Monday, September 22, 2008


You see the chain of islands in the picture here that looks like the Royal Navy steaming towards Jutland? If you look very closely you will see a fifth island to the right of the northernmost one. And just to the right of that is our family camp.
In Northern Ontario we call them camps. Down here in Toronto they are called cottages. I went to a cottage in the Muskokas once. Drove up to the house that was in a row of houses. People dropped by constantly, including a couple who were looking for another couple to play tennis with. On the Saturday night we watched Donovan Bailey win the 100 metres in Atlanta. The whole experience was mental, based on my own experience of what camp was. On the other hand, if it were my Dad he would have driven up and then turned the car around and left. Or he would have burned everything down.
My dad's style is in the picture above. Water access only. No electricity, no running water, no phone. Nothing but peace and quiet.
And still it wasn't always enough when we were kids. We would spend every weekend and a good part of the summer up at camp (and we would sled up once or twice during the winter) and Dad would still get antsy. Too many people. Dad isn't a misanthrope but there is something bred into him and all of his family that leads them to seek out isolation. Its the Goulias factor.
The first McLean (in our line) to come to Canada, Neil, born in Scotland in 1834, settled in the Nottawasaga area (Simcoe/Barrie). He married a Bell, Margaret, who was born in Ontario. The area was likely heavily Scottish. The Scots stuck together. And there were Bells and McLeans from the Islay area of Scotland so its likely there was a connection between the families. although we are not certain. We don't know a lot about Neil. One of my uncles thinks he may have actually lived in Edinburgh before he emigrated.
That would explain a lot - a young man jammed into one of the filthy tenements that leaned over the High Street of Edinburgh would have certainly craved space and the freedom to be alone. After fathering eight children, Neil took Margaret and at least two sons to the Bruce peninsula, a fairly typical migration in the late 1800s for many Scots. Things get murky here - we lose track of six of the eight children for a while - but soon after they got to the Bruce they were on the move again, following a man called Frederick Tilley across Lake Huron to just west of the Soo, to a place called Goulais River. So Neil and Margaret and their youngest son, also named Neil, and one other son, Malcolm, arrived in the middle of nowhere.
They are all buried in the Goulais River cemetery, a long way from Edinburgh and Simcoe and from pretty well everywhere else. The Soo would have been nothing more then a village then and Goulais is a half hour away from there on the Trans Canada today. Over a hundred years ago it may as well have been on the moon, especially in winter. But there they are, not far from the land they homesteaded near the mouth of the river. And they are surrounded by their kin, sleeping under those red pine trees. Neil and Maggie lay right at the edge of the cemetery, just on the edge of the woods, as if even now he is taking her by the hand, leading her away from the madding crowd. His sons are not far away and their grandchildren all about. Neil Jr., my great grandfather, like his own father, had a large family, as did many of his children. You can't throw a stone in Northern Ontario without hitting a McLean, especially up by the Soo. My Dad and his generation still remember Uncle Mac who lived into his nineties; their own grandfather, Neil, passed on in 1929, barely into his fifties. His wife's letter to family and friends, a copy of which I have, reflects her grief and the shock at losing someone who died before his time.
But the men and women who sailed across Lake Huron into the middle of nowhere live on in their grandchildren. When I was a boy my Dad's idea of a good time was to bundle us all up and drive as far as the roads would allow. We would then pack up the boat and head out onto a lake which he had selected from a map and finding a secluded beach with shelter from the wind, we would camp.
For weeks. Because our own camp wasn't isolated enough.
Camp has finally opened with a vengeance for the Edmonton Oilers. Already the first cuts have been made and it is becoming clear what this autumn is going to be about - Jeff Drouin Deslauriers and two or three forward spots at the end of the roster.
There are a few things I believe about training camp. A poor showing early does not help but it won't bury you. I remember last fall and how few people were impressed by Cogliano's first showings. As long as you get stronger you can erase that poor first impression.
A strong early showing, on the other hand, can go a long way to getting you a spot on the team, if you can build on it. Two years ago Patrick Thoresen came out of nowhere to get a roster spot when he hit the ground running on day one. Last year it was Kyle Brodziak. Good news for the Oilers is that the kids looking for those final roster spots have impressed for the most part (by what I have read and heard) - the question is who has the staying power?
I think the D is set. Good news is that accounts have Chorney, Peckham and even Plante looking like reasonable prospects. This is great news but the fact that it sounds like already none have stood out as head above everyone else tells me that Smid and Strudwick round out the top seven.
Going with three goalies is stupid so its up to Deslauriers to prove that he can play in the league now. He has to outplay Roli by a wide margin, imo - I really can't see the Oilers putting the season one Garon groin tweak away from it resting entirely on JDD's shoulders.
Right now, all of the drama, as it were, is up front. Eleven spots are set and two or three are open. Jacques' surgery removes one possibility. Here are the rest:
Pouliot - a good start yesterday for a guy who usually starts slowly - should have the inside track but playing on the wing will hurt rather then help - last chance with the organization
Potulny - Potulny is where Nilsson was last season and where Pouliot may be next season but he's not getting the push Robert did - he has a shot but this could be his last one
Brule - good first impression and I get the feeling that they are going to do everything to make this work - MacT comparing him to Peca right off the bat - he may be heading down but he'd be on the short list to come back up
Schremp - like Pouliot this may be his last shot with the Oilers and it sounds like he may get a fourth line role - worse case he's an early callup
Trukhno - apparently a great showing yesterday - could he be this year's surprise?
Lerg - solid camp so far; likely headed down but add him to the list of possible early callups
Six guys. Two or three spots. History tells us that one or two of the last cuts will likely be up within weeks but at least its going to keep the next couple of weeks interesting.
EDIT - Jesus, stupid brain, how much longer can I blame this on having three kids - I wanted to add two more to the list
McDonald - good start to camp and he's guy who might fit a checking role down the road, which is needed - nice words from the organization which means a lot
O'Marra - injuries or what is responsible for this guy's fall from grace? A long way to come back and so far just sounds like a whole lot of meh - like McDonald though the fact that he has size might mean he fits into a checking role if he can perform


