Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grade School Flashback

My Mum spent the weekend with me and little did I know that the drive to take her home would not only be 30 kilometers down the highway, but also 30 years down memory lane.

She pointed to an unceremonious pile of papers on the shoe rack and said they were for me. Once home and comfortably entrenched in my writing spot, a quick glance at my grade one report card simultaneously took me back and had me looking forward.

"Monika shows imagination and creativity." - handwritten comment from my first grade teacher on my first ever report card

"Story writing were (sic) always of superior quality." - grade five teacher's comment for Creative Writing

"Excellent understanding of the mechanics of language." - grade five teacher's comment for Language

What really brought a smile to my face was this bold prediction from my grade five teacher:

"Monika is a budding author."

Okay, so I'm a late bloomer and it took me 30 years to blossom but wherever you are Henry Ramjass, you called it.

To all my teachers and instructors, especially the ones who didn't tell me to shut up with the crazy stories, the ones who encouraged me to tell them on paper, thank you. You saw something in me that I was too young too realize all those years ago.

P.S. - Dear Mrs. O'Donoghue - my writing is no longer untidy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Radical Departure from Hockey Talk

Going through the process of earning my broadcasting diploma reinforced certain skills, very portable ones. The ability to remain calm in a control room easily carries over to my Mum's kitchen upon discovering (one day before Christmas no less) she cut back so much on holiday baking that there was nowhere near enough for us, let alone for friends and neighbours. Two years ago that would have sent me into a swear-filled rage but thanks to school lessons learned, I grabbed the recipe book, rolled up my sleeves and sprung into culinary action in a flurry of mixing, kneading , rolling and baking to remedy the situation.

Another talent is listening. Instead of totally tuning out something that bores me to tears, I put on my happy face and try to find a story within the story, something that grabs my interest.

Journalistic impartiality is something my friends say I have taken too close to heart on many occasions, a compliment in my books. It means I've mastered the art of publicly displaying a poker face while a Csardas whirls silently in my soul.

All those things came into play the morning my friend called to tell me her son had tried to kill himself, again, and in the same spot as the first attempt. It was surreal, listening but not wanting to hear. Feeling emotion without falling apart. All this great training but I'm stumped, not doing what to do or say, so I enrobe myself in the journalist's ultimate armour, detachment.

The brain steadfastly repeats 'You're not a part of this. This story isn't about you.' The heart shouts louder with every pounding beat, thumping the message 'Do something' into my veins.

I've known my friend for 25 years and have no clue what to do. I'm not a psychiatrist, a psychologist and truth be told, I'm terrible around sick people, be their ailments mental, physical or emotional.

I've known her son since before he was born and can remember all the heartache and pain she went through to have him. I was there when she was dumped, left to raise her infant child. I was there when she met her husband for the first time. I was there when they married. I've been there, in those lives, so many times, I had to be there now.

"I'll take you out Friday night." was all I could say, knowing full well it would not change things but it was the only respite I could offer.

We had a nice dinner, circumstances aside and finished the night, as we had so many others, over coffee and doughnuts.

We spent many teenaged hours hanging out in Mrs. Aroukatos' doughnut shop, whiling away muggy summer afternoons and bone-chilling winter nights, talking about daydreams and building doughnut men long before Mike Myers (I swear he stole the idea from us)immortalized it in "Wayne's World."

Back then, neither of us ever imagined that one sleepless night, over two decades later, we would be sitting in a doughnut shop having nightmares about how to rebuild a shattered young man.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Favourite Curtis Joseph Memory

This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote today for

Hearing about Curtis Joseph’s impending official retirement was no surprise
seeing how he hasn’t played an NHL game since suiting up against the Buffalo
Sabres on April 08th, 2009. Most players would appreciate the honour of
tying a league record in their final career tilt, but odds are there were no
cupcakes in King City to celebrate defeat 452, an achievement shared with
Lorne “Gump” Worsley. Memo to those who think that dubious distinction alone
discounts Joseph from inclusion into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Worsley’s in
there, along with the tenth biggest loser in NHL goaltending history, some
guy with hearing problems by the name of Patrick Roy.

