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Sept 30, 2007

Rangers beat St. Catharines 3-0 last night with a couple of  goals called back because of quick whistles by the ref. So, they are 1-0-0 in league play. And they've won three in a row now including tournaments and exhibition games. Jack Purcell recorded the shutout and it was a good one, as he was tested several times. Michael Wood, Andrew Magree and Mark Cece scored for the Rangers.

- - -

Chris's team -- and all the other minor peewee white teams -- hit the ice for scrimmages today. Real games start next week. Chris scored a goal in the scrimmage and then came home and gave Pad grief for not being there to see it. Pad opted to sleep in.


Sept 29, 2007

Chris's team had its first ice time last night and it was more or less as I expected -- pandemonium with a hint of organization. Things didn't look much different at the other end of the ice for the team we shared the sheet with. But the point wasn't to built a lot of structure -- the point was all about a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds who couldn't wait to get on the ice. We'll scrimmage tomorrow informally with another team and then start getting serious about figuring out where everyone plays.

- - -

I promised Chris a new stick, so we're off to Corbetts later today for a stick and some skate sharpening. It's amazing how many kids have a stick that's way, way too long for them. Pad's coach last year had us lop a couple inches of his stick (and we used the old top-of-the-stick-at-your-chin-with-your-skates-on rule of thumb). It made an immediate difference. The point being that it's way easier to handle the puck close to your body (and in traffic on the ice, usually that's where it is) with a shorter shaft. So, with that in mind, Chris has had the same stick for a long time. But it's time for a new one -- cut a little below his chin with his skates on, or a little below his nose in street shoes. It works. Trust me.

- - -

The good side of global warming: I think we're going to get through September without having to turn the furnace on. I may be wrong -- tall blonde women here would say I'm usually wrong -- but I don't recall ever having pulled that off before.

- - -

I promised a rant on Steve Downie. It's really not about Downie, who has enough critics out there hammering him that I don't  need to get on that bandwagon. See below -- a teamoakville first, BTW. Embedded video.


My rant has more to do with the rules around checking. When Downie hammered McAmmond, he said he was simply finishing his check. And he's  right -- kids at top levels are taught that you can nail the guy who used to have the puck, as long as it's within a second. Or two. Or three. Sometimes four. It's not really defined anywhere. The line between finishing a check and, say, interference, can be pretty blurry sometimes. In this case, a good argument can be made that Downie was, in fact, finishing the check.


In Downie's case, he added the wrinkle that really bugs me -- he went for a hit to the head. And with Howie Meeker as my witness, I'll tell you that hits to the head will be/are the next big thing in hockey, and minor hockey in particular.

A few years ago, it was checking from behind. Those little STOP patches on minor players' jerseys are ubiquitous now and woe be the guy who even inadvertently hits a guy from behind. Automatic one game suspension, maybe three, maybe more.

But a hit to the head? "Nice check, buddy."

I've seen a lot of minor hockey games from house league blue and white with no hitting, to AAA midget with lots of hitting. And I can tell you this -- a very large percentage of what passes for body checking in minor hockey involves a kid positioning himself to make contact with an oncoming player and then executing a hit, an upward blow, and the major component of that hit is using the gloves, held together, to deliver an upward blow on the head at the moment of contact. It happens in every rep game I see. And sometimes kids get hurt.

It's a stupid way for kids to hit -- it's lazy and it's dangerous. But it happens a lot. Moreover, most hits in minor hockey and even junior hockey, and the NHL too, are delivered with an upward blow -- toward the head, instead of through the body, horizontal to the ice.

And the only way things are ever going to change is if there's a rule change that says intentional contact with the head with get you tossed and suspended.

If there was a rule like that, things would change overnight.

There's a rule in the OMHA -- checking to the head is a two minute minor plus a 10 minute misconduct. And no suspension. In all the games I've seen in the last three years, I've seen it called maybe once. Does that mean I've only seen one kid get a hit to the head? No, sadly. It doesn't. So the rule's either not strong enough or not enforced with the same gusto as the hitting from behind rule.

The OHL outlawed contact with the head a year ago. The NHL sits around wringing its hands and kids watching Steve Downie leave his feet to "finish the check" by trying to cave in a guys head, well they run to the rink to emulate what they can watch over and over on YouTube.

Bobby Orr was a pretty good player. And he thinks head hits need to go.

If you're interested, you can read more here. It's from last year, but it applies to last week.

End of Rant.


Sept 28, 2007

No significant blog update today. Sorry. Too busy with real life.

Chris hits the ice for the first time with his new team tonight and that will be the highlight of the day. Pad has a late practice tonight then plays in St. Catharines tomorrow night. That game was moved to 7:45p from 6p, which effectively ruined any chance Pad could play in a weekend lacrosse tournament in Buffalo. He was really pumped about the lacrosse tournament, but sometimes you can't do it all.

The schedules for Tri County hockey change constantly, so planning anything beyond one child's practices and games is a challenge to say the least.

Chris has a Sunday scrimmage, Pad has (for now) a practice Sunday night.

It will all be fun. I think.

- - -

I have a big rant coming on the whole Steve Downie thing but it's going to have to wait. I can tell by the look on your face you're disappointed, but I'll try to make it worth waiting for. (As if!)


Sept 27, 2007

Last night was "book club" night for Laura and it was her turn to host. Now please visualize: every time I say "book club" I'm making little quotation marks in the air with my fingers.

Pad was hiding in his room watching DVDs. Chris was hiding in my room watching TV. I was in the office in he basement on a conference call with Australia (it was the next morning there, so arranging business with the land down under can be a challenge.)

So anyway, the "book club" is in the living room talking about whatever women talk about in groups of eight or 10 (chainsaws maybe?) and it is, by times, loud. Loud like what Brittney Spears sounds like when she finds out the liquor store is out of Grey Goose and her drug supply is low.

Anyway, I'm putting Chris to bed.

"What do you think they're talking about, dad?"

"No idea. And I don't think I want to know."

Well, it doesn't sound like they're talking about books."

