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Jan 30, 2012

It got a little nutty Friday so there was no time to do my usual weekend curtain raiser, but it was really just more of the same -- hockey, and more hockey.

The Blades played their annual Pink in the Rink event on Friday evening, drawing 718 paying customers, plus about 150 more MOHA kids who got in free, plus about 50 or so volunteers. So it was easily the biggest crowd of the season and the place was hopping.

On the ice, the Blades delivered for the home crowd, winning 3-0 over Orangeville.

On the charity front, my father in law didn't win the new car, but the event was a success nonetheless and for a great cause -- breast cancer awareness.

As each player was introduced, he would turn to reveal the name on the back of his special edition pink jersey -- the jersey's were auctioned off before the game and the holders of the winning bids put forward the name of a family member or friend who fought cancer. Pad's jersey honoured his grandmother back in Cape Breton, a fairly recent breast cancer survivor.

Here are some pics, and the text of what was read during Pad's introduction. (And yes, we know. As a friend noted, Pad really needs to smile more. It's okay during the pre-game intros to not look like you're waiting to hurt someone.)


Defenceman Patrick Arnold, No. 57, honours his grandmother, Linda King, who lives in Nova Scotia and is watching tonight’s game online. Linda is a recent breast-cancer survivor, who had access to wonderful care through her local cancer centre, thanks to fundraising like tonight’s Pink in the Rink event. She used to be able to lift a much-smaller Patrick over her head – but hasn’t tried that in a while! Linda is healthy now and cancer-free and still makes the world’s best chocolate chip cookies!

The team lined up after the introductions.


Yep -- they wore those jerseys in the game!


Laura and I were at the rink at 430p on Friday to help with the setup and we got home after 11p, entirely exhausted. Laura said it felt like an entire week of MOHA Awards Week crammed into one night, and I guess she would know. This cause is close to her heart for obvious reasons and she was the head of the parent volunteer corps on the project.

We're glad it was a success, and we're glad it's behind us!

A very special and sincere thanks to all of our friends who bought tickets to support the team lottery, and to those who came out to the game. There were so many of his former coaches, parents of former teammates, former teammates, and even novice player families who came out to support Pad, the Blades and the cause that we were all really touched.

Thank you!

- - -

In 22 days since Jan 6, the Blades played 11 games -- which is a heavy load at any level and particularly punishing for junior A, where the hockey is very physical. That they picked up 17 points and lost only twice in regulation isn't bad, either. The boys get eight days away from games now, and judging from the local infirmary they can use the break. Shoulders, knees, ankles, hips -- the injuries pile up fast at this time of year when a small nagging injury can bloom into a bigger problem when you average a game every other night for three weeks.

Three straight practices this week -- and double duty for the ice machine churning out the cold packs.

 - - -

Chris had a weekend off from hockey, except for attending the Blades game. He's back at it tomorrow night in the always-coveted 10p game slot.


- - -

The novice Leafs played a pair this weekend, tying 2-2 on Saturday morning and losing 3-2 on Sunday afternoon.

The boys are off to London next weekend for three days of staying up late and swimming in a hotel pool a weekend tournament. Not sure I'm going to get to this one. Being a non-parent coach creates unique challenges for out of town tournaments, but we'll see.

- - -

I didn't get to see much of the NHL all-star festivities but I also don't think I missed much. Ditto for the Pro Bowl.

I did get to see the 4th and 5th sets of the Aussie Open final and that was well worth watching. What a show.

- - -

I think that probably covers it for now. We've got a (relatively) quiet week ahead I think. Let's hope it stays that way!


Jan 26, 2012

Laura was out curling last night so it was a bit of a down night at home for me. I didn’t get home until 730p, so it wasn’t a long night at home.

But I put it to use puttering around the house a bit, cooking Pad’s second dinner (he eats two full dinners a night) and watching the Habs pretend it was 1972 in dismantling the Red Wings.

In the midst of all that an email landed that really made my evening.

I mentioned on Wednesday that I had a loyal reader in Mongolia and way cool, he checked in after reading my little shout out to him in yesterday’s blog.

He’s in Ulaabaatar, which really is colder than Ottawa – in fact, it’s regarded as the coldest national capital in the world. Our correspondent confirms that status:

“My weather app says it is -37oC and it feels like it,” he wrote. “Brings back memories from when we lived in Yellowknife before we had kids.”

He was good enough to send along some photos which I am glad to share with you and the smog is a bit frightening to say the least. He described it as incessant and a result of the ancient coal-fired power and heating plants that are virtually unencumbered by any sort of environmental regulation or pollution control equipment.

And while he is literally half a world away, he is still a MOHA hockey dad and he endorsed my praise of the Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament as being one of Ontario’s premiere house league hockey experiences.

“Frank Sabatino was a great guy. Our sons were schoolmates and remain friendly (both referee hockey still),” he wrote. “We used to spend a lot of times at rinks together watching our sons play.  Frank never let his physical disabilities get in the way of life. It was a shame that cancer took him at such a young age. The tournament is an excellent ongoing tribute to Frank. My son’s team won it when they were major Bantam age, the last year before they moved it back to the Atom/Peewee format used now.”

