Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm Back

I just can't keep my adoring throng of followers waiting a day longer. Yes, all two of you will be thrilled to know that regular hockeytalkie.blogspot.com postings will resume effective immediately.

My internship at The Hockey News wrapped up and instead of sitting shiva at not cracking their permanent roster, I'm following my friend Michelle's advice: "WRITE!"

Oddly enough, the fantastic time spent at THN fortified my gut feeling; I love everything around the game of hockey even more than the game itself. For all the hours spent in NHL dressing rooms and pressboxes, nothing gave me a bigger thrill (or a better story) than the people who are not superstars.

From the old guys operating arena elevators to finding a friend working as a suite hostess in Ottawa, from seeing the smile on a parent's face when her daughter scores her first goal to Atom kids planning plays with teammates, that's what gets this hockey heart thumping out of control.

I've officially graduated and have a diploma - it even came framed - in Radio and Television Sports Broadcasting. But don't be deceived, a good chunk of that was writing, and if you can write, it doesn't matter what the subject matter is, and I know I am a very good writer.

Hopefully the employment gods and goddesses agree and I find a paying gig soon. If you know of anything, please let me know. Radio, television, web, social networking, print media, I can do them all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ms. M's Take on Georges Laraque and the Booze Babes

Note: The fine folks at The Hockey News didn't really have a spot for this and posted a shorter version online but I still think the original deserves some blogspace.


Booze, babes, beefcake and ball hockey is a recipe that tends to cook up a frat boy’s fantasy weekend, not a kettle full of controversy. That’s exactly what Montreal Canadiens enforcer Georges Laraque brought to the front burner of Gary Bettman’s already over-heated stove thanks to the forward flashing his smile in an online ad for an alcohol-laced energy drink.

Seeing how I was the lone female at THN’s morning meeting – the other women were busy running the joint – the boss asked me to weigh in on the situation.

Watching youtube and well-built men in shorts as part of my living is a tough job, but it’s one in a long line of sacrifices THN readers deserve, so I hunkered down into my cubicle to do some serious research.

Serious? Who am I kidding? From the opening shot of a McMansion, followed by women jiggling down the road this was so cheesy I was wiping Velveeta (processed cheese food spread?) off my monitor, along with some drool courtesy of the boys in the intern pit. The whole production screamed ‘parody’ and while I didn’t delight in the display of nubile vixens, found this an entertaining way to waste a minute of my life for the sake of my employer.

I’ve spent most of my adult life working with men, and spent my childhood more apt to trading hockey cards and playing Lego with the boys on the block than picking out Barbie’s next outfit. No doubt that has skewed my sexism meter a bit differently than some of my female friends.

Women needing a husband’s signature to open bank accounts. Single women making more than men with families but unable to get mortgages. Women being paid less for the same job because ‘he has a family to support.’ Those situations were not uncommon during my childhood..

This tempest in an NHL teapot isn’t worth burning any bras, unlike the situations listed above, especially not when good ones are so expensive.

Even through the visual assault of boobs and booty, I could clearly see this is a parody, sort of like what the NHL will be if it hands out much, if any punishment for Laraque’s involvement in the commercial.

Despite the gratuitous display of mammaries, it kept crossing my mind that the biggest boobs were those gullible Guses who would buy into the hoopla hook, line and snap shot. For those thinking ‘Me want booze, me want caffeine, me buy, bring on chicks’ I hate to break it to you, but it aint’ gonna’ happen.

The issue that demands a second look here, unlike the video, is the hypocrisy of the NHL banning players from appearing in alcohol ads while gleefully raking in the coin from concession stand bars.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ms. M Is On Sabbatical

Hello and thnak you to my blog followers! I'm finished with school and headed for my internship in a few weeks. For the first time in a decade I have the summer off - no work, no school - so I'm taking a break from blogging and keeping non-stop tabs on NHL transactions.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Day Of Camp

I've been doing a lot of writing, most of it too personal to post online. My last post was over a month ago - I will never forget that day.

This morning I dropped my son off at camp, as I had planned to do months ago but there was a hitch in our plans. Today would have been the first day of hockey and sports camp. If all had gone as it was supposed to, my son would have woken me up, yelling, "Let's go!" If all had gone as planned, I would have rung a doorbell, waited a few minutes for someone to answer and been greeted by a smile brighter than a summer afternoon. If all had gone as planned, I would have dropped off my son and his hockey gear in my friend's truck, knowing both would be taken care of. If all had gone as planned, I would not have to worry about the clock, zooming to pick my boy up by 4PM or risk late fees. If all had gone as planned, my son's favourite part of camp would happen after camp - hanging out in the swimming pool, playing with kids and dogs, being doted on by a woman who treated all kids as if the they were her grandbabies.

If all had gone to plan, my son would have spent the next two weeks at Peter Zezel Hockey and Sports Camps.

All has gone as planned but by forces I cannot comprehend. Peter passed away a few weeks ago and didn't want the camps to go on without him, so they won't. I had hoped they would, even though they would never, could never be the same without his direct involvement. Even without Peter, there were the other instructors and counsellors who made it a fantastic experience, but Pete was Pete - if his name was on it, he had to be part of it.

In a few hours I will pick up my son from his first day of camp and he'll be chattering away non-stop telling me all about his adventures. He'll go on about who did this, who did that, what So-and-So said and why he didn't get a super-mega-pack-o-sugarettos for lunch.

Today I will pick up my son from camp and realise life really does go on, no matter what we planned.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Farewell Sweet Zez: R.I.P. Peter Zezel

The most heart-wrenching thing is for a parent to outlive a child. I witnessed my parents go through it and it pains me to think of what Peter Zezel's family is going through tonight.

It was one week and 10 years ago that the Zezel family mourned the death of a precious daughter, granddaughter, and niece - Jilliann, the child of Peter's sister Neda.

Today, they lost a son, brother, and uncle. I don't know their pain, but tonight I know mine. Peter's death has two consolations; his body no longer has to battle against itself, and his spirit, that kind and loving soul, will be reunited with his beloved niece. It comes at a steep price, his remaining niece and nephews, all the others in his life will go on without him.

