Teamoakville.comComments?Blog archiveAbout me

 Add to Technorati Favorites

 

 

 

Sept 29, 2011

I just wanted to say Iím sleepy and my thumb hurts.

Iím sleepy because I was up way, way too late last night watching what may be the most exciting finish to a Major League Baseball regular season in my lifetime.

The hyperbole is not just mine. Click here for a sample from the press.

And my thumb hurts from pressing on the remote control to flip between games in four places that, with only one exception, created genuine drama and excitement in a sport often better known for casual spitting and crotch scratching.

As they often do, but havenít done in nearly a decade, the Red Sox blew it big time.

And if you want to read a big-time screed on this topic, click here.

- - -

This will seem self obvious in ways I canít begin to count.

But sometimes I run into people with infants or very young kids Ė tykes and novices Ė  and when they see my guys they might remark that it must be a relief that they are such fine young men and well along to growing up and being able to look after themselves and surely you worry less now than when they were little etc etc etc.

First, my kids were never ďlittle.Ē

Second, I just wanted to say nothing could be further from the truth.

I think when they were younger and I/we could control a lot more of the external forces in their lives Ė protect them, in other words Ė it was a lot less worrying than it can be now.

We have every reason to be proud. And I have friends with kids who are academically and athletically successful at regional and national levels and Ö

We all worry our asses off.

I know a guy who is smooth, smart and collected under the most pressure-filled corporate scenarios, often with millions and millions of dollars on the line. But none of that makes him lose sleep. He loses sleep worrying about how his kid might react if he gets cut, or doesnít get invited to a tryout, or, or, or.

And weíre all like that. The good parents, anyway.

A few years ago Laura and I went to see an all-acoustic Springsteen concert and he talked a lot between songs. Speaking of his kids, he paused and shook his head and said something like, ďthis parenting thing is 24-7 and it doesnít matter how old they get or how old you get, it doesnít ever go away.Ē

The stuff that worries them, well, it worries us parents too.

Things sometimes happen to remind me of that and this was a week like that.

It doesnít ever go away.

- - -

People say it to me all the time regarding minor hockey and kids and the stuff that happens: you should write a book. And even though TSN hockey guru Bob McKenzie already wrote it, I'm starting to think there is a book in all of this somewhere.

Not sure where yet. And it's years away.

But yes. I could tell some stories.

- - -

I made the trek to Markham on Monday night to watch the Blades and it wasnít their finest hour. Three games in four nights might have caught up with them. OR, the other guys feasted on bad penalties.

Whatever. Itís September so no worries.

But the story of the evening was my drive home.

I jumped on the west-bound 407 (which is less than a kilometre from the rink in Markham) and figured I would take the 400 south to pick up the 401 Ė save some tolls, and some time.

Bad idea.

The exit from the 400 to the west-bound 401 was stopped almost dead. Traffic on the 401 was backed up to, I dunno, maybe London. It took 35 minutes for me to get off the ramp to the Weston Road exit (about two kilometres). I donít know that part of Toronto at all, but I figured sooner or later if I drive north Iíd find the 407 again. Well, I found Finch and followed it east back to the 400, which I took north this time and then got back on the 407.

In all, about 50 minutes of my life Iíll never get back, and lots of colourful language!

Pad was on the bus with the team, so he missed that show.

Too bad.

 

Sept 26, 2011

Laura is out of town most of the week, and I am thinking that she didn't want to hear any talk on the blog about me and the boys eating cold pizza over the sink.

In a food-preparation frenzy on Saturday, she made a big batch of spaghetti, chilli, and prepared ribs for the bbq.

So last night, the three of us were looking forward to ribs, football, ribs, and the new season of the Simpsons.

Only problem was, the boys ate  all of the ribs.

Two full racks, gone like summer wages.

Fortunately there was other food in the house (as mentioned) but  . . . geez, a fella was looking forward to ribs!

Oh well. Growing boys, etc etc.

- - -

Good weekend for the Blades, laying a 6-0 pounding on Burlington on Friday night and then coming from behind in the last three minutes to tie Buffalo 4-4, after trailing 4-2. One of the goals, with 90 seconds left, was a penalty shot to tie the game.

And then the good guys won it in OT.

