at another party and brought him home.

It was almost midnight and I was sorely in need of a beer. But given what Sunday had in store, I went to bed instead.

The Blades had a road game in Huntsville at 230p Sunday, which considering the turnaround time from a night road game in Aurora, is pretty brutal. The boys would not have been to bed much before 1230a or 1a, and then had to be back at Sixteen Mile by 915a for the bus north.

Parents don't travel on the bus (nor do we want to) so if you want to see the game you can pay $6 and watch it online or, you drive to Huntsville. In December. Alone.

I chose the latter. Laura had to stay behind because Chris had a 630p game, plus there was a lot Christmas-related things around the house that she wanted to do.

So I lit out for Huntsville at about 1045a, with my iPod tuned to play my entire Death Cab for Cutie collection (which is large) and a Diet Pepsi in the consol.

The prospect of driving to Huntsville and back in a day is a bit daunting. I wouldn't even consider it in summer with the cottage traffic, and December brings its own risks -- like weather.

But the music and the solitude of a good, long drive can be therapeutic for the soul and as the kilometres ticked by and the GTA became a distant spot in the rear view mirror, I felt some of the stress of the week shake free from my shoulders like ice flying off a passing transport truck. (Knowing all the words to the songs helps, too, especially when no one is there to make fun of your singing.)

Shortly north of Barrie the flurries started and by the time I reached Gravenhurst the highway was starting to cover over with new snow. But traffic was light, I was well ahead of schedule (I have a nearly pathological need to be on time) and I wasn't even halfway through my Death Cab for Cutie collection.

While I was driving, the novice Leafs took to the ice for the 2nd time in the weekend, chalking up a win for a three-point weekend. I missed the game and their Christmas party, but sometimes a dad has to do what a dad has to do.

In snowy Huntsville the game was another good one. The third game in less than 48 hours, combined with the tough turnaround and two and half hours on a bus, meant the Blades had to dig deep to find some jump.

Perhaps it was the selection of movie that they watched on the trip. One of the players tweeted that they were watching Elf on the journey. Another player replied via Twitter that perhaps Buddy the Elf's inspirational story was just what the Blades needed to shake off a string of road losses.

Whatever, the Blades fought hard and won 3-0 and just before 5p I crawled back in the car to punch a hole through the northern cold and darkness and headed for Oakville. Chris's game was to start at 630p and with any luck I would make the third period.

More Diet Pepsi. More Death Cab for Cutie. And once the sloppy northern roads gave way to clear pavement I took advantage of light traffic and a heavy foot.

I arrived at Sixteen Mile at almost exactly 7p, which is remarkably good time. I found a shortcut, I guess, but I was able to complete the backend of the toughest Hockey Dad doubleheader of my career.

I walked into the rink (Chris's team was losing badly again) and his team's goalie promptly got hurt with about nine minutes left in the third.

There was no goalie available to fill in, as there was no game after theirs. So somewhere in the conversations the coaches decided to call it a night and that was that.

We went home and 30 minutes later Pad appeared, exhausted, hungry but in a good mood with two shutouts wins in three nights and the most torturous weekend of the regular season behind him.

Laura continued to wrap, I watched and had a beer. We ate late, fell asleep early and woke up today feeling not entirely rested.

One concert. Two Christmas parties. Three Blades games. Two novice games. One midget game. Two road trips. Not nearly enough beer. And I never heard the same Death Cab for Cutie song twice.

We're so lucky that we get to do this. As my driving might suggest, I hate to miss a second of it.

It was really just another weekend in the life. But what a weekend. What a life.

 

Dec 15, 2011

Once a few years ago I was coming off the ice after a house league practice. There was nothing particularly remarkable about that hour of ice time, except maybe that it was close to Christmas, the guys were full of mischief, and we let them scrimmage for the last 20 minutes and just have fun.

Sometimes you have to just let the dogs off the leash.

Anyway, this mom grabbed me by the arm as I wandered by with a useless white board and a bucket of pucks. She was what we euphemistically now call a ďNew CanadianĒ Ė born elsewhere much warmer where hockey was not known.

She simply said, thank you for teaching my son to skate. Then she sighed.

