Archive | September, 2013

Remember my Dad smoke these

25 Sep


soccer story

23 Sep

Wrote this before Euro 2012

I love the affect a big soccer event like Euro 2012 has on the Canadian culture. We are a mosaic us Canadians, proud of where we are and respectful from where it was we came. The older I get the more I recognize how special we are as a country for this very reason.

My late grandparents were cut from an Irish cloth; in fact my paternal grandparents didn’t come to Canada until well into their adult years. I myself have never been to Ireland, I came close once when I spent a few days in Gander Newfoundland for work. But I’ve had my share of god awful Irish stew that my lovely grandmother would make for us kids, likely a recipes handed down by her mother, it consisted of mostly potatoes and water and maybe 15 cents worth of hard boiled meat. For these reason I’m going to cheer like a (non violent) Irish “Loogan” every time the Republic of Ireland steps on the field in Euro 2012. Similar to what the Italian, Greek, Dutch, German…people I know do for their mother countries. The only difference being that by all prognostications us Irish don’t stand a chance-“But you better believe it boy that’s the only way us Irish like it, everyone counting us out and we come fighting from behind and shove it in your cake hole!” Man I’m getting too excited already; fired up and they have not even stepped on the field yet.

Back to my reflections on how the affect of a global game unites communities across our country in the healthy spirit of competition. First I make a mental note to Google the Republic of Ireland team to see who plays for them –like their names.

I can sum up my fondness for the affect these tournaments have on communities in one simple ordinary little slice of life image that has never left me.

It was World Cup tournament time about twenty five years ago. I worked on the Pepsi trucks, it was brutal grunt work done in the heat of a prairie summer. My partner and I ran the North End of Winnipeg route which consisted largely of small corner stores attached to older houses where the proprietors usually lived.

On this particular occasion the soft drink company had ran a huge sale on two liters and a lot of these corner store would load up when they could; the only place they could store the reserve of pop was in the basement which usually consisted of a low ceiling little dungeon area only accessible by a hatch in the floor. What we had to do, was one guy stood or hunched over in the basement to stack cases while the other partner threw (hand-bombed) them down through the hatch in the floor to be caught and sorted and stacked. Then the guy on the bottom had to hand-bomb empties and stale dated cases up the hole to be caught and stacked to be brought back to the plant. It was a stifling, dirty, physical, uncomfortable nasty piece of procedure. As I was throwing up cases of empties, I could here chatter, an Asian cadence …it was both young and old. As my efforts to erode the stack came to fruition I caught site of where the voices were coming from.

In the corner of the dark cellar sitting on a crate was an extremely old Asian man and what was probably his great grandson of just four or five. They were glued to a small rabbit eared black and white television., they gave me a quick polite wave and went back to chattering about whatever was happening with the World Cup game. It was obvious by their rapt attention it was their team. The old man was maybe ninety, his voice singsong and sharp; all knowing, the little boy responded with squeaky anxious retorts- his big brown eyes looking to participate in the conversation. In the corner store of a north end Winnipeg confectionary, in a damp dark remote cellar I was struck by the power of sport, of generations connected by family tethered to their other community in a global event thousands of miles away.

It was a fairly ordinary event that I will always remember and I’m sure the boy now a man remembers..

Go Irish!

a remember a guys from my Junior hockey years

23 Sep

When you’re strange
no one remembers your name.

The Doors

Local folklore has it he was clean shaven, wearing a suit, hair groomed, showered, shoes polished; he was going out with the local hockey teams, a planned get together with him included; it ended unfortunately , falling down, loud, slurring, puking all over the place, a mess.

This is a tribute to all those characters who felt comfort in a place so much so they made it their home.

I have been thinking often lately of a character that use to be a fixture day and night at the local arena. As best as I can remember he always wore the same oversized parka adorned with a couple of hockey buttons and one of those hats with flaps that come down over the ears and is flipped up on the beak. I don’t know what he wore in the summer? We weren’t at the arena in those months.

When the new hockey year began, sure enough he’d be there with his fierce little nature, emerging from a vacant bathroom (where he was rumored to spend his nights when the arena was dark and locked) or he’d just show up in the dressing room.

He was a crabby little guy about the size of a jockey. He strode around with purpose; a threatening stomp even when he was staggering. When he spoke his word spilled out in big burst of bravado. He had dark stubble, bushy eyebrows that met in a V at the bridge of his nose giving him a menacing fix. Half a cigarette stub always clenched between his teeth. He often paced under the rise of the stands where the dug out style confectionery existed with its old fashion popcorn machine percolated away giving off a delicious scent of salt, hot oil and fleshly cooked kernels. If you made eye contact with him he was going to show you in his most demonstrative way the moves he performed while playing for the Montreal Canadians, “I did THIS! and THIS”! and with each THIS! a violent but nonsensical body maneuver would follow startling folks who might be passing by. You knew that he was done showing you when he gave you a glower as if to say “don’t believe me.. I’ll take you out to the woodshed kid”. I don’t remember spending a lot of  time with him, one learned to avoid these confrontations.

