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Dec 31, 2007

Yet more Oakville teams in tournament action. This time, the minor peewee red Vikings taking championship honours in Schomberg in a mixed major-minor peewee draw!

Teamoakville's northern GTA scout reports:

 The tournament was on Saturday, it was a one day up in Schomberg. It was HL major/minor peewee.

Game 1 - vs. Barrie minor peewee 7-2 win
Game 2 - vs. Schomberg #2 mixed peewees 2-0 win
Game 3 - Championship vs. Schomberg #1 mixed peewees 2-1 OT win. Daniel Caruso scored the winner in the first minute of OT.
We were really proud of all the boys, there were some BIG boys on a few of those teams !! Some were bigger than any peewee I've ever seen! Our goalie Spencer Green was amazing . . . . .he kept us in there for sure.

Here are the champs:

Editor's note: Schomberg is a very cool place for a tournament. The rink is a classic slice of Canadianna dating back to the 1940s. When we were there a few years ago, the rink actually had curling lines on the ice with the hockey markings, as they pebbled the ice sometimes and curled there too! The OMHA banners date all the way back to the 1940s and the tribute plaques in the foyer to Schomberg NHL alumni Bill and Mike Kitchen attest to the fact that they take their hockey seriously in the small farming community. If I'm not mistaken, there's a plaque honouring Adam Oates too, who is from Weston but I'm sure I recall seeing a tribute to him there too.

And yes, I know I've been in a lot of rinks.


Dec 31, 2007

I asked. You deliver. More tournament highlights. A teamoakville field scout reports on the minor peewee white Vikings trip to Orangeville.

Our Viking's first game was to Georgina. The kids were BIG and FAST, being a Major and Minor Peewee mix. Their number 13, close to 6 foot and likely able to sport a beard. I believe the shots were 35 to 10 in their favour, a couple of lucky goals for us and several tough glove saves by Cam, only losing to them by one goal in the final 15 seconds was disappointing but an exciting game. In our second game we tied Bolton 1-1 and defeated Burlington 2-0 in the third game. Player of the game awards went to Cam Cook (the gloveman) in the first game, Sam (speedy) DeGroot in the second game and Robert (everywhere) Carey in the third game. Cam was also awarded "Most Valuable Goalie" What a confidence builder for all of these guys.
Tournaments are a great team building vehicle and I look forward to seeing some great hockey from all the teams who were fortunate to attend a tournament this past week.

Here are the Vikings enjoying some pizza between games.


And since I'm adding pictures, here's one from the Flyers vs. Burlington in Game 1 on Friday. Goalie Jon is stopping the rubber as Isaac and Nicklas sweep to the rescue. I think Sean had just politely removed a Burlington player from the crease. You can view a bunch of photos from that game here.


Dec 31, 2007

Happy New Year. Whatever you do tonight, stay safe and be smart.

- - -

We'll be staying home with the kids tonight, having a rare wintertime feast on BBQ back ribs with me staffing the barbeque. I love working the outside grill in the winter. Most of the time.

The plan was for a nice quiet family night at home with a movie and then everyone turning in early to get a good sleep so we could hit the road, and the slopes at Mount St Louis, nice and early in 2008.

That plan is now starting to wobble a bit as Pad has been invited to a party down the block and won't be home likely till 1a (and ONLY because we know the family AND it's New Year's Eve). So getting him out of bed at 6:15a to go skiing may take some combination of a Sagadore Crane and small explosives.

Chris will not be happy to learn his brother will be bolting the homestead and will immediately apply for a sleepover permit. Arrgh.

So, suffice to say, the state of affairs relative to skiing are still developing.

- - -

Tournament results. The staff at want to hear tournament results. We don't care if you won, but where did you go? Did you have a good time? Did your big defenceman really make the Pepsi shoot through his nose at Boston Pizza? Send results, details and photos to us here.

- - -

Gavin and the minor bantam AE Rangers won their division at the Richard Bell Tournament, going 5-0-1 with 29 goals for, six against. They whipped Brampton 6-1 in the semi finals and then rolled to a 4-2 win over Georgetown in the final.

Elsewhere in the Bell, the Rangers won in minor peewee AE and A and lost in the final in minor bantam AA.

- - -

Several minor peewee teams from Oakville ventured north to Orangeville for a one-day fun tournament. I don't have lots of detail except I heard they all had a great time.

- - -

The Oakville minor peewee red Wolfpack jumped into the deep end of the pool and entered the North Toronto Hockey Association Christmas Select tournament. Seventh place in Oakville's Red MPW house league division, one might have expected the 'Pack to have their hands full in a Select-level tourney.

Apparently the kids missed that memo and decided to see exactly how far they could ride the hot goaltending of Patrick Leon.

An unlikely pair of shorthanded goals lifted the Wolfpack past Leaside in the semi-finals, setting up the final versus Brampton that was 0-0 well into the third. A pair of late goals gave the win to Brampton, but it didn't take the luster off a great week for the Wolfpack kids. An interesting side note is that the 'Pack goalie is a part-timer -- he plays half his games as a forward.

Maybe all the ghosts at St. Mike's College Arena helped fuel the Wolfpack run. Or maybe the kids did it on their own. Congrats to coach Gil and the boys on a great showing.

Big Ryan is going to hate himself for missing this one!

- - -

The minor peewee red Sharks lost in the finals of a tournament in Niagara Falls -- sorry for the lack of details. That's all I have!


Dec 30, 2007

Filed under, "What passes for intellectual conversation on a Sunday morning during the holidays":


Me: In those Bell commercials, I know one beaver is named Gordon. Who is the other one?

Laura: I don't know. I'm not sure he has a name.

<Days later>

Me: (after watching a commercial). Frank.

Laura: Huh?

Me: It's Frank. The other beaver is named Frank.

Laura: Right. Frank.

Chris: You didn't know Frank's name?

Me and Laura: No.

Chris: Speechless. Rolls eyes and shakes head.


Dec 30, 2007

The AA bantams lost 3-2 to Brampton last night in the Silver Stick quarter finals, so we're done. It was the fourth time this year we've played them and they were bound to win sooner or later.

Daniel was at the game but didn't suit up, although his dad reports "he's well, but an inch shorter."

The game was a pretty good one for the most part until the usual goofiness in the third period which we've come to see now in virtually every game.

So we sprinted home to watch the weekly ritual of The Thrashing of The Leafs on one channel, and the weekly ritual of The Win By the Patriots on another channel.

The Leaf performance was woeful.

- - -

All of which means we have a hockey hole in the calendar. Chris has some skills and drills ice time starting Tuesday and Pad and the Rangers are done till they go to Burlington on Thursday night to play the first-place Eagles. That should be interesting as suspensions, Christmas travel and whatnot have punched a pretty good sized hole in their roster.

- - -

We may fight the hockey lull with dinner and a movie, or, movie and a dinner, or, one of the above, or, none of the above. It all seemed like a good idea last night.

I'm voting for National Treasure 2.

