All posts by curtis72

26 Jan

Winnipeg Jets Day at the Meridian Center

Yesterday afternoon, I went to see the IceDogs again as they took on the Barrie Colts at the Meridian Center. This was a date I’ve had circled on my calendar for some time because of the opportunity to see Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk behind the Barrie bench. I saw the greatest player in Jets NHL history so often during my five years as a season ticket holder and this was my chance to see him once again.

44_dale
As soon as I walked into the building, I was befuddled when one of the security guards asked, “Are you here for the game?” What else would I be there for?

While waiting to get in, someone who noticed the Jets gear I was decked out in approached me and said, “Winnipeg, they’ve been winning.” He apparently was one of those who still do not distinguish between the Winnipeg Jets, a team that no longer exists, and the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. I assumed he meant the Chipman team instead of the Jets, so I responded, “Don’t worry, it won’t last.” He seemed surprisingly taken aback as he went on to talk about Chipman’s team before asking, “Your goalie, is he stopping the puck?” I told him I had no idea and I don’t even know who his goalie is, even though, as a former Manitoba taxpayer, I was helping to pay his salary. A surprising number of fans remain wilfully blind to the fact that the Chipman franchise has been on artificial life support before they ever dropped the puck. This so-called “inevitable” return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg has been made possible only by generous government handouts.

03_dirtyseat
When I got to my seat, I noticed once again that it, along with many others in the area, was dirty. Not only that, the floor hadn’t been cleaned and as you can see from the picture, there were some leftover cheezies on the ground. I wasn’t the only one to flag down the girl who was going around cleaning off the seats and she claimed that they do get wiped. It is a claim I find hard to believe. Once she finished in my section, she continued around the rink and as late as ten minutes before the start of the game, they were still wiping down seats. SMG is supposed to be a world-renowned arena management company, but they’re not exactly doing a bang-up job at the Meridian Center. I shudder to think what this jewel of a building is going to look like in five years time under their stewardship.

17_jets
To my surprise, seated opposite me on the other side of the rink were a couple of season ticket holders who were also dressed in Jets gear. The woman on the left was wearing a 1980s vintage jersey like the one I was wearing, but unlike me, she also had Hawerchuk’s name and number on the back.

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Interestingly, Mike Rosati, a former Manitoba Fighting Moose goaltender, was also behind the bench as one of Hawerchuk’s assistants. Rosati will be one of the players featured in my next book, View from Section 26: A fan’s look at the minor leagues featuring pro hockey’s most unwanted team, which I expect to have available sometime this year.

Though Hawerchuk’s appearance was the headline attraction for me, this was the IceDogs’ annual Pink in the Rink event, with the players and even the officials dressed in pink to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer.

11_warmup

28_aftergoal

35_intermission
Bones at center ice prior to the chuck-a-puck in the second intermission.

I continue to be amazed by the how well patronized the concessions seem to be. For example, three seats to my left was a young couple who arranged the financing to pay for a bowl of fries swimming in gravy and some pizza that came fresh from the kitchen of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. There’s virtually nothing on their menu that I would want at any price.

Cody Payne’s cousin sang O Canada and, well, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. At least she sang it entirely in the Canadian language.

Sitting right behind the bench, I didn’t expect to be able to see much of the action, but I got a surprisingly good view of what turned out to be a wild game. Barrie got on the board early and following a fight, the lights suddenly went out. Fans were kept in the dark, figuratively and literally, as they just played annoyingly loud music and didn’t make an announcement until sending both teams to their respective dressing rooms more than 15 minutes later. After the 24-minute delay, the IceDogs came out like gangbusters and scored five times before the intermission. One fan behind me yelled, “Get ready, you’re next,” at backup goaltender Daniel Gibl, but for better or for worse, Hawerchuk stuck with his starter the whole way.

The IceDogs went on to cruise to a 7-4 victory as Josh Ho-Sang exploded for three goals and Brendan Perlini showed some flashes of the brilliance he needs to show more often.

Hawerchuk’s former boss with the Jets, the late John Ferguson, would have been proud as Barrie seemed intent on starting a fracas once the score got out of hand. There was some stickwork that would have brought a smile to the face of Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken and, late in the third, a number of their players wanted a scrap in the worst way. Nothing came of it, but that didn’t stop Hawerchuk from unloading his full repertoire of profanity at any official who would lend him an ear. I’m surprised he wasn’t penalized or ejected.

I was happy with the IceDogs’ victory, but I admit to having had some split loyalties during the day because of Hawerchuk. Nonetheless, for someone who lived and died with the Jets during most of Hawerchuk’s tenure with the team, it was a thrill just to be on the other side of the glass from him and the final score was almost immaterial. I have so many unpleasant memories of my former home city, but Hawerchuk represented a number of the good memories I brought with me that I continue to build upon here in St. Catharines.

