Tuesday, April 05, 2011


It was over twenty five years ago that a young man walked up to a door in Toronto and knocked on it and in doing so determined where I am today. At that time I was a high school kid in Sudbury. I did not know Jeff Charbonneau. I did not know that in a couple of years I would move to Toronto and go to school. I didn't know that his choice that evening would start a chain of events that would result in me, the present me, I mean.

Jeff was a first year student at the University of Toronto, the oldest of three brothers from Windsor. He was looking for something a little different and so one evening he went walking up St. George Street, looking at the assorted fraternity houses arrayed there. He walked up to one for no other reason that at the point he got his nerve up. He knocked on the door and walked in.

(Before I go on a quick word because I know that frats get a bad rap and in some cases for good reason. In this case we're talking about a bunch of the most regular guys you could ever meet, the sons of teachers and TTC workers, salesmen and middle managers. We had some weirdos but it was really just a rollicking good time with some terrific fellows. Guys like me. ;) )

So here's the story in a nutshell. Jeff ended up joining the fraternity. Two years later I arrived in Toronto and moved into a residence at St. Mike's. There were nine of us on our floor in our old stone house. One of the guys was from Windsor. Jeff's youngest brother. We used to tag along with him to parties and we had quite a bit of fun. I also found out that the rent in the house was dirt cheap and that they had spaces available the following fall.

(This almost fell through but that's a story for another day by the riverbank).

I ended up joining the fraternity. The following year one of my housemates was partying at Vic College and he met some guy there, can't remember the exact circumstance, maybe they were in a class together. Anyhow they became friends and soon after Paul also became a member of the fraternity and we became great friends and still are today.

A few years after that Paul got the nerve up to ask a girl out from one of his classes who he used to see quite a bit at a dungy coffee shop where they both happened to study in between coffee and cigarettes.

After we graduated (this was in the early 90s) times were a little tough. Looking for a job I was hired on at the video store that Lana was managing.

When I was working at the video store I met a woman and we became friends. She introduced me to her sister, the girl from Rawlins Cross.

We started dating and after a while I met her uncle, who owned a software company. He offered me some work and ironically, when the girl from Rawlins Cross and I broke up he hired me on full time, sending me to PEI as my first assignment. I was supposed to go for three months. I stayed a year.

And I met a girl from PEI.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


Now this isn't earthshattering stuff. Its not like I was storming Juno and a bullet meant for me never found me while boys all around me fell. Its pretty banal. I roomed with a guy's brother. There was a cheap room in a house. One guy became friends with another guy who would later meet a girl. I was able to get a job. I met a girl and then another girl. And so on.

But if Jeff Charbonneau had knocked on another door (perhaps they'd have no room or the guys would have been jerks and he would have walked away) or his brother and I had not become friends or there had been no available room or ... or ... or ...

Well who knows where I would be. There'd be no me, as I am. No us, as we are.

One thing changes and it all does.

I've always believed in life as being random. Now some might call it fate and you might talk about predetermination or free will or all that but I'm no deep thinker as you all know. Things happen and you take that path and what you do on that path determines what happens next. I got my chance because I was sleeping with the girl from Rawlins Cross but if I had not taken that opportunity well then things take another turn again.

I believe in luck but I believe you make your own as well. I've played on and coached and watched enough sports and lived enough of life to know that sometimes you lose your job because you're a fool, not because of bad luck, and your hockey team wins more often than it loses not because it gets the bounces, although sometimes that is the case, but because your team is in proper position more often than not and the players are skilled enough that they pick off the errant passes and make fewer of their own.

And now having said that I'll say another, that usually deserve hasn't a thing to do with it. We like to think we earn what we get but we've had an awful run of luck in our house lately, for about a year now. Nothing has changed in the past year as compared to years previous when things fell on the right side of the ledger other than time marching on. Time marching on did in my old fellow and it did not help my mom who battled illness most of last year and it left friends of ours without parents. Growing older means that these things are starting to happen on a regular basis.

But the appearance of lice, the leak in a gas pipe, other irritating fiascos and bumps in the road (because really, compared to the health of family and friends, these things, while stressful, are nothing but minor irritants), these things that seemed to pop up regularly over this past year, well, they had nothing to do with anything, much less deserving or not deserving.

Just random and crazy. Life.


On the other hand there are times when you do get what you deserve and the Edmonton Oilers, dead last for the second straight year, out of the playoffs for five straight years, are getting theirs. Well, management is. Steve Tambellini has proven that he can build a last place team on purpose, a year after doing so by accident (read, incompetence). Of course if they truly got what they deserved they'd be unemployed.

There has been an awful run of injuries but a club so shallowly constructed could not even survive the loss of one defenceman. When Whitney went down the season, not that there was much going on, went with him and so here we are again.

And yet on the other hand there is more than H.O.P.E. now, so again deserve has little to do with it when it comes to Oilers' management, for this season has not only brought Hall Omark Paajarvi Eberle, players all, but Peckham, Petry, Dubnyk and now Hartikainen.

