Category Archives: Road Trips

Together on a Bus

I didn’t play on teams that did much travelling until I was in high school.  However, I remember those days well and it never fails to bring a smile, if not to my face, then at least within my mind, remembering the good times spent travelling with not just friends, but hockey-playing friends.

Peterborough to Ottawa for some beyond-the-city championship tourney (COSSA?), short trips to and from Fenelon Falls or Lindsay for the rare Saturday night game, Toronto for the Father David Bauer November tournament and the mother of all long nights, North Bay to Peterborough post-game on a cold late-winter night after a sad ending at OFSSA.

The music was Pink Floyd and Kim Mitchell and Geddy and his mates and all kinds of good stuff in between.  There were card games and naps, chirping each other, chirping the coaches, chirping about girls and on en route to the game, thoughts of big moments to come.  On the return trip, thoughts of plays made that felt good or, on the down side, mistakes made that left doubt, angst and frustration.

Sometimes old yellow school buses, sometimes fancier coaches, but the ride was the thing.  The bus ride to play hockey and the bus ride home.  Those were better than the good old days.

Ah, the boys from Humboldt and their bus ride.  God, I feel for every single one of them.  The driver of the truck.  The families, the neighbours, the kid’s teachers, the team they never got to play.  The ones who lived.

Like many who had a lump in their throat when they heard the news, and who had a hockey stick or two out in the garage, I put a stick at the front door.   It seems like such a silly thing to do in some ways.  It won’t make a difference.  It won’t really lessen the pain to their loved ones.

In the same week that innocent people were gassed by their own country’s leader, I am reminded of how much suffering there is in the world that seemingly rolls off us, as if it’s not really affecting other human beings like us.

For me, hockey has always helped give a little bit of meaning to life when the world gets a bit out of whack.  Or, I’d like to think it provides a little bit of healing balm to those in pain when the circumstances of their world are a little overwhelming.

This was a tough one.  The stick at the front door may not mean much, but showing you care in any way you can is better than having it roll off you.



Filed under Friendships, memories, Road Trips, teams

OFSSA Champions (Not)

32 years ago today, the 1980-81 St. Petes’s team, of which I was a part, headed off to OFSSA in North Bay on a yellow school bus.  It was a solid team sporting a 38-3-2 won lost record and was the second seed in the eight team tournament.  We had played and beaten the first seed Monarch Park lion’s earlier in the season and were coming to the tournament pretty healthy.

Brad Cowie was our best player, and the best player I have every played on any team with.  He was so good.  We had lost in the OFSSA semi’s in the previous year and while we had lost a fair number of really good grade 13 players, this year’s team was still a really good team.

We won our first contest against London Saunders on Thursday afternoon at 2:15 PM.  We had a really good game and I think the score was 4-2 or something close to that.   That win put us in the semi’s on Friday night.  Our likely opponent was to be the East York Goliaths, a big physical team that we had lost to in the annual Snofest Tournament finals in Peterborough in January.  I am not one of those players who cares not who he plays.  I remember getting a beat-down from playing these guys a couple of months before and was not looking forward to playing them.  Monarch Park, the higher seed didn’t bother me a bit.

And so, without much to do in North Bay for the next 24+ hours, we did what any group of disciplined teenage hockey-playing boys would do, we lost our mental focus quickly.  I remember spending a good chunk of Thursday aft and evening playing pool in a snooker hall across the street from the sleepy, summertime motel we were staying in.  Our coaches went back to the rink to scout and by early evening came back to the hotel to share the miraculous news – East York had been put out of the gold medal chase with a loss to a rag-tag team from the Soo whose hot goalie had stood on his head.   We were pumped and feeling all the more like it might be our year.

With that news, we got just a little further ahead of ourselves.  Again, it’s now only Thursday night and we still have almost a full day before our Friday night semi game.  Let the card games begin.  Some school groupies showed up in a car and brought up the girlfriend of one of the boys and focus slipped a little further.

By Thursday afternoon, our goalie Bernie Crowley (no relation but the nuns at the school used to think we looked alike enough to be brothers) had lost enough money in a card game to the McDougall brothers that he didn’t have enough dough to cover his Friday night hotel room fee.  Not a good omen at all and more than a bit of distraction.