- - -

Elsewhere in hockey, we got to meet most of our Novice red team (or select, or whatever) on Saturday morning and it all seemed to go great. We have a goalie and 15 enthusiastic eight year old skaters. And we have white jerseys with blue trim.

So, say hello to the novice Leafs!

- - -

Chris skated at the minor midget evaluation on Saturday afternoon (so, for those keeping score at home my day was novices at 9a, minor midget skate at 2:30p, and Blades at 7:30p) and then was drafted onto a team on Sunday morning.

His brother is in Markham for his third game in four days tonight and Chris has his first practice with his new team. Lots of familiar faces on his squad, so Tuesday nights at Sixteen Mile should be fun! Thanks to the miracle of car pooling, I can get him to practice and still see the Blades in Markham.

We prepped for the new season by picking up a new set of shoulder pads. At 6-2 he looks like a Transformer when he pulls all the gear on.

Meanwhile, Pad is spending his own money and assembling a second full set of gear. His new team prefers (insists) that the team leave their gear at Sixteen Mile (and given the lovely fresh smell in our house now, we don't disagree) but Pad needs gear for training and shinny at BTNL.

The skates will be the most expensive part of the equation. More later on that project!

- - -

Two Oakville guys are making some headlines in lacrosse.

Jordan MacIntosh, a former member of the Buzz, was the 4th overall pick in the 2011 National Lacrosse League draft, going to Minnesota.

Click here to read more.

The MacIntosh clan are very active in Oakville hockey and lacrosse and it's great to see Jordan's success.

The other bit of ink is for Tyler Albrecht, a talented 18-year-old lacrosse star. A former teammate of Pad's on the Hawks rep teams, Tyler was usually the best player on the field wherever he played. He's now at a prep school in the US and will be taking his show to Cornell next fall to get an Ivy League education.

Nice kid. Great family.

Read more here.

- - -

Back to hockey for a minute --

Oakville Rangers teams went on a bit of a rampage recently at the Mississauga Early Bird tournament, winning minor atom, atom, bantam and minor midget crowns in the AA tourney.

A loyal contributor sends the following report on the bantam squad:

The Oakville Rangers Bantam AA hockey team reeled off six consecutive wins, five of them by shutout, to capture the Mississauga Earlybird tournament. Backstopped by goaltenders Michael Bradshaw and Nathan Gravelle, the Rangers beat the Toronto Ice Dogs 2-0, the Mississauga Jets 3-0 and the Guelph Storm 3-0 to advance to the quarter-finals where they beat the Mississauga Northstars 1-0. After beating the North York Knights 2-1 in a thrilling overtime game, the Rangers cruised to a 3-

0 win over the Humber Valley Sharks in the final to claim their hardware.

Coach Paul Douglas:Ē The team improved each and every game, as did our competition. From the goaltenders to the defence to the forwards; everyone worked extremely hard to compile an impressive 6 consecutive win streak with just one goal against. This was accomplished against a line-up of top teams in the Southern Ontario regionÖÖ..quite an accomplishment.Ē

Members of the team are goaltenders Bradshaw and Gravelle, Trevor Szaniawski, Kyle McLaren, Matt Simonot, John Carney, Cole Ouellette, Sean Keating, Ben Bernier, Oliver Chau, Ryan Tomka, Sean Courage, Tim Arnold, Jordan Boulding, Connor Droog, Aidan Challis and Cole Buchan. The team is coached by Paul Douglas with assistants Granett Douglas, Chris law and Michael Laurignano.

- - -

OK. That will have to hold you, and maybe for more than a day. It's going to be a busy week. Go to a rink!!

 

Sept. 23, 2011

Yes, I continue to find it hard to fit blogging into my life. Weíll give it some more time before doing anything rash.

Why?

- - -

Itís Hockey Season!

In the NHL that means an interminable month-long pre-season schedule where millionaires skate around to get themselves in shape for doing the same thing in October.

Except that these guys now train all year round (old timers like me will recall that NHL pros learned a valuable lesson on this matter during the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviets. It turns out that picking up beer cases and then emptying them doesnít actually constitute off-season training. Who knew?)

Anyway, I am not the only guy sick and tired of pre-season. Click here.