I think that’s a wonderful, and genuine, tribute from a hockey dad who no doubt wishes he was a lot closer to home than he is right now.

Here are the pictures he took of beautiful downtown Ulaanbaatar.

Perhaps tonight I’ll hear from Jennifer Aniston soon and she’ll send photos too. 





- - -

The weather forecast for later today is grim – rain, freezing rain, snow, sleet, slush, more rain. And Laura and I will be making the trek to Stouffville to watch the Blades start yet another three-games-in-three-nights stretch.

I’m told there are people who actually have a Friday and/or Saturday night off from time to time. I think our last one was New Year’s Eve.

We wouldn’t want to miss a game by either of our kids if we can help it, but driving north and east into messy weather on a school night isn’t exactly a dream date night.

Once we get past the Blades Pink in the Rink on Friday (and the continuing serial volunteer behaviour of some people) and then Saturday night in Burlington (at the Wave arena which may be the worst place in the GTA to watch a hockey game) things calm down for a week. Or so.



Jan 25, 2012

I have precious little to spew from the soapbox today, but I’ll offer a few pithy words for the loyalists out there.

My inspiration to do so is a reader who works with a mining company and spends several tours of duty a year in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, which is colder than Ottawa but with a more intelligent and agreeable governing class.

Every now and then I dive into the traffic data for the site to see who is dropping by. Don’t worry, it doesn’t list your name and address, just your IP address and Internet provider and often, a corporate parent.

So being the clever sort it’s often easy to tell that the Eastlink cable subscriber reading the site from outside of Halifax is my dad, for example.

While munching on my sandwich today at lunch I looked in at the site data and lo and behold, I’m once against trending as a recreational pastime in Mongolia.

So a wintry hello to him and all far flung visitors.

I wish I had something more interesting to say today, but it’s January. Sorry.

It’s warmer underground.

- - -

The other interesting thing I can see from the data is how people end up here. Most regular readers have the site bookmarked and just arrive directly.

Others type Oakville hockey blog or something like that into a search engine and find me that way.

And then there are the “wrong turns.”

People who Google a search query and end up here and have no clue why.

For example, if I type “Argentine agriculture subsidies,” sometime in the next few days I’ll get a hit from some Argentinean farmer looking to get paid to not grow beets.

And because of my occasional yet loyal preoccupation with Jennifer Aniston, I get more than a couple surfers swinging by looking for all things Jen-Jen.

While Jennifer’s popularity seems to be quite universal, there are a lot of Middle Eastern and southeast Asia sources behind the searches that land here.

I’m not sure how they feel about my position on minor development-designated house league hockey or the novice Leafs, but I hope they aren’t too disappointed.

- - -

Back to hockey – Chris and the minor midget Knights tied again last night against the same team they tied Sunday night. This time it was 5-5 in a game that started to feel like a last-shot-wins basketball game.

The Knights had a goal called back very late in the game because it was kicked in and I give full credit to the officials for getting the call right. I was watching from the warmth of the bar and cautioned the party I was with to contain their cheering because the goal should be called back.

They poked pointy sticks in my eyes, mocked my clothes, and told jokes about my Maritime roots, but in the end the refs made the right call and that was how it ended.

I will now have to sit alone at future games.

- - -

The Leafs won over the Islanders for the second night in a row, which is nothing most teams would brag about. But the Leafs are not like most teams.

Most teams occasionally make the playoffs.

Most teams fire coaches that consistently miss the playoffs.

Most teams that haven’t played a playoff in almost half my midget-aged son’s life time wouldn’t have the balls to charge a mortgage payment for a lower bowl seat.

But, the Leafs are not like most teams.

Anyway, two wins over the Islanders practically triggers a school holiday in these parts, so we’ll take what we have. Later in the week or early next I will offer my all-star break prediction and mathematical analysis on whether the blue and white will finally make the post season.

Early hint: get on the Ottawa bandwagon now.

- - -

Final hockey tidbit of the day:

A Facebook friend and Oakville Hornet and MOHA mom posted on Facebook today that the Hornets (girls hockey for those not from here) cancelled all games and practices this week because of exams.

The MOHA house league games (the boys) featured full attendance at all games and practices, although they have the same exam schedules as the girls.

So, um, yeah. Boys will be boys.


Jan 23, 2012

I should have mentioned this on Friday but didn’t. The Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament was held in Oakville over the weekend and from what I saw from my usual 17 visits to Sixteen Mile, it was a big success.

Actually, Reggie told me it was a big success, so that’s good enough for me.

The atoMc Eagles edged atoMc St Pats in an all-Oakville atom final.

Waterloo won the peewee white crown over Oakville Heat.

And Ottawa’s West End Jets beat the Oakville Purolator Blues for the peewee red title.

My guys never got the chance to play in this one – Pad was gone to rep and Chris was in white back then, but I have volunteered with the crew a couple times.

Congrats to the organizers for adding a white division, which is a great move.

