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Updated: 2014-10-06T20:05:49.019-07:00

 



Breakout Cover Story: Fathers and Sons

2012-07-05T19:13:07.807-07:00

This article for "Breakout" magazine, commissioned by the Greater Toronto Hockey League was an absolute joy to do. I'n pretty sure Blake, Brendan, Cody, and Mason are all taller than me now!



Legends: Hockey Hall of Fame Program 2010

2012-07-05T18:59:05.083-07:00

I've had several requests for my HHOF article on the evolution of the hockey stick from people who aren't on facebook (there are still a few!) Enjoy.



Guest Blog for The Toronto Star

2010-12-01T19:10:58.891-08:00

Check it out:

http://thestar.blogs.com/leafsfan/2010/11/guest-post-the-eternal-shine-of-pat-burns.html#comments



I'm in the HHOF!

2010-11-16T12:38:53.171-08:00

I'm quite proud that I made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame without ever having to drop the Coopers. My article on the evolution of the hockey stick is on page 89 of Legends, the 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Program.

It is an incredible honour to be included in any HHOF publication and even sweeter that my name is on page 89, because I have always been appreciative of Alexander Mogilny's hockey skills.



Spitfires Favourite Fan

2010-05-23T15:15:38.304-07:00

Depending on your point of view, mascots are either an enjoyable in-game ritual or an annoying sideshow circus.

Both teams playing in tonight’s Mastercard Memorial Cup final - the Ontario League champion Windsor Spitfires and the host city Brandon Wheat Kings – have used these creative caricature concoctions to pump up their crowds over the years.

Brandon’s mascot is Willie, a fetching, floppy-eared dog, easily adapted to his cold climate home judging by how comfortable he is in skates and hockey pants.

Bomber, the Spitfires official mascot is a toothy, rugged pilot complete with aviator shades for a 1940s retro look that pays homage to the famed World War II fighter plane.

These characters each have a certain appeal but according to Spitfires defenseman Saverio Posa they have nothing on Sammy Uprichard, a young Windsor boy who is the team’s living, breathing mascot.

“I call him a good luck charm but I call him my favourite fan as well,” said Posa upon seeing Sammy greet players coming off the ice after a practice.

“Every time I see him he’s always there to cheer on the guys. He’s very supportive and I love the kid to death.”

Uprichard, who is wheelchair bound reciprocates the praise with a high-five.

“It’s actually breathtaking, seeing a kid you know won’t be able to play the sport being very supportive. It’s quite touching,” reflected Posa

Throughout the tournament Uprichard has been a fixture for the reigning Memorial Cup champions in their quest to become the first back-to-back winners since the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and 1995.

“Seeing this little guy, he’s always ready for the boys to come out of the locker room. It’s so good to see him there,” said Posa. “He’s always got that bright smile one his face no matter how bad things are going for the team.”

Tonight Posa and the Spitfires will be setting their sights on giving Sammy Uprichard and the rest of their fans the biggest, and final smiles of the season.



A Hockey Related Poetic Interlude

2010-04-21T20:39:46.890-07:00

It's been a long, long time since anything remotely poetic flowed from my pen. This is for a friend of mine who would have celebrated his 45th birthday today, April 22nd.

The Truck in the Driveway

Running errands on a stunning Sunday afternoon, early spring,
The route chooses me, not the other way round.
My heart races,
My mind paces.
I fill with words,
Cannot create any sound – your house.

Driving past I slow down,
Must make it last.

Next door, children, not yours, play.
They see home, family, friends,
A neighbourhood – Thorncrest in its finery.

I see your lawn, your house number on the giant rock.
I want it to crumble.
Seeing this makes my heart stumble,
My emotions numb,
From my eyes, tears tumble.

It wasn’t that long ago I’d ring the doorbell,
Waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to answer.
Suddenly a half-hearted yell and then,
Absent-mindedly to the door you’d lumber, apologize.

I never told you words weren’t needed.
One sight of your smile and I was seventeen again,
Ah, if I’d only known you then!

The greatest treat, a peck on the cheek,
Felt like such a sneak.
Those memories sustained me,
Week after long week.
Never imagined they would sustain me for life,
Now that yours is done.

I see the softness of clouds,
Wind sails through them,
But all I hear is the echo of your gentle whispers of encouragement.

I see new shoots emerging on sturdy branches,
Sort of like me, blossoming from your support.

To the left,
To the right,
I see huge new homes.
The ones your neighbours lived in.
Torn, bulldozed, new homes, same ground.

I see your house.
It still stands.
I see memory.
I see the truck in the driveway, unmoved,
Still parked, seemingly eternal.
Strong, steady, sleek,
Exactly how I remember you.



Grade School Flashback

2010-01-24T22:02:26.949-08:00

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!



A Radical Departure from Hockey Talk

2010-01-22T07:11:06.529-08:00

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.



My Favourite Curtis Joseph Memory

2010-01-12T06:26:49.902-08:00

This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote today for tmlfans.ca.

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.



Minor Hockey Talkie

2010-01-11T10:44:35.780-08:00

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:

minorhockeytalkie@gmail.com

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



Ringing in the New Year, Writer's Style

2010-01-03T13:28:17.248-08:00

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 tmlfans.ca 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 th[...]



I'm Back

2009-12-14T06:58:40.041-08:00

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.



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

2009-10-21T13:11:08.129-07:00

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.



Ms. M Is On Sabbatical

2009-08-06T11:55:02.486-07:00

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!



First Day Of Camp

2009-07-06T08:06:00.178-07:00

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.



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

2009-05-27T20:59:32.712-07:00

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

2009-05-26T07:55:02.320-07:00

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!



Please Pull Through, Peter Zezel

2009-05-26T12:12:47.408-07:00

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.



A Departure From Hockey Tales

2009-04-20T16:05:12.652-07:00

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



Withdrawal Symptoms

2009-04-14T22:13:57.094-07:00

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.



Don't Let the Ladies Dance Alone

2009-04-10T00:12:24.128-07:00

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.



A Boy at Ex-Leafs` Camp

2009-04-08T18:31:43.660-07:00

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 [...]



More Proof Hockey Rules My Life

2009-04-03T20:09:39.434-07:00

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.



GOLD!

2009-03-31T12:01:31.323-07:00

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.



Hockey Talkie *NOT* About Hockey

2009-03-22T17:39:44.015-07:00

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.