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June 29, 2011

We went to see the Jays-Pirates game last night, something we don’t often do but with company in town and the dome open and a brilliant summer night waiting, away we went.

The good guys lost 7-6, but you couldn’t expect much more in terms of entertainment value at the ball park, including six homers, four of them off Toronto bats.

It was Tweeting Tuesday at the Rogers Centre, so periodically they would flash something on the board and you were encouraged to Tweet or text a message to have a chance to win.

The last one of the night was a Blue Jays Canada Day ball cap. Chris grabbed his mother’s iPhone and fired off a note that he really wanted that hat.

We all laughed – like he’s gonna win, right?

Ten minutes later a young woman shows up at his seat – he didn’t win the hat, but they liked his messaged so they brought him a “Vote Jose” t-shirt, part of the Jays’ campaign for slugger Jose Bautista’s appearance at the All Star Game.

We all cheered and had a good laugh.

- - -

I meant to mention this Monday, but two Oakville boys were selected in the NHL entry draft on the weekend.

Stuart Percy, a star defenceman with the Memorial Cup finalist Mississauga St Mike’s Majors, went in the first round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is as about as good as it can get for a GTA hockey player.

And Scott Wilson, a forward with the junior A Georgetown Raiders of the OJHL, went to Pittsburgh in the seventh round.

Percy used to attend Abbey Park High School and he and Pad played together briefly on that school’s junior team. Percy is very much a product of the GTHL and he has excelled at every level. Only a fool would think he’s not going to be an outstanding prospect for the Leafs.

Wilson’s road to the NHL draft – he didn’t attend, didn’t take the day off work, didn’t watch and didn’t know he had been drafted at all – was considerably less glamourous.

Patrick plays against him the same division of the OJHL and Wilson is a speedy forward who puts up lots of points and was very much a MOHA product.

They are both great stories. Read more about the two Oakville boys here.

- - -

Tonight, we’ll be gathered at Glen Abbey Rec Centre, with my sister and her husband and two sons and a close family friend, to watch Patrick finish high school.

I’ve said to his mother that it’s somewhat fitting that Glen Abbey is the venue for the grad because over the years he and many of his fellow grads have spent a lot of time in those rinks, as hockey and lacrosse players, chasing dreams and making friends and living life large. Things they did there and the lessons learned in victory and defeat – there, and at the school across the parking lot -- shaped them from green Grade 9s into young adults.

Our second winter in Oakville – and my first behind a bench as a MOHA coach in the old paperweight division – was spent on the ice Glen Abbey Rec Centre.

That was 1999 and now . . . he’s finished with minor hockey and finished with high school.

I have no profound advice for Pad other than to work hard, be honest and true to yourself; never stop believing in and chasing your dreams, whatever they are; to try and give something back; and make good choices in life, love and friendship. And take your time. There’s no rush to grow up.

It’s easier said than done, but I think if you can manage to get those things right, a lot of other things will take care of themselves.

As I have said many times, Pad is lucky to have good friends who have supported him. And they are lucky to have him. I have no doubt a core of them will stay in each other’s lives forever, albeit not daily any more.

He will learn as the years go by that the guys who were once his teammates will actually always be his teammates.

I remember almost nothing of my high school commencement, which is notable in itself because I have a knack for remembering things.

But the one thing I do remember was our principal standing on the stage and encouraging the grads to take a minute to look at each other and try to find something to remember.

Then he said that some of these classmates around you will never see you again after today (my class was more than 200 kids).

And that really sunk in and that was what I remembered. And he was right.

There will be speeches about endings and starting new journeys and all of that, but after tonight this group will splinter and scatter. They will also be a lot further away from childhood and a lot closer to being adults.

A regular blog reader commented to me last weekend that while I talk about my kids often here, I rarely brag about them. I’m going to break that self-imposed rule for a sentence or two today.

Pad is a terrific young man, better than we could ever have hoped for 17 years ago and he’s a great role model for his wonderful younger brother. And while he has many things to look proudly upon today – his honour-roll marks over the years, the academic scholarship offers, the athletic accomplishments and opportunities he has earned – for me one thing stands above all as a barometer of his character.

And that’s the quality of the young men and women who are his friends. Friends like his – whether in the rink, the gym or the classroom – will help pick you up on bad days and celebrate your good ones.

We’re proud of him and we’re proud of them all.

Here’s to great years of health, opportunity and prosperity for all of them.


June 28, 2011

It’s been a hectic couple of days and it’s not looking like it will get any better, so I’ll blog briefly when I can.

Laura and I were both more or less catatonic with fatigue after the wrap-up of the Brian Kruse Memorial House League Tournament, which marked the end of Oakville’s house league lacrosse season on the weekend.

Laura has been co-ordinating this event, and its predecessor “Gala Day”, for literally the last 10 years. She says this weekend was her farewell performance.

As it always is, the wrap up to the season was a lot of fun, even if my spouse was MIA for virtually the entire weekend (which is why I was at the rink all day Sunday and half of Saturday, because otherwise I would never have seen her.)

From peanut through midget all of the championships were settled, many in exciting fashion.

My role was “fixer” for the day. Play O Canada. Be the shot clock timer for 10 minutes. Deliver shirts and trophies to the Blue rink. Take pictures. Play O Canada again. And again. And again.

It all went very well, and I was proud of my small part and Laura’s big one. It takes an army of volunteers to make something like this work. We had a good army and thanks to all of them.

A couple pictures below from my BB.


