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Round 3 – Night 4

Pittsburgh at Boston – Game 2

Oh what a beautiful game hockey is.  This one was a classic.  If you are a fan of the game, I’m sure there are games that stand out in your mind from years gone by, that you remember as just being damn fine hockey.

From recent years, you may recall matches between the Kings and the Black Hawks.  From twenty years back (or was it more?), you may remember Avs vs the Red Wings or either of those two against the Stars.  Back when those teams were tweaked in the prior summer to deal with just such anticipated meetings ten months later.  Further back there were Islanders vs Oilers, or Habs vs Bruins.

These two teams are very good.  The were moments of brilliance, when incredible passes found their way to snipers who sniped, there were big hits where you couldn’t help but wince from your chair as the hit rippled through your wireless connection thru the TV right into your body at home, and there were crazy saves by goalies that left players shaking their heads.

There were the typical shots of players, heads down on the bench as the game wore on, out of breath, or in pain inflicted by the puck, a hit, or perhaps just left over from a prior game, the cumulative effect simply not going away even with the mid-game adrenaline pumping away.

And of course, there was emotion, with players chirping and hacking away.

Not much to separate these two and yet someone has to win, no?  Pasta, with his toothy/ toothless grin, pulled the trigger on a beauty 10 minutes into overtime, with the perfection line stealing the Pen’s playbook by using those crazy cross-ice / cross-seam passes that left the Pen’s defender stretched, not quite far enough, and sprawling haplessly as the puck found its way between all of them to Pasta’s stick, just for a instant before he hammered it into the twine.

Series tied 1-1.




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Round 3 – Night 2

Pittsburgh at Boston – Game 1

A couple of good teams here for sure.  Both have a core of cup winners and unlike their western counterparts, who perhaps have many more play-offs in front them, the stars in this series are definitely in that part of their careers where they are trying to “cement their legacies”.

The Bruins have The Perfection Line.  When Marchand is licking only medicine from a spoon in an old folks home some day far in the future, the memories he and Bergeron and Pasta created years prior will be the stuff of legend.  And Chara.  I didn’t like him much earlier in his career but I like him now.  He battles, his eyes are still fiery and he competes so, so hard.  This guy loves hockey.  He loves winning.  He loves his team mates and being at the rink.  He loves that everything he has done wins him praise from hockey cathedrals like Montreal where the fans gave him a standing O earlier this year for some milestone of longevity he had achieved.

And of course, the Pens have Crosby.  And Malkin.  Is Gino the Messier to the 80’s Oiler’s Messier?  Will Gino go win a cup as a Captain of another squad at some point later in his career as Mess did?  I doubt it but it won’t take away from just how good this guy is.  If you ever played D, or had to cover a big star on the other side, think of what it must be like to try to keep this guy in check during a big game.  Crosby is Crosby.  Another cup for the Pens would be something for him wouldn’t it?  And then there’s Letang…a skating d-man that is as fun to watch as any of the good ones.  And all the other players they have packaged around the guys.

But back to the game.  I’ll keep it short.  Crosby played and looked good so no injury worries from the Giroux hit in game 6 of the Flyers series.  Pens win 2-0.  They kept all the Bruins in check, something that doesn’t happen often.  These Pens are rolling.

Pens lead 1-0


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The Golden Boot – 2020

So…here we go eh?  Another year in the W has passed and the season ending tourney played out in all its sporting glory.  Even in these strange times, the show must go on, no?  Buckle up boys, and I’ll do my best to chronicle how this year’s event went down.

There were some moments that my interpretation or memory of you may want to dispute, but since we have no official protest mechanism in the WOHL, you’ll just have to submit a comment at the bottom of this tale and hope you find some mates who agree with you (although I doubt it will change this official record).

In a twist that made my work here easier, the teams today were left as-is from the second half – no re-draft for the tournament!  Who said old guys are set in their ways?

