24 Mar

Random Thoughts – CPC Leadership, Our Mayor, Niki Ashton and More

1. I was among the group who came out to hear CPC leadership hopeful Pierre Lemieux speak at the downtown library last night. Though it’s not likely he’ll win, I was again very impressed and his views align very closely with mine. As he pointed out, even if he doesn’t win, think of the message it sends to the new leader if a social conservative like him has a strong showing on the first ballot. Something to seriously think about.

2. From talking to others last night, I wasn’t the only CPC supporter well connected to party communications and social media who failed to hear about Maxime Bernier’s recent appearance in Niagara.

3. I may be adding more names to my ballot to ward off the threat from faux Conservative Kevin O’Leary.

4. When I mentioned to the woman seated next to me last night that I was originally from Winnipeg, she asked, “Can you send us your premier?” After I returned a puzzled look, she said, “Oh yeah, Brad Wall is from Saskatchewan.” Manitoba, Saskatchewan, what’s the difference? They’re both “out West.”

4a. I added that she wouldn’t want Brian Pallister, who’s proving to be NDP-Lite.

5. It was highly inappropriate of Mayor Sendzik to use the Top Hat Ceremony earlier in the week to play partisan politics and bash Donald Trump. Save that for your re-election campaign, Mr. Mayor.

5a. When I see Sendzik together with MP Chris Bittle in public, I keep half-expecting Bittle to say “heel” and have Sendzik kneel at his feet. Woof. And before you call me cruel for making that comment, watch them in action for yourself before passing judgment.

6. In voting for Sendzik, the electorate rejected an ultra-leftist in favor of someone who preached opportunities and jobs during his campaign. Yet they ended up getting the ultra-leftist who seemingly can’t get the Liberal rhetoric out of his mouth fast enough. His latest pillar is “inclusive community building.” If I wanted Jeff Burch, I would have voted for him.

7. I will give Sendzik credit for spearheading the inter-municipal transit issue. Now if I could only use my Presto card here in Niagara. The way I can on GO and in Hamilton, Burlington, Toronto, Whitby and Ottawa.

8. For some writing material, I watched the recent NDP leadership debate and Niki Ashton did not disappoint. In fact, I may even base a character on her. I laughed especially hard when she spoke about making the rich pay, conveniently omitting the fact that her provincial counterparts in Manitoba, where her father was a senior cabinet minister, dug into the pockets of the little guy whose cause she purports to champion to buy an NHL franchise for the richest man in the country. Gotta love those highly principled socialists.

9. Checking the headlines back in the Old Country, I couldn’t help but notice how Mark Chipman’s top assistant is getting fricasseed in the media on the heels of yet another failed season for the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. A good leader does not crawl under a rock and allow his subordinate to take the heat for his own failures.

9a. There’s no way he would ever admit it publicly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Cheveldayoff wishes he could turn back the clock six years and instead wait, in the words of Joe McGrath, “for a good front-office job.”

10. In six seasons, the late John Ferguson, himself a failed general manager, took a team from expansion and in four playoff appearances, his teams won four games and one series. In six seasons, Mark Chipman took an up-and-coming team with some good players on manageable contracts approaching the primes of their careers and has delivered one playoff appearance and not a single playoff victory. Yet people in Winnipeg still fervently defend that man. To coin a phrase, you get the owner you deserve.

11. To reward his team making the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, IceDogs owner Bill Burke reportedly took the group out to dinner at The Keg. Given how they backed in, however, a Happy Meal at McDonald’s might have been more appropriate.

20 Mar

IceDogs Road Trip to Mississauga

Thoughts and observations from Sunday afternoon’s road trip to Mississauga:

1. It was officially called the “7th Man Caravan,” but it might have been better termed a “Carabus,” since we went in six school buses along with one wheelchair van.

2. Despite getting there well ahead of time, there was already a large gathering in place when I got there. One thing I’ve noticed about people in this part of the world is that they are exceptionally early, so the fault lies with me. I should have known better.


3. Brianne from the IceDogs office was running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to organize the large crowd. Though I got the impression that this was a task she had little experience with, it is fair to point out that one person should not have been left to herd so many people. They should have had two or three, at least. It’s not as though they didn’t know we were coming.

4. I was directed into the first bus, which was already half full, as the second was being saved for kids and families. Little could I have known that it was going to end up as the Drunken Seniors Bus, as I was, by far, the youngest person on the bus, and the only sober passenger by the time the day was done.


5. Waiting for the bus to take off, I listened as chatter filled the air. Some of it was about the IceDogs’ playoff chances, but most of it involved their woes in traveling to and from their warm-weather getaway destinations. One couple had cruised the Panama Canal, others had stayed at Mexican resorts, while another couple had been in Cuba. That couple spoke about the time in which their tour company had gone bankrupt, and they were left having to foot the bill or risk not being let out of the country. By far the biggest gripe was with the airlines, and Sun Wing seemed to get the worst reviews.

5a. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure how much I’d have to be paid to go to one of those Latin American or Caribbean countries.