24 Jan

IceDogs vs. Plymouth

Last night, I saw the IceDogs battle the Plymouth Whalers
The visitors played like a bunch of drunken sailors

09_beforegame
The Whalers are bound for Flint next year
Perhaps that’s why they showed so much fear

03_players
A couple of their players were out stretching in the concourse before the game
Since there’s ample room outside their dressing room, maybe they’re looking for extra fame

Elsewhere, kids were dancing to music as loud as a speeding train
Unlike what would happen in my former home city, someone actually stopped to complain

I stopped in and browsed through the IceDogs souvenir store
Compared to the NHL, for their merchandise they charge so much more

A man sat next to me with so much ketchup on his fries it was unreal
He didn’t understand it’s meant to be a condiment, not a meal

The self-promoting P.A. announcer introduced himself right from the get-go
Apparently he thinks he’s the star of the show

The moment of silence was a nice touch of class while we stood shoulder to shoulder
To honor Ho-Sang’s grandmother and a longtime season ticket holder

A group of school children performed the anthems from the northeast location
Unfortunately, they sang O Canada in the language of a foreign nation

There were no shortage of opinions coming from the peanut gallery during the play
As the home team continues to make headway

They put a whooping on a downtrodden team
No doubt, the Plymouth coach wanted to scream

34_secondperiod
Goaltending has been quite a problem, but there’s no reason to mope
Because now, at least the IceDogs have some Hope

Midway through the first, a family of four came and sat in front of me
Why anyone would bring such young children to a hockey game isn’t easy to see

They spent half the night texting and sharing photos on their phone
All I could do was watch and groan

Security personnel missed something when searching them with a fine tooth comb
As they were able to sneak in a juice box from home

56_whocares
After the game, the announcer again tells us who he is, giving himself more time on the air
I don’t know why he would think any of us would care

22 Jan

Winter in the Falls

Visiting the falls in January was a first for me
Even with the snow, it’s still nice to see

10_americanfalls
Tourist traffic has come to a virtual halt
Yet that hasn’t slowed the spreading of salt

01_salt
The application of sodium chloride is anything but light
They put down so much that it turns the ground white

13_salt
Visitors are milked for everything but their keys
If you want a closer view, that will be four quarters please

08_liaobinoculars
When the weather gets warmer, the coins will again be rolling in
To help reduce the massive debt racked up by Premier Wynne

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Passing this blue moose while walking up Clifton Hill, it’s quite the hike
Pray tell, why are there no places to lock up a bike?

The falls has become a popular destination for this new area resident
I’ll be making more visits for reasons that are quite evident

18 Jan

IceDogs vs. Kingston

Last night, I was in attendance as the IceDogs took on the Kingston Frontenacs at the Meridian Center. It seemed like just yesterday that I went to my first game and now I’ve been to nine. Given that the IceDogs stole a point from a strong North Bay team the previous night, the old Jets (1979-1996 vintage) fan in me was expecting a major letdown with Kingston languishing near the bottom of the standings. I’m not happy to have been right.

04_scoreboard
I was privileged enough to be allowed entry without going through the latex glove treatment, though many still are having their bags rifled through, the targets seemingly chosen at random. I understand many are complaining about this treatment and I hope those complaints continue until this practice stops. Despite what they might claim, the bag searches have nothing to do with security. It’s about concession revenue. Nothing more.

The people seated around me certainly did their part to increase that revenue. I continue to be amazed as to how many people go to sporting events to eat and pay exorbitant prices for the privilege.

When going through the concourse, I passed by our most capable organist, who was bringing in his equipment on a two-wheeler. I was surprised there wasn’t some quasi-permanent installation and that he would have to unbox and box up all his gear for each game. I was equally surprised that he would be doing it instead of arena staff, but I guess wearing many hats is par for the course at this level.

06_greatclips
GreatClips was set up in the south end giving free haircuts. As they announced before the game, it was something to do with Big Brothers.

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The sight of this young woman sitting on the concrete floor behind the last row of seats presumably doing her homework was one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen at a hockey game.

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After taking my seat, I noticed this guy going through a spirited workout in the visitors’ penalty box. I would later find out that it was Kingston coach Paul McFarland. Evidently there was no space available in the dressing room or in the spacious hallway that runs behind both benches.

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Once again, I noticed how badly smudged the glass in front of me was and it was no different anywhere else around the rink. SMG is a world-renowned facility management company, but I can only surmise that it’s not in their contract that they have to clean the glass. Ever.

