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Jan 31, 2007

The Leafs win two in a row? Smelling salts please.

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Last Friday's harrowing drive in an freezing rain storm to a rep game in Cambridge left me thinking, while watching cars slide off the road and my windows freeze up, "there's got to be a better way to do this." Why am I crawling along the 401 in an ice storm slower than my dad could walk when I live in a town that's a 20 minute drive from more than a dozen other single-A minor bantam hockey teams that my kid sees only in tournaments? Take the following observations in that context.

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You don't have to walk far in a rink in Oakville to find someone willing to bend your ear about what's wrong with minor hockey in our town. I coach and convene in house league and I hear it all the time.

Never mind for a moment that there are a lot of things right with hockey in Oakville. In fact, as a house league coach and convener, and as the parent of a rep player, and the partner of a very active hockey mom, I see more of what is good than most people. I'm grateful for the tireless efforts of a lot of people, the end result of which is a fun experience for my ikds.

But, indulge me. Let's just play "what if" for a moment.

After Brampton, Oakville is probably the largest association in the OMHA with close to 4,000 registered kids. Is one system -- one association -- the most effective way to administer that many players? I don't know.

I'm just asking.

The allotment of ice time is wildly tilted toward the rep teams -- they pay for it, mind you, and need it to be competitive -- but they also get first call on an awful lot of ice. Would house league parents pay higher fees for more access to practice ice, or more games, or occasional full-ice practices that didn't have to be shared with another team? What's the right formula?

I'm just asking.

If there were two -- or three -- associations in Oakville, would the association creating the best structure, putting the most emphasis on excellence and fun and cost-efficiency, create a supply and demand marketplace that would push everyone to be better? Would the kids be the winners?

Or would a two-association system be divided geographically?

Could the existing MOHA be sort of a governing body over two or three much smaller Oakville minor hockey groups, say the way the Greater London Hockey Association oversees five smaller associations there?

Could one association be exclusively for house league -- another exclusively for rep?

I'm just asking.

Oakville's red house league teams always do very well in tournaments -- many aren't even allowed in house league tournaments in fact. Others simply opt to play only in Select-level competitions because other centres aren't up to the same standard of play.

Why is that?

Good coaching? Sure. Having 4,000 kids in the system doesn't hurt either. And could it be because there are enough decent and borderline-decent house league players at all age groups here to form more single-A and AA teams here?

Could some of those teams be in the GTHL? Or the Mississauga Hockey League? Yes, I know they aren't now. But what might be possible if a conversation were held?

I'm just asking.

Ice time is not an issue. All those kids get on the ice now. And if even small slice of the money spent on sweat pants and track suits and leather coats and hockey bags and garment bags and assorted team junk was instead spent on  . . . ice time!! . . .  there would be ice time to spend it on. Call Twin Rinks. You can get ice if you want to pay for it.

Would creating those opportunities -- basically having twice as many rep opportunities -- stem the flow of Oakville boys to the GTHL?

I'm just asking.

Of course, some new people would have to step up to administer such things. Whether something like MOHA oversaw two or three smaller associations, or whether MOHA was one of two or three associations going forward, it takes people -- good, committed, dedicated, qualified people -- to make things work. Twice as many rep teams would mean twice as many coaches and trainers and everything else.

It wouldn't be easy. It might not even make any sense. There might not be a real need. But in business, re-imagining exercises happen all the time. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe nothing's broke and nothing needs fixing.

But, I'm just asking.


Jan 30, 2007

Just a couple of quick hits today:

-- Did you happen to catch the Ken Dryden jersey retirement ceremony last night on CBC? As usual, the Habs did a great job honouring one of their own. The coolest part to me was that they gave out cardboard versions of his famous red-white-and-blue mask to the fans. It was really Ken Dryden night. Read all about it here.

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Barbaro, the horse who won the Kentucky derby last spring then shattered a leg seconds into the next leg of the Triple Crown, was put down yesterday. We happened to be watching the Preakness on TV that afternoon and Barbaro's accident was one of the most violent and unsettling things I have seen in sport. But what was amazing was how hard the jockey had to work to get the obviously injured horse to stop. Inside that great beast was the heart of a champion -- he just couldn't stop. He wanted to win. Barbaro's eight-month fight to overcome his devastating injury inspired people around the world. You can read his story here.

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The minor bantam A OMHA playdowns continue. The news, such as it is, is that on the other side of Oakville's bracket, Milton (a AA team moved to A for the playdowns) is leading the pack at 2-0-0. Burlington is next at 2-1, Brampton is 2-2 and Woolwich is 0-3, albeit with three fairly close loses.

