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Oct 30/31, 2011

The Blades did in fact play on pink ice in Newmarket on Thursday night. It was that's team's breast cancer awareness fundraiser and the pink ice was a cute idea to raise the profile of the event.

And as you can see from the images below snapped on my Blackberry, the ice sure was pink.

Above, the Blades line up just prior to the anthem.

Ditto.

Newmarket warms up in pink jerseys and socks.

 

The pink ice looked really good immediately after the flood. But as the play went on the, the snow on the ice was white, not pink. So the pink became more obscured under the white snow, which was no big deal and actually probably made it easier to see the puck.

But the lines -- especially the red centre line and the goal lines -- became really hard to see. The red sort of got washed out by the pink, and then the snow on top of that didn't help.

No matter. Newmarket played better and won 5-2, handing the Blades their third loss of the season.

The boys bounced back nicely the next night, dumping Burlington 5-0.

- - -

I took advantage of the fall weather on Saturday afternoon and did yard work, kitted out with my iPod and Pad's big over-the-ear headphones.

I ripped out the annuals from the garden and drained the hoses and packed them away. I put away the patio furniture and swept new patio jointing sand into the patio. I even vacuumed the garage, which I think had more leaves in it than are on the driveway outside.

I was nice to be out in the crisp air. The sky got very dark and it spit a bit, but never actually rained.

When I went inside I watched an old movie -- Midnight Cowboy with Jon Voigt and Dustin Hoffman -- and dozed on the sofa until Laura came in with groceries and the first round of Christmas shopping.

We had a great night at home, decadently enjoying not having to be anywhere (in spite of invitations to Halloween parties) and we fell asleep early.

A good day.

- - -

Sunday is another matter. The novice Leafs play at 430p and then Chris and his team play at 830p. I may be asleep by 830p, but I guess I better suck it up.

- - -

Depending on when you read this, it is either Halloween, or it will be soon.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning that she is a bit of a Halloween Grinch and I have to say that I could not have said it better myself.

As a kid, I never enjoyed Halloween. I just never got into it. Maybe it was all those years of having to dress up as the Jolly Green Giant. I dunno.

As a parent, I enjoyed the trick or treat routine of our neighbourhood. Going door to door with the kids, people mostly all knew each other and some would hand a dad a can of beer to enjoy while patrolling the streets.

Now that my kids are too old for the door-to-door, we are getting perilously close to drifting back to where we were before we had kids.

And that was, we would go out to dinner and not come home until 10p and miss the event altogether.

Alas, we're not there yet. We have friends on the street with young kids and we want to see them.

And Chris and his pals may haunt the basement tomorrow night -- that's a work in progress.

Pad and I will be in Hamilton, where he and his teammates will dress up as hockey players and attempt to do scary things to the Red Wings.

Then Tuesday night Chris plays again -- at 10p!! -- and I will be in Buffalo watching another Blades game.

On and on.

- - -

Another baseball season is over. I don't know if you were as bold as be to stay up and watch the Cards rally on Thursday night for a comeback win, but you should have.

Friday night was a great finale to great season. The final week of the season and the playoffs were terrific.

- - -

I have decided to take another run at Twitter. I have also decided to focus solely on my garnold4 account -- not the Teamoakville one.

So, if you haven't already, you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here, or the button at the top.

I'm going to try to be more engaged on that front just to see where it leads.

Maybe nowhere. I already know how to get there from here.

 

Oct 27 2011

Chris and the minor midget Knights hung on for a 2-2 draw in house league action Tuesday night, again opting to spend much of the third period as spectators.

I was seconded into bench duty for this one (Iím on the roster as assistant trainer) and since I came to the 7p directly from work, I spent most of the game hoping no one would be hurt on the ice, since my leather-bottom dress shoes would have made for an interesting journey across the playing surface.

Luckily, everyone was spared that image.

- - -

Adventures in hockey parenting continue tonight, as the Blades are in Newmarket for what is shaping up as the biggest test of the year thus far. Newmarket is ranked #5 nationally and the Blades snuck into the national ranking this week for the first time (there are 120 junior A teams in Canada), at #20. So the game is shaping up as a good one.

It is also Pink in the Rink night in Newmarket, the teamís annual fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. The ice is going to be painted pink for this one. That should be interesting and a large crowd is expected.

- - -

Tonightís schedule will mean at least two things.

First, Iím going to miss Game Six of the World Series. Laura was out at wine book club last night so my intention was to settle in and enjoy the game but a rain out derailed that idea.

Instead I did dishes, then laundry, then ironed some clothes, went to Staples and bought a new chair for the home office (one extra-large size son broke one of the existing chairs), did more laundry, and then had a fried egg sandwich while watching Montreal paste the Flyers.

The other thing that tonightís game ensures is that Iíll be doing well to eat as well as I did last night. Rink food will be on the menu. The Ray Twinney complex in Newmarket is a pretty decent venue but Iíll be doing well to get a hot dog or slice of pizza.

- - -

There is one question the boys and I ask ourselves when we see a new gadget.

Sure the iPad is cool. But will it blend?

The ďwill it blendĒ internet meme has been around for a few years, initiated by the smart marketing folks at Blentec, who make some (unquestionably) heavy-duty blenders.

This whole thing is set up to mimic an Apple product launch, so give it a minute to get to the good part.

Shame about the iPad . . .

 

 

 - - -

Well, if you like destroying things (and who doesn't) then that was nothing.

SSI Shredding Systems has a machine that it sort of like a blender. A really, really big blender.

