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Nov 30, 2007

The feedback continues to come in on the suggestion from this corner to bring 6a weekday practices back to the mix for house league, and ease up on the Saturday night practices. I have not heard from anyone who favours the present system, as good as it sounded a couple of months ago.

But I did have another situation pointed out to me -- by house league novice parents.

Novice games aren't so bad -- the red, white, blue teams rotate through a Sunday morning slots that start at 7:30a, 11:30a, and 2:30p (or 3:30p, for blue which has few teams.) The rotation is equal. Once every three weeks, you get the early block (which isn't that early except maybe for the first game.)

The problem I'm told is the Saturday morning practices which are heavily weighted toward the early hours. One mom with four kids says the back-to-back hockey days punch a big hole in the weekend and virtually guarantee no one gets much rest on the weekends.

I'm a little sympathetic here I guess, but it's also the nature of minor hockey that it happens on weekends. But her point was that more weekday practices would mean the weekends would have more time for family things other than hockey.

I have been told by a MOHA director that the feedback from you all on this is interesting and informative and the matter will be discussed by MOHA's house league committee. So that's good. It's nice to have your voice heard fairly.

- - -

On my suggestion that hitting be introduced to white at the peewee level: don't count on it. I'm told more and more associations are moving toward less hitting in house league. Also, Hockey Canada just this week has decided to remove body checking from minor atom and atom leagues. (Mostly there's only checking now in atom rep leagues.) Starting next season, checking won't start until minor peewee (the same as MOHA's house league Red division.) Read the story here.

I know I'm swimming upstream here, but I think the worry over when to introduce body checking is overdone. I think it's a part of the game and the sooner the kids learn how to give and take a check, the better. Good officiating keeps it from becoming a gong show. But that's just my view.

I also think beer should be free, and that hasn't happened yet either.

- - -

The Leafs won a hockey game last night. The parade will form along the usual route.

- - -

Police will not be laying charges against any of the adults involved in the melee in Guelph last weekend at a novice AAA hockey game between Niagara Falls and Duffield. I would suspect that any adult involved with either team has probably suffered enough ridicule. But with the OMHA and the GTHL both investigating how teams from their organizations conducted themselves in this embarrassing debacle, more ridicule (and sanctions) would not be a surprise. Read the latest here.

- - -

Chris informed me last night that Christmas decorations would start appearing in our house this weekend.

"Christmas???" said I. "It's still November."

"I said WEEKEND dad. Check the calendar."

Of course he's right. December starts tomorrow and there are a startling number of houses already kitted out for the orgy of commercialism that is descending upon us. I'm kind of a last-minute guy when it comes to decorations. And trees. And pretty much anything, actually. I will be a conscientious objector to the weekend decorating. Well, maybe I'll help a little.

But no exterior lighting. Yet.

- - -

Still with Christmas, not everyone in Oakville is an investment banker or lawyer or bond trader. It just feels like it sometimes. So again this year, MOHA will be doing a toy collection -- NEXT weekend. On Dec 8 at Joshua Creek, and Dec 9 at Glen Abbey GREEN. Even if you don't have a game there, drop by and make a donation. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for a needy child. Please.

- - -

Speaking of Joshua Creek, I'm told the restaurant there will be opening very, very soon. That's REALLY good news because sometimes at Ranger bantam AA games, I could really use a drink.

- - -

And speaking of my heroes, the AA bantam Rangers hit the ice for an early practice tonight and a game at Oakville Arena tomorrow night (8:10p) against St Catharines. Chris has swimming and a two hour practice tomorrow and then game day on Sunday where his Flyers take on the surging powerhouse Gators.

Have a great weekend!



Nov 29, 2007

The AA bantam Rangers tied Guelph 3-3 last night -- or rather, Guelph tied them. The home team had a 3-1 lead and settled for a single point. I wasn't there, but no one was happy.

- - -

Yesterday's posting about 6a practices hit a nerve. I've heard from a lot of people, coaches, etc., who not only agreed, but passed on stories of poorly attended Saturday night practices across different divisions, interminable family and social conflicts in the schedules, etc etc.

There was also a good note of support for the idea of doing something to create tournament opportunities for blue-level players especially.

I didn't hear from a single person who was against going back to including the weekday 6a practices in the mix for MOHA. But maybe those people were sleeping in and haven't responded yet.

Anyway, it's grist for the mill for the deep thinkers on MOHA's board, a few of which occasionally read this space and help me with my facts!

- - -

A non-hockey posting. This one's about food. Bear with me . . .

When I was younger -- much younger -- I shared a house on a leafy Halifax street with two other guys. It was a nice family neighbourhood where we did not fit it at all. Our lifestyle was markedly different from our older, more settled neighbours, although I have no doubt that some of the coming and going was far more entertaining for them that it was to us.

(Maybe not as entertaining as when I lived in the former funeral home, but I've already told that story.)

Some of our house parties were actually spectator sport for the neighbourhood. The house became known around our workplace as The Halifax Home for the Chronically Groovy (dubbed such by the other journalist resident of the home. )

Two of the three occupants of the house were political reporters, the third a banker. Which meant there was always an assortment of political characters around our parties, which provided an odd inoculation from local law enforcement when the elderly couple next door inevitably called to complain about noise. Like the time the police entered a party only to find the mayor of Halifax and the deputy mayor of Dartmouth in the middle of living room chatting while a large collection of early 20s men and women sang along to the soundtrack for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Honestly, you can't make stuff like that up. It happened.

Occasionally, as you can imagine, beverages were consumed (always in moderation and in a responsible way.)

Naturally, it wasn't uncommon after such evenings of socializing for two or more members of the entourage to amble down the street to a place called King of Donair. It was a pizza place, and its specialty was (is?) the donair. The donair is a bit of a mystery to many in Ontario -- a lamb and beef concoction mixed with tomatoes and onions and secret sauce, wrapped in a pita.

We ate a lot of them. I remember one time we actually bought two each, because at the time it seemed like a good idea to have a second donair around for the morning. In the morning, the reasoning behind this decision didn't seem quite as sound.

Anyway, all of this is a long way to go to explain that there is now, no kidding, a federal-provincial-territorial working group on donairs. And shockingly, I wasn't invited to serve as an expert commissioner.

By now, I know I have fascinated you endlessly. To read more on your government's good work and keen interest in middle eastern meats and food, click here.


Nov 28, 2007

More developments on the Atom "brawl" front. One assistant coach resigns. OMHA on the case. Police investigation continues. What a mess. Take the time to read this story. Note the part where the chatty parents were tight lipped and not chatty after being shown video of the fracas. Story is here.

- - -

On the same topic, here's a radical idea. The dad of a former NHL player thinks there should be no competitive hockey for kids under 12.

Emile Therien -- whose son Chris played almost 800 games in the NHL -- knows a thing or two about hockey parenting. Read his view.

My gut reaction is that I don't agree that eliminating competitive hockey for kids under 12 is a good solution. But on 30 seconds of reflection, I should note that my older guy didn't play rep hockey until he was 12 and it didn't hurt him a bit. Probably quite the opposite, actually.

And there are a lot of guys on his AA bantam team in the same boat. So, maybe Therien's on to something here.

The problem is it is not black and white. I know of novice and atom coaches who run terrific programs that focus on fun and learning. The primary difference between house league and rep is the skill level and the amount of ice time the kids pay for and receive. But the kids are treated like kids and they love the game.

But . . . I also know of teams in the same age group that border on toxic. 10 year olds being yelled at for not having "focus." Kids being told not to tell their parents what is said in the dressing room. And worse. A lot worse, actually.

There's a compelling argument to be made that it's a good idea. but this is Canada and arguing against rep hockey for kids under 12 is like urging the snow not to fall.