Attending his hockey camp, everyone had a story of how he had gone out of the way for them, whether it was taking a friend's skates to be sharpened and bringing back a new pair, or looking after a child so you could get to work or school.

I referred to him as the Honest Ed of Toronto hockey and he'd jokingly chastise me, saying something along the lines of Honest Ed providing useful things.

Peter, luv, so did you. Think of how many kids you taught to skate, to stick handle. Think of how many women and girls you made smile over the years. Think of all the players who owned the faceoff circle after you showed them a few tips.

But the most useful thing you did for me was give me a friend, one I met waiting at hockey camp.

Today I wanted to visit you in the hospital, hug the family and friends at your side, and say my goodbyes.

Tonight, the memory of our last meeting is much nicer, no tubes, no machines, no medications. On the last day of March Break camp, I waited for you to finish a conversation with a friend. You looked at me and asked jokingly, "Will you be back in the summer?" I laughed, "Not without a hug." I got a little hug, "C'mon Pete! Arms that strong can do better!" I looked at you, saying, "I'm gonna miss you Pete." and you said "You'll get over it." "Not without another hug - it has to last until July."

I never thought it would have to last the rest of my life.

Your memory will.

Zezel Fighting Biggest Battle

Rumours of Peter Zezel's death are exaggerated. He is seriously ill but still holding on. Please show your support for him at:

http://www.torontosun.com/sports/hockey/2009/05/26/9569546-sun.html

or:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=2331529009&ref=ts

We're not letting him go without a fight!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Please Pull Through, Peter Zezel

Best known as a high-scoring Philadelphia Flyers rookie and part of the Toronto Maple Leafs resurgence in the 90s, Peter Zezel is in another battle for his life.

http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/2009/05/25/9568941-sun.html

Let's hope he wins this draw and kicks the illness back.

My heart goes out to his family, his parents - there is nothing worse than the fear and uncertainly of a sick child, whether's he's four hours or 44-years old.

Godspeed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Departure From Hockey Tales

Most men looking for a nibble or two on their privates would select Angelina Jolie to do the honours.

Not a man like Reg Mellor, a legend in the Yorkshire “sport” of trouser legging or trouser ferreting. The tradition involves men tying up their pant cuffs with ropes, dropping a ferret down their pants, and cinching the works with a rope belt at the waist to prevent the animal from escaping. This event does not use fluffy, furry, toy ferrets but real live weasel relatives complete with claws and fangs.

The winner is the man who can survive having the creature in his pants longer than the other participants. Mellor, discovered the sport in his 60s and his original record time was 40 seconds. Over the year he has worked his way up to over five hours – five hours with a “furry piranha” down his pants.

Such a feat could not come about without picking up some tricks, including how to dislodge ferrets from his person. That’s not easily done to wee beasties with jaw strength comparable to pit bulls, but the crusty Barnsley native whacks them near the eyes with a screwdriver.

That’s within the rules of ferret legging, as is dislodging ferrets from one’s body, but only from outside the pants. Apparently this is one time when being “master of your domain” really is taboo.

The only other regulation has to do with performance enhancing substances. Neither man nor ferret can be drugged or drunk. Funny that – if ever an event lent itself to being under the influence of mind and pain altering pharmaceuticals, this would be the hands down winner. As for the question you’re dying to ask…yes, Mellor has been bitten “there.”

"Why, I've had 'em hangin' from me tool for hours an' hours an' hours!,” he boasted. “Two at a time -- one on each side. I been swelled up big as that!," proudly pointing to a five-pound coffee can.

The first North American account of ferret legging came from a 1987 article by writer David Katz. Some naysayers claim the sport is nothing more than a legend, saying it is an urban myth created to poke fun at Yorkshire’s quaint and provincial traditions.

Toronto resident Paul Wilde, an ex-pat from the picturesque village of Huddlesfield, Yorkshire, adamantly denies that. “I’ve heard about it. It’s a tradition, something they used to do in working men’s social clubs.”

Over the years ferret legging has declined, likely because modern men want to protect the brains in their pants more than their ancestors.

Ferret fans fret not – the village of Sedgefield offers ferret racing.

*Mellor quotes from David Katz, “King of the Ferret Leggers,” Outside magazine – October 1987

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Withdrawal Symptoms

The NHL playoffs start tonight but I'm going through post-season withdrawal symptoms.

There is no shortage of hockey in my life since I'm covering two teams from a purely professional viewpoint. It makes no difference to me whether the St. Louis Blues or the Vancouver Canucks win their first round series.

What has altered things is being able to sleep in on Sunday mornings, not lugging hockey gear when I'm in heels, and no longer being a slave to last-minute game changes. I miss dragging me, my kid, and a giant, cumbersome bag out the door in the dark.

Most of all I miss spending time with people who don't care that my top is inside-out, that I'm not wearing makeup, or that I didn't brush my hair. Sleep deprivation fades quickly when you're greeted by smiling friends, especially when a nap is possible later on in the day.

Birds chirping as a new day dawns are a welcome sign of spring to those in northern climates. I don't begrudge the birdies but hearing them as I head out the door makes me melancholy.

Their spring song signals the end of house league hockey season.

Nothing though, can end the friendships found behind the boards.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Don't Let the Ladies Dance Alone

It's been a long time coming, boys. The Hockey Hall of Fame recently amended decades old bylaws to allow female inductees, up to a maximum of two per year, starting with the class of 2010.

Women have been playing the game for over a century but sometimes the old boys club takes a while to make up for lost time.

One of the ideas being bandied about is to have separate induction ceremonies for men and women. Let's check that idea into the boards until the glass pops out.

This is a team sport, and even though men and women, for the most part, play in their own leagues, they are part of the same hockey family. Induction is one of those times when relatives sit at the same table, crammed in, elbow to Gordie Howe elbow.

Let's face it. Having a separate ceremony for women would be like taking a date to the prom and ditching her. If you bring the girl to the dance, she deserves a spin on the floor with all eyes on her.

