Monday, March 01, 2010

Driving With The Window Rolled Down

When I was a university student in Toronto I would go home every summer to Sudbury. Those days were glorious. Summers up there are fine, for the most part hot, sunny and dry. I had a terrific job with the gas company from when I was sixteen until I was finished school, working outside, walking the lines checking for leaks. I'd walk miles and miles every day so I was nice and fit and I was paid well enough that I put myself through school and was flush during the summers on top of that.

That part of my life was different than this part of my life and I wouldn't trade what I have now for what I had then but those were some times. Even then I realized that this was the time to roar, that it would not come again, that when the future came knocking with bills and a home and kids, well then I had better have everything out of my system. And so I did my best to do that. ;)

I think of those days now and I think of cold beer and sunshine, pretty girls, music, friends constantly teasing and the endless laughing, soccer fields, roadtrips, cool cool waters washing over sunbrown skin, staggering out of the bar and crashing on a couch somewhere, anywhere, kissing a girl, cheap draft and shuffleboard, impromptu ball games set up at a moment's notice, barbeques and pools and bacon and eggs and coffee in a cheap diner, waking up beside someone with the cool breeze pushing in the curtains from the window overhead, the day just about to begin in one of the best ways possible.


I remember driving my parents' truck on those summers days, window rolled down, sun hot on my arm, breeze blowing in, music blaring. The bands that were my bands, the ones that are my bands even today, the Hip and U2 and REM, guys around my age who I grew up with, well those guys weren't my summer bands. It was a lot of Van Morrison and Neil Young and Springsteen and a lot of classic rock. The song though, THE summer song for me, was More Than A Feeling by Boston. I heard it the other day and just as the lyrics say I found myself slipping away.


These past two weeks and the last handful of days especially are a time that I, and I think most Canadians, will remember forever. Vancouver threw a wonderful party and even a week ago when there was some disappointment with out team's performance (especially over the lost weekend which ended with the US sending Canada to qualify for the QF), there was no doubt that 'on the ground' this was going to be an extraordinary Olympics.

And then the Canadian team finally got rolling and the successes followed one upon another. There was the courage of Rochette and the youthful joy of Virtue and Moir, the daredevil McIvor and the great champion Hughes. Redemption for these games for Morrison and Rush and Hamelin and their teammates and for the past for Kevin Martin and Jasey Jay. The fantastic women bobsleigh teams! The cross country skiers, not winning any medals, yet signifying another program that has risen from nothing to be competitive with the best in the world.

And of course the hockey. The womens' club barely looked threatened, even against their archrivals, and one wonders if there will be womens' hockey for much longer at the Olympics.

And then there was yesterday. We gathered with friends and sat through the torture. After Friday night we knew that no lead was safe and while Canada carried the play up by two we knew it could turn on a dime and so it did late in the second.

The young Americans were terrific and there seems to me no doubt that they will be our chief rival in the years to come. Led by Kane and Kesler and Miller they kept coming but in the third Canada pushed back and for most of the period it was the red and white that carried the play. Two posts and Heatley's missed chance and Kane catching Crosby on his breakaway were far too many opportunities to waste and so at the end Parise stuck in a dagger and we grew quiet, just seconds from celebration.

And then in overtime again it was Canada pushing forward, going for it all, and in the end, as it often is, it was a sudden shot that did it, emerging from nowhere, a puck won along the boards by the veteran Iginla, a hero eight years ago as a kid, a hero again, getting the puck to the favourite son of the hockey gods, Crosby.

We jumped up and down and hugged and cheered and sang the anthem proudly. Years from now we'll remember sharing the experience and it will bring smiles to our faces.

Final impressions? Toews is all that and more and while the captaincy for Canada in the future will be Crosby's it will be the young Hawks' captain who will be the backbone of our national club. What a player.

Nash and Morrow and Richards and Perry all rose in my estimation. Getzlaf as well, once he got going, although he's, how would I describe it, lumbering? As for his being sent out at the end to protect the lead, well he was the only Canadian who seemed to be able to win a draw (and he did at the end, twice) and that had to have been Babcock's thinking.

I liked Marleau's compete a lot and Thornton too, although the latter is far too slow for these competitions. As for Heatley, well I'm biased of course, but he had the insurance on his stick and couldn't roof it and for me he'll always be a guy who fills the Latvians and Poles but doesn't do a damn thing when the chips are down.
Then again what can you say about a tournament where the quality of competition is so high that NHL stars are reduced to bit players? Guys like Bergeron and Stastny and Seabrook and Kessel, reduced to afterthoughts.