Ever see a Volkswagen get shredded?

Me either. Til now.

 

 

 

Oct 25, 2011

Ok, yet another ďhockey-is-the-glue-that-holds-us-togetherĒ story. But this is a good one.

Iíve been coaching, etc in Oakville since 1999 and every year since. We moved here in 1998 and it was too late to get on a bench for that season, but we did manage to get Patrick on a team in the old Paperweight division, the MOHA forerunner to Initiation and Timbits.

The next season I got my own team and away we went. I can still remember the names of many of those players, something thatís made easier by the fact that many of them stayed in our orbit through school and other sports and of course, hockey.

So, fast forward to this hockey season.

A couple of weeks ago on Thanksgiving Sunday, the Blades played a rare Sunday home game immediately after our novice team finished its game. I made a big, silly production out of inviting the boys to come watch some of the game if they could so they could watch "my little boy" play hockey. Pad will be out to help at some novice practices over the season, or at least thatís the plan. And some of the guys already know him from cameo appearances last year. To the novices, the Blades are rock stars, so itís all fun.

One of the guys I coach with on the novice team brought his son to the game and we sat together for a good chunk of the game. Matthew is quiet but very, very smart and heís a big defenceman (on a novice scale.) He reminds me a lot of Patrick at the same age, except that Matthew is better. But thatís incidental to the story.

His dad told me yesterday that after the Thanksgiving long weekend, Matthewís teacher asked each of the kids to write a few words about what they did for Thanksgiving that was special.

Matthew could have written about how much he enjoyed his grandmotherís turkey dinner and his momís pumpkin pie. Matthew could have written about all that and more.

But Matthew is a hockey player, so he wrote instead about how he went to see the Oakville Blades to watch Coach Gerryís son play.

(The story could have ended right there and Matthew would have sown up my vote for player of the year. But it gets better.)

After the teacher had a chance to review Matthewís essay, the circle became complete.

Matthewís teacher is the mom of a player who played for me on that 1999-00 paperweight squad, and he later became an excellent lacrosse player who was a key part of several Oakville Hawks rep teams and a teammate of Padís, including on their Ontario field lacrosse bronze medal team as major midgets. They graduated from high school together last spring.

I have no doubt she wondered WTH Iím doing coaching novices again, but thatís another story, too.

And so it was that Mrs. Rooney told Matthew that not only did she know Coach Gerry, she also knows Patrick too and that it sounded like a fun thing to do on Thanksgiving.

Chalk this story up as reason #265 on my list of things that make me go back to the rink.

You never know when volunteering is going to produce a moment that makes your day. In this case, it was a moment 12 years in the making, but it was a good one for me.

 

Oct 24, 2011

A weekend in and around rinks Ė two junior games, both wins Ė a novice practice, a novice game (and respectable loss) and road hockey for the Blades on Sunday morning.

A weekend highlight, if thatís the correct way to put this, was almost mid-way through the third period of Oakvilleís 7-0 thrashing of Buffalo on Friday night.

Iím not a big fan of fighting in hockey, but itís been part of the game for longer than Iíve been around and I donít expect it is going to disappear any time soon.

My little boy and someone elseís little boy on the other team spent a god portion of the evening chirping at one another, as the kids would say.

I donít know the precise nature of the pleasantries exchanged, nor do I really want to know. But suffice to say when a 6-4 ,210-pound defenceman gets in the grill of a 6-4, 220-pound defenceman Ė with neither looking particularly like a candidate for the Lady Byng Trophy Ė well, eventually something is going to happen.

Standing with the mom of one of those boys as I was, I felt compelled to give her fair notice that there was, without doubt, going to be a fight. You get a sense of these things, what with the clouds gathering and the palpable animosity as the players continue to spill the verbiage between benches.

It looked like it was going to happen in the second period, but for some reason it did not.

But then, the third period . . . and time running out.

The rule in junior A is that if you fight in the last 10 minutes of the game, you get a major for fighting, a game misconduct, AND you get suspended for the next game. (The idea being to discourage late-game brawls in games that are blowouts.)

So, with about 12 minutes left my soft-spoken and very polite son found himself going on the ice just as the other pleasant young man  was leaving the ice. The other fellow engaged my boy in a brief negotiation, where upon terms and conditions were apparently settled. In what I viewed as a funny moment, they both looked up to check the time on the clock to make sure they werenít risking suspension.

The other guy told the kid who was sent out to relieve him to head back to the bench, and he did.

At this moment I told Laura that it was on and she should decide how she wanted to deal with that fact. She was taking pictures of the game but stopped, saying if there was to be a fight she would have no part of recording it. (Editorís note: Wimp.)

And so the lineman whistled for the faceoff and as soon as the puck hit the ice, everyone parted as if commanded by Moses and their big guy moved in from the blue line and my guy moved toward him from his place in front of our net and the linesmen swooped in and, apparently of the view that all was in order, elected to let the two have their staged fight.

As hockey fights go, it was a pretty good tilt. Video isnít posted online yet, but my guy landed the first four or five punches to the face and head and took maybe one or two in return. My guy switched hands at one point which seemed to throw the other guy off. They traded blows with gusto.

Pad knocked the other guyís bucket off and thatís when the refs moved in to stop things. Neither kid went down, which shows they actually punched and didnít wrestle. The consensus scoring among the dads on our side was a win on points for our guy, largely based on landed punches.

I donít like fighting, and I really donít like staged fights. This wasnít Padís first fight, but it was his first staged or arranged fight. But itís junior hockey and when youíre a big guy, your teammates will look to you to occasionally play a certain role.