But there's a lot of support for seeing Alien vs. Predator -- Requiem. Just pause for a second and look at that title. It's a piece of genius, really. Anyway, the safe money says that no matter what Chris wants, Laura ain't gonna go see round two of the titanic battle for intergalactic faux monster supremacy. Sure, the first AVP was snubbed by the Oscars. And I'm sure the sequel has all the fine production values, plot development and excellent writing of the first.

But we'll take a pass on this one.

Laura will vote for Charlie Wilson's War, which I'd support but we'll lose to the other two voters.

Pad will vote for The Keg.

I'd also settle for I Am Legend, No Country for Old Men, or even The Kite Runner. None of which I'll get to see until their on DVD, or even TV.

- - -

The semi finals and finals in a bunch of Richard Bell Tournament games go today. Oakville Rangers, as far as I can tell, won the minor peewee A and AE divisions yesterday.


Dec 29, 2007

Chris and his Flyer teammates ventured to Burlington for a pair of friendly games with a minor peewee house league squad. The team -- the Wild -- is second in a 12 team loop, so we knew we'd have our hands full. They have some former rep players, and some relative newcomers to hockey -- Burlington doesn't sort its house league red-white-blue like MOHA does.

Anyway, on Friday afternoon we lost 8-3, but four of those goals came in the last five minutes of a long game -- periods of 12-12-15 with stop time. We're used to 10-10-12. A short bench and too much turkey -- not to mention their top four players were very good -- conspired to bury us at the end.

But we won the all-players shootout at the end of the game, and overall it was a very positive day.

We went back today vowing to do better. We led 1-0 after one, it was 2-2 after two and we lost it last in the third. We did two shootouts, losing the first, winning the second.

Our guys played really well .

Fergus was our player of the game Friday and Dylan and Jonathon B. shared medals in today's game.

Fergus also gets the nod for the best line of the day:

"My neck guard smells like cheese."

Thanks. I'll take your word for it, big guy.

- - -

UPDATE TO THIS ITEM: Daniel is home and he's fine. Very good news!!

Meanwhile the bantam AA Rangers lost to Humber Valley 8-5 last night at the Silver Stick. The game felt like one they should have won, but there's no question the Sharks deserved the two points. Humber Valley also beat Brampton, the other team in our division. Which meant today's first game against Brampton meant nothing -- regardless of who won, the two teams would play again tonight to decide who plays Humber Valley in the semi-final tomorrow.

So, in the early game, the Rangers were leading 2-1 halfway through the second when one of goalies (Dan) was involved in a collision with a Brampton player. His neck was injured and everyone wisely elected to play it safe and immobilize him until an ambulance could take him to be looked at.

Last word (early afternoon) was that he was OK but still waiting to be fully checked out.

The officials called the game because of the 45-minute delay and the fact that the result would have no bearing on the tournament result.

So we go back to Brampton to play Brampton again tonight.

But everyone is thinking about Dan and we hope he's ok.


Dec 27, 2007

It's hockey tournament time. Oakville is hosting the annual Richard Bell Memorial Tournament today thru New Year's Eve. 120 teams from six countries -- it's a biggie.

You can find the schedule here, in case you're interested in going out and seeing some games.

And you can get results here.


Dec 26, 2007

No, we are not among the crowds out spending more money today. We already spent enough, thanks, plus we're just not that crazy.

But my day did start early.

I was lying in bed around 8a, sort of half awake/half asleep. The kids were really tired last night, as was Laura, so I knew no one would be up early.

But when you're used to getting up at 6a or 6:30a every day, 8a feels like sleeping in so I was waking up when I heard a big truck on the street.

Garbage day?

Normally, Tuesday is our garbage day but I figured with Christmas and Boxing Day it would be pushed back two days.

Wrong. It was pushed back one.

So, as the poem says, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

I threw on a pair of sweat pants and sprinted for the garage, running out to the street to see the back end of the garbage truck rounding the corner. It was a quick trip down the street for the truck, because almost no one had garbage out.

Not one to take defeat lightly I sprinted down the block with two garbage bags and dragging our wheeled garbage bin behind me.

I made it, moving with the power and grace of a garbage-toting Terrell Owens. Or something.

One thing's for sure -- there will be a lot of grumpy people on our street when they figure out they missed garbage day.

- - -

Courtesy of cash contributions from virtually every relative, the boys got a PS3 system for Christmas. There's not much it won't do and technologically it's a major leap forward from the seven-year-old PS2 we have.

There was a bit of a wrinkle when we tried to connect it to the wireless internet network we have. For some reason it would allow only my laptop or the PS3 to connect to the internet, but not both at the same time. I found that to be weird and really annoying.

I spent about 20 minutes online looking for answers and found several possible solutions. Basically I had to upgrade the firmware on the wireless router and reset the DHCP settings which assign the IP addresses for devices as they connect to the network.

Only some of which I really understand.

But it made me think of how brilliant my dad was at fixing things around the house. If a car wouldn't start or the furnace died or something mechanical needed attention, my dad could fix it.

I'm not so gifted.

I said to Laura last night, "You know what would happen if our furnace died and I had to be the one to fix it?"

She never missed a beat.

"We'd freeze."


But the nature of family life has changed so much that a guy who can upgrade the firmware for the router or knows how to assign IP addresses or who can configure his wife's PC to capture her corporate email into her Outlook is almost as valuable to have around as the mechanically gifted folks like my dad, who thinks Bluetooth is what you have after eating blueberry pie.

Not quite as valuable, but almost.

Like the saying goes, if you're not handsome you'd better be handy.

- - -

Leafs are on TV tonight visiting Long Island, and the World Junior tournament starts this afternoon. Happy Hockeydays. I mean, holidays.


Dec 25, 2007

Merry Christmas.

Can't blog.



Guitar Hero III . . .


Dec 24, 2007

Christmas Eve. Cool!

It's early here and I'm the only creature stirring which is not uncommon. A quick update here, some stats to add for the minor peewee players, and then I disappear downstairs to wrap some presents.

It's been a little more than two years since I started doing this. By any objective measure, it's a pretty small spec in the Internet universe. But I've heard from lots of people in that time -- some who agree, some who disagree, some who just like reading what's here.

I enjoy the comments. You can email me here anytime you have something to say.

Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading. Have a great Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year.

Follow Santa's progress here.

I am!

- - -

The AA bantam Rangers beat Brampton 3-2 last night. Brampton led 2-0 but a pair of power play goals by Oakville had the teams even after one. Oakville won it in third. The score was not indicative of the play -- the Rangers had three goal posts and far more shots and were the better team.

For the third time in recent games, this game ended with scrums all over the ice after a Brampton player punched an Oakville kid in the head, from behind. As Borat would say, "Very nice."

The win leaves Oakville a single point behind Burlington with a game in hand. Each team has 17 wins and three losses, and the Eagles have one more tie. They will play again in early January.


Dec 23, 2007

Driving home from Chris's hockey team's Christmas party today, the very old Cat Stevens song, Father and Son, came on the radio. Growing up, that song was just another song.

Later, its melancholy parable of the son who knows the house isn't big enough for both him and his dad, and the dad who knows it too but wants everything to stay the same, rang so true it hurt.

