We play but agree, cause many of us do hockey

After Chapman posted about the Humboldt Broncos’ terrible bus crash, I thanked him because, I didn’t know what else to say.

I’ve been playing, coaching and even sometimes administering local hockey for 51 years, and this stuff strikes deep into any parent who has swerved on a snow-covered Canadian road only to listen to the kid (me) complaining, ‘we need to get there.’

Chapman wrote, “I often tell people that all I really know is hockey, food safety and family; everything and everyone important to me falls in one of those buckets. …

“All I could think of is all the teams I have been part of, back to when I was just a kid until now. Those experiences have meant so much more than competition and sport.

“It’s exactly why I got into coaching.”

No. Chapman got into coaching because I was his graduate supervisor, and his responsibilities included helping to coach a 6-9-year-old girls rep hockey team from Guelph, and bailing me out of jail upon request.

(He will say he was coaching before, but it probably wasn’t as much fun).

In 2005, Chapman and I came up with barfblog.com, and the first post was about hockey and barfing.

The worst was when I was 10 or 11. I was playing AAA hockey in my hometown of Brantford Ont., and we were off to an out-of-town game. My parents (bless them) usually drove, but obligations meant I had to get a ride with a friend on the team. About half-way to the arena, I started feeling nauseous. I tried to ask the driving dad to pull over, but it came on so fast, I had to grab the closest item in the backseat, an empty lunchbox. 
I filled it.

And more.

Back in the 1970s, the coach’s main concern was that we win. I was the starting goaltender almost every game, while the backup sat on the bench. We had something to prove because we were from Brantford, the city that had produced Wayne Gretzky just a couple of years earlier and everyone was gunning for us. 

I tried to get myself together to play. No luck. We got to the arena and I promptly hurled. 

And again.

I couldn’t play, and, unfortunately, couldn’t go home. So the rest of the team went out for the game, as I lay on a wooden bench in a sweat-stenched dressing room, vomiting about every 15 minutes. 

Such tales are not unique.

Whenever I spark up a conversation with a stranger, and they discover I work in food safety, the first response is: “You wouldn’t believe this one time. I was so sick” or some other variation on the line from American Pie, “This one time, at band camp …”

But the stories of vomit and flatulence are deadly serious. In 1995, a 5-year-old died in Wales as part of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened some 170 schoolchildren. Four people in the Toronto region were sickened with the same E. coli several weeks ago after drinking unpasteurized apple cider. Over 20 people are sick with the same bug from lettuce in the Minnesota area. And so it goes.

How did my game end? I could hear the various cheers but was lost in dizziness and nausea and sweat, wondering when this would end. 
The trip home was uneventful; I was drained — figuratively and literally.
We lost.

Thanks to all the Australians I hung out with today and asked me about the Humboldt Broncos’ and hopefully I provided some insight into the role of (ice) hockey in the small and large communities throughout Canada.

Humboldt Broncos tragedy

I often tell people that all I really know is hockey, food safety and family; everything and everyone important to me falls in one of those buckets.

This weekend I travelled to St. Paul, Minnesota to watch the NCAA Frozen Four (the national division 1 championships) with a hockey buddy, and couple of his former teammates. As my friends and I sat at a brewery talking about the games we had seen the night before, I checked Twitter and read short blurbs on the developing story of the Humboldt Broncos’ terrible bus crash.

Reports of fatalities and the individuals lost populated my timeline throughout my weekend.

All I could think of is all the teams I have been part of, back to when I was just a kid until now. Those experiences have meant so much more than competition and sport.

It’s exactly why I got into coaching.

The image to the right, three teammates, with bleached-blonde hair (dyed in team unity for the playoffs), lying in hospital beds, linking hands will always be with me.

This tragedy is overwhelming.

Hockey handshake lines at the olympics impacted by norovirus

A couple of times a week I play hockey with a bunch of amateur skaters. We play in a C league. That means we’re not very good. Most are out to have some fun and drink some beer after the buzzer.