Singing the anthem was LauraLeigh Groppo, who also handles the in-game promotions. P.A. announcer Rod Mawhood introduced her before her performance. And after her performance. And after the game. He also introduces himself before the game. And after the game. Every game. Announcers who draw attention to themselves this way is a pet peeve of one loyal reader and it’s quickly becoming one of mine. He is well-spoken and good at his job, but I go to games to watch the players, not hear him announce. I’ve been to hundreds of games in many other venues and I’ve never known or cared who the P.A. announcer was at any of them.

Incidentally, I encourage any reader who might be interested to check out LauraLeigh’s Twitter feed (@LauraLeigh19) and note in particular what she was doing on the night of January 12. Six times. Maybe that might explain why she was so oddly unsure of herself as she sang O Canada. I’m baffled as to why anyone would post such a thing for public consumption.

Before the opening faceoff, the IceDogs also presented awards to the hardest working forward and “decenceman.” Unfortunately, I was too slow on the draw to get a picture as they flashed the misspelled details on the scoreboard.

The first two and a half periods featured some lackluster play, which drew the ire of the would-be Howie Meekers seated around me. “What are you thinking!” shouted one when Anthony DiFruscia, the IceDogs’ resident agitator, took another of his signature foolish penalties as his team was in the process of frittering away a two-man advantage.

Despite the sluggish pace, the goaltending at both ends was surprisingly good. In my limited experience, I have found it to be the weakest position across the league. Graham Knott looked good and he’s certainly setting himself up nicely to be a high draft pick this summer, but I think there might be some buyer’s remorse coming from the teams who picked Brandon Perlini, Carter Verhaeghe and Josh Ho-Sang. The three members of the IceDogs’ top line has been anything but dominant and it’s awfully tough to win when your best players aren’t your best players.

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Off the ice, Bones came down to visit with some fans near me.

33_firstintermission
During the first intermission, he was being his usual playful self.

Trailing 3-1 in the third, the IceDogs rose from the ashes and scored twice to tie the score. They had Kingston on the ropes and looked primed for the kill until they pulled one out of the Jets’ playbook and lost in overtime. At least they got a point out of it, but it was a point I’m not sure they deserved. Playing half a period isn’t going to get it done.

Go Jets, er, Dogs Go.

22 Dec

An Epic Struggle

Roughly imitating the style of David Thorne, following are the details of an epic struggle to cancel an alarm monitoring service for a house you no longer own or live in. Any similarity to current events is strictly unavoidable.

From: David Thorne
To: Accounts Receivable Department
Date: Tuesday, September 30 11:31 AM
Subject: Monitoring Service

Please cancel our monitoring service. The service was paid for until the end of the month and we have since sold the house and moved to a different province.

Thank you,

David


From: Accounts Receivable Department
To: Alice Borden
Cc: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, September 30 1:18 PM
Subject: FWD: Monitoring Service

Please process Mr. Thorne’s request.

-– Forwarded message —
From: David Thorne
To: Accounts Receivable Department
Date: Tuesday, September 30 11:30 AM
Subject: Monitoring Service

To whom it may concern,

Please cancel our monitoring service. The service was paid for until the end of the month and we have since sold the house and moved to a different province.

Thank you,

David


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday, October 1 9:47 AM
Subject: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Good afternoon,

Please be advised we required 30 days notice to cancel your service.

The cancellation is processed 30 days from receipt of request to cancel.

Thank you,

Alice


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, December 16 9:10 AM
Subject: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

As of today’s date, we have no record of receiving your cancellation request & the October annual invoice has been issued.

Please call us to have this done. Alternately, you can send a signed written request to the Accounts Service Centre.  Please remember to include your account number if sending your request in writing.


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Tuesday, December 16 12:43 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice,

I am so sorry you missed the e-mail your accounts receivable department forwarded you two and a half months ago. For your convenience, I have enclosed it for your files.

David

-– Forwarded message —
From: Accounts Receivable Department
To: Alice Borden
Cc: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, September 30 1:18 PM
Subject: FWD: Monitoring Service

Please process Mr. Thorne’s request.

-– Forwarded message —
From: David Thorne
To: Accounts Receivable Department
Date: Tuesday, September 30 11:30 AM
Subject: Monitoring Service

To whom it may concern,

Please cancel our monitoring service. The service was paid for until the end of the month and we have since sold the house and moved to a different province.

Thank you,

David


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, December 16 2:04 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

David, I am sorry, but we cannot cancel an alarm monitoring account unless you call the cancellations office OR provide us with a written request.