This tournament features things like a skills competition and a terrific program and overall the attention to detail at the FSMT is, in my experience, unprecedented at the house league level.

Lots of great memories for the kids.

A big well-done to the dedicated crew of volunteers who made it happen.

- - -

The Blades held the draw Friday night in the team’s big lottery to raise money for breast cancer research.

If you follow Oakville hockey lotteries closely (I know, that’s an obscure hobby) one of the names on the list will look familiar to you. It’s the same guy who won the car in the MOHA 50th anniversary draw last season.

And because he won one of the eight prizes, he now gets a chance with the seven others to win another car.

Maybe he should buy tickets on a larger garage?

For us, however, it’s the second name on the list is a familiar one.

It’s Laura’s dad back in Nova Scotia who won four platinum-level Leaf tickets. The irony is that he’s a Habs fan.

My guess is the boys are really hoping their grandfather wins the car – as do we – but I think the kids are kidding themselves on this one.

Each of the eight finalists will get a key to the car, but only one will work.

All the fun unfolds on Friday night at the Blades Pink in the Rink night.

Be there, or be talked about!

More information here.

- - -

The Blades, BTW, reeled off three wins in three nights from Thursday thru Saturday, including a 3-0 shutout of North Division leading Newmarket. It was the team’s most important win of the season.

They beat Brampton twice on either side of the Newmarket game.

More importantly, the novice Leafs won again Sunday to move into 2nd place in our eight-team loop. The kids haven’t lost a league game since November, and the “fun level” is creeping off the charts.

Two weeks from now they will be in London for a tournament, a season highlight I have no doubt.

Chris and the minor midgets tied 3-3 last night at Sixteen Mile in an entertaining game that featured some good goaltending at both ends.

- - -

After a long, long haul of nightly appearances in rinks, tonight we’re all at home. Or at least, Laura and I will be. Not sure where the boys are going.

Then it all starts again: Tuesday night Chris plays, Wednesday night Laura curls, Blades games on Thursday (Stouffville)-Friday (home vs Orangeville)-Saturday (Burlington) with the novices added in on Saturday and Sunday for good measure, plus three Blades practices starting this afternoon.

In our house, Monday night is the new Saturday night. Dancing starts at 7:30p.

- - -

I’ve made little secret of the fact that I’m not a fan of the “minor development” designation for house league hockey, and I’m especially not a fan of it in age groups where hitting isn’t permitted. I have no personal axe to grind with the people who make those decisions but grown adults are allowed to disagree, and I do.

MD imposes a layer of bureaucratic rigour which does nothing but get in the way and we are still being educated on via the school of hard knocks. Frankly, it reaches the point where operational paralysis grips teams because people don’t want to do something for fear of being suspended, shot, beaten, mocked in front of your peers, etc.

Without going through all the documentation, let me tell you that MD teams – unlike the former Red teams – have to AP a goalie in case your regular goalie is unavailable. You can just ask Joey from the other team to sub in. That would be too sensible.

Our team recently had a circumstance where our regular was away and our AP was sick.

We actually considered just playing with six skaters because no one seemed able to tell us whether we were allowed to dress a skater as a goalie (I know it sounds absurd for novice house league, but we’re into the Twilight Zone already with MD hockey.)

So, with all that as background, meet the Oakville Black Ops – also an MD team, who also recently faced the issue of what to do when their atom goalie went down.

They decided to play a tournament final with six skaters and no goalie.

And they won. How cool is that?

Read more here.

- - -

Oakville native Jordan MacIntosh scored the first goal of the National Lacrosse League season for his new team last week, making an impressive rookie debut in the pro ranks.

The former member of the Oakville Buzz was the 4th overall pick in the NLL draft last summer.

Read more here.


Jan 20, 2011

The end of another week is at hand, and not without some sad news.

  • Brent Hayman, a popular and respected community volunteer – including his valued work with 2011 Oakville Hawks peewee 3 rep team, died suddenly this week.
  • DL Leslie, a long-time MOHA hockey dad, also died unexpectedly this week.
  • Chris Trull, another MOHA dad, died this week after a battle with cancer.


All three men were 51.

There’s no easy way to digest news like this. I have received a lot of email from readers asking “if I heard” and sadly, in some cases I had.

First and foremost, my sympathies, and I am sure yours, go to their families and especially their kids who suddenly face a very different way forward. I know our community comes together to support one another in difficult circumstances and these families will need their friends now more than ever.

On another level, it is difficult to measure the loss to our community of people who participated actively in the lives of their children and who stepped up to help other kids too.

For many, the names are just anonymous faces in the crowds at the rinks and fields. But never forget that without the efforts of so many that you don’t know, the system would collapse and there would be no minor sports for our kids.

The loss of three men, so young and still with so much to give to their families and communities, is profoundly sad and comes jarringly on the heels of last week’s horrid murder of a young hockey mom in our town.

Their loss, compounded by the clustered timing of their passing, reverberates among all of us with families, and among all of us who have spent time with the kids of our friends, among all who spent time behind a bench or on a sideline with kids from all over our town.