On our side, Oakville leads at 3-0, then Guelph is 1-1, then Hespeler at 0-3. If Hespeler beats Guelph on Saturday night, then the Rangers are through to the next round. If Guelph win, then Oakville has to beat Guelph on Feb 10 to advance. According to the Tri County web site, if both teams end up with the same record, the first and only tie breaker in head-to-head record. The next step is an additional game to settle things. Note: the web site says that this is a guideline only.

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We got to watch the Bantam A Rangers beat Guelph last night like the proverbial red-headed stepchild -- I think the final score was 7-3.

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Anyone have any good insight on the Oakville rep coaching sweepstakes? I'd love to hear the buzz. Latest rumour says that Scotty Bowman and Punch Imlach's second cousin are going to be handling a AA team and that Steve Yzerman will dress for the midget AAA team. Pat Burns is going to return to coaching at the helm of an atom team, and Mike Keenan was rejected outright. So, obviously I need better intel! Email me!


Jan 28, 2007

My house league hockey team had a great practice last night. Not a good practice. A great practice. It felt special – at least to me.

The dressing room after practice literally buzzed with the energy. There was a genuine vibe among the kids. Parents felt it too. They told me. For a team that hasn’t won a game in a month, that might seem odd.

Consider it a life lesson for me.

In a month of mostly bad omens and bad news, it was a welcome change in the cosmos.

Given the events of recent weeks I’ve been feeling more introspective than I consider normal for me, thinking a little too hard about some things.

Two kids on my hockey team lost grandparents just days before our recent tournament in London. A member of Patrick’s team lost a grandparent the week before that. My uncle died. A good friend at work is close friends of one of the families who lost a son in that horrific crash north of Collingwood a week ago that killed five teenagers. A woman I work closely with lost her father in law. Another’s husband left her.

Stuff like that will make you think hard. But flipped another way, it puts a house league losing streak into perspective.

As Bill Murray famously chanted -- pounding on a cafeteria table while crudely explaining to a roomful of slack-jawed teens the unfairness of life -- in the coming of age classic film Meatballs, “It just doesn’t matter.”

What matters is, if in the midst of a losing streak – in life, or in hockey, or anything else –  you can create something positive, something better,  and in the case of my kids, make them want to get back to the rink as soon as they can because there’s nowhere else they can have that much fun, even if they lost the day before.

And after a long, dreary January of highs and lows on both the thermometer and the ice, last night I felt things change.

The mom of one of my players looked at me after practice last night, my eyes crazed, my face red, traced with beads of sweat from the best 50 minutes of ice time I’ve had in a long while, racing around like a mad man, teaching, cajoling, laughing, challenging.

“You look like you . . . well, I don’t know what you look like,” she said laughing.

Inspired? Crazed? Enthused? Tired? Rejuventated?  Ready?

I’d have settled for any one of those. They were all true.

Some things in life, and in hockey, you can’t go around. No one ever walked around a losing streak – it doesn’t work that way. You have to go through it. That takes guts and work.

We’re going through it. And trust me guys -- just wait until you see what’s at the other end.



Jan 27, 2007

Ryan Goodhew potted the winner in OT last night as the minor bantam A Rangers beat Hespeler 3-2 to run their OMHA record to 3-0. They have one game left in this round, in early July. Actually the game is on Feb 10 but waiting two weeks between games is kind of . . . goofy. The Rangers blew a 2-0 lead after two and were lucky to get the win thanks in large measure to the work of goalie Jack Gillis.

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My Eagles lost 5-3 in a game which I think we were the better team. Lots of heart and effort but no breaks. Big Ryan returned to the lineup with two nice goals.

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As I write this, a gathering is happening at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic where family and friends are gathered to celebrate the life of Denny Doherty and his considerable contributions to music, most especially his voice as the lead vocal for the legendary Mamas and the Papas. They gathered on the habourfront after his funeral mass. Most everyone in my family made the trip for this one, but I was needed more at rinks than funerals so I paid my respects in Port Credit earlier in the week and stayed here. From what I understand my mom's eulogy to her little brother was terrific and I would have liked to have been there for that. If you ever enjoyed songs like California Dreamin' or Monday Monday or I Saw Her Again or Go Where You Wanna Go or . . .  well, hoist a cold one and spare a prayer for Denny. You can read about the service here.


Jan 26, 2007

The Oakville Rangers (finally) return to action tonight in Hespeler for another OMHA playdown game. The glacial pace of the playdowns doesn't suit the minor bantam A players or me, but that's the schedule. But it's tough to get much momentum with only a game a week, sometimes less.