The reality is that there are more eyes focused on men's hockey. Women have waited far too long for their invitations to the inaugural ball.

Don't let them dance alone in 2010.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Boy at Ex-Leafs` Camp

A quick glance outside the Angus Glen Community Centre gives the impression of an ordinary hockey camp. The parking lot is full of mini-vans, SUVs, and one lonely, little Echo. Inside is a damp, sweaty arena with kids lined up behind the net, awaiting instructions, while parents sip lukewarm double doubles. Everything about this March Break 2009 camp is typical except for the coach.

Like most of his young charges, he too dreamed of playing hockey for a living. As a little boy in Scarborough he donned hockey gear to spend Saturday nights in front of the TV watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play in the boom of Foster Hewitt’s voice at Maple Leaf Gardens.

As a teen he was a high-scoring junior in that same arena, hanging his helmet a stone’s throw from his hockey heroes.

As a man, seven years into his pro career, his childhood dream finally came true. January 16, 1991 Peter Zezel became a Toronto Maple Leaf.

In the summer of 1998, anticipating a post-playing career, he became a camp director. 11 years and hundreds of clients later, he still operates Peter Zezel Hockey and Sports Camps. The one week summer camps run all day and include swimming, soccer, and golf in addition to hockey drills.

Christmas and March Break camps consist of 90 minute, on-ice sessions Monday through Friday.

At some celebrity camps the namesake shows up only in the brochure. That’s not the case here. “With my name attached it has to become a good camp,” said Zezel. “You know how word of mouth really travels? We have a lot of kids that come back.”

Zezel and his senior instructors, Jim Carey and Sam Katsuras are usually first to arrive at the rink and last to leave.

Carey was the Toronto Maple Leafs equipment manager during the Pat Burns glory days and has had a successful career. In addition to being a Level III coach, Carey has won awards as a trainer and equipment manager including a Canada Cup ring.

Katsuras is a full-time school teacher who has played in the OHL, CHL, and ECHL. He also plays for the Hellenic Lightning of the CMHL, where he tied for third in 2008 tournament scoring.

When the former faceoff phenom isn’t around, all is in good hands, but make no mistake - this is definitely Zezel`s baby. He is hands on, spending a good 20-30 minutes planning drills and assessing progress before heading onto the ice himself. He`s even been known to do the odd coffee run.

Back at the March Break house league camp, one young defenceman gets hands-on help with pivot techniques while another receives assistance with goaltending, including how to correctly put on the pads.

The youngest one, nicknamed Timbit by one of the rinkside parents, looks like a bobblehead on ice, warming the hearts, if not the quickly cooling coffees of all who watch. Occasionally he takes a break and lays down on the player bench, but not for long.
Within a few minutes, big, caring hands come along to prod Timbit back onto the ice.

Like his coaching mentor, Mike Keenan, Zezel expects a certain work ethic, “The parents want hard work, they want the kids to work hard and get something out of the camp.”

Don’t worry though – the kids don’t have to retrieve their hockey bags from the bowels of the arena the way some of Keenan’s players did. At this stage, it’s still about enjoyment. “We provide something that revolves around having fun for hockey again,” said the ex-Leaf. “I see over years and years of developing these kids now that the fun is really starting to get out of the game. We’re in this camp to provide fun for the kids and to develop the kids as best we can, and mostly to have fun doing it.”

Judging by kids who are reluctant to leave on the final day of camp, it looks like they’ve succeeded.

Being a former Toronto Maple Leaf has some perks. Immunity to the current economic downturn isn’t one of them. There were only nine participants in the house league group for the March Break camp. That said, the AA, AAA, and team sessions were full.

Parents don’t think sending their children to this camp, any camp, will magically give them a 15-year NHL career like Peter Zezel’s. They do believe, however, the skills and discipline they learn from participating will benefit their children off the ice as much if not more, than on it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

More Proof Hockey Rules My Life

My son's hockey team will experience their first tournament this weekend. Parents, kids, and coaches are excited, especially since it's a chance to face some rival teams from our league.

One of the players, our captain, moved last weekend. His mother has been so busy working nights, unpacking, and doing "mum stuff" that - gasp - she hasn't checked her email for a week. I laughed because I've gone longer without brushing my teeth than without reading my email.

This however, was no time for chuckles. She asked what the schedule was so I filled her in - season end breakfast at 9AM, then game 1 at 1PM, game 2 at 5PM.

She: "Game 2? Both games on Saturday? Oh no, then we can't do it. Saturday's my only free day."

Now it was my turn to panic.

Me: "He has to be there! He's our top scorer!"
She: "I can't give up the whole day!"

Apologies to Blackadder fans, I have a cunning plan.

Me: "If you can get him to the breakfast, he can stay with us for the weekend."
She: "Really?"
Me: "You have to ask? Consider it done."
She: "Well, your boy will come out here one weekend."

Whew. Another minor hockey crisis averted.

This defies logic. In between spending two full days at the rink, I have to cover another tournament and still find time to write four articles by Monday. There's also the matter of tracking down a few people to get quotes.

Why am I bringing another person into my home to look after in the middle of all this?

Why not? Hockey players, teammates, know all about looking after each other.

In hockey, friendships don't end when the arena doors close behind us.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GOLD!

There is something about minor league hockey that brings smiles to faces. The parents on my son's Minor Atom team were the loudest in the loop and we managed to crank up our vocal volume for the gold medal series.


We're noisy but never rude or foul-mouthed. Still, some folks used to timid, suburban support found us a novelty. Odd how people complain that Air Canada Centre is too quiet for Toronto Maple Leafs games, then think a dozen or so parents are too loquacious?

Happily our competition got into it - finally - for the final game, bringing in banners, signs, even a real trumpet.

Not all was picture perfect. In the first gold series game, we were all cheering after a goal. Nothing wrong with that, until we realised the other team's goalie was sprawled on the ice, injured. We felt awful - none of us noticed but the damage had been done. Parents on the other team thought we were cheering because their goalie was injured.