6. Even before we took off, the booze began flowing. Not just beer, but hard liquor was on tap and it quickly began circulating throughout the bus. One particular brew was sickly orange in color and reminded me of the penicillin I used to take so often as a child.

7. In addition to the booze, people were taking advantage of the free popcorn in two dog dishes making their way up and down the aisle as well as the bag of stinky salt and vinegar chips. People will eat anything, regardless of what it is or who has handled it.

8. As Joe, our driver, drove at breakneck speed down the QEW, many on the bus began posting stills and video to Facebook and Twitter. Despite claims to the contrary, the older generation has indeed embraced social media.

9. Looking around, I realized I was seemingly the only one on the bus not wearing any IceDogs paraphernalia. Of course, I don’t own any, though I suppose I may reluctantly give in at some point and buy something. Maybe. I’m not eager to pay those exorbitant prices.

10. After taking the Hurontario Street exit, our bus pulled up alongside a MiWay bus. Made by New Flyer. Try as I might, I can’t escape the SPRM.


11. We made it to the Hershey Center in just over an hour. As many drivers in this part of the world can attest, the 100 km/h speed limit is, in reality, a minimum.

12. After getting some shots around the Hershey Center, I went to find my seat, and for the first time ever at a sporting event, I need the help of an usher. The poorly marked section 14 had a seat 8, but not a seat 108 that I could see. It turned out to be next to seat 6.


Silly me for not knowing better.

12a. The usher’s name was the same as the father of the family that bought our house in the Old Country. The family that moved to Winnipeg from Mississauga. Ruminate on that one for a while.

13. Off to my right, I couldn’t help but notice a picture of the Queen, a fixture at the old Winnipeg Arena. Along with the dull, drab concrete concourse, I had the feeling that I was back in the Old Country. Luckily, there was no trough in the washroom.


14. Speaking of the washroom, I couldn’t help but notice someone who was letting out a big yawn after leaving a stall. Was what he was doing so physically exhausting or did he just fall asleep in there?

14a. Not that this surprises me here anymore, but there was a lineup waiting to use the sink. This is another pleasant change from the Old Country.

15. Seated in the next section to my right were Bill and Denise Burke, the owners who had driven down in their white Beemer. I was not the only one to notice their presence and during the second period, one fan ran down to take a selfie with Bill. He reluctantly smiled for his customer, but after the guy left to go back to his seat, the boss shook his head in disgust.


16. Before the game, the Steelheads introduced their mascot. “Sauga.” How original. It must have been named by the same person who wanted to call Bones “Saint.”

17. The IceDogs’ cheering section gave their heroes a hearty ovation when they came out to start the game, and they probably outnumbered the hometown team’s supporters. To borrow a line from Slap Shot, good seats were still available.

18. It was odd seeing the players turn to the side to face the flag during the playing of O Canada instead of facing one of the ends. It’s the only rink I’ve ever seen that in.

19. They just played a recording of O Canada rather than have a live singer. I can’t say I prefer one over the other.

20. It was nice of the Steelheads to give a warm welcome to those of us who had come from St. Catharines and across Niagara.

21. The IceDogs needed a point to secure the eighth and final playoff Eastern Conference berth, but you’d never have known it from their lackluster play. I saw more intensity from Jets when they were rolling over for the Oilers in the playoffs during the 1980s.

21a. I’m not bitter. Really, I’m not. OK, yes, I am.

22. The loudmouth seated in front of me berating referee Bob Marley all afternoon long would have been better served directing his anger towards the team in white. Not that I’ll rush to defend OHL officials, but when you fail to answer the bell with your season on the line, you have no right to blame the ref. Even if he is a moron, as the loudmouth kept suggesting.

23. Just when I was getting the impression that they wouldn’t have scored if they played all day, the IceDogs managed to break the shutout in the third period. Based on the reaction from the faithful, you’d have thought they just netted the game-winner in sudden-death overtime.

24. Every crowd has a Howie Meeker clone and I had one seated to my left. But even his enthusiasm waned as the game wore on. He was curious about my note taking, but didn’t care enough to ask me about it. And he’s certainly not alone.

25. As the IceDogs were getting blown out, the Kingston-North Bay score became the dominant topic of conversation in the third period. Fortunately for the boys in white, Kingston rallied to beat North Bay to give the IceDogs a playoff berth they neither earned nor deserved.

26. In a classy gesture, the IceDogs raised their sticks in our direction after the game to salute us for coming to cheer them on.

26a. Based on how they had played, it was a gesture I did not feel inclined to reciprocate.

27. Booze dominated the return trip. Not only was plenty being consumed, but many around me were bragging about their drinking exploits in past bus trips.

28. I’ve made the observation in the past that there is nothing more abused than a hockey player’s liver. In this case, it might also apply to a hockey fan’s liver.

29. I could only wonder what would befall these poor souls if they were to ever reintroduce prohibition. Those folks had some serious alcohol-dependency issues.

30. Despite the high level of intoxication among the alcohol-dependent passengers, I only heard the F-bomb used once. This is definitely not the Old Country.