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In the meantime I'll amuse myself with the atom white Eagles and my house league convening duties. Tomorrow is Picture Day. Picture Day is one of the most torturous experiences a coach or convener can plod through and I'm looking forward to it the way a TV terrorists look forward to seeing Jack Bauer coming around a corner with one hand on his gun and the other on his cell phone talking to Chloe. Chris has his power skating tomorrow afternoon and a practice Sunday, and Pad has a dryland session Sunday. So tomorrow night we'll huddle at home and hide from the cold. Before checking the schedule and seeing there were some activities on Sunday I had suggested to Laura that we get up early on Sunday and head for Mount St Louis and skiing. That idea got shelved for now and no one will complain about sleeping in.

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I finally got around to posting a whole bunch of minor bantam AE team photos that I think some of those people have been looking for. Sorry for the delay.

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Pad's foray into journalism reviewing video games for CP is off to a great start. In addition to showing up on sites like sympatico, yahoo,, 102 The Edge, CBC and many, many others, his column and photo also appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, where it all started for me (mumble mumble) years ago. He's busily at work on his second set of reviews now.


Jan 24, 2007

NHL all star week is upon us, live from Dallas. Can you feel the excitement?

Actually, for whatever reason, Chris mostly, and Pad somewhat, were glued to the TV last night watching the young stars game -- which was low-intensity shinny among some very well paid 20 year olds -- and then the skills competition.

Back in 2000, when the game was in Toronto, I took Patrick out of school for an afternoon and we attended the fan exposition that they had at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

It was a lot of fun -- interactive displays, a roller hockey rink where Pad got to play hockey, and real NHL hall of famers to sign autographs.

When we lined up for autographs the two honored members signing were Leaf and Ranger legend Andy Bathgate and former Montreal great Steve Shutt.

Bathgate was thrilled to learn that my nephew back in the Maritimes once won an Andy Bathgate-signed hockey stick and it was displayed prominently in his room. He signed a special autograph for my nephew in addition to signing Pad's jersey.

When we got to meet Steve Shutt, I told him that as a youth I saw him play for the legendary Nova Scotia Voyageurs, an AHL team so stacked with talent it probably could have beaten many NHL teams of that era. Shutt looked at me as if I had just insulted his family. "I played six games in Halifax," he growled coldly. I said yes, and I saw one of them. I saw Larry Robinson and Mario Tremblay and Bunny Larocque too, among many others who went through Halifax.

Steve didn't want to talk about Halifax so there wasn't any small talk after that and he scrawled his name on Pad's jersey before I had the chance to ask him not to bother. Pad was only six and somewhat confused by it all. "Don't worry," I said. "Some people are just like that." Maybe Steve was having a bad day or not feeling well, but that's what happened.

Luckily, some people aren't like that at all and we were about to meet one.

Later that afternoon we were walking down a very long corridor in the convention centre. Walking towards us with a bounce in his step was a skinny guy with flowing, thinning red hair and a huge mustache. I couldn't help myself.

"LANNY!!!" I yelled, even though I had never met Lanny McDonald before in my life.

He smiled and yelled back "How ya doin?!!!" and stopped to talk. There was no one else in sight. Just the three of us.

I bored him with stories of my life-long devotion to the Leafs and that I remembered the OT goal vs the Islanders to move the Leafs to the semi finals vs Montreal and I was glad his name was on the cup from his days in Calgary. I remembered it all.

"Lanny," I said. "This is Patrick and he's a hockey player."

Lanny said he KNEW Patrick was a hockey player just by looking at him and he peppered Patrick with questions about his house league team in Oakville.

Finally, I asked Lanny if it would be OK if I took a picture of Patrick with him.

"OK?" he asked. "I insist you take a picture."

As they set themselves up to pose with Lanny down on one knee, the Leaf great then took off his Stanley Cup ring (Calgary Flames, 1988) and handed it to Patrick, who I don't think knew what it was until I told him. I was a very, very cool moment. Such an act of kindness came from a guy who did very well by the game of hockey and understood some of what hockey gave him can only be repaid by countless, spontaneous acts of kindness.

Toward kids, and their goofy parents.

Last night on TV from Dallas there were lots of little kids on the players' benches, smiling and high-fiving and having a ball.

I hope Lanny McDonald went to Dallas -- it takes a state the size of Texas to hold a smile that big.

I hope Steve Shutt stayed home.


Jan 23, 2007

Below is a picture of the Oakville Rangers peewee AE team, runners up in this year's international Silver Stick championship two weekends ago in Pelham, ON. They lost 3-2 to Tampa Bay in the final, after having won the regional qualifying tournament in Chatham in December. They went undefeated in the international championship until the final and one unbiased observer, who also happens to be the team captain's mom, told me they "played with heart and desire." I bet they did! Congratulations Rangers. Well done.

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Still with hockey tournaments, my buddy Evan Lippay and the rest of the Oakville Print Management Solutions Wolfpack won the Atom championship at the Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament on the weekend. The Wolfpack are in first place in league play. The interesting part is that my buddy Sean McLaren (yes, I have lots of pals in atom hockey!) and the Oakville Core Converter Wings (who are in last place in league play) played like giant killers and made it all the way to the final before settling for 2nd. Perhaps an omen of a run deep into the playoffs for the Wings? Congratulations to both teams!