Things got worse and since I’ve written the details of how the actual game unfolded in this post, I won’t repeat it here.  I remember the ride home post-game.  We would have happily stayed in North Bay overnight but our coaches herded us on to the old yellow school bus for the four hour ride back to Peterborough.  I remember it being one freakin’ cold ride.  I swear the bus had either no heat or the coaches told the bus driver to leave it turned off as punishment.  We got in to Peterborough really late, feeling really defeated.  Our parents were there to pick us up in the middle of the night at St. Pete’s and our little dream of winning Ontario was done.

While we didn’t know it that night, our coach Dave Bowen announced within a few weeks he would be leaving the high school and hanging up his coaching blades for awhile.  It was a real disappointment for me as he was the best coach I ever had and I had two years to go in  high school.   In the following season, we won the city championship for a 5th straight year but didn’t advance out of COSSA.  In my final year, the string of city championships ended at 5 as Kenner Collegiate took the crown.

ofssa 1981

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Filed under Great Players, High School, Losing, Missed Chances, Road Trips, teams

Driving Home

I had an awesome drive home after last night’s game.  It was cold and there was a healthy wind hammering a fair bit of snow horizontally across Highway 85 as I drove back to KW from Elmira.  It felt like someone had sprinkled a little bit of Canada across all my senses.  Behind the wheel, it was just dicey enough to require one to be careful not to get to close too the shoulder where the snow was creeping out nor too close to the centre line (that I couldn’t see).

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Lindsay on a Saturday Night

In my last year of high school play, the high school in Lindsay had entered the Peterborough area league.  Instead of playing them after school during the week as we did other local schools, we would sometimes play on Saturday nights in Lindsay.  We’d take a school bus to the game as a team but on the way home, I would often just jump in the car with my parents who most often attended these games.  They were truly wonderful hockey parents and attended every game they possibly could.

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Filed under High School, Parents, Road Trips

On the 401?

While driving on the 401 earlier today, in stop and go traffic (as is usually the case when crossing the top of Toronto on a long weekend), I spotted a single shinpad laying on the outside shoulder.  I quickly asked my son, who was travelling with me, to snap a picture of it with his blackberry but he wasn’t that quick, so this will have to live on in fish-story form – true but unsubstantiated.

How does this happen?  It’s like seeing a single shoe out there; not uncommon but weird.   Did it fall out of a hockey bag from an open trunk?  Not likely.  Did it fall out of a bag strapped to a room?  More likely.  Domestic dispute?

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Montreal III – The Meat of the Weekend

The weekend started with an eight hour bus ride on Friday morning.  Lots of fun, lots of abuse and lots to eat and drink.   The journey included discussions that ranged from humourous to philosophical to practical to just plain old trivia.  For example, someone asked if perhaps next year there was a limo-plane we could take?  Gary described his run-in with a high altitude hockey bag that beat him up pretty good at SportChek and required him to get stitches on his nose.  There was advice on using the bus loo by “just closing one’s eyes and focusing”.  There was more talk of trailers and trailer parks than I ever hope to hear among friends again.  Apparently, some couples you meet at vacation resorts who seem REALLY friendly are perhaps not what they seem to be and yes, I actually made a note about a discussion of how twizzlers could be used as a snore alarm.   Smart bunch this.

We stopped for refreshments in some place called Prescott, Ontario (pictured to the right in a way that perhaps only those present, plus the guy on the porch next door, will appreciate) and by the time we got to Montreal around 6:00 PM, well….um, how to describe things at that point?  I’m stumped, so never mind.  Next, we had a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant.   When the food arrived we thanked the waiter in our best French (I believe someone said “a big-ass merci”), wolfed it down and jumped back on the bus to the arena for our Friday night game.