31. Joe again drove at breakneck speed to get us back to St. Catharines quickly. Too quickly. Between Burlington and Hamilton, he even passed a bus from Safeway Tours. The Safeway driver seemed to take offense and pulled into the next lane to try and regain the lead, but Joe would have none of that and kept the pole position all the way to the 406. As someone on the bus said, “Give Joe the checkered flag!”

14 Mar

Been There. Done That.

As someone who suffered through an endless procession of disappointments during the NHL era of the real Jets, I read this article on arcticicehockey.com with considerable interest.

Penned by current season ticket holder Kevin Doherty, it eloquently sums up how years of neglect on the part of the Chipman organization has sucked the passion out of him and many other rabid fans. It sounded exactly like something I could have written back in 1989 when I gave up my season tickets for many of the same reasons. Or when I stopped going to Fighting Moose games back in 2004. Classic symptoms of Battered Fan Syndrome, something for which there really is no cure.

Having seen first-hand how Mark Chipman operates, the only surprise is that it’s taken fans this long to figure it out. Some still haven’t, while others choose not to.

Part of me is sympathetic. After all, it’s not the fans’ fault that they’re stuck with an owner who cares more about playing general manager and polishing his image than in delivering a quality product and treating his customers with some modicum of respect.

Unfortunately for fans like Doherty, it won’t get any better.

During a recent conversation with a friend, he made the point that sports teams need to sell hope to their fans. But with Chipman, there is no hope. The financial and emotional investment he expects from his “stakeholders” will never be returned.

And he will not change. Ever. Oh sure, he might shuffle a few of his cronies around. Maybe throw one or two under the bus. See Noel, Claude. Someone who, by the way, would likely still be behind the bench if it weren’t for an impending season ticket renewal deadline. But it will just be for show.

The worst part is that he’s not going anywhere. Flush with cash thanks to his practically unlimited access to public coffers and in a position of absolute power, there’s no reason for him to sell or step down.

As I’ve said before to people in that part of the world who laughed and figuratively wagged their finger in my face back in 2011, you wanted a Mark Chipman team, you got one. Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

10 Mar

IceDogs vs. Owen Sound

Thoughts and observations from last night’s game as the IceDogs took on Owen Sound at the Meridian Center:

1. It was only my fifth game of the year and first in over a month. As I explained to Matt at the IceDogs office on Wednesday, I still suffer from Battered Fan Syndrome.

2. En route, on the sidewalk in front of the PAC, someone passed by and said to her friend, “I forgot my backpack. Because I’m an idiot.” Who am I to argue?

3. As I normally do, in defiance of arena policies, I snuck in a cookie from home. If the ushers can bring their own food, so can I.

4. To humor myself, I took another tour of the souvenir shop. A tenth-anniversary golf shirt will run you $54.95, but a black golf shirt with the IceDogs logo was only $45.95. What a bargain. Or not.


Another interesting item was this knit Bones-styled toque. I think. Whatever it is, you too can have one for just $28. Earth to IceDogs: This. Is. Junior. Hockey. It’s not the NHL. And we live in St. Catharines. Not Toronto.

5. I know it’s getting old, but would you pay premium dollar to sit behind this hacked-up glass?


6. In the concourse behind section 108 was a crew from Cold FX soliciting passers-by to enter a contest to win what I later discovered to be a trip to Costa Rica. I can’t imagine how much someone would have to pay me to go there.

7. Left on the ground next to my seat was a River Lions game program. Evidently, this was an area the cleaning crew missed from their last game.


7a. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what “river” flows through St. Catharines.

8. I couldn’t believe my ears when the PA announcer, during his pregame schtick from the concourse, did not introduce himself. Now how in the world could the unwashed masses properly enjoy the game without knowing who he was?

9. As part of the pregame ceremonies, Mayor Walter L. Sendzik made a presentation to St. Catharines native Danial Singer, who plays for the IceDogs. As Mayor Sendzik made his way to center ice, the announcer mentioned two Garden City natives who had played in the NHL: Brian Bellows of the Montreal Canadiens and Gerry Cheevers of the Boston Bruins. Call me a stickler for detail, but Bellows played most of his pro career with the Minnesota North Stars and it would also have been proper to note Cheevers’ stint with the WHA’s Cleveland Crusaders. Let us also not forget St. Catharines native Mark Plantery, who I saw play for the (real) Jets at the Winnipeg Arena.

10. O Canada was sung entirely in Quebecese by students from Ecole Elementaire Champlain in Welland. That was seriously disrespectful, and the IceDogs should be deeply ashamed.

11. As has become a regular occurrence, my row was entirely marked as sold, yet there were only three others there. In addition, practically the entire section was marked as sold, but only half the seats were occupied.

12. What appeared to be a mother with her two daughters were at the end of my row and left their bags and coats while they went off somewhere, presumably to the washroom or to get “food.” How trusting of them. Then again, this is not the Old Country.


12a. Said mother with her daughters left one of their coats on the ground and made no effort to move it as I passed by. When returning to my seat, I made no effort to avoid stepping on it.