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Oakville minor lacrosse registration is this weekend. Details are here. Don't put it off or you could find your son or daughter on a waiting list. You know what they say: The boys of summer play baseball. The men of summer play lacrosse.


Jan 22, 2007

There was a great moment in London on Saturday morning when we played on the big bowl at Western Fair. That rink is a true bowl and the players come out of a tunnel right onto the bench. Just as we walked out of the tunnel I heard this big, huge deep voice up in the stands yell "GO EAGLES!!!!" I knew instantly who it was and I turned and looked at Laura who was still in the corridor at the other end of the tunnel and she was laughing too.

It was Coach John (Maguire) from Pad's lacrosse team. John has a voice that carries like few others anywhere. One of his sons was also playing the in the tournament -- I think there were three or four Oakville teams in all -- and he dropped by to support the Eagles. Thanks John!

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I was 18 years old the first time anyone paid me for something I wrote. I was working as a part-time "stringer" for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald as I worked my way through university. I covered a lot of different things from municipal politics to speeches to boy scout meetings.

Well, here's a proud parenting moment.

Pad's first foray into journalism as a video game reviewer for The Canadian Press can be read here and here.

At 13, he's five years ahead of where I was.

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Meanwhile, the OMHA minor bantam A playdowns continue at roughly the same pace as the recession of the Columbia Ice Field in the Alberta Rockies. Brampton (1-1-0) beat Woolwich 3-2 (0-1-0) on the weekend.  The Rangers next game is sometime in May, I think.


Jan 20, 2007

Greetings from snowy London. All parties concerned about global warming should visit London today.

Anyway, my atom Eagles are in a house league red tournament here this weekend and we went 0-3, which doesn't tell the whole story.

We lost 2-0 Friday night to a red team from Cooksville -- it was probably the best I've seen this team of mine play. Today, we lost a morning game 4-1 to London -- we led 1-0 in to the third but the roof kinda fell in.

Tonight, we lost 4-2 to St Aldreds. The game was ours to win but one bad shift with them scoring twice on one shift did us in. It has been a great experience for the boys -- hockey, bowling, swimming, etc. And they learned that a white house league team that pushes itself can compete against red teams.

The Eagles are back.

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Many of you who know me well enough to know a little family history have passed along very generous notes of condolence about the passing of my Uncle Denny. It's not like I knew the guy really well but he was a big, big presence in our clan and my mom, his big sister, was his biggest fan. I've passed along many of the messages people have sent my way and it means a lot to her and many others in the family that his life touched so many people. Thanks for your thoughts.


Jan 18, 2007

Pad and the Rangers beat Guelph 2-0 last night in what was an oddly frustrating game to watch. Have you ever watched a game where the goalie was "fighting the puck" as the saying goes? Well, our goalie played great (Blair gets the shutout.) But it seemed like most everyone else on the team was "fighting the puck." On maybe the puck was fighting with them. Pucks in their skates. Pucks hopping over sticks. Passes behind guys, passes in front of guys. If they didn't have helmets on I'm sure they would have had pucks in their hair. Anyway, they won, moving their record to 2-0-0 in the first, four-game round of the OMHA playdowns. Now they don't play again till Jan 26, and then they don't play after that till Feb. 10.

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On the other side of the bracket (Burlington, Brampton, Milton, Woolwich) Burlington beat Brampton 3-1 on Tuesday night.

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The Rangers have given up only five goals in their last five games, and only one in their last three.


Jan 17, 2007

Today is the start of a busy run for the family. Chris and the Eagles have a full-ice workout this evening, their last before heading off to London for a tournament and hopefully shaking off their funk. Win or lose the emphasis will be on having fun.

Pad and the Rangers play their second OMHA game tonight, hosting Guelph. And then tomorrow morning Laura and the boys are off with the school for a ski day while I get to keep working. They will be up early and home late and tired at the end of it all. Both of them are excited about skiing/boarding/having fun outside. Wish I was going too!

Friday we ramble off to London -- me and 17 ten year olds in a hotel. A pool, and, if they are really well behaved, a guided tour of the Western Ontario Hair Brush Museum!!! Fun!!!