Again, heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of those we have lost.

- - -

I have to confess that all of that has somewhat taken the wind out of my sails and it casts my active weekend, and yours no doubt, in a different light. Lives go on.

  • Last night Laura and I were freezing in Brampton watching the Blades cruise to an easy win; tonight will be warmer but a much sterner test as the host the Newmarket Hurricanes at Sixteen Mile. They lead the north division, the Blades lead the west . . . hopefully the teams will put on a great show.
  • Tonight is also the draw for the team lottery to raise money for breast cancer research. It’s a worthy cause with all the more resonance given my intro today.
  • The novice Leafs, by all accounts, had a grand time last night at Sixteen Mile tangling between periods with the Montreal Canadiens Oldtimers. A big thank you to VP House League Louis Ouellette for inviting our boys to participate. I can assure you they are all still buzzing about it and hopefully will carry that energy forward into their game Sunday.
  • Saturday night we go back to Brampton (lucky us) and Chris and his team will be on the ice Sunday night.

I’m not going to complain about two games in Brampton in three nights, or Sunday night at a house league midget game, or not having a weekend night at home to put my feet up. Right now, I’m simply feeling glad that we’re going to be there to see our kids and our friends’ kids having fun and doing things they love.

Friday night is date night for us – we go to the pub at Sixteen Mile early and have a beer and a bite and talk about the week for a few minutes before the boys hit the ice or Laura inevitably gets pulled away for a volunteer chore. (She remains a serial volunteer, but for 30 minutes or so, she’s mine.)

I am keenly aware that not everyone is so lucky.

Take a moment this weekend to slow down and appreciate what’s near and dear to you.

Everything can change in an instant.

Drive carefully. Stay warm.

Hug the kids.


Jan 18, 2012

Just keep telling yourself, “It’s a dry cold.” Even if it’s not.

- - -

I was up far too late when I would have rather been wearing fuzzy pyjamas (the kind with the feet in them), snuggled in front of the fire watching the Leafs lose another hockey game.

Instead I was behind the bench at Joshua Creek with the minor midget Knights for the ever-coveted 10p weeknight game slot. It feels like only yesterday I was whining about 6a weekday practices. And now, I’m whining about 10p games . . .

The boys fought gamely but dropped a 5-4 decision on a goal with 54 seconds left.

Bummer. They really deserved a better fate, but it was still a good game to watch.

It only took about 17 minutes after I got home for the feeling to return to my nose. And toes. And tongue. And ears. And . . .

- - -

MOHA has a worthy event coming up tomorrow night on the big ice at Sixteen Mile SC.

The MOHA Oldtimers – does MOHA have anything other than oldtimers? – will play the Montreal Canadiens Alumni, coached by Guy Lafleur. Among the former Habs scheduled to appear are Stephane Richer, Guy Carbonneau, Pratrice Brisboise, “and others.”

Money raised will go to support minor hockey in Oakville.

There are several ticket price levels, ranging from the $75 VIP ticket that includes face time with the old Habs at a reception, to $10 for kids.

You can read more on the event here.

What you won’t read on the site that one of the MOHA house league teams invited to participate on the ice in the event is none other than the Dodge Caravan novice Leafs.

The boys were very excited to be asked to participate, as this event comes on the heels of last weekend’s outing with the Oakville Blades.

Our guys have had a taste of the big time and there will be no turning back now.

It sound like it will be a fun event. You should go.

- - -

You should go, because I can’t.

Notwithstanding my near pathological hatred for the Montreal Canadiens, I would have been happy to attend and heckle the Habs from the novice Leafs’ bench.

But the cruel – and I mean, really cruel – hand of fate is instead dispatching me to Brampton for a junior A game.

The only thing less fun than a game in Brampton is two games in Brampton: the Blades will play there twice in three nights, adding a trip on Saturday night.

The Blades are prepping for three in a row starting tomorrow, with a home game against the powerhouse Newmarket Hurricanes sandwiched in between the two visits to lovely Brampton.

We know some of the guys on Brampton and it’s nothing personal.

But you can’t cheer for the Oakville Rangers all those years and not expect to have a certain turning in your gut when you travel to Brampton.

It just IS.

- - -

If you have not done so already, there is still time to support the Oakville Blades 2012 lottery to raise funds for breast cancer research. The first draw is Friday and the grand prize winner for a new car will be selected from those folks a week later at the annual Pink in the Rink game.

This is a cause well worth your $20 and I want to thank the many blog readers who did step up already and buy a ticket, or more than one. One reader bought 25, which is astoundingly generous. A couple of others bought 10, and numerous bought ones and twos.

As part of the proceedings on Jan 27, the players will be wearing pink jerseys which have been auctioned off in advance on the Blades web site, with the proceeds again going to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The people with the winning bids have been invited to put the name of someone special on the back of the jersey for that game, and Pad's jersey will honour Laura's mom, his grandmother, who fought and won a courageous fight with breast cancer, thus ensuring a continued summer supply of chocolate chip cookies during the boys' summer visits to Cape Breton.