NEVER.

All the woo-hoos and yee-haws halted at the sight of a 10 year-old on ice. He was okay and finished the game, coming back stronger and better in game two of the series.

Some players go through years of hockey without winning a medal. My son picked up his second gold medal in two years. He has won top prize in the two seasons he has played.

But I'm the real winner. Seeing the person I love the most, fall in love with my favourite game, surrounded by fantastic people game-in, game-out beats any medal.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hockey Talkie *NOT* About Hockey

Today marked was my son's final Sunday 6:30AM practice of the season. Some of the mums met up later on for coffee, cake, and conversation,or so we claimed.

If we're really honest with ourselves, the get together was because we'll miss getting out the door and back in before the sun rises all winter long. Don't be fooled by the matching goalie pads and purse; lugging hockey bags, sticks, and juggling cups of coffee from car to dressing room isn't as glamourous as it appears.

Instead of a posse of paparazzi, the first ones at the arena are greeted by things others don't experience. The rumble of the zamboni waking from its slumber. Siblings sleepily staring at the clock. A dressing room that no longer smells like the 300 people who used it the day before. Seeing breath float over ice until they become one. Being the first set of hands to touch the door latch, springing eager kids onto glistening ice.

This group has been blessed by a fantastic group of parents. Some, like DK are larks. Some, like me, are night owls. Some, like AA, are quiet. Some, like CdlA, are just a touch louder. So many differences, so much too learn.

The most important thing learned this season is that the teacher, the nurse, the restauranteur, the angel, and the writer don't need kids playing a game as an excuse to get together.

They can talk twig and biscuit like nobody's business but it's what happens far from the ice that makes parents a team.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Quick Glance

A quick glance gives the impression of an ordinary hockey practice. A

parking lot full of mini-vans and Camrys. A damp, sweaty arena,

kids lined up behind the net, awaiting instructions while parents sip

lukewarm double doubles. Everything is typical except the coach.

Like his Peewee charges, he too dreamed of playing hockey for a living.

As a little boy in Scarborough he donned hockey gear to spend Saturday

nights in front of the TV watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play in the echo

of Foster Hewitt’s voice at Maple Leaf Gardens.

As a teen he was a high scoring junior in that same arena, hanging his

helmet a stone’s throw from his hockey heroes.

As a man, seven years into his pro hockey career, his childhood dream finally came true .

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hockey Is Not Life & Death

Finding out your teammates' brother had a brain tumour removed is life and death.

My son’s team is in the semi-finals so we headed to the arena full of excitement. The usual clich├ęs were bandied about, ‘I’ll die if we don’t win’ and ‘Playoffs are do or die’ being some of them. We got a reality check in the pre-game coach’s chat.

I could tell by the look on the his face that he was in a very serious frame of mind, and thought nothing of it, because, this after all, is Minor Atom semi-finals – first team to reach four points advances to the gold medal match. What could possibly matter more than playoff hockey?

“Riley’s brother is in hospital following brain tumour surgery,” was not what anyone in that room expected to hear from our coach. We were all frozen. A week ago this boy was watching his brother play, now he was recovering from a major operation.

When the words first bounced from my eardrums into my conscience, there was nothing – nothing to think, to do, to say. I’m a writer – surely there must be words for this? No. This time, silence spoke and I did not dare to interrupt.

The game was dedicated to a little boy in hospital, the family by his side, and his brother on blades.

Riley got to wear the special jersey – number 99 – for this game. I’ve watched him play since October but today was his career game. It was a slow start for our kids, understandably so. If I couldn’t get the news out of my head, how could I expect it of them?

Something clicked and when they finally scored, the pressure was off. Those kids had put it on themselves to win, trying so hard, that for a short while, the fun was gone.

Sometimes scoring a goal goes beyond the physical sphere; sometimes it’s more than a little chunk of rubber landing it the net. Today was one of those times.

When the puck slid past the goalie, it didn’t cure a sick little boy. It didn’t magically make everything better. It did however, make 13 kids forget, for a few seconds, that maybe playing the game isn’t the most important thing.

Who you play it for, that counts for more than any names and numbers on a score sheet.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Deadline Continued

TRADE: oft-injured Jordan Leopold from Avalanche to Flames for Lawrence Nycholat, prospect Ryan Wilson, and a second-round draft pick

Leopold: “excited – Darryl’s a b&w guy, Mike is too – had some good experiences in Calgary” “had baby two weeks ago”

11:45 – BREAKING NEWS – THN finally places pizza order after extensive discussions – two large pepperoni & mushroom, one medium veggie – drinks to be procured in a separate transaction

11:56 – TRADE – get ready for this one folks, Andy Wozniewski ships out of St. Louis, Danny Richmond sails into his dock

12:03 – TRADE – Coyotes send Tellqvist to Buffalo - details to follow

12:07 - LEAFS PLUCK MARTIN GERBER OFF WAIVERS

NHL Trade Deadline Excitement

Ah, the excitement of spending my day off interning at the centre of the hockey media universe on NHL trade deadline day.

Days like this are the definition of ‘hurry up and wait.’ Just before 10AM the skies burst open with the crackle of…a trade. Not a blockbuster but Ottawa sending Antoine Vermette to Columbus in exchange for netminder Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 second round draft pick gave us something tangible to write about.

Chris Pronger not going anywhere is a story. The Buffalo Sabres awarded Tim Connolly, he of 28 points in 29 games, a freshly-inked two-year deal totalling 9 million dollars added some substance to the grist mill.

You could always analyse, re-analyse, and regurgitate the contract extensions of Filip Kuba, Niklas Backstrom, and Alex Burrows.

Olli Jokinen to Calgary? Has good relationship with Keenan, could perform better without being a top-dog.

