Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Na na na na na na , when you're hot you're hot.
I first heard this song on HNIC the Saturday after Sittler scored ten points. They rolled a montage of his awesome night while Jerry Reed sang.
And for weeks after when we were at the rink or on the road or in the schoolyard and one of us was having a great game we'd sing it.
Last week we played our last game of shinny before the summer. This past season was a weird one for me. I had a really good year. I'm slowing down but I've learned to get around that with guile and positioning and guts and as a result I hung in there and did a pretty nice job. Except for one minor detail. After I scored three goals in our first two games, within about fifteen hours of each other, I went without a goal for the rest of the year. I had a breakaway goal waved off for no reason, I hit a post or two, I got robbed a couple of times. I wear #28 and like Patrick Thoresen I was doing everything out there but that one teensy little detail.
I'm no goal scorer but this was the worst one for me. I always get a few that bounce off of something.
So we had shinny organized a few times before the summer season started and I began to get my legs and last week I played what may have been the bext game of my life, except for it was, um, shinny.
I was weaving in and out of traffic, looking guys off (I never fucking do that shit) and twice threw the puck into the goalie's skates from a weird angle, on purpose, catching him off guard, scoring once. (Yes I am a sad little man but I can tell you about actual games I played years ago in beer leagues, right down to specific plays. Case in point to follow. *)
And right near the end of the hour I gathered the puck up in the slot and charged up the ice, stickhandling around a guy and crossing the blueline at full tilt (pretty slow really) with two pretty good defencemen between me and the net. So I went right up the gut and as I twisted by them one of them got his stick on me and as I lost my balance, veering to the right, I shot the puck as I fell and it went top shelf.
I was tempted, as I slid on my arse into the boards, to hang them up right there.
We started summer season tonight. Its a bastard of a league but I think we are going to be competitive. We have added two guys who can play, one on the blue who is likely our best defenceman based on how he played tonight, and a guy up front with nice hands. He potted one and I got the other, puck in the slot and top corner. My passes were crisp and hard and I almost set up another with the old bounce it off the back of the net and spin away from the D move that Gretzky used to do.
I have never ever even attempted that. And it worked.
I have a good feeling about this season.
* October 26th 2007 playing the Bombers, our arch rivals, we won 2-1. I set up both goals. First one I was in the corner and fired a pass into the slot right onto Dave Dobson's stick for an easy tap in. On the winner I had curled back to the point to cover for a Dman who had pinched and the puck came back to me. I moved to the centre of the ice along the blue and as their goalie came out to challenge I rifled a pass to Leo Magnetta who had snuck just a foot behind him and deflected it into the open net.
Beauty game. Of course I also remember that one because after a couple of pints at the Communist Bar I came home, had a couple more and proceeded to put one top shelf, after weaving through the whole team. Nine months later my second daughter was born.
Na na na na na, when you're hot you're hot!
Seven and One on the first round predictions - I only fell short with Anaheim although I did predict that one had possibilities. Second round and musings on who to cheer for when your club is out coming right up.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Actually Dad doesn’t mind the big fellow. We has a couple of dogs growing up and he wasn’t much of a fan, mostly because of the barking really. Although he actually mourned the first one, who passed at the age of twelve, he barely tolerated the second, quite likely because this one probably freaked him out a little. Probably I'm projecting, I don't think anything freaks out my old man. This dog though - he freaked me out. He did not age gracefully. His mouth became a foul hole as he aged so before he entered the room you could smell his approach. He was hit by a car and as a result ended up blind in one eye. (I used to bring my hand around to the front of his face around the blind side; it always made him jump.) He had a skin condition and his hearing failed (I’d clap my hands right beside his head and he would cock his noggin just a little at the faint echo) and by the end he was a shambling wreck but he wasn’t in any pain (so it seemed) and my mom delighted in him and so he lived to be fifteen, despite looking like something that had dug itself out of the Pet Semetary.
As for the big fellow, well my wife has never been a fan and when I first mused about buying a puppy almost twelve years ago she opined that she did not think it was a good idea. Considering that we had been going out for around two months at the time and also the fact that I am who I am, I ignored her. I still remember the look on her face when she came over to my apartment and found me sitting on the step watching the little guy wrestle a dandelion.