9:00: Puck Drop – White vs Black 

Without any bias, I will say that the Black team was really built for a day just like this.  We finished up the season without a loss in the final 2 weeks and had momentum on our side.  Sadly, that went sideways early when White’s Reg Leland scored 31 seconds in.  Frickin’ guy should be named Reg Leach with those goal-scoring hands of his.  Year after year, he just scores.

With the defense-first philosophy both teams were built on, it was no surprise this one stayed a low scoring affair.  Black had 7 break-aways that became 1 on 1’s with Cowie, Schwindt and Culbert’s speed on the White blue-line. (Hmmm…a white blue line, that’s odd, eh?).  Even Ireland appeared to be staying right there with his peers in this respect – admirable given that speed isn’t really his thing.  Interesting that none of these break-aways were thwarted by a back-checking White forward.

Dan Dawson ripped one home from the blue-line with a buck fifty to go and this one ended in a tie.  Nothing like a tie to confuse the dressing room talk about who has to beat who in the next 5 games to win the prize.

9:50: Red vs Gold

Ok, we all knew it was game-on when Frey and Farrell (in his first game back from an upper body injury) dropped the flippers on the first shift after Farrell gave Frey a bit of a face-wash after a whistle.  Both teams hammered the boards with sticks as the warriors skated to the sin-bin, in a show of old school hockey appreciation.

Gold scored on the resulting power-play (Farrell took an extra 2 for slashing his own teammate Warmington on the way to the penalty box, showing just how pumped up he was to be playing again).

In a play that surprised everyone, Scott Murie scored to tie it with Eckmeier dropping back to cover for him.  (As I said, strange times we live in boys).

The score stayed tied until about 10 minutes to go with Meyer and Brunkard trading big saves with flashes of leather, pad stacks, and Dryden leg-kicks.  Then, Murie scored again to give red the lead. Sadly, doing a pony-ride the length of the ice afterwards a la Theo Fleury and being mobbed by the Martin brothers didn’t sit well with Gold who then mounted a furious counter attack resulting in a goal by Kirkland on a pretty pass by Rajna.  There have been some beauty pairs in this wonderful game of ours over the years (think Hull and Oates, Trottier and Bossy, Yzerman and Errey (Peterborough Petes in early 80’s), Gretz and Kurri) but has there been a better pair than Kirdland and Rajna?  I think not.

Just when it looked like a second consecutive tie might be in he offing, Trimble banged in rebound off a Domzy point blast that secured the win for Gold late.  But a coach’s challenge sent this one upstairs and the goal was waived off because of crease violation and Game two likewise ended in a tie!  Oh the intrigue!

10:40: White vs Red

Scottie Bowman once said that the 3rd game of any series is the key game.  Not sure if that applies to a round-robin tournament with 4 teams but let’s go with it for dramatic effect.

So…no surprise about the story line here – Meyer vs Taylor between the pipes.  Sort of like Caesar Maniago vs Alan Bester – just really, really entertaining goal-tending.  (Yes, it was a goal-fest with White outlasting Red 6-5).

Reg Leach had a pair for White, continuing his tear, as did Paola with Culbert and Richardson getting singles. Interesting stats side-note is that Cowie tied a WOHL record by picking up 7 assists for the White side’s 6 markers.  Yes, there is some question about the accuracy of this but the league verified this post-game so congrats Chris!

Red’s contributions came from up and down the line-up, but their defense-last philosophy didn’t help them in the outcome of this one.  Eckmeier got the hattie, Mr Knicely had a single and Chris Martin also scored after playing catch with his brudder on a pretty passing play (but yes, he was still behind the offensive red line in the corner when he took the shot).  Defensemen had assists on all 5 Red goals, almost tying Cowie’s individual stats on the other side.

11:30:  Black vs Gold

Clearly, the dressing snacks pre-game played a role in this one.  Both teams looks sluggish and tired and old, which when you think about it, kind of describes our stage of life so let’s own that look, shall we?