Laura didnít much enjoy the minute or so that it took all this to unravel. Truth be told, I didnít much enjoy the run up to it. When someone else is that keen to fight you, that is usually a warning sign that the other guy is a veteran fighter so, one should approach that intersection with caution. But some lessons can only be learned and processed by experience and I was in no position to do anything about it anyway.

He came home no worse for wear, smiling and laughing about the whole thing. In the retelling it seems to me that it was my kidís lippy mouth that set the wheels in motion for the fight, so there was probably no stopping it. If I was the other kid, I would have smacked him too.

And hereís the oddest thing of all.

At the end of it, the two guys pulled in close to each other as the ref pulled them apart and very quickly shook hands and exchanged words.

I asked Pad later what they said to each other.

ďGood job,Ē he said, smiling.

Kids Ö

- - -

Chris and the minor midget white Knights play tomorrow night. Blades in Newmarket on Thursday for Pink in the Rink night there Ė including apparently, pink ice. Iíll take pictures.

 

Oct 21, 2011

The novice pizza party had all the ingredients for success Ė kids and pizza Ė and presto! It worked.

Dave and I have this frick-and-frack routine we use early in the season where we get each of the players to stand at the front of the room and tell us a little about themselves Ė favourite player and team, what school they attend, point out their parents and tell us about their family. Dave did all the work last night.

The loudest part of the evening is always when one of the eight year olds says his favourite team is something other than the Leafs. Then thereís booing and catcalls and petulance, until someone reminds me to shut up and let the kids finish.

Everyone had a good time. Someone else cleaned up.

Thanks to our parent managers and volunteers for making it happen.

Itís officially hockey season.

- - -

I like great writing. I like sports.

Grantland.com is a place I can spend a lot of time.

The site is sort of like ESPN.com, except itís intended to let some of Americaís best sports writers and editors write as much as they want, unbound by the conventions of modern journalism.

Some of it works. Some of it sucks.

But at the top of their marquee the site boasts Bill Simmons, who is one of the greatest sports writers of his generation.

And Iím going to show you why.

If youíre tired of whiny NBA players who arenít happy making $3.7 million annually to be a seventh player and get six minutes a game in a bench relief role, and if you think maybe hockey doesnít get a fair shake from the US media machine, then I have something for you to read.

At almost 2,500 words, Simmons column ďInto the Arms of the NHLĒ absolutely skewers the NBA labour dispute while defining in the most entertaining prose possible the opportunity David Stern has created for his diminutive former understudy, Gary Bettman.

If you like great writing and you like sports, click here.

- - -

We have a fairly busy weekend ahead, assuming the world doesnít end as scheduled sometime today. You can read more on that here, but personally, I have decided not to cash out our RSPs and buy that lingerie football team Iíve always wanted.

If I/we havenít been raptured, then there are two Blades games this weekend (7:30p Friday and Saturday at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex both nights), a novice practice tomorrow morning and a novice game Sunday afternoon. The Blades have a road-hockey fundraiser on Sunday and then after that, we have the rest of the weekend to ourselves.

If I get raptured and you donít, Iíll put in a good word for you all.

More likely, Iím expecting to be tending to the hoof marks on my head from the four horsemen Ė so if you get the call, say something nice about me.

My guess is most of us will be back here next week.

The weather is supposed to be decent. Drive safely. Cheer for the home team.

Hug the kids.

 

Oct 20, 2011

The greatest thing about minor sports and community involvement is the people you meet. If not for minor hockey I would know almost no one in this town, given that no one speaks to each other on the GO train (and we like it that way!)

This thought came to mind when I was looking at a story about a young Oakville athlete who is now playing soccer on a scholarship in south Florida, which is a good way to spend a Canadian winter.

I coached her brother for so many years, beginning in Timbits, that he started assuming that I owned his rights or something. I remember one year, after I made the annual post-evaluation call to let the family know I would be (again) his coach, his mom told me that when she gave him the news, he looked at her as if she were daft.

ďOf course heís my coach. Heís always my coach!Ē

Well, not anymore, but I do still see him and his parents at the rink a lot and their friendship and support for the things we volunteers try to do for the kids has always been appreciated.

It was last spring when they told me (standing in the foyer at Oakville arena, although I canít exactly remember why we were there) that their daughter was off to Florida to play soccer and get educated, probably in that order.

They were proud and excited, just as they should be.

Have you ever noticed how good things often happen to kids from good families?

Read more here.

- - -

We have the pizza party for the novices tonight which means a long day for the parents and coaches. But thatís OK. Dave and I have always felt that the kids are going to remember the things we do between games and practices just as much or more than the ice time, so building things like this into our program has always been a priority.

And Iíll probably not have any pizza, but I have to go to remind the kids that I wonít tolerate beards, moustaches or excessive sideburns on game day. Clean-shaven faces only! Itís a rule!

- - -

Did you watch the Leafs win the overtime shootout last night?

Neither did I.

Our cable Ė HD and digital Ė went out on most Canadian channels before the end of the second period and didnít come back until after the Leafs beat the Jets in the shootout.

Those darn shootouts are always pretty boring. Who would want to watch one of those anyway?

I flipped over to the ball game on Fox and then went to bed.

- - -

On a non-hockey note, I want to take a minute to introduce you to you next favourite band.

Long-time readers may recall that my motherís little brother was a singer Ė Denny Doherty, of the Mamas and the Papas.

