Category Archives: hockey

Awesome!

Teddy has been a lot of things over the years including left behind and lost in Southern California. He made it back home to Halifax that time only to have to hop into a car and drive to Montreal to be reunited with his buddy Noah.

Now, Teddy is a sports star. Not just any sport but the glorious game of hockey. He’s also one of the many inspirations Noah calls upon to practice his writing, spelling and alphabeting. The other morning, maman got the spelling out call – “how do you write awesome?” Noah shouted. Maman thought this was a great chance to use the dictionary but Noah couldn’t wait so he went out on his own.

Maman could hear him voicing out the sounds – “aw, o, aw, o, ssss, ssss, mmmm, mmmm. aw sss mmmm. Maman, come see, come see, I’ve got it.” This is what he came up with – awesome = osm. And how does Teddy fit into all this? Well, he scored seven goals in a hockey game and he was, you guessed it, awesome!

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Secret Weapon and Brand New Ride

Game 5, Montreal vs. Washington is a nail biter right from the first face off. Pollsters determine that 80% of Montreal fans think this is the final game. Hell no, the lads play like they are on fire. The offence rocks and the defence keeps it together stopping Ovechkin et al. As for Halak he plays like a champion.

The team has a secret weapon that helps them come out on top. Few are aware of its potency. Who would have thought that an Eastern Passage toddler would have spurred them on to such a decisive victory? Well this new fan whips them into a frenzy. We’ll be sure to have her on hand Monday night for Game 6. Hopefully she’ll work her magic again.

A huge surprise for Noah-David today – he’s now riding a brand new skateboard. Maman saw them on sale and couldn’t resist. Good call maman.

After 30 minutes tooling around on the sidewalk, he’s skating like a pro. He’s even flipping the board up into his hand after he hops off. Next stop, the bowl over on the Commons. I want so badly to try it but our lad flat out refuses. I’ll continue working on him.

This is a whole new chapter in balance, coordination, daring and of course fun.

Pucks and Popcorn

We’re all sporting our mighty tricolore jerseys – almost all that is – Lila-Jeanne doesn’t have one as yet. We need to rectify this before the next game. Noah and Nellie are up late to see the first period of les Canadiens against the Caps. They’re eating popcorn, rambling around the living room floor – freshly zambonied by Noah that afternoon using the customized features of the toy stroller – and having that peculiar kind of edgy, we’re dead beat fun.

Noah’s got his gloves on and is brandishing one of the several sticks in his collection. We need to retire it as it’s swooping through the air on a not entirely controlled journey of discovery. Off it goes to the hockey box until the morning.

Nellie gallumphs through her popcorn like a ravenous ox. Come to think of it she didn’t each much supper. As she finishes her small bowl, she looks over to me, jumps down from her seat and skedaddles over for a cuddle. Well I thought it was going to be for a little loving but her eyes betray her as she can’t pull them away from those popped kernels. Her coquettish mien is nothing but a ruse to get at my bowl of popcorn.

I let her squirrel away a few cheekfuls before making her go cold turkey following her inaugural popcorn adventure. She is so smitten that she hunts down rogue pops that have escaped from the bowls and consumes them with a smile of abandon. Just in time I catch her reaching for the unpopped kernels. I convince her that’s not the way to go.

It’s a helluva first period – end to end action, great goalkeeping and scoring chances galore. The kids are shuffled off to bed and over the next two periods we’re left to buoy our deflated spirits with a glass or two of wine.

Tonight, popcorn was the big winner. On Wednesday night we’ll be plugged in for a new game. We’ll be practicing our olé, olé and go Habs go chants hoping to help take them over the top.

Winterluding

The days are clear and bright as crystal. Each step crunches as we break through the old snow’s crusty covering. The powder underneath is a fine spray of fresh wisped away almost weightlessly, each flake a granule of geometric perfection. There is a lightness in the air, a cleansing crispness that shines and sculpts faces buffing cheeks and furrowing creases.