A rookie crop like one we have never seen. Eight players who can contribute. At worst Dubnyk looks to be a solid back up and the two Dmen a third pair and only time will tell if we are selling them short. Eight graduates, not officially (if there is such a thing) if you use Lowetide's rule of fifty games for skaters but surely the Finn will break camp with the big club next fall unless he trains with me this summer.

And still the cupboard is not bare with Marcinin, Hamilton, Pitlick, Lander, Davidson, Blaine, Martindale all on the way not to mention the take from this summer's draft yet to come.

So perhaps deserve has nothing to do with it. Of course the kids have done nothing yet and may never will. And maybe management blows it and then certainly they must get sacked once and for all.

Here is hoping that the hockey gods look upon Oiler fans and figure that when it comes to deserving, we certainly do.

Although deserving really has nothing to do with it, sadly for us.


spOILer said...

From the Interwebs:

Lorre has now spoken about his thoughts on the situation via his regular 'vanity cards' that flash on the screen after each of his productions.

After last night's broadcast of The Big Bang Theory, Lorre wrote: "Whenever I've gone through tough times, well-meaning people have told me that God/the universe does not give us more than we can handle. Well, I've been going through a tough time recently, and sure enough, that old saying has been tossed my way on several morose occasions.

"After some careful consideration, I've decided it's bulls**t!... I know these are words meant to reassure, but somehow they always leave me feeling that heartbreak, rage and grief are going to come shooting out of me like kidney stones through an inflamed urethra.

"For someone in crisis, I think a more accurate and helpful assessment of reality would be, 'Love, sex, food, friendship, art, play, beauty and the simple pleasure of a cup of tea are all well and good, but never forget that God/the universe is determined to kill you by whatever means necessary."

Adam D said...

Now I'm not Tambellini's biggest fan by any means, but I'm of the mind that you can't blame someone die the shit without crediting him for the flower that grows thanks to the fertilizer.

Black Dog said...

People who say that should talk to some of the families that Jenn works with, families that have a child or children (yes it happens) stricken with cancer.

As for me well I'm from a long line of optimistic fatalists. That cell could turn on me at any time, the drunk behind the wheel, the sudden spark.

Can't dwell on it though. I'd rather a night like this past Saturday with the woman I love, a proper fancy dinner made together, hours of talk and bottles of wine and a lengthy torrid denouement lasting into the morning.

We're all going to get it one day and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. I'm certainly not going to sulk about it. It could all go to hell tomorrow.

Adam - I'll give him all the credit if the flowers are in bloom in a few springs, I'd be happy to eat my words. Ecstatic.

But i used to say the same about Lowe so I'll not get too excited yet. The kids are here and on the way but more needs to be done.

macaotim said...

Too many kids with the big club scares me a little. I was of the opinion that they needed a vet or two, plus a healthy squad, to do some of the heavy lifting and provide some shelter for the young-uns. Now the drunk me thinks that if this crop all pan out next year, and provide some on ice quality, then perhaps adding that role-playing vet changes to adding an elite player who can help put us over the edge and into the playoffs. I'd support that next year, so long as that player's (could be more than one???) contract does not tie our hands in anyway with respect to future re-signings of the kids.

Perhaps it's too soon for such a move? I dunno. I also dunno who to draft this summer either. Although, the amount a stud D-man can effect the outcome of games tends to have me leaning toward Larsson (sp?)

EasyOil said...

Always enjoy your musings Pat. Certainly will be interesting to see what random direction the Oilers take - I seem to remember the rookie crop of '07 being deemed the team's superstars of the future, and that hasn't worked out, at least not yet. Never know how things will work out.

On a totally seperate note, there's a band from Ireland called Caladh Nua (pronounced "Ka-la Noo-a", said quickly), who are touring Canada from July 1st to 6th August. I've no idea if you're into Irish Trad music Pat, but I know you're proud of your Irish roots and they are seriously one of the best Irish bands you will ever hear. They are good friends of my girlfriend's father, Phil Murray (himself an incredible accordion player), and played this-last NYE in his pub in Co.Tipperary - simply incredible music, and I'm a Brit with not much knowledge of Irish music!

Here's the link to their tour dates: http://www.caladhnua.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=30&Itemid=2

And here's a link to a spot they did in Irish TV (check out the banjo player a couple of mins in, he's so good): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXhbxfFVoi8&feature=related

Not sure how the music will translate to what I guess will be more concert hall type venues as opposed to a pub in deepest Tipperary with 200 drunk Irishmen (plus me) dancing around, but trust me you wouldn't regret seeing them.

Black Dog said...

thanks easyoil, I'll check out the links, I do enjoy the aye diddle aye although as you say its preferable in small pub somewhere

Tim - they could have added the same this past sumer but did not, my guess is it will be all kids all the time next year again

kanadienkyle said...

Anyone watching the Frozen 4?

Black Dog said...

Not available up here Kyle,at least I think not.