But more important than the NHL, minor hockey is now reaching take-off velocity as it hurtles down the runaway of  . . . enough with the tortured metaphors.

Suffice to say our novice hockey team is drafted, locked down and ready for rostering. Extra ice sessions are booked. Boston Pizza is awaiting our arrival. And weíre scouring the globe for tournaments.

Ready? Are you kidding me? Weíre locked and loaded.

- - -

Four members of our last yearís Tyke red squad have moved on to rep. Noah and Connor are toiling under a ruthless tyrant with the single-A novice Rangers. Justin the Lamplighter hooked on with the AA Rangers and Charlie has bolted for GTHL AA..

All great kids and I know they will do great. I will make a point of getting out to see them play. Soon. Promise.

- - -

Meanwhile, at the smellier end of the scale, the minor midget evaluation skate goes this weekend. Iím not convinced as a parent that at this stage of the game an evaluation skate is entirely necessary for minor midget, perhaps with the exception of a handful of new kids who could easily be put into a shinny game with some others for an hour.

The coaches know these kids well. Better, in some cases, than they know their own kids.

But having said that, ice time is ice time and we will be there tomorrow at River Oaks.

- - -

Having done nothing but practice for the last week, Pad and the gang are back on the big ice tonight. The squad has three games in the next four nights so I will be hockeyed out by Tuesday morning.

He wonít be. Thatís a good thing.

- - -

One of the nicest kids I ever dealt with on a  sports team is an Oakville guy named Andrew Darrigo. I was on the bench in bantam rep lacrosse and Andrew was the leader of that team, a tough, gritty, take-no-prisoners player on the floor and the politest, best-mannered young man in between games.

He plays hockey the same way and after two season in the Ontario Junior Hockey League he is now in Alberta, playing junior A out there for the Grand Prairie Storm.

I wish Andrew every success, but thatís not the only reason Iím posting this.

In Grand Prairie, where the Storm play their home games at the Canada Games Arena and routinely draw 2500 for a game, they know how to do a season opener.

For their first home game the team had an all-day tailgate party, plus a ball hockey tournament and a live band, plus the Hanson Brothers of Slapshot fame.

Iíve been to Grand Prairie. They take their fun and their hockey seriously.

And itís good that they get these things done before the weather gets cold, which will be any second now.

Click here for more.

- - -

It was a long, long week in my world.

I hope yours was a good one and your weekend is excellent and filled with hockey.

If you see me at the rink, give me a nudge to wake me up!

Hug the kids.

 

Sept 19, 2011

Vignettes from a weekend spent in rinks.

-- The big guy showed up at Sixteen Mile for his first home game with the new team -- in fact, the team's first home game of the new season. After the trade, there was a bit of a crowd in the dressing room and the was no stall for him. All the players get their own stall in the dressing room -- hardwood construction with shelves and hooks and a permanent home for your gear. My guess is that if you're 17 or 18, it's a big deal. But he took it in stride while they sorted things out and sat in a folding chair in the middle of the room for the first 10 days of practices. He showed up for the game Friday night and the chair was gone and there was a stall with his name plate and number on it. Thanks Craig.

-- The good thing about all of the above is that his gear no longer lives in our basement rec room, as it did for years, even when playing for his first junior team. The gear stays at the rink. They sharpen the players skates at the rink. And even his Under Armour gets laundered at the rink. Mom is now reaping the benefits of him joining the local team which operates on a very impressive level -- the house smells significantly better and the routine of doing his hockey laundry virtually on a daily basis has passed, at least for now. Three cheers for the home team!