Sadly, he died a few years ago. His kids are adults now and two of them still live around Toronto and are pretty engaged artistically. John is the bass player for the band illScarlett, which is (as they say) popular with the kids.

But he also has a side gig with an informal acoustic group called CondoKrew Ė named because they record in Johnís Mississauga condo.

They have a channel on YouTube with videos of several songs Ė Johnís the big guy playing the guitar. You can find that channel here.

But if you want to listen to a song that will get inside your head like an ear worm and make you smile, then press play on the video below. (The baby in the video belongs to my other cousin, Johnís sister.)

To me, it sounds an awful lot like something my uncle might have recorded 40 years ago.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy the diversion. Recorded and performed at a house being lovingly renovated in Cabbagetown.

The song is called The Lucky Ones.

 

 

 

Oct 19, 2011

Chris and the rest of his minor midget white house league team started the season in fine fashion last night. Unfortunately, they didnít exactly finish the game in fine fashion.

The boys Ė Iím not sure the team has a name yet though they wear Pittsburgh Penguin-style jerseys Ė jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one period.

Chris scored his first of the season in the second to restore a four-goal lead and make it 5-1.

Oddly, that goal would prove to be the winner as the other guys came storming back, losing 6-4 but proving they had more fight than the frontrunners.

It was an odd juxtaposition to watch house league white action after seeing so much junior A hockey this year. Every time a kid would chase a puck into the corner, with his back blithely turned to the forechecker on his tail, I would get an uncomfortable sensation of impending doom and injury.

But Ė thereís no bodychecking in house league white ad no one ended up with their face pasted against the glass like a fish in a crowded bowl. So my reaction was purely reflexive and obviously the kids knew better than I did.

Minor midget house league includes 9p and 10p games on Tuesday nights Ė an hour which is going to prove tough for the parents, I think!

- - -

Side note to last nightís game: I was involved with the 1996 cohort way, way back in Timbits, and these guys were the first crew to take the formal Hockey Canada Initiation Program through MOHA, which is now a standard part of the development program.

I organized evaluation skates, assembled teams off lists in the days before drafts, recruited coaches, convened, dressed up as Santa Claus and a lot of other stuff.

And I canít believe that those little guys are now in Grade 10 and playing minor midget hockey. Where on Earth did the years go?

Chris is about 6 foot 2, and he is by no means the only six footer out there, or even the largest.

They are a large, smelly, good-natured group of kids who are happy to play hockey at 9p on a weeknight simply because they love to play.

Hereís hoping they all have a great season.

- - -

Because I had to be in Cobourg on Sunday for junior hockey, I missed the Novice game of the week. Clearly they missed me too, as they dropped a 4-1 decision to mark up our first loss of the season.

I think it's good to get that out of the way, actually.

Pizza party tomorrow night if I get there in time!

- - -

Speaking of hockey Ė the larger player in our house and the rest of the Blades will be at Whole Foods on Cornwall Road this Sunday, playing road hockey with some kids from MOHA and the Oakville Hornets. Itís the second year in a row for this team event.

Between games, the Blades will work the BBQ and bag groceries and kibitz with fans young and old.

I hope itís dry for them.

Whole Foods features a wide selection of products that are organically raised with lots of love for you to enjoy.

The Blades feature a whole bunch of Oakville kids who were organically raised as hockey players and they would love it if you came out and said hi.

There's a lot of hard work and very little glory in junior hockey. Drop by!

- - -

Speaking of blades (lower-case ďbĒ in this case) the big guy got a new pair of skates yesterday, basically identical to the one he already has from the Epic Skate Buying Crusade of 2010. Bauer Total One.

The first pair, while barely a year old, have taken an epic beating. Close to 60 junior A games, two major junior training camps, and countless hours of practice ice. Weíve replaced the blades three times Ė it takes a lot of ice time and a lot of sharpening to wear down blades that much.

He tells us the plan is to break in the new pair and then keep one pair with his gear in the team room at Sixteen Mile and the other pair in his stall at BTNL.

Teamoakville gratefully acknowledges the participation of relatives in making the new skates possible.

- - -

Youíve probably read about all these people parked in Wall Street protesting, um, stuff.

I respect their right to protest, even if what they are protesting seems to vary from protester to protester.

Whatever. I donít honestly think that the problems and challenges facing the US banking system are easily applicable in Canada. But itís always easy to protest against investment bankers, so have it folks.

But there was an interesting column in the Star this week that noted that the demographics of the people choosing to sleep in the street and protest for equitable sharing of wealth away from that anonymous one per cent who control it is pretty much the same as the youth demographic who donít vote.

Now, Iím not the worldís smartest guy by a long shot. But it seems to me that if all of the young people in Canada wanted to really rattle the establishment class, or whatever else you want to call it, they should just make sure they go vote.

Just read this. It makes sense to me.

But itís also why the guys sitting in the really nice offices way up in the bank towers arenít terribly worried about the protests. Because young people mostly don't vote. And they should.

- - -

My week in recap: Monday night, mark anniversary with Laura by laughing at old pictures, having some wine, eating pad Thai in front of the TV and falling asleep.

Tuesday night, head to Joshua Creek for the kick off of minor midget house league season, come home, sit in front of TV for 15 minutes before falling asleep.

Tonight, Laura goes curling, Iíll watch game one of the World Series and some of the Leafs-Jets before falling asleep in front of the TV.

 

 

Oct 17, 2011

Pad and his teammates won a pair of weekend games, so that's good.

In order to see the second of these games, I had to miss the novice game on Sunday at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex. And that was bad -- especially since they lost. I won't rush to judgment on my absence from the bench having anything to do with the end of our two-game winning streak.

