Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Night At McCarthy's




My father in law was never a big drinker even before he was felled by a massive heart attack (and by the way he is doing just excellent now, thank you very much). When he came to visit he would take on a project of some sort and usually he would have a couple of beer while he did his work or maybe in the evening he'd have a whiskey. Since the heart attack he sticks to red wine for the most part, a glass or two a day, and the odd beer.

Now I think like any guy (or most guys I should say) he likes his drink but my mother in law and her family are pretty staid when it comes to alcohol. A drink or two will do them for the most part. So I think that over the years he's been pretty smart about making sure that he toes the line, at least on the outside. Its like my Mom's aunt and uncle. They live in Timmins and just down the street my Dad's brother happened to live with his family. My great uncle (follow along now) was a teetotaller, or so my great aunt said, but my uncle, a drinker himself, would snicker and snort, as he recalled that every day for as long as they lived in that house, he looked out the window to see my great uncle stroll by, out for his daily walk, which just happened to pass by the local Legion. He'd nip in for his pint or two and then walk back home. Every day. ;)

So with my father in law I don't think he's a big drinker but I also think he's a bigger drinker than anyone thinks, if you know what I mean. A couple of nights before our wedding on PEI we had our rehearsal dinner, so we had my folks and Jenn's folks and a half dozen buddies and their wives and girlfriends plus all of the bridal party and then afterwards we hit the town. My father in law came along and we ended up at the Old Dublin which is a pretty good place for a pint. We walked in and they had the aye-diddle-aye going on and right in front of the dance floor there was a big long table and it had been commandeered by my family, a whole bunch of bald men with hairy backs and their women, and so I brought Brian over and introduced him and the last I saw of him he was getting his glass refilled for the fifth or sixth time, happier than a pig in shit.

Speaking of shit he got in some that night, Jenn told me the next day that her Mom said she had never seen him drunk in all of their years together.

I just raised an eyebrow at that.

It was a few years later and they were up for a visit and I asked Brian if he wanted to come for a stroll to McCarthy's, a little Irish pub about fifteen minutes from our place. I've written about McCarthy's before, its just a tiny little hole in the wall, a terrific place. Probably my favourite pub in Toronto, which is saying a lot, the reason being most of all is that you can go in there and not know a soul and by the time you've left you'll have had a half dozen conversations on a good night. Part of it is that its so damn tiny and part of it is the folks there are mostly Irish expats or Irish passing through and that's the way they are and part of it is that's just the way it is there. They'll leave you alone if you want to be left alone but if you're open to talk then you can find someone to talk to anytime.

Its run by twin sisters, they're a couple of characters, the one has been less involved the last few years but on Saturday nights you'll generally find them both in there, tying one on.

So on this day we arrived about midafternoon. The place was pretty quiet and we were able to get seats on one end of the small gentle curve of a bar. Brian sat at the end, then myself, then one of the sisters, then a couple of lads, then the second sister. Behind the bar there was a young fellow whose accent betrayed him to be one of those youngsters just travelling through, picking up a few extra dollars.

So I order a couple of pints and beside me sister S is already doing pretty well, despite the early hour. She finishes up her cider and then orders herself a shot of Jager.

Before I go any further did I mention that the father in law is pretty heavily involved in the church back in PEI?

So she 'trows' back her shot and she sings it praises:

Oh that's the good stuff right there, that is, that's the truly good stuff.

Meanwhile your man takes a step over and now he's at our end of the bar and I look down and I'm about half done and because I am the type who likes to take charge of a situation I order myself another pint. Brian protests that its his round and I tell him that he can get the next one as I will be done both the one I am working on as well as this new one before he is done his first, thinking almost immediately afterwards that perhaps I should keep my mouth shut because letting your father in law know that the one thing you're pretty damn good at is drinking Guinness to beat the band might not be all that smart. But then again I've never claimed to be either smart or to have any foresight so what can you do?

Its the truth though so when he orders the next round I hand in two glasses to his one.

Meanwhile S calls over to the young fellow to give her some more of that Jager and he does.

Oh yes, that's the stuff. Its better than milk out of your mother's tittie it is. Oh my.

Now this makes my head snap to a little and I look over and sister number two, M, is working on the crossword and she has just her first glass in front of her and she raises an eyebrow.

Give me another says S and the young bartender tells her that that's the last and holds out the empty bottle as proof.

Oh now that's a turrible turrible ting now. Oh now that's a sad sad ting. But my my look at that big long bottle, the size of it, that reminds me of someting now, oh does it ever, that long tick bottle, now that would be a wonderful ting in itself!

And she chuckles but at this point M interjects, seeing my father in law and guessing correctly that he is a newcomer to their establishment.

Now now there's no call for that sort of language now, is there. Lets mind our manners please.

And this is where it starts because there is no love between the two sisters, indeed one patron once told me of a time that they actually brawled in the bar, the two of them, bare knuckled. The staff and customers cleared a ring and found the facsimile of a bell to bring some semblance of order or they would have killed each other he said and destroyed the bar as well.

And so S retorts:

Well now, mind my manners would I? Well, I would suggest you mind your own fucking manners over there. And your fucking business too.

M: Mind my fucking business then, well it is my fucking business, you stupid cunt, and when I tell you to mind your fucking manners and watch your fucking language then you had better fucking well do it! So mind your fucking language you fucking twat!

S: Cunt am I? A cunt? Well you dirty little fucking slut, there's a the fucking pot for you. You dirty filthy cunt you had better watch who you call cunt.

M: Whoremaster, cunt, fuck, shit, fuckshit, shitfuck cunty cunt.

S: Cunty cunting cunt cunter.

M: Fucking cunt cunter fuck.

You get the picture.

Finally they dragged one outside for a smoke and the other downstairs to cool off and all the time I just stared straight ahead, thinking that of all of the days I brought my wife's father out, it had to be this one and this was the end of it for sure and probably I should order another few rounds with the hopes that he might forget this or at the very least, I might.

And then I sneak a peek and he's grinning from ear to ear and then he bursts out laughing and the next day we're hanging about and he looks over and says 'Hey bye, when are we going for a little walk by that little pub? I'm getting a little thirsty!'

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Looking back at the past while it seems that I've had little to say and even less to say about the Oilers. They've started to lose pretty regularly again lately and if Whitney is out for any length of time then it would seem that a top three pick is surely in the bag. You'd think they could do 'better' in that regard but both the Devils and the Islanders are somehow worse, quite a bit worse actually, and in the case of the Devils its really hard to believe. Everyone keeps figuring they'll start going again and maybe Wild On Jack Lemaire will do the trick but my God they are awful and I can't even think of the last time a team that good went south that badly so quickly. And they have to worry about Parise's contract coming due with the mess that they are in cap-wise.

It looks like the Oilers are going to get another bluechip prospect and based on their drafting over the past few years and how so many of their prospects are trending its a pretty fair expectation to think that they may end up with a few more good kids in the cupboard after June.

The Oilers are a hard organization to like in many respects. The way they have gone about the whole arena situation has been understandable (they want the best deal possible, I respect that) but it has given off a bad odour, which is expected whenever Pat LaForge is involved with anything. Buddy walks in the room and the walls begin to bleed slime. They have lived off of the glory years for a long time and the fact that Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini remain involved after putting the club into the ditch is about as odd and disgusting as the Wall Street types who got their bonuses after shredding the American economy.

With all of that said however its impossible to ignore that the organization is on the right track, at least temporarily. We might quibble with Tom Renney but he seems to have been a pretty good choice to coach these kids. The minor league affiliate is doing well and the players called up from there have looked equal to the task for the most part (frighteningly enough in a few cases they are better than their counterparts at the big league level). The prospects cupboard overfloweth. And with the big club for the first time in years one can go down the list and put a checkmark beside a lot of names who are meeting or surpassing expectations and that is something that we have not been able to say for a long long time.

Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky, Gagner, Jones, Whitney, Gilbert, Peckham, Dubnyk.

I would argue that all have done their jobs. There have been a few bumps for these men, yes, but there are a dozen names who have been pretty good for this club.

And that bodes well for the future.

And this is what this year is all about after all. We knew it was going to be an awful mess and we know that the future is uncertain but really we figured that it was going to be a total disaster (at least I did) and the fact that we can look at a lot of positives means that it may be salvageable after all.

Hard to believe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Welcome, Christmas, Bring Your Cheer


When you're a kid Christmas is the end all and be all. When you become an adult and leave home then its a time to return home to get together with your family and your friends. When you have kids of your own then the magic ramps up again, along with the little ones as they get hopped up on sugar and anticipation.

Ours are seven and five and two and a half now. Its a great combination of ages. The youngest is a chatterbox now (even though quite often she sounds quite a bit like Perini Scleroso) and she has a pretty good idea of what is going on. We live in a relatively small house and so the tree dominates the main floor and a couple of times she has walked over in total awe, picked up a present and brought it over, sat down and prepared to unwrap it. The boy (Captain Serious) has been reading now for about six months and has a curiousity about everything in the world which is impossible to sate. And our eldest has a passion and enthusiasm for life that is unmatched. She also has a capacity for mischief, as does the boy, usually at her urging.