She did not mind him too much in our younger days and for the most part she tolerates him these days except for one major problem – the fur. Everytime a black tumbleweed carries the boy off into another room she rages about how she can’t take it anymore. My reply, these days at least, is that he’ll be dead soon enough. She retorts that I have been saying this for two years now.
He is going to be twelve in August and he is slowing down. Last winter I came downstairs and he rose up to greet me and could not get any purchase for what seemed like hours until he finally found his footing. I went into the basement, leaned against the beer fridge and cried my eyes out.
That was fifteen months ago now and while he has slowed down somewhat since that January morning there have been no other episodes like that. He has lived to see another baby born and this one may love him most of all. This morning she knew he was lurking and tossed a good part of her breakfast his way and when he ambles over to the exersaucer to give her a kiss she opens her mouth wide.
Its quite disgusting really. We had company the other day and as our dog made out with our baby my wife went bananas.
He just had his mouth on his ass and now he is licking our baby’s mouth!
One concession I have had to make to his age (and my own) is his rare bath time. When we lived in Florida it was a run down to Tampa Bay and since we moved back to the good country the summers have meant random lakes to clean the stink off of him. It’s the rest of the year that brings problems. We used to have a fair size laundry tub that I would heave him into but that exercise was leading me to a wrenched back for sure, lifting an unwilling seventy five pound mutt up four feet and wrestling him into soapy water. And when the tub was replaced by one just a little smaller the decision was made for me.
I officially became someone who has too much money for their own damn good as I began to bring him to ‘Wash your own’ facilities, with ramps for him to walk up into a tub, shampoo, towels, blowdryer and apron, all for the 20 bucks.
Its worth it, believe you me.
Now when my wife was out east recently it soon became apparent that the time was nigh. Walking into the house meant hitting a wall of stink as six to seven months of not being washed plus multiple rolls each day in the spring dirt of our backyard was adding up to a vortex of death. Throw in the fact that I was indiscriminately feeding him pasta and casseroles and we’re talking one seriously ripe canine.
So my folks are helping out with the kids when my wife is away and I mention that I’m going to get the dog washed the next night.
Mom: Oh Patrick, you’re not going to try and lift him into that tub are you? You’ll hurt your back.
Me: No, I’ll just bring him to that shop up on the Danforth. They have a tub there. Twenty bucks and he’s cleaned, dried and they take care of the mess.
Dad: Twenty bucks. (Dad was born in 1932)
Dad: Do you drop him off? (Dad grew up during the great Depression and World War Two.)
Me: No, I wash him.
Dad: You pay them twenty bucks to wash him yourself. (Dad throws nickels around like manhole covers.)
Me: Um, yeah.
Dad (pause as he thinks): You know son, twenty bucks would buy an awful lot of bullets. (Looks at dog meaningfully)
Sunday, April 19, 2009
First of all luck does play a huge part. Anyone who has watched the Hawks and Flames series, a terrific terrific tilt, can see that the Flames have really played a lot better then most expected and with a break or two the series could actually be two up in their favour. There is not a lot to choose between these clubs and yet so much of the narrative for these franchises, items that will be taken as lore in years to come, is being written right now. Of course the Flames could come back and win two quickly and put everything back to square one but if things go as they have then years from now there will be talk of how a Hawks powerhouse (if it so happens) was first built in the crucible of their first playoff matchup, this one. The Flames window will have closed and there will be talk of how Sutter rolled the dice and failed miserably. If Jokinen does not produce then his reputation will shrink further, though by my eye he has been just fine thus far. Meanwhile Jonathan Toews is already being elevated to Iginla like status.
Reputations are made and broken in the playoffs and people like Pierre Maguire propagate them loudly. Maguire was the guy who was entirely contemptuous of Hossa’s playoff record last spring before his nice run with the Penguins when in reality his performance in the postseason had been solid with gusts to excellent. Anyone listening to Maguire’s shouting early in both of these games would have thought that the Flames were taking the Hawks to the woodshed repeatedly but while the Flames’ physical play was effective, though unsustainable, the young Hawks have acquitted themselves admirably, hanging in there, taking the punishment and, in coming back in both games, have demonstrated that they are ready for the big stage.
So much for youth being unable to get it done in the playoffs (although if the Flames come back watch for this to be trotted out as the main reason for Chicago’s failure.)