ďWhen you are all out there skating, you look like birds Ė so free and unworried.Ē

I never forgot that simple description and knew exactly what she meant.

Being able to skate is a great Canadian joy, and a very simple one. (I encouraged her to learn to skate too Ė itís never too late!)

Of all the so-called skills I may have, skating may be the one I value most. Iím not a great skater anymore (as if I ever was) as the years slow us all down considerably. But I can still manage to get around and skating is as much a social skill now as it was when I was in high school and weíd go teen skating with the girls on Friday nights at the Bedford arena near my home.

And as Iím sure anyone who ever skated recalls, in those days we almost did fly Ė fearless and free, effortless and totally unchained by our youth.

Um, so, why the little soliloquy today to skating?

Two reasons. Two videos, actually.

First, a YouTube video shot on Windy Arm of Taglish Lake in northern British Columbia. The lake is in BC, but Windy Arm is mostly in the Yukon Territory. The natural ice in this short video is enough to bring tears to your eyes, just before you pack your skates, stick and gloves, charter a plane, and head there. My God, but to have the chance to chew up a piece of ice like that with some family and friends. Pristine doesnít do it justice.

Weíd be . . . well, weíd be like birds Ė free and flowing, moving and gliding where our muscles and the wind pushed us.

Weíd look like birds.

 

Which brings me to the second video, which is actually birds. Starlings, to be specific.

There's a phenomenon in nature that occurs when thousands of starlings fly together in a formation known as a murmuration. It more or less defies scientific explanation as to why it happens, or how the birds manage to do it without colliding.

But they never do collide. They swoop and soar and glide almost as one of a single mind.

I'm not exactly a naturalist, but this is pretty amazing and when I watch a well-rehearsed breakout or a team cycling a puck down low waiting for a chance to pass to the slot, in my mind I think about the starlings.

We look like birds . . .

Take a minute and watch this. (There's a short ad, be patient!)

 - - -

Perhaps if there was a way to instruct hockey players to move like that we wouldn't be watching the carnage from concussions continue to pile up like Christmas cord wood for the fireplace.

It is sad and frightening what is happening. Why is the NHL sitting on its hands when not the goons, but the best and brightest and most talented players continue to fall to concussions? It's absurd.

I'm no expert on anything but I will say this. My older son plays all his home games on Olympic-size ice at Sixteen Mile Sports Centre. The games there are different than games played away on smaller surfaces -- the kids have more room to move.

And they need it. These guys are only kids in the chronological sense -- physically they are men. Actually, they are far bigger and stronger and fitter than average men, which means they move faster, hit harder and can be more lethal to one another.

My guy is 6-4 and 210 pounds and he isn't the largest guy on the team or the ice, ever, just to cite an example.

My thesis is that the NHL missed an opportunity 10 years ago when almost every team in the league was building new rinks. It didn't happen all at once, obviously. But over about a decade, virtually every team upgraded its facilities.

And when that was done, the NHL could have moved from the North American standard rink of 200 by 85 feet to the the Olympic standard of 210 feet by 98.

This would recognize that the NHL is not populated by guys five foot 9 and 175 pounds anymore, as it was when Maple Leaf Gardens was built in the 1930s.

But because a bigger ice surface would mean fewer seats, the NHL didn't do that.

So Zedeno Chara and Chris Pronger (who, incidentally, is out with a concussion) have to compete on the fish-bowl NHL- size ice. Which is stupid and, increasingly, dangerous.

You can read more about the continuing carnage here.

- - -

The first installment of the HBO 24/7 series on the Flyers and Rangers leading up to the outdoor Winter Classic was on last night. It was terrific. Next chapter is on next Wednesday night.

Interestingly, the father of one of Pad's teammates is former Ranger sniper Pat Hickey and he has been skating with the Blades for a couple weeks to prepare for the Flyers-Rangers alumni game. Kinda cool.

My guess is his shifts may need to be a bit shorter, but the hands are probably still lethal!

 

Dec 14, 2011

Chris and the minor midget Knights got beaten like a rug last night. No pretty way to paint this one Ė not enough lipstick in the world to make this pig pretty.

Better to move on to another topic.