He hasn't learned "the glare" yet.

Are you ready for your closeup? The winners assemble to pose. . .

More presentations . . .

Local woman claims something from "lost and found." Husband insists upon it's prompt return. She looked a little too happy!

- - -

My favourite story from the weekend:

The VP of house league pulled me aside Saturday and said he wanted to share a story from a game that Patrick officiated.

The game was close and as is often the case, emotions started running high, including those of the coaches. After a call that one particular coach disagreed with, he began chirping Patrick from the bench and didn’t let up.

Patrick (6-4, 215 pounds, four per cent body fat) turned to the coach and gave him “the glare” and then moved his fingers across his mouth in the international sign for “zip it.”

He never said a word to the coach, but apparently he got his message across just fine.

The coach later told the VP of House that at that moment he thought that if he said another word, Patrick was coming into the bench.

I really doubt that would have happened, but the story cracked up my interlocutor to the point that he had to share it.

The game ended without incident!

- - -

Speaking of lacrosse, here’s an ugly story.

Police in Kamloops are considering possible charges against a 15-year-old after an incident in a game there.

It’s alleged the player was cross-checked twice from behind and then, while he was down, his attacker stomped on his head, breaking his neck.


Read more here.

- - -

Oakville hockey mom and good friend Susan Aglukark is now Dr. Aglukark to you and me.

The three-time Juno Award winning singer and tireless advocate for aboriginal youth was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Calgary this week.

Susan is also a member of the Order of Canada.

Years and years ago before I knew her I commented to Laura one cold Sunday morning at Oakville Arena that my goalie’s mom sure looked a lot like that famous singer from the North.

Laura promptly smacked me in the side of the head.

“That’s because it IS her you idiot.”


Susan is one of the most unassumring people you could ever meet. Yes, she is a singer. But the work she does in support of native youth and other important social issues is staggering.

I know all that now and we’re proud to call her family our friends.

- - -

A shout out to our friend Mike Santangeli, who was named yesterday the u18 Team Ontario rugby squad.

Mike was the goalie on Patrick’s last two house league hockey teams and had a successful run in rep in the GTHL before discovering that he was really good at rugby.

Who knew?

Mike did, apparently.

Congratulations to Mike.

- - -

Family has descended upon Oakville to help Patrick mark his high school graduation tomorrow night. He wrote his last exam on Monday (missing his hockey team’s golf tournament in the process.)

More on all this later. For now, I’ll just say we’re glad to have the company, we’re proud of our kid and all his friends for their accomplishments, and mostly we’re looking forward to the next phase. I think.

Seriously, they are a talented bunch of kids and their energy is impressive.

They will do great things.


June 23, 2011

The school year is coming to an end and the activity around our house reflects that happy (for the boys, at least) circumstance.

Chris wrote his French exam on Wednesday and did an oral presentation, after which he happily proclaimed on Facebook “I never have to speak French again.”

Ah, there’s a soul filled with the joy of learning and enriched by the experience of now being able to buy milk in the language of Moliere.

Patrick has English behind him and calculus and vectors in his sights.

He says he’s ready and he’s a pretty good judge of that, so all I can do is wish him good luck – as if luck enters into an exam on calculus and vectors.

- - -

The Oakville Minor Lacrosse Association’s house league season will end this weekend, and there’s lots of action on many fronts.

The Brian Kruse Memorial House League Gala Tournament, featuring 49 teams across six divisions playing 70 games, is well underway with nightly games at Glen Abbey and River Oaks, and maybe some other places, too.

Laura is the coordinator of the weekend activities, as she has been for pretty much the last decade, which means our garage will temporarily become a storage area for crates of trophies and water bottles and boxes of t-shirts and pretty much anything else to do with the weekend festivities.

Chris reffed a pair of games last night and Pad was pressed into calling a rep game at the last minute because of an injury to another ref.

That caused a little excitement around the ranch, but we managed to get through it. Or more accurately, he did.

You can find the schedule for the tournament on the association web site, here.

- - -

We got home in time to see three quarters of the NHL awards gala from Las Vegas, an event we happily watched with the sound turned down.

The NHL awards show is tenaciously stupid. That is, it’s not just a bad idea poorly executed, it’s as if they go out of their way to make it that way. It feels forced and the entire format would be more at home partnered with a roller derby league.

Does Major League baseball have a gala? No.

The NFL? No.

NBA? No.

Perhaps the NHL is simply giving back to the hockey-deprived fans of Las Vegas by using the desert gambling mecca as the venue for the show.

It’s just bad.

- - -

 June 21, 2011

When the change was made uptown

And the Big Man joined the Band

From the coastline to the city

All the little pretties raise their hands

Bruce Springsteen, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out


Clarence Clemons, the larger-than-life saxophonist who became famous with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, died on Saturday.

He was only 69.

Regulars here know that Springsteen is a staple on the iPod rotation in our house and we’ve seen the band numerous times.

Clemons was known to his fans everywhere simply as Big Man – a label hung on him by Springsteen owing to his hulking 6-4 frame and football-player build.

He was absolutely integral to the E Street sound. His own words describe meeting The Boss.


One night we were playing in Asbury Park. I'd heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story but I'm a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, "I want to play with your band," and he said, "Sure, you do anything you want." The first song we did was an early version of "Spirit In The Night". Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.


