Sunday, October 26, 2008


These are my folks having a dance at our family reunion up in Goulais last summer. A couple of months after this picture was taken they tackled Lake Superior for the last time.

Mom and Dad are both Northerners through and through. Born there and they have lived their whole lives there - in Sudbury and the Soo, Timmins and North Bay, Wawa and Elliott Lake, where they met. Dad grew up in a railway town called Franz. His Dad was a railway mechanic for the ACR and Franz was a tiny town stranded in the middle of the Canadian Shield along the railroad. Franz is a ghost town now but over sixty years ago my grandfather and grandmother raised five boys and a girl there.

Northern Ontario is as different from Southern Ontario as Newfoundland is. Endless forests of spruce and pine, countless cold lakes teeming with pickerel and trout, the granite of the Shield under a summer night sky brilliant with a million stars. Towering snowbanks and back breaking cold in winter. Even the soft people up north are tough and hardy.

Not long after they got married Mom and Dad began to take their boat trips. Sometimes to obscure lakes hidden at the end of an old cordorouy logging road. Sometimes to the bigger wellknown lakes like Nipissing and Temagami. As they got older the boats got bigger until Dad finally got his dream boat - Burgundy Belle, a twenty one foot Cadorette - when he was in his fifties.

The boat meant trips on the Trent Severn and Simcoe and the grandest lake of them all, Superior, because, with care and sense, its the type of boat that can handle that big water.

Dad is seventy six now. He's slowing down a little although you wouldn't peg him for anymore then sixty really. Every year he wonders if it will be his last with his boat. Mom can't help him much with it when it comes to getting it in and out of the water and soon it will be too much for him. But he figures as long as he can he will keep it. He gets far too much joy out of it to say goodbye to it.

So last summer they decided to take one last crack at Superior. The trip was a comedy of errors from the beginning. Police, dead rodents, a split axel, a night marooned on an island in a rainstorm with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a smashed propeller, two days trapped in a tiny cove as Superior raged ... in two weeks I may tell the tale if this Oilers' roadtrip goes as poorly as it might. For now though I just want to tallk about the end of it.

The trip had been a tough one and it finally got to the point where they were anchored in a cove waiting out a storm. For two days straight they were stuck on the boat until finally the weather broke slightly and they decided to make a break for it. Dad's been on Superior many times and he knows the lake well. He also knows what he and his boat are capable of and he knew that they could get back to the port.

Dad's a little guy but he's all sinew and wire, massive hands and old man strength. He steered that boat along the north shore of Superior, up and down, in and out the swells. There's no beaches up that way, just cliffs and shoals, no margin for error. And Dad brought it home. A few months later over dinner and wine Mom and Dad laughed about it but there was no doubting it was a close call and it was the last trip they'll make that way. But Mom said admiringly "Your Dad's a great captain, no panic in him, he just took us home."


The Oilers are four and three now and a win tomorrow night against Boston would be nice before they go on this long roadtrip. We all knew the beginning of the schedule was a tough one for this club and four and three is a decent beginning. As always there is plenty of gnashing of teeth with three straight losses but the reality is the team is playing pretty well. They beat Colorado when they did not deserve it but by my eye they were value for the next three wins. A bad first against the Ducks and in the second game against the Flames but overall they may have gotten a few breaks but nothing ridiculous. The Chicago game was a disaster but they could have had better results against both the Avs and the Canucks. The first two Avs goals were the results of terrible bounces and last night saw the Oilers outchance the Canucks in the first two periods. Some Luongo and a couple of posts did them in.

So really they are where they should be and that's not bad considering the kids, for the most part, have looked like kids, they seem to be missing a key guy or two every game and they're still trying to figure out who fits where. A few quick thoughts:

- Hemsky began to wake up against the Avs; he will be fine and so will Horcoff

- Cole looked terrific last night back on the RW; he may get with the kids or stick on the "third" line but he has to play the RW, he looked the different player

- Pouliot should get a shot playing with a couple of vets on a full time basis

- Brodziak needs a couple of real wingers or at the least he and Stortini need a real LW, they miss Glencross and this team misses having a legit fourth line that can eat minutes and take it to the other team

- first unit PP is too static - its perimeter play trying to set up Souray and its terrible

- when Pisani comes back I would move him to play with Gagner and Cogliano and I would drop Penner to the fourth line - I don't like Penner's game at all and he just doesn't seem to fit anywhere, he needs to wake up

- goaltending has been shoddy, except for the second Calgary game they have had a softy a game since JDD's start

Finally Staios' return helps and I (maybe I'm the only one) think Gilbert has been getting better but this team needs a defenceman like my Dad on Superior. A calm veteran influence who can steer them through the rough waters. A guy who can eat up a ton of minutes at ES and on the PK. A guy who can play with Visnovsky and shut down the other team's top players. A guy like Duncan Keith or Ohlund, Bouwmeester or Willie Mitchell. This isn't news, of course, but its clearly the case. Someone with calm feet, calm hands and a calm head.


A quick weird note on the magic of the internet - the guy I talked about in this post actually had a buddy who read it, told him about it and he tracked me down. Maybe a pint or two in the future to talk about old times.


grease trap said...

Christ, now you're just showing off...


Showerhead said...

basically, someone in the vein of this guy.