13. Someone seated in front of me had a notepad, and appeared to be a scout. Cue Paul Newman from Slap Shot

14. Scattered around the rink were some people from Owen Sound. They were pretty quiet all night, as was the rest of the crowd. Amazingly, Councillor Mat Siscoe posted a tweet in which he boasted about the “playoff atmosphere.” He must been tweeting about a different game. The only noise came from that stinking band that regrettably made another unwanted appearance.

15. On the other side of the rail to my left was a heavyweight who thoroughly enjoyed her Grimsby Grilled Cheese and accompanying fries that she washed down with a Sprite. In her case, it might better have been described as a Grimsby Girth Enhancer, as she needed it as much as I needed another hole in my head. Not to mention the fact that she probably paid more for her “meal” than she did for her ticket.

16. There was another heavyweight nearby who was sporting a Chipman hoodie. If he only knew.

17. During the first intermission, they had a presentation for Tim Vail, the Niagara Falls firefighter who lost his life trying to save a dog in Vineland in November 2015. Speaking was the great Marcel Dionne, who was seated in the next section to my left.

18. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. Down 3-1 after a first period in which they were dominated, the IceDogs rebounded with two in the second to tie the score heading into the third. Owen Sound promptly broke the tie, then added an insurance marker before the IceDogs made it interesting late. Unfortunately, they could get no closer and even with the sixth attacker, they could generate little offense and went down 6-4.

18a. This was not one of Stephen Dhillon’s better outings, though he was far from alone in that regard.

19. 5,163 were alleged to have been there, and I have to admit that figure was probably reasonably accurate.

20. On the way back, I spotted a sign in front of a bar on St. Paul Street that read, “Soup of the day: Whiskey.”

21. Getting on the bus in front of me was someone with a Dallas Cowpeople jacket. He was also mentally challenged. Coincidence? You be the judge.

06 Mar

CPC Leadership Event in Burlington

Thoughts and observations on my journey to, from and at the Conservative leadership event at the Burlington Convention Center yesterday:

1. On the GO bus to Burlington, I spotted at least three trucks from Bison Transport on the QEW. As I’ve said before, the SPRM continues to follow me around.

2. Seated across from me on said GO bus were a couple in their early 20s. Like, I don’t know if they, like, could finish a sentence without, like, saying “like.” Needless to say, I was, like, happy when the bus, like, pulled into the Burlington GO station.

3. I really wish they’d finish the work on the Burlington GO station so that I could use a proper washroom there instead of an outhouse.

4. To get me to within a mile of the place, I took Burlington Transit for the first time. On board was a sign, “No smoking, no food, no radios.” Once again, this is not the Old Country.

5. Walking south along Burloak Drive towards the Burlington Convention Center, I passed by Bronte Creek Provincial Park. That looks like a place I’ll want to visit.

6. I wouldn’t have minded the long walk except for what was, by Ontario standards, the miserable weather. I really have become acclimatized in more ways than one.

7. As is normal operating procedure for me, I was plenty early and had a chance to walk around and get some pictures.


There were tables from each candidate who appeared, staffed by campaign volunteers. I spoke to a member of Pierre Lemieux’s campaign, but no others. At each table were brochures outlining each candidate’s platform, but as a party member, I’ve been getting inundated with emails, so I was well aware as to where they stood. I was there to see them in person.

8. I was disappointed to see so much activity around the tables of Kevin O’Leary and Michael Chong. Those two are Liberals masquerading as Conservatives and, as far as I’m concerned, can’t drop out of the race fast enough. On a more positive note, Lisa Raitt had plenty of support in the room.

9. The crowd, estimated to have been between 800 and 900 people, were regular working-class people, many of whom were wearing suits and ties. Shabbily dressed, I almost felt a little out of place.

10. A photographer working the room had a piece of paper with “FUN” printed on it taped to his lens hood. Did he find his job so unfulfilling that he had to remind himself to think happy thoughts?

11. 10 of the 14 candidates were there and nine of them stood for a photo op before the speeches began.


Kellie Leitch, the first speaker, was running late and didn’t get there until just before she was called on stage.

12. Though I liked some of the things she had to say, I hadn’t been impressed with Leitch personally and nothing I saw from her speech convinced me otherwise. She is still not on my ballot. And not because she was, like me, born in the capital of the SPRM.

13. Pierre Lemieux, the third speaker, won some major brownie points with this voter. He got some serious applause for denouncing the carbon tax, and spoke of the need for stricter immigration and fighting against political correctness. He also had an easygoing manner about him that I liked.

14. Erin O’Toole made much of his support for the military, but there’s more to being a future prime minister than supporting the troops. Coming in, he was on my ballot. After his six minutes on stage, he wasn’t.

15. After O’Toole was the faux Conservative Michael Chong, who spent most of his allotted time on his poor immigrant story. It reminded me of listening to Devon Clunis, the ex-chief of the Winnipeg non-police, who bored me and the rest of his audience at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate some years ago repeating his “poor immigrant boy from the North End” story. Clunis turned me off with his self-serving oratory that night and Chong did likewise yesterday afternoon. As I’ve said before, somewhere, there’s a Liberal Party membership card with Chong’s name on it and I hope he avails himself of it.