If you have been fortunate enough to hear Springsteen tell the story in concert, it’s slightly different, but he retained the drama of the stormy night and told of the large black man in a bright white suit appearing out of the storm. Springsteen would tell his rapt audience at that moment he turned to guitarist Steve van Zant and asked, “Am I crazy, or is that dude carrying a saxophone?!”

Springsteen and Clemons were partners. The Big Man was a sideman, for sure, but he was never a part of the background and Springsteen would routinely lavish hyperbolic praise, love and admiration on his friend.

While most of the band would dress in black jeans or other comfortable, casual clothes, Clemons always wore a lavish suit, usually with a big ole’ hat too.

And when he cut in to play a solo he would, as Carole King sang in Jazzman about another sax player, make a faithless man believe.

I won’t apologize for being a fan. This man was a giant talent. You can read more about him here.

Below is a 90-second clip of Clemons performing his solo on Jungleland. It’s shot with a hand-held camera from the concert floor. It’s rough and raw and real.

If you’ve attended a Springsteen show and were lucky enough to hear the full 11-minute version of this song, the sax solo arrives near the end as almost a religious experience.

Hey. I said I am a fan. For me, that’s not an exaggeration.

Take 90 seconds from your day and listen to the Big Man. Turn it way up.


 - - -

That sound you heard drifting over Glen Abbey last night wasn’t a chainsaw.

Laura got home from the east (again!) last night. And she brought lobster! There was a lot of cracking and chewing!

What a great surprise and fun treat for a Monday night.

She left literally at dawn Friday so last evening we sat out back and just yakked and yakked.

We tend to talk a lot – it’s a gift we share. That and eating lobster.

And when one of us is away, then a lot of conversations have to be caught up on. Email, text and Blackberry PIN are nice tools for touching base, but as Dorothy said, there’s no place like home.

We also share a passion for lobster and we hit those hapless crawlies like a buzz saw.

A Father’s Day feast, slightly delayed but really appreciated.

We played a lot of Springsteen for a Monday night. The Big Man will always have a place in our kitchen.


June 20, 2011

We survived the 2011 senior prom just fine.

The kids got together at a friend’s place for photos and mingling, hopped a party bus to the prom, the same bus back to the after-party, and as far as I know everyone got home safe and sound.

Not necessarily early, but safe.

Pad texted me at 8:30a to come get him and some friends from whence they crashed and I was happy to oblige.

To say that they were tired would be to say the Grand Canyon is a nifty ditch.

No one was hung over – it was simply fun burn and lack of sleep.

When we got home Pad immediately crashed, and crashed hard. But only until 1:30p because he had three lacrosse games to ref.

I pity the coaches and players who were subjected to his mood. I went over and watched for a while and he looked short on patience and long on cranky.

A proud parenting moment, below:

- - -

Chris and I enjoyed a quiet Friday night. We were going to try and make an early movie but it didn’t work out with the running around related to the prom stuff.

So we ordered a pizza and then he disappeared to the basement.

Because Pad was out for the night I suggested we hit Dairy Queen – we never go there because of Pad’s peanut allergy – and I thought this would be a nice treat.

So did Chris.

While driving down Dorval, he asked if we might be able to stop somewhere to get string – he needed it to fix a guitar strap. So we went to Metro first to look for string.

Once inside Metro I started shopping. We need apples. And lettuce and steaks for Saturday night. And milk. And sandwich meat. (Since the boys learned to make their own sandwiches, we always need sandwich meat. Always. They eat like Pac man. When the time comes and they're wheeling me down a corridor with the paddles on my chest, someone is going to ask if I need anything. And I'm going to say "Yes. We need sandwich meat.")

And string.

Long story short, if Metro actually has string, no one in the store knew where it was.

I mean, no one.

So Chris – who wasn’t interested in apples, steak, lettuce or milk – directed us to the dollar store, which was remarkably busy for 8p on a Friday night. And they had lots of string. I think if we were looking for weapons-grade plutonium we would probably be able to find it at the dollar store – cheap too.

Then finally, it was off to Dairy Queen for a Smarties Blizzard and a peanut buster parfait.

We took them home and got back just in time to see the Jays give up an inside-the-park homer, which triggered my natural urge to yell at the TV and the Jays’ outfield in general.

The evening got quieter after that.

I went to bed early and slept restlessly, half expecting the phone to ring at any moment summoning me to go fetch Patrick or any of his friends. (I told him if anything happened and he wasn’t sure who to call, call me. No judgmental speeches or punitive parenting for 24 hours, guaranteed. Just call. I’ll help.)

He didn’t call. I woke early and exchanged emails with Laura two time zones away.

- - -

Rory McIlroy, superstar.

The new US Open champ looks like he should have been at the Abbey Park HS prom, too, not humiliating the USGA and some of the greatest golfers in the world.

Talented, humble, endearing, Irish, and young.

Tiger who?

- - -

I think if I went back and searched out previous Father’s Day weekend posts, a common theme would be that I rarely actually get to watch the final round. Some sporting and/or family activity would demand a drive or coaching or something.

But with Laura away, and Pad now licensed to drive, and the US Open on TV, and Father’s Day, well, don’t get in between me and the TV on Sunday, okay?


Mom has a long reach and suffice to say she (wisely) insisted (again) that Pad needs a little more time with a co-pilot before being allowed to navigate the QEW and 407 and 403 alone.

So last night, I was again in a rink.

Someone I won’t name suggested I just stay home and pretend I went to the rink. “She’ll never ask, and she’ll never know.”

