Cycling Niaraga-on-the-Lake

September 30th, 2009
DSC02833

Darlene and I stole a weekend away together in Niagara-on-the-Lake for our sixteenth anniversary a week or so ago.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a very walkable village, with excellent food, and a very nice atmosphere.  We started off with dinner at Zees Grill on the patio, followed up by “Born Yesterday” at the Shaw Festival.  The play was wonderful (first play for me in about twenty-five  years), and very well presented.  It has been called the ‘gem of the festival’, and I think we would support that assessment.  It was recommended by our B&B hosts, who had seen it three times. 

DSC00695

We spent our second day cycling through the surrounding wine region, with tastings at Peller Estates, Reif Estate Wineries , Ravine Vineyard Estate Wineries, Coyote’s Run Winery, and Marynissen Estate Wineries.   My panniers managed to pick up four bottles of ice wine, and four varieties of red, among other odds and ends.   I tihnk our favourites were Coyote’s Run and Ravine – there are over twenty wineries in the area, so you could make a career out of this if you were ambitious.

We had a late lunch at Olsen Foods at Ravine, run  in partnership with Anna Olsen of the Food Network.  Amazing food.

Merlot House

Some forty kilometers and six hours after we left, we returned to rest our weary legs at our B&B. We spent two nights at the Merlot House Bed and Breakfast. Excellent food, and beautiful rooms. Highly recommended.

Dinner Friday night was at the historic Angel Inn.  The Angel Inn, (along with half the places we visited in the area) was burned by the Americans in the War of 1812 – and then we had go to Washington to return the favour - but I digress….

We ended up with a nightcap at The Irish Harp pub (Guinness of course) to wrap up a long and busy day.

DSC02831

Next day, we wrapped up with a morning of shopping, one last lunch at Olsen Foods, and then back to King City for Sean’s first hockey practice of the season.  

Best of all, this all took place at the tail end of the best weather of the whole summer (and yes, this was in the third week of September).

Definitely earned some brownie points for this one :-)   (I missed  a men’s league hockey game for the play, no less, and withstood the associated abuse.

Countdown to holidays

August 3rd, 2009

Looking forward to a couple of weeks off, including some park hopping.

Sean and Ally have survived four weeks of biking, climbing and sailing at Seneca College – highly recommended for kids.

Sean and Ally

Which of these things is not like the other?

May 12th, 2009

This is a picture of my 1994 Jeep Cherokee being donated to another family member for refurbishing. Although it doesn’t look too bad (especially the Blizzaks – thanks Sean!), it is pretty badly rusted out.

As a note of trivia, this Cherokee replaced a similar one (1993 vintage) that was stolen and chopped for parts after a dismal six weeks of ownership. The picture of the 1994 model was taken in October of 2006.

DSC00176

Great vehicle, quite reliable, and saw me through many a snowstorm – and the messy transport stage of two kids. The kids will soon approach dating age, also known as payback time!

So the question is, what does this have in common with my 2005 Dodge Dakota (other than being a Chrysler product)?

Watch this space for details :-) If you’re lucky, I’ll post a picture of my 1993 Cherokee too.

Geeks Make It Interesting

April 10th, 2009

Although the Old Geeks Hockey Squad had a chance last evening to win their first championship in a decade, they managed to do just about everything wrong.

Arrival at the rink showed an overflowing parking lot, ticket scalpers, and a lively crowd.  Sure that they were filling the stands at last, the Geeks prepared to skate in the 5,000 seat Spectator Arena.  Alas, they were disappointed to learn that most of the fans (well, all except six) were there to see the Brampton Battalion play the MIssissauga Ice Dogs.  And the Geeks were relegated to one of the non-fan-friendly rinks. Oh well.  At least the salary cap keeps us profitable.

The Game

At first it seemed the Geeks would skate with a very short bench, but the late arrival of ‘the kids’ and ‘their chauffeur’ midway through the first period bulked up the line-up, and managed to screw up the lines royally.  But this was the least of their concerns.

The Geeks gave up an early goal before the entire team had even managed to get onto the ice – just over a minute in. They battled through the end of the first period, and survived down only 1-0.   And they finally managed to get the late arrivals onto the bench.

After the lines were adjusted early in the second period, Marchand impressed his linemates by jumping on for the wrong man, and then stood there like a stunned bunny, and with an “I’ve just been Tasered!” look on his face while he tried to count red sweaters.  Fortunately, Maclachlan, a player of sounder mind and better counting skills, jumped into the fray while Marchand gathered himself.