As for Crosby what can you say? I think he may have had a bigger tournament without those wingers. Iggy was solid but he's a soldier at this level now and Staal looked lost on the wing. After all that though the Maritimer came through with one of the big goals in Canada's long storied hockey history.

Pronger was shaky through the whole tournament until the final game where he was just fine and Boyle also overcame a slow start. Keith and Doughty are the future, well, Keith is the present really, him and Weber. And old Niedermeyer came through one more time, even though Parise got behind him and Weber there, the old man was very good, one last time.

And Luongo was as good as he had to be and that was pretty damn good I thought. Good for him.

Hell, truth be told I haven't a bad thing to say about anyone right now, who am I kidding!?!?!?!?

A dozen best on bests and Canada has won eight of them and three of the last four now and its rarely easy, if ever, but goddamn its sweet.

A terrific way to cap off a wonderful two weeks that we will all remember until we're sipping burger through a straw.

And now back to the awful reality of Edmonton Oilers' hockey. After this tournament my already waning emotions about the old club team are really at thier lowest ebb in a while.

Oh well, we'll deal. Happy thoughts and all that after all.



R O said...

Toews was awesome but I thought Crosby had a really good tournament too. He played some pretty tough minutes against some of these teams (Slovakia in particular) and his line was generating chance after chance, just couldn't capitalize.

Iggy had a good tournament too, he, Toews and Morrow dominated the American top line back in the round-robin and he looked smooth beside Crosby. Of course, it's Crosby. But, all season I've watched him struggle, I thought he would be a boat anchor in the Olys but he did not disappoint. If he played like this two in every three games then he'd still be terrorizing the Western Conference - alas, "lack of consistency" often translates into "lack of good".

I can't complain too much about these forwards, maybe Getzlaf should've spent the week recovering instead of ruining his ankle but the games were won on the sticks of Crosby, Iginla, Toews and Nash. And Yzerman's fuck-ups regarding the defence (and there were many, and these were known beforehand: Doughty, Weber, Boyle, Seabrook) were glossed over.

It's the nature of the management beast I guess, the team wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it certainly was the best and at the end of the day that's all you can really ask for.

Bruce said...


Storybook Sid with the Ultimate Goal, the Golden Goal that closed the Vancouver Games and set the all-time record for most golds by any country at the last possible opportunity, how can even he top that?

Here it is, you can even hear Sid holler "Iggy" (0:18 on the video) as he jumps into the hole that was created in part by the puck getting into the referee's skate and sucking Rafalski out of position. I was starting to tell the ref to get the hell out of the way when it turned out to be a super good break for us. One of those quantum chance things where the dice fell the right way for Canadians. A tiny break, and the skill to do something with it.

Nice to see Iggy, Salt Lake hero, play a crucial role, as indeed did another Edmonton native and Salt Lake stalwart, team captain Scott Niedermayer who started the rush and provided a decoy. I'm pretty sure he stuck around for this season just to get this last shot in a home Olympics. He made good on his end of that bargain, playing at his best in the biggest games near the end. Incredibly, his 10th major championship, 5 with his club team (1 Memorial Cup, 4 Stanleys) and 5 with Team Canada (World Junior, World Senior, World Cup, and 2 Olympic gold). The only guy ever to have won all 6 of those championships. An amazing career that is too often sold short.

Black Dog said...

R O - yeah I liked Crosby's work a lot, no doubt, there just wasn't the production the last few games but as you said they were doing the heavy lifting out there and sawing it off at the least. He and Toews did the tough stuff and the Sharks and Ducks did a job on the depth guys for the most part.

And Iggy was solid, not the go-to guy up front anymore, he really didn't generate a lot but he was a guy who could be relied upon. I was a lot more confident in him than some of the others. I have to admit though when he went out in OT I was a little perturbed.

Shows what I know. ;)

I had few quibbles with the team, of course when it ends well its hard to do so. The goaltending was good enough but of course who else could they have taken?

As for the D I didn't mind the selections too much. I would have liked Bouwmeester but I really can't complain, Doughty and Weber played a lot of minutes and came out on top for the most part. Boyle got stronger. jmo but maybe I wouldn't be so relaxed if they had not won.

Bruce - yeah Niedermeyer really was terrific and he was a guy I was a little concerned about to be honest. Him and Boyle. Although I could see why they brought him.

Calm feet, eh? Always.

yeah they got the break a bit at the end but overall I thought they were the better team despite Ron Wilson, they certainly had some bad bounces in the third.

As for Crosby. Um, yeah. No kidding, eh?


Bruce said...

I thought all three of Nidermayer, CFP, and Boyle were much better in the second week than the first. As in, when the games really mattered.