Um, bad idea. She’ll find out, and just because you don’t open your mouth doesn’t mean it’s not a lie. That's not how we roll and that’s not an option.

So I went to the Powerade Centre for Sunday night junior hockey. Pad’s team won 11 to 3 or something. It was chilly.

On the drive home I was gazing off at Lake Ontario as we came down the hill on the 403 westbound approach to the QEW. At that moment I remembered driving down that same approach at least a decade ago, returning from a house league tournament with Pad at York University. Same road. Same kid. Same sport.

I don’t know why I thought of it at that moment but I said, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a dollar for every kilometre we’ve driven for hockey or lacrosse?

He laughed.

“That would be sweet.”

When we got home I called my dad and told him anything good I’ve learned about being a dad I learned from him. All the bad stuff I do along the way is entirely my fault.

My dad put a lot of miles on the cars for hockey, too. There isn’t a day that I don’t think about that commitment.

- - -

A last word about Father’s Day.

Because she is who she is, even though she was far away Laura made sure there was something for the boys to give me on Sunday (when they eventually got out of bed.)

Chris did the honours, and he is a cool guy. Chris is the type of kid who still comes to the door to see me when I get home from work. That means a lot to me.

I was later stunned, in a very good way, when the son who can now drive presented me with a gift that he bought on his own, without consulting his mother or being told to do it.

I’ve never had a Father’s Day moment like that. It was a great surprise and he has remarkably good taste.

He was obviously well brought up! Good job, mom.


June 17, 2011

Lost and found isn't just a place at GO Transit's office in Union Station where they tell you, "No, we don't have that."

Lost and found, for me, today, is a state of mind.

Patrick has his senior prom tonight and for days I have been walking around wondering where did the time go. It's been 17 and a half years. He used to sleep in a ball on my chest on Saturday afternoons, us snug on the sofa as I watched NCAA basketball and his mom escaped the house to shop and find some peace of mind for a few hours.

Fast forward through the rinks and fields and schools and trips and Edmonton and Ottawa and Cape Breton and Oakville, and all the highs and lows and here we are.

He'll pull on the tux tonight, stand impatiently for photos with parents and friends in a lush Oakville backyard, and then they will all pile onto a bus for one of the seminal rites of passage a young man or woman enjoys.

I guess one of the reasons they all look so grown up is that they are grown up. Not fully completely, not by a longshot.

But these kids have cleared some impressive hurdles, earned their next opportunities at colleges and universities, and can't wait to show us that they're ready for the challenges.

Unfortunately, Laura is out of town on business this weekend and it's making her mental that she can't be among the other shutterbug moms (and dads) snapping pictures and, no doubt, dabbing at the eyes with tissue.

Much of what Pad has become -- and since it's my damn blog I am happy to say with no objectivity or modesty that it's a seriously impressive package (most days, although I don't get how he can lift 500 pounds but not two dirty socks) -- is due to his mom. I like to think I had a hand in it, but I am a poor second fiddle to her impressive skills.

So, I am sad she's not here for tonight. But Chris and I will see him off and then we'll make a night of some fun of our own.


I try not to overthink such things. The grad in two weeks is the big show for the parents, but tonight is the event that matters to the kids.

Some of the kids won't be attending grad -- job commitments out of town will pull them away, among other things.

So, whether they realize it or not tonight will be the last time most of them will be assembled together in one place.


I hope they have fun.

I hope the driver gets them to and from the prom safely and with great care.

Maybe I'll post a picture.

- - -

Patrick's friends are scattering like leaves in the fall to various places; the decision have been made. Western. Queens. Laurier. Mac. U of T. Some will go back to high school to improve some grades and sort out what they want to do.

For an aspiring hockey player, the decision tree was more complex.

Pad's goal is to play NCAA college hockey. It's a lot harder to make happen than you might think, because there's a lot of really good players out there. It's far, far, far from a sure thing.

But it's what makes him go to the gym. It's what makes him go to the rink. It's why he's a member of a Facebook group called "I can't -- I have hockey."

That sums up much of his teen years -- but it's his choice.

Dirty little secret about NCAA hockey -- most freshmen hockey players are 19, 20 or 21 years old. The NCAA likes the boys to have two to four years of junior A experience and they want them "physically mature." (Patrick is 6-4 and 215 pounds. If he gets much more "physically mature," we'll need to put a new wing on the house.)

Anyway, if he attends a Canadian university full time it will start the clock running on his hockey-eligible years for NCAA or CIS.

So, he will go part-time to protect the eligibility and play another season of junior A and see what happens. I'm fine with that -- you can't chase this dream if you wait until after university.

He had options for U of T, York, Ryerson and University of Guelph-Humber, and he opted for the last one -- a small specialized campus in north Toronto -- because they were willing to customize a part-time study program around his hockey, they offered him the most scholarship money, and it is a program he wanted -- Honours Bachelor of Applied Science in Kinesiology and a Diploma in Fitness and Health Promotion. He wants to stay in and around sports.

The other big distraction here in recent weeks was an invitation from the Shawinigan Cataracts of the QMJHL. They were bringing in seven guys to compete for three blueline spots and they really wanted my kid to come to camp. They were very good guys to deal with.

Problem is, if he played in even an exhibition game with a major junior team, he loses his NCAA eligibility.

Shawinigan is hosting the Memorial Cup next May, so it was a pretty compelling opportunity. And it's a lot to expect of a 17 year old to sort through the wins and losses of such opportunities. We talked a lot about what he really wants. Shawinigan is 16 hours of driving, round trip. We got advice from smart, trusted friends.