Just over two minutes into the second, Geeks managed to pretend they were in the game with an odd goal.  Clint Kurmunjy took a half-assed slapshot from his own hashmarks, and bounced a one hundred and seventy foot shot past the opposing goalie.  The Geeks were back in it.  And in typical Geek fashion.

However, late in the second, the Geeks reverted to form.  Despite successfully killing a penalty, the Geeks gave up the go-ahead goal at the 3:20 mark of the period, and another less than a minute later.   Down 3-1, the Geeks had dug themselves a hole.

The Geeks battled in the third period, but were unable to assemble much offensive pressure.  But Alex the goalie kept them alive until the closing minutes.    After the Geeks held a brief heated argument about when the goalie should be pulled, they decided that it made sense to take one more penalty, just for luck, and then to pull the goalie.   Matched five on five, but with an empty net, the Geeks gave up an empty net goal with twenty-eight seconds left, and were left to grumble their way to the dressing room.

The Analysis

During a lengthy post-game analysis, many theories were advanced regarding the Geeks inability to close the deal.  The Geeks had many problems during this game, but the major one was this.

They all of a sudden decided that they were able to pass.

And we’re not talking passing the puck up the ice to your line-mate, or passing the puck to the front of the net.

No.

We’re talking about stretch passes to a streaking (well, moving) forward.

We’re talking about five way passing on the power play.

We’re talking about behind the back passes from point to point.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the Geeks can’t pass.  Never could.  Which meant turnover after turnover.

And did I mention that they don’t backcheck?

So the game was an unmitigated disaster.

The Advice

Given the disastrous lack of even minimal hockey skills displayed by the Geeks in this critical match, this esteemed author thought he would provide some handy tips, perhaps to be tattooed on your forearm, or printed and taped to your glove, for handy reference:

  1. If you have the puck in your end, get it out;
  2. If you have the puck on your side of centre ice, pass it forward;
  3. If you have the puck on their side of centre ice, shoot it in;
  4. If someone shoots the puck in to their end, either go and get it, or go to the net;
  5. If you have the puck in their end, shoot it (at the net);
  6. If your team doesn’t have the puck, turn around and skate back the other way;
  7. Oh, and one more: If the big hand goes around twice when you’re on the ice, you have been on too long; and for most of you, if the big hand goes around once, you’ve been on too long.

Feel free to share these with your friends, to memorize them, and to practice them in your driveway.  And if you’re confused, just ask your kids.  They’ll straighten you out.   Hopefully before next Thursday, when the Geeks have their last chance at glory.

The Bonus Feature

We were fortunate enough obtain a brief interview with former Geek Goalie Don Higgins (shown at right).  Don came in to town to have a peek at how the Geeks were performing in the playoffs, and he wasn’t disappointed.  The conversation went something like this:

Wingman Chronicles: Don, thanks for spending a few minutes with us here tonight.

Don Higgins: No problem Rob, it’s good to see the Geeks again.

WC: Don, it must have been a bitter pill to swallow when the Geeks cut you last year, despite your work to come back from the off-season finger injuries.

DH: What!  Cut!?!  I wasn’t cut!  I have years of goaltending left in me! Years!

WC: Don, there were rumours that the off-season finger injury resulted from expressing an, uh, ‘opinion’ to the press after the Geek playoff failure last season.

DH: NO, it was from making a game-saving save, you hack!  Now can we talk about this year?

WC: Sure, Don.  Now, it was rumoured that you might make an appearance on the bench at last night’s game, to provide moral support for the Geeks, and perhaps even suit up to work the door.    Did you have a chance to catch any of the game? What did you think?

DH: Sure, yeah, uh, I watched most of it from the bar.  Best place to watch any Geek Hockey game.

WC: Good, good – what did you think of the performance of the new Geek goaltender, Alex Wannapassmyfinanceexamthisyear?

DH: Well, I thought he looked a little weak on the first goal.  Actually on the other three as well.  Should have had those.

WC: But the fourth goal was an empty net goal, after the goalie had been pulled.

DH: That’s no excuse.  Back in my day, well, I would have had that.  Did I ever tell you about my chipped tooth?  Boy, those were the days.  Hey!  Hey!  Let go of me!  I’m not ready to go back!   The pass was for the WHOLE day!!  Help!