Smart kid.

- - -

Another day, another draft tonight. I'll be helping with the minor peewee blue draft, after which I hope that all the minor peewee house league teams will be done and we can finally get on the ice. Chris's team -- with which I will be a volunteer door swinger this year -- has a practice Friday night and a scrimmage Sunday morning.

- - -

Two items of note from the NHL:

First, from Leaf Nation: Could the Leafs have looked any worse last night? Losing 7-2 to the Sabres one could make the case that the deal to get Toskala is looking suspect. If you saw any of the game last night, you'd know it wasn't all his fault. There are big problems with the Leafs and they have little time to fix it. It will be easier to bury the Gardiner Expressway. Some interesting commentary here.

Secondly, the hit by the Flyers Steve Downie two nights ago on Senator Dean McAmmond is still rattling the boards around the NHL. In this piece, one of Downie's former coaches basically says the guy was an accident waiting to happen and everybody knew it.

Another view here is that the hit is the spawn of the culture of professional hockey -- kids who play like this more often than not get promoted, their will to compete is lauded, and they are surrounded by adjectives like gritty and intense. The point being, why is anyone surprised when stuff like this happens? No one is condoning a guy leaving his feet to finish the check on a guy without the puck looking the other way. But I see a lot of hockey between September and April and I kind of agree that we haven't seen the last hit of this kind. Not in the NHL, or in bantam rep, or anywhere else that people play hockey.

- - -

Hey remember last week when I pointed out that even though our dollar is now at par with the US dollar, we still pay way more for most things, and I cited cars as an example. Now there's a class action suit on the issue. Cool. Details here.

- - -

The Presidents Cup, which purports to be one of the biggest sporting events ever staged in Canada, starts today in Montreal. It's basically the best golfers in the world -- excluding Europe -- against the best golfers from the USA. Oddly, I wasn't invited to play, but in any event it will be fun to watch. There's rampant speculation that Canadian Mike Weir will be paired on Sunday to compete against a guy named Tiger Woods. Hmmm. Woods is to golf what the Sun is to the solar system -- everything revolves around him, and for good reason -- he's the biggest, brightest star, the most talented, etc etc. Weir's Sunday record against anyone isn't great and against Woods particularly, its not been pretty with Mike was paired with Tiger. They didn't name him Tiger because he stalks around at the top of the food chain chewing on the bones of others. But that's exactly what he does. Do we really want to see how that would play out with Mike Weir in the Presidents Cup?


Sept 26, 2007

The AA Rangers beat Guelph 7-3 last night in an exhibition game where the result was in doubt until mid way of the third period.

With the exception of a couple of shorthanded situations where Jack Gillis worked his magic in goal, the Rangers controlled most of the play through two periods and headed into the third with a 3-1 lead. The first part of the third period was all Guelph and they rallied and tied the game and had all the momentum.

The Rangers went back to basics, started shooting the puck and scored four unanswered goals to seal the deal.

Ranger goals came from Camilleri, Magee (2), Runciman, Heggum, Murdoch and Arnold.

The next game and the latest version of the season opener for league play is Saturday night in St. Catharines.

Overall, the team looked OK given they haven't played in 10 days and are still getting used to each other.

I thought Guelph had some good players and they looked like a team that is going through some growing pains too -- passes just not clicking, etc.

Anyway, it was fun to see live hockey again, though it was sometimes hard to hear what was happening from some parents grumbling about the restaurant at Joshua Creek Arenas (formerly Twin Rinks) being closed and locked, so the heated area can't even be used as a viewing area. Also, there was no canteen service.

But there was ice and a working Zamboni. That was enough for me.


Sept 25, 2007

We got through the minor peewee red and white draft last night. It was a long evening and as usual a lot of care was taken to try and get things right. I'm not coaching a team this year -- I'm going to help out on the team where Chris has landed.

But there's always movement -- kids move from blue to white, or white to red, or red to white, or white to blue. And knowing many of these kids, it can be a tough evening at times knowing that while some kids are going to be happy, others are going to be disappointed. There's just no way to control that.

I think the red-white-blue system works for house league. For me, the bottom line is that they'll be playing hockey. We'll make it fun for everyone. I promise.

- - -

Bantam AA Rangers hit the ice tonight for an exhibition game with Guelph. Hopefully the Zamboni will work and the game will be played.

- - -

Leafs lost to the Sens last night in a pre-season shootout. Haven't we seen this movie before?


Sept 24, 2007

Guelph is a nice place, I'm sure. And as Canadians are found of saying in September, "it's lovely this time of year," or, at least I think it is because it was pretty much dark when we got there last night to watch the AA bantam Rangers play their season league opener again the Storm at 9p.

Weary from seven hours at Kinoak helping out with the annual evaluation skate for Chris's house league group, I probably might have enjoyed a quiet night at home, but hockey is hockey and I enjoy watching Pad and his teammates. Bring it on.

There was a sense of anticipation surrounding the game as there always is for the season opener.

The game in front of us ended early, so parents thought, "Good, maybe we'll get home before midnight."

We sat and waited for the Zamboni to come out and flood the ice. And we waited. And waited. Two sheets of ice at this rink, so maybe it's busy on the other rink.

After a time, it became clear that we wouldn't be starting early.

The Zamboni, crippled with some near-fatal mechanical malady, never showed up.

The referee decided the early-season ice, well chewed already, would not stand up to the punishment of bantam AA legs before risking a break through to the concrete floor and possible injury.

Consideration was given -- seriously -- to driving another Zamboni from another rink over to where we were. That conjured up images of police escorts and flashing lights, and perhaps a very wet, clean street. But it was not to be.

Wisely, the local hosts pulled the plug, apologetic but their hands tied. We were back home at 10:20p.

Not as bad as February of 2005 when Pad's Ranger team drove 90 minutes to Uxbridge for a OMHA playoff game and no one booked game officials. That game was called off and we drove home and then had to come back on a weeknight to make that one up. And we lost.