- - -

As long as we're presenting ideas today, here are two more, from me, gratis.

First, in MOHA's red-white-blue house league structure, why not introduce checking in white as well as red, starting at peewee? I can assure you almost all the kids in white want to be able to check. And leaving Blue as a non-checking division allows the association to still offer that option.

Aside from the kids wanting the contact, it also makes it way easier for house league teams to find tournament options -- white and blue teams can't enter tournaments in other centres that have checking. It's a legitimate problem, and trust me, the kids LOVE the tournaments.

Second, I'd like to see MOHA organize/sponsor a tournament for white and blue level house league teams. There's a big shortage of them and as an association we kind of hung our hat on the importance of going to the three-tier system so the kids will have more fun. (Guys like me took the crap from parents to make it work, so I know of what I speak.)

So, if the three-tier house system is a good one, let's add to the fun. Let's take some of the time and energy and money and ice time that go to the minority of players (rep and red-level house league) and create something fun and memorable for the majority of the house league players in white and blue.

Who's with me? Show of hands please. Bueller? Bueller?

- - -

A reader emails to point out that the Atom A Rangers won a AA tournament in Cambridge on the weekend, a very large accomplishment. They won a spot in the finals with a 3-1 record and then beat the only team they lost to in round-robin action, AA Chatham, 2-1 in the championship. Oakville scored twice in the third to cap the win. My scouts tell me that parents of AA teams were not thrilled about losing to a single A squad. Nice going guys!

- - -

A sort of mid-season overview of the Ranger program is on the Oakville Beaver web site. You can read the story here.

- - -

Another idea:

OK, excuse me for saying this -- and don't egg my car or whatever -- but, I want the 6a practices back.

One of the big innovations for Oakville hockey this year was that there would be no 6a weekday practices. Which in theory, sounds great. I agreed it sounded great.


What they have been replaced with -- at least for my kids' division -- is a lot of 7p Saturday practices. And some of the parents are voting with their feet and staying away. AND it's only going to get a lot worse as we hit the festered season in December with parties and family get-togethers etc.

I don't think there was a way for anyone at MOHA to know this might play out this way. But the evidence I see and hear from other coaches in our division is that 7p on Saturday night is bang-dead in the middle of family time.

(Or in my case, an occasional AA bantam Ranger home game.)

People have busy lives. And Saturday nights are when they get to do things -- either as a couple or a family. No one ever missed a 6a practice because of a company Christmas party (unless it was the night before.)

Also, 11 year-old boys are not the most focused people at 7p on a Saturday. In fact, they're tired and unfocused and teaching them anything is a challenge.

Anyway, let the hate mail fly. But I'm going to make my voice heard for the return of the weekday 6a practice.

- - -

The Leafs looked way better last night but lost in overtime. As soon as the OT started, Laura said (rightly) "They're gonna lose. They always lose in overtime, right?"

Yes, this season they always lose in overtime. Bank on it.


Nov 26, 2007

Well, the Circus on Bay Street continues.

The Leafs play Montreal tonight with the franchise in complete freefall. The front of the Toronto Sun has Leaf president Richard Peddie humiliating the GM, John Ferguson, by saying he made a mistake in hiring Ferguson who may not have been ready for the pressures of managing the Leafs.

First, what kind of boss knee caps a senior staff member like that?

Second, what does it say about Peddie's understanding of either hockey or Toronto if he didn't realize that the job may have been a stretch for Ferguson, who was only 36 when given the job?

Third, former Leaf assistant GM Bill Watters was on the radio this morning saying Peddie didn't hire Ferguson, chairman Larry Tanenbaum did. So Peddie is, in Watter's estimation, laying down a smokescreen there.

In politics, we'd call this a death watch. You KNOW someone is about to walk the plank. It's just a question of who, and when.

You can read Peddie hanging out his GM here. And an interesting column here.

The best line of today goes to Watters, who -- commenting on the hockey acumen of Messers Peddie and Tanenbaum -- said that if you locked them in a room, each with a basket of apples and a jockstrap, they would starve to death before they figured out how to put it on.

The good news is that so far today there are no reports of Maple Leafs emailing pictures of their genitals to fans. But it's early.

- - -

From the absurd to the ridiculous: a brawl among novice players at a weekend tournament in Guelph. Teams from Duffield and Niagara Falls. A virtual riot among eight year olds. One coach is alleged to have spat on another coach.

This is getting pretty close to the end of civilization as we know it.

I'm not exactly Scotty Bowman, but I can tell you this. When a kid or kids on my bench is told to STOP doing something -- creating a disturbance, annoying the other kids, yapping when he should be listening -- they STOP. They STOP right away. I mean dead, full STOP.

It's pretty simple that kids follow the example set by the bench staff. If the bench lets them act like dinks, if the bench yaps at the refs constantly, if the bench tolerates not listening, not respecting, etc etc, you get 16 kids who have no or very few boundaries and the inmates will be running the asylum.

Hockey is a game that is at its best when everyone plays right on the edge -- intense, fiery, driven. Good coaches try to get their best athletes to go right to the edge of that line. Sometimes, some guys cross it. That's hockey. But not a lot of 10 year olds fall into that category for an entire game. That a full scale brawl among eight year olds can't be stopped before it takes flight really is sad, sad thing.

All of which is to say it is completely incomprehensible to me that not just one coaching staff, but two, could let crap like this happen.

If the allegation of spitting by a coach is true, that guy should be banished from the game forever. And charged. Maybe tar and feathers, too.

Remember Robbie Alomar? Maybe -- maybe -- the greatest ball player ever in Toronto. Late in his career, he spits on a umpire. Classy. If  Robbie Alomar was standing on the corner of Bay and King with his ears on fire, he'd be hard pressed to find anyone in Toronto who would hand him a glass of water. People turned on him instantly and permanently.

That's what we think of people who spit.

Anyway, this is a truly sordid event. And you can read all about it here and here and here

- - -

Blog readers are an interesting bunch. On days when I don't write, the blog traffic goes up, presumably because regulars come back more than once to see if I did eventually write anything.

Yesterday was the single biggest traffic day I have had on the site and there was no update here and the minor peewee red stats were not updated. (They are now.)

So, I'm thinking I'll stop writing for a week and put a bunch of ads here, and then retire. No writing, increased traffic, and a revenue flow.

I wish!

- - -

Ranger practice tonight. Leafs and Habs on TV.


Nov 25, 2007

UPDATE: Rangers 9 Milton 0.

There's not much to say about this game. Milton had a goalie and seven skaters and simply weren't competitive for most of the game, and really, how could they be?

But Jack looked really cool in the new pads.


Nov 25, 2007

Friday night with the minor peewee Flyers and Vikings at the Hershey Centre was a big hit.

St Mikes roared back from a 3-0 deficit in the third to tie the game and set up OT, which in turn led to a shootout which the home team won.

For $11 each, the kids got to play at the Hershey Centre and see a junior A game. Plus, the ref gave Chris the game puck, so that was extra cool.

Chris pointed out that I always buy him a hat at these sort of things, so I'm $20 poorer and we have yet another ball cap in the closet. I'll take a picture of our hat collection some day and post it here. We must have 200 hats.

- - -

A great morning of hockey at Kinoak today. Chris's Flyers tied the first-place 'Dogs 0-0 in a classic, while the surging Gators dropped the Vikings 5-1. The Eagles did a come-from-behind trick in the third to beat the Wings. It was really  entertaining and the parents all seemed to be in a good mood. Plus, the kids in our division all finally have their names on their jerseys and they look fabulous. Now we have to get the sponsor name bars on . . .