An unrehearsed symphony weaves its way in diminishing waves across open spaces. The refreshing crack of pucks and children’s voices are counterpoints to the traffic releasing us from its drone. Slapshotting sticks, squeals of laughter, skates spraying to a stop float across the white expanse. This soundscape rings true like impromptu celebrations, breathless victory dances and joyful embraces of fun.

We are getting a high quotient of snow and ice time over the last couple of weeks. I’m enjoying plenty of kid flashbacks to winter days in North York – extreme tobogganing, outdoor hockey, snowball fights, frozen feet and perpetually wet mittens, the standard stuff.

There have been windows of winter wonder in the adult years just nothing sustained. Alexa and I had a few Citadel Hill sledding adventures and had a blast of Winterlude in Ottawa when we lived there. Halifax is not a blustery winter place. There was no snow on the ground when we left at the end of January. We can’t really lay claim to a deep of winter tradition unlike the culture in Québec as immortalilzed in the Gilles Vigneault classic, Mon Pays.

Sorel has a strong recreation program that maintains several outdoor rinks with boards, lighting and cabanes for changing and warming up. We’ve checked out Parc Nadeau and Parc de la Rivière and have been eyeing the rink at Parc Bibeau. It’s the largest of the ice surfaces we’ve seen.

The skating and hockey are Noah activities. It’s quite amazing the leaps he has taken on our few capades on the ice here. We’ll get Nellie-Rose out next year. By that time Noah will be skating with the greatest of ease and we’ll be able to focus all of our attention on our new skater. Noah will be there to give her a helping hand too.

Neliie-Rose is getting some quality sliding in. The hill is just a short walk from rue Hébert. Raymond and I pull the kids up and give them a little push down. We’ve got the legs for about 20 trips. The kids are still going strong when we start to beg off. Toward the end, Nellie is tumbling off the back of the sled on the way to the top. Our only clue that something is up is Noah’s infectious laughter. When we turn around from our beast of burden duties, there is Nellie sprawled on the hill giggling about 15 metres away.

At the bottom of the run, where the squeals of delight start to trail away, the flats are a sheet of ice. Some of the smooth spots prove tricky for Nellie to keep her footing. She does well though only landing on her bum a couple of times. She improvises a little skating routine pushing her feet out and to the sides in an alternating sequence. She nails the movement and has a nice skating flow on the go minus the blades.

The day before our departure, we are treated to a St. Valentine’s Day sleigh ride. La tante Danièle takes the reins and King and Prince, the gentle giants, pull us along the back trails. It’s a greatly anticipated family adventure in a class all its own. We’re out for over 2 hours and even though it’s a toasty -8 °C and the trees cut the wind to a whisper, I’m very glad Mé ensures I’m wearing the proper gear.

There’s a big gathering at La Halte today. Four sleighs, six horses, five or six dogs and about 25 people are milling about the cabane. There’s a wood stove inside burning hot, bubbling chocolate for fondue with strawberries and pineapples. Hot dogs, toasted buns and all the fixings are the main course. Coffee with liqueur, champagne and beer are the beverages on offer.

There is lots of laughter and camaraderie. Danièle and Richard know everyone under this blue sky clearing. They are a passionate lot. They love their animals, the outdoors and the bonhomie of the woods and sweeping fields. Everyone is welcome to share a few moments of cheer, to befriend the cold, to imagine the days when sleighs ruled the countryside.

An older fellow comes to speak with Danièle. He has a horse he’s been trying to sell for two years, a ringer for King, he says. He wants to know if Danièle is interested. Danièle extends her arm, “My team is here. King and Prince pull this sleigh. I’m not looking for any other horses.” It’s a no pressure pitch. The old guy says, “You never know, he’s getting old…” Danièle is not biting. She’s polite and says she’ll keep in touch.