These things happen, even in Oakville. The notoriously leaky roof at Glen Abbey resulted in some postponed games last winter, at least one of which involved Woolwich from the furthest flung corner of our loop.

So, that was our evening.

Plans are afoot for Guelph to come to Oakville tomorrow night for an exhibition game. The league opener will have to wait. Good tickets still available. Come early, etc etc.

- - -

Otherwise, my Sunday was uneventful, if long. The kids showed up in swarms for the evaluation skate and there was barely a hiccough. Not a single player showed up who wasn't registered, and that's a good thing. Telling some doe-eyed 10-year-old that his parents didn't register him and there's now a waiting list is not a pleasant duty.

Anyway, it was good. The red and white drafts for minor peewee finish tonight. By next Sunday, we'll all have teams and ice and fun.

A very big thanks to all those who helped out, on and off the ice.

- - -

Pad's Sunday got off to a rocky start. He went to Brampton in the morning for a field lacrosse game. He forgot his helmet. His mother sent me an email which one might have expected to melt the Blackberry delivery network.

Forgetting a piece of equipment is a firing offence in our house (never mind that I once showed up for a hockey practice without skates. I have mad cow disease.) Pad had volunteered on the ice at the atom evaluation skate. His helmet was in a different bag. Sometimes, stuff happens.

His mother drove back to Oakville to get his helmet, after dispatching a friend to our house to get the thing and then meet her on Oakville's northern border.

She was back by the end of the first quarter. Pad played, Oakville won.

My guess is he won't soon forget his helmet again.


Sept 21, 2007

I wrote about Mr. Hockey a few days ago. It seems one of his neighbours thinks Gordie is running a business from his home and had trained a camera at the Howe residence 24-7 to apparently catch Gordie in acts of high finance. Sounds like a great neighbour. If you pointed a camera at my house, you'd get footage of a car with a hockey bag coming and going, then a car with a lacrosse bag coming and going, then the hockey bag again, then volleyball, then lacrosse, then hockey, then me going to the Beer Store, then more hockey bags, then . . . Not quite Canadian Idol, I guess. Read about Gordie's travails here.

- - -

Last evening I commented on the lagging differential in pricess between the same goods in Canada and the US, even though our dollars are now worth the same amount. This may be good for loyal blog readers south of the 49th -- I see you out there, and I even know who some of you are! Thanks for visiting! -- but it's annoying to us hewers of wood and haulers of water in the Great White North.

Lots of stories in the media on this point today.

Like here.

And Canadian NHL teams -- and the Blue Jays and Raptors -- are saving dough because of the run up in the Loonie. Read why here.

- - -

The Blue Jays open a four game series with the Yankees tonight that will likely determine the fate of the Red Sox. It should be fun to watch.

Meanwhile, the Leafs lost last night where this columnist called Toskala's debut as a Leaf the worst one since Ed Belfour. No argument here.

- - -

GO Transit sucks. Really. I got home after 8p last night and not just because I'm a selfless employee devoted to giving Canadians the best journalism in the country. That's true too, but mostly I was late because GO Transit sucks. And I was late getting to work today for the same reason (but look at how much time I had to blog on the not-moving train!). The service is spelled G-O-T-R-A-N-S-I-T but pronounced "never on time."

I missed parent night for the Grade 9s at Abbey Park High School last night, and I really wanted to be there. So, thanks Never On Time Train Service. Thanks a lot.

- - -

Fall officially arrives Sunday but we'll all be too busy to sacrifice a goat or something to mark the moment. In addition to Sunday's minor peewee fun at Kinoak, Pad is off to Ancaster today with the Abbey Park High School volleyball team for an all day tournament (to quote him: "No school!") Yeah, but lots of homework to keep up with!

Tomorrow he has lacrosse practice at 9a, then he's volunteering at the atom evaluation skate for two hours tomorrow night. Sunday morning he has a lacrosse game in Brampton, then it's off to Guelph for the AA bantam Rangers regular season opener at 9p. Chris has hockey Sunday and I think a birthday party on Saturday, but I haven't received the full weekend briefing yet so I'm not sure.

The quiet summer is officially over. Stick a fork in it -- it's done.


Sept 20, 2007

The Canadian dollar is at par with the US dollar. Cool.

So, if you go to the General Motors U.S. web site and look up a new, 2007 four-door Cobalt, the price starts at $13,790.

Go to the Canadian site, the same car starts at $14,930, or 8.25 per cent more.

The more features you add, the bigger the gap grows -- on some cars it can hit 20 per cent.

So, someone is just pocketing the extra money (before taxes) you pay on a car. It's not just GM, it's everyone.



Sept 20, 2007

I'm having all sorts of trouble with my heretofore generally reliable web site host. Maybe the service is collapsing under the weight of all the blog readership, but that would be like saying a flea broke the elephant's leg. But it is difficult to update things right now and I have no idea when it will improve. Anyway, if the blog goes silent or disappears, it's not me. It's them.



Sept 20, 2007

Misery loves company, so maybe that's why, as a Leafs fan, I have a curious fascination with the collapse of the Red Sox. The Jays beats them again last night, the Yankees won again, and the Boston AL East lead is down to 1.5 games. At one point this season it was 14.5 games. If Boston loses the race to the Yanks, they'll likely still make the playoffs as the wildcard team, and they won the World Series a few years ago as a wild card team. But it would still be a monumental collapse.

- - -

Hey! The Leafs won last night. I know, I know. I don't really care either. 3-2 over Phoenix, in Winnipeg. I didn't watch because . . . I was at a hockey meeting! I don't really think most hockey parents have any clue about how much work goes into getting a minor hockey season up and running. I'm just a bit player really, but I do get to see a tremendous amount of work being done so the kids can have a good time. It's no different anywhere else, but it is nice to know there are a lot of volunteers out there doing it for no other reason than the kids. The glory attached to being a minor hockey coach, or trainer, or a convener, or head convener, or referee, or whatever, is . . . well, there's no glory actually. Nope, the glory fairy makes few visits to hockey volunteers. But if that's your motivation, you'd learn pretty fast you're in the wrong place.