- - -

Minor peewee house league was much more entertaining than, say, the Leafs.

The 5-1 loss last night, I think, will be the last straw for someone. My guess is that if Paul Maurice and/or John Ferguson haven't/hasn't been fired by the end of the day tomorrow, then it ain't gonna happen at all this year.

I like Maurice as a coach but clearly the team is on another page. Whatever he's selling, they are not buying. Interesting that the only team in the league with fewer wins than the Leafs fired their coach last week.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is the architect of what is one the ice. This is his team. He built it. Sooner or later, there will be a moment of accountability.

All of which, of course, is pointless. The governed-by-committee Leafs are further away from winning a Stanley Cup now than they have been at any point since 1967 and to think otherwise is to belief that Conn Smythe is going to fly from his tomb and strafe downtown Toronto with gold coins to finance the errors of Pavel Kabina and Bryan McCabe's contracts.

I know, it's depressing.

There's no motivation for this franchise to win, because it succeeds financially in a way that makes banks and oil companies envious. They made $83 million in profit last year and they missed the playoffs.

When you're governed by the likes of pension funds, why waste money trying to win?

Answer? They won't.

- - -

Chris finished his last session Saturday at the digital imaging program he was taking at Sheridan -- it's called Digikidz. They wrote scripts, acted them out, videoed them, and then edited the video into movies that were burned to DVD. He loved it. He's the next Spielberg. Or maybe the first Arnold.

He was less crazy about getting up to be there every Saturday at 9a, but when I'd go back to get him at noon he'd bounce down the steps and jump in the car, chattering a mile a minute about what they did and what he learned. We'd go to Burger King for lunch (his choice) and then sprint over to the pool at White Oaks for swimming.

Lots of fun, and just me and him. No big brothers around hogging the spotlight!

- - -

Pad and the AA Rangers host Milton tonight at Twin Rinks. Early game, so I'll update with a score later. Bring your mojo.


Nov 23, 2007

Referees are a pretty important part of any hockey game. In fact, you can't have a real game without them (although I know lots of coaches who would like to try.) We like to complain and yell and carry on, but the fact is they are basically an integral part of the volunteer food chain. They are paid a small amount for their time, which these days would barely cover gas money and a double-double. So I consider them volunteers of the same rank as the rest of us, in it for the kids.

Occasionally, you get a good lesson in how important they are. Like last night in Georgetown, when there were no referees scheduled to work the bantam AA game between Oakville and the Raiders.

Aside from the fact that it was a colossal waste of everyone's time on a night when Oakville parents would have preferred not drive over the icy roads to Georgetown, and aside from the fact that the particular Georgetown  folks on site were remarkably unprepared to deal with the problem (they had an email address but no phone numbers for their scheduler) it was a reminder of how important it is to have people to schedule the referees properly and to actually have referees.

And no, Georgetown didn't forfeit the game even though it was their association's responsibility to make sure there were refs to work the game. Clearly, none were.

- - -

It's a timely incident, because even as we speak (metaphorically, I guess I'm speaking and you're listening) there is an intense conversation taking place among the Oakville Referees Association, the executive leadership of MOHA, and the MOHA board.

The issue is the scheduling of referees.

The newly minted refs' association (formed at MOHA's request) wants to be paid $2 per game for being responsible for scheduling hundreds of games for dozens of officials. MOHA isn't paying the admin fee so far as there is no agreement in place.

Some other centres -- Guelph, Brampton, Milton, Burlington -- have such fees that all are in the $2 a game range. What's not clear is whether those fees are part of the overall rate paid to refs or whether they are added on. It's not clear how that might be handled in MOHA if there was an agreement. And its not clear that the governing association, the OMHA, sanctions these fees at all.

So, there's lots to talk about, it would seem.

What is clear (given last night's experience) is that the scheduling of referees is a huge, complex undertaking and the people doing it -- as well as the people officiating the games -- are vitally important to the game and the kids.

From personal experience (twice this year so far) when I called the referee scheduler because a ref hasn't showed up, the problem was fixed very fast, in a friendly way. Much friendlier than most you would be if I called your house at 7:45a on a Sunday.

Personally, that type of insurance policy, if you will, is on its own worth $2 a game to me, let along the pain, aggravation and work involved with scheduling, which is immense.

Now, if you're guessing there's WAY more to this story, you're guessing right. In the meantime . . .

I have no idea how long it will take to sort this one out. I know there was a very, very long MOHA board meeting about it Monday night and it's not done yet.

There are lots of rational voices at the table who know they are there representing the kids. They'll figure it out.

- - -

The minor peewee white Flyers and Vikings will do battle tonight at the Hershey Centre prior to the St. Mike's-Barrie OHL game. The kids are very excited.

The rest of the weekend is scheduled to unfold as usual with a lot of driving around.

Rangers at home to Milton on Sunday afternoon. Blogging will be light, with cloudy periods.


Nov 22, 2007

Long time, no blog.

Thatís because Tuesday was scheduled to be a jam-packed day of meetings in Montreal before rushing back to Toronto for a late afternoon meeting to be followed by a corporate reception. Montreal is wonderful. Itís not Toronto, and their hockey team is better.

So I was up early and out the door for the train, which I was going to ride to Union Station as usual and then hope a cab for sprint over to the Island Airport to catch a shuttle to Montreal.

It was pouring rain as the train pulled into Union and I reached for my wallet to get some money to pay the cab I was going to need when I found . . . no wallet.

This was not a good feeling and Iím not sure whether I was more annoyed about missing the meetings in Montreal or missing my wallet.

Frantic calls made home, etc etc.

Then I made a call to my boss to, you know, wish him a good flight. Because without ID, I wasnít getting on any commercial airplanes so he had to handle Montreal solo.

The wallet was later located at home, having apparently jumped out of my jacket. It was too late to try to put the thing in a cab and race it downtown to meet me in time for my flight, because nothing races in downtown Toronto at 8a on a Wednesday morning except a few hearts when the escalators aren't working.

I did manage to get a bunch of work done, and I went to that other meeting and the reception and by the time I got home last night I felt just as stressed out and exhausted as if I had spent the day in Montreal.

As stories go, itís not as entertaining as the time I flew to Vancouver for three days with no pants other than the jeans I wore on the plane. But still, itís not bad.

I hope your day was better.

- - -

Still with adventures in commuting, today's trek to the GO station was remarkably uneventful given the weather and the train was on time. Until it got to within 300 feet of Union Station, where it and every other in-bound train stopped because of signal problems. Frozen switches, etc etc.

So there we sat for 20 minutes. "GO Transit apologizes for the inconvenience" continues to be the most hollow phrase in Toronto.

There was a nice bit of sarcastic commentary from one of the GO employees over the public address system who noted that he was sure this sort of thing will never happen once Bombardier takes over the contract for staffing the GO trains next year.

I'm a BIG fan of sarcasm.

- - -

Speaking of which, those pants look really nice on you. Seriously. Go get another pair.

- - -

I know youíre all getting tired of the Leafs bashing, but for those who missed it the blue and white blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Bruins Tuesday night. It was painful to watch.

- - -

The biggest sports story in the world yesterday was England being eliminated in qualifying for Euro 2008. (It's a big important soccer tournament.) Imagine if Canada sent all it's best hockey players -- NHLers included -- to the Olympics and not only failed to win the gold, but failed to win any medal at all. (Oh wait. That happened in 1998 at Nagano. Oh yeah. And again in 2006 in Torino. Never mind.)

Anyway, that's how England's soccer fans (and there are more than a few of them) are feeling today.

Only worse, because a good portion of them are really, really hung over. Really.