Sometimes, there’s a player or two who got into it with each other (that’s a hoser hockey term for a push or a trip) who re-meet in the post-game handshake line.

The classy hockey players fist bump or slap hands and say ‘good game.’

Not everyone is classy. Leave it on the ice, we’ve all got to get up and get back to our normal lives the next day.

I’m talking to you, guy in the green helmet from my game last night. Don’t be so angry.

And don’t give me norovirus.

According to ABC News, the handshake lines are different during the Pyeongchang Olympics compared to other games after over 200 security folks and athletes have acquired the virus.

Officials have told players to fist-bump each other rather than shaking hands to prevent transmission of norovirus, which is highly contagious. U.S. defenseman James Wisniewski’s 62-year-old father tested positive for norovirus last week and is one of 49 of 283 confirmed Olympic cases still in quarantine.

“It’s something that you’re like, ‘Ah, really how bad can it get?’ And then all of a sudden bang, bang — a couple people close to you have it and you don’t really know how, you don’t know where,” Wisniewski said Monday. “You don’t want it going through your locker room, that’s for sure.”

Bonhomme Carnival: Pee wee hockey in Quebec

About 45 years ago, I got to play in the pee wee tournament at the Quebec winter carnival.

In 1974, as a pee wee (ice) hockey goaltender, I boarded a train, with my parents, from Brantford, Ontario to Quebec City.
Today, I’m reading the messages of Australian parents who have sent their Ice Crocs to the same pee wee tournament in Quebec City, as part of the winter carnival, or as the French prof would say, Bonhomme Carnaval, or I would say, Quebec Winter Carnival (and not by train, it would sink).
The pee wee hockey tournament has been a cornerstone of the Quebec Winter Carnival for, forever.

Coming from the town of Gretzky, great expectations were thrust upon the kids from Brantford, and about 10,000 people showed up in the arena where the Nordique used to play (it was probably 500, but great storytelling sometimes requires great imagination).

I let in 4 goals in two periods and was yanked.

My friend Mike (who I used to fear as a better goalie, but now we’re facebook friends) went in for the third and let in two goals.

We lost 6-0.

I have tried to bring these humble homilies to my years of coaching, teaching, and whatever else.

The experience though, was fantastic, hanging out with our host family, walking around in -20C weather, and awestruck by the 30-foot snow piles at the end of driveways.

We lost the game, but learned so much.

This is my way of telling hockey parents — especially the Australian ones —  chill out.

My parents were and are awesome, driving me to the rink, going to Quebec City, getting on a plane when I needed them.

 

Still a grunt: Seahawks LB K.J. Wirght beat a nasty bout of food poisoning to lead Seattle to 21-12 win over Dallas

I hate it – and hate is a strong word – when athletes or musicians talk.

Yes, you have a voice, but can it be better than, “Uh, yeah, we gave it 110 per cent out there, just trying to win one for the team.”

In addition to all the pucks I took to the head playing goalie since 1967 (the last time the Leafs won a Cup), I played four years of linebacker, receiver and kickoff/punt returner for my high school team.

I was a grunt.

Go get ‘em, said coach, head first, with shitty helmets.

So my head’s been knocked around a lot in ways it probably wasn’t designed for.

I’m reading Ken Dryden’s book on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and will report on that later.

Still, it’s a little scary, not to know what’s going on all the time, feeling distant and distracted, and knowing there will be no diagnosis until I’m dead.

Whatevs, I got great support.

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright recovered from a concussion that forced him to miss last week’s game against the Rams, only to get felled by a bout of food poisoning the day before Seattle’s eventual 21-12 win over Dallas.

Wright said he ate some lasagna on the team’s Delta Airlines charter flight from Seattle to Dallas on Friday, and felt ill immediately afterward.