And what a right-off that game was.   We lost 4-1 to a pretty lousy team but soundly deserved the loss.  At one point during the game, one of the defenceman on the ice came off for a change and when he got to the bench saw that both our other defencemen on the bench were sitting with their helmets off in no shape to play at that moment and maybe for many moments to come.  The second classic moment was Dan falling backwards into the boards nowhere near the play for no apparent reason.  (Well, as the old saying goes, there is a reason for everything and I suspect we probably could come up with a consensus here if we dug deep enough but I digress).  After the game, Matt (young guy) described his disappointment at how quick the game went just as Rick and myself (the two oldest guys) were catching our breath enough to discuss how long the game felt.

After the game, and feeling quite discouraged at the loss (actually, not so much), we headed out with some hitting Dunn’s and some hitting Hurley’s right from the get go.  Most gathered later at Hurley’s.  The band upstairs was a letdown but they still had yager, Dan’s arm was working well, as were Tara-Lee and her co-bar-mistress so the night wasn’t a bust.  Carey and I bailed early and took some heat for it.  But as player-of-the-game’s-in-waiting, we knew Saturday was a day we’d have to be at our best.

So from about 1:30 AM Saturday onward, I don’t have much to report ‘cuz I wasn’t back in the loop until late Saturday morning.  That’s not to say there isn’t stuff to talk about though.  The pictures from Saturday morning (none shall be published here) tell the story and while we were probably in better shape as a team to play on Saturday afternoon after all that bonding on Friday night, some were in better shape than others.

I was up pretty early on a brilliant Saturday morning in Montreal and wandered about the old city as well as up Rue Saint Laurent to scout eating places for later in the day.  Took some nice pics which are shown in the Flikr photostream to the right.

We tied a heart-breaker 4-4 in the second game early Saturday afternoon but knew this put us clearly out of contention for Sunday play so from that point on, we could enjoy the remainder of the weekend with a good conscience.   I believe between games 2 and 3 someone actually toasted “here’s to not playing on Sunday” (although that may have been on the bus trip down).

Misfortune did hit Matt when he forgot the first rule of Montreal road trip play which is to never stand in front of the other team’s net when Dan is shooting.  He took one off the arm and not only did he miss the rest of game 2, but he actually traveled all of south Montreal by cab for over an hour by himself between games 2 and 3 (his teammates had to rest) in search of a clinic.  When he found one, it was a 19 hour wait to be seen so out of money and time, he had to walk back to the rink, which interestingly only took him 20 minutes.  It turns out he found game 3 quite long from the stands, just when Rick and I were getting our legs under us on the ice.  Ah, young guys.  Reminds me of the joke of the old bull and the young bull up on the hill looking down on a field of cows…but since that has no link to hockey whatsoever, I’ll go no further with that here.

The tournament was nicely run by CHE enterprises.  Paul Evans was the man on the ground and his stories of playing for the Leafs with Sittler and MacDonald against the Broad Street Bullies in the playoffs in the early 80’s were pretty cool.  He played for only part of two seasons with the Leafs, and even then only when it got rough because Inge Hammarstrom didn’t like the rough going and when you played Philly, it got rough.  Of course the Peterborough connection made it that much better for this old Pete’s fan.  We joked about his brother Doug’s hit on Gretzky and of his brothers, who I crossed paths with during minor hockey days.

The 3rd game on Saturday evening was a clinic on well-played hockey.  Finely tuned, or at least getting used to playing under the influence (perhaps “PUI” should be a new acronym) we clearly saved our best game until the end.  Dan and Carrie each scored early and we had the Quebec boys on the other side back on their heels and pretty intimidated I think.  We were actually up 3-0 before the first period was half over.  However, like all good things this weekend, this one didn’t last either.  At the end, we lost 8-6 with an empty netter by them finishing us off.  Carrie won player of the game and claimed it was the first time he had scored more than one goal in a game since a street hockey game on the rock sometime around 3rd grade.  Geez boy, wha’d ya go and tell us that for?  We were thinking you were good!

To use an army metaphor, Saturday night was all that it could be.   Some went for a steak dinner in the old city while Gary, Rick and I headed off to Rue Saint Laurent, where we had a very nice meal indeed.  The man at the door welcomed us in, gave us a great table and provided complimentary shots of Jamieson’s (he had me right there).  Both he and his waitress actually had one with us which brought a tear to this dogan’s eye.  Classic.   After that, Rick and Gary and I stopped by the cafe just down from our hotel for some honey cake (Mon Dieu! but it was good) and had our picture taken with some art that caught Rick’s eye.  We were a cultured lot, no doubt.