She also is beginning to have her doubts about Santa, planted in her head by one of her schoolmates. a surly little spoiled brat with a big mouth and a small mind, a horrible thing to say about someone so young, I know, but true all the same.


And not much in the spirit of Christmas to say such a thing, I guess (!).


Our daughter asked my wife about it and Jenn told her that she believes in Santa, which she does, its the magic and the wonder and the imagination of the whole thing, really, that sets Christmas apart. We were both brought up in households where the Christmas spirit was alive and well and so it has carried on the same in our home now and so even we adults come down on Christmas morning with that sense of wonder and joy. My folks are pushing eighty and they still celebrate Christmas with great relish, all the while remembering those Christmas Days when we were young.


We will have our Christmas Day and then in the days following we have many get togethers planned with friends where we will eat and drink and there will be plenty of laughter.


From our family, I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. I hope that however you celebrate that day, that it brings you joy. And that if you have little ones then you really enjoy their smiles and laughter.


Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Putin's Lament


Komrade Horcov!

I am hoping that this letter is finding you well although of course I am knowing that this is not the case. Speaking of case I had sent you for a Christmas present one case of most excellent Russian vodka from my own personal cellar. When I say I had sent I should make it clear that I mean that I had thought of this and of course as they say that is what counts. I was going to send and then I was realized that sending such an expensive gift was only feeding Western capitalist commercial machine that blockhead Charlie Brown said was ruining Christmas. Little guy with blanket and speech impediment had true meaning of Christmas as he said in monologue. That was good documentary, yes? I especially enjoyed the dancing of the children and have instructed cabinet to reenact once an hour for my enjoyment. Although I have found no dog that can play guitar or read newspaper. I think perhaps that was some sort of trickery of camera, which is no less than I expect from Westerners.

Also you are richer than Tsar and can buy your own vodka I think. As a matter of fact I am wondering where is my Christmas present? You are selfish Komrade! West has made you fat and soft like grizzly bear Penner, eating cheeseburgers as he lazily carries team on his back. Where is my vodka! WHERE! WHERE!

I am sorry Komrade. I am emotional wreck, like child who has had toy soldier taken away, or in my case actual soldiers and power second only to American president, Queen of England, the masons and Colonel Sanders. The news of your injury hit me like glasnost, crushing my hopes and dreams. To be truth, I was going to send you delicious vodka as present but I have been drinking it, bottle by bottle. In my stupor I stagger around Kremlin like gigantic Nick Nolte at film festival, incoherent and rambling. Perhaps more like Gary Oldman, who is 'cool' and also 'badass' as the American teenagers like to say. That is the image I like to project. It is very good for meeting the ladies! Unfortunately right now I have no such interest. I am bereft and am yearning for old days when I could send tanks somewhere for amusement or have cabinet minister tortured and shot to relieve stress. It is not easy being leader, as you well know.

It is very sad Komrade, this injury to your knee. Your play was exemplary and was going to bring great glory to Soviet sporting machine. Playing with youngsters and leading the way for them. They will be great players this Eberle and Hall. I am certain that their grandparents must have come from Caucasus certainly, no Canadian could be so good without some trace of Slavic blood. Some day they will bring glory to Edmonton but for now they follow your lead, like young lions following gigantic leader of pride. You are like Lion King, with gigantic lion cock and lion balls, impregnating all of the lionesses with your powerful semen and everyone can do nothing but watch and wonder at the, er, immense presence among them.

It is good though to see you back in good graces of fans. Why the fans do not like good veteran players is beyond me. By the way did you see old friend Fernando last night? Winning goal, first PK unit and on the ice in last minute to win game. He is not done yet but Tambellini did not want him, instead keeping Jacques. Bah! Anyways it is nice to see fans cheer good old number ten although personally I prefer to be feared than loved.

I am sure though that this is just a momentary setback Komrade. As you may have guessed by my references to Gary Oldman and Nick Nolte I have been boning (heh) up on Americans and their dissolute ways in best possible way, by watching their cinema. And it is always happy ending, much like Stalingrad, unless you were German. So I am sure that things will be A-OK and hunky dory.

Speaking of these movies I must ask if you have seen Anatomy of Sasha Grey. My God that is some crazy shit. I like my porno but so much of it is like Penthouse letters. A girl is sitting at desk and then pizza guy with enormous member walks in and the strange music starts and next thing you know it is blowjob time. This is not real life. This does not happen. It would be like getting handjob on Greyhound bus. It is impossible. Only bloggers stoned on cheezie dust and cream soda would believe such fantasies.

But this Sasha Grey, my God I am without speech. Unbelievable.

Speaking of Penthouse though I always thought that was bullshit until one day I was in my office. It was Tuesday which I remember because Tuesdays are 'Fantasy Tuesdays' here at Kremlin. I lock myself in office and plan return to glory of motherland with detailed invasion plots. I see myself on white stallion leading tanks into some small European backwater, it is very invigorating.

So on this day we were invading Bulgaria. It was very exciting Komrade! Needless to say I had quite a large boner thinking of burning Sofia into ashes when I hear knock on the door. Who is it but new member (heh) of presidential guard. She is enormous like linebacker, from fine peasant stock from Crimea, where my dacha is as you know. I have weakness for Crimean peasants. She has enormous jugs like enormous pillows full of jello and her ass is like back end of Sikorosky traktor. When I saw the look in her eye I knew it would be my lucky day not once but twice! I would conquer the Bulgars and this enormous mountain!

I am sorry Komrade, I am always easily distracted by the talk of jet fighters and big boobs. I guess I am just a boy underneath bad ass leather clad facade. Which is good to be boy because Khristmas is for the children after all.

I am hoping that you drink much vodka over the holidays and that the knee injury does not prevent you from enjoying vigourous sex. Now excuse me I must retire to my office. I am planning invasion of Anaheim. We will cut off cheapshot artist Corey Perry's head and mount it at entrance to visitor's dressing room at ancient collapsing arena that you call home. And we will leave his body to the rats that must certainly infest that facility. Oh and thank Komrade Katz for nice cheque and tell him what I just said. It will please him so.

Your pal, Vlad!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hamilton and Roy Make The Cut



The loss of Horcoff and Hemsky looks like its going to be enough to get the Oilers into that coveted lottery position. Another month or so of these results should be just enough to get them into a top three spot so they can land a centre or Larsson.

And who knew losing Vandermeer would also help the cause? Well, considering that it means Strudwick draws back in, it looks like his loss (who knew) is going to have a major impact as well.

Patience, my friends, patience. We have seen the last four years wasted as management tried to do it, well, the way the Leafs are trying to do it. Spending big money while also breaking in kids is not a great way to go about rebuilding a franchise. We have suffered through it. You cannot have it both ways.

Of course stockpiling high picks is no guarantee for success either. One only need to look at Gilbert Brule to see how a high pick can end up in the ditch.

Or look at the Islanders.

Having said all of that I prefer that the Oilers have decided to go all in with the kids. I mean, I would prefer if they had maybe augmented them with some penalty killers and guys who can play some defence.

But the news that Curtis Hamilton and Olivier Roy have made the WJC club (not that this is any guarantee in itself but still, positive arrows) is another positive when it comes to the kids this organization is stockpiling. If you have been over at Lowetide's (and I know you have) then you know that he is doing his biannual prospect list and that its a wonderful thing to see. The Oilers have five kids from that list on the roster right now who look to have NHL careers (in a few cases, very good careers) and a bunch of guys in the minors, Europe and junior who look to be players.

You can have your douchebag captain Dion Phaneuf (has there ever been a guy more overrated?) and your best prospect who has not even scored an NHL goal yet, all the while meandering towards a second straight year in the lottery without the pick that comes with such failure. And yes I know this whole Oilers' rebuild may not end up alright. Any thinking fan can see that. But any thinking fan (of which the Leafs have just as many as any other club) can also see that again something is terribly fucking wrong down at the ACC. And in no way is the future bright. Again.

Its a shame. I have quite a few friends who are Leaf fans. Its an awful disgrace what has gone on with that franchise and while the trolls might crow about a 4-1 win, even they must see its an awful mess. A few months ago I posted a picture of my son, just nine months old, and noted that the picture was taken when the Oilers were last in the playoffs, their run to the Finals in 2006.

I am 43 next week and a picture of my Mom just pregnant would be the equivalent for the last time Toronto was even in the Finals.

That is a sad sad thing. They deserve better.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Happy Thoughts


Was supposed to post a little more this week as Jenn was supposed to work the past two nights but she's come down with laryngitis and the end result was two nights off for her and an unexpected Capsule game for me last night. A little bonus as I am missing next week's game and then Christmas is here and so it was looking like no hockey for a month for me.

Instead I got to play last night and it turned out to be the best game I have had in a while. I've had a pretty good year but we've had a real struggle the last month or so, just falling short in game after game. We lost two guys from our blue last year who were quite a bit of chaos as they were converted forwards but what they gave up they more than made up for with their offence. Their replacements are true defencemen and as a result we're pretty damn stingy but we've never been that high scoring a club anyways and we have had a hell of a time putting the puck in the net. Add to their loss the fact that one of our two best forwards has basically been a noshow (he scored a hattrick in one of the two games he has played) and its been a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 losses. A blown coverage here or there has been costing us. The disappointing thing is the league is wide open and we could very well take it all but its hard to say yet if we're just struggling or if we're just not that good.