16. Rick Peterson, perhaps the biggest unknown among the group, followed Chong and boasted, “I’m in it to win it,” yet only today would reveal his platform, months behind his rivals. To borrow a line from Rambo III, before continuing in the race, maybe he should go back home and think it all over again for a very, very long time.

17. Lisa Raitt followed Peterson and, like Lemieux, was impressive. She described herself as “smart, prepared and ruthless.” I like that. Coming in, she wasn’t on my ballot, but with her speech, she got her way back on it and likely in the top five. Maybe even higher.

18. Thanks for coming Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney, Kevin O’Leary and Andrew Saxton. Now please drop out.

19. On the return trip to St. Catharines, I was seated behind an older gentleman exchanging life stories with a 15-year-old girl. After he talked about his 14 grandchildren, she mentioned how her sister, who was 15 at the time, got pregnant and still doesn’t know who the father of her child is. In addition, someone else in her family got pregnant at 13. Try birth control. Better yet, try abstinence.

19a. This 15-year-old is from St. Catharines and spoke about “how bad it was there” because there had been a couple of stabbings of late. People who have never lived outside this part of the world have absolutely no concept of how bad things can really get and, for their sake, I hope they never have to find out. There’s a reason I picked up and left everything I had ever known and came here more two and a half years ago.

04 Mar

An Interesting Exchange

An interesting exchange between me and a woman at the anti-M-103 rally held here in St. Catharines this afternoon:

Noticing that I was taking a lot of pictures of the event, as I do at most every event I attend, the woman asked me, “Can you send these to Preston?”

I return a blank stare.

“You know, Preston the photographer.”

Um, am I supposed to just go through the phone book under “Photographers” and find someone named Preston?

“He’s with Bullet News.”

“Bullet News Niagara has gone out of business.”

“Well, you can find him under Niagara news or Niagara photos.”

Oh sure, I’ll just do a vague Google search in the hopes of finding this person I’m evidently supposed to know. When I do, I’ll be sure to dump several megabytes worth of pictures he may or may not want into his inbox.

Sounds like a plan. Or not.

19 Feb

Return to Pearson Airport

Yesterday, I made another voyage to the universe’s center, this time making a return trip to Pearson Airport, the place I first touched down as a new Ontario resident following my momentous defection from the SPRM more than two and a half years ago.

Bright and early, as always, I boarded the #12 bus at Fairview Mall for the all too familiar trek to Burlington. It turned out to be a perfect time to go, since there were so few people on the bus and traffic was so light on the QEW. At least on the way there.


The dungeon leading to track 3.


It would go up to +15 on this day, yet they still apparently needed the proverbial ton of salt. You can never, it seems, put down enough salt in this part of the world. Sometimes I wonder why the salt trucks aren’t out in the middle of July.


As the Lakeshore West train was pulling up to the platform, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a 20-something woman shivering as if it was -45, like they had in the Old Country this winter. These people just don’t know how lucky they are not to have suffered through such bitter cold. And on two wheels, like I have.


Aboard the train was this highly offensive ad from CBC Radio. It wasn’t the ad specifically, but the fact that it came from one of the world’s leading purveyors of left-wing political propaganda. I certainly hope GO reconsiders and refuses to accept advertising from such revulsive sources.


From Union Station, following a short break, I made for the subway station.


The entrance to the subway station.

Union, like all the other stations in the system, now accepts PRESTO cards, but for those who don’t have one or haven’t heard of PRESTO, you can pay with cash at the booth.


Waiting for the subway.


Minutes later, the subway came, and I got off to change to the #2 line at the St. George station. For the benefit of those who haven’t taken the subway and need to transfer to a different line, there is always an announcement to that effect when approaching a connecting station.


From there, I proceeded down the escalator, where the #2 was waiting for me. Yes, there are multiple levels underground. I know of at least one reader who is bothered by that concept.


Aboard the #2 line, I made myself comfortable as it made its way westward toward the Kipling station, the western terminus of the line.


Back up at street level, there were platforms for many bus routes, including one for the 192 Airport Rocket, an express route to Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. There was even a bus waiting, but first, I took off on foot to get some highway pictures of 427 a short distance away.

During my hour-long diversion, I managed to avoid getting accosted by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were canvassing the area around Bloor Street and got some excellent shots, soon to appear on a website near you.

I then returned to the Kipling station and caught the Airport Rocket bus. All TTC buses now accept PRESTO and, like many OC Transpo buses in Ottawa, you can even board in the rear if you are paying with PRESTO. Being at the Kipling station, however, you can’t even get to the platform without paying, so it was all academic.

As the name of the route suggested, after putting on his seat belt, the driver then rocketed north on 427 before meandering around the airport until reaching ground level at Terminal 1.


While there, I toured around at got some pictures. When flying to and from the universe’s center in the past, I had only been in Terminal 3, so this part of the adventure was all new.


Of note in this shot was the booth for the Peel Regional Police. For those who are not aware, Pearson Airport is actually located in Mississauga, not Toronto.

Next, I followed the signs to the link train, a free service which takes passengers to and from Terminal 3 and the attached Sheraton Hotel.