Pronger was ten times better yesterday than he was against USA last Sunday. A hunnerd times better.

Niedermayer has/always had some issues on the defensive side of the puck, but he is a very cerebral player and very good at the rover position. His hero growing up was Paul Coffey, and one can see the influence.

quiltmom said...

One of the most interesting parts of the hockey tournament was to see which of the players thrived in the pressure and which ones got overwhelmed by the experience. Guys like Rick Nash and Johnathan Toews really elevated their game and grew in my eyes in the process. Drew Doughty was equally as impressive.
Sid the Kid came through - I have a real soft spot for him- He is the same age as our son. I have long been impressed by the way he copes with the pressure and demands of being a talented young superstar. He is often expected to be Mario, Wayne and other great players all rolled into one. All he really can be is Sid- he didn't disappoint- What a year he has had - a Stanley Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal at the Age of 22- What will he do next?
The young guns showed that Canada has lots of new young talent to draw on from for the future Olympic games. The high level of play at the Olympics are going make watching the NHL a tad dull - and the Oilers ( painful is the kindest word I can think of)
Returning to the reality of Oiler hockey will not be easy...

Scott Reynolds said...

Last week is about as good as it gets for a Canadian sports fan. Just a fantastic week all around with an incredible ending.

There are, or course, plenty of things to quibble about with regard to who made the team, who they were used and when but when you win it's hard to get too worked up about them. It's time to celebrate after all!

Black Dog said...

Exactly Scott, I don't think its ever been as good as this. Turin was great but no hockey gold. SLC had hockey gold but less in the amateur sports. So everything came together plus it was in Canada.

But as Anna says, going back to the NHL and the Oilers in particular is an awful awful comedown. And Anna I agree with you on both points, to see who carves out a place in the tournament is always very interesting to me and I don't think any athlete ever has had a year like Crosby has had. And he's just a baby.

Dennis said...

I was one of those grumbling after the second Sat night about how the COC should have shut up and just waited to see what happened; I really lost faith when both Hamelin brothers were in the top five of the final heat and neither one medalled and then not 10 min later one of our medal contention bobsleds crashes.

I was so fucking sick and all my buddies were out drinking and watching the hockey so I poured it it all into the Olys and we weren't doing well and I lashed out. It wasn't that I didn't want us to rule but it was killing me that the one time Canada picks to be overly and vociferously confident was the time when we were falling flat.

And at home to boot.

but then things started to pick up and the hky team drilled Rus and i said to the ladyfriend that Can would win their last two games by at least two goals because the forwards were so fucking strong.

Then we sludged through the awful thing that the Slovaks call hky and we don't allow a scoring chance in the first period of that game and not a lot of them in the second and I feel like my confidence has been justified but then Lubo scores and I don't trust Luongo and I won't until I see him be spectacular in an international game.

The game against the US was nerve wracking before it began because I've changed my tune on Wilson and I can't stand him and though Burke certainly knows when a guy's about to sewer an org;) he seems as unlikeable in life as he is in hockey. You've got kesler cutting his own teammates throat and kane had a book on Luongo apparently.

You don't understand how much I didn't want that team to win.

PS: Your summer stories both entertain and depress me. The funny thing about trying to live in the moment and grasp the magnitude at say 17 and 18 years old is you know what's coming and you try and live it up but when you get to your mid 30's you know you could've went harder:)

Of course if the mid 30's Dennis could go back and tell the 17 year old Dennis to go that extra mile than the current Dennis wouldn't live to see 50:)

Black Dog said...

Dennis - yeah I remember your comments last week, dark times ;)

We had hockey on Friday night and so I listened to the first period on the radio and then we had a laptop on the bench so we could keep up to date. After all that the other team only had four guys the fuckers so they forfeited and we played shinny.

it all seemed in hand and then we were in the room and it was 3-1 and os I showered and was heading out to the lobby where they had a big tv and now it was 3-2

that last few minutes was mental and when Demitra had the puck on his stick there were all of us and our opponents and the arena staff and we all groaned FUCK all at once and then somehow Luongo got over and made the save of his life

I'm not a fan of Luongo but I'd buy him a beer for that.

And then Sunday was even more tortuous but an OT winner is so wonderful it made it all worthwhile.

Get used to those Yanks though, its them and us for a while I think.

As for the good old days I don't really have any regrets you know. Sometimes I wish I had had the confidence I have now, I might have gotten laid a little bit more, but overall I was clearheaded about the whole thing. I pretty well spent most of my twenties fucking around so other than the fact I never travelled I have nothing to really regret and even then I hadn't the cash so what can I say.