WC: Thanks Don, we’ll see you next season.

The End

Some post-game notes.

  • Woolley is starting to realize that he might not get to forty points (he is stalled at thirty-nine).  Geoff called the current record holder, Kevin Craine, earlier in the week to say that his record was toast – and is now starting to regret the call.   Craine remains confident that his record is safe.
  • There was a disturbing amount of golf talk after the game – we are beginning to sense a lack of commitment (which, along with the lack of skill, makes for a disturbing situation).
  • John Croteau had the family out for the expected celebration, and they were, once again, disappointed.  However, John put on an impressive display of stickhandling, as he always does for his fans (you may recall the College Band in Animal House).
  • Mike Cardwell also made his long awaited return, after a lengthy conditioning stint.  In fact he managed to fan on a shot at a critical point in the closing seconds, so he looked right at home with the rest of the team.

The Geeks will have one last kick at the can next week against the same team – the third time they’ve played in the last four weeks.  Unfortunately, three players will be unable to attend – one in Mexico, one in the Dominican Republic, and one in Calgary.  And who can blame them?  The Geeks are playing later in the year than they ever have before – it’s the middle of April.   One benefit of the loss – the Geeks have played the absolute maximum number of games that they possibly could.

But the missing players could lead to problems on the blue line, as two the three cowards, I mean players, are defencemen, and this will leave the Geeks short-staffed.     As they wished Alex the goalie ‘good luck’ after the post-game analysis, Alex seemed not to recognize them – but that is another story.

Stay tuned.  Again.

Old Geeks Hockey Squad Going to the Finals

April 1st, 2009

And no, this is not an April Fool’s joke.

The Geeks have pulled together two character wins (when you’re this old, the playoffs are short), and have earned themselves a bye before the finals.

For those students of history among you, the Geeks have won the Consolation championships twice – 1989-1990, and 1999-2000 – and the “Real Deal: championships twice – 1995-1996 and 1997-1998.   We are now in season 22 of the franchise.

Here is a team photo after the 1995-1996 championship.

Team95-96

In game 1, the Geeks managed a 4-2 victory in a physical affair.  Star of the game was clearly Alex the goalie, who has brought his play to another level for the playoffs.  Alex held the Geeks in early and often, and supprted the often used penalty-killing special team.  Alex has a habit of shouting in foreign languages while making spectacular saves (“Bakczehk!  bakczehk yu lasee baztaaards!“).  Whatever works for you Alex.

Scoring was distributed, with Woolley continuing his charge for the forty point glass ceiling – not seen since the 1992-1993 season when both Kevin Craine and Brian Vienneau (who, along with Ken Hoy, comprised ‘The Line’) both made it to 41 points.  Hoy reached a career high of 32 that same year.  This was the only time in Geek history we have even approached this marker.  Woolley has a chance to beat this if he can bring his attendance up.

However, he skipped the second game with an attack of the butterflys (like all prima donnas, he is somewhat fragile), and along with several other absences, the Geeks were left with a short bench to tackle the first place SPS Stars.

In a grim, focussed affair, Alex the goalie again kept the Geeks in the game through a scoreless first period.    John Croteau of the Geeks scored first, early in the second frame.  The Geeks then gave up their first goal just at the end of a penalty kill midway through the second period.   The Stars added another tally with just over two minutes left in the period, and we would enter the third down 2-1.

The Geeks roared out in the third period, and tied the score with a solo effort from Dave Maclachlan, and Ken Hoy of the “gout line” put the Geeks in front again with a Sydney Crosby like shot at the 6:29 mark.

As one would expect, the Geeks couldn’t protect the lead for six and a half minutes, and allowed the Stars to tie the game at 3, with four minutes and change on the clock.   Nothing was decided during the remaining regulation time, resulting in a four on four overtime period.  The Geeks spent the last minute and a half in penalty kill mode, and managed to survive.

On to the back to back shootout.  The first five shooters from each team went, with two goals from each team (Krumenacher and Maclachlan for the Geeks).  Then it went to sudden death – and in the tenth round, Alex the goalie slammed the door on the Stars, and Clint Krumenacher, in his second go around (everybody on the team shot at least once) scored to finish the Stars.

Well, at least for this game.  After the bye week, the Geeks will play either the SPS Stars – or Arnie’s Army – both of whom we have seen in the playoffs.  No doubt the final game will be a festive on, as we have all seen a lot of each other.