On Sunday night, he told Shawinigan he wouldn't be coming to camp, but thank you for inviting me. Tough call.

But he will be going to Boston next month for an NCAA prospect tournament and some schools have already contacted him to tell him they're coming to watch.

I don't know where it will all take us -- perhaps nowhere. But I do know he's off and running. And that's a good start.

- - -

So today, it's all about lost and found.

I'm feeling like I lost 17 years in the blink of an eye, but we found at the end of that journey a pretty terrific young man with great friends.

Shawinigan feels like a lost opportunity perhaps, but in talking it through and thinking about what he wanted, he found something too -- a renewed commitment to his goal and his dream. We're behind him all the way whatever happens.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to seeing him and his friends off tonight.

I'm looking forward to spending my evening with Chris, who is a great guy to hang out with anytime. I think we're going to see Hangover 2 -- a very Chris thing to do.

Have a great weekend.

If your kids are the ages of mine or a little older, then you know what I'm talking about today.

If they're younger -- well, you have no idea what's coming, but try to enjoy the journey.

And remember that no matter how big they get, they're never too big to hear "I love you" -- a Laura lesson if there ever was one.

And as always, hug the kids.


June 15, 2011

Uninformed things overheard on TV so far today:

“Game 7 doesn’t happen very often in the Stanley Cup finals, and add in a Canadian team and it’s even rarer.”

Fact: Tonight’s game will be the sixth Stanley Cup final in the last 10 finals to go to seven games.

Fact: three of the last four times a Canadian team was in the final, it went seven games (and the Canadian team lost all of them.)

- - -

If you’re like me, you like volcanoes. (How’s that for a change up?)

I mostly like volcanoes that are a really, really long way away.

And there’s one in Chile that qualifies.

And the only reason I’m commenting on the eruption at Puyehue is because a photographer named Ivan Alvarado has taken some of the most spectacular images that you will ever see of Mother Nature kicking ass and taking names.

I won’t go on and on. But you’re going to want to show these to your kids.

Click here.

- - -

 As the unofficial press agent for a group of future Major Leaguers, I'm here today to tell you that the Oakville A's AAA mosquito baseball team is picking up right where it left off last year.


My baseball correspondent reports:

They finished off the week end in grand style by taking care of business and winning the Milt Dunnell North York Mosquito AAA Baseball Tournament.

Here is a picture of the happy boys and their hardware.

Astonishingly, the boys played an error free finals beating the Guelph Royals 5 – 0

Great game by both squads.

Pictured below are;

Kneeling front row;

Luke Seidel, Tanner Elson, Jordan Gamble, Paul Costin, Ethan Hammond, Matt Stone

Standing back row;

Luke Raczywolski, Sandro Severin, Carter Pauley, Tyler Sagl, Eric Cerantola

Missing is Evan McIntyre


Ryan Seidel, John Raczywolski, Richard Gamble, Allen Elson

Missing Drew Hammond

- - -

I've written here more than once about how kids amaze me.

When we attend those honours society assemblies at the high school, it's not the individual achievements of the kids that knock me out as much as it is how excited they get about each other's success. It's moving, for me anyway, to see how they support each other and cheer each other on. I mean, they literally stand up and cheer and punch the air with their fists to celebrate what their friends have done.

The sporting arena is a little different from the academic one obviously, but the support mechanisms are just the same and the training is just as solitary.

In a world where it's easy to be cynical about almost everything, about the least cynical thing you'll see is a kid training on a dusty rugby field with no one watching or pushing him or her on but the coaches and crows -- and teammates.

Or a kid stretching it out before an early morning football practice on a summer weekend, sharing a laugh with a buddy when a lot of his friends are home sleeping.

Or an aspiring hockey player, skating for 90 minutes and then hitting the gym for another two or three hours of a workout that would, literally, kill me or you. But they are pushed on and encouraged by a camaraderie in that room that is hard to explain.

I am so proud to know kids like this -- not just mine, not just the really successful ones, but the ones that support them all.

They are set in the train tracks that will take them through life. Physical fitness. Personal discipline. And understanding of preparation. Commitment to team and collective goals. Personal fulfillment.

Good parenting and good coaching matter and I think of it whenever I wander to Pad's gym to pick him up. The coaches and trainers are relentlessly positive. The guys he trains with are supportive and they are genuine friends.

Training for the athlete is like studying for the academic. It's preparation for the big tests that lie ahead. The academics think they are preparing for exams. The athletes think they are preparing for tryouts or a game.

What they are all really doing is preparing for life. Commitment. Discipline. Preparation. Teamwork.

There isn't a Fortune 500 company or a community that doesn't value people with those characteristics.

Pad showed me this video one of his buddies shot of him training last night at BTNL. The point is he's not the only one working this hard toward a goal. But it sure underlined to me how hard they work, and dozens of kids in our town are doing the same thing, every day, chasing a dream while no one watches but coaches and parents and friends.

Here's to the dream.




June 14, 2011

So. House league and bodychecking. (See yesterday's post.)

This is a mess and people are getting pissed off about it by the minute.

By "it" I mean the whole business of MOHA reclassifying house league Red divisions to retain bodychecking and circumvent the OHF policy on the matter. (For non-Oakville types, the local hockey association has one level that has included body contact -- Red -- and up to two (White and Blue) that do not.)