- - -

Under the category of hockey that matters, the AA bantam Rangers are, weather permitting, in Georgetown tonight to play the Raiders. They need a good game to get their mojo back. Their mojo went missing last weekend. If you find their mojo, please return it to me and Iíll make sure they get it, but mojo generally has to be found by the people who lost it, so donít go out of your way, mojo-wise.


Nov 20, 2007

Yeah, I know I'm not being very entertaining right now but the trains are more crowded than usual which makes working on a laptop tough and I haven't figured out a way to convince my boss to let me sit at work and do this.

Odd, huh?

- - -

One of the digital gizmos that comes with a website-hosting package is a "control panel" which allows you access to a host of services and scripts you could install on your site -- e-commerce, chat boards, things like that, all of which I avoid like Brittney Spears at an intersection.

But one of the cool things it tells me is word strings entered into search engines that, however bizarre, led them to this spot.

Among the interesting:

"Montreal Canadiens hockey blog". (Sorry buddy, wrong place. REALLY wrong place.)

"New haircuts" (Yes, we're stylish here.)

"atoms having fun" (Not if I can help it. Those atoms will be bantams soon and they'll smell bad. So there will be NO fun.)

And my personal fav from last week: "Coaches crushing spirits in novice hockey" (It's novice hockey. What else would you expect a coach to do? Teach? Coach? Lead? Inspire? No, I think "crushing" is the way to go. That way you can get them out of the game before they become "atoms having fun" which only leads to more smelly bantams later in life.

- - -

The other thing I'll say about the search engine results is you'd be surprised how many people are apparently Googling themselves. (No mom, that's not as rude as it sounds.) I won't name names. But I know you're out there!

- - -

Search engines draw people from all over. So far this month, in addition to the readers in Canada and the US, who make up about 95 per cent of the traffic here each month, we've had travellers from Chile, India, Great Britain, Germany, Norway, and the Seychelles.

Seychelles? Never been there, looks nice. Do you think there are atoms there having fun? Or novice spirits that need crushing? Teamoakville may have missionary work to do.

BTW, the missionary work would be a lot easier to do if someone would come up with the $500 million I asked for last week. So far, nada.

I'd be willing to throw in for free the crushing of spirits in the Seychelles. An NHL franchise for the west GTA, and kids bag skating in a tropical land. How could that not be considered good value?


Nov 19, 2007

The bantam AA Rangers lost 2-1 last night. At home. To Flamborough, whom they beat 5-0 a month ago. Last night's game was about as inspirational as a documentary on Paris Hilton.

Now having said that, full credit to Flamborough who came out and clearly wanted to play and to win. They did both. By the time the Rangers started to play in the third period, it was too late.

- - -

The technology gremlins are at it again, so you'll have to enjoy the limited weekend postings today. Or you know, return to work.


Nov 18, 2007

Chris and his minor peewee house league Flyer teammates got their butts kicked today, 7-2 by a fired up Eagles squad. Our team was outplayed and it started yesterday with an uninspired effort at practice where I had a very bad feeling about how game day would go.

That bad feeling could have been the cold I've picked up. Or it could have been the result of not getting home from work till 11:30p Friday night and getting up at 5a for a practice the next morning.

Whatever it was, it was a bad feeling and all the coaches saw it.

- - -

But the good news is the Leafs actually beat Ottawa on Saturday night. Not only that, a shutout. So I guess we'll resume planning the parade route, right?

The Leafs have as much chance of winning a championship as I do of being invited to be honourary starter at the Masters. It ain't gonna happen.

Over dinner Saturday night (no, I didn't watch the game) a friend offered the following perspective on the Leafs. He predicted that as long as the current ownership structure of the Leafs exists -- multiple stakeholders at a corporate board table, each trying to maximize the return on their investment and growing the value of their piece of the pie, nothing will change, ever.

I'll say it slower,

Nothing. Will. Change. Ever.

Name a successful sports franchise -- a dynasty, or mini-dynasty -- that was governed by committee? It doesn't happen.

The ones we came up with had a driving person of vision calling the shots.

Yankees? George Steinbrenner.

Habs? Sam Pollack (50s and 60s). Then Scotty Bowman (70s).

Oilers? Glenn Sather.

Leafs of the 60s? Punch Imlach.

Cowboys? Tom Landry, then Jerry Jones.

Celtics of the 50s-60s-70s? Red Auerbach.

Patroits? Bob Kraft.

Islanders of the 70s? Al Arbour.

Red Wings? Ken Holland.


Now, it's important to make a key distinction here: having a driving person of vision leading your franchise only works if their vision is a good one. You can list just as many teams that were almost ruined by a single vision or leader. (It's happened to some countries too.)

Like, for example, the Leafs and Harold Ballard.

Cheering for the Leafs, I offered over key lime pie with chocolate crust, is starting to feel like cheering for IBM or General Electric or General Motors. Just another big corporation.

So why not cheer for another team? We all know it's easier said than done. Because while cheering them on can sometimes feel like cheering for an insurance company, the sad truth is that to stop cheering for the Leafs after 40 years is akin to not cheering for your own kids.

So, Go Leafs Go.

I guess. Yay, um, team.

- - -

Late start tonight for the bantam AA Rangers vs the high-flying Flamborough Sabres -- winners of three of their last four. The Rangers haven't had a lot of ice time this week so maybe they'll come out flying and refreshed. Update later.


Nov 16, 2007

Another day, another Leaf loss. It looked like they weren't trying. It was bad.

- - -

The big story in sports this morning is Barry Bonds being indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. At virtually the same time this was happening, word was trickling out about Yankees star Derek Jeter facing some significant tax problems. Read all about a happy day for baseball here.

- - -

Usual whirl of hockey and stuff this weekend -- Chris has a 6a practice tomorrow, followed by his brother with a rare 8:00a morning Rangers practice, then Chris has his digital film course, then swimming. Sunday sees games for both of them. Convening for me. Yada yada yada.

- - -

After losing to the bantam AA Rangers on Sunday, Burlington settled for 3-3 tie with Georgetown last night. Having played three more games than the Rangers, Burlington is in first place, four points up on Oakville. Georgetown actually looks like a pretty solid team -- they beat Brampton and have tied Burlington twice. The Rangers play Flamborough on Sunday night at Glen Abbey. Flamborough is on a three-game winning streak -- they beat Brampton last weekend and St Catharines this week so I'm hoping no one on the Rangers thinks they can mail this one in.

Still with bantam AA Tri County stuff, Milton hasn't scored a goal in November, at least according to the Tri County site. They've been outscored 27-0 in four posted games this month. Overall, they are 1-8-0 and have scored only five goals while giving up 51. That can't be fun for the kids.


Nov. 15, 2007

The Leafs hit the quarter pole of the current season in Boston tonight. The front of the Globe and Mail sports section today -- summing up Bryan McCabe's play, the Tlusty photo fiasco, two blow-out losses at home, the Mark Bell situation, Tucker vs. Avery, and a host of other things -- has a one-word headline:


It sure is.

You can read the accompanying stories here and here.

- - -

No home-front sports last night, or tonight. Or Friday. We find ourselves actually having to engage in conversations with one another. I'm sure that will pass.

In the meantime, parent-teacher night is this evening at Abbey Park. I said to Laura, maybe we'll see (parents of a hockey player we know who also attend Abbey Park) and after we get through the formalities we can all decamp to a pub for a beer or something. Sort of like a night out, except with school teachers involved.

But no. Can't do.

She's booked to volunteer in a fundraiser for Chris's school immediately after the high school thing.

That's fair. I understand the life of a serial volunteer.