And I looked over at Chris, chocolate cupcake frosting on his face and a Santa hat on his head and completely oblivious to the song.

It put me mind of the many great Christmases I had as a kid. I thought I'd share a memory.

When I was a kid growing up in what was then rural Nova Scotia, we had this Christmas tradition we called simply the Christmas Tree Hunt.

Every year about two weeks before Christmas our folks, or sometimes just dad, would take us back into the woods behind our house to find a tree. The land was steep and rolling and crisscrossed with old logging roads and if it sounds a little bucolic, that's because it was.

The evergreens grew high and formed a canopy over the old rutted roads and moss-covered stumps and depending on the weather you could be knee-deep in snow or mud, or walking along frozen land crunching shell ice on the little puddles in the tire ruts formed decades ago.

There used to be fields hidden among the trees -- the further back you went, the greater the adventure. As boys we called them First Field, Second Field and Third Field. A really good day was spent sitting on a rock wall in Third Field surrounded by grass or snow or whatever the season presented and telling tall tales. Sometimes you'd see a deer, but we were usually too loud for all but the most deaf and stupid deer.

And among my peers there was a legend of a Fourth Field. If it existed, I never found it.

Those woods were one of my favourite places -- in the summer they were the path back to Beaver Pond (which was really a small lake) to fish and in the winter, well, it was the hunting ground for Christmas trees.

An uncle owned much of the land back there then so taking a tree or two was no big deal.

Over the years the tree ritual grew into a spectacle of near-Olympic proportion as boyfriends and girlfriends tagged along and dove into the buffet lunch that was added to feed the tree hunters.

Inevitably, the boyfriends and girlfriends morphed into husbands and wives and then grandchildren and dogs followed and the tradition took on new life for a few years.

Pad even got in on one as a toddler visiting from Edmonton, but Chris never did.

Time and distance are cruel masters on some things and such it was for the Christmas Tree Hunt, which doesn't happen anymore.

Crueler still is that you can no longer walk into the woods behind my parents' house and tread an unencumbered path all the way to Beaver Pond, a distance of maybe 600 or 700 metres.

A subdivision of fine new homes is slowly eating away at that acreage -- the old wood roads and evergreen canopy are all but gone. And if Fourth Field ever existed, it is now surely occupied by a 3,000-square-foot  home with double attached garage.

Christmas Tree Hunts today are more a function in suburban shopping mall parking lots, or perhaps to a tree farm to cut your own.

And you know, that's OK too.

Because Christmas is about family and creating memories for your kids and stories, like this one, that I can tell to my kids and your stories that you can tell to yours.

Below, courtesy of Google Earth, is a map of where I grew up. The star is where the family home still is. The dark purple line is the main road -- and in those days, it was the only road. There was a time that the golf course you see was all woodland. The subdivisions on the right trampled other woodlands we played in as kids.

The area on the left bordered with blue was prime Christmas Tree Hunt territory. And you can see the subdivision between by parents' house and Beaver Pond.

I'm pretty sure my house sits on what used to be someone's farm in north Oakville, so I'm not going to begrudge those new folks in Windsor Junction their chance to carve new memories and traditions and, I hope, add something positive to the community in my old home town.

Like the point of that old Cat Stevens' song, things change. It's just the way it is.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy those hockey players running around your house and the busy days and nights they bring that illuminate our lives. Share a memory with them this week. Create a memory.

- - -

Friday was the last day of work before the holidays and the final school day, plus Chris had a practice and Pad had a practice and we had some friends and neighbours over in the evening.

Pad and the Rangers had back-to-back weekend games -- last night vs. Georgetown and tonight vs. Brampton. Both were expected to be tough games.

Last night's was.

Having lost to Georgetown a week ago the Rangers knew they'd have to work hard to get those two points back. Also, the standings yesterday showed Georgetown in front of the Rangers for second place (although Georgetown played five more games.)

It was a chippy game with some of the usual goofiness than seems to come with this age group, but the Rangers jumped to an early 2-0 lead and won it 3-1. The Georgetown goalie was very good in net as the Rangers out shot the Raiders and had far more good scoring chances.

The game ended on an ugly note with two Georgetown players tossed -- one for a hit from behind (which isn't all that uncommon) and the other for uttering a discriminatory slur -- apparently toward the referee.

That was a new one on me and you have to think that the OMHA will be looking further into that one when the game sheet crosses someone's desk.

- - -

Today was the best day of minor peewee white action this season. Two ties and a one-goal game (naturally, it was my kid's team that lost) attest to the competitive balance that is emerging in the division. It's very nice to see and any of the teams could have won today.

- - -

This time a week ago I was sitting at home watching a blizzard envelop Oakville, thinking to myself, "Self, we're going to have a white Christmas."

Today I'm sitting here watching the rain pour down, taking the snow with it.

The weather forecasts warn of a flash freeze -- the temperature is expected to dive from 8 degrees to minus seven very quickly. So I'm going to stay off the roads and watch NFL on TV and maybe nap. Because I really need a nap.

- - -

Dec. 20, 2007

When you type in December and it's 20-something, you know it's Christmas time.

We're looking forward to a few quiet days but once we get past Christmas things will get busy, fast.

Pad and the AA Rangers are in a Silver Stick qualifying tournament in Brampton from the 27th to the 30th.

And Chris and the Flyers have a couple of exhibition games lined up in Burlington about the same time.

Plus there's some extra ice for Chris and some fun day camp stuff.

I'm hoping to be off for most of the two weeks, playing chauffeur and dad all at the same time.

 - - -

I was standing in line to pay for a muffin yesterday when the guy in front of me won a free muffin (it happens randomly sometimes when you pay at this particular place.)

He turned to me and said, "Want a free muffin?"


So I got a free flax and bran and barbed-wire muffin.

So it was in the back of my mind for the rest of the day to go out of my way to be nice to someone and pass on the goodwill.

I didn't have to wait long for a chance to do a good turn.

An elderly lady with a white cane was trying to cross Yonge Street. I asked her if she needed a hand and she said thanks and grabbed my elbow. I only had to bark at her once to pick up the pace. As a coach, I needed to know that she REALLY wanted to cross that street.

Later I was in a convenience store (getting -- what else? -- a Diet Pepsi) where I quickly found myself mediating a conversation between the store owners and a three teens, all of them new Canadians not yet terribly fluent in English. The problem was they were new Canadians from different lands and they were all trying to speak English. None of them had English skills good enough to get the other to understand them.

It was kind of like watching Basil Fawlty try to communicate with Manuel the waiter. Anyway . . .

I, on the other hand, could understand both groups, and they both understood me.

A transaction for an international long distance calling card then ensued.

I took my usual 20 per cent fee and moved on.

With my muffin.

With behaviour like this, it's only a matter of time till I get a Nobel Peace Prize.

- - -

I didn't blog on Wednesday because after watching the Leafs give up two goals in less than a minute with only 90 seconds remaining in the game vs. Carolina on Tuesday night, I was too numb to type.

Still am actually.

Naturally once the game was 2-2 and went to overtime, we knew the goose was cooked and the Leafs would lose.