Doogie2K said...

My own Robertson ancestors came over about a generation earlier (1820ish), and landed in Lanark County, near Perth. My parents and I made the trek out there around 2005 so Dad could do some genealogical research; it was nice to see a bit of the old family history, though spending a couple of days wandering through cemetaries looking for family was a bit bizarre. I think we might have even gone to look at where their land might have been; I remember going down a dead-end road for a very particular reason, and I assume that was it.

I can't get the JMC highlights to load for whatever reason, so I can only go off LT's post, but it sounds like good tidings for this coming season. Okay, so maybe victimizing a largely AHL defence corps isn't the best demonstration of the Kid Line's potential, but it is September, and I'm sure if MacT can get the changes he wants, they'll have something reasonably close some nights. ;)

Anonymous said...

Your childhood sounds awesome. And your Dad is what i'm tryin to become. I want to go do those kinds of trips as soon as i'm able. Throw in some fishin and huntin, and its as close to paradise as you can get.
As for the Oil, nothing to say there. The Nucks/Oil game is on Sportsnet tonight out in Vancouver. I'm lookin forward to seeing what my boys are lookin like.
Ps. You're lucky to have such detailed history. Mine is clouded and almost lost due to WWII. Took all of the men in my Dad's side, makin me the 2nd oldest to bear the name to this day. That was in Finland though.


namflashback said...

Doogie -- was there live. they dominated veterans and good players too. 24, 10, 77, and 83 all got a GA when they were out there.

doritogrande said...

Some of my oldest memories come from a camp similar to yours. Sure we had water and (some) electricity, but it was boat only access. Little 100 year old cottage in Lake of the Woods, you can actually see the bright yellow boathouse from the Trans Canada in between Kenora and Keewatin.