Gold opened the scoring on a fine 5-touch play that went from Aldous to Taylor to the Millionaire (sorry Brent, after 5 minutes of switching screens to try and spell your name correctly I just went with word that is easier to spell) to Hilko and then the other Taylor.

Gold scored again to go up 2-0 half way through and Black’s goose was cooked because we all know first goal usually wins and a 2-goal lead could reasonably trigger a mercy rule in these tournament games.

But wait!  With our season on the line, Black stormed back with late goals. Duncan did one of is patented end-to-ends, cut across the blue, pivoted to his fore-hand a ripped a wicked snapshot off the iron and in.  After the net stopped crying from the pain, Black came back again in short order and Bernie, with those silky mitts, knocked in a rebound reminiscent of Dino the Dog Cicerelli.  (Bernie’s 578 WOHL goals now have him 9th on the all time list by the way.)

In a move that eerily harkened back to a WOHL game from years past, Gold pulled their goalie in the last minute thinking they were down a goal.  Russell Hon, cross-eyed from lack of sleep after the recent arrival of a baby in his family, showed resilience and fired the biscuit 180 feet into the middle of the yawning cage with just 3 second left on the ticker to secure the win for Black.

Asked for a comment about how Gold got confused about the score in such a key moment, Rajna stormed off the stage at the post-game press scrum.

12:20: White vs Gold

White decided to leave it all out there in their 3rd and final game and came out flying.  Could have been the summer sausage, or the veg, but they were good.  Very good.  Kernel lead the way, as leaders will do at big moments.  He scored early on a pretty feed from Buchanan and the duo followed that up with another beauty two shifts later with Kernel getting the helper on Jamie’s ripper from the slot.

Down two, Gold’s crafty d-man Ian Taylor threw off his stay-at-home defensive armor and decided to join the rush.  Every rush.  Like every friggin’ rush, even those rushes where his team didn’t have control and it wasn’t really a rush.  Yes, as Gord Down wrote in The Lonely End of Rink, “Oh to join the rush!”  In fact, Taylor joined the rush so often it could only mean one thing – his brudder was in the opposing cage.  Sadly, the crest on said brudder’s jersey must have looked like a bulls-eye to him as every shot he took hit baby brudder right about there.  (Kudo’s to Andrew – it’s probably all he gave him).  However, the elder Taylor bro did wildly miss the net on one of his shots and it caromed out the other side where Hilko slammed it home to cut the lead in half.

It looked like it might end this way until the other gold Taylor, in his office in the neutral zone, snared a long lead pass from the old brother Taylor, and he proceeded to go 5-hole on the breakaway to tie things with two to go.  Taylor from Taylor against Taylor.  Karma is definitely either a babe or a bitch, isn’t it?

Sadly for White, Gold continued to press and forced that most hideous of mental errors in the W, the “last minute icing” with Gold’s tender out for the extra attacker.  I won’t name names here because I really didn’t see what happened by two rumours circulated post game: 1) goalie Taylor tried to score on the empty cage so he could finish the game tied with his brother in points and 2) Cowie tried to score thinking one more point would break the all-time tournament record for points.

Anyhoo…Gold was awarded the penalty shot, and Rajna, still steaming from the prior game’s goalie-pull debacle, pulled off a beautiful Forsberg to seal the win in dramatic fashion.

Come on!  Who isn’t excited about how this is going so far??!!

1:10: Black vs Red – (last game of the tournament too!)

A classic grudge match closed things out.  Match-ups were everywhere, with both teams shuffling like heavyweights looking for the advantage.  Gerson vs Thomas, Doerbecker vs Chevreau, Abbot vs Warmington, Duncan vs the Martin brudders, Further vs Bowra – cagey veterans, speed vs strength, hockey IQ vs will to win.  Clearly, there was no tomorrow today.

Heimpel was huge early and stunned Red with his wide speed being too much to handle and turning that into a pair of goals before the game was 5 minutes old.