11:25AM – BREAKING NEWS – staff hold boisterous meeting re: ordering pizza

Antoine Vermette – TSN – 11:30AM “you kind of learn not to worry about it too much” “I’m gonna play quite a bit…we’ll see in the next few hours”

TRADE: oft-injured Jordan Leopold from Avalanche to Flames for Lawrence Nycholat, prospect, and a draft pick

Leopold: “excited – Darryl’s a b&w guy, Mike is too – had some good experiences in Calgary” “had baby two weeks ago”

11:45 – BREAKING NEWS – pizza order finally placed after extensive discussions – two large pepperoni & mushroom, one medium veggie – drinks to be procured in a separate transaction

MORE TO FOLLOW

Friday, February 20, 2009

Skimming the Cream

Imagine owning hockey`s biggest money maker, a team that turns a profit regardless of recession, depression, or 42 year championship drought. Sorry boys, that 1993 Norris division title doesn`t cut it, said the barber to the mullet.

Imagine using the milk from that cash cow to get into the passion that really unites Toronto`s multicultural mosaic – soccer. Rant and rave all you want about hockey being the top sporting dog in this fair burg, but the parties that shut down streets happen during the World Cup not the World Hockey Championship.

Imagine skimming the cream from the top of that always full milking pail and using it to keep an AHL farm team three kilometres from the NHL franchise. No airfare, no cabs needed. A player who gets called up can wheel his hockey bag down the road in lieu of his morning skate.

Imagine slathering the financial butter all over the nice, toasty hardcourt, that popped up where the ice used to be. Might as well get some use out of the building while the Leafs are on the road.

MLSE can be accused of many things but letting the milk go sour is not one of them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mogilny's Hall of Fame Day Can Wait

First member of the illustrious Red Army hockey team to defect and live to not yet tell the tale. First European to captain an NHL team. First Russian named to an NHL All Star team. First Toronto Maple Leaf to usurp Mats Sundin as season scoring leader since the Swede joined the Blue & White. First Olympic, World, World Junior gold medalist and Stanley Cup winner to play in the AHL. First European to score 76 goals in an NHL season – fittingly enough in the league`s 76th year.

Five notable firsts notched onto the stick of Alexander Mogilny`s career but one might elude him – becoming the sixth Russian born player to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame - in his first-year of eligibility. Steve Yzerman is considered a no brainer pick for the Hall in 2009. Other strong first-year candidates are Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, and Luc Robitaille.

Some recent players still waiting to add induction rings and plaques to their trophy cases are Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, and Eric Lindros, along with Pavel Bure. That creates an interesting situation. Bure, Mogilny, and Sergei Fedorov(still active) were regarded as one of the greatest Russian hockey troikas.

When asked which of the three was the greatest natural talent, Fedorov had no hesitation, `` He has the most agility, the quickest release and the best shot. He was a little bit older and was the leader of our line.`` Fedorov beat his former linemate to become the first Russian to reach 1000 NHL points on Feb. 15, 2004. One of his first comments after the game was ``I want to share this with Alex,`` adding Mogilny would have been first if not for injury problems during his career.

Even members of an often jaded media took note of Mogilny`s talents. ``On the ice, he was the best at the no-look pass,`` stated long-time Fischler Report correspondent and co-owner of popular fan site tmlfans.ca Rob Del Mundo. ``Looking with his turned head in one direction, while passing the puck off, often at a right angle to a different teammate in another direction. The strategy worked especially well on the powerplay, where he'd be in the corner - look towards the point, and instead pass it cross-ice where a teammate (Roberts, Mats, etc.) had a tap-in.``

Marty Henwood, currently writing for the magazine Fairways had the chance to watch Mogilny during his stint with the Canucks. While not the high point of the crafty Russian`s career, he still stood out playing with Pavel Bure. `` They never quite lived up to their potential playing together, but man could they move,`recalled Henwood.

Mogilny is not likely to shed any tears if he doesn`t get a call from the induction committee, this or any year. His career history and stats, compounded with his off ice mentoring of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin will no doubt get Mogilny his pic on a plaque inside the fabled building at the corner of Yonge & Front.

Getting in on the first go is impressive, but patience is a virtue worth waiting for. Perhaps the most fitting time for induction would be three years after Fedorov retires. Having Bure, Fedorov, and Mogilny enter together would be the bow on the gift of three historic hockey careers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's My Blog and I'll Write What I Want To

You would too if this blog belonged to you. Thanks Lesley Gore.

I do my best to keep my proverbial stick on the ice and write about hockey, but today is different. My Spawn turns 10. I have no clue how the woman who can't keep plants or fish alive longer than a few months has managed to grow a kid into double digits, and years not months at that.

Don't worry I'm not about to go all mushy or describe the vivid details of Spawn's entry into the world. Heck, I couldn't even watch the birth videos in pre-natal classes.

It seems hockey permeates every facet of my life; bringing life into the world was no exception.

The weekend before Spawn arrived I was on bed rest - doctor's orders. He gave me dispensation to do whatever needed doing before going to the hospital - get the crib, baby clothes, one last pre-baby meal, and a visit to Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Carlton Street Cashbox was set to host the final Leafs' game February 13th, 1999. In honour of the occasion an open house and skate was held the weekend before. Nothing short of being in hospital could keep me away. There I was, sitting in the fabled gold seats at Maple Leaf Gardens, staring forlornly at the ice I could not skate on.

A part of me hoped to give birth there - I'll do anything in pursuit of a good story - but it was not to be. Spawn waited a few days to appear. He was in hospital for a few days and I recall running into the lounge between feedings to watch that final game at the Gardens. I even talked the nurses into letting me take him in there to watch the last minutes of the final game.

The hockey connection doesn't stop there. Spawn came home from hospital on Alexander Mogilny's birthday, just in time to watch the first game at the Air Canada Centre.

It was new beginnings all around.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hockey Parents: True Life Tales

Hockey parent is a term with an undeservedly bad reputation. For every tale of some crazed moron who threw popcorn at a teen officiating a Timbits tilt - or more accurately a Timbits topple since the kids wobble most of the time - there are far more stories of parents who quietly thank officials post game.