So, I'll go home spend some quality time with the boys, all of us yelling at Tomas Kaberle IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S GOOD, FOR GOD'S SAKE KEEP THE PUCK AWAY FROM BRYAN McCABE and maybe tinker with my plan for global peace (Christmas is coming, right?) and then maybe squeeze in a call with my ice dance instructors, Hans and Gabe, to discuss some things I'd like to work into the routine.

Typical night at home, really.


Nov 14, 2007

Quiet ride in on the train today. Busy day at work. I got nothing for you today. Sorry. Maybe you should buy a newspaper.

- - -

OK. One or two quickies:

Montreal 4 Toronto 3 (OT).

Um, I have an idea.

Given that five times this season -- and they've only played 19 games -- the Leafs have been tied after OT, and five times the other team won the extra point in OT or in the shootout, why don't the Leafs just automatically concede the 2nd point after the third period.

This would have many advantages:

1. The kids get to bed earlier

2. The parents get to bed earlier

3. The Leafs get to bed earlier.

4. The Leafs spare themselves the bother of pretending they might actually be able to win one of these games.

5. It saves me the bother of yelling at the TV.

The list goes on and on. If you're going to tie 25 per cent of your games and then lose 100 per cent of the OT battles, you can start making plans to golf in Naples, Fla., in May.

What would be great is if the NHL would put a franchise in the west GTA -- Mississauga would make the most sense. It would give us something to cheer for and after the end of the building phase, there might be a real hockey team in place. Like the one in Ottawa.

If someone will give me $500 million, I will quit my job and devote my life to making this happen. You can reach me in the usual ways. If it seems like a lot of money, then maybe five of you could each pony up $100 million. That may work better for you, and I'm certain you'll appreciate my flexibility.

Certified cheque(s), please.

- - -

Still with those zany Leafs, click here to read what happens when hockey players have cameras.

- - -

And still with the Leafs, Darcy Tucker, and the Rangers Sean Avery, and both organizations get fined for some pre-game stupidity on the weekend. The amount of the fines is akin to docking a McDonalds' employee a French fry. You can read the story here.

But suffice to say that while Sean Avery is one of those guys everyone wants on their team and no one wants to play against, general managers usually get tired fast of the young and the yappy. As do some of the old dogs in the league. And sooner or later, jungle law takes over.

Funny thing is, Avery can play. But he's got a lot of the Sideshow Bob gene in him. All of which makes me want to yell, "NEXT!"

- - -

Chris and his hockey team had some gym time last night -- a highly-structured dryland training regime focused on specific muscle groups and anaerobic/aerobic cross conditioning to maximize their performance in game conditions.


What it was, actually, was free-form fun. Some tag games, some basketball, some floor hockey, more tag, general running and jumping about, kids running into one another and making a lot of noise. If the gym had trees, they'd have been swinging from them.

Probably not unlike a Leaf practice, I suspect, given their performance (the difference being Chris and the boys are 11 and this is how they are supposed to behave. And this team has a winning record, unlike their heroes.)

- - -

Anyway, I got nothing for you today. Buy a newspaper, maybe.


Nov 13, 2007

The Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony was last night, which I know because making the walk from my office on King Street to Union station via the usual route through the-building-formerly-known-as-BCE Place was pretty much impossible.

The hall is in that building, so all manner of guards and swanky people holding cocktails with their pinky fingers sticking out were cluttering things up and the great unwashed were being herded around the gala.

Anyway, Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis may be the four greatest players inducted into the hall at one time. (Former Leafs GM and NHL executive Jim Gregory also entered the hall as a builder.)

We watched those four players being interviewed Saturday night before the Leafs-Rangers game and their recollections were fascinating. I was particularly taken with how they spoke of their experiences and the people who influenced them as bantam -aged players, before they were pros.

Whether any of the bantam hockey players I get to watch and spend time around will make the NHL seems a long shot, but I would never discourage a single one of them from chasing that dream, if that is their goal. Who knows?

In the meantime, it's a reminder to all us parents -- and coaches -- just how important and influential the coaches are in the lives of our kids, whether they are house-leaguers or AAA. My kids have been lucky to have some great coaches, including the current bench staffs.

The man who coached me for two years in bantam -- Coach Ray -- left a big footprint on my life. Intense, aggressive, foul-mouthed beyond anything I'd seen before or since, his language would make a stevedore blush (they didn't have Speak Out programs in those days!)

And I -- and 15 other guys -- would have skated through walls of fire if he asked. I think everyone who played competitive sports has a coach like that at some point. And sometimes when you're bending over the back of the bench hurling you might wonder why you're bag-skating for 90 minutes.

For a very elite few -- and I was not one of them, to be clear -- that process helped push them to a level of excellence that helped propel them to things like national-level competition. One guy I played with was an Olympic-caliber paddler. Others went to play junior hockey in Ontario. One was invited to try out with the Montreal Canadiens, even though he wasn't drafted.

For the rest of us, it turns out it wasn't about the hockey.

It's not till years later that you understand that it's in those moments like that -- when you are sick over the boards, or your legs are on fire from fatigue, or you don't think you can skate the lines one more time -- you learn things about yourself that will shape and define your character.

Did you dog it? Or did you do your best when the tank was empty? You don't have to be a hall of famer to experience that. And those lessons never leave you.

- - -

By the way, I would have watched the hall of fame induction last night if I could have found it. The Star TV listings said it was on TSN "alternate." I think we get 7,000 channel of TV, but I couldn't find that one.

Too bad. I hear Messier brought the house down.

- - -

Closer to home, Tri County bantam AA fans will be interested to know that Flamborough beat Brampton on Sunday night, which comparing their records would suggest it was an upset, and, the Rangers shouldn't take Flamborough for granted when they collide later this month. Tri County bantam AA standings are here.


Nov 11, 2007

Late update:

Rangers 5 Burlington 2

Game summary: Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead after one then stretched it to 3-0 in the second. Burlington had a run of huge pressure in the first for about four minutes and Jack Gillis stoned them. He stopped one shot, swear to God, he had his back turned, lying on the ice and he must have seen the puck from the reflection in the glass. I don't know how he did it. Anyway, it was the difference in the game.

In the second, Burlington scored two quick ones to get within one, then the Rangers added a late goal to head to the third up two. Burlington had a fair amount of penalty trouble -- their fans would say it was blatantly biased against them and basically accused the refs of everything from being home-town hacks to covering up President Kennedy's assassination -- but the refs didn't score five goals on the first place team. The Rangers did.

Burlington has a good team, no doubt about it. They've beat Oakville once, Oakville beat them once. Parents on both sides complained about the officials after each loss. We play them twice more before the playoffs and I'm sure it will be entertaining and whoever loses, it will be the fault of some referee.

The Rangers deserved the win tonight.


Nov 11, 2007

Another busy weekend is not in the books yet -- the AA Rangers play first-place Burlington tonight so we'll all be front and centre for that. My weekend got off to a rough start -- I had to miss Chris's practice Friday at 5p because of work but luckily we found some dads to step into the breach.

Chris's team tied 0-0 today vs a Wings squad using a goalie from another team as their own keeper was ill. This is only noteworthy because young Braedon, the goalie in question, also recorded a shutout in his own game, making him the minor peewee white star of the week. If such an honour existed. Which it does, because I just invented it for him. Back-to-back goose eggs is very cool.

- - -

Our weekend looked like this: Friday night practice for Chris, then Saturday morning digital imaging camp for Chris while Pad had team photos at the same time. Chris had swimming at 12:45p after lunch with me; Pad had hockey practice right after photos. I was at Kinoak (DON'T TAKE 4TH LINE!!) at 7:45a for the first of three games, including Chris's at 10a. Then Pad plays tonight. Plus homework. And I bought groceries.