We have something of an early warning system in our house for Leaf disasters. Chris is usually watching the game in a different part of the house by 9:30p, and those TVs are on analogue cable feeds. The TVs on the main floor are on digital feeds. For whatever reason, the analogue feed comes in about three or four seconds before the digital one.

So when Carolina scored the tying goal, we heard a loud mournful moan seconds before we saw in on digital cable.

Ditto on the game winner.

Anyway, it was an ugly end to the game.

Leafs are in Florida tonight. Why, oh why, do I even bother?

- - -

Before they introduced those gadgets where you can check you own lotto numbers, did you ever hand over your ticket to the person behind the counter, find out that you won nothing, and later think, "I wonder if they ever lie and keep the winning tickets for themselves?"

I did.

And I still do.

- - -

Chris Simon gets 30 games for stomping Jaarko Ruutu. Read the Globe's take here. But Long Island-based Newsday as any interesting perspective on the suspension here. Worth reading.

- - -

Somewhat lost in the fuss about the Senators amazing fast start and similarly amazing slump and then now less-amazing recovery, is one simple fact. And that is that the Detroit Red Wings are hands down the best team in the NHL right now.

The Wings have a 19 point lead over the second place team in their division and the season's not even half over.

They have an astounding 11 point lead over Dallas, which is second in the entire western conference.

They have a six point lead over Ottawa for the best record in the NHL.

And a lot of people will tell you the Wings can't win the cup. I'm not one of them.

- - -

Curtis Joseph has been named to Canada's Spengler Cup team. Whatever that is.

- - -

The Canadian junior team is getting ready in Europe for the world junior tournament. Read details here.


Dec 18, 2007

For visitors here who are followers of Tri County bantam hockey -- and many are -- things continue to get tight at the top of the AA loop.

Burlington lost last night to Dundas, 5-3. So the Eagles and Oakville each have three losses. Burlington has three more points but has played two more games.

Standings are here.

 - - -

The Islanders Chris Simon has long been a guy who plays on the edge, and more than once has gone over the edge in a big way. But what happened Sunday night where he deliberately stepped on the Penguins' Jarkko Ruutu is a new low.

No stranger to danger, Simon began this season by completing a 25-game suspension for a stick swinging incident last year.

You can read about what may lie ahead for Simon -- many think his career is over -- by clicking here.

If you want to see the infraction in question, click below.

- - -

The AA bantam Rangers practice tonight and then immediately decamp for their Christmas party. I will boldly predict it will be loud and there will be a lot of food eaten. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.

Chris and his team do their party on Sunday after their game and then hopefully we all can slide gracefully into the Christmas vacation season.

- - -

I saw this last week and meant to point it out. Two stories on further fallout from that novice AAA hockey fight a few weeks ago in Guelph. Read about sanctions against Niagara Falls' bench staff here, and the Duffield side here.



Dec 17, 2007

One week till Christmas Eve. Which mean, one week left to do what you have to do.

- - -

It snowed yesterday which is being treated in these parts as a news story along the magnitude of a combination of The Second Coming and the Leafs winning the cup. You'd honestly think that people have never seen snow before.

The news bulletin is that it's December in Canada and, well, it snows. And we got 26 centimetres of snow on a Sunday -- I'd guess 90 per cent of the population had a realistic option of just staying home and watching football and maybe a movie.

For the most part, I thought the work crews in Oakville did a pretty good job. Sometimes our street is not plowed at all and last night the plow had passed out house twice by 8:30p and the street was snow covered but clear.

Today, being possessed of an almost pathological need to be on time, I left the house early in case of problems. Good thing.

The streets to the GO station were fine.

The GO station itself is an unmitigated disaster.

Most of the parking lots on the north side (where I park) were not plowed. And with the best part of a foot of snow on the ground -- higher in the drifts -- that's going to be a problem. I actually got stuck for a few minutes trying to get to my usual parking spot (you couldn't really tell it wasn't plowed until you made the turn into the lot). I bailed out and eventually made it over to a cleared area, but as usual the good folks at GO Transit took a bad situation and made it worse.

The northwest end of the GO lot actually has three parking lots -- the main northwest lot (where I park) and two smaller lots that were formerly parking for the old Oakville Hydro building. This represents parking for hundreds of cars. None of these three lots were plowed. It's not that they were plowed poorly.

They were not touched at all.

Pristine acreages of virgin snow crying out for an Arctic Cat to whiz over them, perhaps chasing Bambi and her hapless rabbit friend.

And naturally the 7:25a train was 14 minutes late and the 7:35a train was 10 minutes late and . . . well, you get the idea.

Yesterday's blogging was far more joyous and fun. I direct you there if you're looking for fun.

Today, I reserve the right to be annoyed by an agency that had more than 14 hours to remove snow but instead apparently decided to watch football and maybe a movie.

This storm could not have been at a better time for causing the least inconvenience to the public -- I mean, they told us it was coming for 72 hours, and it arrived on a sleepy Sunday morning. But apparently it was really inconvenient for GO Transit.

Today, I am a curmudgeonly guy -- sort of the winter-time version of the guy yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. If I cared about my lawn. Which I don't.

It's winter. It's Canada. It snows. Deal with it.


Dec 16, 2007

OK, a busy weekend of hockey. Let's go to the highlight reel . . .

- - -

Pad and the AA Rangers had a good practice Friday night then bounced back from their dismal showing in friendly Georgetown by beating Guelph 4-1 on Saturday night. All the boys played solidly and Dan French -- back after a long rehab from knee problems -- looked good in chalking up his first win in his first start. Patrick Griffin lit up the board for three goals. Today's game in Stoney Creek was postponed because of snow.

- - -

Chris and the Flyers practiced last night and then harnessed all that energy to beat the Wings 4-0 today, in spite of the blizzard. Chris and I arrived early at the rink and -- long story short -- someone walked off with his stick, which was with his gear while he watched the first game of the day while waiting for his game. A friend on another team was kind enough to lend Chris a stick and the big guy put it to good use, scoring the first goal -- and what proved to be the winner -- to help his team to a win.

In the meantime, if your son mysteriously has a blue hockey stick with purple tape, contact me. Chris would like his stick back!

 - - -

Yes, Virginia. The King-Arnolds have exterior seasonal illumination.

Frankly, it's not my best work. Lake-effect snow filled the air on Saturday morning as I dragged the ball o' lights out of storage to untangle and test. And the roof was covered in snow and Laura said that if I dared get the ladder out and go on the roof in those conditions she'd kick the ladder over once I was on the roof to ensure I stayed up there until the Super Bowl.

So, I know how to follow orders.

Anyway, eventually Pad came out to "help" and we managed to put coloured lights around the yard to some general effect to resemble a holiday festive environment. I hope this adds to your enjoyment of the season etc etc.

Here's me and a local Ranger hockey player holding up one end of a big ball of lights.

- - -

We were invited to a tree decorating party Saturday night, but we never got there. The lateness of the Ranger game, the threat of a blizzard, the anxiety over global warming and other issues conspired to send us home. The spirit was really willing. The bodies were less able. Sorry. I bet it was a blast.