But honestly. You have to wonder, right?

I also missed practice on Saturday because I attended the MOHA concussion awareness clinic, which is mandatory for trainers and recommended for all bench staff. I think if you have been through a trainers' program in the last few years then the critical parts of the technical aspects of pinpointing a concussion should be well known to you.

But the organizers also brought out a 15-year-old athlete who has had five concussions and basically can't playing contact sport any more.

It put a human face on the issue and I hope underlined to everyone in the room what's at stake when you are evaluating a player during a game to see if he might have a concussion -- after which, the next step is to make sure sees a professional.

- - -

If I had a blog 24 years ago, then I probably wouldn't have blogged because I was too distracted.

Distracted by a lovely fall Cape Breton day, much of which was spent on a golf course with buddies, followed by hanging around a club house drinking beer.

Oh yeah. That evening I got married (and no, I didn't have many beer.)

The wedding was small and simple and performed by a judge. The party was large and noisy was performed on streets throughout Sydney, NS.

I mean no disrespect to the love of my life when I say I barely remember what our life was like before our hockey players arrived. I know we had fun -- I've seen the pictures. We spent the first years of marriage working late and launching our careers and having fun that didn't involve sitting in rinks.

But life didn't become what it is now until we evolved from being just a couple and started being a family.

I'm sure I have said here before that I know Laura had no idea then -- and I mean, none -- how much her life would become nearly completely propelled by hockey. I could say it was a secret plot, but the three references to hockey in her wedding vows might have been a heads up to her. Our wedding colours were blue and white, for Pete's sake.

But today in her honour, no hockey. (Well, other than Colorado at Toronto, 7p on Sportsnet Ontario.)

I don't expect we'll watch much of it -- first two periods, tops. After that, I'm turning the sound down, most of the way.

The plan is to open a bottle of wine, order some Pad Thai, and after a weekend spent racing the roads in pursuit of the hockey players, to just relax.

We'll go out to dinner some night when we both don't have colds and it's not a Monday.

And tomorrow, Chris plays his first minor midget house league game of the season, and it will be back to the rink.

But til then, Happy Anniversary!

 

Oct. 13, 2011

I caught a cold -- bad, bad cold -- in about an hour earlier this week.

I worked late on Tuesday night because there was an election in Newfoundland and Labrador. I bet you've never wondered while watching election results come in on television who decides when a candidate goes from "leading" to "elected."

We do. Well, technically the voters do. No one is really elected until all the polls have reported, but certain trends develop over the course of the evening and, let's say if a PC candidate is leading by 1,000 votes in a riding that has elected a Conservative for the last 10 straight elections, we're going to declare him elected even if only 15 per cent of the polls have reported. And in the Ontario and NL elections, we weren't wrong once, and we rarely are.

But, I digress.

So, after we mopped up and the callers had been sent home I ambled off to the train. I felt great, if a little weary, after 15 hours at work or whatever it was.

I no sooner got home and I had a sneezing fit, which degenerated into a really, really runny nose.

Over the course of the overnight, usually reliable sources told me I snored loud enough to set off car alarms within a three-block area. And when I got up on Wednesday morning, I felt like crap.

I went to work anyway, because that's how I was raised. By 3p, I threw in the towel because all I wanted to do was lie down on the floor.

I went home, and laid down on the bed and my lovely wife showered me with life-sustaining care and sympathy in my hours of discomfort went curling with the girls.

She didn't miss much, other than a lot of sneezing and whatnot, and generally, she's not a big fan of the whatnot. I watched baseball and became convinced that I can run faster than Miguel Cabrera, and if I didn't, I would have made damn sure the catcher dropped the ball.

I awoke this morning at 615a, felt a little better, and went back to sleep for almost 90 minutes. When I awoke the second time, I said screw it and got up and went to work, because that's how I was raised.

The day actually turned out to be pretty productive too, although it will be a week or so before the World Health Organization releases the official numbers on how many people I infected.

But the whole point of this entry is how fast I got sick -- really, truly it was 60 minutes -- and how miserable I felt (really miserable) and how quickly I turned the corner.

Cool.

Who wants to go for a beer?

- - -

The novices have their weekly ice2ice session tonight. It's all part of our grand plan to have Dick Decloe turn them into world champions and then me and Dave and Mike will take the credit. I don't go to these practices, because there's nothing for me to do and you can only talk about Newfoundland election results for so long before people start preferring conversations with vending machines.

But I may go next week, just to see how the guys are making out and ensure that the on-ice curriculum meets the objectives the coaching staff identified as goals at the beginning of the program.

And there will be pizza. But that's just a coincidence.

Really.

- - -

Yeah, I know Monday was a holiday. But this still seemed like a short week. I guess time flies when you're having fun.

Fun -- like riding a bike.

And it turns out that time isn't the only thing that flies when you ride a bike. Antelope also fly apparently.

Ouch.

 

 

 

 

Oct. 11, 2011

Now that was a long weekend. As nice as the summer of 2011 was here, there was more than one weekend that couldnít compare to what we enjoyed for Thanksgiving Weekend weather.

Wow.

- - -

Of course, from the inside of a rink the weather is all the same.

Our Novice Leafs won another thriller on Sunday afternoon at Sixteen Mile, after which I ran down the hallway to watch the Blades beat Brampton for the second time in four days.

After the game we took Chris out for his birthday dinner at The Keg and then crashed.

Yesterday was a blur of turkey and great food. A fabulous day inside and out.