The good thing is the last couple of games we have deserved better and that's a good sign and so last night we tried to break out of our slump and ended up doing so. I got to play centre for the first time in a while and despite it being on an Olympic size rink I was able to hang in there and as the game wore on I got stronger and in the space of two shifts ended up helping to tip the game in our favour with just under ten minutes left. We were up one to nothing and the game was still in the balance and one of the dmen on their team, well he's noticeably weak and so I just started going at him. Three times in a row I beat him and got in alone and while their goalie beat me the first two times, the third time I picked up my own rebound and snuck it in and that was it for them. We added another and that was it. End of the slump. A great way to end this calendar year and as I joked with the guys after one of these days I'm going to score, pick up the puck and go right to the dressing room and hang them up. I've had a nice go of it the last two years though so that day may still be a long time away.

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Just to continue on the theme from earlier this past week, a further look at what has gone well for our Oilers. The loss of Hemsky and Horcoff will probably guarantee a lottery spot for the Oilers. They were lucky to get the win against Tampa and its to be expected when two thirds of your third line is basically two thirds of your top line in the AHL. The bottom six is a mess and you cannot play two lines all game and if you look at the scoring chances counted from Friday night you can see that things may get a bit ugly.

Never mind though because there is a lot to like here. For the first time in a few years there are plenty of players who are either exceeding expectations or, at the least, meeting them. And its been a long time since we can say that. So here are five more things I like.

1. Dubnyk. The big kid had a nice stretch to finish off last season and this year so far he has continued to impress. Still a long way to go and he may never be more thna a capable backup but I think at the least he will be that. He's got good technique and a nice calm about him and there is a lot to like there.

2. Magnus Paajarvi. I figured the young Swede to be the best of the rookies but Hall has blown him away and Eberle has shown better as well. Lately though the kid has gotten going. Some of that is getting a chance to play with some real linemates and from there I think it was a case of his confidence coming around and now it looks more and more that he too is going to be as advertised. A lucky get for the Oilers by the looks of it, he has certainly looked better than, say, Kadri, who was picked before him.

3. Sam Gagner. Gagner, I think it is safe to say, has turned the corner. He's not big and he never will be and he's quick rather than fast but he's contributing offensively despite bouncing around the lineup and the most impressive thing about his game is that he's winning puck battles and moving the puck the right way. He's coming into his own and its had to believe that he's just twenty one. He's been around forever.

4. Ryan Jones. Ryan Who? Guy looks like he forgot to take his skate guards off for all of the times he falls down but he sure has a nose for the net. An odd guy and not sure where he fits on this club. My guess is longterm he will be part of a fourth line in the Glencross/Brodziak/Stortini tradition, a line that can murder the other club's dregs, hang in there against tougher opposition when needed and provide guys who can step into the top nine now and then when needed. A nice surprise.

5. Omark. Sure its just one game but Linus' debut symbolizes a lot about what there is to like about this club. There is some swagger back in Edmonton and some excitement and while they're not close to being a winning club yet its nice to see something after a few years of drab losing hockey. Omark may or may not be an NHL player (although I suggest that if he were LW with Gagner and Hemsky that he would be just fine) but the way he drove the net on the PP shows that he is, unlike Robert Nilsson, a guy who is going to force the issue. As for the shootout goal, well the silliest thing I heard were the complaints about his showing a lack of respect with his spin move in that longstanding tradition of the shootout. While guys like Avery and Cooke run rampant with their cheapshots and guys drop the gloves whenever there is a clean hit of all things, I think that a lot of the critics are out to lunch. And Omark's answer to the critics, that he basically doesn't care what they say, was a terrific thing to hear. Hockey is a wonderful game and while I would never want to see the chest thumping and mememeism of, say, the NBA, in hockey, the fact is that the NHL tends to grind the personality out of its players. Good on Omark for having personality and bringing it to the Oilers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Interweb Says Irish Brothers Get The Call



Was getting the gears last night (just slightly mind you) about my age. I can remember when a bag of chips and a can of Pepsi cost fifty cents, all in. LT remembers when it was thirty five cents.

I am sure that Mr. McCurdy can beat that. Five bees for a quarter we used to say! ;)

I'm old but not too old to get on this Interweb bandwagon. I love the Internet. I have booked vacations on it, flights, lodging, vehicles, tickets, planned an entire two week trip, found pubs I want to visit. Are there any travel agents left anymore? If so, er, why?

There is the email and Skype and Youtube, all favourites of mine. I also have one of these new cellular phones that allows me to get my email, surf the web and tweet. Considering that I never even had a phone before its pretty wild and crazy shit let me tell you.

Its really unbelievable shit. When I was growing up we had two channels. And I'm not that old. And now the world is at your fingertips.

And the porn! My God.

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And so of course that is how I found out this afternoon that Linus (rhymes with Penis apparently) Omark and Ryan O'Marra are getting the call with both Hemsky and Horcoff now out for a while.

For Omark its his chance. Now we will see if he is Rob Schremp, Rob Nilsson or Rob, well, some guy named Rob who is really good. Robert Hull? ;) I saw Omark and I saw him good about a month ago. He can skate and he has great hands and he can win puck battles despite his size. The question is whether he will give back more than he creates. If not I then I think he's a player. He'll slot in the top nine and it looks like Ryan Jones has proven that he will hold down a role there as well despite the fact that he apparently leaves his skate guards on when he leaves the dressing room.

The problem for the Oilers is they are now down two of their tough minute guys and Penner or Brule will now move to centre which means that 13 and/or 67 will have to play without the big guy and we all know how that has worked out. Anyhow here's a guess:

Hall/Penner/Eberle - Penner being the one guy left who can help the kids out in Horcoff's place

Jones/Gagner/Paajarvi - Jones is producing and Paajarvi has found his game, why break up a good thing

Omark/Cogliano/Brule - I think this one gets ugly but who knows.

As for O'Marra, well he is the second piece of the Smyth trade to get his shot and while ideally we'd see Jacques eat it, my God he is terrible, and Reddox come up and have O'Marra play between Liam and Stortini, I guess we'll see what Renney gets out of this bunch. O'Marra may play the wing I guess? Not sure. He'll get a shot anyhow and he had better make his mark as Vande Velde and Kytnar and Lander are all coming on in his rearview mirror. And Colin Fraser? It wasn't a bad move moving a sixth round pick for you but my God you haven't done a damn thing. Last chance pal.

The pictures haven't a thing to do with anything except I found them on, you guessed it, the Internet!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Early Returns? Well Pretty Good, Thank You


I don't watch too much TV. I'm a bit of a TV snob (well I'm a bit of a snob plain and simple) but of course its pretty hard for me to crack on shows like Two and A Half Men, According To Jim or King of Queens (total number of episodes watched ever - zero for all three) when I revel in The Biggest Loser and Wipeout. Why you wouldn't love Wipeout is beyond me though. People getting the shit kicked out of them with a liberal amount of groin shots cannot be beat in my opinion.

We watch a handful of shows and one I watch is Cougartown which I think is quirky and funny. It has Christa Miller who is a redhead (!) and very funny (she was on The Drew Carey show) and Courtney Cox and a bunch of people I have never heard of. There was an episode recently where Christa Miller's husband, a short little bald guy called Andy, I think, gets flak because of his attitude. He is an incurable optimist who believes that everything will always work out for the best. Always.

I can identify with Andy. I come by it naturally. My parents are the same way. My Mom has had a tough go of it this year, she has been in the hospital for months now. I'll probably write a post on it shortly. Essentially what has happened is that she started having back pain and then, in the space of a few months, deteriorated to the point that she has ended up in a wheelchair. Pretty scary stuff. Hasn't beaten her down though. Courage. Heart of a lion, my Mom.

We were up to visit a few times and on one of these visits we were in the hospital room when an OT was meeting with Mom and going over various options that she had. My wife is a nurse, as mentioned before, and so she is, well, a nurse. She is detail oriented and realistic and she knows what questions to ask. So she is entirely unlike us.

So this woman is talking and I'm nodding and my old man is nodding and Mom is nodding and we are all smiling and I look at Jenn and I can tell that her head is about to pop off and it doesn't get any better when the OT wraps up and my Dad smiles and says 'Well, we'll just have to see what happens, it will work out' and my Mom echoes his sentiments and I look at the OT and say that, well, thank you for the information and that's great and yes we are pretty sure that everything is going to work out.

Afterwards my wife said that if she ever got sick that her friend, also a nurse, would be responsible for her care.

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What was funny was late this summer when some dude came by here and complained that I was a terrible pessimist and waah waahh wahh, honestly I didn't read much more than that because it was awfully funny.

What was funny is that anybody who has been here for a while knows that I am a blue sky optimist. So you know that for me to be a cynic when it comes to the Oilers and their 'management' means that they have worked awfully hard to bring me to such a dark place.

The clumsy know nothing do nothing sneaky smarmy motherfuckers.