-- I was an active participant in Novice house league evaluations on the weekend, logging four hours on the ice with my loyal man servants Chris and his buddy TJ, and a few more as a red coach observer. No one really looks forward to 10 or 12 hours of evaluations -- and I think at least a couple people were there for the whole thing, hats off to them -- but whatever selfishness and cynicism you have about such things evaporates pretty quickly once the kids show up. Of the groups I worked with I would guess I saw at least six kids without hockey socks, and maybe three without jerseys. There was one who had never been on skates before and we did our best to keep his enthusiasm up during a fairly stressful 50 minutes for him, and the teen volunteer we assigned to help him learn some basics of how to get up when you fall and pushing and gliding. There was one who had a stick that was a right and should have been a left. There were a handful, and only a handful, of over-the-top parenting moments (mom banging on the glass during a 15-minute shinny session trying to get her kid's attention as she pounded her fist into an open hand) and only one kid who, at the last minute, simply refused to go on the ice. But it was Eric who stole the show for me. Eric was a member of our Big Blue Machine 2.0 back in Timbits in 2009. And whatever Eric lacked in stature he made up for in enthusiasm and heart. As a line of kids snaked their way to the gate to go on the ice, an arm started waving at me frantically and its owner was calling my name and it was Eric, wearing a smile that threatened to crack the plexiglass. We exchanged fist bumps and I told him how thrilled I was to see him and that was no lie. He skated like a demon in the scrimmage I ran for his group and he high-fived me again as that group left for another evaluation station. At the end of the 50 minutes the kids made their way off and Eric skated up to me. "It was really great to see you coach!!" The punchline was yet to come. "Eric," I said. "You looked really great out there today!" He was skating away and looked back over his shoulder at me. "Thanks coach! So did you!!"|

Cracked. Me. Up.

-- Chris and TJ were great helpers on the ice, bringing the right mix of attention and fun to their roles as "goalies" during the scrimmages. I told them they had a green light to occasionally take the puck down the ice and try to set up anyone who seemed to be struggling and not getting a lot of touches with the puck. The three rules were -- don't over do it, don't run over any one, and the puck slides on the ice -- never lift it or shoot it. You would be astounded at how many adults can't manage to keep that last rule straight.

 

Sept 16, 2011

It will be a very hockey weekend.

Pad plays tonight at home, and then Saturday and Sunday I am doing on-ice duties at the MOHA novice evaluation skates, aided and abetted by Chris and one of his buddies who are accumulating volunteer hours for high school.

I would be more than happy to allocate some of my volunteer hours to his pursuit of higher education, but the rules is the rules and heís got to get his own.

I fully expect that my knees will be aching and calling me a moron for taking on this chore, but many hands make light work and I bribed the convener to give me a cushy gig.

In recognition of my effort, I will sip chilled beer afterwards while I ice my knees and consume peeled grapes, lovingly served by my devoted bride.

Or, Iíll come home and watch an hour of golf on TV before falling asleep because Iím in such lousy physical condition that four hours of easy ice time over two days will practically sideline me for a week.

Itís one of those outcomes, Iím pretty sure.

- - -

Oakville Blades home opener is tonight at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex vs. the Georgetown Raiders. Lots of Oakville kids playing on both teams. Great hockey, great venue, great company.

SMSC also has a nice pub. So, if you donít like hockey you can just drink. Win win.

Be there or be talked about.

- - -

Every family has traditions.

One of ours has been that we take the boys out for dinner on their birthdays Ė or ours, for that matter. They pick the venue. And they always pick The Keg.

So, Padís birthday was Wednesday. But Ė Chris was double booked because the youth group he hangs with (wholesale motorcycle parts, drug and arms deals, and Christian singalongs) was having its winter-season kick-off BBQ.

So, it was sweet revenge for Chris who has endured more than one of his birthdays in October being hijacked by a rep hockey tournament for his brother.

Except the thing is, Iím not sure Pad noticed that it was a moment of revenge.

He got a grilled steak at home on his birthday and he got another one the next night at The Keg.

Ha! That will teach him!! Right? Right?

Never mind.

- - -

Thank you to all who have written emails and blog entries to give Pad a high-five on the occasion of his recent hockey relocation. Quite sincerely, it meant a lot to him that you said ďheyĒ and he promises to sacrifice an opposition forechecker in your honour.

- - -

Laura is getting her hair done today, so there will be no money for groceries until mid next week.

Why is it that men can get a haircut for $17 ($20 with tip) and for women, you can easily add another zero on the end of that figure?

I will acknowledge that she looks way better after her haircut than I do after mine Ė but she would look better than me if she soaked her hair with maple syrup, massaged in small marshmallows and then asked Stevie Wonder to trim her bangs.

By the way: the secret to a happy marriage? Always saying just the right thing.

- - -

When I do actually remember to post here on Fridays I always urge you all to drive carefully. Because I know that because itís the weekend you wonít actually be relaxing, but rather you will be sprinting hither and yon with your brood, their friends, etc etc.