Other pundits, ones who remember every win, loss, tie and OTL, can fight
that debate. The waves of nostalgia flooding the ice in my snow bank of
Curtis Joseph memories – some while he was a Leaf and some while he
tormented them in playoffs – are more personal.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Minor Hockey Talkie

It seems like more and more people are finding my blog via searches for hockey parents, hockey horror stories, good hockey parent, kids hockey, etc.

With that in mind, that's the direction this blog will take and I hope you enjoy travelling along the path with me. I'm also looking for stories so if there is one that you'd like to tell but don't have anyone to tell it, please email me:

I'm looking forward to helping you tell your stories.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ringing in the New Year, Writer's Style

Another New Year begins, and this one starts off in style, writer’s style. After dropping my Mum off at church - always good for godless heathens to have grey-haired grannies praying for us - I bundled up the laptop in his winter best and headed off to my beloved Timothy's cafe. They were closed but luckily the Second Cup across the road was open, smiling people purveying all manner of coffee and conversation.

Yes, I can write at home but there is something soothing and exhilarating about having "your spot" that makes heading out to do it so appealing. There is never the distraction of dishes from the New Year's party a few hours earlier, the child whining is not one I have to deal with, and sometimes a snippet of chat catches the ear, inspiring a few lines or paragraphs. It isn't eavesdropping if people are talking loud enough for others to hear.

A lot of the conversations today were, fittingly enough, about resolve and reflection, which got me in a pensive mood so here are some of my most memorable events from 2009.

Most surprising of all is that I have managed to come out of the year with both a husband and a diploma, a very nicely framed diploma at that. It looked bleak in early 2009 but I found a ray of sunshine amid the damp and dreary halls of Angus Glen arena. Most friends think the reason I loved taking my son to hockey camp was a daily dose of strong, dark and sweet. Well, mes amis, you're right but sometimes that was provided by Sandy, not Peter.

At a time when I needed to see women succeeding and thriving in male dominated professions, Sandy walked into my life. It's not as easy to get together anymore but I will always appreciate her important contribution in making me hold on tightly to the rope and get some calluses when letting go would have been an easier route.

Gratitude also goes out to my dear friends at because without their encouragement, I probably would have kept putting off my return to school. It was actually Rob DM who told me to get on facebook, and then sent me a link to this new school that was opening up, suggesting I should give it serious consideration.

I did exactly that and signed up for the inaugural class, a decision never to be regretted. Thank you Rob, I'll give you a plug wherever professionally acceptable!

Thanks also go out to Rick C. for suggesting I get in touch with Adam Proteau of The Hockey News. When I jokingly told Adam he could get me as a "free" intern for his birthday he advised sending my resume to his editor. I did and in September 2008 was able to strike "work at The Hockey News" off my bucket list. As a little girl I would read the magazine, dreaming about someday, somehow getting my name in the credits, back in the days when there were no female hockey writers that I knew of. What an absolute thrill the first time I saw my name in there, and even bigger when I got my first byline on Feb. 09, 2009 - fittingly enough my child's birthday.

My respect and admiration for media skyrocketed, and that's from someone who loved ink-stained (toner cartridge-stained?) wretches so much she dedicated her mid-life to becoming one. In August I started a full-time internship at THN and can attest that magazine publishing is an art form, from the actual art department to the sales staff to the marketing crew to the unsung heroics in accounting to the coffee shop workers to the lady in the little corner store who tells me when my favourite soft drink is sold out. Rest assured that even though your names might not be in the mag, your fingerprints are all over it.

There were some low-points, the biggest one being the loss of a dear friend, one whose role in my life I did not fully recognize until he was gone. His passing inspired me to write again, not just about hockey but about life so whatever happens with this career, part of it is for you Pete. You gave me a kick in the proverbial head when I needed it most.

As much as I love all the men in my life, special credit goes to my female friends for all their support, especially "the hockey mums" who are my refuge from the rink. For all the interviews for school projects, for rides to games, forever.

If not for them, I would not know about the great stories that come from when a girl from Southern Italy falls in love with a Punjabi Sikh in Germany. I wouldn't know about the Somali Muslim who hooked up with the Newfie. I wouldn't know what I'd missed, but luckily I need not miss any of those wonderful girls nights out.

There are friends who might not be mentioned by name but your contributions are held in my heart, never to worry about being lost in a computer crash.

Thanks for being in my life and may yours be filled with love, light and happiness in 2010.