And so this year I figured lottery for sure. If, if, everything went right then I figured they would be out of the lottery.

Tall order I figured.

We've had a nice stretch of ugliness already and while we are riding high right now all we need to think back to last year's five game winning streak that turned into twenty losses in twenty one games.

Pessimist!!!!

But really there are more than a few nice things going on with this club and while it doesn't make up for four plus years of garbage management it should be noted that there are some positive arrows.

1/ Taylor Hall. I was a Seguin guy although I was fine with the pick they made. A long long way to go but I love the kid and am glad they took him. Never mind the fact that he, 10 and 14 are in the black by any metric and they are not being sheltered (au contraire they have faced the toughs at times and still come out on top). Never mind that he can score goals. What I love about the kid is his personality. A word I like to use to describe Oiler clubs of the past is elan. The dynasty clubs had it, the little clubs that could had it. Taylor Hall has it. He is enthusiastic and intense and he plays with such flair. Wonderful to see. And watching 'Awkward Hours' (hattip to spOILer) on Saturday night I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hall is a thoughtful and candid young man. Easy to cheer for.

2/ Shawn Horcoff. Always been a Horcoff fan but last year was a tough one. He was hurt and he was dragging around a guy whose career is almost done and a second guy who is earning the description of being the worst Oiler ever. And he was pretty terrible himself. And so this year has been redemption for the dirty Red. He has been an excellent captain and he has acted as shepherd for the prize rookies and he has scored a little. Its wonderful to see a guy who should be beloved by fans for his rise from obscurity to fame and fortune through dogged determination and who instead is resented and hated by a large number of 'fans'. You might not like the contract but there is a lot to like about the player and the man.

3/ Jordan Eberle. Eberle was the one of the three kids who was to be questioned - was he big enough? Fast enough? And yet from the first game when he undressed primo douchebag Ian White to stick a knife in the Falmes, Eberle has been the most consistent of the kids. He wins puck battles and is smart as a whip and has a good sense of what to do in his own zone and the end result is a kid who, like Hall, doesn't look like a kid a lot of the time.

4/ Ted Peckman. The big surprise. A brawling bullying ball of enthusiasm. He has played better defence than anyone thought he could while adding some more of that elan to a club that has lacked personality for far too long. What will his ceiling be? Only time will tell but he has made watching this club a lot of fun. My favourite Oiler after Horcoff and Hemsky, with a bullet.

5/ Ales Hemsky. Lets forget, for a moment anyhow, that Hemsky is hurt again and that when talk of extending him is to come that that may play a pretty big part in it. Instead I want to focus on the season that he has had. There has been talk of Hemsky signing a reasonable extension next summer and I think that based on the past few years some of us might find that surprising. I, for one, figured he had had enough. Hemsky is, for now anyway, probably the best Oiler still. He can play the toughs and come out on top and he is the nuclear weapon on the roster, the guy who can make something out of nothing at any time. This season he has played with enthusiasm and purpose and he has thrown himself into the fray repeatedly. I'm really hoping that this is the last in a run of rotten luck for Hemsky and that he comes back soon and begins a long run of good health in Oiler colours.

That's what I hope.

Wife is out and about every night this week so more to come.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Dogs




We do photobooks for the grandparents every year and as Jenn put together this year's beauty I told her that we should have a couple of pages dedicated to Ben.

I miss my friend. We have a cat now.

A cat.

There are no cats in this video. Dogs are to cats as pie is to cake.

There is no comparison.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Dance Like You've Never Danced Before!



If I could only ask for one thing, it would be to live in a world where folks break out in spontaneous dance like they do at times in the movies. That would be fun.

Well really it would be down the list I guess. Bring back the big fella. A night with Anne Hathaway. Go back in time to June 19, 2006 and have the game go to OT and have good old 94 finish off the Canes.

But its up there.

Anyhow its the weekend. The Oilers just swept through Eastern Canada. They have three lines clicking. Sort of. Hall and Eberle are flying and Paajarvi has woken up and Sam Gagner is shoving it up the backsides of his critics and Dubnyk and Teddy Peckman have had another fine week. A fun week to be an Oilers' fan and if we're talking handjobs well both the Montreal and Toronto games qualified.

Mighty fine shit.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God Bless Anne Hathaway







I love movies. I worked in the industry for a couple of years. I was a video store clerk for a few years after I got out of university.

I dig the moving pictures is what I am saying.

When I worked at the video store I saw hundreds of movies easily, especially in the winter. I would work the evening shift and when I closed at ten I would grab three or four videos, walk to my apartment about twenty minutes away and I would end my day with a couple of shows. To bed and then up late in the morning and I'd while away the afternoon with a couple of more and then I'd head into work again. I watched everything. The classics. Foreign films. Indies. This was the early to mid nineties so it was just when Tarantino emerged and so you had an explosion of small films, many of them quite good, nearly every one starring Eric Stoltz or Parker Posey or both of them. A lot of Steve Buschemi and Bridget Fonda too. Quality.

I loved the old black and whites, especially To Have And Have Not and Key Largo. I watched epics from Japan, bloody and sad, with gorgeous swirling colours. Films from France and Germany and Italy. We got everything in our little store and so I saw pretty well anything that came out, right down to the most obscure B movie.

The first couple of times I hung out with the Girl From Rawlins Cross we went to the movies. When we were in school we regularly skipped class to go to the movies. Well we regularly skipped class to do plenty but that was a regular reason. My first date ever - a movie. You get the picture.

Jenn and I used to go to the movies quite a bit, now with us there is a bit of an issue. She and I have different tastes when it comes to movies, television, music. We watch some TV together but when it comes to music we're a million miles apart. With film we're somewhere in the middle. We usually have a tough time finding something that appeals to both of us and so we alternate choices. Quite often it doesn't work out.

And once we had kids going to the movies disappeared off of our social calendar. Nights out were spent having dinner or a few drinks usually - since we had our first child you could probably count on one hand the number of movies we have been to together in seven years so its been a big turnaround for a guy who used to go to the theatre at least once a week never mind what I watched at home.

We always find something we'd rather do and of course its not helped along by the fact that a) we have a hard time agreeing on a flick and b) most of what comes out these days is really shitty anyway and c) my taste for movies that involve a lot of violence has pretty well disappeared since we had kids. Same as television. Just cuts too close to the bone, makes me damn uncomfortable. I just don't find it entertaining. And this is from a guy who loved Reservoir Dogs.

Now we have this new invention (well not that new) called the PVR and I've gotten back into it a bit. The best thing about PVR is that it doesn't cost a thing so you can record a hundred movies and if its crap then you just dump it. And we have a reasonable package so that we can get some pretty decent shit.

And so lately I have seen some old classics, including To Have And Have Not and Raiders of the Lost Ark (perhaps my favourite of all time) and Animal House. And I have also seen some newer stuff and a lot of it has been very good or at least somewhat entertaining. The Hangover and Youth in Revolt (wherein Michael Cera who I like, does not play himself, at least for part of it - way to stretch those acting chops buddy!), Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (hooray for Kat Dennings!), Inglourious Basterds (beauty Tarantino), A History of Violence, The Runaways, The Reader, The Young Victoria. And I saw Monster's Ball for the first time a few weeks ago. Always loved that weirdo Billy Bob.

Coming up this week - Chloe, Kick Ass, She's Out Of My League

And yes you can see that I like the comedies these days when I can get them.

And yes I am aware of the irony that my two favourite movies in that list, the Tarantino and Cronenberg movies, are both extremely violent.

What can I say, I'm an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. That's way the ladies love me. They can't figure me out. I'm el mysterio. ;)

As for Anne Hathaway, well, she has nothing to do with this except she is indeed a woman who works in the motion picture industry. Regardless I say God Bless Her! She deserves nothing less.

-----------------

One of the issues between my wife and I when it comes to movies is that she prefers pat happy endings, the type that Hollywood delights in churning out. I don't blame her. She works with kids who have cancer so she sees enough tragedy in real life but for me, well I prefer a little more ambiguity, lets just say. I'm not into unhappy endings but if it fits the story then so be it.
We have no idea what the story will be when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers and their rebuild. After June 19th 2006 the Oilers' tale was one of momentous failure, think Ishtar on ice (isn't that a Disney show?) except at least Ishtar got made. The Oilers were like a screenplay gathering dust on the shelf while nothing got done to get it made.
After nearly four years of floundering it suddenly became apparent that enough good players had been shipped away without replacing them that yes it was time for an actual rebuild.
And so here we are.
Its early. They haven't even rolled the credits after the opening scene where Anne and I have a roll in the hay (dream sequence for Linus Omark as he deals with culture shock in Oklahoma City - its symbolism man!) and we have no idea if this is going to be Anne Loves Black Dog (hugely satisfying hit that leaves everyone ecstatic!!!), Rudy (uplifting tale but not really that satisfying, I mean buddy gets into the game and we should be amazed?) or The Virgin Suicides (where everyone that is pure and beautiful ends up dead).
But as an Oiler fan one only needs to look at Lowetide's latest top twenty Oiler prospects to feel a little bit of hope. He's six in and doesn't have the potential starting goalie for Canada's WJC club, one of the leading scorers in the AHL, two young right handed defencemen who are growing by leaps and bounds in the minors, another young goalie who has had a pretty nice run in the big leagues, small sample and all, one of the leading scorers in the OHL, a nice two way player in Sweden, a big Finn power forward who is doing pretty well in his first year in the AHL ....
You get the picture. There's a lot of nice young kids on their way and we haven't even mentioned 'the big three' who all look like players or Teddy Peckman. Hell I forgot about Pitlick in that list.
Its going to be a long road (hopefully not one that reminds us of The Road) and who knows where it will lead but at this moment as an Oilers' fan one can just put Tambo and Lowe out of mind (temporarily at least) and smile at what the last week has brought us.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rock And Roll







My Dad is old school country music, Hank Williams and John Cash, and about the most rock and roll he ever got was Buddy Holly. We went to Sudbury for New Year's last year at the curling club and part of the entertainment was a Buddy Holly impersonator or as my Dad said 'they're having a Buddy Holly guy'. He was pretty excited about that.