Emotional stories will be told about the people behind the names on those pink jerseys on Jan 27. You should come and hear them.

And first, you should follow the link and buy a lottery ticket. Or several!


Jan 16, 2012

A great weekend of hockey in our house, even if the manic schedules had us pulled in all sorts of crazy directions.

Laura got to know more about obscure rinks in Scarborough and their proximity to Boston Pizza than she really wanted to learn. Her empire she would happily trade for a clean washroom and a warm place to sit.

Chris and his teammates learned that success can be measured in ways beyond wins and goals. Those are nice too, but spending time with teammates often elevates those relationships to friendship and as the laughter piled up in the weekend, it was clearly mission accomplished. A big thank you to the coaches for giving the boys a great weekend.

Pad and the Blades took three of a possible four points to reclaim first place in the OJHL west division, even if one of the games was a tough OT loss. It felt like playoff hockey and playoffs are now not even a month away.

And the novice Leafs pretty much snapped the needle on the fun meter, playing between periods of the Blades game Friday night with their friends on the Blue Hawks, then posing for pictures in the Blades’ room, and later going in after the 4-2 win over Hamilton to meet the Blades, trade stories and get autographs.

They followed it up with a spirited practice on Saturday and a 7-3 win on Sunday.

Some weekends are more full of hockey than others, and they can be exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

This weekend was one of those.

- - -

Junior A hockey is fast and tough. We already knew that in our house but sometimes you forget, or overlook, the toll it takes.

Pad doesn’t so much sit down any more after games. He lowers himself, slowly, almost audibly creaking with pain.

By this stage of the season, after about 40 games, it starts to look like a war of attrition as every team soldiers forward, coping with mounting injuries, a smaller roster (the rosters had to be cut as of last Tuesday) and the pressure to win.

There’s no down time to heal those injuries so players often suit up even if they’re hurt.

Ice packs are taped to shoulders; ankles and feet are immersed in buckets of ice; wrists and knees are taped, backs are braced.

At the game Saturday night vs Markham, a former midget AAA teammate of Pad’s wasn’t in the lineup so we had a chance to chat and he greeted me warmly. “Bad back” he said glumly. “I’m hoping to get close to 100 per cent for the playoffs, but . . .”

His voice tailed off. This guy was a high OHL draft pick and is one of the best natural athletes I know, in addition to being a great kid. I hope he bounces back soon.

I hope they all do.

In the meantime, my guy – who has had both ankles x-rayed in the last week and has an MRI today on a wrist – is keeping the Advil and the Geiger counter close.

- - -

All of which brings be back to 24/7, HBO’s now iconic series that has done more to promote hockey in the United States than a million marketing departments.

The show – now concluded – annually chronicles the run up to the NHL Winter Classic, this year featuring the Rangers and Flyers. It figuratively removes the helmets and face shields of the players and coaches and shows them as real people, often warts and all.

The language is not cleaned up or censored. No one wears makeup.

But it is real and raw and endearing. You see the rants between periods, the team meal, the home life, the stress, the injuries, the highs, the lows.

At the conclusion of the final episode, the narrator intones softy two lines that really got to me. And they got to me because while the guys on 24/7 are in the NHL, I know – YOU know – they are but the pointy end of a stick on a dream that thousands of other kids chase.

Some, like the juniors, are chasing it every single day.

Others, like the novices chase it on weekends and literally dream about it.

And still others, like the minor midget house league white boys, know they are now very unlikely to be big-time hockey players, but their love of the game is no less rabid than those breathing at the games higher elevations.

NHL. Junior. Midget house league. Novice MD. They are, in fact, all the same species. The same things make them laugh. The use the same shorthand. They are hockey players.

“Hockey may in fact be just a game,” said the HBO narrator. “It’s also who they are.”

He may have been talking about the Rangers and Flyers, but man, he said a mouthful there.

Take three minutes from your day and watch this. It will remind you why you love the game.

As a good friend always says, "For the love of the greatest game":




Jan 13, 2012

The weather sure suits a Friday the 13th.

As does the demeanour of folks trudging through the mess at the GO station and Union Station and all points in between.

As previously stated, I think this week is a though one on the psyche as we struggle to recalibrate our moods from holiday/festive to Sweet-Jesus-There’s-Four-Months-of-This-Ahead mode.

Big sigh. Big beer.

We’ll all cope.

I hope.

- - -

In a sort of deep dive into the drug-crime infrastructure of urban Baltimore, Laura and I just finished watching all five seasons of The Wire, an acclaimed HBO series that wrapped up three or four years ago.

In the parlance of TV critics everywhere, I’ll warn you that it’s gritty – which is to say the language is salted with the words and phrases one might expect to hear in an urban ghetto or a hockey dressing room.

It is violent and unflinching and unsympathetic in the portrayal of the lifestyle consequences of the drug culture.

But, it is probably the finest, most gripping and deeply layered TV I have ever watched. Better than The Sopranos, for instance.