When the team was together though (and there was relative safety in numbers) certain players egged him on with humoring questions of his hockey conquests, and if deeply inebriated he would perform for the team, grab a hockey stick in the middle of the dressing room and growl “you do it like THIS”! and he’d feign a slaps shot and look around in that intimidating glare forcing gravity upon his lesson, and on it would go for a bit until it was time to get ready for practice.

Honest nostalgia is equal to a clearer understanding of a memory looked at through a less accurate lens weakened by the years. I can’t remember his name I wish I could, it ended in a Y Frenchy, Franky ,Jimmy. Did he really sleep in the bathrooms at the arena? or did he go to a shelter or both? Is he alive all these years later or has he succumbed to addiction, old age or some other street borne illness? Did he have a family or someone to look after him? or was that us? I have not been to my hometown in many years something tells me he no longer inhabits the nooks and crannies of that arena, his bombastic voice no longer echoes through its hallways. Twenty five years is a long time, I think of all the people I knew, younger and no doubt healthier that have passed since those days. Yet thousands of cold dark nights removed from that era I remember him, he has a place in me. As I make my way home from the pub I follow the moon it is full, the sky open, vast and filled with stars; in my mind I revisit the memory of him, his pantomime full of energy, bluster and conviction “when I played for the Montreal Canadians I did THIS and THIS! “to my surprise I’m saying it under my breath but audible enough that the women on the other side of the street hears and looks at me strangely.

Old Hockey Article

23 Sep

The Fanelli Hit
By all reports Kitchener Ranger rookie Ben Fanelli is thankfully at home recuperating with family, and out of immediate danger?
For the most part it seems writers, sports T.V. / radio personalities are calling the suspension handed down to Michael Liambus for his hit on Ben Fanelli a courageous decision by Commissioner Dave Branch.
Given the circumstances it seems more a practical decision, rooted in and reflective of in small part a large hockey problem and to a larger degree a smaller controllable systemic issue.
The larger problem is about respect, headshots, velocity of collisions, ramification of players’ size and athleticism, helmet safety, and an alternative channeling of hockey violence than we once equated with fisticuffs and stick swinging. This will be debated in conferences, public round tables etcetera, etcetera, over the course of the next year.
No doubt Commissioner Branch has weighed the pros and cons in benefits and ramifications of a system that can have at any given time after January twenty one year olds pitted against sixteen year olds. It’s tough not to believe this particular decision was made with the intent to send a message to the parents of every fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year old kid who may be a potential OHL player- our league is a safe place to play.
What is surprising about all the debate is that there has been relative serenity in challenging the status of a twenty year old playing against a sixteen year old at this level?
(People use the argument that eighteen year old play with grown men in the NHL; yes they do, but maybe four or five make it a year and they are the most finely tuned athletes for their age in the world.)
Theoretically and under the rules of the OHL these two could have dropped their gloves, had at it, and if serious injury occurred to the sixteen year old during the fight (and it wasn’t deemed bullying), then how would the commissioner have been able to send the same message.
Maybe it’s time that twenty year olds and sixteen year olds can play in the same league only under certain conditions.
Let’s say for example the twenty year old is eligible as an overage player if he didn’t exceed a certain criteria for penalty minutes in the previous two seasons, plus had reached certain milestone of points and had not faced disciplinary hearings in the previous two seasons etcetera, etcetera, of course you set separate criteria for forwards and defense . Goalies could be exempt.
Major Junior Hockey has come a long way over the years because forward thinkers have adjusted rules in response to plain silly behavior.
Twenty to twenty five years ago players came back to there respective home towns (after getting cut from a major junior training camp) covered in facial stitches and black eyes from a dozen fights in a couple inters quad games. They brought back with them stories of some crazy characters and blown college scholarship eligibility.
Among many new initiatives and in place supports, players now have a scholarship fund for each year they play should they want to attend university post major junior career. The OHL did away with the painfully embarrassing process where the players unbuttoned and took off there helmets before each fight, rules about head shots , hitting from behind, and bullying have been implemented
So tighten up the rules on the overage players, it shouldn’t come with any logical resistance among the Governors.
Truthfully you would be doing the ineligible overeager a favor. Twenty year old players with a physical presence to their game should be playing minor pro to see if the game they play translates at that level or they should be in the CIS getting an education (using their scholarship dollars) and honing their skill to become a more complete player.
When a tragic incident occurs, industry professionals look at how to change the culture of the game, in the meantime like they have done before the OHL should take another baby step that can be implemented easily so that in the future kids like Fanelli and Liambus are playing in a league that member teams interests better correspond to meet the needs and desires of the individual players.
Dave Roulston

23 Sep

So The Amazing Kreskin still around Eh?