One of our neighbours was actually putting up his Christmas lights. I get that itís easier to do it when itís 25 degrees but . . . sorry. Itís a cold-weather project for me.

- - -

If youíre a hockey fan then you would have to be living under a rock to have missed the Don Cherry fuss from last week Ė he called a trio of former enforcers some bad names because of what he felt was their abandonment of the enforcer brotherhood.

Lawsuits are threatened. Fingers are being wagged, even as we speak.

What cracks me up are the folks prattling on about Cherryís opinion being one sided and what poor journalism it is and shouldnít CBC be embarrassed etc etc.

Um, itís not journalism.

Itís entertainment and opinion Ė sort of reality TV with high collars.

If you missed the screaming, you can click here to get a flavour of it.

Or here, where the Starís hockey columnist asks, correctly in this instance, if everyone would try to grow up.

- - -

It seems like just the other day I was saying to Laura, you know what Oakville really needs? Oakville really needs a) me with a hole in my head and b) another hockey/sport training facility.

I donít have (another) hole in my head yet.

But Oakville is getting another hockey/training facility.

The Advance Hockey Academy will open soon on Speers Road west of Third (east of Bronte).

I donít know any of the folks involved so weíre all starting from scratch there.

But with Beyond The Next Level and the Athlete Training Centre, not to mention Twist Conditioning down the road in Burlington, and Ice2Ice (also on Speers Road, where Iím hearing that they are putting in a dryland training area too) the high-end training options for serious athletes are fairly fulsome right now.

But Advance is touting some high-end training options for hockey players, including an infinity skating treadmill, a ďRapid ShotĒ training system for shooters, a 36 foot by 80 foot synthetic ice surface, and some high-end training/workout equipment.

According to the web site they aim to sell 300 12-month memberships. Initiation fees Ė a one time charge Ė are $900, and monthly dues are $249.

If youíre one of the parents from my novice team, Iíll wait to you get back up off the floor before I continue typing.

OK.

Now, the question: are there really enough kids/athletes/families willing to spend that sort of money training? Well, I guess we'll find out. Many already do at some of the place I mentioned above. Some are more, some are less.

I think the challenge in locating a new enterprise like this in Oakville will be changing the behaviour of athletes and teams to use your facility.

For the most part Iím talking about really serious athletes here Ė not kids who spend 20 minutes on an exercise bike once every two weeks and call it training.

For the really serious athletes Ė minor bantam AAA and older, junior A and B hockey and lacrosse, high-end soccer and rugby, off-season pros and college players in all those sports Ė well, they become pretty devoted to the people running the programs (and this is the voice of experience talking.) Those trainers become mentors, and mentors are not a one-size-fits-all group.

For example, Dan and Ted have a loyal following (including my XXL guy) at BTNL. The guys who use ATC love Richard and what he does. And to a less intense degree, Dick and his team at Ice2Ice have built a reputation for excellence in working with young players of all skill levels.

The Advance team have a great web site with lots of good information. Give it a look. Maybe they will be right for you.

I wish them well. Itís a tough market.

- - -

Speaking of BTNL, where Pad has been a regular for several years, they have a new promo video that was just released on the weekend. My kid makes a couple cameo appearances, but youíve have to be pretty sharp to catch him because the transitions are pretty fast in this up-tempo piece.

The easiest one to spot? Think ďcollisionĒ and you will find him early on.

Just press play.

 

 

Oct 7, 2011

End of another week.

I missed our  home team win in Brampton last night because of that little exercise in democracy we had yesterday in Ontario. I always shake my head at our low rates of voter participation. Frankly it's depressing, but people who sit on their hands get exactly the type of government and representation they deserve.

And so many of us take for granted what others would gladly die to earn.

I don't get it.

- - -

For readers who track such things (and several do) les frŤres Darrigo are now both playing in Brampton. Alberta didn't feel like home, I'm told. Good to see Andrew back.

- - -

The Leaf season and home opener was also last night, just 112 days after the Stanley Cup was handed to Zdeno Chara. Between monitoring the Blades' game via the league web site, keeping an eye on the Leafs and monitoring the Tigers at the Yankees, the provincial election was a major interruption. Sheesh. But at least they're in first place. For now.

- - -

Years and years ago when I played hockey -- before my knees started to go and I was still a winger, I played on a line with guy who became a very good friend. We played a lot of hockey together. He was a much better player than me but I was his set up man and he was the finisher. He went on to play in the OHL -- which was a big deal for a kid from the Maritimes back then -- and nearly made the Olympics as a paddler.

Fast forward.

He has a family now too, and one of his brood is a hockey player.

In fact, he's a defenceman.

Better yet, he's a 1993 kid, a physical six-footer who player in the Maritime junior A loop last year before jumping to the QMJHL this year.

Stop me if any of this sound weirdly familiar, especially given the interest Shawinigan had in luring my guy east last spring.

Anyway, during a quiet moment this week I poked around on the Internet and found the profile page for my buddy's kid and the final coincidence was too much.

With the home team here in Oakville, my guy wears #57.

And down in the Maritimes chasing his dream in the QMJHL, my friend's kid wears . . . #57.

Before three weeks ago I had never heard of a defenceman anywhere wearing that number.

And now I have a connection to two.

Weird.

- - -

We've got a nice weekend waiting in front of us. Novice hockey practice tomorrow, Blades on Sunday afternoon after the Novice game, and then a down day on Monday for turkey.

Certainly there's lot to be thankful for in a country like Canada, in a town like Oakville, on a street like ours, in a home like mine.