“I think it was the lasagna,” Wright said. “As soon as I had my last bite, about five minutes later, my stomach got tore up, and, uh, it ws all over from there. … It was coming out both ends.”

Food poising usually doesn’t happen within 5 minutes, unless it’s chemical contamination.

Microbes, even the toxin-producing ones, take a few hours.

Wright said he did not leave his hotel room on Saturday, and that the Seahawks’ doctors came in to give him IVs and some nausea medicine.

“He was in bed all day yesterday,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Those guys played like crazy to hold (Dallas) down.”

Wright said he felt better by Sunday morning and was able to start against Dallas. He came up big for the Seahawks twice, tallying six tackles, picking off Dallas quarterback, Dak Prescott once and recovering two fumbles.

“Shout out to our doctors and trainers,” Wright said. “They’re tremendous and they took good care of me.”

(that’s the equipment I has circa 1972; the puck hurt, a lot, especially on the head)

Our church: 4 years of Sunday practice (and games) will get most improved

After four years as an atom minor hockey player — there aren’t enough kids in Australia playing hockey to have different divisions between 5-and-9-year olds, although it used to be 5-11-year-olds, which was dangerous, so we’re growing — Sorenne was selected as most improved player for her team.

I love how Mason, the player-voted MVP, is always smiling and supportive of his teammates (he’s grinning in the background).

On to atom majors next year, if she wants.

‘Goalie/poet’ Gord Downie dies

It was Sept. 1989, when this 26-year-old first heard the opening chords of Blow at High Dough on a kitchen radio at 5 a.m. in Galt (Cambridge, Ontario), featuring the vocals of 24-year-old Gord Downie.

I was hooked.

The 1980s were a wash-out for rock-and-roll inventiveness, and when the five friends from Kingston Ontario, The Tragically Hip, splashed onto the national scene with their first full album, Up to Here, it felt like something special.

Up to Here became my running companion for the next six years.

I saw the Hip many times over the years, but the best was in a small bar in Waterloo, Ontario, about April 1990, with my ex who was about 7 months pregnant with Canadian daughter 2-of-4.

I remember every moment of that concert.

Gord died yesterday of complications from glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer.

We humans know so little about the brain.

PTSD, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), cancer, addiction, bad wiring, and yet we continue to bash our heads around, in sports as little kids, in cycling and falls around home construction sites. The three concussions I’ve had in the past three months, along with a lifetime of pucks to the head, have made me slow down, be more careful, and try to take care of my brain a bit better.

The best we can do, as Gord said, is try to lift up those around us.

Two of my favorite videos are below.

The first is from a song about North America, although the video was shot near Melbourne in Australia while the band was on tour.

May Ry Cooder sing your eulogy.

A gift from down under.

The second, here’s hoping for peace on Fiddler’s Green.

Hockey and asparagus

My cousin Tim and I would play road hockey up in the upper level of the barn, during the two weeks I would spend at their farm while my parents goofed around.

Tim is about 6 months older than me, he grows asparagus, I write about asparagus, and we both ended up coaching hockey.

Tim wrote on his facebook page tonight that, hockey season starts for our Ayr Cens and is about to start for my son Will’s Midget Flames. For some reason (other than i am obsessed with #4) i started thinking about the time i met my hero Bobby Orr at a camp Will won an invitation for. We had a pre-camp reception for the kids and parents and there was a question/answer period with Bobby. Obviously i was 1st to raise my hand for questions LOL. My question to Bobby was “when you were a kid and were so much better than everyone else what did you do on the ice?” Bobby’s answer was simple…”My Dad always told me to make sure i passed the puck to a player that hadn’t scored a goal”. Hope this makes all of us think as we head into hockey season. Best of luck to all kids of all skill levels for an enjoyable and most importantly FUN season

My cousin embraces the values that I and anyone else who coaches should embrace.

I’m proud to call him my cousin (except when we talk about genetic engineering or he does his Bob and Doug SCTV impersonation).