The amazing Kreskin was getting headlines about a week ago he said he could help the Toronto Maple Leafs win. Now you tell us Kreskin. What’s Amazing to me is that he is still around after all these years. According to his website he is still at it and is working as hard as ever. The last time he was really relevant to me was about thirty years ago the result of a stinging comment made by my cancer ward roommate at sick kids hospital in Toronto.

He said he had leukemia; he was a frail blonde kid as laconic as hell. His mother looking tired beyond her years appeared to be using the balance of whatever reserve she had left to pace in and out in of the hospital room, mumbling complaints and regrets with each arrival.

The TV was at the foot of our beds set high on the wall. On TV was one of those mid day talk shows and the guest was “The Amazing Kreskin”, he was wowing the studio audience with his clever magic. I looked over at my roommate and said in my earnest- from the sticks north western Ontario accent “so this Amazing Kreskin guy- he’s a pretty good magician eh”. He turned his head ever so slowly, when finally looking at me he was wearing an Archie Bunker-“you are a meathead’ look, he spat out three words bathed in venom “he’s a psychic”. He turned his attention just as slowly and deliberately back to the TV screen, thoese were our final words. We shared the room for the balance of the day with our respective parents, me a combination of anxiety of events to come and recurring revenge thoughts directed at my little neighbor. Tough talking cool slick bastard from Toronto, all hard boiled from a go at it with chemo- me all lumpy bumpy with lymphoma flown in from Thunder Bay and new to the mat.

It was early January, staring out the eighth floor window it was dark you couldn’t really see anything, but on University Avenue below the sounds of sirens, squealing tires, car horns told a story of desperation, anger and near misses. It may have very well been sunny often that winter, there was a few truly brilliant blue sky days; a story for another time. It just seemed like the darkness was reserved for action, tests, chemotherapy and earnest declarations from doctors: We are putting you on an aggressive protocol of chemo, it will be up to you-really, your parents are taking this hard but by all accounts you are a fighter they know you can overcome this .

My introduction to the fight was late that first night, he looked friendly, like Barney Rubble or at least the image made me think of the Flinstones and how everything was too big. He was carrying what looked like a cafeteria tray dwarfed by what was the largest needle I had ever seen filled with what looked like a litre of cream soda, I think it was called something like “Donomysen” or “Cytozar”. The messenger had a weird fix on his face; a more modern description would have cast him as a smiling Tie Domi in a white doctor’s coat wearing that mug that let the world know nothing could hurt him.

The next day my parents sat with me in the hospital room, I felt nothing in fact I was famished and sent my folks out for a good greasy ham and cheese submarine heated up. My roommate was gone I didn’t see him leave. His bed was neatly made; no indication anyone had inhabited the space beside me. It still bugged me the way he talked to me, I was mad at myself for not having a snappy comeback. I remember thinking- I could take a round out of you buddy, I was athletic, the captain of one of the best bantam triple A hockey teams in North Western Ontario.

Later that night I upchucked the ham and cheese submarine with a ferocity not experienced before or since-this gave way several hours later to a more violent form of wrenching producing small amounts of yellow bile, finally a sort of dark speckled liquid by the end of the second day-sometime later it ended. The fact the doctors seemed nonplussed by the sudden onset of my brutal vomiting was comforting; these cowboys with chemo running around saving lives, taking you down the rabbit hole drawing the bow of will as far back they can, reaching to the quiver for more in the preparation for the triumphant snap back, sending you on your way. Later my hair came out of my “mansome mullet” in easy to pull clumps, akin to the eager hand of a child ripping off the next bit of cotton candy from a cardboard baton-it was kind of fun to pluck out in a “I don’t get to do this very often” way.

The anger I had for not being armed with a witty comeback to my first cancer ward roommate was fleeting, it gave way to the task at hand and later to hockey trips, high school dances, house parties, the power and mystery of sex, wet kisses, my surprising dexterity at being able to unsnap a bra with one hand, first real job, bar fights ,barbeques and off to university in my Scooby –Doo Van.

I have held with me the recurring memory over the years of how that first hospital roommate just disappeared, the bed he slept in tightly made, no evidence of him-gone. I have periodically wondered what became of him, I hope he did well; I think so, he was sour but he had toughness to him.
If he is around did he see the Amazing Keskin had re emerged after all these years on the front page of the Toronto Sun to say he could help the Leafs win? Did it remind him of the naïve kid from the sticks?


Nickname in Hockey

21 Sep


A link to a story about Dad,Freind and Hammerin Hank

21 Sep