I remember those damn raccoons you talked so lovingly about two posts below, scurrying across the attic each and every night we slept there. That is, until one of the little bastard pups fell off the high-point of the attic and lodged itself where momma couldn't get to it. My dad had to tear part of the ceiling off one of the bedrooms at about 11PM to get to the mewling little fucker and drown it in the lake.

I remember taking the boat into Kenora on July 1st to watch the fireworks from the harbour, then gunning it like mad to beat the rush back to the boathouse, with my dad staying down by the boat for upwards of 2 hours to make sure the waves from passing-by boats didn't kill the finish.

I remember shitting in an outhouse. And never wanting to make my children do it. Ever.

On the Oilers, Lerg has so far been most impressive to me going back to the events of rookie camp. He's scoring on every type of opponent he faces, be it rookies, college kids or an NHL veteran goalie. I'm backing Brule to make it, always liked the kid. In fact I was clamouring for Tarnstrom to be traded for the little former Giant. Though if he doesn't make it as the 12th F, he should be sent out. He's still too young and needs development time more than he needs to sit.

I want Deslauriers in the NHL to give Dubnyk the starting job in the AHL, but if he's not cut out for it, I'd rather have the 14th F.

In terms of the best player for PB time and not missing out on development, I think Potulny's the ideal candidate. Pouliot, Schremp and Brule are all in the mix for the 12th F job, while the other two will most likely get sent out.

Black Dog said...

dg - I don't mind the outhouse but my wife hates it

Agreed on Potulny being the extra guy for the reason you mentioned. Pouliot is in that boat too, for that matter. Brule, on the other hand, could do with plenty of icetime in the AHL.

Lerg sounds to me like he has been terrific but politics may result in him being in the A to start the season. He does not have to clear waivers, correct?

McDonald will get sent down but a good camp would be nice. O'Marra and Reddox are already done by the sounds of it - neither has impressed.

So early (and it is early) odds are Pouliot, Schremp and Potulny sticking if they go with 14F. Trukhno is the wildcard - sounds like he was impressive on Sunday.

Billy - they were good times for sure - we get our kids up there now and they love it

Doogie - its preseason so its meh but better that they seem to be confident and fit then not

Scott said...

This writing is awesome. This post, the one before and the many before that. Sharing parts of your life with the on-lne Oiler Fan community so eloquently is much appreciated.

Thank you.

As for the Oilers, it looks to me a whole lot like Schremp and Pouliot are the two guys making the team. I haven't heard much about Potulny, which, in his situation is probably a bad sign. Trukhno impressed on Sunday, but when MacT was talking about him he spoke almost exclusively about the guy needing to work on his reaction time at the NHL level. He had a great opportunity to praise and instead he mentioned what needs work. The guy is getting sent down. Lerg and Brule will need to show something, but they should get at least a couple of games to do it.

doritogrande said...


RE: Lerg. Politics be damned. If he can show up and be the next Electric Norseman let him. The last two camps have had this guy step up and be counted. In 06 it was the aforementioned Thoresen who continued to shoot lights out as a rookie coming in. Last year Gagner turned the trick.

Don't get me wrong. If Lerg proves me right and goes straight shot to the NHL I'll be surprised, but management has shown that there's always a spot open for the kid that takes on all comers and comes out on top.

As for the waiver deal, he's waiver exempt from my understanding, because this year is the first on his entry-level deal, which given the age at which he signed I believe to be a two-year contract.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Scott.

Interesting note on MacT - thanks for that.

I can see it playing out the way you see it - Pouliot and Schremp making the club. Better for Brule to get plenty of ice in Springfield then sit in the PB and Schremp has apparently improved enough that they may want to reward that. As for Potulny, I think he gets the 14th spot. So far he has not done much but I think he fits in that spot.

Black Dog said...

dg - I agree with you - don't forget Brodziak's emergence last year - he came out of nowhere as well.

If there is not much to choose between Schremp and Lerg though I thnk they go with Schremp. It may only be for a few weeks but I have a feeling they want him to break camp with the club. They are giving him every opportunity, that's for sure.

I could be completely wrong though.