There are five seasons and 60 episodes of The Wire. Smarter guys than me could summarize the series but over five seasons it turns over all the rocks that line the streets of a side of urban life few of us Oakville types will ever see up close. Drug trafficking. Politics. Police politics. Prostitution. School board politics. Murder. Gang violence. Even journalism gets raked – and accurately, too.

We have a friend who owns all five seasons and it has been our almost-exclusive TV viewing since then, in between hockey games attended and viewed on the tube.

If you were smart enough to watch Hill Street Blues back in the 1980s, The Wire is sort of what that show started to evolve towards, but without the moral restrictions imposed by network morality. And with much deeper story threads and a compelling cast of characters that is challenging to keep up with.

Whereas The Sopranos – which I thoroughly enjoyed and regard as a terrific series – seemed to run out of steam in the final seasons, The Wire gets better and better with each season.

If you haven’t watched it and need something to sustain you on the long haul to backyard season, give it a shot.

For us, we have Dexter, Hung, and now, Shameless and Californication, to catch up on.

After that, we’re going to try HBO’s Treme and maybe dive into the DVD version of Friday Night Lights – I read the book years ago and loved it, but never bothered with the movie or TV series. But everyone tells me I should.

Happy viewing.

- - -

Another busy hockey weekend, but at least this weekend the weather will make it feel like winter.

Pad plays at home tonight vs. Hamilton, and then between periods of that game our novice Leafs and another Oakville novice squad will scrimmage for the entertainment of the gathered masses.

Meanwhile, Chris and his team will be in Scarborough for game one in a weekend tournament.

Saturday morning brings a novice practice, followed by a sprint to Scarberia for the afternoon game two for Chris and the minor midget Knights. After that I race back to Oakville for another Blades home game, vs. Markham, and to help out with another pair of local novice teams scrimmaging between periods. Laura will stay between in Scarborough for tournament game three.

Sunday is novice game day and, if things go really, really well, the championship game in the minor midget tournament.

I think Sunday night is, blessedly, free.

Colder temperatures mean slippery driving and many of you will be on the roads more than me. So, think about the cargo you have in the back seat anxious to get to the game, and leave a few minutes early and just slow down.

Enjoy the wintery weekend. Make some hot chocolate and don’t forget the whipped cream.

Hug the kids.


Jan 12, 2012

Quiet night for me – zoned out on the couch, watching the Pens and Caps, doing a little mindless channel surfing and hitting the rack at a reasonably early hour.

I watched the TV news in bed waiting up for the curler and listening to the rain hit the window.

The weather has been ridiculous, but I guess that’s supposed to end tomorrow morning with some rain/snow/slush arriving just in time to make Friday miserable.

I can’t wait.

- - -

This next thing is a pretty good sign that I need to get out more.

I was listening to the radio and the folks were talking about the death of Robert Palmer – a British singer who was big in the 1980s with hits like Addicted to Love. He won a lot of acclaim for provocative music videos that featured a lot of statuesque, pouty women in tight clothes. (Who could have imagined that would be popular?)

Anyway, he’s dead.

But the interesting thing is that he died in 2003 and no word of a lie, I don’t think I knew about it until today.

That seems a little weird to me – I’m not completely a slave to the information machine, bit I’m pretty close. So, I would have to go back in time to see what I was doing in late September 2003 to have missed this.

On the other hand, some nights I can’t remember the names of my kids, Elvis and Chad, so it’s possible that I did know and I forgot that I knew.

In any event, it’s a slow day in blog land so I thought I’d share evidence of my diminishing memory with you while passing along condolences to Mr. Palmer’s family and friends.

You can read about him here.

- - -

Regular readers know that we here at Teamoakville hold a few things to be truly iconic.

Like, Jennifer Anniston in a necktie.

And, Brian Burke with a necktie that is never worn formally.

And, beer.

Just to cite three examples.

But another thing we are big fans of is Lulu Lemon Athletica – the Canadian firm famous for a wide range of mostly-female oriented yoga and active wear.

It’s mostly famous for Nobel Prize-worthy stretch pants that make butts look great, perhaps even when greatness has not been properly earned.

I gush about Lulu today not just because Hans, my long-suffering ice dance instructor, has a new wardrobe of men’s Lulu wear courtesy of Lars.

No, I write about it today because Lulu Lemon now has a larger market capitalization than Research In Motion.

I’m not sure what to make of that.

I don’t personally own any Lulu stuff, but my wife does (and she looks great in it, too.)

I do have a Blackberry (that I only sometimes feel like throwing against a wall.)

But . . . there’s something a little odd about this success story for Lulu.

I mean, RIM was – actually, in fairness, still is – a tech colossus standing on the business landscape, once upon a time batting aside challengers and making us all wave the flag in Made-In-Canada pride.

This morning, Lulu’s market cap was about $8.9 billion, compared to $8.3 billion for the Blackberry maker with the now-troubled forecasts.

They are both terrific products – the market has spoken and the market is never wrong. We can only guess what the future will hold.

But as different as the products are, we can be glad that both have given us something to look at as we commute or walk down the street or punish ourselves on a stair machine at the gym.