Spending time at rinks, observing, and chronicling the sights and sounds is part of my job. It’s amazing the things people say and do when they don’t know you’re media. One man I struck up a rink side conversation with went on a tirade about Toronto journalists making everything up. He thought they literally spent garbage day going through the bins outside the homes of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He then proceeded to – now this is a gem – state a case for female media in the dressing room being a distraction to players. “They can’t help keeping their eyes off them. Especially before a game. Women take their mind off the game.”

I resisted the urge to dig through my purse and flash a handful of media passes under his arrogant nose. The funniest part was seeing him take his daughter into the room after her game wrapped up. There are times when irony masquerades as a four-letter word.

For every misguided misogynist at the arena there are several more sensible folk. My son’s Minor Atom team this year has three girls on the roster. Neither the parents nor the players bat an eyelash, be it mascara drenched or au naturel.

Hockey mums and dads do their share of yelling and screaming, hooting and hollering but for the most part it is all in fun. They want to cheer on their friends and family, and believe me, a team becomes family.

One morning our coach brought his daughter, who is on the team, to the ungodly 6:30 Sunday morning practice. She wasn’t feeling well but insisted on coming so as not to let the team down. Before heading onto the ice it was obvious she couldn’t handle it, so the poor girl lay down on the bench.

Within seconds parents were arguing over who would take her home. Unfortunately no one would be there – mum was working and dad had two more practices to run. No problem – one of us took her home for the day, loading her up with chicken soup and the knowledge that team is more than 13 kids on the ice.

A parent on the team works shifts and has three kids playing hockey. There was one time she couldn’t get her son to practice. Someone immediately offered to pick him up, even though it meant waking up at 4:30AM and driving 30 minutes out of her way. A better solution was for the kids to have a sleepover. They did and the two kids had their best game of the season, thanks to hours of planning plays and having fun.

Every now and again horror stories about minor hockey coaches using violence make for juicy front page fodder. That, fortunately, is because it is the exception not the norm. Most coaches are like the one who runs the hockey camp my child attends. Coach offered to take him there and back, saving me two hours of driving per day. As if that wasn't enough, his family looked after my kid until I could pick him up from work, giving him free reign in the swimming pool and pool table. The kid talks about it months later.

Perhaps the best story is of two women who met sipping coffee watching their kids at hockey camp. Thanks to a mutual crush on one of the instructors, they immediately hit it off. Turns out, they both worked in male dominated professions and shared a similar sense of humour.

One of them managed to track down four tickets to a Leafs game for the other’s birthday. It would be an outing for the mums and sons. Despite protests, she refused to take a penny for it, saying "Pay it back when you're a famous writer." I don't think she realises famous print media don't make much more than students blogging. Thanks Sandy – see you at the ACC Feb. 25th.

Go ahead and tell all the hockey parent horror stories you want. The sweet apples still outnumber the mealy, worm-infested ones.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

All Star Game Catch Up Mode

Dear Mssrs. Ovechkin, Malkin, and Kovalchuk,

Please accept my apologies for missing the scintillating details regarding the Russian peacemaking ritual. I am happy for the future of Russian hockey that Mr. Kovalchuk was able to get Messrs. Malkin & Ovechkin in buddy-buddy mode in time for the 2010 Olympics. Until then, please refrain from throwing objects at agents in Russian night clubs.

I missed the opening ceremonies of the All Star game in Montreal and will now play catch up. Back in a few.

7:13PM - No one puts on a show quite like Club de Hockey Canadien. The trapeze lady was a nod to Las Vegas mainstay and Montreal founded Cirque du Soleil. Any other city it would bug me, but Montreal? C'est la vie mes amies.

7:31PM - Enough with interviewing coaches on the bench! Is nothing sacred anymore? The job of a coach is to coach during games, not provide sound bites. Hint: If I'm watching the All Star Game it is because I want to see the actual game and hear the play by play, not miss Sheldon Souray's goal to make it 6-3.

7:35PM - Sweet play on that Dan Boyle goal. Get away from that bench interviewer!

7:41PM - uh-oh Brian Burke said "ass" on live TV. Caught a glimpse of Sidney Crosby in the press box, which gave me an idea on how to get players more involved with this event. Instead of fans selecting players and stuffing the cyber ballot box, let the players and coaches make the decision.

7:44 - beauty of a goal by Rick Nash - saw him score a similar one during a fundraiser for Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie last August

7:45 - Holy Hejduk! A goal was scored while no one was being interviewed or nattering over the play.

7:48 - another missed goal in favour of inane chatter - tied at 7

7:50PM - standing ovation for Dickie Moore - Montreal's hockey history and the honour the organisation gives former players is tops

7:53PM - the East takes an 8-7 lead courtesy of an Alexei Kovalev breakaway...which was missed because...wait for it...bench side interview

7:55PM - looks like the Russian peace making ritual is contagious - that was a passing clinic by Malkin and Kovalev

7:56PM - I'll never tire of hearing the puck ring off the post

7:57PM - another sign of Habs class with the brief tribute to Pat Burns

7:58 - uh-oh player interview - I smell a goal coming up

8:01 - told ya' so! but de Jarome Iginla - 8-8 tie

8:02 - nice saves by the goalies on both ends

8:06 - Ms. M has to make dinner

8:08 - dressing room inteview with shirtless Joe Thornton

8:08 - Ms. M's idea to generate fan interest in All-Star Game: Shirts vs. Skins - players rotate states of jersey-less-ness

8:25 - Doan cry for me Eastern Conference - Shane Doan buries the biscuit 9-8 West

8:26 - that goalie mike sounds like Luongo is scuba diving

8:28 - short-lived lead - more solid set-up work from Savard on that one by Dany Heatley

8:28 - yep, another missed goal - stupid interviews!

8:42 - the score is a bajillion to a bajillion one

8:42 - Luongo stacks the pads to rob the East

8:46 - BUT! from the stick of local lad Martin St. Louis - all tied at 10

8:52 - just as I was nodding off, Jay Bouwmeester bulged the twine - 11-11

8:53 - high scoring games are over-rated

9:00 - YAWN - overtime. Is there anything less meaningful than OT in an All-Star game?