Billy said...

Sailin would be something that I want to experience. We've chatted about the idea of buyin a boat and chuggin up and down the coast here some summer. I guess its something for the future, and I only hope I never have to steer home through some pacific nastiness.
As for last night. Vancouver didnt play well overall. Both teams looked a little shabby I thought, but the Nucks buried there chances and that was that. Gagner scoring on the PS would have had a huge impact, but instead he made it easy for Lou.
Cole was the best Oiler I thought, and havin him gone after 30 was great for us.
I'm still not sure what we have in this years Canucks. They look dangerous offensively and terrible defensively. Opposite of what everyone was callin for. Kesler however is really startin to play, and Raymond will just get better and better. If we land Sundin (which is a real possibility again), that should put us over the top.

As for Garon, I am not sold that he is #1 material, and with Roli done, i'm thinkin Tambellini HAS to be lookin already for other options. I dont think the Oilers can afford to go another year without actively pullin out all the stops to win.

d-lee said...

That's a terrific story about your dad. You should write a fully detailed account of that last trip.

About Cole. I've only watched the Oilers twice this season, and I'm excited that they'll be here on November 1. Cole is much much better on the right wing. He can play LW in a pinch, but he's much more comfortable on the right. I thought it was a tremendous mistake for MacT to start him out on the left. Good move.
I'll look forward to seeing Colesy and the rest of your boys on Saturday.

Swabbubba said...

nice story about your Dad... Have to agree with your assessment of the Oilers. It is really to early to be ripping it a apart. I am skipping the Boston PPV for soccer. I hope they continue to turn it around I see glimmers of good stuff we just need 60 solid minutes of execution. Not the 30 or less we have been getting

Black Dog said...

swabbubba - well that is the thing too, of course - its too early to panic but it would be nice to see a full effort put in - this team is a little loosey goosey for my liking - MacT would be best off to clamp down I think

Mr Lee - a pleasure to hear from you - Cole was terrific until he got thrown out Saturday night - I like the guy a lot and why you would trade Pitkanen for him and then play him out of position makes little sense to me

If this road trip goes poorly then there will be a full out tale of that trip - it would be a perfect metaphor

Black Dog said...

showerhead - yeah someone like that guy or that Jan Hejda guy would do - I think poor Gator may be almost done though

billy - the Oilers did have a lot of chances Saturday but imo the Canucks should play that wide open style - they seem to have some speed and they have the guy who can bail them out

Kesler is a fucking beauty.

Scott said...

Well, that was another narrative once again brought around to the Oilers. I, of course, agree with your assessment about the need for another man on the blue. I'm also very pleased with your promise of a nice long story should the Oilers have an epic failure on the road. It feels like a win-win situation now.

Jeff J said...

A story from my sister-in-law:
When they were living in T.O. several years ago, my brother and his girlfriend (who's now his wife) went on a weekend camping trip up in cottage country. Due to a combination of wet weather and boy scout skills that had eroded over time, he just couldn't get a fire started. A fellow camping at a nearby site noticed their distress and walked over. He was young - probably still in high school.
"Need help?"
"Nah, this wood's just too wet..."
"I'm from the North Woods. Leave this to me."
He took all of their birch wood, stripped off the bark and set it aside. Then he took every stick of wood they had and stacked it up into a haphazard pile. He crumpled the birch bark into a ball, stuffed it into a crevasse at the bottom of the wood pile, then lit it with his zippo.
He pointed his finger at my brother and said, "Now you leave that alone," and he walked away. Within minutes they had a raging bonfire.

word verification: "upshide"

doritogrande said...

Florida's got some fantastic defensive options, and the additions of Ballard, Boynton and McCabe may allow us to look there for a defenseman. Boumeester has said countless times he doesn't want to play here, so the chances aren't good we could get him with a long-term contract. He'd also cost us way too much in terms of assets going the other way.

The guy I want knows how to play in the NW, still relatively young, signed long-term and has survived the tough sledding for years. He could probably be had for a package of prospects or straight up for an Andrew Cogliano.

My choice? Bryan Allen.

Black Dog said...

jeff j. - great stuff - I'm afraid that whereas I may have once been the guy who could make a fire out of chewing gum, dirt and fiddleheads now I would be the poor sap from the city

dg - well, first off I'm a guy who doesn't believe in giving up Cogliano at all and I know you have to give up soemething to get something - I just think the kid is special

yeah Bouwmeester is a pipedream

Allen is a possibility for sure though - I wonder what it would take to get a guy like that - he is the type of guy this club needs - other examples - Markov and Komisarek, Volchenkov, Phillips - problem is none of these guys is going anywhere

I think Gilbert and Grebs might be that type of guy at some point, maybe even Smid

But the waiting is the hardest part, to quote T. Petty

Bruce said...

BDHS: Beautiful story.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed that, nice. "Your Dad's a great captain, no panic in him, he just took us home." Actually I enjoy all your stories. And yes, don't underestimate old man power! Also I'm not so sure my mother would've fared as well either (bless her, she's wonderful in her own way).
And that word verification "upshide" would make a great word I think.

Bruce said...

"Upshide": drunk for "upside the head".

Anonymous said...

"upshide": player finally getting his game together
e.g. "since returning from being sent down, Nilsson has been on the upshide"