Out of reach of the horses, Noah, Nellie and Maxime are eyes to the sky, immersed in the snow waving their arms and legs in unison making angels. The white stuff’s powdery texture means no forts, projectiles, sculptures, snowmen, or other fun possibilities of this nature. Now that the yummy Krispy Kreme donuts have all been scarfed the younger adventurers are starting to get restless for this show to get back on the trail. There is one notable exception, Lila-Jeanne. She’s as quiet as falling snow, not a rustle, not a sound.

Noah’s favourite spot is the securely fastened saucer that drags, sometimes flies, behind the sleigh. It glides in a bumpity-bump fashion over everything including generous quantities of road apples in various degrees of freshness. Doris and Sam do whizz, buzz, zips skirting the saucer on each side at full run. Noah hears them charging and looks out of the corner of his eyes for the flash of balled muscles in full stride. They’re our outriders making sure everything is right.

Noah is riding the saucer like a pro. He gets a little additional speed and requests even more juice. Then it happens. The saucer is off the trail. He tips and at the same time King falls to his knees. Prince continues to canter dragging King and the sleigh. I run back for Noah. His tears are quickly dried with a kiss and a hug. He has snow up his nostrils and in his mouth. Despite the scare he hops back into the saucer and continues until we hit the road.

The woods are lively
Light and clear
But biting cold this time of year
I’ll keep you warm, I’ll hold you dear
I’ll not let go, I’ll keep you near.

Apologies to Robert Frost for the doggerel.

Eastern Passage Coliseum

Except for a lone light in the office, the Eastern Passage Coliseum is quiet and dark. The star player is tucked snugly in bed dreaming of the games yet to be played. His new sticks are leaning upright in the corners at the end of the hallway right outside his bedroom door. I’m surprised the sticks aren’t under the covers with him. They’re ready to be grabbed though just four or five steps after he hits the floor. Within less than a minute of waking, he’ll be starting to warm up or be looking for a game.

The excitement won’t be quite as intense now that grand-papa has made it back to Sorel, home of Stanley Cup champion Marc-André Fleury. The couple of days prior to his departure it’s hockey pandemonium in our family room. Grand-papa Raymond and Noah are great rivals on the makeshift rink. The most uninhibited laughter booms throughout the house as they wheel about the cork floor looking to exploit a moment of miscalculation, searching for an opening to sail the puck through the goal.

This is magic time for them, a foundation for admiration, wonder and their ever growing love for each other. With each drop of the puck, the fun filled excitement pumps our little boy’s heart to bursting. His imagination blooms in the competitive atmosphere inventing new team names, rules and fake outs.

The Curious George motif on the just-after-Christmas sticks that maman found is cause for delight. George is a favourite literary and cartoon scamp for Noah and Nellie both. These sticks are about twice the size as the souvenir sticks we had been playing with previoulsy. This is a big help to the 50 plus gang as we no longer have to do the Quasimodo. We can nearly play in a natural stance.

About 30 days downstream from buying our family membership at Cole Harbour Place, I’ve finally made it to the cardio fitness centre. We’ve been swimming and skating several times but this was the first time for me on the machines. It was a modest 35 minute workout to get things rolling. I went shortly after the kids hit the sack last night. Noah wanted me to stay home. I told him, “With some exercising I’ll be in better shape for hockey.” That’s all he needed to be sold. He now wants to start an exercise program when he gets up in the morning. That will be a great way for us to begin the day.

I’m not sure what teams will be taking to the ice here later today. The traditional Penguins and Canadiens are losing favour of late to the likes of the Crabs, the Lobsters and the Whales. We’ll have to see what the day brings and what team selects me from the draft. Here’s hoping that I’ll go in the first round to a contender.

I’ll have to be careful that I don’t get bamboozled out on the ice. He’s now adopted one of grand-papa’s tricks. He calls out, “Look over there it’s a monkey.” Must be the Curious George thing again but there’s no monkey around. He just side steps me as I’m looking up at the ceiling and smokes a goal right through my legs.