9:01 - yes, calling the only penalty of the game in said OT

9:03 - good solo effort by Carter

9:04 - media aren't supposed to cheer but I confess to hoping someone, anyone, from either team would score to avoid a shootout. Team sports should be decided by team play not a practice drill.

9:05 - Ms. M is a little less cynical at the thought of Ovechkin, Malkin, and Lecavalier getting goofy in the shootout

9:08 - Luongo denies home grown Lecavalier

9:08 - Doan denied

9:09 - Kovalev continues writing the hometown script

9:10 - nada for Nash

9:10 - Ovechkin for the win

Ms. M is off for a bit to do non-hockey things like laundry and putting hew spawn to bed. Back later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hoopla Schmoopla - The Super Bowl

There’s something wrong in a sport where what happens between the play is more entertaining than the game itself.

It’s even worse during the playoffs. None of the above NFL divisional tilts piqued my interest enough to stay tuned longer than a few minutes at a time. Grown men, squeezed into spandex tights, preening and primping for the cameras while millions watch does nothing for me.

Can you imagine if women wore the same outfits? Stop drooling, guys. Some of those players should extend the girdle-esque ability of the slinky pants to their football jerseys.

A lot of those men are built like tanks, packed with power. That’s no reason not to tuck in the gut, buddy. They do make jerseys with stretch fabric, you know.

To casual observers the Super Bowl is pure hoopla, all style and no substance; it’s the trophy wife of professional sports titles. All glitz, all glamour, looks good on your arm but once the shine comes off the five-carat rock and her roots show…the search for a new one is already under way.

It’s hard to get into an event that was pretty much designed for television ratings and revenue. It costs more for a 30-second spot than many a player makes in an entire season. There are scalpers, lurking under the puka shells outside Raymond James Stadium, who rake in more from selling the 99% of tickets not available to NFL fans than many a player earns on the gridiron that day.


Truth be told, the only Superbowl XLIII appearance that has me pumped is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Pint-sized guitarist Nils Lofgren is using the event to test out his new hip following surgery.

My apologies to the bookies in Vegas - the only picks I’m betting on belong to Springsteen, Lofgren, and Little Steven.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reflections on an Inauguration

I’m not one of those saying I can’t believe this day would ever come – a black man sworn in as President of the United States of America. Truth be told, my dream was a female head of the United States. My reality however, is unbridled joy. Canada’s four mainstream politicians combined cannot offer a cupful of hope compared to the ocean of abundance envisioned by Barack Obama.

Mercifully I don’t recall feeling the lashes of racism inflicted on me, but witnessed an incident that marked me for life.

One of my childhood neighbours was black, the only black family I knew. This was when all most white suburbanites knew of the African-American experience was what we saw on Good Times, Sanford & Son, or The Jeffersons. The drama and struggle satirised, written, and produced by whites. To put it mildly, those shows were in serious need of some chitlins. Rootsthe epic novel/TV series by Alex Haley, not the clothing chain) came along and changed how I viewed things. Seeing Ralph Waite, kind and gentle patriarch of TV’s Waltons as a lash wielding slave trader opened my eyes – things were not as they seemed. Up till then, we’d joke around with the neighbours, uttering the N word meant nothing. To us kids, it was a word, just a word like millions of others. It carried neither malice not malais.

Later that summer my family drove to Florida – I hated every minute of being in that smoky car but it stands as the most important journey of my life. Aside from trips to Kensington Market, it was the first time I was surrounded by coloured people. There was one boy at the resort, he was the son of one of the workers. Being close in age, and my being a tomboy we often played together. One muggy swamp-land afternoon, some passerby hollered out “Leave that girl alone, nigger.” I swear to God I saw that boy’s soul evaporate through his eyes in a flood of tears. The word that had no meaning a few weeks earlier gave meaning to my life. In that instant, that moment of pain and shame for an innocent little boy showed me the power of language. That one word, one phrase could affect a human being to the extent it affected that child opened my eyes. From that incident stemmed my love for language. I had seen that there is no such thing as just a word, just an ordinary word. A bundle of vowels and consonants equalled far more than the sum of its parts. It instilled a passion that no matter how powerful my words, I vowed to never hurt anyone with them, that I would never come up with anything to create such pain in human lives.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the Heels of the World Junior Championship

Here is my current Prospects Report in case you missed it at rotoworld.com

John Tavares – 2009 Draft Eligible

The top-ranked North American for the 2009 draft, John Tavares left the recent World Junior Championship with more than a gold medal. He walked away sporting more honours than any other player in the tournament - Best Forward, Most Valuable Player, goal scoring leader, and two-time Player of the Game. Only Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Cody Hodgson topped him in total points. Tavares also ended up with a new OHL team, being traded from the Oshawa Generals to the London Knights. The move didn’t slow down Tavares, who potted two goals and an assist in his first game as a Knight last Sunday. Tavares was the brightest star in the Generals’ offensive sky but he’ll be sharing the London limelight with Nazem Kadri and Philip McRae. If anything that should add another 10-15 points to his final OHL season total. An impressive playoff run could cement him as the top pick ahead of Victor Hedman once and for all.

Mikael Backlund – Calgary’s 2007 pick, #24 overall

Hot on the heels of an impressive showing at the World Junior Championship in Ottawa, Swedish native Mikael Backlund is staying put in North America. The Calgary Flames assigned him to the CHL’s Kelowna Rockets. There were rumours Backlund would not return to Vasteras of the Swedish Elite League because Calgary management were not pleased with his third line duties overseas. Backlund’s SEL stats don’t accurately reflect his offensive skills – 9 goals, 4 assists in 37 games. His performance at the World Juniors is more indicative of his skill set – tied for seventh in scoring, two-time Player of the Game, voted by coaches as one of Sweden’s top-3, and 57.81% on faceoffs. Backlund will likely center Colin Long and Jamie Benn, giving Kelowna one of the best lines in junior hockey. Kelowna is primed to make a run for the WHL championship and that experience only serves to boost Backlund’s already high fantasy value.