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He used to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Muhammad Ali is 65 today. If you are under 40, then he is just a pop icon to you, as Stephen Brunt eloquently points out in his outstanding column in today's Globe and Mail. But I am of an age where heavyweight boxing's last great era played out very large in my boyhood. I was never a big boxing fan, but I was mesmerized by the glamour of it. The three Ali-Frazier fights touched a high water mark that the heavyweight class never came close to reaching since and may never again. When they met for the first time in March 1971 at Madison Square Garden, I remember listening to the fight live on my tiny transistor radio, which was tucked under my pillow. Ali lost a unanimous decision that night to Joe Frazier. I couldn't believe it.  Almost three years later, Ali won the rematch in a 12-round decision, although Frazier was no longer champ, having lost the title to a young George Foreman. The Ali decision set up the Thilla' in Manilla in the fall of 1975. It was one of the great sporting events of the 20th century. Ali won when Frazier failed to answer the bell for the 15th round. Minutes later, Ali fainted in the ring. He later said it was the closest to death he ever experienced.

During this era I remember my dad buying a special double issue of Esquire magazine completely devoted to sports. There was a section of the magazine that showed life-size photos of things like Bob Lanier's foot (size 22), Wilt Chamberlain's palm, etc. The one I remember most is Ali's fist. Both of my fist's would fit inside this weapon that looked to me to be the size of a 10-pound ham.

That Ali was a warrior and a man of peace was a confusing contradiction. That physical infirmity has left him unable to speak a coherent word for two decades and yet he is consistently one of the best-known figures on the planet is astounding testimony to his charisma and presence and cultural importance to millions of people.

And today, he is 65 years old, yet all I remember is listening to the radio crackle with the electricity of that prize fight in New York -- can it really be 36 years ago?

My kids could not tell you who the heavyweight boxing champion of the world is today. Come to think of it, neither can I. Whoever he is, he's no Muhammad Ali.

You can read Stephen Brunt's column here.


Jan 16, 2007

Regular readers will know that among my many fascinations in life are atom hockey, the Oakville Rangers, the Leafs, my wonderful family and friends, and GO Transit.

To be charitable, my prevailing opinion about GO Transit is that on good days it runs with the efficiency one might expect from a management team comprised of rabid gerbils. But this would be insulting to gerbils.

This week was a new low. Or maybe just another low.

Winter finally arrived this week as it surely was going to -- the first and only snow/ice/rain/sleet/wind storm of the fall/winter of 2006/07, so far.

Right on cue, GO Transit ground to a miserable, frozen collection of very heavy paperweights, locked in its tracks by frozen switches, bad weather, poor decision making, lousy communication and goodness knows what else.

Now, given that it has only snowed every winter in Canada since . . . well, since sometime after the last big meteor hit the Earth, it's tough to imagine that GO Transit still hasn't figured out snow and ice. I know on bad days some delays are inevitable and even the crustiest, cruelest, coldest, most sarcastic heart (or, me) will cut them some slack on days like that.

But, here are some vignettes from my own personal commuting odyssey on Monday. All this actually happened.

  • I arrived at the station at about 7:20a, figuring I'd take the first train I could get. The drive along ice-crusted streets to the station was harrowing but uneventful. I was met by people walking the other way, heading for their cars, because GO was telling people it didn't know when there would be a train. I didn't believe them.

  • After a long wait, an announcement came over the PA system: "The 7:45 train is delayed indefinitely. The 7:58 train is . . .well, it is nowhere in sight. We have no information on this train at all. We'll tell you when we do."

  • This announcement was repeated several times.

  • 10 minutes later, he announced: "A train is leaving Bronte and is filled to capacity. This train could be the 7:15, the 7:25, the 7:35 or the 7:45. I have no idea. It will be making all stops to Toronto. We have no idea when there will be another train so try to get on it. And right now, we are told there are no trains moving in either direction past Mimico. And we still have no idea where the 7:58 train is."

  • I tried to get on that phantom train -- but it was so crowded people actually got OFF in Oakville because they could not stand the congestion. So, I waited.

  • After 10 minutes that train lurched off toward Toronto. Announcements from the poor soul on the PA continued, to the effect that he now had no idea where the trains were. None of them.

  • 30 minutes later another announcement -- another train was coming and it too would make all stops to Toronto and was also packed near to capacity. Abandon hope all ye who enter here, etc. etc.

  • Shortly after 8:30a, the 7:58 train arrived, unannounced and to the apparent surprise of the PA man. Hiding a 10-car train plus locomotive is a cool trick -- I suspect David Cooperfield was involved.

  • So, now there were two trains at Oakville -- like Robert Frost, I chose the road less traveled and I got on the less crowded iron horse and waited for the masses to pile in.

  • They never did. The very crowded train on the other track pulled away after announcing it would stop at ALL stop to Toronto. (An announcement from the less crowded train suggested it wasn't sure when it might leave.)

  • 10 minutes later, my train pulled away. It announced it would run EXPRESS to Toronto, non-stop. This would be the winter-day commute analogy akin to rescue officials deciding to not bother looking for survivors from the Titanic.