Weíre supposed to relax and recharge on the weekends. We never do.

Anyway, I will repeat the caution to be careful out there.

And I will hold up as an example of what NOT to do.

On Tuesday night whilst journeying to Buffalo, I saw a sight that should have been on the evening news.

On QEW, just past the 403 split heading toward Niagara, the traffic in the fastest of the fast lanes Ė the outside left lane Ė a car was stopped and sort of pulled over to the left.

I say ďsort of pulled overĒ because thereís really nowhere to pull over to the left. In fact, itís against the law to even try. Probably, that has something to do with the outside lane generally being where the fastest traffic is supposed to be.

So as I eventually get closer Ė and it took a while because traffic was all slowed down and mucked up by the guy pulled over Ė I could see why he stopped.

His car had a flat tire. Bummer. Stuff happens, and not always at the best time.

But this guy was outside of his car. On the QEW. In the fastest lane. And he was changing his tire.

I donít know if he was auditioning for Thill of a Lifetime or something, but it sure looked to me like his lifetime was going to be a particularly short one at that moment.

Why he didnít drive on the flat long enough to move to the RIGHT, I donít know. There is a very large paved shoulder on the QEW for that.

Why he got out of his car, instead of say, calling 9-1-1, I donít know. If your car breaks down in the fast lane of the QEW at rush hour and you canít move, thatís a real emergency. Call 9-1-1 because I promise you, the OPP do not want other cars plowing into yours.

And for Peteís sake, do not get out of your car. On the QEW. In the fast lane. At rush hour.

So, having said all of that let me say this.

Drive carefully. Be smart and make good decisions. Your family wants you home safely because someone has to drive them to the rink tomorrow. And even if you canít be there, they want the car.

Hug the kids.

 

Sept 14, 2011

I was the only sign of life in the parking lot at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex minutes before midnight last night. I was sitting there alone in the wash of street lights, waiting for the big guy and the rest of the team to return from their season opener in Buffalo.

I raced down the QEW after work and arrived at the rink in a tidy U.S. suburb just as the Zamboni came out following the pre-game skate. I missed the warm up and this meant I couldnít be sure whether he was even dressed for the game.

Thatís how life works at this level.

Anyway, a few minutes later the teams came out and I saw something which I have not seen since the winter of 2009: him fitted out in red pants and white away colours awfully similar to the Rangers red, white and blue he wore in battle so many times.

Home again, home again.

They do this thing in junior A that they do in the NCAA, too. Both teams line up on the goal lines and before they play the anthems, they announce the starting goalie and starting lineups. Those six players then skate to the blue line and stand there for the anthem.

When his name was announced and he skated out to the blue line, I just about fell over.

The good guys won. He got an assist, secondary to the win but a nice start to the season.

The team played well in the second period, after an uneven opening frame and the result was never in doubt.

The bus pulled in at Sixteen Mile. The guys piled off. We peeled out.

Another season off and running.

And at 12:04 am, I got to be the first one to wish him a happy birthday on his big 18th.

- - -

You will have to trust me when I tell you that 18 years ago this morning in Edmonton was a morning exactly like this one was in the GTA Ė very cool, very crisp and clear.

And like Meat Loaf sang in another context in his 1977 hit ďParadise By the Dashboard LightsĒ well, I too remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday.

If someone had told me then that 18 years later, almost to the minute, I would be watching him do what heís doing now, I am sure I would have been very excited. I think I would have been likely to think: ďWhat a great adventure he has waiting for him to experience.Ē

And if I had been smart enough to think that, well, I would have been bang on.

It has been an adventure. Weíre lucky to have two boys who are the engines that drive that adventure, helped by the ancillary engines of their friendsí lives. The places we go and people we meet, the stories they tell, and yes, all those experiences light our days like the sun.

Heís 18. Heís old enough to vote. Heís old enough to fight for his country. He is Ė as he is constantly reminded Ė old enough to know better. I told a friend today that every time he hits the ice, I still see the kid who skated out onto a sheet in Ottawa as a Timbit in 1997, the day before his 4th birthday. All he wanted was to just play.

I give him marks for consistency.

Happy birthday, Pad.