Mom is what the old radio stations would call 'easy listening'. Old school crooners and singers like Englebert Humpyourdink and Tom Jones. Awful stuff in my opinion but music is whatever you dig so who am I to say. I can't stand a bit of what my wife listens to and she feels the same way for the most part. Makes long drives excruciating unless its around Christmas and then we put on the carols.

So I'm working on the little ones and they can recognize the Beatles and U2 and they like Van Morrison and I hope it can stem the tide oozing out of Jenn's IPod but really I don't expect them to like what I like. Maybe thirty years down the road they'll dig the Hip and Blue Rodeo and Neil Young and Pearl Jam. God if they're worth anything they'll know that Neil Young is the
rock and roll.
I didn't learn about rock and roll from my folks that's for sure so I don't think the midgets will follow in my footsteps. My first exposure to the rock music was in Doug Catton's basement. I would have been around ten. Doug's family lived across from the neighbourhood rink. He was the third of four and he and his younger brother shared a room and his sister had the other bedroom and his oldest brother lived in the basement. His brother was in high school and he had a job and a big 70s muscle car and he smoked and he barely tolerated it when we lingered downstairs. But that was the first time I heard Kiss and Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

Rock and roll.

---------------

Although I wouldn't call the win over the Avs a total handjob I don't think I have enjoyed a game more in a long time and that includes the handjobs against the Blackhawks and the Flames earlier in the year. The kids took advantage of a tired Colorado club to have a nice third period and the last two minutes were worth the price of admission, first Paajarvi's rushes and then the final foray by Eberle and the crosscrease pass to Hall who made no mistake.

Throw in some typical Stortini doggedness and an unusually angry (and thus more effective) Penner (maybe they told him that he's stuck in Edmonton until the end of his contract?) and it was an enjoyable game to watch.

But there was one guy who made the night for me.

Theo Peckham.

It helps that Theo can actually play. He can skate and he can move the puck pretty well. He's got decent instincts and while there are times he gets the yips out there for the most part he's not running around like, say, Matt Greene did back in the day. And speaking of Greene for the most part Theo stays out of the box unless he's been after somebody. He doesn't beat a steady path there for getting his stick on someone after they've gone around him.

Theo has had some seasoning and it shows. He's played in the minors for a while and he's not a teenager and he can play.

And man he is entertaining. He runs guys over and takes no prisoners and he hurts guys and the Oilers have been waiting for a guy like this for a while, a guy who can play defence and punish the other team with exuberance. He's a throwback too, a guy who goes after little fuckers like Sean Avery when they go running down the tunnel, a guy who punishes the rats like Matt Cooke and Claude Lemieux.

I was watching last night and everytime Theo ran someone over I was laughing and snorting and scratching myself with great enthusiasm. This kid makes this terrible terrible team awfully fun to watch when he's on the ice.

He's like couch sex after the kids have been put to bed. Raw and rough and a little bit dirty and a goddamn good show all the way.

Fucking rock and roll. Theo Peckham.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Accept All Of Your Conditions




A number of years ago I was out with a couple of buddies and the one fellow says that if you put a jellybean into a jar every time you had sex with your girlfriend and then once you got married you took one out every time you had sex you would never empty the jar.

I was all like, jellybeans?

I fucking love jellybeans. Love them.

Now here's the thing and I'm sure the married fellows out there will agree. Its not marriage that does in the sex life, its the arrival of kids on the scene. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it. You come home after hockey with a few pints in you, the wife has had some wine, next thing you know you're doing the eee-eee eee-eee and the result, the baby, puts the damper on the situation repeating itself. The will is there but its finding the time and the energy that is the problem.

That's irony, right? I always find myself questioning the whole irony thing ever since Alanis called a bunch of nonironic things ironic. If you have ten thousand spoons and no knives that's not ironic, that's plain old mental illness. And rain on your wedding day?

Its called the weather.

Now I can't complain, let me start by saying this. My wife enjoys a little roll in the hay as much as I do, the issue is that same old song, men and women are different. A buddy of mine was telling me how one night with the kids abed he and his wife were watching a movie and she turns to him and asks if he wants to have sex and here's the thing for all two or three women who read this, if there are that many.

You don't ever have to ask a guy if he wants to have sex. Give me a sock and some lotion and I'll figure something out, ok. We get repetitive strain disorders from masturbating. Its the way we are wired. I will be on the subway coming home from work and I will have to hold my coat in front of my crotch because I am thinking of a time we had sex six years ago.

As my pal said, she could have whipped out a fifty page contract and he would not even have read it. He would have said 'I accept all of your conditions', signed the bottom and dropped his pants.

Always ready and willing. And you know what? It doesn't change. When Jenn moved down to Florida I had been there for a few months already. I got us an apartment and after she arrived we went to visit my grandmother who lived a short distance away with her second husband. About a decade before he had suffered a massive stroke which had robbed him of his speech and had done a lot of damage to his body but not his mind. He was three months short of ninety at this time, two months away from the stroke that would finally lay him low but he was still sharp. His mind was all there. And apparently his libido as well.

So we arrive and now Jenn is twenty three at this time, all legs and beautiful body and flashing eyes and ok you get the picture. And she comes in and I introduce her and as my grandmother talks to her I look over at Walter and he is staring at her like he's about ready to leap out of his wheelchair and he catches me looking at him and he grins and winks and nods.

Apparently nothing but death can keep a good man, er, down.

------------------------

I missed the first period on Tuesday night which sounds like it was a good thing to do but I caught the last two periods and the funny thing is that even though the Coyotes put the boots to them in the end I had no problem with what I saw of the Oilers' game. They're shitty alright but here they were playing a pretty good club and while the game was in the balance they had two lines that were putting it to Phoenix pretty good. They didn't get anything to show for it but both the Horcoff and the Hemsky lines gave their opponents fits.

Of course the problem is that you can't roll two lines in the NHL because when those guys weren't on the ice things went off the rails.

Renney's complaints after the game echoed, for me at least, the lamentations of Craig MacTavish and Pat Quinn. Tom you can ream the players all you want but you've been dealt a bum hand allround. You need two more lines of useful players and a couple of more D and then maybe you can compete. Right now running this lineup out there is like taking a knife to a gunfight. You can't win. You realize that right? You're fucked. Just like we are.

As pointed out elsewhere Dave Tippett could run out line after line of useful veteran players, guys who could hold their own against the Oilers' best and run roughshod over Cogliano and the fourth line as well as the makeshift D.

And so it comes back to the same old story for the Oilers. Not enough good players. I know, I know, obvious, right? But for all the talk of filling holes here and there it comes down to the fact that Edmonton has bled quality for five years now and hasn't replaced barely a one who has left. Lupul begets Pitkanen who begets Cole who begets O'Sullivan and now its Vandermeer.

My God.

Its between this team and the Isles for that coveted first pick and so it will be Larsson or Couturier who will get picked next summer I believe.

And at that point will the monkeys begin to actually add quality to this club or will they tank another season?

Here's the thing. They are far away but really the gap can be bridged if management is smart. All signs point to them not being smart but work with me here. Believe for a minute. Suspend all disbelief.

Presently there are six top nine forwards on this club. Horcoff. Hemsky. Penner. Gagner. Eberle. Hall. And yes I realize that Hall and Eberle are works in progress.

I think that we can all agree that while Paajarvi has struggled he probably has a bright future and so can be pencilled in as well.

So you need two more top nine guys, maybe more if Hemsky and Penner walk but lets not think about that right now. Two more top nine players.

And based on the fact that your top nine is green you probably want more than your normal filler on the fourth line. Now it seems that Renney has taken a dislike to Stortini for God who knows why so our friend from Elliot Lake may be shown the door along with Cogliano and Brule when the time comes. And Jacques and Fraser and MacIntyre are all pretty well pointless as far as I am concerned. Jones is alright but he cannot win a draw or PK so .....

And of course there is the D which is a shambles as we knew it would be. Poor Tom Gilbert started the season well and then it went ino the ditch and I've never seen a guy with the yips so bad. And after a dozen or so bad games folks are ready to run a quality NHL defender out of town so hey, maybe Edmonton fans are getting what they deserve really. But I digress. I mean the guy doesn't hit right? Get rid of him.