  • There were fewer than 30 people on my level of my car -- less than 20 per cent capacity I'd guess. We quickly passed the other train and zipped along (well, zip is not accurate. It was slow and plodding, but non-stop just the same). En route, we passed crowded track platforms with wet, shivering masses huddled as cattle seemingly awaiting transport to an abattoir, the faces etched with cold, weariness and misery.. Me? I had a compartment with four seats to myself as we cruised by. It was sad and disheartening and I resisted the impulse to wave.

  • I eventually got to the office just after 10a (I'm usually there by 8:30a or so.) People asked why I didn't just go home (the people who flew in the night before from Vancouver and Winnipeg for the meeting with me were glad I waited for a train.)

  • The trip home was uneventful.

This blog entry was made possible by GO Transit, God bless 'em. The events as depicted are true.


Jan 14, 2006

All my friends on the atom white Pizza Pizza Flyers have good reason to smile today -- they went to Arthur on Sunday for a one-day tournament and won the whole thing. Way to go guys!


Jan 13, 2007

It was a good-news, bad news day at the rink for me Saturday with my atom Eagles dropping a 4-0 decision to the Wings, but Pad and the minor atom A Rangers opening the OMHA playdowns with a 8-0 win at home over Hespeler.

The Eagles are trapped in a bit of a funk right now but they'll find their way out of it. Sharpening up some things all around and trying to keep it light and fun will help (I hope!).

The Rangers looked pretty good in their game -- Hespeler generally gives them fits for some reason but last night was all Oakville, all the time. Jason Carlucci scored three and Chris Germano had three assists. Matt McLaughlin had a pair, Justin Burzycki had three assists and Pad had a goal and an assist -- his defence partner Brett Blasko also had a goal.

Highlight of the night was Brett complaining about a pain in his foot early in the first period, removing his skate, pulling a shard of glass from his foot and then returning to action to score a goal. It's not quite Bobby Baun scoring in OT with a broken foot, but we'll take it.

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If you haven't heard, winter has been officially scheduled for this week. Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. Minus 16 will be the low. We will then resume melting the polar ice caps.


Jan 12, 2007

Chris remarked last night while we were at Twin Rinks where Pad and a buddy were doing shooting instruction that today is TGIF, which it didn't feel like when I got out of bed at 4:45a to get ready for work and to take Pad and the same buddy to practice for 6a. (Buddy needed a drive because his parents are on a cruise ship, luxuriating in a southern climate, drinking boat drinks, sleeping late, and getting Ranger news updates via Blackberry. Lucky them!!) Chris, sipping hot chocolate and eating fries, also noted that Monday is also ONIM -- Oh No It's Monday -- which I had never heard of and he may have coined on the spot. It was funny.

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Tomorrow is Hockey Day in Canada, a CBC-invented day in the way that Hallmark invented Mother's Day. The idea being to celebrate hockey while getting you to sit in front of the TV and watch a lot of ads interspersed with hockey. Actually, I think CBC does a really good job with its annual Hockey Day thing -- 13 straight hours of live programming is no small feat. It starts at noon eastern live from Nelson, BC, and includes Montreal at Ottawa at 2p, Leafs at the Canucks at 7p and Edmonton at Calgary at 10p. All Canadian teams in every game. Get it? Good.

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For me and many others every Saturday is Hockey Day in Canada. When CBC hits the air at noon, I'll be convening the atom white division after having coached Chris's team. When the first CBC game starts at 2p, I'll be en en route to Chris's power skating session. When the Leafs face off against Vancouver, I'll be at the Oakville Ranger minor bantam A OMHA debut vs. Hespeler at Glen Abbey. When the Battle of Alberta resumes, I hope to be having dinner.

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My atom Eagles practice tonight at 6p then play tomorrow. Next weekend we're off to London for a tournament which will be a true endurance test for the parents, but the kids sure are looking forward to it. Being part of an atom hockey team in a hotel at tournament is sort of a cross between being a roadie for Led Zeppelin in their globe-trotting, room-trashing heyday, and being a lion tamer at a three ring circus. I have no aspirations for the tournament beyond getting the kids to do their best and trying to ensure that at some point in the weekend, every kid on the team gets to laugh so hard at least once that he can't catch his breath. Sometimes all the lion trainer can do is grab the whip and the chair and hope for the best.


Jan 11, 2007

It's a lousy season to be a kid or a skier or a Collingwood chalet owner -- the usual winter fun of skiing and winter sports is suffering this year under the weight of balmy temperatures mud-caked hills. Approaching the middle of January no one in Oakville -- or likely greater Toronto anywhere -- has yet to lift a snow shovel. Two days of barely sub-zero temperatures will give way tonight to an overnight low of 5 degrees and a high tomorrow of 9 and rain. People on our street are still washing their cars in their driveways. There are kids playing basketball in shirt sleeves three days a week. It feels more like March or April than January. But tomorrow morning when I'm dragging Pad off to hockey practice at 5:30a I won't be arguing about the temperature as we drive past all the abandoned Christmas trees that line Oakville's streets like fallen soldiers. But next week -- next week Chris is supposed to have a ski trip with his school to Mount St Louis or one of those places. And there had better be snow or someone will hear about it. We'll see.