- - -

The bridge over the QEW on 4th Line is gone as of last night and the QEW was closed all night and part of the morning for the operation. A new, wider bridge will be added over the next year. In the intervening period you have two choices -- find a alternate route to the southside of the QEW, or, do an Evel Knievel across the opening. If you choose the latter, please give me and Chris a heads up first. We want to watch. But my Sunday morning ritual of coasting down 4th line all the way across Speers, running every light regardless of colour (ok, I'm making that part up) is over for now. At least until I get a motorcycle and a ramp.

- - -

As I have no doubt you are already aware, Oakville is home to some of the biggest, self-absorbed jerks ever to take a seat behind the wheel and drive an overpriced SUV. It was my pleasure to encounter such a creature Saturday. While waiting to make a left-hand turn (with my signal indicator on) a large, black SUV was on the other side of the intersection, with no indicator on. When the light turned, I waited, assuming if he wasn't signaling a turn then he was going to go straight and I had little appetite (or time) for a collision with Chumley and his phallic over-compensation vehicle. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I raised my hands, palms up, in the universal symbol for "WTF? Are you going straight or turning you self-absorbed dick?" At which point he lurches forward, gives ME the finger, and squeals away.

Charming, eh?

Next new car I get, I'm going for the bumper-mounted surface-to-surface missile option. Really.

- - -

The Remembrance Day/Hall of Fame Game ceremonies last night at the ACC before the Leafs-Rangers game were really, really first class. I suppose when you make $83 million a year in profit because you're not investing to contemporary professional standards in things like scouting and player development because you don't have to because winning isn't likely to improve your bottom line because you already make ridiculous amounts of money, then you have a lot of dough to spend on hiring pros to do a good job on things like this. (BTW, boys and girls, that was a run-on sentence. Don't do that in school. Or anywhere else. I did it for comic effect, and I suspect not much comic effect at that. Write like that, and people will yell at you.) Anyway, it was a terrific ceremony enriched by the veterans who participated. And you could tell it meant a lot to them to be there.

Two of them were old enough to remember when winning championships was a priority for the Leafs.


Nov 9, 2007

If you've never been inside Revolution Music on Speers Road in Oakville, and your kid has any interest in music at all, you should go.

Both my guys are guitar players and every couple of months they get the jones and ask to go to Revolution.

It's a store oddly like the guitar store in the Wayne's World movies -- lots of guitars and drums and amps and gadgets and do dads, but no sign on the wall forbidding the playing of Stairway to Heaven.

In fact, when we went in there Wednesday night, that song was actually playing.

What makes the place cool is that they don't just encourage the kids to touch the guitars, they practically insist. So you'll always find any number of young people in different corners holding guitars, playing guitars, lusting over guitars, etc.

We weren't there five minutes and Pad ran into a guy he knew, and then another kid Pad's age -- a stranger to us -- offered a guitar to Pad and asked him to try it (which he did.)

They do lessons there (we get ours somewhere else) and from the back we could hear someone playing the illScarlett song Heaters, which we all agreed was cool since the boys' cousin plays bass for illScarlett.

Anyway, Revolution Music is a nifty corner of Oakville. It's a fun place to spend 40 minutes, and some money.

- - -

Remembrance Day is Sunday and because it's Sunday, we'll be at a rink.

Last year, Nov. 11 fell on a Saturday and the then-atom-white players marked the 11 a.m. game with a moment of silence beforehand. In all the things I've ever done as a convener, I never got as much positive feedback from parents as we did for that small show of respect.

The quirks of scheduling and the calendar have those same kids -- now minor peewee -- playing on Nov 11 again this year, again at 11a. And again we'll pause and remember before that game. Wherever you are this weekend, don't forget to remember.

- - -

Chris had a homework assignment last night which included him asking me what Remembrance Day means to me. When you grow up in and around Halifax, where the navy permeates the core of the region's life, you learn early and often about the role of the region and its men and women in the wars and conflicts and peacekeeping duties that are part of our country's history.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that other villages, towns and cities don't have their own military heritages to remember and honour. I'm just saying in Halifax, it was -- and is -- a very big deal.

Anyway I told Chris that as a kid I remember going to the cenotaph in our village every November. I remember those men -- and it was pretty much just men -- in their uniforms, some straight and tall, others bent and weathered and sad. I remember a teacher in junior high who the kids mocked relentlessly behind his back. He had been through the war and he went to great lengths to tell us how lucky we were to live in Canada and when he spoke of the war he would cry. And kids would mock him.

What a shame. What a shame on us all.

I remember living in Ottawa and my office was right on street level directly across from Parliament Hill (I used to joke that the Peace Tower was my wall clock.) And every Nov 11, the parade of veterans would march by en route to the National War Memorial just at the end of Wellington. Everyone in the office who could would down tools and stand on the sidewalk and watch. And applaud. The parade of men and women marching -- all veterans -- stretched for blocks and blocks.

And today as I write this, Canadians are in harms way, almost as far from home as they could be without leaving the planet. The despicable attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 triggered a series of events which led Canada to Afghanistan, a troubled country in a treacherous region in a dangerous time.

The work there for Canadian men and women is worthy and noble. They are making a difference but it is a long, long row to hoe. Here's hoping that all those serving, and those who will follow, and those journalists there telling their stories, come home safely.

The Globe and Mail today carries an essay by a Nova Scotia mother who lost her only son in Afghanistan. As a parent, I could barely get through it. Take a minute from your day to read it here, and remember our men and women abroad.


Nov 8, 2007

Take-your-kid-to-school day was a hit, I think. Pad had fun, I enjoyed having him around a bit (our HR department set up a program for the day so I didn't see much of him) and he learned a little about journalism, I hope.

I left work early because he was finished at 4p, and as we rode the 4:30p train home he yawned. I asked if he was tired and he said he was. I said, yes, it's a long day and this one is ending about two hours early for me and at that moment you could see that he understood why sometimes his parents don't have a lot left in the tank at the end of a long week.

I'm glad he got to meet so many of the people I work with, and hear us swear.

- - -

Eric Lindros is expected to retire today. Not a surprise to anyone who follows the game and maybe a decision that should have been made two years ago.

The debate that now fuels talk radio and newspaper columns is the inevitable post-mortem on the career of The Next One. Specifically, does he deserve a place in the hall of fame?

I remember seeing Lindros play for the Canadian national team in Ottawa in 1992. He was just a kid -- 18 or 19, barely older than Pad is. He was a monster presence on the ice, a man among the boys.

What I remember is what he did and how he played when he didn't have the puck, because what he did WITH the puck was obvious. Without the puck, he was constantly stirring it up, making it difficult for other people to compete, and he was relentlessly mean. The combination of size, skill and attitude was almost unprecedented at the time. He was expected to revolutionize the game, and in some respects, he did. He invented the power forward position, but more durable players than him would be left to define it.

Who knew that Lindros mean machine was encased in such a fragile shell?

The case for Lindros is easy. He was, for seven years, one of the most dominant players in the game. He averaged more than point a game even when he was hurt. He was an MVP. He won Olympic gold.

The case against him is just as easy to make. His MVP season was a lockout-shortened year. He never played a complete year. He missed more than 400 games and a full season due to injury. He never won a Stanley Cup. Politics seemed to envelop him wherever he went and many thought he wasn't a great teammate because of it.

For my money, the guy is a hall of famer, if for no other reason than the bar for the hall of fame seems set to allow it.

Bernie Federko? 1000 games, 1130 points.

Clark Gillies? 958 games, 697 points, plus four Stanley Cups.

Cam Neely? 726 games, 694 points.

Bob Pulford (yes, way back to the 1960s here) 1079 games, only 643 points. Four Stanley Cups.