So we'll take some time to be thankful for health and family and the means for a full fridge.

An odd thing happened to me in a deli in downtown Toronto recently that brought all of that into better perspective.

I was standing at the cash waiting to pay (for a Diet Pepsi) when a man Ė disheveled, but not dirty Ė approached me. He asked me if I would buy him a juice. He said he had enough money for a sandwich, but not for a drink.

I looked at the proprietor. He nodded as if to say, yes, he has ordered a sandwich.

I never give money to panhandlers. I just don't. There are better ways to support them than dropping change in hats.

But this felt different so I told him sure. I'd be happy to buy you a juice. Get two if you want.

So he came back to the counter with two small bottles of orange juice to go with his sandwich. He touched me on my elbow lightly and smiled, and just said "thank you."

Happy to help, I said.

Then he said, would I be pushing my luck to ask for change for the subway?

In for a penny, in for a pound at this stage.

I reached in my pocket but there was no change. Just paper. I took out a fist full of Diet Pepsi receipts and in the middle of the wad was a $10 bill.

I handed it to him. He clearly couldn't believe it and no word of a lie, his eyes filled up with tears.

He was speechless so I just said have a good day.

As I turned to walk away, he turned his whole body Ė not just his head, but a full turn -- to watch me leave.

He called after me.

ďSir?Ē he said.

I stopped and turned.

ďThank you for not judging me.Ē

I just nodded and left.

Maybe I was a dummy and got played. Maybe the guy really did just need a hand up at that moment and not a lecture. I'll never know.

But on Thanksgiving weekend, it doesn't hurt to remember the value of occasionally paying it forward, and not always paying it back.

What goes around comes around, right?

- - -

Stay safe in your travels this weekend and revel in your time with family.

A rare 3:30p start for the Blades at home Sunday. A great way for us to spend a fall afternoon with friends.

Be thankful for what you have and supportive of those less fortunate. A compassionate society is defined by how it treats the most vulnerable members of its community.

The Fairshare Food Bank is at 1240 Speers Road in Oakville. Maybe this weekend you could swing by.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Oct 5, 2011

Exactly 15 years ago tomorrow, Tiger Woods won his first tournament as a professional golfer, launching an era in that sport that spanned 13 years of dominance the likes of which may never be seen again.

But, that was the second biggest story that day in 1996.

Far from the Las Vegas desert where Tiger was holding an ugly piece of glass in the air, in a small hospital in a chilly city on the Ottawa River, our son Chris was born.

Efforts to induce his delivery early in the day seemed to be for naught until suddenly, well into the evening and with his mom on the cusp of having her 2nd-born child delivered like the first was, by C-section, Chris made a break for it.

As if sent into the corner on his first forecheck, he entered the world with arms and legs flailing and I have no doubt if there had been a puck in the room, he would have come up with it.

And so we were blessed with a second son, in the parlance of hockey parents: a bookend 1996 for our 1993.

The unmitigated joy of Chris is that he is nothing like his brother.

Yes, both share a love of hockey, rugby, and all sports that crash and bang. They both play guitar Ė I think we now have seven guitars in the basement man cave. They both play sax. The love The Simpsons and Family Guy, and both are unapologetic PS3 warriors. They are loyal to their friends and have each otherís backs in ways that only brothers can understand.

But they are nothing alike.

Suffice to say one moves through life like that character from the future in Terminator Ė the one that relentlessly chases Arnold Schwarzenegger. He knows his targets and goals. And just. Keeps. Going.

And then thereís Chris.

Chris is all about enjoying the journey and back roads and distractions, regardless of the destination. He is the life of the party, witty and sarcastic to the point of leaving us in tears sometimes. He has a circle of friends who ďgetĒ him and his humour. He has written some of the funniest Facebook posts I have ever seen.

Several times over the years Chris has yanked my chain hard to remind me, without ever saying it, that he is who he is Ė and who he is not. I learned lessons from those exchanges every time. I like to think Chris made me a better, occasionally more patient guy.

He writes well and thoughtfully. When he had to pick a non-fiction book for a school project, he picked a 400-plus page biography of Paul McCartney because he wanted to know more about The Beatles. The density of the prose didnít faze him at all.

It thrills us that he has such great friends. And I love watching him and his buddies play hockey Ė there is no purer joy of the game than minor midget white, I assure you.

So if his birthday is Oct 6, why blog about it today?

Good question.

Over the years, Chris has become accustomed to things hijacking this date. Usually it was a rep hockey tournament for his brother. Or a Thanksgiving thing of some description.

And this year itís a double header Ė Blades road game and the Ontario election.

Iíll miss the former because of the latter and weíll postpone the traditional outing to The Keg for another time. We could have gone tonight Ė except Wednesday night is youth club night and Chris wants to spend it as usual with his friends. As it should be.

For the first 48 hours after he was born, I kept calling him Tiger until his mother smacked me in the head and said, with her usual foresight and brilliance, that her son was not Tiger. And she's right. History shows Tiger should be so lucky.

Chris is a huge fan of The Beatles and sometimes when Iím having a bad day I stop and go watch this. It always makes me smile.

Happy birthday, Chris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 3, 2011

Our novice squad got out the gate in solid fashion on Sunday afternoon, winning a 3-2 decision in spite of our decision to call the team the Leafs (owing largely to the white and blue jerseys.)

The kids on both teams had fun. The coaches had fun. The parents were well behaved. The refs were solid.

It was, for all intents and purposes, house league hockey in a community setting on an grey October afternoon.