 

Sept 13, 2011

I may have to retire from the blog thing. I donít have time any more and I donít have much to say when I do. But today, all hockey, all local.

- - -

For the credit-where-credit-is-due file:

The MOHA is instituting mandatory baseline cognitive testing for all players atom and up, so that in the event of a concussion the medical experts will know when it is appropriate for the player to return to play.

The $65,000 cost of the online tests for about 2,600 kids will be absorbed by the association, which has a few extra dollars and can well afford it.

But make no mistake Ė this is a terrific thing for MOHA to be doing to protect the players and address an issue that is not going to ever go away.

Hats off (and helmets and visors on) to the MOHA team for getting this one done.

The national media caught wind of this and did a story on it, which you can read here.

The Associated Press, the largest news agency in the world and one with which CP has a reciprocal news sharing agreement, picked up the story within minutes of it hitting the wire and it can be found today on ESPN, Sports Illustrated and others.

- - -

I heard yesterday that a goalie I coached for several seasons (yes, including that legendary atom white run to a double overtime championship years ago . . . why it seems like only yesterday . . .) will be playing rep this year.

Iím so excited for him I donít know where to start.

Minor midget AE will feel like major junior for him, I have no doubt. And make no mistake, as I have said before the first year of rep hockey is the best Ė everything is new, everything is exciting, you get your first Ranger jacket. Itís a validation of a lot of hard work.

My older guy was part of one MOHAís AE teams back in his final year of peewee, when the association first took steps to revive the AE program to give rep opportunities to kids who had maybe outgrown Red house league, but still needed a little time before moving on to higher levels.

As a parent, I never stopped being grateful for that move because it started a chain reaction of events that frankly is still playing itself out.

The then-VP of HL said to me way back then, well, all these kids are going to get a great experience. And if just one or two of them move on and up, well thatís a bonus.

One or two of them did. One still does.

And whoís to say that some bright spark on the AE minor midget Rangers might not bloom this season too?

I wouldnít bet against it.

Good luck, Cam.

- - -

You know itís minor hockey season when the emails and calls start landing from beleaguered conveners looking for people to run pre-season evaluations for tyke, novice and others.

Iíve taken part in this ritual almost every September for the last 12 years. For the 1996 cohort, I coordinated the evaluations for more years than I care to remember.

And while I may yet again be back at the rink helping with the Ė what are they, the 2005 and 2004s?? Ė I am starting to wonder where are the coaches, parents and other folks for this age group, and why do they need old foggies like me and my ilk?

- - -

The 1996 cohort will have only six Red Select Whatever Itís Called teams this year, and white (or will they call it Red??) will have 10.

This is the year where kids start bailing out of hockey as high school starts to open up vistas to exciting and interesting things like girls, beer and girls.

But I also think the rejigging of Red and White and Select and no contact and full contact and all of that hasnít helped. I still hear from parents who are confused about what exactly they signed their kids up for, or, didnít sign up for.

I believe people are acting with the best of intentions. But how it will all settle in the end remains to be seen.

 

Sept 8, 2011

Been busy and distracted. Sorry.

- - -

I am actually back at the office this week after being away for a short spell to recover from an epically bad haircut.

Actually, I didn't stay home because of the bad haircut, but on the other hand if I had showed up with my hair looking like it did no one would have blamed my employer for sending me away.

I love the place I get my hair cut -- it's a barber shop, not a hair salon.

I've been going there for more than 10 years and while my spouse thinks maybe I should consider spending more than $17 for a haircut ($20 with tip!) I'm happy where I am.

Usually.

Long story short, there's a new person at the barber shop and when I asked for a "short, summer cut" I left the place looking a little like a jar head on a three-day furlough from Fort Dix.

Oh well.

It's just hair and I'm pretty much back to my usual look now, which, let's face it, is no bargain on the best of days.

- - -

We approached new standards of doing nothing on the long weekend, for those of you keeping score at home.

I actually managed to successfully take many of the parts out of the powder room toilet tank and replace them. Great moments in home plumbing? Perhaps. But it doesn't leak and the toilet works. Win!

Laura cooked a lot for the boys -- she made a big batch of spaghetti, and a big batch of lasagna, and a big batch of brownies and a big batch of Nanaimo bars.