That seems like a decent gift to the world from Canada.

Read more here.


Jan 11, 2012

Chris’s team finally won a game last night, 5-3 with an empty netter. The boys have been in a bit of a rut lately so it was nice to see them post a “W”.

It would have been even nicer if it wasn’t our 5th consecutive day/night in a rink. Normally the weeknight games are a nice diversion but the back-to-work routine has left almost everyone in the house a little more fatigued this week. Perhaps me especially, I don't know.

No rink duty for me tonight, but Laura will be at a curling rink.

I’m going to hurry hard to a sofa and sprawl.

- - -

Not that anyone else out there cares, but yesterday was the major junior and junior A trade deadline.

If you are naturally inclined to sweat details anyway, then trade day – and the run up to it – is very helpful for injecting a little anxious thought into an idle parent’s mind.

It doesn’t command the popular attention of the NHL trade deadline but I can assure you it gets the attention of players and parents, especially those lucky enough to play for their hometown team in a league with franchises in far-flung places like Huntsville, Kingston, Trenton, Peterborough, Cobourg, etc. You can even be traded to other leagues, in other provinces (usually with your consent.)

But you get the idea.

Our guy stays put, which is fine by us.

But lots of other kids are on the move today and settling in with new teams getting ready for a playoff run shortly. The age range in this loop is 16 to 21, which is a lot both chronologically and in life experience. Think of what you were doing at 16, and what you were doing at 21, and you get the idea.

It’s not unusual for the overagers, as the 21s are called, to be traded especially if they are with a weaker team. Strong teams like to bulk up on vets. (At 18, Pad is the youngest defenceman on his team which carries only one 16 year old.)

Now that trade day is behind us, we’ll be happy if Pad can let some of his injuries heal. His role on the team is a physical one and it can take a toll, although he has managed to play 35 of the team’s 37 games to date, second highest on the roster.

I told you Monday about the injury to his right foot, sustained in practice off a teammate’s slapshot.

Well, on Monday evening in Hamilton he took a Red Wing shot off his left foot, hobbling himself further.

I was hoping the two limps would cancel each other out, but no such luck.

He didn’t skate at practice yesterday because he couldn’t tighten the boot of his skate and subsequently came home in a very bad mood. He seems to be able to walk fine but pressure on the injury causes some grief.

No word from the home infirmary this morning as to whether yet more x-rays are needed, but we’re hoping not.

He practically glows in the dark now from all the pictures taken of his limbs in the last year, and on top of all that he is finally getting a long-waited MRI on his wrist next week.

Side benefit – he’s able to sit up late in the dark and read without turning on any lights.

- - -

Speaking of reading, Chris picked up the latest young adult fiction released yesterday by author John Green. I have no idea what The Fault in Our Stars is about, but I do know that Chris couldn’t wait to get his hands on it.

He picked up his pre-ordered copy after school and at 11:39p last night (including time out to play a hockey game in which he recorded a nifty assist) he finished it, all 300-odd pages.

OK. I’m impressed.

- - -

While I was at Joshua Creek arena last night, the Leafs were winning their 4th game in a row. And not that anyone has noticed, but the Crosby-less Pens have now lost five in a row and are on the cusp of slipping out of a playoff spot.



Jan 9, 2012

I’m not sure if it’s harder getting the body and brain back up to speed after Christmas or after summer holidays. All I know is that either is no picnic.

Like most of you, the holidays for us didn’t end with a gentle slide out of festive mode and a bunny hop back into reality, but rather with a sort of family-style waterboarding, clear torture as the schedule got busier and busier and never really let up late last week and through the weekend.

Junior hockey games Friday night (win) and Sunday afternoon (win).

Novice practice Saturday, novice game Sunday (7-3 win).

Minor midget Sunday night game (4-3 loss) – and in the coveted 930p time slot, no less.

Suffice to say, 615a came early this morning and with another junior game tonight in Hamilton it will be a long day. Tomorrow night Chris plays again, so we’re off and running.

Happy New Year.

- - -

I’ve been MIA from the blogging thing largely because of lethargy, I think. Well, lethargy about blogging, at least. See? I’m lethargic about why I’m lethargic.

I started back at the gym last week, full of good intentions and New Year’s resolve.

Through five fairly sweaty workouts, I’ve come to the conclusion that plans for my best-selling fitness book – Olympic Glory through Beer and Chicken Wings: One Man’s Remarkable Journey to Greatness – will have to be seriously reconsidered.

That is, assuming I live long enough to finish it at all.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Santa delivered a fair amount of Lulu Lemon attire to fitter people than me who are also at the gym. So as I pant and turn red and wait for my heart to explode I have something to look at.

- - -

Last summer I talked to a guy at the gym who told me about this book he read that he said he found inspirational and transforming. I wasn’t sure I was ready to be inspired and transformed, so I wisely ignored him.

But over the holidays, watching football from the prone position as my stomach raised and lowered a bowl of popcorn in front of my eyes, I thought maybe some inspired transformation might not be a bad idea.