Nikita Filatov – Columbus’ 2008 pick, #6 overall

In his first game with Columbus after a solid showing at the World Juniors, Nikita Filatov scored his first NHL hat trick January 10. The wily winger led Russia with 8 goals and 11 points, was fourth in tournament points, two-time Player of the Game, and voted an all-star. Though tied with John Tavares in goals, Filatov placed second because Tavares did it in fewer games. In addition to raw talent, Filatov is a quick learner and has an intense desire to master the NHL game. He’s picked up a lot from his time with the Syracuse Crunch, where he’ll likely return despite the hat trick. Expect to see him back and forth between the two teams as they fight for playoff spots.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Merry Christmas from hockeytalkie.blogspot.com

Craciun fericit
Hristos se rodi
Kala Christouyenna!
Srozhdestvom Kristovym

Today is Christmas in the Orthodox faith, so if you're wondering why your Greek, Ukrainian, Serbian, or Romanian friends didn't show up for work, that's the reason. Chances are they're still cleaning up the mess made by 5 678 festive cousins who visited last night. For those who don't know, in many Slavic cultures, "cousin" does not solely mean "child of my parent's sibling." A more accurate translation is "I have no clue how we're actually related, if we are related, but someone's brother's cousin's grandmother in the ancestral village gave someone else's brother's cousin's grandmother a jug of Slivo one dry, hot day, back in 1789, when the oxen died and the wheels fell of the cart, so that makes us family." I'm not Orthodox but have always celebrated the holidays. In typical fashion, my Orthodox Christmas celebrations are decidedly un-orthodox. Instead of tossing a special log into the fireplace, I flip on the gas fireplace and slaughter a home-made chocolate Yule log. The Christmas Eve Monopoly marathons of my childhood are replaced by building crazy Lego creations at the kitchen table with my spawn at Orthodox Christmas. Some traditions, such as eating freshly made bread, poppy seeds and cabbage have remained. Come to think of it,no one ever wants to sit near me after I've eaten the cabbage rolls, sauerkraut soup, and coleslaw - wonder why?

Yesterday, I received the best Christmas gift ever. I've been asked to contribute an article for a prestigious publication. The scale is daunting, several interviews, 900-1200 words, quotes, but within a format. Once again, the hockey world has eased my fears. Every one has been co-operative and patient when I'm struggling for words or trying to keep track of who's on the phone.

It's funny because usually I'm the one handing out the gifts, passing around the rum balls and cookies. This year I didn't have money to go all out the way I love to do. Most people got hugs and cookies. 30 hours after this opportunity came into my life, I'm sitting at my desk, shaking my head, holding back tears, wondering what I ever gave the universe to deserve this incredible opportunity - my dream has become my reality.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, January 2, 2009

R.I.P. Don Sanderson

This was written a few weeks ago and there were no plans to publish it. The death of Don Sanderson changed that.

Those calling for an end to hockey violence before a player is killed have missed the boat by roughly a century. Verifiable deaths happened over one hundred years ago, and there might well have been some before that, lost in the dim light of hockey’s dawn. Historical records show Owen McCourt died way back in 1907. Edgar Dey won the 1909 Stanley Cup with the Ottawa Hockey Club but didn’t get to regale grandkids with tales of the grand feat; he died three years later. Cause of death? In both cases, complications from on-ice head injuries. The only NHL player to lose his life as a direct result of playing the game was Bill Masterton; he lives on in the NHL trophy bearing his name.

The latest ammunition in the arguments about hockey violence, specifically hits to the head, is a 21-year-old young man. Don Sanderson of the storied Whitby Dunlops lay in a Hamilton hospital, unaware of the debate his injury triggered. Sanderson was used to dangling a puck on a string. His parents watched fate dangle their comatose son’s life in front of tear-filled eyes, while sitting next to a hospital bed far from home.

Sanderson was doing what so many Canadians do with their precious few hours of winter leisure time – playing hockey. Most post-adolescent players sweat it out in various beer leagues. Sanderson plied his craft at a higher level in Major League Hockey, successor to the Ontario Hockey Association. Unlike the typical Friday night post-work shinny, the OHA has been host to many top players, including former NHLers Rick Vaive, Wayne Cowley(one NHL game still counts), Peter Zezel, Gilbert Dionne, and Todd Harvey. Winners of the championship get the chance to compete for the Allen Cup, Canada’s top honour for senior amateur male hockey.

Don Sanderson won’t get that chance this season. His stats show the defenceman was not a finesse player. During three seasons in the OJMHL – Junior A – he racked up 195 penalty minutes in 75 games, finding time to notch 2 goals and 7 assists. Even though he was not drafted into the OHL, Sanderson had no trouble getting on the Whitby Dunlops roster.

In a league that supposedly has zero tolerance for fighting, Sanderson and Corey Fulton, (the Brantford Blast player he fought with) had combined for seven fighting majors in their combined 18 games. The fact that each major came with a game misconduct was not a deterrent. No one can guarantee Sanderson would not be in a coma if his helmet stayed on. Save the bets for the Super Bowl. Helmets, like seat belts can be life savers.

One side in the battle over head hits makes the point that violence and fighting have always been a part of hockey. This is historically inaccurate. Organised hockey was originally a game of skill and endurance, having nothing to do with pugilistic punches. The game was so tame, women(referred to back then as the fairer sex) were encouraged to play in their own matches. This camp also makes the case that giving penalties for improperly secured helmets would be too onerous a task for NHL referees. If they can measure for illegal sticks and dole out sin bin minutes for flappy fight straps, shifty helmets should logically be another night at the rink for the zebras.

Those in favour of banning head shots and calling for penalties on improperly secured helmets are accused of changing the game, making it a “sissy” sport. Bad situations require good changes. From the time hockey players first lace ‘em up they’re told to keep both hands on the stick, keep said stick on the ice, and “keep your head up.” The cry to mandate keeping those heads covered, regardless of age, is getting louder and louder.

Don Sanderson did not live long enough to hear it.

R.I.P.