- - -

An interesting piece of news from south of the border, that the US National Transportation Safety Board says cell phones are major threats to automobile safety. Fresh from investigating a major car accident in Missouri, the NSTB is recommending that every US state adopt laws to ban, outright and completely, the use of cell phones by drivers, hands free or otherwise.

I wish they would.

I managed to go through my entire school years without ever once calling home.

Until recently, none of us had cell phones with us 24/7, and we didnít need to text someone to say ďIím now leaving the GO station parking lot.Ē

Too many times I have passed drivers Ė usually young drivers Ė staring at their laps as they text and drive. Itís beyond scary to imagine what the consequences of 15 seconds of self-absorbed inattention could be.

Better yet, I can show you.

From the movie, Seven Pounds . . .

 

Wasn't that festive? Put down the phone and watch the road.

- - -

Today marks the 6th anniversary of this blog. There wonít be a parade or gala cocktail reception, and Iím not sure itís noteworthy in any way beyond whatever I get out of doing it.

On the other hand I know from the emails I get and the traffic reports I see that a fair number of people now make a visit here a near-daily habit, and thatís a little humbling (except for knowing that some of you often disagree with me, and thatís less humbling to be yelled at and told youíre wrong.)

I periodically reach a phase where I think this exercise has run its course. But Iím not there yet.

That first year of the blog, 2005, Pad was playing peewee AE and Chris was in house league white, in atom. Man, weíve put a lot of miles on the cars since then.

The blog opened many conversations and a few friendships with people I would otherwise have never engaged with directly. Thatís been fun.

Also, it provides our family with a stunningly detailed record of where weíve been, games and battles won and lost, adventures carried out, vacations, tournaments, training camps, and much more. That is worth more than you can imagine because so much simply gets lost to the fog of time.

And I know that for good or bad, some of the local issues highlighted here have played a role in debate and policy at other levels. I say that with no self importance and without malice toward anyone Iíve disagreed with.

People read stuff here and occasionally a different perspective on things plays a role in an unfolding debate. Thatís fun.

From time to time Iím wrong about things, about people. It happens.

Opps.

Iím happy to say so when it happens and Iím glad for the good grace of others who win those particular arguments.

My goal is to never stop promoting the best interests of our communityís kids while making fun of myself.

And thereís are no shortage of things to make fun of on that score Ė I am, after all, the man who made hand sanitizer a hair conditioning product, and was happy to share that with all of you.

Thanks for reading for another year.

- - -

Menís Health magazine is more celebratory of the blogís anniversary, and in commemoration of this august event (or, so says I) named the 100 Sexiest Women of All Time.

I was not consulted on the list, so I have a few quibbles.

There are not nearly enough hockey moms on the list for my taste, and itís missing my personal favourite, the Cape Breton pork-pie-producing machine. I realize that doesnít sound very flattering, but my intentions are honourable.

But some of the Top 10 are just stupid, especially if you believe as I do that a functioning intellect is fundamental to a sexy woman.

With three exceptions, the Top 10 picks are generally lame. They are:

10. Angelina Joli

9. Jane Fonda

8. Pam Anderson (Really ? This is a top 10 pick ?)

7. Bettie Page

6. Ursula Andress (exception #1)

5. Madonna (were they drunk?)

4. Britney Spears (were they really, really drunk?)

3. Marilyn Monroe (almost an exception)

2. Raquel Welch (exception #2)

 

Now, at this point youíre thinking two things.

First, youíre thinking who is number one, and if youíre at all good with numbers, youíve figured out that whoever it is, she is the third exception.

I know that members of the Peel school boards will be very excited at the selection of #1, and Iíll admit Iím a fan too.

Do I think she is the sexiest woman of all time? No. No I donít.

But I do think she looks pretty good in a neck tie.

Yeah, teamoakvilleís unofficial poster girl is Jennifer Aniston.

Laura says she has freakishly large feet.

To which I said, ďShe has feet?Ē

You can read the Menís Journal Hot 100/Teamoakville 6th anniversary tribute list here.

 

Dec 12, 2011

Two weeks from today is the happiest day of the year.

No, I donít have my math wrong. Iím thinking of the day after Christmas. The heavy lifting of the holidays is behind us. No more shopping or wrapping or pressure.