There are two sets of tracks and seats inside each car for the short trip between terminals. As shown in the first shot, the arrival times are pegged to the second.


Inside Terminal 3, I toured around before stopping for a break, not coincidentally, by the Niagara Airbus check-in desk by Door C.


There, I could not help but think back to the 2013 trip when I came St. Catharines for the first time to investigate the possibility of relocating to the city. It was in front of this desk where I sat wondering lay in store and whether or not this dream would ever become reality. As loyal readers are well aware, less than a year later, it did.

Following the break, I returned to Terminal 1 via the link train, then took the much-heralded UP Express train back to Union. At $9 for PRESTO users, it is a little more pricey than the $3 subway fare, but it gets you back to Union in only 25 minutes, and without having to change subway lines.


Inside, there are special luggage storage areas, plugs and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are even pull-down trays, just like on an airplane. Regrettably, announcements are made in Canadian and Quebecese and, unlike the case on GO trains, staff come around to verify tickets. In the case of PRESTO users, they scan your card to check that you did indeed tap on before you boarded.


Leaving Terminal 1.


Once at Union, simply follow the signs to guide you through the maze. In addition to the walkway to catch a GO train, VIA train or TTC subway line, there is also a walkway to the Toronto Convention Center.

Before returning home, I needed to visit a couple of places, so I exited via Front Street, where I spotted a pair of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign that read, “Homeless and hungry, any little bit helps.” They didn’t have money for food, but they did have money for cigarettes. But, as someone once said to me, I just don’t understand the real issues behind poverty.

Moving on, I returned to Union and caught what was a crowded Lakeshore West train back to Burlington in enough time to catch the 2:54 #12 bus back to St. Catharines.


As you can see, I was certainly not the only one waiting for the bus. Maybe one of these days, GO will increase the frequency of this route. Though our mayor seems convinced otherwise, I’m not sure the daily train service to Niagara will become reality any time soon.

Decompressing after a long day, what was probably the most humorous part of the trip began when a retired steelworker with a faint odor of alcohol on his breath got on at Stoney Creek and sat next to me. We began talking and when I told him I was originally from Winnipeg, he began talking about his relatives in Chilliwack, BC, almost as if I was supposed to know them. As I’ve observed more than once since moving here, “out West” is just some small place on the fringe of the Earth where everyone more or less knows each other. In many respects, people from Southern Ontario are like Americans, whose only knowledge of Canada consists of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and assume every Canadian lives in or near one of those three cities.

It got even funnier when I was mentioning the bitter cold in Winnipeg, which he began to equate with the climate in Chilliwack. Of course Winnipeg and Chilliwack have the same climate. Didn’t you know that? I’ll take this opportunity to pause and allow you to finish laughing hysterically before proceeding.

As we got closer to St. Catharines, as part of his life story, he mentioned that his father has “Altheimer’s.” Well, whatever that is. I hope it’s nothing like Alzheimer’s.

That conversation certainly proved to be the perfect way to cap off what was an interesting little mini-holiday.

16 Feb

Random Thoughts – Winnipeg Transit, Our Mayor, Salt, The Leftist Elite

1. If you haven’t heard, a Winnipeg Transit driver was fatally stabbed at the end of his run at the U of M this week. As someone who frequently used public transit in that part of the world, it certainly hit home for me. For all I know, I may very well have had that driver on one or more trips.

Not to make light of someone’s passing, but I nearly laughed when I heard that police called this a “very rare event.” This just in. Winnipeg is the violent crime capital of Canada. It’s not safe off the bus. It’s not safe on the bus. I remember a bygone era when I waited for a bus in a bad neighborhood and was relieved when the bus finally showed up. Today, the real danger comes when you get on the bus.

I understand why this was a crime that shocked people in and out of Winnipeg, but thinking about it, the only surprise is that it hasn’t happened long before now.

1a. Don’t you wish the judges who kept letting the suspect, a thug with a record as long as his arm, back out on the street after repeated probation violations were held personally accountable?

2. Speaking of the Old Country, it looks like another season is circling the drain for the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. As Chipman continues to lazily squander his customers’ passion and hard-earned money, not to mention taxpayers’ money, even after all this time, people in that part of the world still rush to defend him. To coin a phrase, you get the owner you deserve.

3. After delivering his sanctimonious lecture on hate and intolerance, I’m still waiting for Mayor Sendzik to hold a vigil for the young girls at the West Edmonton Mall who were sexually assaulted by a  Syrian migrant. But I won’t hold my breath. You see, according to the Liberal narrative, some victims are more equal than others. Case and point, M-103.

3a. I fondly remember a bygone era when our mayor spoke of jobs. Opportunity. Growth. He sure has changed, and not for the better.

4. Rumor has it some CBC radio host passed away recently. Again, I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s passing, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

5. There is so much salt on our streets and sidewalks right now that if we were to get hit with any significant snowfall between now and, say, December, they should not need to apply any more. Case and point, I spotted a city truck parked on the side of a busy street recently. No less than three guys were out there shoveling salt out of the back of the pickup onto someone’s sidewalk like it was going out of style. This truly is the Great Salt Republic.