Thank a volunteer sometime, though. Without them, there's no MOHA.

- - -

I can tell summer is over because blog traffic has exploded in September. I had more traffic on the blog over June through August than ever, but it was about a third of what I got during the school year. It seems everyone put their beers down after Labour Day and came back, and there were more visitors here in the first half of September than there were in all of April. All of which says to me that people are looking forward to minor hockey starting.

- - -

For the rep teams, hockey has been up and running for a couple of weeks. Red-level house league teams in Oakville are getting limited ice this week. By the end of next week, the evaluation skate sessions and white and blue drafts will be pretty much complete, and the week of Sept 30 will see the rinks of Oakville alive with the sounds of coaches yelling and kids not listening. Fun, in other words.

In my little world, the minor peewee skate goes Saturday (opps, I mean) Sunday at Kinoak from 8a to 2p and I -- a couple dozen other dads and a few moms -- will be there all six hours, saying hi to kids we haven't seen in months. Evaluation day is always fun just because the kids have so much energy. By the end of it, I have none!


Sept 19, 2007

So excited was Christopher that NHL hockey was on TV last night (Leafs at Oilers, LeafTV) that he didn't watch The Simpsons. That's huge.

That the Leafs lost 3-2 in OT is not relevant. Neither team had their "A" lineup on the ice -- not sure if the Leafs have an A lineup, or the Oilers for that matter -- but the game has good pace and lots of puck movement.

Justin Pogge played the first half of the game (all I watched) for the Leafs and I was impressed with how well he handled the puck. It was like having a third defenceman on the ice. Or, in Toronto's case, like having any defenceman on the ice.

 - - -

Chris' verdict on the new jerseys, without the stripe around the bottom? "They look like practice jerseys."

He's right.

- - -

It was 15 long autumns ago that the Blue Jays won their first World Series. That makes me feel old. They haven't been close since the glory days of 1992-93, but they are making life miserable for the Red Sox this week.

Back to back wins vs the Bosox by the Jays coupled with back to back wins by the Yanks over the Orioles have narrowed the AL East margin to 2.5 games for Boston, who have been in first place since April. Remember, unlike hockey, where it seems like everyone but the Leafs make the playoffs, in baseball only four teams in each league make it -- the three division winners, plus the team with the next best overall record. So, it matters.

Can Boston blow it? You're kidding, right?

I remember this baseball book my dad has (or had) and it had a whole section on the Red Sox blowing leads. It said that headline writers at Boston newspapers had two standard headlines they used every August and every September in the Hub City.

The August headline was: "Pennant Fever Grips Hub"

The September headline was: "Sox Fold in Stretch"

We'll see!

The witty folks at the Boston Globe have developed -- a la the US government's terror alert system -- a guage for readers to grade their level of anxiety about the Red Sox. It's pretty funny. Panic is the the level right now. See it here.


Sept 19, 2007

Technical problems with the folks who host and the blog resulted in it being out of commission for most of the day Wednesday, up till about 10:32a. Sorry. No my fault. As Bart Simpson says, "I didn't do it. Honest. It was like that when I got here."

There may be what passes for wit and wisdom later on.


Sept 18, 2007

A pretty quiet evening, after a not great day of sleeping in, traveling illegally on GO Transit and watching our corner of Toronto go black.

But during the evening a friend forwarded me an email for a fundraiser, where you bid on lunch with "your NHL hero."

Among the names on the list are Doug Gilmour, Guy Lafleur, Wendel Clark, Lanny MacDonald and Bob Probert. Or you could bid on a vacation in the Dominican Republic with Paul Coffey, Dave Shultz, Dave Hutchinson (who?), and again, Bob Probert.

As enticing (and entertaining, I'm sure) as cocktails with Bob Probert might be, I think I'll pass.

If I had to pick lunch with an NHL legend, it would be a no-brainer. Gordie Howe.

In September 1968, I was a little younger than Chris is now and the Habs were scheduled to play an exhibition game in Halifax against the Red Wings. Getting to see a game like this was so far from being a possibility that honestly, it never even occurred to me that I'd get to go.

My dad stood line for a long time on his lunch (and then some, I suspect) to get Standing Room Only tickets for him, me and my cousin Michael.

I was in the backyard, firing pucks at the rock wall behind our house, when he came home early from work and told me we were going. I think the British use an expression -- gobsmacked. It's a good word. I was utterly gobsmacked at that moment. Astonished and speechless.

I had been following the considerable pre-game hype for some time and I knew that Gordie Howe was not expected to play because of injury. I did a book report the year before on Gordie Howe and among my peers considered myself to be something of a scholar on all matters related to Mr. Hockey -- his signing bonus with the Red Wings was a team jacket. He was born in Floral, SK. His wife's name was Colleen. He almost died in a 1950s game when Leaf legend Ted Kennedy drilled him into the boards head first. And he was the meanest piece of work on skates, and the best scorer.

So, while the game was no great masterpiece it was NHL hockey at the Halifax Forum and it was a very big deal to us. Gordie Howe was nowhere to be seen.

And then, early in the third, the big Number 9 hopped the boards and played. He played maybe two or third shifts and I never took my eyes off the guy. I remember being impressed by all the things he did when he didn't have the puck. A smart guy might have learned a lesson there, but I was just a kid.

Anyway, it felt to me like Gordie Howe played those shifts just for me, and in a way he did. Me and all the other kids -- young and old -- who came out for a chance to see a real life hero.

Montreal won 4-1. Yvan Cournoyer scored twice. Gordie Howe played.

I'd buy Gordie Howe and my dad lunch anytime for the memories that night gave me.

Years -- decades even -- later I was at game four of the Leafs-Sens series in 2001, the year the Leafs swept the Sens. Patrick was with me. There aren't many things from the last 40 years for Leaf fans to high-five about, but that game was one for sure.

That night in 2001 reminded me of my night in 1968, if only because I knew my kid would remember it forever.