Smid and Peckham may top off as a 5/6 or they may get better but right now this club is short two serious quality blueliners. We knew this coming in and one wonders what the plan is. Do they hang in there and wait for Plante and Petry to come of age? Is Larsson the target if they have a shot or do they go for the big centre?

And what of Penner and Hemsky? Third period of the last game, down four, on two successive rushes it was Gagner and then Hemsky who busted their asses coming back to break up a dangerous situation. On the last goal it was Penner who was seen to be left wanting as he cruised into the zone and while that doesn't bother me as much as it would bother some, I am guessing amongst the some bothered would be his coach and probably the general manager. If I were a betting man I would bet that Penner is going to get sent away for a young Dman if they can get him.

Not saying its right, far from it, but I'm thinking they put their money on Ales, if he'll have them, and that's how it plays out.

Which means we're short another NHL player up front.

Round and round she goes.

In any case, back to point as it were. A look at the list of UFAs and you can find a lot of quality NHLers who won't break the bank. Fiddler. Glencross. Dvorak. Reasoner. Fedotenko. Belanger. Sjostrom. Brent. Asham. Nichol. Halpern. Konopka. Thoresen. Dupuis. Hejda. Wallin.
Surely to god you can pick up two or three of these guys and get this club on the road to recovery, no? Sjostrom, for example. Buddy kills penalties and works like a dog and blocks shots and you could do a lot worse.

We can see how you can do a lot worse every time the Oilers hit the ice.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Odds Sods and Clods


Just a little stream of consciousness to start off the week, sort of a la King, so like Larry let me start off with this:

Where the hell did I put my pants? Goddamnit! .... Just had a contractor in wanting to change our water pipes, he tells me he is known as Honest John. You know buddy, an honest guy wouldn't need to let me know that, I'm thinking .... Preface this with 'its early' I - Theo Peckham looks like an NHL defenceman, we're talking the real deal .... Luck and sports - I started my Capsule season with a goal in three straight games and seven points in the first four, since then I have played just as well but have a total of one assist in four games, just not getting the bounces .... Every year we do a mini family trip for four or five days. This past summer was Ottawa, looks like Montreal next summer. Montreal is fantastic, especially the strip clubs. They're going to love it!
Preface this with 'its early' II - Devan Dubnyk has had a nice little run going back to last season. Hard to say if he will be a successful starter but it looks to me that at the very least he can be a reasonable backup in this league .... To say Chicago has the Canucks' number is like saying that ... well, something that is extremely obvious, like the Sutter brothers are going to have a lot more time to ranch after this season .... say what you will about the Wings but damn they're ridiculous .... Datsyuk and Lidstrom last night were beyond absurd .... also the first time I have seen Bouwmeester show any emotion whatsoever when he reacted to that penalty call .... Made a fancy dinner for the wife Saturday, pork medallions in red wine and cranberries, garlic mash, asparagus, vanilla ice cream with homemade butterscotch sauce, told friends of ours about it on Sunday, she was really giving him the gears .... had to take a cab home, he slashed my tires
Just to quickly chime in on Tyler Dellow's work last week, first of all it was just terrific stuff and secondly it was interesting to see the reaction .... you had douchebags like Damien Cox attacking Tyler personally, guys like Kypreos dismissing it and then actually backtracking, a number of columnists coming out with the 'Colie' is a terrific guy angle and then a surprisingly large number (and wide range) of folks not buying the weak defence that the NHL and Campbell came up with - Larry Brooks, Steve Simmons, Bruce Arthur and others taking the evidence and running with it. My take? Basically another example of why the NHL is regarded as bush or a garbage league. There's no way that Campbell should be in his position, regardless of his integrity, which absolutely everyone vouches for. If the conflict of interest is apparent then he should be removed. And yes, its true that this was never raised despite Greg Campbell's being in the league for a few years now but these emails show that Campbell is questioning officials on calls about his son. That is a conflict of interest.

Sign Ales Hemsky now. That is all .... And Penner too and yes I know he's suddenly the goat. Again .... Lose these two guys and the rebuild becomes another year or two longer .... I know this is really out there but I'm a big fan of the hot sex with my wife. Big big fan. Hard to believe I know .... Two years ago I was lamenting how Tottenham Hotspur had just torn the guts out of a perfectly fine team that was coming off a League Cup title but I have to say that they seem to have known what they were doing .... here we are in the Champions League, coming off a tremendous win over Inter Milan and then this past weekend knocking off Arsenal on their pitch .... so apparently they knew what they were doing?? .... Nothing better than being a parent and hearing glowing reports on them from anyone, parent teacher night left me with a swelled head about Thing #1 and Thing #2, lets just say. Great stuff.

Hall and Eberle are hanging in there. Paajarvi not so much. If you're going to give him five fourth line minutes a night then send him to OKC and give him twenty a night. This isn't about marketing, its about what's best for the kid's career .... Andrew Cogliano, dying on the vine .... Gilbert Brule, Robert Nilsson's contract all over again .... the Cogliano/Brule pairing is where LWs and the Oilers' hopes and dreams go to die .... the biggest problem with the Oilers, this year and every year for a while now, not enough good hockey players, stating the obvious there, I know .... Great Lakes Winter Ale and Trafalgar Oatmeal Stout, St. Peter's Winters Ale and Cream Stout, my God I love winter beers .... I actually injured myself masturbating this summer, no word of a lie, pulled something in my shoulder, it was really painful .... speaking of jerking off I have a buddy who is pretty sure he has a form of Carpal Tunnel because of his predeliction for pulling .... I don't know if the Leafs are going to be bad enough to be in the lottery but I'm kind of hoping just because it would be absolutely hilarious if they gave up two lottery picks for Phil Kessel. Oopsy .... Except for the Oilers just an absolutely terrific year for sports all round with long suffering fans in New Orleans and San Francisco celebrating championships, the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Cup, Spurs' return to some form of relevance, Canadian success at the Olympics .... Pretty cool all round.

Oilers lack for personnel on the PK I know but when you need over twenty stright PK successes to move to twenty ninth in the league it might be time to look at the strategy, no? .... Tom Gilbert has lost all confidence, I haven't seen a guy have such a tough time in a while .... Feel good story of the year for the Oilers - Shawn Horcoff bouncing back .... cats are retarded. I have firsthand knowledge of this now .... Someone should tell Daryl Katz that one way to make more money would be to get some playoff revenue once in a while. What's that? Not happening? hey Daryl, what do you do with underperforming executives at Rexall? Just saying .... When Pat LaForge is shown the door I am going to hold a parade. It may just be me but I have a feeling we might get a good showing .... LaForge just oozes sincerity doesn't he? Or something anyhow.

Back in October I noted that November's schedule was a bastard and it has been. December is slightly softer, eight at home, five away and a few teams that might be beaten. Should see a few more wins before the new year comes. Looks like its a two horse race for number thirty at this point - Oilers and Islanders all the way. My how the once mighty have fallen.

Lets have a great week everyone! Wife is working quite a bit and with American Thanksgiving work may be a little slack so hopefully I can make up for the dearth of posts lately.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is A Handjob Out Of The Question When I Come Home?


This is for Travis who is worried that I am losing my sense of humour or something.

The funny thing about this is that as longtime followers of this blog know we actually conceived our third kid after a night of beer league hockey. Friday, October 26th 2008. We beat our longtime rivals the Bombers 2-1 at De La Salle. I assisted on both goals and both were beauts. First of all I looked off the D and then whipped a pass from the corner cross crease for a Dave Dobson tap in. And then while covering the point for a pinching Dman, I slap passed to that same Dman, Leo Magnatta, who had an easy tap in himself for the winning goal.

Yes I take my beer league hockey far too seriously. But you knew that.

Later after a few pints I came home to find Jenn with a few glasses of wine inside her and ended up putting it top shelf where she keeps her ovaries.

And yeah, this is genius, an oldie but a goodie:


When I come home I will get in bed, tell you about a goal I scored and then we can feel sexy and fool around like we did twenty years ago.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Uncle



My involvement in sports has involved playing and coaching and there's been a big difference in results between the two. As a coach I've always had a lot of success. Coaching the boy's soccer team this summer was my ninth go around as a soccer coach, of the nine I've had only one losing record, five teams won either their league title or their playoff title (two won both) and a sixth, perhaps my favourite of the lot, lost in an epic final to a huge favourite, this after slogging through a brutal playoff run in which there were no easy touches.

As for hockey its been a little less successful but still pretty good. Ten teams. Six had winning records. Two won their playoff championships including one of those losing clubs, probably my favourite team of all time. Four others won tournament titles.



So pretty solid.



As a player though its been a lot more losing than winning. Always has been. As a kid we won the city championship for handball for my grade school as well as the intramural championship in both grades of middle school. This handball was not the European version, this was sort of a hybrid of basketball and hockey where you threw the ball at a hockey goal defended by a guy in full out pads. The ball was small enough that you could palm it. There was a constant on both teams. In grade six and on both of the seven/eight teams, we had a guy who could just bring it. The fellow on our middle school team would end up being one of the best pitchers in the city as a teenager and the fellow in grade six was a guy I've talked about before, he was a hardscrabble kid who was the captain of the only hockey team I've ever been a part of that's won anything, with one exception.