We all ended up at Hurley’s again shortly thereafter and were able to get tables downstairs where Solstices, the Hurley’s house band, was playing.  Can those boys play!  Not that I’m musical or would know a good musician from a bad one after going with too little sleep and too much honey cake but everyone else seemed to agree they really are great so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.   Not often you’ll “Comfortably Numb” and “Merrimac” from the same band sound so good.

When we closed Hurley’s I seemed to recall being part leader of a charge to some place west near the old forum called Moe’s diner that was open 7/24.  After much searching and walking and frustration, we decided that Moe’s was the Brigadoon of our weekend and off we went back to Dunn’s for a bed time snack.   Actually, judging by the timestamp on the receipt in the picture right, I guess it was actually more like breakfast snack.  No matter, it tasted good and we hadn’t eaten in hours.   When Carrie and I rolled out of the cab at the hotel after Dunn’s, I looked up and commented that it was getting light out and wasn’t that kind of weird?

The bus trip home was predictably lower key than the ride down.  We watched the movie “Goon” on the big screen at the back of the bus.  Hmmm….no Nick Lidstrom backstory in this one.  At the end of it all, perhaps Gary said it best when discussing plans for next year – “how could we not come back?”

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Montreal III – Where to Begin?

Like our two previous Spring trips to Montreal for a weekend of hockey and sociable, this one was a dandy.  From this old blogger’s perspective, the one big difference is that I wrote stuff down on my blackberry as the weekend progressed so unlike other years, I can actually remember some of the great one liners heard and memories made over the course of three days.  I snapped a few pictures as well and our BBM group allowed a fair number of priceless moments to be captured digitally, perhaps some that probably should be deleted sooner than later.

So, unlike last year’s summary, where I wrote one post and promised to write more but never did because I couldn’t remember much by the time I work up on Tuesday morning, let me start this brief weekend recap with a visual.  If I had to describe this adventure in terms of great movies, I’d  say it was an amalgam of Deliverance, The Hangover, The Sound of Music and Shooter.

Deliverance comes to mind because try as I might, I just cannot shake the image of that big guy from the other team in Game 2 lying on top of Gary in his crease in the most awkward of positions.   (Sorry Gary but I had nightmares last night of Ned Beatty wearing a goalie mask and I think I’m going to just keep typing here for a good long time ‘cuz I’m afraid to go to bed).

The Hangover comes to mind for more than a few reasons.   Other than the fact there was no chicken wandering in my room when I woke up in the morning, I think the rest of the movie probably paralleled our weekend pretty well.    While no one got married (no one got married did they?) and no one lost teeth  (although there was that Cornwall Brent guy who kept telling us the story about being willing to knock out people’s teeth) and we didn’t smash up a car (although the bus driver doing the formula one thing around back of the arena on the way home Friday night where he took out snowbanks with his bumper like the Titanic took out that iceberg was a little weird, and weirder still that he did it on April 14th), we were basically a bunch of guys on a road trip probably having a bit too much to drink at times,  staying out too late and abusing each other more than is healthy.

The Sound of Music?  Well, it wasn’t nuns because I didn’t see any of them.  I didn’t even see any candidates for nuns.  Those girls at the restaurant on St. Laurent on Saturday night at the next table were so not nuns that even Rick and Garry seemed a little bit scared of them.  Same for Nazis, didn’t see a one.  However, two nights at Hurley’s listening to the boys from Solstice was a musical pleasure that even Julie Andrews could never touch no matter what she might have had up that habit.

Lastly, Shooter comes to mind for a couple of reasons.  In the moments that I’m able to chase my Ned Beatty nightmares away, I get flashes of an arm shooting straight up to catch the waitresses’ attention to bring more Yager at Hurley’s.   I also would be remiss if I didn’t point that not only is Dan deadly at ordering shooters, he’s pretty deadly with his shot.   In Game 2 on Saturday, on three different shots from the point, he dropped Matt, a guy on the other team and then scored.   Perhaps if I queued up some bango music while replaying those three highlights,  I’d be back at Deliverance but I’m already freaked out by the Ned Beatty thing so Shooter it is.