Brief recap: study after study says body checking contributes to disproportionate numbers of concussions in recreational youth hockey. OHF says, enough is enough and eliminates body checking from house league on May 4, which I believe was just two days after MOHA's online registration for next season opened.

So, a fair number of people would have registered perhaps assuming that the new rule would apply for next season.

Why are people pissed off? Two reasons: some (not all) of the people emailing me think MOHA is being too cute by half by changing the house league designation for Red players without consulting the parents. And secondly, some (not all) don't want bodychecking in any level of house league, which was the clear intention of the OHF.

The lack of transparency, in the view of some, not all, of the people contacting me, is upsetting and they are truly feeling big-footed here by a ham-fisted hockey bureaucracy, however well intentioned.

Some valid questions:

-- Was this an agenda item at the AGM? It should have been because this is a slick effort to reclassify the kids of people who may well have thought their kids were registered for house league, but are actually going into something else altogether. There are implications of this change.

-- Was there a parent survey on this specific issue? Honestly, I don't know. If there was, I was blissfully unaware of it and I pay closer attention to these things than most hockey parents. If not, again, why not?

-- Has the association asked for a legal opinion on its exposure (and its membership) if parents who signed their kids up for house league decide to sue after Johnny gets a concussion from a bodycheck? MOHA posted the OHF ruling on its site. There is no info on the site that I can see on reclassifying house league Red to something else that isn't house league. So, a logical person might leap to the assumption that MOHA was giving parents a heads-up that it intended to follow the OHF policy.

-- All in all, what is the legal exposure of the OMHA and OHF under the same circumstances if a member association -- MOHA in this case -- has been less than transparent with its membership and registrants on such a fundamental issue?

There are other issues and Wayne reels off in Gatling-gun fashion a slew of them, every one of them worthy of serious consideration by the MOHA, by parents, by the OMHA and the OHF.

At some point someone smart on the board at MOHA should say, if they have not already, "consult counsel."

If I was on the board and/or executive, I would insist.

In conclusion, two points. First, I have no dog in this fight. I have one kid left in MOHA and he will play White house league next season. My other son plays junior A, and yes, they have bodychecking. Quite a lot, actually. In fact, he had a concussion last year.

Second, and most importantly, the MOHA president is Mark Bentley who has never been anything but polite and helpful in my dealings with him over the years. I think probably that he thinks I'm occasionally a pain in the ass, but he hides it better than a lot of people.

If you want to tell him what you think or ask questions, email him at this address. He will be happy to hear from you.


June 13, 2011

Regulars will know that my appearances here have been irregular lately. I’m a bit swamped on several fronts and some days this is the thing that has to go. It’s actually harder than it looks.

In any event, I’ve have little remarkable to say these days, as if I ever do.

- - -

Chris went out Thursday night to his school’s athletic awards banquet and from all accounts had a grand time. Because Pad didn’t play on a school team, he wasn’t invited, so it was a strange irony within the four small walls of our world.

Chris got home about 11:30p, completely dishevelled and smiling from ear to ear – the banquet was followed by a dance, and Chris loves a good party.

Over the weekend he posted a picture on his Facebook page of six or eight of his group, him among them. The girls looked like women and the boys looked like young dudes. Some of the faces have been around our house since pre-school.

Every family has hundreds of random snapshots but this was a cut about, a genuine moment in time that I have a feeling those kids are going to reflect on years from now.

It’s hard to explain why I feel like that, and I’m not doing a very good job in the telling of it. Suffice to say, time goes by.

And the kids are alright.

- - -

Last night was spent in a cool (not cold) rink watching Pad’s summer junior league action. Last week’s game was a rather lacklustre effort by both squads and I swore I wasn’t going back – I spend enough winter nights in rinks watching hockey, so doing it in summer on a weekend is really a special corner of hell unless the action is good.

But, my boy’s mother isn’t ready yet to let him negotiate 400-series highways without an adult co-pilot, so I went. And the hockey was much better.

Next Sunday – Father’s Day -- I may turn him loose onto her majesty’s eight-lane blacktop without me, though.

We’ll see.

- - -

Hockey -- closer to your home:

Apparently MOHA has made the decision to designate its Red house league divisions as inter-city select leagues.

Or so I’m told by usually reliable folks.

The move allows MOHA to preserve bodychecking in house league Red. Or, stated another way, the move allows MOHA to circumvent the recent OMHA and OHF decisions to remove bodychecking from house league.

I’ve heard from folks on both sides of the issue and it’s a tough one.

There are skilled players who want to play with the best non-rep players in their age group, and they would like to do that without bodychecking.

And there are kids who like bodychecking but for whatever reason – not skilled enough, or rep-career fatigue, or whatever – aren’t playing rep.

And there’s the association left to balance on the horns of this dilemma.

So this way MOHA continues to offer a contact option and a non-contact option.

But it’s disappointing to some, at least judging from the comments thrown my way.

I think it’s worth mentioning, though, that in the older age groups – minor midget, midget – the White non-hitting division sees the calibre of play go up a notch.

There are skilled kids who opt for this division simply because they’re not interested in being tackling dummies for 6-4 rep wannbees. While it’s true the elimination of Blue in this age group also changes the mix, in my experience the overall situation for the boys is actually a good one.

I guess we’ll see.

- - -

Game six in Boston tonight.

Bold prediction – we’ll be playing one more back on the west coast.

Enjoy the game.

I’ll be back.