On the other hand, if you have a kid playing in the OMHA playdowns and you're embarking on a month (or more) of dragging your family from one corner of southern Ontario to another, then you will be glad for the bare roads.

All of which is to say that there must be something to global warming -- not that I needed convincing. But when I was a kid in Nova Scotia the lakes were frozen before Christmas and we spent all day, every day of the holidays playing shinny until we froze, got hungry, took a puck to the mouth, or my dad blew the whistle from our verandah signaling me to get my butt home to eat a pork chop that had been reheating in the oven, waiting for me to come home and eat long after everyone else in the house had eaten.

Why, when I was a boy . . .


Jan 11, 2007

Final standings in Tri County minor bantam A (only because I know a lot of the parents look here):


Jan 10, 2007

It was a rather dispirited effort by the Leafs lat night in losing to Carolina at home. The Leafs last missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons in 1996-97 and 1997-98 under coach Mike Murphy. Pat Quinn came in the next season and took them to the post season six times before missing last year. Twice in six years the Leafs went to the conference finals. Ah, history is such fun.

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Speaking of depressing Leaf news: because the powers-that-be don't want to keep adding new rings to the Stanley Cup's base, periodically the oldest ring on the cup base is removed to make room for newer winners and their names. The old rings are flattened and mounted in the Hall of Fame. Well, the latest ring to come off took with it arguably the greatest chapter in Leaf history -- six Stanley Cup championship teams from 1942 through 1951. Read the grim news here.

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And still with halls of fame, the baseball writers who vote on admission into Cooperstown firmly rejected Mark McGwire yesterday, presumably because of suspicions that he used steroids (which were not illegal in baseball then) during his most productive home run years. Two quick thoughts -- journalists, in my humble opinion -- should not be the custodians of immortality in baseball and the people they covered professionally. Maybe we should let Barry Bonds have a vote on the Pulitzer Prize committee, too? Second, the same people standing in judgment of Mark McGwire are many of the same people who wrote glowingly of how he saved baseball in 1998 and kissed the guy's butt. I'm not sure what I would have done, but I know as a working political reporter (which was my thing) you simply wouldn't find yourself voting on an award for a cabinet minister or other politician. You can read a pretty good take on the issue here.


Jan 9, 2007

So, when Tri County teams finish their hockey season they then enter the OMHA playdowns. There appears to be a weird science to how they build the pools and brackets for this marathon and make no mistake, there are winners and losers.

For example, Pad's single A team finished first and are in a seven-team bracket with five other teams from their division plus what would appear to be the Milton AA team (which finished last in AA.) OK. I get that part. Put a weaker AA team into a A bracket. The Rangers are in a three-team pool within that bracket with Guelph and Hespeler. The 2nd and third place teams -- Burlington and Brampton -- are on the other side and Oakville won't have to play either of them unless we win our side and one of them wins the other.

Here's where I get confused. Missing from the bracket that the Rangers are in are both Orangeville and Ancaster. But there are Orangeville and Ancaster teams now in the AA bracket (even though those centres didn't have AA  or AAA teams during the regular season.)

So it would appear -- and I stress appear because I'm just guessing -- that the Ancaster and Orangeville single A teams we played all year (and beat) have been moved up to AA for the playdowns. Maybe they get to add players? Maybe they are different teams? It just seems odd that those teams would move because they finished lower in the A standings than Oakville, Burlington and Brampton.

Maybe they couldn't move any of the top three teams up because those centres already have AA teams and they didn't want to have two teams from the same centre in the same bracket. Who knows?

Maybe I have it all wrong.

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Some of you may be pondering a visit to Disneyworld in the weeks ahead. Travel safely. Have fun. And above all else, don't mess with Tigger. Seriously.


Jan 8, 2007

The Rangers thumped Burlington 6-1 to put an exclamation point on the last game of the regular season. Burlington had been chasing Oakville for first overall but ended up six point short in the end. Burlington clearly wasn't having their best night but still finish the season alone in second place.

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Busy day to start a busy week, which includes all sorts of work stuff.


Jan 7, 2006

The minor bantam A Rangers returned from Hespeler last night with a 3-2 win, thus clinching first place in the Tri County League with one game left. The season began back on Sept 25 and ends tonight at home against Burlington. The boys and their coaches deserve a lot of credit for the hard work they put into the season so far, and they are all aware that the heavy lifting is just starting with OMHA playdowns right in front of them. But today, they can sit back and for a few hours know that of the eight teams that played in their loop over almost four months, they were the best. Throw another chair on the fire and bask in the glow, boys. Well done.