It was a wonderful trip with good hockey, good food and drink and some wildly funny moments.  I will definitely write more over the coming days.

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Montreal III – let the planning begin

Next year’s pilgrimage to hockey’s mecca takes place on the April 13th weekend.  While not exactly in the league of an action-thriller trailer, the vid below of this past April’s road trip home will hopefully help the recruiting drive.  Is that limo bus a great way to travel or what?

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It Wasn’t About the Hockey

The icing on the cake came with the last round of jager shooters.   You see, after two nights of parking our sorry behinds at Hurley’s on Crescent street for several hours, it was last call but the final order for jager shooters was one that could not be filled – Hurley’s had run out of jager.   (Now, if the truth be told, they had simply drained the supply that was in their fridges but the fact that we’d had a significant hand in this made us proud).  And so, in lieu of jager, some of us had to fire back shots of Jameson’s to close out the evening.   A nice finish indeed.

It was the wee hours of Sunday morning but the place was still going strong.  The upstairs area closes before the downstairs area so this wasn’t really last call.  We simply went downstairs and enjoyed a bit more time before calling it a night.   Around 3:30, we wandered out into the rainy Montreal night and grabbed cabs back to the hotel, stopping one more time at Dunn’s for a smoked meat chaser and, for some, poutine, before heading to bed.    Well, some of us ate, some we’re still full from the salad’s we’d eaten at Rueben’s hours before.

There are more than a few stories to tell about last weekend’s trip to Montreal and they won’t all fit in this post so I’m going to write ’em as I remember them over the next few weeks.  Unfortunately, many will be lost to a bad memory but I’ll do my best.  A sample of what’s to come is how we came to learn that the loo on a limo bus doesn’t have unlimited capacity, and in fact, can fill up quite qickly on hockey road trip.   We found out quickly that the red team was a very good hockey team, much younger than us, and for a number of reasons, in much better shape to play than we were on Friday night.  We discovered that subtle changes in tournament protocol can make a big difference in the hockey player experience.  We had to pay for our first beer after each game (tournament organizers take note – charge us an extra $15 up front and avoid this PR debacle next year) but the hotel breakfast was miles ahead of last year’s if for no other reason than it had actually been cooked that morning.  Nice touch Holiday Inn.

There was also more cell phone calling, texting, BBM’ing and picture sharing than an average class of grade 9 girls shares in a year and while I railed on this early on, I came to see with clarity and wisdom at one point on late Saturday evening at Hurley’s all the goodness that such dialog can provide.   I will never turn my phone off again in the off chance Carey sends me an email with an attachment of some sort or other.  I can see it now, I’m on my death bed in my late 90’s, and just before I go, in my delirium, I mumble incoherently to loving family members at my side…”where’s my phone? who turned off my phone?  damn it you fools – get me my phone, there might be an email from Carey.”

There were the many moments of trash talking each other that I wish I’d recorded so I could remember them now for print.    There were the surprises that add to the fun like being passed on the 401 by a busload of orange-coverall-clad prisoners heading down the highway.  Funny, and a little creepy too.  Two busloads of grown men, one full of blokes escaping work, girlfriends, wives and lives for 3 days of fun, one full of blokes looking like escape from anything would be considerably more difficult.

There was the pineapple cookies I bought in the Chinatown bakery on Sunday morning, the piece of chocolate cake at Rueben’s that would have fed that entire bus of prisoners, the 23 goals Josh scored in three games for us, the four saves Gary didn’t make in the first game against the red team and of course, there was Tara Lee at Hurley’s saving a table for us on Saturday night and making sure we were never thirsty.

Perhaps next year, we’ll expect just a bit more from ourselves, perhaps we’ll train a little harder, perhaps we’ll be a little more ready for Friday night’s game, perhaps we’ll eat a little less meat, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to play Sunday and bring home an extra pair of MVP socks and a jacket as first prize.   Then again, maybe not.  Because you see, while we went to Montreal because of hockey, it wasn’t about the hockey.

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