Although Khabibulin’s performance has not hurt. And Kiprusoff, while good, looked bad on Barker’s goal in G1 at least. And of course all things being equal, in the end, goaltending trumps all. It is true in this series and its true in Washington where Theodore was poor in G1 and Lundqvist has been sublime. The Bruins are the better team but Carey Price’s mistakes are killing any chance that his club has. He was weak on a goal in G1 when the Habs traded punches with Boston quite well and he was iffy again Saturday night when by all appearances he may have to be perfect to give Montreal, sorely missing Markov, any chance at all.
Boston looks for real though, don’t they? Thomas is solid and they are deep up and down the lineup especially up front where Phil Kessel is a cautionary tale on the fact that young players take time to develop and Marc Savard and Chuck Kobasew prove the same and Michael Ryder shows that sometimes a guy just might have an off year.
The rest of the East really looks unimpressive except for the Pens who are handling Philadelphia pretty well. The Devils have faltered already and the loss of Langenbrunner is going to hurt them a lot, I think. And the Caps have been done in by goaltending, the Rangers and their own. But Boston might be able to hang with whoever comes out of the west.
Out west things can turn on a dime and the Sharks are already hearing whispers about playoff failures past after one loss. They were unlucky but Thornton did not have a shot until a minute left in G1 or some damn thing and one would think he might get a little more done. Another playoff failure for San Jose and it will be some of the players who get moved along this time. I figured Anaheim to be a tough out although I stopped short of predicting an upset. Probably a long tough haul for the Sharks though.
St. Louis has looked good but the Canucks have been better. Tonight will be where the tale is told, as it will be in so many of these series heading to game three. If the Blues can win, and they might, then it could go a while, but I think the Canucks are built for a long run and with Luongo playing like he can it essentially means that they can win any game that they play.
And Detroit looks like they are going to just brush aside the Jackets. We’ll see if things change when they get back to Ohio (*high in the middle and round on both ends, hyuk hyuk hyuk) but I don’t see it. Really really early to say this but if the Sharks go out then the Wings will have a nice road to the Conference finals.
So they’re about to drop the puck in Philly and in twelve hours from now half of what I have written may be out the window. That’s the playoffs though. Good stuff.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It was around fourteen months into it when she announced to me, out of the blue, that she was done with it and I was thrown onto the rocks. I wandered the streets at night wracked with anguish and friends were astounded by sudden outbursts of absolute heartwrenching grief. I called my folks and spoke to my Mom and broke down.
A few days later my parents called to check up on me. They were each on a phone, calling to lend me support. The conversation went something like this:
Mom : How are you? Are you better? We’re just calling to check in on you.
Me: (Barely choking it out) Oh, I’m ok.
Dad: You do realize that there are plenty of fish in the sea right, son? You have heard of that expression? I think it applies here.
Mom: Jesus Murphy Jack, that’s not helping.
Me: But … but, I love her. I …
Dad: Son, do you know when you’re walking on a beach do you realize that there are millions and millions of grains of sand under your feet. Millions of them. Do you get my drift here?
Dad: Or say the beach is up by Goulais. You look out and you see the north shore and there are trees stretching as far as the eye can see. Millions of trees all of the way up to the tundra.
Mom: Jesus Murphy, Jack.
Dad: Son, have you ever kicked over an anthill? And all of the ants come streaming out of the hill into the hot hot sunlight ….
About a week later I had a small soiree at a little sublet I had for the summer out at Ossington and Bloor. There was a little deck out back of the second floor apartment and from it you could see downtown through the haze. My friends came out in force that day and we drank beer in the hot sun and laughed a lot and I forgot my problems and then a few hours in (midafternoon) the girl from Rawlins Cross dropped by and we talked and I made my case and that night after everyone had gone I heard a knock at the door and there she was and we were back just like that. Drunken sweaty make up sex that night.
It was temporary of course and seven months later things had really begun to slide and it was apparent that her heart was not in it and by that time mine was not either. Just after New Year’s I walked away but it was really mutual, I just took the step that she didn’t have the heart to. It was sad and on my part there was bitterness but I knew that it was time and that it was the right and only thing to do. A month later I was landing at Charlottetown Airport.
MacT is gone and there are a few people a lot smarter then me questioning this and I really don’t understand why. Lets begin with what I believe.