- - -

OK. It's not quite the Gift of the Magi or The Homecoming (Christmas on Walton Mountain), but it is a true story of honesty and, moreover, abject confusion and stupidity as only I can deliver.

<Queue the soft violin music.>

I wandered into the downtown Toronto Winners store on Thursday to get socks.

While there, I spied some possible Christmas presents and called Laura to see if what I saw was what we needed. Yes, indeed, she said. So with two packages of socks and two other Xmas items in hand, I went through the cash register, paid in full with coin of the realm and returned to work.

That night I barely got home in time to eat before running to Georgetown for a bad hockey game. I threw the Winners bag into a corner.

The next morning I arose early and looked in the Winners bag, but the two presents weren't there. Just my socks. I feared the cashier had failed to put the presents in the bag, an honest mistake. So en route to work on Friday I returned to Winners and told my tale.

The lady couldn't have been more helpful and admitted that it happens sometimes. She checked my receipt and got me the goods, apologizing for the inconvenience.

I got to work, pleased I had managed to correct the problem. I was gracious in the face of their shortcomings, but that's the type of guy I am. Cool. Collected. Non judgmental.

I wasn't at my desk long before Laura emailed to say that the two gifts I had bought at Winners were just great. Thanks for picking them up.


Unbeknownst to me, Laura removed the presents from the bag while I was in Georgetown. Since I left for work Friday before she was up, I didn't know that.


I now had twice as many presents from Winners -- and now at half the price, too.

A woman I work with suggested I just keep them. Winners, she said, has lots of money.

Others were of little moral guidance to me.

But at lunch time I went back to Winners for the third time in 24 hours -- a new personal best. I sought out the same woman who helped me and explained, as best I could, that I'm a dolt. And I returned the extra presents.

I felt a bit stupid. But I did the right thing. And I still got the right presents. And Winners' margins won't be eroded because of my stupidity.

And Winners has some very, very good-hearted people working there.

Merry Christmas.

- - -

If you are dramatically disappointed in this true story, click here to read the Gift of the Magi.

Or click here to get information on how to order Christmas on Walton Mountain.



Dec 13, 2007

In almost two full years of doing this, I've only used this graphic one other time. It applies again, because sometimes there's just no way to pretty-up a result.

Georgetown 5 Oakville 3.


Having said that, clearly the Rangers had no idea how to deal with the ridiculously small Memorial Arena ice surface  -- I believe that we were told it's 67 feet wide. (A regular NHL sized rink is 85 feet wide.) It was dangerously small for the size of the players.

And while Georgetown actually supplied refs this time (unlike the last time when the game was postponedn because no one had booked officials) we went home thinking maybe we'd have been better off to play without them. The game got WAY out of hand in the third period and it was apparent that was going to happen early in the first.

One of the players noted that the referee told him in the third period: "Hey, we're winning."

That instills a lot of faith in the system.

Nonetheless, the right team won -- Georgetown deserved the win.

We got home late. Everyone was grumpy. TGIF.

- - -

The Leafs are in Atlanta tonight and Montreal tomorrow kicking off a busy weekend for us. I'll be scaling the house tomorrow -- come what may! -- to finally put up exterior lights for the festive season. And from all accounts, I'd better hurry since what Environment Canada is billing as the biggest storm in two years is expected to start whacking us on Saturday afternoon. So, by all means drive by the house with your camera on Saturday afternoon and watch me do a Clark Griswold, perhaps in a blizzard. Fun for the whole family. Maybe even a prize for the person credited with dispatching 9-1-1 to extract me from the umbrella tree.

Chris has a Saturday night practice, Pad has a game after that and then we are invited to a tree-trimming party after that. I'd say attendance at some of those things depends on the weather. Then Sunday morning is the usual run of minor peewee hockey, maybe a few quality hours with the snow thrower, and then the Rangers have a road game Sunday night in Stoney Creek. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

- - -

The Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball came out yesterday. Gee, you mean millionaire baseball players cheat to enhance their physical performance to engorge their wallets? I'm stunned. Because I thought these guys all got big and strong and fast and powerful all on their own with hard work, good diets and lots of sleep. As Yoda might say, "Crushed, am I."

The report itself is billed as comprehensive.

It's comprehensive to about the same extent that I am an Olympic-class sprinter and three-time Masters champ.

Largely based on the testimony of bat boys and locker room attendants, it looks designed more to make Congress get off the back of Big Business Baseball than it is about cleaning up a pesky steroid problem. Anyone who has had a cup of coffee with a major league athlete knows that steroids are just part of the problem -- greenies, speed, whatever you want to call the pills used to pump guys up for games over a long 162-game season -- have been as much of a part of baseball for decades as Crackerjacks.

Anyway, get a cup of coffee, settle in, read the report and make up your own mind. You can find the 37-page executive summary here, and the full 409-page report here.

If you don't have Adobe reader on your computer (dad), you need to download it first.

(Go to this link, click on the big yellow button that says DOWNLOAD NOW and follow instructions. It's free. I'd make sure the box that says "Also Install Free Google Toolbar" is NOT checked. I have enough Google in my life already. But that's just me.

You're welcome.


Dec 12, 2007

Pad and the AA bantams practiced last night at Glen Abbey, getting the coveted 9:10p to 10:20p time slot on a windy, rainy night where all the parents really, really wanted to venture out in the miserable evening. As usual, it was clear the kids didn't care and they seemed to have a great time. The ice at Glen Abbey (green rink) was absolutely brutal. It looked like what you'd expect to see in September on a day with a high humidex and lots of open doors.

It was a mostly uneventful evening though I did learn that one of the moms on the team doesn't own any leather pajamas (I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that is actually a fairly long list).

Not that I'm keeping a list or anything, but it came up (and no, I didn't raise it). Suffice to say some conversations follow odd paths.

The AAs are in Georgetown tomorrow night. On our last trip to Georgetown, the game was postponed because someone forgot to book the refs.

- - -

The bantam AE squad played before our game and because I dropped Pad off and then went to Tim's and then returned to the rink, I missed the end of the game, a 2-0 win for the Rangers over Stoney Creek.  The win move's Mitch's squad to within a point of second-place Caledon with two games in hand. It was the Rangers' seventh straight league win, and they are 9-0-1 in their last 10. No one who has played for Mitch would be surprised by that record. Connor L. was not among the exiting mass of Rangers I saw after the game as he was off getting stitches in his chin. Ouch.

Pain goes away. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.

- - -

The weekend Toronto Star carried a thorough and very interesting piece on minor hockey -- more specifically, the barriers that exist to kids wanting to play minor hockey. The story touched all the bases from money, equipment costs, demands on families and time, to the fact that there hasn't been a new sheet of city-owned ice added in Toronto in 27 years, but the city has a lot more kids than it did in 1980. As the story explained, and as parents all know, the further your kid advances along the road, the pricier it becomes.

One-piece composite sticks ($200) replace wood ($30). The $600 elite skates replace the $125 Canadian Tire skates. More ice time means more costs. (Not to mention the utter stupidity of the support industry that engulfs minor sports like a parasite.)

