Two of them were in their early twenties, the third about five years older. Terrific guys, all three of them, and they spent their time in Canada with the enthusiasm particular to young folks. Every night and weekend was spent doing something.
Of course I misspeak because when I was in Dublin in February of last year every moment not at work was also spent out and about. So never mind that earlier comment.
They did some touristy stuff and they did a lot of things that I have not done here in twenty years, kayaking in Lake Ontario, for example. They went out nearly every night and they went to the Falls and they did hot yoga. They came to my place for supper twice and afterwards we went to The Communist Bar for pints. On June 17th they arrived at Paupers (by the time they arrived the Oilers had the game well in hand) and when the joyous crowd roared they roared with us and afterwards we poured out into the warm night and down to the Cloak and Dagger and later into Parkdale until there wasn’t much left to us but sweaty grins after all the pints we drank.
They got to experience Toronto the way any city should be experienced, hand in hand with the locals. I was talking to a neighbour a few months ago about travelling and I compared it to an onion. The first time you go somewhere you’re seeing the outer layer. When you return a second time then you delve a little deeper and so it goes, you peel back a layer and each time you find something new and a little more interesting.
Certainly my trips to Dublin have followed this pattern. My first trip my wife and I went to the museums and the art galleries and the historical places of note. We walked about the southern side of the Liffey and we went to the Brazen Head and a few other famous pubs. We had a fine time but of course we had just scratched the surface. My second time there I stayed with one of the lads and saw fair Dublin from another side. Old dark pubs and a trip to Howth, dinners and roaming back streets and crooked alleys and drunken nights out with the Irish and a packed pub cheering on the national side in a Six Nations match at Croke Park and many hours on both sides of the Liffey just doing a wander.
A trip to remember.
Once again though I need to apologize because the whole onion comparison really makes no sense. Its not like once you have peeled back each layer of an onion, once you find the core, that you will find something delightful, like Liz Phair or a sandwich or a clitoris or a pint of stout.
You’re just going to find more onion.
Yet one of the lads found that core, the Canadian experience, something that he likely shares with, I would say, maybe a dozen of his countrymen, if that.
Now I was skeptical given his pedigree and I certainly did not want his blood on my hands but I told him that I would check and the guy who runs our team said that he would be fine if he came out and dressed and skated around with us in the warmup. If he could actually skate then he might get a shift or two but he’d likely be parked on the bench.
Kev said he was alright with this and so I arranged for one of the guys who was going to be out of town to get me his equipment and we were all set.
We went to Bill Bolton on the Tuesday evening, this is a tiny little arena surrounded by a neighbourhood just north of Bloor Street, you park on the street, its tucked away amongst the century old brick homes and the gigantic trees. The arena is generally the temperature that it is outside and that night it was warm, as it was most of that June. The Irishman opened the bag in the tiny dressing room and stared for he had not the foggiest idea as to where he should start and so we instructed him on how to dress himself. As gametime approached it soon became clear that we were going to be short guys, that with the Dubliner we would have nine skaters, enough for two lines and three blueliners. As we heard the Zamboni rumble on its rounds our captain looked over.
Well, he said, if you can skate at all then you’re going to get to play half the game.
And when we got onto the ice it became clear that he could skate a little. And so away he went.
Luckily the team we were playing was quality but not over the top. It was a reasonable game, we lost five to two I believe, something like that and Kev did alright once he figured out where to line up on faceoffs (his first draw he was out for he was on the wrong side of the dot) and what an offside was (the first time one of our guys headed up ice with the puck he charged ahead of him excitedly, making a beeline for the net). We were killing ourselves laughing but the refs and the opposing squad were trying to figure out where we got the grown man who was playing like he had just joined the local Tykes team.
In the end he survived and he even got an assist, pushing the puck to one of our lads who stepped over the blueline and fired a shot that their goalie badly misplayed. Afterwards, as we peeled off our gear, he thanked all of us and remarked on how incredibly fit we were, that he was dying on his feet. Considering that he was 22 and was one of the fittest people I have ever seen and that we were who we were we all got a kick out of that.
And over pints afterwards in the pub around the corner from the rink he thanked me for one of the best times that he had ever had and what was, for him, the highlight of his trip here.