Times have changed because you'd never see this game being played nowadays. Our set play on all of these teams was to get this guy open where he could wind up and just heave it with a clear line to the net. And in both cases what these guys would do early in the game is they would try and hit the goalie in the head. If you were defending and Rick or Lou were able to follow through and you got hit, well, you wouldn't get in the way next time. So you could imagine being the goalie. In the city tournament a goalie got knocked out by a headshot and we had a few guys bloodied even in the intramural games.



Imagine. Anyways this was the highlight of the athletic career pretty well.



So there were those and then in hockey growing up I played for a club which was the Sudbury equivalent of the Broad Street Bullies. I haven't told the story about these guys but it was truly amazing. The first year I played with them we brawled our way to our division title and then beat (and beat up) every team in the city to win the city championship. Two years later we won our division again but fell short in the playoffs. That season was highlighted by a game we forfeited because of a line brawl on our own bench which included a player coming out of the penalty box and attacking the coach. To repeat - a line brawl involving our own club and coaches.



I kid you not. Good times.



All of this happened between when I was twelve and fourteen. Since then its been nothing for the most part, with one exception, again a story for another time. A lot of mediocrity with the odd gust to very good and sometimes a gust the other way. When you get to my age its more about having fun than anything else and Capsule is competitive and we usually win a couple more than we lose and the guys are terrific and that's what its all about although damn I'd love to just once win it all with these guys. That would be awesome.



We play year round and while we're competitive in the winter we also play in a summer league in which we are generally over our heads. Some of our better players don't play in the summer and the competition is stiffer and usually we finish seventh out of eight. Or worse.



And everything got worse two summers ago when the two teams who we could beat usually both had enough and dropped out. So here we are getting older and the two new teams are good, of course, and more kids are in the league, of course. (We had one game where one of our guys knocked a fellow over accidentally and had to defend himself when the guy's son stepped in. Problem is there aren't enough guys the old fellow's age and too many the kid's age.)



So this summer in question was a disaster. We lost every single game. Every single one. The low point was when we had a one goal lead over the defending champs and the faceoff in their end with a minute left and the dman bobbled it and buddy races down to score to tie it up.



And then off of the draw at centre they dump it in, retrieve it and score the winner with twenty seconds left.



Oh yeah.



But mostly we just got pulverized. Game after game we got our brains beat in. One game I was a minus three after two shifts, this playing on a line which is actually very good defensively. We just got killed. It was awful.



It was a disaster. I took last summer off. I couldn't take it. I'm just too competitive, even at my age. And really you play for fun by my age. Getting pounded every night isn't fun.



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The Oilers really really took a beating this past week. It was awful



We knew it was going to be a long season and really there is a big part of me that is just sitting back waiting for that next lottery pick. I figured they would be in the conversation for number one overall and they certainly are and remember folks this is with pretty well a totally healthy club right now. Think about that. It could get a lot lot worse. And right now they are in second last with an Isles' team which has had some bad luck with injuries.



After yesterday's disaster the thread at Lowetide's had a lot of interesting comments. I want to riff on a couple of these, if I may. First of all there was longtime Oilogosphere man RiversQ:



The only thing I really hate about this rebuild is that the Oilers' terrible management is in a can't lose situation.If the team stinks to high heaven, well they meant to do that. If the team manages to be competitive, then they think they're kind of a big deal.That's what is so frustrating.Not only do you have to wait through a painful rebuild, you have to wait until these buffoons fuck it up over the next 2-3 years before any changes happen.



Cam hits the nail on the head here. I think the most frustrating part of this situation is that the guys who have driven this franchise into the ground are still in charge of it. Think about that for a moment. What he is saying isn't new. He's said it before and so have I and so have a lot of people. A couple of months ago I compared it to being in a car and buddy who is driving puts you in the ditch for no reason other than he is a fucking spaz. When you get the car out of the ditch, he isn't getting behind the wheel. Right? If he tries to then you beat him to death or you get your shit and get a ride with the tow truck driver.



This ground has been covered a million times, here and elsewhere, but to sum it up the issue is that neither Lowe nor Tambellini has shown the wherewithal to judge this club properly. In some cases it comes down to individual players - note the obsession with doorstops MacIntyre, Jacques and Strudwick. For the most part the issue though is that they misread or ignore the problems with the club entirely.



In 05/06 the club, an excellent club, almost died because of the lack of competent goaltending. I'm not slagging them for going into the season with what they had but once Conklin was found wanting, which was pretty quickly, they needed to fix it and instead they waited until the last possible moment to do so. It almost cost them a playoff spot.



In 06/07 they dumped Pronger and did not replace him. Now at this point you're running a blueline out that includes three rookies - Greene and Smid and Hejda - and Bergeron. So you either need to bring in some help or you need to move out a bunch of guys who have a lot of cachet coming off of a run to the Stanley Cup final. Lowe does neither and the team dies on the vine. And then he trades Smyth for two prospects and a first rounder. The team crashes and burns. But its a rebuild now, right? They have three first rounders, a second, Smid, Lupul, Nilsson and O'Marra to start with. Plus the aforementioned guys on the blue, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, Thoreson. So some kids to go with a few vets. Lupul doesn't work out so you move him and Smith for Pitkanen. Pretty astute move. Things are looking like we're getting a rebuild and then ....



In 07/08 they try and sign Vanek which would have cost them a boatload of first rounders. They fail and sign Penner instead which costs them draft picks, including a first. They also sign Souray. And they lose Hejda. So what are we doing exactly? Well its a rebuild right because they bring in Gagner and Cogliano and Brodziak and they trade a filler in Tarnstrom for Glencross and the team struggles but its to be expected. They're mostly kids. Its a rebuild, right? RIGHT?



Except they dump Greene and Stoll for Visnovsky. And Thoresen is let go. And then Glencross too. And they trade Pitkanen for Cole.



So five kids out the door in return for two veterans, one of whom will be gone before the end of the season.



Can you see what I am getting at here? I'm like an Oliver Stone movie I'm so subtle.



So lets fast forward to last season because I know I'm boring you. I'm boring myself. Now for the fifth straight year the Oilers are going into a season with an unbalanced lineup. They are too small and soft up front. They have few forwards who can check or PK or win a draw. Their D is full of guys cut from the same cloth but its supposed to be a strength. And their new goaltender is a veteran with a four year contract. Never mind the wisdom of that but here's the rub - if you are rebuilding then why would you sign Khabibulin?



---------



So lets take a step back here because while my end point is that the management of this club is a disaster it needs pointing out that ownership was probably behind a lot of this. EIG didn't want to spend the Pronger money and they didn't want to pay Smyth - my opinion but I think that's reasonable to say. It still comes down on Lowe however that the roster was left so unbalanced.



And Katz wanted to make a splash - thus the whale hunts. Again though it falls on Lowe and Tambellini that there was a failure to fill in the holes that needed filling. Katz wants to spend money and make the playoffs - that's fine. Get a couple of guys who can check because you know what? That might help.



So even if we agree that there are circumstances out there it still comes down to these fuckers Lowe and Tambellini.

-----------------



So last season they were figuring on being a playoff team. Otherwise why get Khabibulin? But why would they think that? And this is the issue I have with these guys. They just haven't a clue.



So last year's club ends up a disaster. Hemsky goes down and so does Souray and Khabibulin and the whole thing turns into a gong show and they luck into the lottery because if healthy the team would have been bad but not historically bad.



And so now, now they decide to rebuild. And of course this is frustrating because is they had started this a few years back then we would have been a few years ahead of the game if everything broke right. Because sometimes it does not break right.



1999 - 1st overall
2000 - 2nd overall
2001 - 1st overall
2002 - 2nd overall
2003 - 8th overall
2004 - 10th overall
2005 - 16th overall
2006 - 12th overall
2007 - traded away for a rental on Tkachuk LOL
2008 - 3rd overall
2009 - 4th overall
2010 - 8th overall



This is Woodguy's list of first round picks for Atlanta from that same thread at LT's. Its a point that has been made before of course. For every Chicago and Pittsburgh and Washington you have an Atlanta or the Islanders. High picks every year don't guarantee you anything if you don't have good management and good luck. Chicago only had one shot at the Cup due to some ridiculous overpays and the RFA offer sheet disaster and they went through the playoffs riding a rookie goalie and almost injury free. The Pens met a Wings' team with Datsyuk, Hossa and Lidstrom all far below one hundred percent. So even the teams that are the gold standard for the tank and rebuild caught some breaks.



Presently the Oilers have ten players on their roster who are first round picks and six of them are top ten picks:



Hemsky - 13
Whitney - 5
Dubnyk - 14
Eberle - 22
Brule - 6
Smid - 9
Cogliano - 25
Paajarvi - 10
Gagner - 6
Hall -1



That's some impressive pedigree right there and most of them are kids in the hockey sense of the word. And yet this team is absolutely brutal.