1/ The fault behind the last three years and what this team has become is primarily Kevin Lowe’s. From botching the Pronger and Smyth situations to the Penner offer sheet to letting cheap outperformers like Hejda and Glencross walk to letting the team leave training camp incomplete each year, Lowe’s fingerprints are all over the mess that this club is in today. He should have been forced to walk the plank yesterday along with MacT.
2/ Expectations for this club this season were unrealistic, to a point. The idea that a nice run last spring and a record heavily augmented by shootout wins would lead to a contender was off base. Realistic expectations for the club would have been to contend for the playoffs, which they did.
3/ MacT is a good coach. He will have another job in the NHL, as soon as next season if he likes.
4/ MacT did not do a good job coaching this club this season and while there is a lot of blame to go around the fact is that there are a lot of unbalanced or young or injury riddled (far worse then the Oilers) clubs that did better then Edmonton this year and a lot of this can be laid at the feet of the coach. Saying that MacTavish could not have gotten this team into the playoffs is ignoring a whole lot of evidence that he certainly did not do a lot to help them, that’s for sure.
Start with the things we know a coach controls, the special teams. The PP, which cost the Oilers the Cup in 2006, remains abysmal, regardless of the personnel that are sent out there. Its static and predictable and in its best year under MacT it was average. The PK, after three very nice years, floundered this season. Part of this can be laid at the loss of Stoll, Reasoner and Greene but a lot can be put down to the lack of downice pressure, the use of the wrong players in the role, the sudden inexplicable refusal to block shots.
From there we can look at the misuse of players. Early in the year MacT made my Spidey sense tingle when he said that Pouliot had to find himself a role on the team. Contrast that with what Jonathan Toews said recently about Quenneville, as quoted in a thread at LT’s, and how the new Hawks’ coach made sure to define for each player what their role on the club was to be and what was to be expected of them. The same has been said about Ted Nolan. He tells each player what expectations there are for each and what they have to do. I would guess that if you talked to guys playing for Andy Murray or Ken Hitchcock you would get the same response. The idea that a guy has to find his role or might get moved helter skelter around the lineup is ridiculous to me.
You see, its like Lowe. One mistake can be rationalized or it can be said simply that it is one mistake.
Two or three are a little less easily explained.
A mess of them means that you have a mess.
And finally there is the whole idea of the room being lost and whether or not that actually carries any weight, the idea of guys not playing hard in response to their coach.
I think that anyone who watched the Oilers this year knows that this club came out flat more often then not, that in game after game there was a decided lack of interest shown in playing hard, not just by one but by many players. In many crucial games the team did not compete at all. Players like Cole, a terrific professional with a long record of success in this league, looked lost out there, never mind so many of the kids. And team wide so very few players had decent years, much less improved.
And then you see a team like St. Louis, injury riddled, full of kids, sent their starting goalie to the minors, roar from last in the conference to sixth place.
And of course the final argument, that MacT should stay because changing coaches might not have an effect, might make things worse.
Could they get worse? I guess so though I wonder how having player after player, kids and veterans, struggle through another year of bland static hockey, having successful players arrive in Edmonton and lose their way, only to find it again when they leave, of having a coach unable to get the most out of the players given him, flawed as they may be, when that is his job, his only job really, is something that we, as fans, should accept.
MacT is a good coach. He did not have a good year. I would bet almost anything that if Andy Murray or Ken Hitchcock were coaching this team they would be playing tonight.
That is all. It was time for him to go and while things might slide sideways the fact is the mountainside was already crumbling. Standing by and watching another year pass us by while the puck got sent back to Souray on the PP again would have made me just sick.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Monday, April 06, 2009
Friday, April 03, 2009
On Monday my wife will have been gone for three weeks and we're hanging in there but really I'm starting to get a little punchy. Buddy of mine came over tonight with one of his kids and we had some pizza and while I was talking to him I realized that I'm a just about at the tipping point. Work has been mental and while the kids have been great the lack of adult conversation, confinement to my house almost 24/7 and the whole single parent thing has me drinking more then I should. Once the kids are in bed its beer, work, hockey and porn. Whatever gets you through the night, yeah?
And strange days all around. The other day I had a little pull into a cup and brought it to the lab to check if I was sterilized (better damn well have been!) and bring it in there and its a little place and there are three young employees just hanging around with nothing better to do but watch this old man bring in his dead.