Most of the burden of preparation in our house is borne by Laura, so Boxing Day usually means the true ďlong winterís napĒ finally happens and she gets to sleep as late as she likes for a couple days.

But more importantly, Boxing Day night means hot turkey sandwiches and French fries covered in gravy. In a season of great blessings, it is the best of all.

Christmas is nice, too. But hot turkey sandwiches?

Canít beat it.

- - -

Speaking of things that canít be beat, the latest chapter in the Great Novice Game Sheet Foo-For-Ahh played itself out on Sunday afternoon in front of a (not quite) capacity crowd at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex. The game that we had won earlier 4-1, but had been ordered replayed because of game sheet issues, was replayed.

And our guys won, 3-1.

So, now weíll all move on. No hard feelings. Group hug. Kumbaya.

On a serious note, I am very impressed with how improved all the novice kids we play with and against are at this point in the season.

Obviously lots of good work is being done by lots of folks. Pretty much all of our games are very competitive and entertaining.

The boys work hard.

- - -

The Blades put together back-to-back wins on the weekend, beating Hamilton 3-2 in an overtime shootout Friday night and then doubling Milton 4-2 on Saturday, another home game.

The Friday win was the teamís first shootout victory of the year after three previous losses in the format.  And of note to friends, Pad was named the Oakville Dodge Ram Toughest Player of the Game (they only do that award during the six home games on the calendar sponsored by Oakville Dodge.)

It was nice recognition given that he was so banged up after the two games that he was practically immobile all day Sunday.

Bad news is the team is heading into an ugly patch on the schedule Ė Friday home game with Buffalo, Saturday night road game in Aurora, and then a Sunday afternoon road game in Huntsville. The Aurora-Huntsville turnaround will be brutal, and three games in three days at this level is physically very tough assignment.

- - -

Kudos to my boy Chris, who on the weekend delivered the tastiest homework assignment heís ever had.

As part of a food and nutrition course, he had to buy, prepare and serve a meal for his family. Owing to the nutty schedule at home, Chris had to serve brunch yesterday.

He opened with home-made blueberry muffins, followed by three-egg cheese omelettes with a fresh side salad of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and honeydew, and then for dessert, apple crisp.

I was hardly able to waddle onto the bench for the novice game after that, and Iíve told him that now that we know he can make omelettes, weíre looking forward to home cooking for breakfast over Christmas.

- - -

I have a feeling that Iím in for a rough night of standing in the kitchen sipping beer while Laura makes pork pies Ė her favourite Cape Breton holiday treat.

To paraphrase what the tour guide said to us years ago at Montezumaís Castle in Arizona (ďItís not a castle and Montezuma was never hereĒ) there is no pork in the confection and theyíre not pies.

But they are very good and she puts a lot of care into the home-made shortbread-like pastry shells that are filled with a date centre and topped with icing sugar.

Laura says they are best served with tea at breakfast, but are good any time of the day or night.

Tonight is one of those pre-Christmas nights that are way too rare in our world. Laura will get to do something she likes to do. The house will smell like a bakery. The boys will both be home with no hockey on the schedule. And weíll open a bottle of wine and tell stories of Christmases past (and watch Monday Night Football.)

Iím looking forward to it.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

 

Dec 9, 2011

Is it beginning to feel a lot like Christmas?

Maybe.

We have exterior Christmas lights up (and now turned on nightly, and sometimes during the day, too, depending on the wonky light-activated timer) and about 200 poinsettias (more or less) after Laura and one of her friends went to lunch this week and walked through Costco on the way. I keep waiting for Indiana Jones to emerge from the foliage with a machete. (Also, if youíre in the market for a 30 pound brick of parmesan cheese, drop me a line.)

 Last night Chris had his high school Christmas band concert, which included hot hors d'oeuvres before and some fairly impressive soloists during the concert.

So all that was festive.

But I havenít really gotten the urge to put on a stocking cap and trot through the malls or anything.

At least not yet.

Perhaps if the hockey and social calendar (for me itís all the same thing) would ease up a bit, I could manage it.

- - -

Long-time MOHA coach Rob Gibbons was one of several people who emailed me yesterday, all basically saying the same thing. He was the only one who explicitly wanted me to repeat his message here.