- - -

Fans of the board game Settlers of Catan, and I know there’s at least one of you out there, will be pleased to know the Globe and Mail has grabbed on to this rising trend.

Click here to read their massive treatment of the game in today’s paper.


June 6, 2011

Weird weekend, huh?

From the weather we had Saturday I started to think maybe that loony who forecast The Rapture for two weeks ago had in fact simply hit the goal post and was a lot closer that we suspected to being right.

The Saturday morning lightning storm was quite a spectacle and the rain was amazing to watch. Fortunately there were no angels with trumpets or four horsemen or any of that. Or if there was, they left me behind.

And the fact that we endured it all a couple more times made it that much more fun.

However, the bad news is that rain in those volumes is very bad for sports fields.

The Ontario home of rugby, Fletcher’s Fields north of Markham, opened on Saturday and the full-slate of games plus the torrential rain left the fields looking like a cratered war zone.

Sadly for the Grade 9 boys, that meant the fields have been closed for at least the next week and the 2011 edition of the Barbarian Cup – the midget and junior boys Ontario high school rugby championship – has been cancelled.

Not postponed. Cancelled,

I got the email from the coach around 8p Saturday night. Chris was down in the basement rec room on the Mac plotting global domination or something. When I gave him the news, he was utterly crestfallen, and I dare say that scenario played out in homes all over Glen Abbey that night.

So, the 2011 rugby season ends with a wet whimper, not a bang.


- - -

Before she left town Laura said Chris needed dress shoes for the APHS athletic banquet later this week.

He’s wearing a hand-me-down suit from his brother, and mom had approved of a hand-me-down dress shirt. And I have more ties to pick from than Brooks Brothers. So really, a nice pair of shoes would set him up.

So, on Saturday after he finishes reffing, he asks me if we’re going shoe shopping.


Good, he says. Can we look at shirts, too? I don’t like the shirt mom wants me to wear.


Because it’s pink, he says.

Hmm. I don’t recall any pink shirts. Please show it to me.

He does.

It’s not pink. It’s a lovely blue-grey shirt with a pin-stripe pattern and one of the pin stripes is, gasp, pink. (More of a salmon, really, but hey. Pink is pink.)

Long story short, Chris was having none of that.

So, we add a shirt to the shopping list and head to Moore’s, where there were probably five other dads with young teens spending money on clothes that will be worn once and then outgrown.

So, he finds a shirt he likes. Great.

And we find shoes he likes. Great. (Kenneth Cole, no less. He has his mother's taste in fashion.)

Are we good?

Well, he says, mom said I should find a vest to go with the suit.



(Mom’s version of this story is that “Chris really wanted a vest.”

Chris’s version is that his mother told him he really wanted a vest. Whatever. I'm just the driver inthe story.

We bought a vest.


Are we good now?

Dad, I need a dress belt.

(Insert me sighing). Of course you do.

He finds one. Kenneth Cole again. WTF? How about this nice piece of string .. .

I turned away for a minute and no word of a lie, the salesman was trying to talk him into French cuffs and a cuff links.

We eventually leave the store significantly lighter in the wallet, but Chris is happy. He’s going to look spiffy in the suit and vest and belt and shirt and . . .

He’s a good man.

- - -

Do you know what a promposal is?

Yeah. Neither did I.

The gist of it is that the guy has to create some elaborate audio and/or visual event to ask a girl to the prom.

So, with mom away I called home Friday afternoon about the time that Pad was supposed to get home. Just to check in.

He answers, and there’s much female giggling and laughing in the background.

Hi. Um. What’s up there?

Oh, Courtney and Jaden are helping me with my promposal.

Ah. Silly me. The promposal was not intended for either of them – they are simply the production crew.

Me: Ok. Carry on.

Like I could have any control of it in any event.

I’m told the promposal was a big hit. No, I didn’t ask for details.

But for sure, his mother will.

Read more on promposals, here.

- - -

Back to rugby – OT beat APHS on Friday afternoon in the bronze medal OFSSAA match, 13-0.

Uxbridge, which eliminated APHS, took the gold in something of an upset, dumping top-seed Stouffville 24-7.

- - -

One of Oakville’s most ardent Winnipegers was hot on his email Saturday afternoon to gleefully point out to me that the good people of Winnipeg took all of 17 minutes to basically snap up the 13,000 season tickets that the NHL’s diminutive commissioner wanted sold before the agreement to give the city a franchise would be complete.

Seventeen minutes.

Basically in the time it takes you to brush your teeth and shower, the Winnipeg To Be Named Laters sold out.

Not only that, these are mostly multi-year commitments.

Not only that, the team could play in front of an empty rink for a hundred years and it wouldn’t really matter since they’re owned by one of the richest guys on Earth.

Good for Winnipeg!

Why do I have this image of Gary Bettman walking around kicking his dog yesterday?

Vancouver is going to win the cup. The NHL is back in the 'Peg. Quebec City will be next, and then GTA2.

Gary prefers big US markets, even if they don't like hockey. Piffle.

Read more about the Winnipeg ticket blitz here.

- - -

June 3, 2011

The first Friday of June. The year is almost half over. And there have been more games played in the NBA final than in the NHL final.

I think that’s a problem.

- - -

Oakville-Trafalgar High School is hosting the OFSSAA AAAA-boys rugby championships this week.

The hosts and Halton champs made a valiant run to the semi finals before being stopped in their tracks yesterday afternoon by top seed Stouffville.

On the other side of the draw, Abbey Park High School also made it to the semi finals before losing to Uxbridge.