As to Woolley -well, nobody knows if he going to show up or not.  Hopefully his tummy tuck, or butterflys, or high colonic will have worked itself out by then.

Stay tuned.

Old Geeks turn it up in time for the playoffs

March 1st, 2009

The Old Geek Hockey Squad has had a strong season, even flirting with first place in the league for a time.

But, they are reverting to their old ways with only a single regular season game left to play. This past Thursday, the Geeks managed to play a scrappy game, but always having to make lost ground. Tied at th end of the first, The Geeks were down 3-2 at the end of period two, having given up a goal late in the period. But a breakdown early in the third left the Geeks behind 4-2, and looking like they had given up. Despite a classic Geek goal (this means the puck was jammed in with the entire Gut line within three feet of the goal line) to bring the score to 4-3, the Geeks were being outplayed.

However, last year’s rookie, Ryan Hoy, managed to pull himself together long enough to step up late in the third. He tied the score at 4 in just under six minutes left, fed on a beautiful pass from this seaon’s scoring leader, Geoff Woolley. This pair repeated with only 38 seconds left in the game, with virtually the same play leading to a goal that gave the Geeks their first lead in the game.

One would think the Geeks could hold it together for 38 seconds. But one would be wrong. Former hero Woolley became the goat by taking a penalty with 16 seconds left. The subsequent faceoff deep in Geek territory, with the opposing net empty, led to a mad scramble to clear the zone. The puck was cleared but turned over, leading to a final odd-man rush – and a goal with only 0.5 seconds left on the clock.

The Geeks will take the point, but it should have been two. They will need to get it together if they hope to extend their season.

Hockey Week In Canada

February 18th, 2009

As it turns out, this has turned into quite a week of hockey.    Pickup hockey last night (Tuesday), followed by a mad charge to Sean’s game in Innisfil (2-1 victory in overtime, clinching the series).

Celebrating the overtime victory

Tonight, a make up game for my men’s league team.  Tomorrow, two games in a charity tournament in Niagara Falls, followed by another men’s league game in Brampton.  Friday, the third (and probably last) game in the Charity tournament.   Friday afternoon – collapse.

And Saturday is “Hockey Day in Canada“. Seems fitting….

Bad News from the Thon

February 16th, 2009

I heard over the weekend that the pulp mill in my home town – Marathon, Ontariowill be shutting down indefinitely, due to the worldwide financial meltdown, and depressed pulp prices.

The mill was built in 1945 or so, on what is perhaps the best deep-water harbour on Lake Superior between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.

My Dad worked there for 38 years, and I spent five years there during the summers while attending university – it basically paid for my education, and then some.

Although the town currently hosts a second resource industry – the gold mines at Hemlo – and there are promising resource discoveries in the area, this is a hard blow for the town. The employees had been doing the right thing (taking a significant pay cut late in 2008).

My Mom still lives there, as do my Aunt and Uncle (all retired).  But my cousin still works there, and many of the folks I went to high school with will be in a tough position – late forties, looking for work in a town where there will be none.

The Home Opener – 2009 Edition

January 26th, 2009
Opening Day

We had the earliest ever home opener of the Marchand Memorial Arena this past weekend, one week after rink construction began. Thanks are due to Mother Nature and brisk seven day period of superb temperatures (well superb for ice making).  Hopefully we won’t get a warm spell in February like we did last year.  A nightly tune-up with the rink rake and we’ll be in business for a while.

Fence and lights are up, and I added the final touch tonight – a Noma remote control for the lights (from Canadian Tire) .  Darlene just shakes her head at me now.

The kids have used the rink every day since it’s been open, and we’ll probably have the first skating party this weekend.  Unfortunately I have pretty much tripled the amount of shoveling I have to do every time it snows….

2008 Year in Review

January 15th, 2009

Well, we had some ups and downs, but 2008 was pretty good year all around.  Here are some of the highlights!

Winter 2008

Springtime in King City

It wasn’t a cold winter in King City, but we had more snow over the course of the winter than we’ve had since we’ve lived here (some 15 years).  I gotta say, I still love the snow.


I'm working on my shot

January - We had a hockey tournament with Sean in London, and had a great time.  We put in the largest rink we’ve ever had – about 55 feet by 25 feet.  I didn’t think it would take (we had torrential rain in early February), but it lasted through the end of March.    I believe the neighbours think I’m crazy.