He wrote:

ďGreg Gilhooly is a friend of mine, too.Ē

- - -

The Blades will be looking to pull out of a mini-slump this weekend with back-to-back home games against Hamilton tonight and Milton on Saturday.

Pre-game Iíll be in the pub with the leggy blonde receiving visitors.

Donít tell Laura!

Chris would normally have a game this Sunday night but I think thereís a Hornetsí tournament so Ė we finally get a down night (after attending a company party on Sunday afternoon immediately after the novice Leafs game at 1:30p.)

In relative terms, it will be a quiet weekend. I think.

- - -

Since my kids are teens now, the novice are a real reality check on hockey for me. They donít just love playing hockey, they want to come back to the bench after every shift and hear that they did great.

Of course, hockey is a game of imperfection so there are times when even they know something went wrong Ė and generally, our rule of thumb is they donít need to hear about it again from us.

We push the positives, tell jokes, act silly, and try to make that one hour as fun and special for them as it is for us. Some shifts are easier than others.

Last weekend in the tournament, we played a game at Aldershot Arena and the penalty box is right next to the players bench, wide open to us. One of our guys got a penalty and moments after he was seated I could see he was just sobbing.

I went over and asked if he was hurt but he wasnít. He was just upset because he had never had a penalty before.

Hmmm.

Coach Dave, with me playing the straight man, did this routine before the first tournament's game telling the kids to expect some of the Select teams we faced to be a little more physical than what we saw at home.

And Dave smiled and said, thatís ok. Because itís hockey. And in hockey, itís OK to be a little rude and a little nasty. Be polite Oakville boys at the restaurant. But on the ice? Forget it.

So Iím on my knees in the penalty box talking like crazy trying to get this guy to stop crying, and then I remind him that Coach Dave said a little rude and nasty is OK.

And he choked out a few words, to the effect of, ďbut I got a penalty.Ē

So I stopped with the comedy and just smiled my biggest smile of the weekend.

ďDid you ever see Sidney Crosby get a penalty?Ē

He nodded.

ďDid you ever see Dion Phaneuf get a penalty?Ē

He nodded.

ďBuddy, when you play a little mean and a little nasty and compete hard, sometimes you tip over the edge and get a penalty. Itís part of the game. No one minds it a bit. The real question is, are you still having fun?Ē

He nodded again.

The logic sunk in, the tears stopped, I got him smiling and life went on.

But like I said, it was a reminder. They donít just want to play, they want to make the grown ups happy, too.

Whether theyíre 17 or 7, they just want to please us, their parents, the refs, the strangers in the canteen.

As coaches, how could we ever get upset about that? Iím there to help teach and all of that stuff, but mostly, weíre there to enable the fun.

"Fun Enabler." What a great job.

That hour on the bench is the best hour of the week.

Go Leafs Go.

- - -

Drive carefully. Cut the kids some slack this weekend. Christmas fever is kicking in. Theyíre supposed to get wound up. I know Ė easy for me to say when mine will sleep until 1p.

Have fun. Smile. Twice. A day. Or more.

Hug the kids.

 

Dec 8, 2011

Pedophile child rapist Graham James pleaded guilty to two more cases of sexual assault on Wednesday, one of them involving former NHL star Theo Fleury.

A third complaint was set aside Ė basically in an unpalatable legal manoeuvre to make sure two cases got pleaded out quickly and justice would be meted out in a timely way.

That third complainant is a guy well known in Oakville hockey circles Ė former MOHA director Greg Gilhooly, a long-time coach with the 1996 cohort and a former coach of one of my kids. A court-ordered publication ban on his name was lifted at his request on Wednesday.

Because of my day job, I know a lot of the background on things that led us to where we are today. Much of it is part of the public record. Much of it is not.

Largely through this blog, Greg started corresponding with me years ago about hockey. Gradually, the story was tumbled out. I did nothing but listen and, I hope, support. In time, he summoned the courage to confront the blackness and demons. He did that on his own schedule and at tremendous personal toll.

But today is a bright new day and some things are worth making clear.