Alice


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Wednesday, December 17 10:05 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice, although your company provided us with outstanding service while we lived there, I don’t feel obligated to pay for monitoring at a house we no longer own in a province where we no longer reside. As I had requested two and a half months earlier, please cancel the service or, alternatively, send the invoice to the new owners.

Thank you,

David


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday, December 17 11:22 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

David, in order to cancel your alarm monitoring account, you must call the cancellations office OR provide us with a written request.

Please also provide us with your current address so we can send October’s invoice to you.

Thank you,

Alice


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Thursday, December 18 10:55 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice, thank you for your e-mail. I would be delighted to pay for monitoring services for the new owners. Even though I’ve never met them, I’m sure they’re wonderful people. Please send the invoice to the following address:

Disneyland
Los Angeles, CA 94512
Attn: Mr. Mickey Mouse


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Thursday, December 18 11:29 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

David, if you would prefer not to continue the service, you must call the cancellations office OR provide us with a written request.

If you provide us with a valid current address to send October’s invoice, because you have been such a valued client, we are prepared to waive the interest charges on the overdue account.

Thank you,

Alice


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Thursday, December 18 4:15 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice, I can’t thank you enough for waiving the interest charges on an account I am desperately trying to cancel for monitoring a house more than a thousand miles away that I no longer own. It’s moments like these that I know I made the right decision in choosing your company over your many competitors in the field.

Nonetheless, as much as I would like to stick with your service, I really must cancel the account. For your convenience, I’ll spell it out for you more clearly.

C
A
N
C
E
L

M
Y

A
C
C
O
U
N
T

Thank you,

David


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Monday, December 22 9:33 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Mr. Thorne, as of today’s date, we have no record of receiving your current address where we can send October’s invoice. As the bill has yet not been paid, I regret to inform you that monitoring services at your old address will be suspended immediately.

To reactivate your account, please submit payment to our collections office.

Thank you,

Alice Borden

14 Dec

Old MacDonald Had a Road

Old MacDonald had a road,
E-I-E-I-O.
And on his road he spread some salt,
E-I-E-I-O.

With a bag of salt here,
And a bag of salt there,
Here salt there salt,
Everywhere salt, salt,

Old MacDonald had a road,
E-I-E-I-O.

09 Dec

A Trek to Grand Island

Yesterday, with the good weather, I took a two-wheeled trek across the border and visited Grand Island for the first time. I know there are some of you who haven’t heard of this island that lies between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, but it offers many scenic trails for a cyclist.

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Luckily, the construction on Buffalo Avenue at the foot of the nearly mile-long bridge that has been ongoing for much of the summer had been completed, but the walk across this bridge was the biggest obstacle for me.

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I have a case of bridgeophobia and being in such close proximity to transport trucks on I-190 in the middle of the Niagara River did little to ease my anxiety. Fortunately, I made it across with little difficulty and I was even able to stop a couple of times to enjoy the view of the skyline on the Canadian side.

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Vehicles travelling on I-190 have to pay a toll upon entering Grand Island, but I didn’t. Just because it’s me.

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As you can see from this shot at the southern abutment of the bridge, there is a dedicated trail that goes underneath and proceeds south through Buckhorn Island State Park.

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View of the marsh restoration project.

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Welcome to Grand Island.

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This trail links up to Grand Island Boulevard and NY 324. Readers from the SPRM will notice there is not a speck of snow on the ground. It’s OK to be jealous.

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There are trails that cover the shoreline, but for today, I just stuck to Grand Island Boulevard and took advantage of the wide shoulders on both sides.

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Passing by Kelly’s Country Store. Mooooo.

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Past this roundabout is another dedicated trail that leads to the South Grand Island Bridge.

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20141208_27_i190_sb_sgrandislandbridge
This bridge is 600 feet shorter than its cousin farther north and connects to Tonawanda and Buffalo. I will save a crossing of this bridge and a return to Tonawanda for a future trip.

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In this midst of this 51.8-mile outing, I needed a place to stop. There were two Tim Hortons locations at opposite ends of the island, but neither one had a bike rack. This McDonald’s did and that’s why they got my business.

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Returning back to Niagara Falls, cyclists take the on-ramp for I-190 north and turn off onto the trail that goes back through Buckhorn Island State Park. NYSDOT again gives a helpful reminder that pedestrians, bicycles and horses are prohibited on I-190. If you want to ride your horse to Grand Island, you’re probably out of luck.

Since the pedestrian crossing on the eastern span of the bridge was closed, I had to cross on the western span where I was facing traffic while walking my bike. It was a little scary having those transport trucks coming at you and comedian George Wallace, who often jokes about the relatively minor difference between a Mack truck and a Ford Ranger, has obviously not walked across this bridge. Nonetheless, I made it back to the mainland and returned home without incident. As Arnold Schwarzengger says, “I’ll be back.”