So I downloaded the book, Younger Next Year. It’s aimed at guys around 50 who are interested in living active lives until well into their 80s.

The book makes the point that sure, you could drop dead tomorrow of a heart attack, but medical science being what it is, chances are fair better that you won’t, and that in spite of yourself you are going to live to be 80-something.

The bigger challenge is being able to do more than drool and push a TV remote control for most of those years, and that is where the book comes in.

It’s not rocket surgery. Eat well. Drink moderately. Exercise REGULARLY, and HARD. Six times a week, get your heart rate up for 45 minutes. Golf doesn’t count. Computer golf really doesn’t count.

The book is co-authored by a doctor more interested in promoting wellness than in treating cardiac patients, and a retired, formerly fat lawyer. They alternate chapters, going from the science behind the sermon to practical advice on making this work and staying motivated.

I’ve only been at it a week so I won’t claim any miracles – there really are none to be had.

Eat less. Eat better. Exercise more.

Radical stuff.

Progress report to follow in a couple weeks.

- - -

A couple interesting family highlights of the holiday season.

- - While some of our best friends were ferrying their broods south for sun or west for skiing, we stayed put.

Pad and a friend went to Nathan Phillips Square (by GO Train) for the New Year’s Eve celebrations and managed to get there and back and safely deliver his date home (by 3a, but still, safe). Laura and I were watching DVDs and flipped over to CITY-TV around 11:25p, and no word of a lie, almost instantly she said, “Look, there’s Pad.”

I first I thought she was drunk. But because we had to drive to pick up Chris at a house party, we were sober. And further, she was right.

Front and centre, large and hard to miss, was our first born and he kept turning up on TV for the rest of the evening, getting more air time than Kevin and Dina. It was weird.

-- The second interesting thing was Saturday morning.

I got home from the novice Leafs practice and was watching TSN highlights when suddenly, Chris appeared. At 1035a. In the morning. On a Saturday.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Nothing. Hmmm. Nothing? Really? Really?

“What do you want?”

Well . . . .

Ah HA!

So, it turns out that some Internet performer star was scheduled to perform in Toronto on Saturday at 230p and he and a buddy were conspiring to go. The challenge was that it was nowhere close to a GO station, and even if it had been, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in a novice dressing room that he was going to be turned loose on a GO train and end up in Ajax.

Multi-party negotiations ensued (on Facebook the night before, Chris said his “rents were asleep” and he had to get up early to commence heavy-duty convincing.)

Well, whatever he did, it worked.

I drove him and a pal to a hall in west Toronto to see someone called Meekakitty do a comedy routine. You have never heard of her. Me either.

She performs on a Youtube channel, only on the Internet, not on TV. At the risk of sounding really old, kids today are different.

They don’t consume pop culture the way we did, or even the way their older siblings did.

Chris has a handful of Internet performers he follows regularly and he streams the web onto the TV and watches them there. – on TV, but not TV.

It drives my bandwidth charges up and it drives TV network executives crazy.

And when you hear media experts babble about the lines between conventional and new media betting blurry, this is what they’re talking about.

Chris and his friend really enjoyed their afternoon and got photos, video, autographs, and hugs.

Kids today . . .

- - -

Last Tuesday night, when Canada was playing Russia for a place in the world junior gold medal game, Chris had a hockey game.

The two guys who officiated the game have been calling minor hockey games in Oakville for years. And apparently when they decide they have to be somewhere (like in front of a TV watching Team Canada) they can make a hockey game fly by.

Chris’s team lost the game. There wasn’t one single icing call the whole game. Goalies at both ends were yelled at to drop pucks and keep them in play. There might have been one penalty, I’m not sure.

The teams were off the ice at 1035p from a 10p start.

Minor hockey. It’s all about the kids.

Side note – when we got home from the game, Canada was losing 6-1 in the third period. I didn’t even turn  the game on. Ten minutes later Pad comes up from the man cave and yells “are you watching this? Turn the effing game on.”

You all know the rest of the story.

- - -

On Wednesday night Pad came home from Blades practice, said nothing was new, and then ate food for 35 minutes.

An hour later he emerged from the man cave and said he got hit on the foot by a puck at practice and needed an ice pack.

An hour after that, he asked what the strongest pain killer we have would be.

By the time he went to bed, he could no longer put any weight on his foot whatsoever.

So, I’m watching him go up the stairs to bed, on his butt, one step at a time, figuring I’m going to the Emergency Department at OTH. Laura, smarter than me, said there was no way he had a broken bone. Bones break, they hurt. Bones don’t break, let you walk on them, and then gradually hurt more and more. Broken bones hurt all at once.

So we decided to let him sleep, if he could. And he did.

And in the morning he could walk again, but he got an x-ray anyway and there was no broken bone.

By Friday night he was still sore, but he played in a win over Burlington and by Sunday it was if nothing was ever wrong.


- - -

I’m sure that funny and interesting things happened to me/us over the two-weeks of Christmas. I just don’t remember most of them.

It will take a few days to reengage my brain – and it will take you at least that long.