Atom 2 and the Food Bank

February- In place of a birthday party, Sean and two friends (from his hockey team) elected to have a skating day to collect contributions for the local food bank.  The result was a resounding success, including about thirty-five happy kids, several hundred pounds of food for the King food bank – and a bunch of kids who are starting to get it.

Sean and Ally

We also squeezed in some skiing at Horseshoe.  The kids are doing pretty well – we need to do more of that.

Spring 2008

Springtime on the Seine

March - Season 21 of Geek Hockey came to an end – in the usual way. Oh well, there is always next year.

I had a business trip to Paris – left three feet of snow, to see blossoms along the Seine.  The family is still bitter.

April - Ally’s junior girls basketball team went to the York Region finals after winning the area championship. They had a SMOKING season!  Of course, the video meant I had to buy a new quad-core computer for editing :-)

San Antonio

May- I spent a few days in sunny San Antonio, with enough time to actually walk around and see a few sights! I was also Berlin (Kopenick) for a few days – first time there.


DSC02617

I attended the annual “Old Geek Hockey Squad” training camp, to celebrate the end of Season 21.   Worked on our golf swing, but not much hockey!

Ally met her favourite author – Erin Hunter – writer of the “Warrior” series of books, stories of cats living in the woods (perhaps hunting the bunnies of “Watership Down”).  She and her friends were beside themselves.

Summer

A busy summer that was affected by Sean’s busted landing gear, but we managed to have a good one nonetheless.  I had a blast coaching four on four pond hockey.  Sean played a few games at the beginning, and managed to return for the last couple of games after having his cast removed.

DSC02638

June - A brief but exciting trip to Killbear Park ends up with Sean falling out of a tree (what else is a ten-year old boy gonna do I guess?) and broke his left leg in two places.  Our camping trip turned into a three hour visit, followed by a night in Parry Sound.

Blue Jays Game with Andy

My brother and his family visited for a couple of days on their way to visit my Mom in Marathon.  We all went to a Blue Jays game (the Jays beat up on Cincinnati), and we stayed up far too late.


Metro Toronto Zoo

July - Stuck around the house mostly, and found cast-friendly things to do with Sean.  I gotta tell ya, for such an active kid, he dealt with the six weeks of downtime in a pretty mature way.   Ally was great with him too, pushing his wheelchair at the Zoo, and taking pretty good care of him.


DSC02939

August - We had a great week camping at Silent Lake, surviving the rain, attending a wolf howl at the Haliburton Highlands Wilderness Preserve, and partaking of the “Walk in the Clouds”.


DSC03041_edited-1

Darlene and Ally went back for a girl’s weekend later in the month. This included rock climbing, canoeing, and night hikes – very cool.


DSC03130

We also got reacquainted with some old friends, Sean, Theo, Roan and Riley.  Good to have them close again.  I just need to talk Sean into the  Pukaskwa Coastal trail while our knees are still up to it….

Fall 2008

DSC03211_edited-1

September - Second trip to Paris this year, including visiting many of the sites on foot, and spending two days at an amazing conference center (built in the 1500s).

October - Ally makes the volleyball team for the first time – they had only moderate success, but it was a great experience for Ally – and, to paraphrase Arnie, “She’ll  be back!”.

DSC03582

We also spent Thanksgiving at the Delawana Inn in Honey Harbour, for the third time.  Sean managed to put his foot down beside a rattlesnake, and that was enough excitement for us.


NobleKing Peewee 1 at the Wasaga Stars Tournament

November - Sean and Nobleking Peewee 1 attended a hockey tournament in Wasaga Beash, winning the B pool, and having a blast in general.

December - A busy month, as always, including a week-long trip to Marathon to visit my Mom, Christmas dinner for twelve at our house, followed by a three day hockey tournament in Niagara Falls – and with a flooded basement and blown-down tree on our return.  Not the way we wanted to end the year, but what the heck….

Work

It was a busy year at work as well, including lots of travel – 75,000 air miles (not so much), 41 flight legs (which was plenty), including a Tuesday day trip to Dallas in March – with a canceled return flight to Toronto, resulting in a desperate red-eye through Las Vegas so I could make it home to shovel out the house, go visit a customer, and then get on a flight to Paris on Wednesday afternoon…but far be it from me to complain, as I had great trips to San Antonio, Berlin, and Paris (twice!).