None of those things exist anymore.

Her motivation was to help Pad put on weight (hey, I could give a clinic . . .) because he lost about 10 pounds while he was sick in July. His brother helpfully joined in the effort to eat everything in sight and I can report the Big Guy is returning more and more to his hulking self with each passing day.

- - -

On a more serious note, there were two hockey stories yesterday -- both significant, but in different ways.

The crash of a Russian jet that killed an entire KHL team, including several former NHLers and Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon, is simply numbing.

There's nothing I can say here about the enormity of the loss of these young men and the flight crew. The loss is devastating to their families and friends and to all of hockey.

Read a good piece on it here.

Second, Sidney Crosby spoke yesterday and said -- I'm paraphrasing -- "I'll be back. When I'm ready."

Crosby said he sees no reason for the league to avoid implementing a zero-tolerance policy on head hits, and he's right.

I hope he is back very, very soon. The game -- in the wake of an awful summer that got a lot worse on Wednesday -- needs him on the ice and making us all gape in wonder.

Read more here.

- - -  

Actually, there was a third story. Very local, for us anyway.

Hockey season approaches on all fronts -- the MOHA coaches meeting was last night but I was a no show, so I have nothing to report. Sorry.

I had a good excuse. It was a busy 24 hours in our household but the gist is the Big Guy was traded yesterday to the Blades.

He worked out with the team late yesterday afternoon and you couldn't get the smile off his face if you tried.

And all this time I thought we were done with red pants.

 

Sept 4, 2011

It's a lazy Labour Day weekend and I'm mucking around with a new machine. This is just a test to see if I migrated a bunch of files.

Please resume your regular weekend activities!

 

Sept 2, 2011

Friends who follow the Greenbriar Drive antics via the blog occasionally email and comment that while I will say my kids did X or Y on any given day, I rarely say how they did, or how they performed as individuals.

That's quite deliberate. I made conscious decisions long ago to stop coaching them and let them hear other voices, learn to find mentors and trusted people beyond the cozy four walls of home. Not that I am any less engaged as a parent, but I experienced a number of non-parent coaches as a young hockey player, a couple of which had quite a profound impact on me, and it seemed sensible to me that my guys should have that same opportunity.

So, with that in mind this space has never been intended to be a forum to critique my kids, or promote their interests, or second guess coaches.

I'm going to break that rule a little today, albeit briefly.

When we got home from camp last night, I was standing in the kitchen having a beer with Laura reviewing the last 48 hours. I told her that in my mind, I still think the hardest thing my older guy ever did in hockey -- maybe in life -- was to attend a junior A rookie camp as a walk-on 15 year old who didn't know a soul in the building, and then go out on the ice and compete with 18, 19, and 20 year olds.

The object then sadly was to get out of Oakville and get on someone's AAA midget radar. Oakville's AAA system never gave him so much as a look. Anyway, he made the most of his chance and once he left MOHA doors started flying open.

In the last 48 hours he played some of the best hockey of his life. Plus seven over four 90-minute games, two assists, and one fight that never happened because the other guy backed down.

Competing against a field peppered with the sons and brothers of NHL players (Hatcher, Tinordi, Domi, Subban . . .) and many NHL draft picks, he looked completely at home. He didn't look like an NHL draft pick -- I'm not daft. But he looked pretty good to his harshest critic.

This winter he'll continue to chase his dream of earning a shot at university hockey.

Utterly exhausted after four 90-minute scimmages in two days, and four full junior A games Friday to Sunday before that, he's sleeping hard right now.

Forgive a dad a proud moment. He earned the down time.

Some images from some scrimmages . . .

 

 

 

 

- - -

This Wade Belak thing is very disturbing. It's disturbing as a fan, and as a parent.

I'm coming to the conclusion that hockey is going to have adopt a zero-tolerance policy on fighting. It's the only major league sport that doesn't ban fighting. And I'm starting to wonder if there's a link between being a paid goon who sits on a bench until tapped to go beat on someone and what they think of themselves. What is the mental toll in terms of determining self worth, and the dealing with the cocktail of issues that come with diminished self esteem?

Belak's suicide may have had nothing to do with hockey at all.

But the game has warning bells ringing all over the place and I have to wonder what, if anything, people are going to do about it.