Another favourite is the delay tactic. Grand-papa made me wise to this one before he left. After a few gruelling periods of end to end action we need to wind a game down. A favourite means is the ‘next goal wins’ clause. Now, in response to this call Noah slows down the action, gracefully stickhandling in an unhurried, unflustered paean to near inertia. He avoids the next goal, rags the time around the floor like a puck and extends play until that awful, inevitable final siren sings out.

Raymond had a sweet move just as he was leaving yesterday. He pulled out a small piece of carry on luggage and laid it flat on the floor. He positioned himself behind it and started pushing it forward while calling out, “Watch out, Zamboni coming through, watch out.” Noah’s a Zamboni nut waving madly at the drivers as they glide by. He found this to be very funny as did I.

We’ll be looking forward to Raymond’s next visit when hockey fever will sure to be raised several notches. In the interim I’ll take up the slack and make sure that Noah and I keep to our training regimen. We’ve got to be ready to play and to cheer on the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey team, getting unveiled later today, when they take to the ice in February.


Noah has just arrived in the office – a big smile on his face, two hockey sticks in hand. Apparently I’m going to be the goalie and he’s going to be the player. Also just in case there is any doubt, Noah is going to win.

Birthdays and Passings

Our small family got together recently to celebrate my dad’s 75th. It was a quiet brunch at a favourite restaurant followed by a decadent chocolate cake. He’s vibrant, hale and hearty but we’ve had a couple of scares.

Nearly 10 years ago he was hospitalized for over a month after wiping out on a snowboard. The jury is still out on the cause of that accident. What is sure is that his determination, focus and commitment to rehabilitation reversed the paralysis which was the most debilitating result of the injury. I believe that a streak of Scottish stubbornness as wide as the Clyde helped to will his recovery.

Five years later over a period of two months, he went from daily 5K runs to barely being able to walk 100 metres from his car to the grocery store entrance. Bypass surgery ensued. All went well with the procedure and recovery. It was terrible though to see him post-op. His pallor and the intricate whorl of tubes connecting him to monitoring devices was reminiscent of Star Trek TNG’s borgs.

He was discharged from the hospital on his 70th birthday, the same day I finally quit smoking. He bounced back. When I called on this most recent birthday morning, he had just finished a 30 minute run. He’s been at the running since his early 40s. He calls it his cheap insurance policy. It seems to be working well for him.

My dad has always been there for me. He got me to the early morning hockey games, the rain or shine soccer matches and stepped in to assume Akela’s mantle and lead a pack of Cubs when the incumbent suddenly died. He organized bottle drives, camping trips, the best birthday parties with a small coterie of friends and showed me how to do things.

In short, both he and my mom were present. They were there for my brother and I. They had moments of despair through my teenage and early adult years and with good reason. They’re in for the long haul though and toughed out the difficult times. It’s the being present, the love, the constancy that makes all the difference. I’ve always felt that if I can do half the job my parents have done, I’ll be on the right path. Thanks again to you both.

On the same day my dad was celebrating his 75th, the people of Québec were mourning the passing of a cultural icon. Gilles Carle was getting a send off in style, a state funeral to honour his contributions to the world of cinema and Québec’s cultural tapestry.

I’m not a total philistine when it comes to the arts. Thanks to my love Mé I know a thing or two about Québec music, literature and film. Years ago I even worked at a film festival and once did a brief and enjoyable stint at the Canada Council for the Arts. All this to say that prior to his death, I had no awareness of Gilles Carle. I’m sure that I was not alone in my ignorance and that a majority of the population across the rest of Canada, cinema lovers included, were in the same boat.

The ‘two solitudes’ are still alive and well in our country. We’ve got a long way to go to bridge the gaps. Actions that foster a better understanding and awareness of our respective popular culture and arts scenes will help move us along in the right direction.

The National Film Board has made several Carle films available on line. I’m not sure how representative they are of his oeuvre but it’s a starting point. I enjoyed Patinoire’s quintessential winter playfulness and the breezy portrayal of a singular landscape in Percé on the Rocks. Both are shorts. There is also a selection of longer documentary and fiction films.