Jan 5, 2006

Last weekend of the Christmas break for the kids and it will be a rude awakening here come Monday. But still lots of fun stuff to cram into the agenda between now and then -- Ranger practice tonight, followed by dinner/reunion with long time Ottawa/NS friends we haven't seen in years, atom hockey tomorrow morning, Dick Decloe session for Chris in the afternoon, then a Ranger game tomorrow night, and another Ranger game Sunday night.

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The much anticipated Hawks On Ice show -- Pad's rep lacrosse team and assorted friends playing shinny -- happened yesterday afternoon and the 80 minutes of ice turned into 110 minutes because the ice was vacant in front of us. Coach John worked the iPod and the clock and I refereed. The kids had fun, my knees got sore and I bet we all slept well.

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The day did produce the Mystery of the Missing Ranger jacket. One participant returned to the dressing room after the game to find his very small size Ranger jacket with number 17 on the sleeve gone, and only a similar size Ranger jacket with the number 1 there to replace it. Goalies wear number 1. Since neither goalie in our match was a Ranger, it left us confused. It turns out the son of one of Oakville's self-identified great hockey minds had already taken the wrong jacket from a friends house earlier in the day (his friend being a Ranger goalie.) To compound things, he the took the wrong jacket AGAIN at River Oaks after Hawks on ice. Thus, the original Ranger Number 1 jacket was twice removed from its owner. Maguire kicked a few coolers and everything was put right and all Rangers were, at press time, in possession of the their correct jackets.

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Leafs 10 Bruins 2. Which prompted Laura to ask -- is Toronto that good, or is Boston that bad? Sadly, Boston was that bad. Neither of these teams is going very far, but if there's a light at the end of the tunnel for the Bruins right now, it would appear to be a freight train bearing down on them. Dave Lewis is not a happy man. I bet he wished Andrew Raycroft was still a Bruin.


Jan 4, 2007

Because of circumstances I went on the ice with the minor bantam A Rangers last night to help at practice. I think I was a pretty fair puck wrangler, which was about the extent of my contribution.

But when we got to the rink it was empty, which means the boys hit the ice 30 minutes early and had some time to do what guys do -- fire pucks all over the place.

My personal highlight was going one-on-one with Jack Gillis, one of the goalies. I got to within about three feet and roofed one high on his glove side that would have made Jonathan Toews proud. And for that one brief moment you think to yourself -- hey! I can still do this! A little conditioning, some extra ice . . . and then two or three kids blow past you and feel a twinge in your knee that aches a bit and you think, gee, I wonder if there's beer in the fridge . . .


Jan 3, 2007

Pad and the Rangers lost 2-1 at home last night to Burlington with a thin lineup bolstered by some good performances from the AE recruits. Two games left, the Rangers are four points up on Burlington. They need one point, or for Burlington to lose or tie one of it's remaining two games.

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Chris and I were at Glen Abbey this morning for his 6a practice. Not a lot of energy in the building, I'll tell you. Back at the rink tonight for Pad's practice.


Jan 1, 2007

Happy New Year. I hope you have a great one.

We spent a fairly quiet New Year's Eve -- we took the boys to see Night at the Museum, which took a while to get rolling but ended up as a fairly rollicking holiday flick suitable for all ages. Lots of funny moments.

We came home and made dinner, which was kind of an all-evening process for Laura -- leek and stilton soup followed by goat cheese salad and then veal Marcella served on pasta with Wolf Blass Brut sparkling wine. Neither of us could move we were so stuffed, but it was a heck of a meal.

The boys ate simpler fare and then retired to the family room to play Speed Stacks. Not sure if you've heard of this game. Chris got it for Christmas and it involves stacking and unstacking plastic cups in  specific patterns and sequences. It's hard to explain but the kids are addicted to it.

We all watched the New Year being rang in at Times Square and Nathan Phillips Square and then everyone crashed.

Pad is back on the ice tomorrow, Chris the next day and life will slowly lurch and grind back to what passes for normal in these parts.

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I took the exterior Christmas lights down today -- not so much because I'm tired of them, but more because the weather was so good. The thermometer said 12 degrees. So the lights came down.

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New Year's is supposed to be about resolutions. I've never been big on resolutions, and for me the "new year" on my clock runs more from Labour Day than Jan 1. But this year is different and I'm making only one omnibus resolution. This year will be about less. It will be about uncluttering. It will be about making things more simple and keeping them that way.  In turn my hope is that this approach will create more time and opportunity for things important to me. That's the theory. That's the resolution. We'll see how it goes. In the meanwhile, best wishes for health and prosperity to you all.