If the Oakville teams had managed to win their games it would have set up an all-Oakville final and a repeat of the Halton final, but it wasn’t to be.

Congrats to both teams, and good luck today as they square off in the bronze-medal game.

- - -

Still with rugby, Chris will be playing for Abbey Park on Sunday in the Barbarian Cup, the unofficial but more-or-less southern Ontario Grade-9 rugby championship tournament.

So, remember all that whining and reminiscing I did about field lacrosse and missing early morning jaunts to far-flung fields? . . . Well, lucky me! I get to relive the dream for a day.

The draw has yet to be posted but I expect we’ll be up early for the run to Fletcher’s Fields north of Markham and (hopefully) a day in the sun.

Depending on how well they do, they could be back at it on Monday.

- - -

Speaking of lacrosse, the Oakville Hawks midget 2 team won gold at the recent Ontario field lacrosse championships.

Two things: first, winning gold at this level is a terrific accomplishment for the kids, their coaches and parents. Winning takes commitment. Well done. It means a lot because it’s hard to do.

Second: running through the list of names on this midget team left me feeling old. More than half the players on the team had me swing a gate for them at one time as hockey players, and I am sure I was a convener for a division of almost all of them at one time or another.

It’s hard to believe they’re competing as midgets now.

Where do the years go?

Click here and read more about the only Oakville team to bring home field lacrosse gold this year. Congratulations.

- - -


If you’re looking for a long, deep read this weekend – and this is a long one – I recommend a piece from last week’s New York Times magazine.

It’s about conjoined twins in British Columbia and how researchers are stunned, startled – find your own adjective – about what they think they might be seeing.

The four year old girls are joined at the head.

What has the science world buzzing is that it seems that one twin literally experiences sensory reactions to events that occur in the other twin.

For example, if one girl gulps from her juice cup furiously, the other will get an odd look on her face, clutch her tummy and say “oh my!”

A finger prick on one twin extracts a wince on the face of the other.

The brain is a complex organ, probably the least understood piece of gear we have. (Women’s brains are even more complex than your garden-variety male brain.)

So this insight into what may be going on with the twins is fascinating stuff.

If you’re interested, click here. Get a coffee. You’re going to be a while.

There’s a six-minute video accompanying the article, for those you prefer to watch and not read.

You can go directly to the video here.

- - -

It will be a boys’ weekend (and then some) as Laura makes her way east for a few days.

We have lacrosse refereeing tomorrow and rugby on Sunday.

I think there are the usual smatterings of social events for the boys, but since Pad’s new-found mobility we’re already noticing a lessening of pressure on us to be running around town at all hours.

The bad news is that I’ve already heard the magic phrase, seconds after he walks through the door and puts the keys on the table.

“By the way, the car needs gas.”


I am holding out hope of hearing: “Which brand of wax should I use on the car after I wash and vacuum it?”

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Hugs the kids.


June 1, 2011

I was sitting in my office yesterday, working at my desk while taking part in a conference call and spinning plates on a stick balanced on my nose.

At the same moment that I saw pigs fly by my window, the NHL announced it was packing up the Atlanta Thrashers and moving back to Winnipeg.

I like Winnipeg. I have some very good friends in Winnipeg and I have friends here from Winnipeg. I enjoy their excitement about big-league hockey returning to their city and I think it’s great that we have another NHL team in Canada.

But – was it just me, or did Gary Bettman look and sound like he would rather be performing an appendectomy on himself than taking part in the announcement?

And the way he more or less chastised the city in advance on the need to buy season tickets was . . . I dunno. Churlish?

And no less so because he was sharing the stage with a guy – David Thomson – who is now, by a wide, wide margin – the wealthiest guy on the NHL owners’ bench. I’m just guessing, but I’m pretty sure Mr. Thomson doesn’t need a lesson in business from Mr. Bettman.

If you haven’t been to Winnipeg recently, or ever, for that matter, then you wouldn’t know that the loss of the Jets to Arizona is a wound that never healed over. It was as raw six months ago as it was in 1996.

The people of Winnipeg never let go of the rope.

And after 16 years they have a team again.

Good for them. And good for the people who stepped up to make it happen.

- - -

I wonder if Detroit can use the move of Atlanta to Winnipeg to press an argument for league realignment that would see them move to the Eastern Conference?

Nashville, Chicago, St Louis and Columbus could also present arguments for a move into the east, but I like Detroit’s chances best.

The move would be a huge win for the Wings, cutting their travel dramatically and sparing the players an awful lot of wear and tear.

Back in the 1990s when Ken Dryden was with the Leafs he basically engineered its exit from the Western conference to the east, and that was worth a lot and a big reason it happened was the Leafs overall power within the NHL structure.

The Wings hold similar sway. They should use it.

Smarter guys than me are already talking about it. Imagine all those Oakville-based Wing fans being able to see Detroit play in the eastern time zone!!

Click here for more.

- - -

I’m going to end today with a link to something that left me numb.

We’ve all seen the photos of the carnage in Joplin, MO. But without context those neighbourhoods just look like so many other disaster areas we’ve seen.

The New York Times and Google, using Google’s Streetview technology, show startling before-and-after images of some residential area of the devastated town.

Short of a nuclear attack, it’s hard to imagine that scale of carnage.

Take a minute to look. Click on the image and hold your mouse down – the images will rotate in tandem as you do.

It’s simply heartbreaking.

Click here.