Me too. On both counts.


Sept 17, 2007

All the power went off in our little corner of downtown Toronto just after noon. So, for those of you who read the earlier post about me expecting a third bad thing, I think that was it. There's a lot of things that can go wrong when the power goes out in an operation like ours. It went ok.


Sept 17, 2007

I scored four -- four! -- tickets to Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 15. Something went right today finally. The boys have never been to a big-time rock show before so this is going to be cool. Happy Anniversary, Laura!


Sept 17, 2007

Sometimes fate can be as big a part of hockey tournaments as anything else, I guess.

The London Knights won the bantam AA section of the Mississauga Early Bird Tournament on Sunday. They advanced to the quarter finals with one win and two losses -- but that one win over Oakville was enough because of the wonky nature of the way the tournament was set up -- two four team divisions, a three team division and a two team division -- with Oakville and London as those two teams.

London beat Streetsville in the quarters, shutout the Mississauga North Stars in the semis, and then beat North Toronto last night to win it all. Full points to the Knights. Does that mean we finish 2nd? (Kidding.)

OK. Forget all of the above. Apparently, it was the North York Knights -- not the London Knights -- who probably won the tournament. I say probably because the tournament web site is not clear on any of this. But it would seem to make sense that the North York Knights (2-1 in round robin play) would have advanced, and not London (1-2). Either way, the Rangers still didn't win!

- - -

Speaking of fate, today may be a good day to stay well away from me. Actually, any day is a good day to avoid me, but today in particular it might make sense.

The alarm didn't go off this morning -- because I had it set for 6:15 PM. So the day got off to a bit of a late start at almost 7p. Strike one.

Then I had to drop off a vehicle for servicing and I entered the GO Station through a completely different entrance and as a result, it never occurred to me to punch my ticket. And guess what? Today was the day the GO Train police were walking through cars checking tickets. Strike two.

I told the cop the truth and he believed me (I have several old GO tickets in my briefcase and was able to prove my good citizenship and record of always paying), so I dodged a $100 fine or whatever it is. (This actually happened to me a couple of years ago, too. I went to a Raptors game and entered Union Station from the south, and just hopped on the train. And again, that night they checked tickets.)

It kind of begs the question: how is it I never win the Lotto 6-49, but if you forget to punch your GO Train ticket twice in eight years, both those days they are checking tickets? Bear in mind, they only check tickets (in my experience) about every five or six weeks. Weird.

Anyway, I'm still waiting on strike three.

I fully expect that one of those 500-pound marble slabs from First Canadian Place may fall on or near me today. Or I'll get crushed under a streetcar while jaywalking, which I have to admit I do a lot. Or the StairMaster at the gym will win at lunch today, and they'll have to call in a Code Blue.

There's any number of possibilities, so keep your distance.

- - -

Good thing for all the other guys on the PGA Tour that their season is over, because now they don't have to worry about Tiger Woods winning every week. The guy seems to be getting better as he gets older and he's making the accomplishments of the three most dominant athletes of the last 50 years -- Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Doug Gilmour -- seem ordinary by comparison. He played in 16 tournaments this year and won seven of them.

- - -

Yes, the Gilmour reference was meant to be funny.


Sept 16, 2007

A mixed bag of results for the AA bantam Rangers on Saturday. In the noon game they lost 4-1 to a very good London team, which eliminated the Rangers from getting a chance to play Sunday. The boys simply didn't look ready to play against the Knights, who came out flying and never let up. The absence of one of our gunners to a suspension didn't help, then another player went down with a broken collar bone, then another with a deep thigh injury.

The night game was against the Mississauga Terriers and everyone warned us this would be a real test. They had beaten London 4-2 earlier.

The Rangers were unable to muster any callups to help with the short bench so it was going to mean a lot of ice time for the boys.

And before the Terrier game was over, two more Rangers were tossed from the game for hitting infractions, leaving them with just 12 skaters.

But to their credit the boys really came out focused and ready. The passes that missed earlier were now hitting the tape. The breakout plays were clicking and the forecheck was effective. The defence played much tighter and physical, allowing the Terriers few liberties around our net, where Jack Gillis played terrific.

Rangers 3 Terriers 1 with an empty net goal.

First win of the season and it was a 100 per cent solid over a good team and in spite of significant personnel issues from injury and suspensions.

They looked good.

- - -

Homework, house league paper work, and relaxing will be the order of the day today, and maybe a bike ride with the boys. Ranger practice tonight, for those of them still able to suit up. Injuries have become a factor in the season in a big hurry.


Sept 14, 2007

Today is Patrick's 14th birthday. He'll celebrate with a day at school followed by his high school volleyball team practice, followed by field lacrosse practice, followed (finally) by dinner at home with us, cake, and sentimental reminiscing about "when he was small."

He's 6-1 now, so it's hard to remember back that far.

Anyway, a friend at work recently added a new son to his household and that led to Laura digging out the old "baby books" for the boys and that little jaunt down memory lane sure jars the memory banks.

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since Pad was born on a day exactly like today 14 years ago in Edmonton. The front page news that day was the Oslo peace accord, with Bill Clinton watching Yassar Arafat and Yitzak Rabin shake hands at the White House. Robert Bourassa announced his resignation as premier of Quebec that day. And the night Patrick was born featured Conan O'Brien's first show on NBC. We watched it, then went to the hospital where Laura yelled at me for 10 hours. (Not really.)

I hope he has a big day. He's a great kid and we're proud of him.

- - -

Aside from the aforementioned parades and celebrations, the AA Rangers will play twice tomorrow in tournament action in Mississauga, and Pad will miss field lacrosse because of that schedule. Chris will be impatiently pacing the house wanting to know when his hockey starts (a week from Sunday). I will be enjoying watching them both and wishing I had a little more energy.

- - -

House league parents should be getting calls this week letting your son/daughter know if they were drafted onto a red level team, or, when they will be asked to show up for the annual evaluation skate. For the minor peewee division, that skate takes place Sept 23 from 8a to 1:50p at Kinoak. I will be the Wal-Mart greeter. 