Gilhooly is personally responsible for the federal government changing the laws of Canada so that sexual offenders can no longer be pardoned. He uncovered that James had been pardoned. He shone a light in that dark corner. He brightened a lot of lives because of it.

He has done much work on his own dime behind the scenes Ė with Sheldon Kennedy and Fleury and others Ė to make sure Graham James (already convicted in the Kennedy case) faced more charges. James will be sentenced in February.

And frankly, Gilhooly worked to hold the feet of certain media to the fire to make sure this issue never went away.

It was not for nothing that both Fleury and Kennedy repeatedly said on Wednesday that their thoughts were with Greg, whose complaint now goes unprosecuted.

Trust me, but you cannot imagine for even a second what this guy was through and what he has done to work to ensure your kids are safe.

Think about that for a second.

ď. . . so your kids are safe.Ē Is there anything better a person can give his community?

Greg developed a reputation around MOHA as a guy who was a stickler for detail, a relentless advocate for fair play, and a general pain in the ass to many in the faux back-slapping world of house league hockey.

He raged against the machine in the name of fairness.

And maybe if those who rolled their eyes and exchanged snarky emails behind his back had any inkling of where that commitment to fairness and fair play was rooted, well, they might have cut the guy some respect.

But given some of the personalities involved thatís probably a very big maybe.

Me? Iím glad for Greg that this is all out there now.

He has too much light to offer his community to let his life be defined by the darkness of Graham James for even one more minute.

He Ė and Kennedy, Fleury and the other complainant Ė has done a great service to parents and to minor hockey everywhere in Canada.

Greg Gilhooly is a friend of mine.

 

You can read more on the James case here.

You can read Gregís story here.

 

Dec. 6, 2011

Fighting is a celebrated part of Canadaís game. Iím as guilty as anyone, but as a meek defence Iíll say I have yet to meet a hockey dad who is at all sheepish about their kid mixing it up in a hockey game. The bigger the scrap, the higher the level, the wider the grin.

But at its core it is still really dumb.

Over the years we Ė the collective we here (you, me, us) have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours taking our kids to games, practices, hockey schools and skill development clinics so they can play the game better.

We have yet to take ours to a class on hockey fighting (although I will admit to trying to broker some tutoring in on-ice self defence. I was more interested in making sure he didnít get hurt than in instructing him in hurting others. But that never happened, either.)

The tragically short life of Derek Boogaard is a sobering map to where it all can lead under what sounds like a bad set of circumstances.

The New York Times has done a remarkable series on Boogaardís life and death and if you love the game, you owe it to yourself to read it.

If you love someone who aspires to play the game at a high level Ė bantam or older right now --  then it is incumbent upon you to make sure they read all three parts, watch the related videos, think deeply about the implications, and talk about it all with someone.

You can find the first article here, and there are links to the subsequent stories and videos.

Itís terrific journalism.

- - -

Let me add another note of congratulations to another Oakville Hawk alumnus, Brennan Donville, who will be one of three locals on the national u19 menís lacrosse team.

Brennan and Pad were two-sport teammates in hockey and lacrosse, and Brennan excelled on the field as a goalie. He will be taking his considerable skill to Cornell University next year.

An animated, vocal and athletic Ďtender, Brennan was also admired by his Hawk teammates for dishing out hits to opposing players.

He will join Tyler Albrecht (Cornell) and Brian Cole (University of Maryland) on the national squad.

Read more

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

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Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

-association-announces-2012-u-19-field-roster"> here.

- - -

My friends on the atom AAA Rangers continue to roll along and last weekend they were in Buffalo for a Super Series Tournament. My Buffalo correspondent picks up the story:

The boys ran the table and won all 6 of their games, winning the gold medal game in a shoot out against the South Shore Kings ( Boston Team )

What a great win and a great week end for the boys.

Here is a happy bunch of hockey players collecting their Medals and Banner.

The team is;

Tanner Elson, Lucas Lorimer, Hudson Oliver, Kyle Kachan, Will Thomas, Ryan OíHara, Ty Jackson, Liam Richardson

Alton Mcdermott, Cole Salmon, Connor Rudderham, Clark Hiebert, Duncan Penman, Bradley Somers, Michael Vukojevic, Aleisha Song, Dylan Jackson

The team is coached by

Bryan Mcdermott, Paul Jackson, Damon Kachan, Jim Somers, Brian Richardson

 

Well done guys. Very Impressive!!