Some of this is because they are young. Some of it is because some of these guys aren't very good. And some of it is because a lot of the remaining roster is dreck. But point two is the thing - sometimes these guys don't turn out.

Apparently Tambellini decided this summer that he was going to leave nothing to chance when it came to getting a high pick and thus we have guys like Strudwick on this roster. But ... but ... if this is the case then why the pursuit of Malholtra, a guy who would have been a perfect fit.



And then if you recognize the need for a guy like Malholtra and cannot get him then why not go after a reasonable facsimile?



Do you see what I am saying? Even with Tambo making the moves (or not making them I guess) to ensure that this club totally sucks and they get a top pick, he still is trying to have it both ways. A guy like Malholtra would make a difference on this club. Why then were other moves not made to help these guys out?



Because you can't tell me that getting your brains beat out every night is helping these kids. And the problem as we have seen is that when you have a club that gets the shit kicked out of it every night a few things happen. You get little return from the guys on your club so that in the end Joni Pitkanen begets Jim Vandermeer. You have guys put into a position where they cannot succeed and as a result they get their brains beat in night after night and their confidence is shattered. Look at Andrew Cogliano. Look at Tom Gilbert right now, stuck with Strudwick on his other side.



We had a guy on a club I played for years ago, before Capsule, a Dman and he was out of his depth. Terrific guy. One of his brothers played on the team. He was awful. He was out of his league, literally. He was getting eaten alive and a pal of mine was sitting beside me on the bench one game and he turned to me and said that they're just going after him now and it was true and it was awful to see. And his poor partner and the goalie ended up fishing puck after puck out of the net and if you were up front and he was on the ice well you couldn't do a damn thing because you knew as soon as the other team got the puck that it was coming back up his side so the best thing to do was just to dump it in and drop back and load up that side.



Fuck it was terrible.



Anyhow I know its a rebuild but they have to do something because having Paajarvi and Hall spend most of their season chasing the other team around their own zone isn't doing a damn thing for them. And Penner and Hemsky are going to get out as soon as they can, which is soon, and that sets us back two pretty good players that need replacing and then it just keeps on turning like that.



Right now you can point at Smid being an even somehow and Dubnyk having good numbers and Peckham having a nice run and then after that you have Hall and Eberle showing good things and Horcoff rebounding but really the list of good things here is short. And if the losses pile up its going to get shorter.



Dump Strudwick. Bring up Belle or Petoit or Taylor or find someone out there. Get rid of the guy. I'm sure he's terrific and by all accounts he's hilarious but he could be a combination of George Patton and Buster Keaton for all I care. He's fucking terrible.



Play your top four guys, as they were, with each other. Gilbert with Whitney or Smid. Foster with the other. Run Peckham out with Strudwick's replacement (and I don't mean Vandermeer either). The D is terrible. Don't make it worse with the setup now. And for Christ sakes protect the guys who need protecting.



Cobble together two lines that can hold their own. Figure it out and do it. Run Hall out with Horcoff and Hemsky and Penner out with Gagner and Eberle. Or put Paajarvi with Horcoff and Brule with Gagner. Whatever.



And then shelter the third line, whoever they are. Even if it means giving the Fraser line out against tougher opps.



Jesus, some bench management.



Because this is obscene.



Really though I am with Rivers. I think we're having this same conversation four years from now. I don't think Tambo has it. And that, more than the losses, is what's depressing if you're an Oilers' fan.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lost One


I once wrote that in every small town in Canada you will find a hockey arena, a hotel and a war memorial but the truth is that even in the smallest villages of this country you may not find an arena or a hotel but you will find a war memorial.

In Toronto the churches along Bloor and the Danforth that I see daily have memorials to young men long gone. Along the widest avenue there are towering monuments similar to what you see in Edinburgh and London and Glasgow (though not in Dublin). The university has a beautiful memorial and in the fraternity houses there are solemn plaques to commemorate the fallen. In Truro and Sudbury and Fernie, in Charlottetown in the centre of the town at the end of the main street, in tiny wooden rural PEI churches built in the 1800s, overlooking rolling fields of green and the Northumberland Strait, everywhere you go in this country the names of young men are carved into stone or bronze or oak so that we will not forget them.

In Flesherton, a tiny Ontario village, eighty four young men enlisted to fight the Kaiser. Nineteen did not return.

A map of a portion of East York, not far from where I live, places poppies over the addresses of boys slaughtered in France and Belgium. The street names are obscured by a sea of red. Neighbours lost sons and husbands. Some houses have more than one poppy. A bloody sea of grief and horror.

In tiny Goulais River, west of the Soo, perched just before the Highlands of Lake Superior rise out of the granite of the Canadian Shield, there is no hotel and no hockey arena but there's a war monument and there are far more names on it than you would expect for a town perched on what would have been the edge of the world a century ago.

Sometime in the 1880s my great great grandfather, Neil McLean, his wife Margaret and his family of eight children left what had been the family homestead for decades and moved to Kincardine in Bruce County. I have been researching the family for years and for a while there was a massive gap in what I knew. Two of the sons, the oldest, Malcolm, and the youngest, Neil, had appeared in Goulais River soon after but of their parents and their siblings nothing more was to be found.

A few years ago I found that Neil and Margaret were actually buried in Goulais and the picture began to become clearer. Then this past year it came into focus as I discovered census records that showed that actually the entire family but one of the oldest sons, Duncan, had sailed across Lake Huron and settled in Goulais almost immediately after they arrived in Kincardine. After this things become murky again. Of Duncan I have found no trace. One son, John, perished on Superior. His body was never recovered. Two daughters and a son moved west and were still alive when Neil passed away in 1929. The third daughter also disappears from the picture after the turn of the century. Malcolm or Uncle Mac as he was known, lived into his nineties, a relic of times long past that my dad and his siblings remember as a kind and gentle man.

In 1901 there is someone else in the picture in Goulais. a widower, Nicholas McLean, and his son Ivan, a twelve year old. Are they related to our McLeans? Based on family stories the answer is yes but how they are related, I don't know. Nicholas, born in 1853, is almost twenty five years younger than old Neil McLean, the family patriarch. In fact he is almost Malcolm's age, just a few years younger. Perhaps he is a cousin? There are two separate accounts of Ivan being related, one mention of him being a cousin of my grandfather's brother, another of him being my grandfather's uncle. He is definitely not my grandfather's uncle but one thinks that that traditionally we called older friends of family Uncle and Aunt and so I wonder if that is how he was referred to in the McLean family by some.

We know little about Nicholas. Ivan was born on July 5th, 1889 in or around Toronto. In 1891 the baby Ivan and his parents, Nicholas and Jane show up a ways from Toronto, in Grey County. In 1893 another baby, Norman, is born.

We don't know what happened to Jane but in 1901 Nicholas is in Goulais with this oldest son. In 1911 Norman is also in Goulais, living with his father. Ivan, now in his early twenties, is on his own but still in Goulais.

In the history of Goulais River, Valley of Trees and Water, there is a picture taken from around this time. Its some sort of club or service organization, I cannot remember which one. Ivan stands in the back. He is tall for a McLean (and for the time). He has a large, drooping mustache and he looks at the camera seriously. I have not seen the picture in a couple of years but I know that at least one of the other young men in the picture went to France and did not return.

My grandfather was barely a teenager when the armistice was signed and my own father turned thirteen when the war with Hitler ended. They were both the oldest in their families. My grandfather's youngest brother Morley fought in World War Two and his wife Etna served in the WACs in the same war. Other McLean involvement in the wars is a little cloudier. Stories tell of Uncle Mac fighting in both wars (he would have been 82 at the beginning of the second war) and also of Neil the younger fighting in the Great War. I could find no record of Neil McLean in service records of the CEF though and as a father of many in his late thirties I don't think that he enlisted.

One McLean who did go to France was Ivan. His service record tells us a lot about him, although his last name is spelled MacLean. Its the same Ivan McLean though, he has the same birthday and his father is Nicholas.

Ivan was a lumberman by trade and when war broke out he was working in the west apparently. He immediately enlisted in the 31st Battalion and would have shipped out to France very early.

For a record of the exploits of the 31st battalion I would recommend The Journal of Private Fraser, a book I actually owned before discovering Ivan's service record earlier this year. Donald Fraser describes in great detail what the regular infantryman had to endure. Its a terrible tale.

In September of 1916 its the Canadian divisons' turn at the Battle of The Somme. This is before Vimy Ridge and before Arthur Currie turns the Canadian Army into the elite force it would be in the last two years of the war but even in 1916 the Canadians are recognized for their ability in battle.

On September 15th they go over the top and begin the last part of the battle, a battle which they would successfully conclude a month or so later, a battle that cost the British the flower of an entire generation.

On September 15th the artillery does little to dent the German trenches and German rifles and machine guns take a terrible toll, a toll that Fraser describes in detail as he watches his comrades killed around him.

By the end of the first day of the battle the 31st has lost over a quarter of its strength, over two hundred and seventy men. Whereas usually there are a fraction of casualties who are killed, in this battle over half of those casualties are fatal.

One of them is Ivan McLean. His body was never recovered. His name is found on the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge.

On November 11th, remember him and remember all of them.