- - -

Leafs coach Paul Maurice boldly predicts that the 2007-08 Leafs will make the playoffs and are, in fact, the most talented team he has coached. I'm thinking I've coached more talented teams. I'm a life-long Leaf fan and there's nothing I can do about it at this point. But . . . the Leafs will be very hard pressed to make the playoffs this year. Right now predicting a playoff spot for the Leafs feels like saying Hillary Clinton is going to argue for a constitutional amendment to allow George Bush to run for a third term as President because he's just that good and popular. Maybe I'm just cynical. One of their big off season acquisitions (Mark Bell) is facing a prison term at the end of the season, for Pete's sake. Talk about distractions. Anyway, hope runs eternal in Leaf nation and this season is no exception. Now entering the 41st year without a championship.


Sept 13, 2007

The AA Rangers lost 4-3 to the Ice Dogs last night. Trailing 3-2 late in the third they gave up an empty net goal, then promptly scored to pull within one again and that's how it ended. The Rangers looked pretty good in the first period and for a time it looked like the game would be a walk. Then seven straight Ranger penalties contributed to what could only be described as a rise in frustration and a loss of focus, and the energy kind of flowed away. Even one of the Ice Dogs parents commented the refereeing seemed a bit one sided, but sometimes that's what happens when OMHA teams play GTHL teams. Different interpretations of the bible, so to speak. The Rangers return to action Saturday.

- - -

This is a pretty cool yarn from the Toronto International Film Festival. Irish actor Colin Farrell pulls a panhandler into his limo, takes the guy shopping, pays his rent in a room for a year, and gives him a wad of cash. Do you like to think you'd do that if you had a load of dough? Read the Sun's Mike Strobel tell the story here.


Sept 12, 2007

Hockey starts tonight for our household with Pad and the AA bantam Rangers playing their first game, meeting the Toronto Ice Dogs in the Mississauga Early Bird tournament. No idea what to expect, and honestly I have no expectations this early in the season. I learned a long time ago that what a team does in September doesn't count for much unless it's baseball, and this isn't.

But having said that, this much is true. The Oakville minor bantam AA team from last year -- which is the core of this bantam team -- won the Tri County championship last spring. And the minor bantam A team, which sent several players to this team, went to the OMHA semi finals, which means they were a pretty good team. And then there are several former AAA Rangers, too, who are obviously very talented. So, one might reasonably expect this to be a pretty competitive team.

Like I said, it's hard to know. Kids change, their focus shifts, other teams make changes and get stronger. What was true in March isn't going to be true in October. Maybe this team will be better? Who knows?

I remember a year ago I thought the minor bantam A team was pretty good and then they lost their first two pre-season games, one of them a blow out. In the end, they did turn out to be a very good team, but it took some time and a lot of work.

And there's the rub. At AA, a lot of teams have the talent to be good. The question is, are they willing to work hard every shift, even on those grim late November weeknight road games in Orangeville or wherever when your feet feel heavy and you're tired from a long day at school and driving to Caledon or Georgetown feels like driving to Timmins?

Tonight we'll start finding out.

- - -

The two Oakville Crusaders entries in the provincial U-14 rugby championships -- Knights and Lancers -- had strong showings at the provincials last weekend, with one of the teams losing in the final to Lindsay. In spite of that disappointment I'm told the kids felt great about their season, they had fun, they made friends and they can't wait to do it all over again. Apparently the approach of the Crusaders isn't to have an A and a B team, but rather to have two teams that are competitive. If they loaded up one team the way some centres do -- and there's nothing to suggest that approach is wrong -- things might have been different. Anyway, congratulations to both squads. Losing in the provincial finals is no shame.

- - -

The Oakville Buzz U16 field lacrosse team won twice on the weekend, pushing its record to 3-1 and putting them in second place in the fall field loop.  And with the change in the air last night -- the temperature in Oakville dropped almost 10 degrees in an hour -- it feels like fall now.


Sept 11, 2007

Not a happy day on the calendar. Six years, two invasions, two overthrown governments, thousands of military casualties, and tens of thousands of civilian casualties later, Osama bin Laden has still not been caught. Six years ago, would you have thought that possible? And BTW, what's with this guy's beard? Two years ago, it was grey-white, and now it's black. It's like he's going to pop up in that cheesy Just For Men hair coloring commercial between Keith Hernandez and Walt Frazier discussing what tint is appropriate to shade your beard for a fall troop surge. Maybe if the CIA staked out men's hair salons on the sub continent they'd pick up a lead on his whereabouts.

- - -

A grey dreary day with some rain and our house lumbered awake at 6a to get Pad to high school volleyball tryouts at 7a. It's just a busy time of year and as he knows, job one is school. High school means more homework, more reading, higher academic bars to clear, and more. I think as parents, that will be the toughest thing for us to stay on top of and it's a good thing his mother is who she is. His good study habits come from her. His relentless need to try out for teams and then sit in front of the TV comes from me.

- - - 

I helped out at the minor peewee red draft last night, where there were relatively few fistfights. Actually, everyone was remarkably mature and pleasant and well behaved. I think it would be an interesting exercise to blow up the house league draft and do some kind of random selection. Kids could be sorted by skill level, each team would randomly select X number of kids from each level. Boom. Here's your team. See you in April. Re-Balancing could take care of any gross errors. Like any system it would have strengths and weaknesses. For the meeting-adverse among us (I think as a convener last year I set a new MOHA standard for the fewest meetings among a division's coaches -- one, and it was in a pub) it would be an interesting idea, and I'm pretty sure some other large associations do it.

Anyway, there's a bunch of people with pitchforks and torches standing outside my office waiting to burn me alive as a heretic. I'd better go see what they want.

- - -

Assuming I survive that fiery insurrection, I'll offer myself up for the Blue Jays' bullpen. You laugh, but I'd say yes, they're that desperate. How many games can these guys give away? I hope none of them are expecting a Christmas card from Roy Halladay.