Like, team jackets. OK.

Team touques. OK.

Then, team hockey bags. With sponsor bars.

Then, team garment bags, for your jerseys.

Track suits.

Mock neck shirts.

Baseball hats.

Practice jerseys.

Practice socks.

Team photos.

Jackets and hats and gear bags and the like can be used over more than one season, presuming you make a Ranger team next year or you don't go to the GTHL (as some do and then have to repeat the cycle there.)

If you can put a logo on it, someone will sell it to you at a big markup and some parents will line up to buy it. I haven't seen Oakville Ranger pillow cases yet with the matching comforter and bed skirt, but I bet if I asked someone would produce it.

If even half the money spent on this stuff was funneled into ice time . . . Or a food bank.

I digress.

One of the most interesting elements the story explored was the parent as personal manager. Minor hockey -- and soccer, and just about any other "minor" sport you can mention -- is a beast to navigate and many kids simply don't have a parent or parents that are able to do that, or interested in doing it, or have any clue how to do it.

It is a really interesting story. You can read it here.


Dec 11, 2007

Two weeks from today is Christmas. I'm not ready.

- - -

A very complete win for the Leafs over Tampa last night. 6-1. 29-27 advantage in shots. Fifth win in six games. Enjoy it while it lasts.

- - -

Interesting column in the Globe today on Oakville native John Tavares, who is vying for a spot on the Canadian junior team, a squad he was cut from a year ago. Don't expect that to happen again. Read it here.

 - - -

I was a truly baked last night when I eventually got home and collapsed for a few minutes in front of the TV just before the start of the Leafs game. Laura came in and we watched half of the first period before getting up to do laundry, add some decorations to the tree, and a couple of other things. Actually, SHE did all that. I watched.

Anyway, Pad emerged from the basement and homework around 8p and I went into the family room to watch some more of the game with him. But instead of Mats Sundin and Jason Blake, I saw Burt Reynolds and the black Trans-Am.

I recorded Smokey and the Bandit off a movie channel on the weekend and told the boys they should watch it. Yes, it's old. But, it's 100 per cent guy humor. You'll like it. Trust me.

I was right. They loved it.

Sherriff Buford T. Justice. What's not to love?

A couple of years ago I went on the Internet and started looking for the top movies of years gone by, figuring there's got to be classics out there that I've long since forgotten that the boys would like.

And if your kids are of a certain age, there are lots. Back to the Future. Any or all of the Indiana Jones movies. Ghostbusters. Meatballs. Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And Pad and his friends are now of an age where you can comfortably start introducing films that are a little edgier, a little more complex and sophisticated. You know. Like Ghostbusters. (Kidding!)

Anyway, Christmas is coming. Inexpensive movies are good.


Dec 10, 2007

The AA Rangers shutout Milton, again, 3-0 (again) at home last night. The game was uneventful except for some very good play by the Milton goalie and some junk at the end of the game.

Boys will be boys, and one of the Milton kids ran the Oakville goalie. When one of the Ranger defencemen called him to account for his actions (quite rightly, I will stand here and say), some among the Milton parents started chirping about the absence of sportsmanship.

Which is pretty rich, really.

If you're going to run a goalie, you'd better be ready for what happens next. And what happened next looked a little like Zdeno Charo tossing around Bryan McCabe a couple of years ago.

The last three minutes of the game -- Milton's ninth shutout loss in 16 Tri County games this season -- got too chippy and the ref let things escalate, the end result of which was someone running the goalie and the bruhaha that followed. The refs let the final 13 seconds tick of the clock and that was that.

The Milton coach deserves some credit for loudly removing from the ice a couple of kids that by that point in the game clearly had no interest in doing anything but instigating something.

And no, I'm not suggesting for a second that the Rangers didn't do their share of mixing it up either. They did. But no one ran the Milton goalie.

Another pleasant Sunday night in AA bantam hockey . . .

- - -

The Rangers are now 14-2-2, one point behind first place Burlington with a game in hand, and five points up on Brampton. All of which is nice, but really means very little. The hockey that starts to matter begins in January.

- - -

Our Christmas tree is up. And decorated. And we didn't need to call a divorce lawyer, drink, or go for counseling afterwards. I'm not sure why putting up a tree can be such a stressful event, but after telling people last night how smoothly it ran at our house yesterday, I know we're not alone!

But, there has been no installation of exterior illumination yet, and Chris is starting to ask. Mother Nature, Minor Peewee hockey, the Oakville Rangers, work, and several other factors have conspired to complicate things and keep me off the roof. That may be a blessing as I'm sure the folks at Halton EMS have bigger fish to fry.

- - -

Santa Claus loads the sleigh today. Or, Laura loads all the east-bound presents for Halifax, Moncton and Sydney into her car and takes them to Canada Post. Most of them anyway - - there are some bits and pieces to follow, but the big stuff will be gone today. Without Laura, there would be no Christmas. Well, not in our family anyway.

- - -

The Leafs play Tampa tonight, and there's a fair number of people in the hockey world who think that the best player in the world doesn't live in Pittsburgh and wasn't born in Nova Scotia. Vincent Lecavalier has his fans. Lots of them. Read more here.



Dec 9, 2007

I had early convening duty today after being on the ice at 8p last night, so I'm tired!

Chris's team lost 3-0 today -- they had their share of shots, they just couldn't get it in the net.

Pad and the AA Rangers beat St Catharines last night 7-1 (I wasn't there) and play Milton today.


Dec 7, 2007

The AA bantam Rangers won 3-0 in Milton last night in flat game that was nowhere near as close as the score. It was the eighth time Milton has been shut out in 15 games this season. Big Jack recorded the goose egg in a mostly sleepy effort, but Dan the Man was finally on the bench in full gear and is inching closer to being able to play. We're all looking forward to seeing him back on the ice.

The Rangers are in St. Catharines on Saturday night for their next outing.

UPDATE: Elsewhere in Tri-County action last night, first-place Burlington lost 3-2 to Caledon, which means Burlington and Oakville each have two losses. Burlington has three more points (29) than second place Oakville, but have played two more games.

Standings are here.

- - -

Chris has determined that, so far, the best French fries in the Tri County loop are served at the Milton sports complex. And Chris would know. Chris now favours Milton as a road-game destination as it not only has decent fries, but there's also a Starbucks (hot chocolate with whipped cream) and it's less than half and hour from home. 

- - -

The Leafs won again, their fourth in a row. We're thinking that the parade maybe should start up at Varsity Stadium and then go south on Yonge to Front and end at the Skydome. But that won't be till June, so we have lots of time to work out the details. Game details are here.

- - -

It's a PD day for teachers in Halton, so I was the only person up and moving this morning as everyone else slept in. I walked around in the dark and bumped into things as I "quietly" made my way out the door.

Since the kids are home I'm hoping to make an early exit today, but we'll see what the day brings. The weekend is a full one -- Chris has his first-ever swim meet tomorrow, then a practice in the evening, which means he and I will miss the Rangers game in St. Catharines which will be happening at the same time. Sunday morning I have the usual convening duties at Kinoak and Chris has a game, and Pad and the AA bantams play Milton, again, this time at home in a late start.