6. Rumor has it the IceDogs have been getting sellouts for a few of their recent home games. I haven’t been at a game for a while, but judging from the pictures I’ve been seeing from the team’s official photographer, many of those “fans” have been coming dressed as empty seats. Or maybe Wile E. Coyote is standing by the Rankin Gateway tossing some of his unused invisible paint on unsuspecting passers-by on their way in. The puffing of attendance figures doesn’t appear to be as bad as it was during the Fighting Moose era, but as they say, something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

6a. As tensions between the IceDogs and SMG percolate behind the scenes, count me as one of those who would not be sorry to see the latter get turfed for reasons I’ve already covered many times.

7. Dear leftist elites: The more you censor those you disagree with and cover up facts, the more suspicious we become of those you are desperately aiming to protect.

7a. I love what Donald Trump has done so far since assuming the presidency.

31 Jan

Another Tour of Hamilton

Observations from yesterday’s tour of downtown Hamilton:

1. The GO bus leaving Fairview Mall was more than 10 minutes late, but the driver actually apologized and vowed to try and make up time on the way. It is another sharp contrast from the Old Country, where the driver would probably drive extra slow just to piss his passengers off even more.

2. There was someone from Quebec boarding at Fairview and, obviously unable to speak Canadian, simply held up her cell phone to the driver to tell him where she was going. Interesting idea. If I visit that country again, perhaps I should come prepared with a picture of a sub should I need to stop while on the wrong side of the border.

3. On the opposite side of the aisle was a gentleman having a very deep, involved conversation with himself. Moving his arms and talking out loud, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his own company.

4. Seated in front of this talkative gentleman was someone stretched out over both seats snoozing away. I wonder if she asked the driver to wake her at her stop.

5. Kudos to that GO driver who waited until the senior who boarded at Beamsville got to the top of the steps before taking off.

6. I noticed GO has finally indicated “Beamsville” on the new Ontario Street/QEW stop. It was long overdue, as there are three exits in Niagara for an Ontario Street, the others coming in Grimsby and St. Catharines.

7. Upon reaching Stoney Creek and the stop for the now-infamous Barton bus, I was asked by a younger dude in dreadlocks if he could use my cell phone. Not that I have one, but I wouldn’t have made the assumption he only wanted to use it temporarily.

8. I’m not sure it was safe for him to do it, but more kudos to the same GO driver for letting that young woman on despite being in the left-hand turning lane at the on-ramp for the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

9. HSR is now putting CBC “news” up on their video screens for the benefit of those sitting in the back. Needless to say, I found this deeply offensive.

10. I was even more offended when one of these CBC “news” segments showed a picture of the Government Forks in Winnipeg. The SPRM does have a way of following me around.

11. While stopping for a picture on Ferguson in the International Village, a woman carrying a tray full of Mr. Horton’s delicacies made a point of telling me, “If you see someone falling from the seventh floor, don’t mind it because it won’t be me.” Not only did I not see that one coming, but there were no buildings in the immediate vicinity that even had seven floors.

12. There were plenty of beggars out and about, though they were at least polite and somewhat respectful. One was seated on the sidewalk outside Hamilton City Center with his legs stretched out. Another was standing right outside the door at another of Mr. Horton’s locations asking “You don’t happen to have a nickel or a dime towards a bagel, eh?” After ignoring him, he said, “Sorry for bothering you.” All told, I was accosted three times throughout the day.

12a. Later that evening, a friend who I was speaking with on the phone said that if I had wanted to do something different with my life, I could have made a good counsellor. I’ll pause for a moment while you get all that laughter out of your system.

13. It is not a proper trip on the Barton bus without getting at least one mother with a stroller in tow. There might even be some sort of transit by-law requiring it.

14. I know only those of you from the SPRM who use or have used Winnipeg Transit will appreciate this comment, but it’s still a novelty not having to use a battering ram to get out the back door. On all HSR buses I’ve been on, the back doors open automatically and there’s never been a problem.

15. For a complete set of pictures, click here.

20 Jan

IceDogs vs. Guelph

Thoughts and observations from last night’s IceDogs game as they took on the Guelph Storm:

1. It had been more than two months since the Meridian Center last saw my shadow. It was nice to return, but I couldn’t say I missed it a whole lot. I go to games nowadays for writing fodder, not as a rabid fan.

2. When stopping at the IceDogs office to pick up my ticket around noon, I spotted none other than Bill Burke in the parking lot.

3. After selecting my seat, I inquired as to what was involved if I wanted to bring my DSLR camera to the game. For those who are unaware, in a policy even more restrictive than the customer-hostile NHL, the league and team require all DSLR cameras to be registered with the office prior to any game.

So instead of what I expected to be a simple procedure, I was told I had to track down Matt, who apparently was the Grand Poobah of Camera Registration in addition to his other duties. But he was not currently in the office. Groan. So, while leaving, who do I see in the parking lot but Matt. I caught up with him and followed him back inside, and all he did was print the date on a blank media pass, tell me I couldn’t sell the pictures, hand the pass to me and send me on my way.