Sept 10, 2007

Pad arrived home around noon Sunday from two days and nights with the AA and A Rangers in Caledon at Teen Ranch, with a big grin and near total fatigue. Apparently a good time, and not a lot of sleep, was had by all.

The AA squad had a 6a practice Sunday that lasted 90 minutes and after that I think the boys were pretty much toast.

On Saturday afternoon, the A team played an exhibition game with Caledon that ended 2-2. I don't have any other details.

I'm sure the start to the school week felt like it came a lot earlier this morning for a whole bunch of Rangers and the parents who were trying to pull them out of their beds. Practice tonight, then Wednesday is the first game of the pre-season -- a Mississauga early bird tournament.

- - -

Not to be outdone, I scavenged some very last-minute ice time Saturday night and assembled a keen group of minor peewees for a game of three on three. We had fun and the boys are clearly very, very keen for hockey to start.

- - -

Canada sweeps the Russian juniors and go undefeated in the Super Series. I have no doubt it was a wonderful experience for the kids on both teams, but it was a bit of a yawner otherwise.

- - -

The big winner on the weekend was Nike.

Nike-sponsored Tiger Woods won the BMW tournament in Chicago at virtually the same time Nike-sponsored Roger Federer was winning his 4th straight US Open in  New York. That's a lot of air time for the Nike logo on some very highly watched programming. Marketing works.

Federer is the most dominant athlete on the planet right now and at 26 he can reasonably be expected to stay near the top for another two or three years (tennis players' careers peak pretty early, but there's nothing typical about this guy so far.) He's two major win away from tying Pete Sampras' career record of 14.

Tiger Woods is hardly a geezer at 31 and given that golf isn't quite as physically taxing as tennis, he's probably got another decade or so to chase down Nicklaus' records. He needs five more to tie.

- - -

I'd like to say that I did something really constructive this weekend, but mostly I spent time doing minor hockey paperwork and watching Nike logos fly across the TV screen.

But, with Pad away, I did take the time to take his new bike out for a spin. Two weekends ago we went to Gears Bike Shop in Port Credit where he bought a new bike with the money he earned refereeing lacrosse over the summer. Bikes sure have changed since the last time I bought one. Holy smokes.

This 21-speed trail bike has front and rear shocks which makes the riding experience entirely new for an old geezer like me. New as in, comfortable.

Chris and I took off and explored a bunch of Oakville's trails and generally enjoyed ourselves. Chris almost ran over a squirrel, but as he is quick to point out, "it was the squirrel's fault."

Anyway, a lot has changed in bike technology in the 17 years since I bought my last bike. If you're considering getting a new set of wheels, you really can't go wrong visiting Gears. They actually DO have something for every budget. The staff were amazing and patient and took Pad through all his questions, set up test rides, and sold him exactly as much bike as he needed for the grueling ride between home and Abbey Park High School. I was thoroughly impressed.

- - -

Minor peewee red house league draft goes tonight. I'll show up for the start just to listen to the trash talk. Minor peewee evaluation skate will follow on Sept 23 at Kinoak from 8a till 2p. The reds finish their draft the next night to be immediately followed by the white draft, and the blue teams will be selected on the 27th. All the kids will be on the ice that weekend. Parents note: times and dates subject to change!!


Sept 7, 2007

The big meeting last night was informative and brief and free of fistfights. I was home before 9p, which to me is a hallmark of a great meeting.

- - -

As previously noted, Pad will be off with his hockey team all weekend in Caledon, which means Chris is cooking up sleepovers and visits and heavens knows what else.

By my calculation this will be the last quiet weekend until . . .  probably April, but that's no guarantee. After this weekend, the Rangers have a tournament, then there's house league evaluations, and on and on it rolls for all of us. Wouldn't have it any other way.

I suspect the weekend won't be all that quiet either, but we'll see.

- - -

It's really hot out. My downtown office is fairly close to St Lawrence Market and I go there to get bagels. My kids were raised in their formative years in Ottawa to accept only Montreal-style bagels as real bagels. Anything else sits and gets moldy. So I hump down to the market every couple of weeks for a new supply (we freeze them). And that's what I did today, and that's how I know it's hot.

Before I discovered these bagels, the situation was far more grave and I used to arrange shipments from Ottawa and Montreal from colleagues traveling in and out of Toronto.  That's another story.

- - -

Chris will occasionally point out to me a job he doesn't want to have when he gets old enough to work. Generally, I think it's safe to say he doesn't want to do anything that involves getting out of bed before 10:30a, doesn't involve Wii or Playstation, and doesn't include hamburgers. But one job he said he didn't want was the one held by the woman who holds up the Great Glasses sign at the Oakville Town Centre. Anyway, there's now a Facebook group dedicated to her. I kid you not.


Sept 6, 2007

The big annual MOHA volunteers meeting is tonight, which means it is officially hockey season. I always go hoping to see a fist fight, but there never is one and this year will be no exception.  Anyway, we'll be off and running.

- - -

I am reliably informed that my pornstar nickname is Pepper Greenbriar. Not coming to a theatre near you. I know you'll be crushed.

- - -

Pad and the AA bantam Rangers, as well as the single A Rangers, decamp Oakville tomorrow evening for the weekend at Teen Ranch in Caledon. If you've never been, Teen Ranch is where the Caledon rep teams play many of their home games and it is also a ranch for teens. Lots of teams -- including pro hockey teams -- use the facilities for retreats and team building, as well as the Olympic-sized ice, the horse trails, hiking and running paths, and much more.

Pad is looking forward to this the same way he looked forward to last summer's minor bantam A Ranger campout, which was a huge success.

The impact of 32 bantam hockey players on Caledon's economy and the stress likely to be added to its police services can only be a matter of speculation. The fact that what little hair either of the two head coaches involved have left is already grey is probably a good thing.

Three of the guys on the AA team, including Pad, are bringing guitars. For us, putting Pad in guitar lessons four years ago (Chris now plays too) was one of the best things we ever did. (Not insisting that the basement ceiling have sound insulation after the contractor forgot to put it in was one of the worst.)