Eric Lindros: 760 games, 865 points. One Memorial Cup. Two world junior gold medals. One Olympic gold medal, one Olympic silver medal. One Hart Trophy.

There's only one guy on that list, who for six, seven, eight years, was consistently regarded as one of the top three forwards in the game. And he's the only guy not yet in the Hall of Fame.

Push all the political junk aside. He's a hall of famer. Even Bobby Clarke says so.


Nov 7, 2007

A sports-free 24 hours in the house ends tonight with a late Ranger practice. The coveted 9p Wednesday night time slot at Maplegrove! As Dave Hodge would say, now THAT'S hockey!

 - - -

The single A Rangers returned from Lake Placid with more than just gold medals. The boys all have new haircuts, too.

Apparently a blanket wager was made committing the entire team to having their heads shaved if a certain defenceman -- goalless in two years -- could get a goal this season: anywhere, anytime.

The player in question is a solid defender, a stay-at-home type not known for lighting up the score sheet (few defencemen are) but rather keeping opponents honest in front of his net and playing tough on the blue line.

To my way of thinking, it was a dumb bet. The guy shoots too well to go another season without a goal. But, as they say, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Anyway, in Lake Placid, Charlie found the back of the net and barbers everywhere rejoiced.

Now all I need is photographic evidence of the deed -- mostly, I want to see what Cole looks like neatly shorn, but I'm curious about Charlies, Nick, Eric, Blair, Cam and all the rest of our friends on that squad.

When I see them, I'll wear my shades so the glare off their heads doesn't hurt my eyes.

- - -

I had a long day Tuesday. It was my intention last night to go watch the AE bantam Rangers' home game vs. Elora. We know a lot of kids on that team -- almost the whole team, in fact -- and Pad has played with many of them at various levels of various sports.

But, I got home and made the mistake of sitting down. There was a Leaf game coming on in 10 minutes. AE Rangers, or the Leafs?

I figured the Rangers would beat Elora. (They did, 3-1)

I figured the Leafs would give the Sens a game. (They didn't. Two goals in the first four minutes and it was over.)

I will get out soon to see Mitch's crew play. But it was worth staying home last night to watch Paul Maurice pop a vein after the fourth Sens goal. He called the entire over to the bench in the middle of the game and reamed them out, but good.

It was a sight to behold, because anyone who has ever stood behind a bench from Timbit to the NHL knows what it feels like when the players don't respond to the most basic commands. Obviously you deal with it differently at Timbit than you do at the NHL.

But still, I enjoyed it. Mostly because I had already been yelling at the TV for 10 minutes at that point so I'm glad someone was as annoyed as me.

The coach's rant looked WAY better than mine. Read about it here.


Nov 6, 2007

In an effort somewhat reminiscent of the 1985 Maple Leafs, the AA bantam Rangers (8-1-1) went into Dundas last night to face the Blues in one of those games that is the hallmark of the dreary side of Tri County hockey -- a Monday night in November standing in a rink not in your town at 8:30p when you haven't had time for dinner.

Turns out, it wasn't just me feeling that way because if you can cast you mind back to the 1985 Leafs you'll recall that there was no parade that year.

The Rangers escaped from Dundas with two points after a 2-1 win, but I'm fairly certain the local police are probably investigating the matter as a case of larceny.

Outworked. Outplayed. Out everything. The Rangers were plums to be picked but Jack Gillis's left leg and sporadic bits of work in the third period salvaged the win.

This is not win to celebrate and to their credit the boys all knew it.

At the same time, it's also true that every team comes up flat sometimes and good ones find ways to win on those days. So, looking at the glass-half-full scenario, that would be it.

But given that I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy, I hope the team regroups before Sunday when they play Burlington at home. A win moves them into first place.

- - -

Tomorrow is take-your-Grade-9-kid-to-work day. So, Pad will rise a little earlier than normal and ride the train into the city with me where he will be subjected to a series of presentations and demos on what goes on at Canada's national news agency. I may shadow him, because there are a lot of days I wonder what goes on here, too.

When we first discussed come-to-work day, Pad -- being the clever kid he is -- suggested that instead of getting up at 6:30a and coming with me, he could accompany his mother to work.

Ha Ha.

His mother works from home.

Nice try though.

I expect there will be more than a few of bleary-eyed teens riding the train tomorrow, most of them doing nothing to hide their disinterest as they sit with the ubiquitous white wires dangling from their ears, listening to bands with names that would have qualified for verbal abuse when I was 14.

Our program will be fun! He WILL enjoy it and learn things.

I hope.

- - -

Leafs play in Ottawa tonight and everyone seems excited that Kyle Wellwood and Mark Bell will be in the lineup. I like Wellwood, but really. Is this what Leaf fans have come to categorize as excitement?



Nov 5, 2007

While we were running from rink to rink on Sunday and generally behaving in a self-absorbed fashion, my parents back in Nova Scotia were among the tens of thousands of people left to cope without electricity in the wake of Noel, a once-hurricane that still packed a pretty stiff punch when he rolled over Canada's Ocean Playground.

My parents are of a vintage that has been there, done that, so these things are viewed more as an inconvenience than a calamity. They coped with Hurricane Juan when it devastated a large swath of metropolitan Halifax a few years ago leaving some without power for more than a week.

Comparatively Noel was a wider but less fierce beast, and more importantly a storm that had the good sense not to show up until after baseball season was over so my dad didn't miss anything really important.

Anyway, the folks got along without power for about 16 hours using a propane heater and a Coleman stove. The lights came back on early last evening and aside from the usual mess of branches and leaves, all is right with the world again.

Further along the road in Cape Breton, the power flickered in Ben Eoin but never actually went out, so Laura's folks were spared. Across the bay and up into the highlands -- where we spend a week each summer on the beach -- people were not so lucky and many of them are still without power.

Chris was curious how his grandparents were coping with it all, especially the older ones with no electricity.

"I'm not worried about them, I'm just wondering."

The worst that Laura and me and the kids had to deal with in terms of meteorological disaster was the January 1998 ice storm that crippled eastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec. We were in Ottawa then. For some reason, our house never lost power even though many, many around us did -- some for days and days. Some in Quebec for weeks and weeks.

Our house became kind of a drop-in centre for people without lights. I remember the power would do off and on a lot as the hydro crews did their work and tried to get people back on the grid. With two kids under three and some of the harshest winter weather imaginable outside, every time the lights went out we'd wonder if they were going to come back on, or whether we would have to prepare to find a place for the kids to go. Luckily, it never came to that.

It was an almost surreal time that certainly made you keenly aware of the power of nature.

- - -

Pad and the AA bantam Rangers travel to beautiful Dundas tonight for a game. The last time they met Oakville won 6-2. Dundas has won two of its last three and will be looking for a win on home ice. The Rangers are wracked with injuries right now so it could be interesting. A win would move the Rangers within a point of first-place Burlington. After tonight, they don't play again till Sunday -- at home, vs. Burlington.

- - -

The AAA Novice Rangers remain unbeaten in league play, and sit in first place with a 10-0-1 record.


Nov 4, 2007

Jake Cussen scored in overtime as the bantam single A Rangers beat Saint Clair Shores of Detroit 3-2 to win gold this weekend in Lake Placid.

I'll declare my bias -- I'm a big fan of Jake's so I'm thrilled he got to enjoy the spotlight. Congratulations to coach Shawn MacIntosh and everyone on the team.

- - -

Meanwhile, Chris and his minor peewee Flyers lost 3-1 today in a game that the Vikings wanted more and our guys didn't start to compete in until it was too late. Lots of things to work on in practice . . . and we will!!


Nov 3, 2007

The AA bantam Rangers beat Caledon 5-3 tonight after falling behind 3-1 through the first period. I can't colourfully describe the game, as I was on the ice with Chris and the Flyers at practice.