'So then, you already have your specimen'
'Yes, yes, here is my cup of cum'
'Wonderful, when did you cum into that cup?'
'Um, two hours ago.'
It went something like that. Jesus.
So here I sit, drinking my Sgt. Major IPA, courtesy of Scotch Irish Brewing of Carleton Place Ontario. I actually once dated a girl from there. Tiny little town outside of Ottawa. Terrific beer and their Porter and Session Ales are great too. Highly recommended. Totally getting into the IPAs these days. Always been a big Stout guy but the IPAs are coming up fast.
As an aside my folks were up for over a week to help us through the present crisis. Dad is going to be 77 in a couple of months. The Colonel I once called him because of his uncanny resemblance to one Harry Morgan, remember him? To know Dad is to love him. Anyways he always stops with drinking from New Years until Easter and so he was dry when they were down here which was good because someone had to stay sober to keep the kids from lighting the old dog on fire. Poor old dog. I've been working from home for a week and a half and he's just laying around being old, stinking up the place (bath tomorrow) and worst of all he's eaten something that's haunting us now. The house reeks of him. Anyways he's old, poor guy. I bought him a squeaky toy and its been so long since he's had any attention that he hasn't the first foggiest of what to do with it. And after supper tonight I threw him a pizza crust and this guy used to be Ozzie Smith when it came to catching anything in his mouth and strangely enough here he booted it. So I threw him another and again he snapped at it and it just whizzed by him. So I turned to my buddy and said 'I don't like the looks of this' and tossed him a third and caught him right between the eyes. Poor bugger.
So if the kids wanted to tie him up and light him up they certainly could I'm afraid.
So Dad was here and I cracked a Sgt. Major and he took a break from his regular scheduled programming (weather) and told me about a guy he knew back in mining school, some Finlander, and like all of them (they were Northerners and in their early 20s) buddy with the vowels and ns and ms in his name was a big drinker and what did they call him? Ipaaaaaa.
Now this is all apropos of nothing but I figured that would bring a smile to your face and damn it, we need one, no? The one thing about these tough weeks for me is that the whole Oilers' collapse is really not as dramatic as many would make it.
Its too bad really because MacT is a good man, I think. He is certainly thoughtful and articulate and he is a pretty good coach, I think. He was given a flawed team again this year but the realityis that he has really had a poor poor year behind the bench. I'm not talking about the stick measurement the other night. Just a whole lot of bad choices and of course the disastrous special teams and it has become apparent that what was bandied about months ago is true - he has lost this team. Eight years in Edmonton and it was bound to happen. Its happened to better. So its time for him to go. You can't trade the whole team and getting nothing for Penner, Nilsson, and Pouliot isn't going to make things any better. Not to mention that Hemsky is unhappy and I think you could probably throw out a whole bunch of other names who would not be sad to see the coach go.
Can't trade them all. Is it unfair? Well it would be easier to coach these guys if they had to augment their income with summer jobs like they did back in the day but fact is this is the way it is and a big contract didn't ruin Jeff Carter or Perry or Getzlaf or Vanek or Roy or ... well, you get the picture. The kids make big money these days. Better be able to figure it out. Ken Hitchcock hasn't had a problem getting Rick Nash to play, right?
The team has underachieved. Not by much but they should be a playoff team.
So MacT will resign. And what is funny is that in the maelstrom now surrounding this team the one guy who is handling himself with dignity is ... MacT. The media feeds the frenzy. Fans resort to rage and name calling that is beyond ridiculous. The owner texts the pregame show host (huh?) and after the game Lowe holds a press conference that made me feel like I was watching one of those old coming of age movies like Lucas where I couldn't help but feel awfully uncomfortable as the little nerd tried to impress pretty redhead Kerri Green. We're talking squirming in your seat, avert your eyes, wondering how this is happening uncomfortable.
Not the same as watching a Flock of Seagulls and realizing that these guys were actually considered very cool. Seriously. Look at these guys. They're wearing makeup. And gigantic glasses. And the hair. Jesus.
That shit makes me cringe but not for the same reasons.
Anyways once again this summer will feature a bunch of players moving around and there hasn't been a dull moment since the lockout and you know what I would like?
Next year I would just like them to finish fifth or sixth, in the clear by March.
Too much to ask?
I figured as much.