As kids get older, things like knowing how to skate, playing a guitar and new ways to use a funnel and beer become valued social skills in addition to specific talents on their own. Skating parties, campouts, etc. all become opportunities to use the things you learned. And the kids can play.

Downside of the retreat is missing field lacrosse on the weekend, but it's the time of year where hockey comes first.

- - -

The NFL season starts tonight. No truth to the rumour that Michael Vick will entertain at half time with stupid pet tricks.

- - -

Also, the US Open tennis tournament is approaching its final weekend in New York. I'm not a huge tennis fan, but I love the US Open. Way back when -- before kids, before I knew what MOHA was or what a convener did, before I'd heard of the two-deep rule, before a lot of things --  Laura and I would slowly drive back to Ottawa from summer vacation in Nova Scotia via Stowe, VT., and Lake Placid, NY. We would inevitably end up surrounded by loud but friendly New Yorkers and watch a lot of tennis in the evenings in a pub somewhere exchanging lies abut what great skiers we all were. The US Open always reminds me of those late summer days.


Sept 5, 2007

Largely it was an uneventful first day of school in our house. Pad had to stand in line for two hours dealing with registration, locker assignment, etc. But once that hurdle was cleared, his high school debut was smooth.

Chris has a new teacher who he seems to like, and with Chris, that's half the battle.

I returned to work to the usual assortment of piles of paper and brush fires to deal with, and then attended the MOHA conveners' meeting last night.

Pretty much the same drill as previous years with a couple of new wrinkles

-- as previously announced, no 6a week day practices for house league

-- no house league games on the first weekend of March Break. There will still be games on the second weekend of the break. Plan accordingly.

-- March hockey will be further complicated by Easter falling in March this year. So Good Friday league games will be hit by town rinks being closed that day.

-- League-wide standings and stats on the MOHA web site. MOHA has a deal with ITSportsNet to host all its standings and scoring stats. Their site is at and will be a one-stop shop for all MOHA stats. This is very good news for those of us who have been posting stats for various divisions over the years.

- - MOHA still needs conveners and coaches, especially at the white and blue levels. Contact the usual suspects if interested.

-- MOHA has contracted gym time from the town throughout the winter. Each team -- on a first come, first served basis -- will be able to book a gym thru MOHA for team building or other purposes up to six times a season. Subject to availability. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. Offer not valid in Quebec. Come to the volunteers' meeting tomorrow night at the Halton HQ on Bronte Road for more information.

- - -

The hockey moms used skate and equipment sale in this weekend at Frozen Ropes in Oakville. Visit the Moms' web site at to see details of what the tireless Star Lippay has organized for the umpteenth year in a row.

- - -

The Canada-Russia junior "Super Series" has been something of a bust, don't you think? Only question now is whether the Russians will win or tie even a single game.

- - -

I'm guessing that large, flat piece of real estate occupied by a lot of rubble on the south side of Speers Road just east of 4th line is where Dick Decloe's new facility will go. It's a big space.

- - -

Lacrosse practice tonight. Hockey practice tonight. Good thing I don't have a life.


Sept 3, 2007

Spent most of the day Sunday in sun-baked lacrosse fields in Kitchener watching Pad and the rest of the Oakville U16 field team play a pair of games.

We arrived at about 11:45a for a 12:45p start vs Centre Wellington (Fergus, Arthur, Elora, etc) and were thrilled to see our field assignment was field 1, which is lush, tree-lined, lots of shade, etc. They then told us the sked was running an hour late, moved us to the other side of Budd Park to a dusty, hard, treeless site, where we would bake in the sun.

Pad played long pole for the first time and did well I thought as Oakville won 14-10, never trailing and leading by as much as six.

The second game against Six Nations, which may be the best U16 team on Earth, was a bigger challenge. We trailed 8-4 at the half and lost 16-6, but when you consider the talent on Six Nations, it's really not a bad result.

Anyway, the kids had fun and the rest of us are coping from too much sun.

Back to work/school tomorrow.


Sept 1, 2007

This morning in an odd burst of energy I loaded up the back of our SUV with assorted junk from around the yard and garage and went to the dump.

Chris was up and about and I was thinking it would be a nice "Andy of Mayberry" kind of outing if he wanted to join me on the ride to the landfill in Milton.

So I asked, "Hey Chris, want to come with me to the dump?"

What I think he heard me say was, "Hey Chris, want to come over here so I can use the hammer drill to pop some holes your kneecaps?"

Because he looked at me like my proposal to drive with me to the dump was the most ridiculous idea he had ever heard.

"Dad," he said. "Why would I want to do that?"

Never mind. I'll go alone.

- - -

Once at the dump I found myself in a very long line of similar SUVs with similar loads being driven be similarly unshaven men of similar age. Chris missed a good time. You get hurl your stuff into huge dumpsters and if you're really on your game you can aim that piece of hard heavy plastic at the screen of an old TV and well, you really just can't buy entertainment like that.

I also went to the household hazardous waste depot and got rid of a whole lot of deadly junk -- herbicides, pesticides, paint thiner, etc. -- that has been in the garage since we moved here.

Two things are true of our yard -- we don't use herbicides or pesitcides, and, no one ever says, "Wow, you've got a lovely green lawn!"

We prefer it that way.

- - -

My Braun electric razor has died again. Only three years old, I've already replaced the motor in the thing twice and now it's died again. The motor was last replaced in MAY. Of this year.

If anyone out there in the blog readership works for Braun, contact me. This razor is nothing more than a motorized paperweight. It's the worst piece of junk I've had. I'm pretty fair haired, so it's not like I'm one of those swarthy guys who can grow Elvis sideburns on their lunch break. No, I think my razor is a lemon.

If anyone out there works for a competing electric razor company, let me know what you think I should be using.

If I had shaved BEFORE I went to the dump, the Braun razor would be there now. (See how it all comes around full circle? And you get this type of entertainment free! That's value slightly better than, say, a defective Braun razor.)