22 Nov

Spotted at Niagara Square

Such a strange sight I saw in the washroom at Niagara Square
It was so odd and I really didn’t want to stare

At the urinal, a man took multitasking to a whole new level
Chatting on his cell phone while taking a whizz, what a little devil

I can’t imagine what would be so important with this call
That couldn’t wait until he was finished pissing in the mall

The person on the other end likely wasn’t aware of his plans
To leave the washroom without washing his hands

He is not alone in being addicted to his mobile phone
I can only shake my head and groan

04 Nov

Covering the Friendship Trail from Port Colborne to Fort Erie

Yesterday, as part of an epic 69-mile trek, I covered the Friendship Trail on two wheels from Port Colborne to Fort Erie for the first time. Knowing in advance that the entire journey from St. Catharines would be well beyond my range, I took Niagara Region Transit from the downtown bus terminal to Welland.

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Every Niagara Region Transit bus is equipped with a bike rack and I found it easy to use. Instructions on the front direct you to pull down on the rack, where to place your front wheel and hook on the lever so your bike doesn’t end up as scrap metal as the driver speeds down the 406. Between St. Catharines and Welland, the bus only stops at the Pen Center, Brock University, the Seaway Mall and finally, at the Welland Transit Terminal, where I got off. The ride took less than 40 minutes and I was soon headed south towards Port Colborne. Niagara Region Transit does offer a link to Port Colborne, but those buses are not equipped with a bike rack, so cyclists like me have to get there on their own.

 
20141103_03_patway

There were a couple of places where the “patway” was under construction south of Welland, but I went around them on side roads and was soon in Port Colborne.

20141103_28_3_pc_welcome
After a brief tour and some pictures, I made my way to the Friendship Trail, which is located at the south end of town, six blocks south of Killaly Street on the east side of the canal.

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20141103_38_friendshiptrail

20141103_39_friendshiptrail

The trail proceeds due east towards Fort Erie in a straight line along very Saskatchewanized terrain. Though you are not far from Lake Erie, you will see very little of it on the route. Instead, you see plenty of bush and farmland. For the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, it reminded me very much of Birds Hill Park.

Looking at the map before going, I had underestimated the total distance. It turned out to be a total of 28 km from Elizabeth Street in Port Colborne to Mather Park in Fort Erie, where pedestrians and cyclists can access the Peace Bridge and cross into the U.S.

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In Fort Erie, there are a number of public beaches easily accessible off the trail where you can get a good view of the lake. This was one such beach where I stopped for some pictures and a little rest.

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Waverly Beach in Fort Erie.

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The Buffalo skyline.

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The Peace Bridge.

Along the route, there are plenty of benches where you can stop and rest, but much like the Niagara Parkway that I followed on my return trip, there are no bathrooms. When in Fort Erie, do your business there or forever hold your peace. Or hold something else.

Simply because of how far it was away from home, I don’t think I’ll be frequenting it that often, but for those a little closer or with transportation, it is a very nice, well-maintained trail that is another significant asset for cyclists in the region.

26 Oct

Ode to the IceDogs

Here is a tale that will rhyme
About when I saw the IceDogs for the second time

20141024_003_subwaymascot
I found little buzz on the street on this day
There was only this mascot from the local Subway

Under the auspices of security, a guard rifles through your bags and devices
They just want you to pay the high concession prices

Never bought food at a hockey game, that’s a fact
It’s a streak I intend to keep intact

20141024_017_filthyseat
I really don’t want to be mean
But is it asking too much for the seat to be clean?

20141024_014_banners
New banners were hung from the rafters
Honoring the team that was the Eastern Conference masters

20141024_043_bones
Before the game, Bones posed for a picture for me
There would be not many others in the stands for the mascot to see

20141024_025_warmup
The IceDogs played their backup goaltender, giving him a fling
We found out why he’s second-string

20141024_052_moran
Battalion shooters found him easy to strafe
Don’t worry Brent, your job is safe

The work of the officials was not a delight
“I’m blind, I’m deaf, I want to be a ref,” was easily the line of the night

20141024_078_secondperiod
An altercation caused many to scoff
One man near me yelled, “Rip his head off!”

The biggest cheers came from a third-period fight
The guy to my left pounded on the glass with all his might

20141024_101_thirdperiod
After the game, dejection was written all over their faces
It hardly seemed worth tying up their skate laces

The light crowd was not happy, to say the least
As their team crept closer to the bottom of the East

Looks like a long year ahead for fans like me and you
They’ve played a dozen games and only won two