 

Dec 5, 2011

A full weekend of hockey is behind us and a full week of hockey beckons.

The novice Leafs went to Burlington for the team's first taste of tournament action, playing in a Select tourney with the coaches hoping the experience would push the boys to find a higher gear.

We didn't bring home any hardware, but wow. Mission accomplished.

On Friday morning (at 7a) we played a Select squad from Burlington and as hoped, the boys elevated their game to take on the deeper lineup from next door. That extra effort, combined with sterling work in the cage from The Juice, sent the teams to OT, where the home side won on a penalty shot. (Under the OT format, any penalty call resulted in an automatic penalty shot.)

Each game was worth three points, so we got a single for the OT lose and we considered the morning a success.

In the 1p game, a new wrinkle -- no, not game sheets.

We were to play a TYKE team -- one year younger than our guys. The wrinkle? The team was the Kitchener Rangers AAA squad.

They were the size of mosquitoes and were about as easy to catch. Again, the pace of play compared to our home House League MD was frenetic. End to end firewagon hockey, as Danny Gallivan used to call it.

The AAA squad came at us like the Luftwaffe, wave after wave of speed and agility.

And again, The Juice held us in it until the boys righted the ship and started turning the momentum our way. We went into the third period down 1-0, and then scored a pair of unanswered markers to take a 2-1 win.

The format of the tournament was such that after Kitchener played its second game, we were 2nd in our three-team pool and they were third, so we got to play the Luftwaffe again on Saturday morning.

Regulation time settled nothing and our guys got their 2nd taste of OT drama in three starts, and this time we got the happy ending, with an early goal to send us to the semi-finals that night.

On Saturday night we kept up with a larger, faster deeper Burlington team (different from the squad we played Friday) but full credit to them, they were better and pulled away for the win. They went on to easily beat Sarnia for the title.

There were some tears and long faces in the room Saturday night, which we tried to chase from the room with heavy servings of the truth. We went to fight above our weight and take some punches so we could learn from the experience. We wanted to be pushed and we wanted to have fun.

And boy did we do all that.

Every boy on the team stepped up and showed us what he could do. And that's dangerous, because now our expectation of "normal" has gone up. Can we replicate tournament excitement for every House MD League game? No. But when the time comes in March to play games that matter, our guys have taken the first steps toward knowing how to reach inside and find another gear.

Best line from the tournament?

You go to the Beer Store for beer. You go to the gas station for gas. And you go to the net for goals!

Final thought:

The fans weren't booing -- they were yelling JUUUUUUUUUUUIIIIIIIIICCCCCCCCCEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I hope the boys had half as much fun as me.

We had an optional skate for the team Sunday afternoon and if was pure hockey silliness with shootouts and one-timer contests and hour to just let the kids be kids.

Actually, it was an hour to just let the coaches be kids too. It was fun.

- - -

A pair of Blades' games -- a win Friday, a loss Saturday night -- were almost anticlimactic after the novices. And it is with the Blades that the new week starts as the team rolls down the QEW to play Hamilton.

Tuesday night will bring a Blades practice and game night action for Chris and the minor midgets.

Wednesday is busy -- Blades practice, curling for Laura followed by her book club Christmas party, Pad and I meeting a pal of his from the Chargers and his dad for wings, while Chris has youth club.

Thursday night -- Chris's high school Christmas band concert.

And then it's Friday again.

That's the way time rolls.

- - -

The pro sports world was looking at other things all weekend -- Tiger finally winning again, the Leafs losing to Boston again, the Colts inching closer to the type of perfect season that would have seemed unimaginable two years ago.

I missed pretty much all of it.

I could not be happier about that.

- - -

I just want to add congratulations to another former Oakville Hawks lacrosse star, Brian Cole, who will join Tyler Albrecht on the national U19 team. Brian may be the most natural goal scorer we had on our teams in the those days. Tyler scored his share too, but his game had some other dimensions that compounded his scoring threat. Brian was a devastating finisher and it was Brian who scored the OT goal in the last field lacrosse game that cohort played to win the Ontario bronze medal.