It was all good.

But.

I still donít ďgetĒ why atoms, minor atoms, novices, and tykes at ďredĒ level house league had to be reclassified as ďminor developmentĒ teams (aka Select in some circles.)

As far as anyone can coherently explain to me, this is to allow the house league ďredĒ level teams at older groups -- minor peewee, peewee, minor bantam, bantam, minor midget, midget and juvenile -- to have body checking. Itís a little administrative shell game to get around an OHF ban on body checking in house league.

OHF says no body checking in house league? Presto Change-O!! Weíre no longer house league!! Weíre Oakville Minor Development ô.

Seriously. Thatís the reason.

So, my question is, what does that have to do with our novice team? (The answer is, nothing. And thatís not just my opinion. A fairly senior OMHA type has told us that MOHA didnít need to inflict MD rostering on the non-hitting younger divisions.)

In fairness, the association has done a couple of things very well recently. The initiative for pre-concussion baseline testing is a smart and progressive move. And there was renewed zeal applied to house league draft processes this year to break up cliques of parents who may have been angling to stack teams before drafts even happened. Again, a gold star for that level of rigour, which is harder to apply than it sounds (and I wish the minor lacrosse association would learn a lesson on that from MOHA!)

But there are a couple fairly significant implications to MD rostering for red house league that could sideswipe the kids and I think that stinks.

First, the rosters are locked down as of right now. Adjustments canít be made for weaker or stronger teams through balancing, which pretty much tosses the entire philosophy of ďfun firstĒ house league hockey out the window. If a team turns out to be demonstrably weaker, or far stronger, than the rest than the league average, well. Too bad.

I think thatís wrong.

Second, in house league hockey on Saturday mornings it is not unusual for the bench staff to be pulled in three or four directions. Sometimes you would recruit an able parent (who has done Speak Out and is registered with the league as an on-ice volunteer) to swing a gate. No more. If youíre not on the roster, you canít come on the bench.

Again, I think this is wrong. Any parent with a police check and a Speak Out clearance should be allowed to occasionally help on the bench in house league at the invitation of the coach.

Third, MD teams are permitted to sign affiliate players.

Seriously? House league affiliate players? Whatís next Ė restricted free agency in January?

So this means novice red coaches will scramble to watch novice white to ďcardĒ APs they can use when theyíre missing kids due to vacation, illness or injury.

Picture me rolling my eyes.

This is house league. You can call it Red, or Select, or Minor Development. You can all it the NHL for all I care. But the fact is it is the same thing it always was Ė one step above white-level house league, and a big step below rep.

There are other problems with this system but looking at the three Iíve just listed, here are the implications:

  • Errors in assembling teams are not addressed and itís the kids who will pay the price. The mistakes are exacerbated, not corrected, the longer the season goes on. Who does that help?
  • Parents are excluded from helping out occasionally, which is needlessly exclusionary.
  • Coaches are encouraged to become more competitive and scout lower divisions for talent to seed their house league teams with when one of their players is missing.

 

In the real world, this is called the slippery slope. The next card to fall will be the fixed playing structure, the league code that mandates equal ice time for all house league players regardless of ability (and a very good rule it is, if I may say.)

But every other thing MD is doing to the league and the kids contradicts the intentions of house league hockey. Trust me. There will be coaches who will use the MD classification as a green light to shorten the bench at key times. Cripes, it happened BEFORE they went MD. So itís not going to happen less often now.

And just FYI, when it happens to your kid there will be two undeniable facts: a) you will know instinctively that it is happening because parents have a 6th sense for stuff like this, and, b) it will be all but impossible for you to prove it.

As I said, no one has been able to explain to me why we need to do it for age groups that canít have bodychecking in the first place. So, we shrug and go to the rink.

Our team will live within the rules we have to live within. Weíre rostered and registered and accredited etc etc. Other than making sure we have a goalie to call on if ours gets sick, we wonít be bothering with APs. More ice for the rest of the guys, right? And weíll encourage as many parents who want to help out at practices to do so within the existing league guidelines for participation.

Win or lose, weíll be among the league leaders in fun, on and off the ice. Guaranteed.

- - -

Blades won a laugher on Friday night at home and then Saturday morning was practice with the novices, Sunday afternoon was the novice season opener and then Chris had a minor midget white practice Sunday night. Not gruelling, but more than enough hockey for our weekend.

Weíre hoping to venture out tonight to see the minor midget AAA Rangers play league powerhouse Welland at 9p at Joshua Creek (or so we were told. Check local listings.)

Another practice tomorrow for Chris on Tuesday, then a family birthday dinner Wednesday, followed by a Blades road game Thursday night as well as a provincial election and poof Ė itís Friday again.

The week should fly by.

- - -

We resisted the temptation to turn the furnace on Saturday morning. The temperature in the house was 20 degrees and once everyone started moving it got warmer.

But Sunday morning the wake-up temperature inside was 19 and thatís where me and my old bones draw the line. Itís October and itís Canada and Iím pretty sure that why we have central heating.

Winter is coming.

- - -

Speaking of winter, Laura is returning to the roaring game.

She used to be an avid curler, and can boast to having lost to some of the biggest names in Nova Scotia curling.

Sheís joined the local club and will be playing in the womenís league a night or two a week. We went to a curling store in Mississauga on Saturday to get her a new broom (itís not really a broom, more like a bristle-free brush) and appropriately modern clothes.

Maybe Iíll hurry hard to the rink to watch some of the action. Iíll start working on my Vic Rauter impersonation.

Maybe not.