- - -

I have a new Blackberry (my old one died.) The new one is bright and shiny. As Chris says, "Cooooooool."


Dec 6, 2007

Our home was filled with the joy of the season last night. And women.

Laura hosted a jewelry shopping-party-thing which, upon evaluating the recycling bin this morning, seems to have borne closer resemblance to a frat party.

But it was actually a lot of fun and I stood around and opened wine bottles, poured wine, removed empty wine bottles . . . and talked with people I really hadn't had a chance to talk to in a long time.

The best story of the night came from a hockey mom and friend whose daughter plays in the Oakville Hornets girls' hockey association. Her team shares practice ice with the team of the daughter of Leafs' coach Paul Maurice. She reports that like a good dad, he attends whenever he is able and he clearly goes way, way out of his way to, well, stay out of the way.

She said she remarked to him once that she felt very intimidated running a practice for the girls knowing an NHL coach was watching, to which he replied that she was doing a great job and he wouldn't have a clue how to run a practice for a group of eight year olds. (He's right. It's a skill set in its own right.)

More recently, after the Leafs had beaten Ottawa, she she congratulated him with a hearty "Good job!"

Not surprisingly, he smiled and thanked her for the compliment.

I'm not sure why, but I just thought that piece of interaction was really cool. I bet almost no one ever tells Paul Maurice that he did a good job, so I'm glad she did that.

He's got millions of guys like me to tell him when we think it's otherwise.

- - -

Somewhere in the frivolity of the evening, in between opening all those wine bottles (I didn't have a sip, I'm happy to report) and taking Pad to practice and watching Chris play guitar hero and on and on, I forgot to have dinner. This morning, that felt like a mistake. Note to self: Have dinner tonight.

- - -

The Leafs are in New York to face the Rangers tonight, while our Rangers are in Milton. I'll be having dinner somewhere in there.


Dec 5, 2007

The Leafs won last night. Three in a row, and seven out of eight possible points in their last four games.

Be careful not to get trampled by people jumping back on the bandwagon.

FYI, I won't be one of them. This team has barely enough talent to tantalize its fans sometimes, but not nearly enough to contend. And I'll tell you plain and simple they will miss the playoffs for a third straight year.

Why?, you ask? Such a statement is cynical even for the most cynical convener in all of MOHA?

Math. It's the math, people.

Over the last three seasons, on average, it's taken about 92 points to win the 8th and final playoff spot in the east.

Right now, the Leafs have 28 points in 28 games, which means -- extrapolated -- they would finish the season with 82 points, or, not nearly enough.

To finish with barely enough, they have to play the final 54 games of the season 10 games over .500. Or, a record something like 30-20-2-2. That sort of clip would equal almost 100 points over an entire season and I just don't think this team is good enough to play like that for 54 games.

So, my advice is to start shopping now for a team to cheer for in May.

I will add for those looking for a shred of hope that parity in the NHL means that lots of other teams are going through the same fits that plagued the Leafs for three weeks before this latest mini-streak. Exhibits A and B are Ottawa and Montreal. Unfortunately for the Leafs, more often than not parity is spelled parody.

So, maybe if they get some help, the threshold to make the playoffs will be lower. But I doubt it.

- - -

Which "major league" sport is the toughest one to crack?

They're all hard and they get harder every year. Because every year all the incumbents have to earn their jobs over a new crop of younger guys, many of whom are hungrier. Faster. Meaner. You get the idea.

For my money, the toughest major league to crack would be the PGA Tour.

Earlier this week, the annual pressure cooker that is the finals of the Tour Q-School (Qualifying School) wrapped up in Florida.

160 guys playing for 25 spots in the Big Leagues. It's the toughest ticket in sports.

Chances are, you've never heard of Joe Daley. In 2000, in the 4th round of the six rounds that make up the Q-School finals, he was 16 under par on the 17th hole. He stroked a four-foot putt (to save double bogey)into the centre of the cup. The ball went into the hole then bounced out after hitting the edge of an improperly installed cup.

Two days later he missed getting his tour card by a single stroke and basically that was it and you've never heard of him. The guys he played with felt so badly they cried. Stories like that abound at Q-School.

Each year, the top 125 money winners get their cards back for the next season. Plus, major winners and the winner of the Tour Championship get exemptions ranging from five to 10 years. Players with 20 career wins get lifetime exemptions. The top performers on the Nationwide Tour get to move up. Plus, there are medical exemptions and the like. So, roughly, in any given year you might have 140 or 150 exempt players -- guys with full privileges. In addition to them, there are the guys who finished lower than 125th on the PGA Tour who are allowed to try to qualify for, or get sponsors exemptions into a limited number of PGA events.

Now, your average PGA Tour event has 144 spots in the field. So, the competition is truly elite.

Imagine if there were only 144 NHL players -- that would be the rough equivalent of a six team league (there are 29 NHL teams right now, plus the Leafs. (That's a joke, BTW)

The level of competition and the pressure faced by these guys is simply off the charts. Because there is really two PGA Tours. There's the one for Tiger and Phil and Vijay and Ernie and maybe -- if you really stretch the boundaries of the first tier -- 25 or 30 guys altogether.

Then there's the other 100 or so grinding it out week after week so they can stay in the Big Leagues.

All of that makes it even that much more remarkable that a guy like Tiger is so consistently, year after year for a decade, better than everyone else.

A tangent here -- The wonderful thing about golf, of course, is that everyone (well, almost everyone) who plays the game will have a moment every round where you hit a shot that Tiger could not have done better. A 35 foot putt. A draw around the trees to within four feet of the pin. Dissecting a tight fairway with a perfect drive. Holing out from a bunker.

The difference is that in 99.9 per cent of those cases is, you got lucky in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day. I can play with my friend the two handicapper and par a hole he might bogey. It doesn't mean I'm better, but it does make me want to play one more hole.

But when Tiger drops a 75 foot chip with 80 feet of break on the 16th hole at Augusta in front on 18,000 people, there's no one else in the field -- heck, there's no one on the planet -- who thinks it was luck.

But that sort of "Tiger for a moment" experience enjoyed by me on a golf course doesn't translate to hockey or team sports. In large measure because Sidney Crosby is doing what he does while five other guys are trying to separate his head from his body.

There's nothing you or I can do in beer league hockey that approaches what a pro hockey player does. You and Sidney Crosby are both carbon-based life forms. The comparisons end there. Sorry.

Anyway, back to Q-School. You can google the stories on this year's event yourself. There's a million stories of greatness and failure.

But for the golfer on your Christmas shopping list this year, there's a book called Tales From Q-School - Inside Golf's Fifth Major and it's a must-read for not just golfers, but sports fans. It is an amazing recounting of stories of the human spirit -- when it soars, and sadly, when it is crushed.

I read it last summer and it's a good read.


Dec 4, 2007

MOHA minor peewee red folks: I know you're looking for your stats. I don't have them. As soon as I do, I'll post them. I promise.