It’s never too late to celebrate what we have, or what we’ve lost. A breath of story can keep us moving sweet and preserves our memories of those who have danced their last waltz.

Elephants, swimmers, grampas and centennials

We’re just sitting here talking about Lila-Jeanne’s noises – not the gas inspired farts and burps, or the air squeezing through narrow passages giving life to snores and hiccoughs – no we’re talking the trumpeting, nasally charged noise that is Lila’s personal signature. There’s no telling when she’ll join the conversation with an insouciant riff just letting us know she is there.

Out shopping with maman this afternoon she was on a roll. She had a monologue going on loud enough for other shoppers to hear and then look around to find the source. When their eyes lit on Lila, Mé looked at them and said, “I’ve got an elephant here.” Yes, there were smiles.

It’s been a sporty day. Nellie and I went for our first swim together. This was a contentious issue for Noah last night before bedtime and all morning from wake up to school drop off. There was some behaviour on the loose and well articulated unhappiness pointedly delivered about his absence from the pool excursion.

Nellie had a blast skimming along the water’s surface like a boatman supported in papa’s hands. Then she saw the slide. It was a must do. Nellie and another girl were taking turn about and watching each other’s exploits as they whizzed down and landed with a splash in their respective parent’s outstretched arms. The perpetually wet plastic makes the ride slick and speedy. Nellie leaned too far back on one of her descents and banged her head on the slide hard enough to make the tears flow.

After some hugging, buoy like bobbing and softly spoken words we made new fun over at a basketball net. Nellie was the champion player coming in to the basket with ball firmly gripped in both hands. Just as we approached, I whooshed her out of the water, lifted her to the full extension of my arms and watched as she slam dunked the ball through the hoop. This was a repeat many times activity capped with a giggle each time she threw the ball through the hoop.

Before our session was over, there was rafting on a large size float board, sliding on a ‘baby’ slide, soaking in the shallow, warm pool, more swimming in the water with papa and, at Nellie’s request, a final conquest of the nasty, head bump slide. The final whooshes were without incident, a sure indication that there will be more sliding and gleeful squeals on subsequent visits.

We popped into Canadian Tire on the way home – two visits, in two days. There could be a trend developing here. I feel a third visit coming on tomorrow to swoop up one of the new $1 coins that will be available December 5 and 6.

Coming out of the store, a fellow shopper looks at Nellie in my arms and asks me, “Grandad?”

“No, I’m the dad,” I reply.

“Yes,” he says with a laugh. “I had a girl when I was 44. She’s 19 now.”

“I know what you mean,” I say. “I had a girl at 52. She’s just two weeks old.”

“Wait, you mean two years don’t you?” he says pointing at Nellie.

“No, this is a new baby I’m talking about. It’s her little sister. Got it all figured out how this happens now though,” I say with a grin.

This causes some more laughter. “You have a great time with those girls and enjoy your day,” he says as we part ways and head for our respective vehicles. This was my first taken for a grampa by mistake encounter. There will be many more of those in the years ahead.

What better way to end the evening than to watch les Glorieux thump the Bruins on the centenary of the club’s founding. Les Canadiens have a mythical stature in professional sports that is beautifully captured in Roch Carrier’s The Sweater, a great story and a wonderful NFB animated short. Unlike Carrier, I would have been thrilled to receive a Maple Leafs jersey by mail order catalogue when I was a boy. Living in Toronto I was a natural Leafs fan and on occasion sat in the Greys at the Gardens for an Original Six dust up.

It was all class tonight at the Centre Bell. This was a time to recognize great individual achievements and team efforts, to pay respect to the players, the fans and the game. Two more banners were raised high above the ice surface to join the timeless immortels. Émile Bouchard (3) and Elmer Lach (16) joined 13 other former Habs whose numbers have been retired. Bouchard’s son Pierre, also a former Canadiens, wheeled his father onto the ice for the ceremonies. Toward the end of the celebration the elder Bouchard blew kisses to the crowd. A moment of tenderness, love and thanks. What a night, what a franchise, what a treasure.