Good luck to both of them, although it might make more sense to wish the opposition goalies luck. They will need it.

 

Dec 1, 2011

Iím late.

Today, itís all about fitness and yoga. So, this is reading that is good for you.

Feel the burn!

- - -

Donít tell anyone, but I donít have to be at a rink tonight and neither does Laura.

Technically, the novices have their weekly session at ice2ice tonight. But as I like to say, thatís Dickís problem.

Iím kidding, but thereís no way I can get there for a 630p start. I missed enough work hours over the years running out the door for the dreaded MOHA 5p weeknight workouts, so doing it again when I donít have a kid on the team isnít going to happen often.

But I will be at Appleby for a 7a tournament game tomorrow. Weíre expecting one or more coaches tomorrow morning may be battling the after effects of Seasonal Afterwork Frivolity Disorder. Note to parents: lots of noise makers, please!

- - -

I didnít get home from work until almost 730p last night and when I did Ė I was abandoned.

Chris was out at a youth club.

Laura was curling.

And Pad went to hot yoga with a woman pal.

I had a beer.

Hot yoga is yoga in a hot place. I would have picked Barbados, but they went to east Oakville. Pad, who is 6-4, said the extreme heat in the room and the stretching etc loosened his muscles to such a degree that he was able to lay his palms flat on the floor.

Iím able to do that too but itís much less impressive when I do it, because Iím on my hands and knees, whereas Pad bends from the waist.

Also, once Iím down there, someone has to throw a blanket on me because Iím not getting up again anytime soon.

Last night I managed to stay upright long enough to watch Boston beat the Leafs for the 14th time this season (or so it feels.)

And then I went to bed shortly after the boys got home.

Iím a pretty exciting guy.

- - -

Speaking of fitness, hereís an interesting story on the fittest member of the New York Giants football team. Heís the punter Ė the guy playing the most-mocked position in North American sport.

He is ridiculously fit.

Jerk.

- - -

Speaking of fitness, a couple weeks ago I wrote about Oakville Arena, and the emerging debate about what to do with it.

Thereís a very nice letter in the Beaver on this topic and the woman makes some good points.

Read it here.

- - -

Speaking of fitness and yoga . . .

People who know me well know that I hold a number of fundamental truths to be sacred.

Free speech, caring for the disadvantaged in our society, and worshipping the people who invented Lululemon yoga pants are just three examples.

Lululemon is to womenís fashion what the Saturn V rocket was to space exploration. A breakthrough. A game changer.

Before the Saturn V rocket, manís dreams of getting to the moon were limited to flinging astronauts off tall buildings and hoping for the best. (I think I read that on Wikipedia. You might want to poke around for more information.)

Lululemon yoga pants changed menís dreams, too. And that very few women wear these pants just to yoga is a good thing for all of us. Lulu is a revolutionary engineering breakthrough like the Saturn V Ė although Iím probably demeaning the extent of the achievement by comparing the pants merely to the technological gap between jumping off a building in the direction of the moon and piloting a multibillion dollar scientific marvel of the modern world to another planet and back.

Because really, Lulu pants are so much more.

That there has not been a Nobel Prize awarded for the creation of this line of leisure wear is, sadly, astounding.

Anyway, a high school in Ottawa has banned the young women there from wearing the famous yoga pants because administrators fear they will be a distraction to the young men at the school. As if men are easily distracted.

I forget my point.

But you can read the story here.

- - -

Tomorrow the novice Leafs will be in playing in a tournament so, to paraphrase Springsteen:

If she wants to see me, you can tell her that Iím easily found

Iíll be signing game sheets at Appleby rink

With the novices on the edge of town

With the novices on the edge of town

 

You may not find that clever, but if youíre a Springsteen fan, a novice hockey coach recently suspended for a game sheet violation, and a resident of Oakville who understands that the Appleby Arena is practically on the edge of Oakville, well, youíd be laughing your ass off right now.

And trust me, Iím cracking myself up.

Depending on how my day goes tomorrow, I may or may not have time to update you all on the goings on in at the hockey tournament on the edge of town.

Pictures and updates will be on Twitter, however.

If they try to suspend us, weíre not going down without a fight.