- - -

Here's the surest sign that we're well into the current hockey season -- applications for next year's Oakville rep teams are due on Dec 21. And when you look at the numerical value for the season -- 2008-09 -- you really start to feel old -- I'm still waiting for the first-season finale of Here Comes the 70s, so imagine how I feel. Click here for more information.

- - -

Our older son Patrick (Pad to to regular blog readers) was born in Edmonton in the fall of 1993. That Christmas -- and the following one, too -- we trekked home from the Prairies to spend the holidays partially with Laura's family and partially with mine. That dragging a three-month-old infant across four time zones in the winter seemed like a rational idea is really testament to the energy we had then, because it involved a lot more than packing three or four suitcases and carrying a kid under your arm. Car seats. Christmas presents packed and shipped. Both ways. On and on. It was a great thing to do and we're glad we did it, but really, we must have been nuts.

Anyway, part of that ritual involved driving from Sydney to Halifax just after Christmas and spending New Year's with my family. (One year we actually did a Halifax-Sydney-Halifax routing so we could attend the annual Arnold Family Christmas Tree Hunt on the then-empty acreage behind my folks' place. More on that tradition another day.)

So, the drive from Sydney to Halifax is long under the best of conditions, and really, really long in the snow and ice of winter. And it becomes really, really, really long with a three-month old who needs to be fed, changed, aired out, etc. And so you come to rely on the brand-name fast-food places along the highway where the parents can get a hot drink and sandwich and the restrooms are infant friendly.

And it was at one such pit stop in December 1993 at the McDonalds in Antigonish (home of St Francis Xavier University, where more than one Cape Bretoners' dreams of higher education drowned in beer) that I wandered to the counter to get Laura tea as she attended to the heir and . . . There. They. Were.

No, not the Spice Girls.

Hockey Cards. McDonalds' hockey cards.

To my knowledge, it was the first time McDonalds had sold them and infused with the joy of the season and possessed of a three-month-old eating machine I was virtually certain would become a hockey player some day (at three months he was keen, but lacked focus and had trouble going right on his backwards crossover) I reasoned that the cards would be great keepsakes for Pad when he was older, and a nostalgic touchstone for us of those days when we trekked from our Prairie residence to our ancestral homes to celebrate the holidays in the warm embrace of kith and kin etc. etc.

And I REALLY wanted those cards. Over the next two weeks, we ate a lot of meals at McDonalds and I spent far too much money on hockey cards. But we filled a complete set, which we still have in pristine condition and the boys' still drag out and look at.

And every year since, the ritual has repeated itself. The arrival of Chris in 1996 only added to the urgency of having to collect two complete sets.

In recent years, some of the air has come out of the balloon. The obsessive need to have every card has subsided with the rising sound of my arteries hardening. Fewer fries, fewer cards.

But. The 2007 cards are ON SALE NOW! For a LIMITED TIME! On and on.

And on Sunday as I stood freezing in Kinoak convening the legends of minor peewee white hockey, my Blackberry buzzed and it was my lovely bride asking me to stop on the way home and get Chris some McDonalds for lunch and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD GET HIM SOME HOCKEY CARDS BEFORE HIS HEAD BLOWS OFF.

And so it was that while the cold rain and ice pellets lashed the house on Sunday afternoon, a little bit of Christmas arrived a little bit early for the Greenbriar Drive Amateur Athletic and Social Club. And an 11-year-old boy grinned and his 14-year-old brother supervised and hockey card wrappers flew about the room for the 15th consecutive year.

Yeah, I know there's something a bit twisted about a seasonal tradition built around a multinational fast-food conglomerate. But as they say two blocks over on Bay Street, it is what it is.

And on Sunday, it was just fine.


Dec 3, 2007

The single-A bantam Rangers won their second tournament in a month yesterday, beating Bracebridge 6-3 in the final of a tourney in Fergus.

Nick Powidajko -- three points in the final game and a hat trick earlier in the tournament -- was selected MVP. Nick is a super guy who always gives a great effort, so I know a lot of people familiar with bantam hockey in Oakville will be thrilled with his success.

Jake Cussen also returned to the lineup after a three weeks on the shelf with an injury, most of which was spent leaning against his locker and trying to look cool for the girls.

Congrats to Coach Shawn and everyone on the A Rangers. Well done.

You will note that most of the hair that was buzzed away after the Lake Placid win has started to return.


- - -

Evel Knievel died on the weekend. To men around my age, Knievel was bigger than life, flying his motorcycle across cars and buses and one, almost, across a canyon. They don't really make them like him anymore, but he was an original. Of course, we didn't tune in to ABC's Wide World of Sports to watch him fly, we tuned in to watch him land, truth be told, with a dark hope for a spectacular crash. We also always hoped he'd survive the crash to do it again so we could relive the thrill. He always did, but he broke a lot of bones along the way. He was also a big hockey fan and played a game for the Toronto Toros of the old World Hockey Association as part of a promotional stunt, scoring two goals on Les Binkley. You can read about his amazing career here.

- - -

It was a pretty quiet day for us yesterday after the initial burst of snow removal and hockey, so I don't have  a lot more this morning. Except to note that the end of the world must be near because the Spice Girls performed the first concert of their reunion last night. I couldn't name a Spice Girls song if you put a gun to my head, and I wouldn't recognize one if I heard it. If they wanted to come hang out around the house and do dishes and bake and fix the eave troughs and maybe arrange to get the snow tires put on Laura's car, I guess I'd be OK with that, as long as they didn't sing. Nonetheless, it's my blog and I reserve the right to be appalled that they're back.


Dec 2, 2007

Wet, cold, rainy, snowy Sunday in Oakville. I awoke first as I almost always do and discovered it had actually snowed overnight. The bet in our house was that because I went into the garage on Saturday and found all the shovels and gassed up the snow thrower and otherwise made pre-storm arrangements that I never do, it would rain a little and then be sunny.

The opportunity to start the snow thrower is always a good one so I was out in the driveway waking neighbours and throwing snow in plenty of time to have the driveway clear before heading off for Kinoak and convening duties and Chris's game.

Chris and the Flyers held the Gators to a 1-1 draw, thanks to a lot of great goaltending at both ends from Zack and Jonathan.

- - -

It was a good thing last night's storm hit on Saturday night, because if anyone had actually been required to get anywhere on Sunday morning -- like, to work, or maybe a rink -- you were in for some very slow going. By the time we headed for Kinoak around 10a, major secondary roads -- Pinegrove, Monastery, Pilgrim's Way -- still had not seen a plow and traffic had compacted the snow to hard ice making the driving just spiffy.

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Last night the AA bantam Rangers dumped St. Catharines 5-1 for a solid win. Mark Cece had a hat trick for the home team while his parents lounged on a southern beach and missed his big night.

Mark told his teammates after the game that it was the third time he can recall getting a hat trick while his parents were out of town, which could mean that Mark gets an awful lot of hat tricks, or, his parents are away a lot, or maybe both.

Cory, the most gregarious of all the Ranger AA bantams -- actually, Cory may be the most gregarious bantam in all of Oakville -- had another theory.

"You've had three hat tricks when your parents were out of town? Man, you're adopted."

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