- - -

Meanwhile in Lake Placid, the single A bantam Rangers qualified for the gold medal game tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Nov 3, 2007

We discovered last night that the bantam A Rangers team is down in Lake Placid at a tournament this weekend and after a flurry of email we can report they split their first two games -- losing 6-2 to St Clair Shores and beating Reading 5-2.

Unfortunately one of the boys broke his arm in the first game, which is a total bummer and obviously a disappointment for him and the whole team. Hopefully he won't be out too long and we wish him a speedy recovery.

The better news is that the relay team of Nick Powidajko, Eric Purcell, Jake Cussen and Cole Munden won the relays. All 16 teams send a team of four skaters into a short-track relay skate format that bears a striking resemblance to roller derby. Anyway, these same four boys raced together last year but one of them blew a tire so it wasn't their best showing. This time, they obviously got it right.

Way to go, guys!

- - -

Still with bantams and hockey tournaments, a good friend is accompanying his nephew from the AAA London Knights to a big tournament in Chicago this weekend. London is 2-0-0 so far, but that's not the interesting thing.

After their first win yesterday, the boys returned to their dressing room to find . . .  the Stanley Cup.

How cool is that?

The cup was in town for a promotional thing, and a dad on the team knew someone who knew someone and presto, a memory of a lifetime for 17 bantam kids.

The top question for the custodian of the cup?

Is it really a jinx to touch it? (The jinx being anyone who touches the cup before they win it, never will win it.)

No, he said. It's ok to touch. The jinx only kicks in for hockey players who lift the cup without winning it.

I'm not certain that interpretation of the jinx is accurate, but it was the right answer for a roomful of 14 year old boys.

I'm told the Cup got mauled fairly well.

- - -

Last February I told the story here about how much trouble I had finding a snow shovel.

Well, this morning I dropped Chris at his digital imaging camp and then went to Home Depot to get a new garbage can for the kitchen.

Yes, I lead a James-Bond-like existence.

Shockingly, unless you want one of those little under-counter garbage cans, Home Depot doesn't sell them.

"You're kidding," I asked.

"I wish I was," said the man.

The motto -- "You Can Do It, We Can Help" took on new meaning.

Because what I could do, they told me, was drive to a storage specialty store in Mississauga. And as for the we-can-help part, they gave me directions.

There's probably another blog entry on how much money one can spend on garbage cans if he, A. has the money, and B., has the inclination.

I had neither, but I did manage to get away with a new garbage can.

I know at this point you're wishing you life was as chock-full of adventure as mine, but that's just the hand you've been dealt. Deal with it.

- - -

For the record, the old garbage can isn't recyclable. That's what's called irony in the blogging business.


Nov 2, 2007

The MOHA had a big conveners' meeting last night but I wasn't there. I attended a dinner with the long, cumbersome name of the Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression's International Press Freedom Awards.

I won't go on and on, except to say of all the rubber chicken industry events and meetings I attend, this one is worth attending.

Basically, journalists from outside of Canada who face horrendous obstacles to report the news in their homeland are honoured by Canadian journalists.

Only one of the three award recipients was alive to receive her honour last night, which is sobering to all of us in Canada who whine and moan about things that, in comparison, are trivial. I met that woman, as well as relatives of the two honorees who did not survive to see the dinner, and I was humbled by their enthusiasm for their profession, their admiration for Canadians and the things we take for granted, and the way they thrilled to tell their stories.

There was a touching moment at the end of the night when honoree Farida Nekzad, a woman journalist from Afghanistan -- remember that under the Taliban women had virtually no rights or status at all, and now she is a leading journalist facing death threats every day -- shared the fact that it was her birthday.

And the entire room of some 500 cynical, jaded, crusty, suspicious, curmudgeonly journalists (as well as me) sang "Happy Birthday."

I hope she gets to have many more. It's by no means a safe bet.

Read about her story here. It's worth your time.

- - -

And on that theme, if you're not wearing a poppy, it's time. Go get one. The freedoms we enjoy didn't come without a price. To meet the 11-year-old nephew of a Somali journalist who was blown up minutes after attending another journalist's funeral is to be reminded of that fact.

- - -

Last week, blogging led to Springsteen loot. This week, bagels!

A loyal reader, coach and mentor for my kids, and friend stopped by the house with fresh bagels from a distant corner of Toronto that we would otherwise not likely get close to.

He had followed the ongoing and occasionally harrowing blog-based story of this family's pursuit of real Montreal-style bagels in the GTA, the land of the roll-with-a-hole.

It was incredibly thoughtful.

Thanks H!

- - -

The Leafs set off on what the Globe's talented columnist David Shoats calls their big northeast odessey beginning tonight in Jersey. They face some tough hockey in the days ahead and the measure of this team will be taken. I'm not optimistic. Read his column here.

- - -

Weekend agenda: the usual blur of hockey, kids activities, birthday parties and hockey. Chris practices tomorrow evening followed by Pad and the Rangers at home vs. Caledon. Chris has a bunch of stuff before all that and I'll be with him.

Pad has dryland and a practice on Sunday.

Oddly, there's NOTHING on tonight. Pad's high school volleyball team lost in Burlington, so their season is done -- no more 7a practices.

And don't forget to turn your clocks back Saturday night. I will be making use of the extra hour to sleep.

Have a great weekend.


Nov 1, 2007

As Halloween goes, it was pretty routine.

Pad stayed home, Chris (dressed as a Goth, with his signature greeting "Life is pointless, man") did two hours of door to door with three buddies, me, and two other dads lurking nearby, and the kids had fun.

The move to push daylight savings time back a week meant it was still dusk when we set out around 6:30p and the 18 degree temperature didn't hurt the spirits or enthusiasm of the boys.

I've been through this ritual in Edmonton and Ottawa while snow fell, so I'll take the global warming, thanks.

The dads talked about the Leafs and the weather and sports in general while reminding the boys not to run in front of that van bringing in a load of out-of-neighbourhood trick-or-treaters who hit the street like Allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy.

A highlight of the evening was the improvised break, where the boys all ran into one of their houses to weigh their haul (seven pounds, Chris reported with something of a swagger in his walk.)

The intensity of the effort subsided considerably after the first half hour and it became clear that the evening was as much a social outing for the boys as it was about rummaging around the neighborhood for goodies. One of the dads said this was probably because we tend to spoil out kids and there's no a lot in those bags they don't already have regular access to at home. Sadly, he was probably right.

They would periodically stop on the sidewalk to chat, observe costumes, or survey the hordes of much younger kids moving through the street like locusts, calculating how best to stay out of their path.

We did literally every house on both sides of our fairly long street -- at least those that showed they were open for the business of the season, getting back home around 8:30p to find mom in the living room sipping wine with a neighbour, Pad on the computer after hockey practice, and the Raptors home opener on the TV. (They won.)

Chris and I retired to the family room where we repeated the family ritual of editing the candy haul -- removing all products that contain, or may contain, any trace of peanuts.

Chris isn't allergic but his big brother is and make no mistake, Pad will be helping Chris chew through last night's effort. The peanut product traveled with me to work, where I'll sit them down carefully in the middle of the newsroom and then back away carefully, the way a caretaker at a zoo might move after tossing down red meat for the lions. The candy will never know what hit it.

All in all I thought the evening was a little longer than in previous years and there seemed to be fewer kids. No one offered me a beer, but that's probably a good thing.

- - -

Pad has a high school volleyball playoff game in Burlington after school, but that seems to be the only athletic event on the calendar for us till the weekend. Tomorrow is a PD day for the hard-working educators of our district, so the boys get a long weekend.