I can certainly understand why not just any staff member would be able to handle something so complex.

Or not.

Groan.

But there you have it, IceDogs fans, for those of you who were so inclined to bring your DSLR camera to a game. Your welcome.

3a. Though Matt warned me I might have to show the media pass if any of the security people noticed, no one did. Not that I expected them to.

4. I again got a seat right alongside a rail, the only one in the row not marked as sold. Yet, once again, I was the only one in the row.


Methinks a little Fighting Moose math might be in play here. Loyal readers may remember those days when crowds of 3,500 or so were reported as upwards of 7,000.

5. I wonder if all these seats were marked as “sold” as well:


6. En route to the Meridian Center before the game, I passed by a church with this sign out front.


As I’ve said before, people in this part of the world know nothing about real cold.

7. Also en route to the game, I spotted someone running across the street yelling “AAAAAAAAA!!” at the top of his lungs. On a related note, on January 25, let’s talk about mental health issues. #BellLetsTalk

8. Just after going inside, I spotted an older gentleman with tubes up his nose carrying a canister of oxygen. Now that’s dedication.

9. In the washroom was a poster for a new “regional menu” at the concessions near section 105. New, or at least rebranded, was Pelham Poutine for $10, a Fort Erie Footlong for $10, Niagara Nachos for $10, St. Catharines Steak Sandwich for $12, Grimsby Grilled Cheese for $10 and Thorold Tater Tots for $8. No Wainfleet Watermelon, West Lincoln Waffles, Port Colborne Pickerel, Niagara-on-the-Lake Noodles or Lincoln Latte. I’m sure those respective municipalities are heartbroken over being omitted.

10. Passing by the Crime Stoppers booth, I noticed they were selling T-shirts for $5, polo shirts for $10 and hoodies for $20. A couple of people stopped and asked if they could buy some only to be told they wouldn’t be ready for about 20 minutes. Did they not know we were coming? (eyeroll)

11. Niagara College was the game sponsor and had a booth in the end behind the retractables. In addition to giving out three $1,000 credits toward tuition, they were giving out free suckers at their table. So it’s only suckers who go there? It reminded me of a job fair I once attended back in the Old Country hosted by the feds. Their promo item was a screwdriver, reminding you that you always get screwed by the government.

12. That stinking band made another appearance. Gratuitous noise for the sake of making noise. But at least they weren’t as annoying as they have been in the past. Or maybe I’m just getting used to paying money for the privilege of being annoyed.

13. In another effort to make himself the star of the show, the announcer whose name I will not mention was doing his pregame schtick from the concourse. The announcer’s job is to inform. Nothing else. A topic to be covered at considerable length in a future book.

13a. When listing the scratches for Guelph, for someone normally so well-spoken, he sure got tongue-tied on “Tetrault.”

13b. There will be people who will like that book. There will be people who will not. He will fall into that latter category.

14. The pregame ceremonies featured a curlerette who will be participating in the upcoming tournament to be held here in St. Catharines. The applause she got was marginally polite, at best.

14a. Was there really anyone who lined up for her autograph during the first intermission?

15. The kids from Richmond Street Public School struggled with the anthem duties, but they came through it reasonably well. The best part, as always, was that they sung the anthem entirely in the Canadian language.

16. A father and son seated a few rows in front of me were the lucky winners of the “move of the game” down to the ice-level seats. Given the condition of the glass, untouched by human hands in over two years, it’s a prize I would have declined. Seriously.

17. I continue to find it amazing what people will share with perfect strangers as they spend more time texting than watching the game. For example, a young woman seated one row in front of me was having a conversation about a doctor appointment and how a 63-year-old relative was battling cancer. Later, she congratulated a friend named Owen over getting a job and asked if he was going to see Zack, then moved on to Ben, another of her many male friends.

18. More people seem interested in playing games on their phones between periods than in the intermission events.

19. Bones made a couple of appearances in my area. His presence is always welcomed by the under-12 crowd.


20. Here, fans stood up and yelled for a prize from CAA. It reminded me of a promotional mailing I got from them recently, offering me a discounted membership and other incentives to join. For those who are unaware, I have never attempted to obtain a license to drive a motor vehicle.


21. A very pudgy teenage girl seated nearby was wearing a pink shirt with a pig’s face on it. How fitting.

22. Looking around at all the IceDogs and Leafs jerseys in the crowd made me appreciate not seeing all that Chipman gear around town like I did back in the Old Country.

23. Last night, I felt more a part of this community than I did ever before. Don’t ask me why.

24. Early in the third period, they were trying to get chants of “DAAAAY-O” going. For an evening game. Go figure.

25. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. After blowing a 2-0 third-period lead, Oliver Castleman’s weak dump-in from center ice with 23.1 seconds left somehow eluded goaltender Liam Herbst and gave the IceDogs a 3-2 victory.

26. I’m not sure if the crowd was happier over the victory or the fact that they’d get a free cheeseburger at Wendy’s for the goal in the final minute of the third period.

27. 4,759 were alleged to have been at the game. Debate it at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not the next time you visit Clifton Hill.