It's not just at the pro level.

The Graham James abuse saga is far from over. Not every victim in that mess became an NHL player. Who is helping those guys?

At the camp Pad attended in London there was, on average, two or three fights per scrimmage. All but two or three of the ones that I saw were the truly stupid pre-arranged affairs -- where two guys agree to fight as soon as the puck is dropped. They skate away from the faceoff, take off their helmets, and fight.

Watching from the stands I was generally left with a couple of thoughts. First, in a perfect world, the players would be dismissed from camp or at least that scrimmage for taking off their helmets. (They were not disciplined at all.)

Second, it just looked tedious and stupid. (It was usually guys trying to get attention.)

Third, it killed the momentum of the scrimmages, which were generally fast paced and hard-hitting, but clean.

It just looked dumb and it's way out of step with where the game needs to go next.

But it's still a big part of the game at the elite levels.

- - -

I was asked to say the following:

Laura says that Gary Bettman should be invited to fight an NHL enforcer -- or a junior hockey one for that matter. He would see the problem up close.

She says, fight and you're out.

And she says if women ran hockey in Canada, the problem would have been dealt with long ago.

(This is where she lost me. In my experience some women at rinks are just as bloodthirsty as your most beer-fuelled male fan. But that's just me.)

 

Sept 1, 2011

Tough way for hockey fans to start a new month on the cusp of a new season.

Word late yesterday that Wade Belak had been found dead in a Toronto hotel room was shocking, to say the least. That he's the third former or current NHL enforcer to die this summer was that much more disturbing.

Earlier in August, Vancouver and now Winnipeg tough guy Rick Rypien died after a long battle with depression and all its considerable dark demons.

Shortly before that, New York Ranger enforcer Derek Boogaard died of an apparent accidental drug overdose.

And now Belak.

Others can feel free to start jumping to conclusions or sniffing the trail of the hard life of NHL enforcers.

I have two specific recollections of Belak, who I liked very much.

First, the TV in our kitchen is always on when the Leafs play. The play by play on weeknights is the soundtrack to our lives and many -- many, many, many -- is the time I would look up from dinner preparation or reading over homework or whatever to see Wade throwin' 'em with some guy. Almost in unison, we'd always say, "oh look. Wade Belak is in a fight." And we'd laugh, because, well, it seemed it was always Wade Belak.'

The second memory was a short video profile of Belak done for Leaf TV. He was funny, engaging, gentle, personable -- a star. The one thing he said that I remember is that he couldn't wait to retire so he could stop going to the gym.

It struck me as something that someone would say if they had worked very hard to get where they were. And that they also had a sense of humour about their role.

In my email this morning, a dad sent me a touching story about Belak, disturbing in its freshness.

This Oakville hockey dad was taking his son to a peewee AA GTHL practice in Mississauga. His son spotted Belak lacing up figure skates and the gregarious kid struck up a chat with the retired heavyweight. And he was funny, engaging, personable -- a star, at least to one little boy. He asked about Jacob's team, and was thrilled to hear he is a defenceman who likes the rough stuff.

The shook hands and went on their way.

Next day, same thing. There's Belak again, training for his gig on CBC's Battle of the Blades. The kid sees Belak and yells "Hey Wade, are you still here???"

A big smile and another conversation ensues.

The next day -- yesterday -- Wade wasn't there. Just a bunch of CBC types working on the show, or so it appeared.

The news later that day landed on them like a ton of bricks. It could not be so. Why, he was just here . . .

His final advice to the young player on Tuesday: "Remember, work hard, play hard, and have a lot of fun. Hockey is the best sport on the planet. And keep your head up when youíre on the ice!Ē

The story of what happened to Belak will come out sooner than later. But reports are already circulating that he took his own life. I'm honestly dumbstruck.

The impact he made on hockey fans, young and old, won't go away soon. I know one family in Oakville who will never forget the small kindness he extended their son.

To me, he was one of the good ones.

- - -

Last day in London. Home to my own bed tonight. We're baked. Long days for the big guy and his minder.

Fun though.

We hit the Keg last night with a family friend who is a freshman at Western and a touted varsity rugby prospect.

I was careful not to pass my hands too close to them while they ate!

More tomorrow.