Doerbecker and Abbot traded goals from the point leaving Black with a 3-1 lead.  But it wasn’t to be for Black.  Red stormed back, with Doerbecker going to coast to coast for his second of the game against his boyo in net to cut the lead to 1.  Tim Martin then fired one of his beauty wristers top corner to tie it.

Yours truly had a chance to win the drink for the Black side with 3 minutes to go but I toe-picked on a break-away from centre ice and swam to the bench embarrassed afterwards.  The puck went the other way and shortly afterwards, Warmington drilled home the eventual winner.

When asked post-game if he sees any comparisons between his shot and Mr Mathews of the Leafs, Warmington agreed there were some similarities.  Ah, the greats eh?

And The Winner Is…?

I’ll let you boys take it from here.  I hope you get over the aches and pains quickly lads.  Have a good summer, keep your stick on the ice and hopefully we’ll all be out there again soon.






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A Man and his Son, A Man and his Father, and Me

I skated today for the first time in 9 weeks on this cold bright January morning.  I headed off to Vic park early, knowing the rink would be mostly mine, which is for the best as i know I’m in no shape to actually skate with others around me yet.  I took my stick and couple of pucks and felt a tiny surge of excitement to see how I felt.   There was a young man on the ice already, with his son, a boy of 5 or 6.  I skated at one end of the massive sheet, they at the other.  At one point my puck danced away and the boy was only too happy to dart over and pass it back to me.   I grinned and gave him a hearty thank you and he flashed a big smile and skated away in a burst.  There were days not so long ago where my son and daughters skated alongside with me here when they were his age.  And I remember being that small once and skating with my own father at the open air rinks in Peterborough – Bonnerworth, the Trent canal, Hillside street park.  Good memories all.

I was in my element again and it felt good.  A clean sheet of ice is the most creative thing I’ve ever known.  Turn left, turn right, quick steps to full speed, glide, turn, stick handle or let the puck do the work.  In my later years, I’ve never played the game in a way where my movements are planned.  It’s one of the beautiful parts of playing for fun, of shinny.  It’s movement guided by some primal, instinctive compass, long since obsolete now that we don’t have to outrun woolly mammoths and such.   Bobby Orr has suggested more than once that we are systemically removing the creativity of generation after generation of hockey players in favour of structure and systems.  I couldn’t agree more.

Handling the puck was magical.  My hands were fine and little strength was needed for the simple maneuvers I tried.  The burden of an injured shoulder hasn’t stolen that gem.  I was able to pass the puck off the frozen boards back to myself, and able to fire the puck smoothly along the ice at the net.  Ah, the clank of the puck hitting a pipe net at an open air rink.  A different type of pipe organ, but beautiful music indeed.

Sadly, it didn’t take long for the instinctive side of me to get overruled by my mind flashing a mental “careful” sign as I approached anything beyond the slowest speed I know.  The thinking part of the brain telling the rest of me this was premature and foolish.  A fall on to my gimpy wing would be a very bad thing.   This will be the part of playing I will miss the most if my shoulder always requires an element of caution from this point forward if at some point I am able to play again.  I may not be young anymore, but the rink is the only place in my life where I have done anything with any measure of abandon.  I was never a physical player, being not strong enough for that game, but I rarely backed away from going to the puck, or taking it to the net regardless of the opponent, and I was always happy to try the impossible pass, or slide through the slightest of lanes between players

In all, I skated only 10 minutes.  The weight of the puck on the stick for just that length of time began to play a different kind of music in my shoulder very quickly.  Pain on the end of the clavicle as it pushed up unrestricted into the muscle on the top of the shoulder. I picked up my puck and head back to the car, hopped in and started to remove my skates.  As I did so, a man about the same age as the one with the young son already on the rink walked by with an older man by his side who was obviously his father.  Skates on sticks over shoulders, toques on heads, they headed to the sheet I had just left.

I have been the young boy, and I have been the young father.  Shoulder be damned, I will be the old man in skates and toque yet.

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