Tag Archives: Niagara IceDogs

22 Oct

IceDogs vs. Ottawa – Autism Awareness Night

Observations from last night’s game as the Niagara IceDogs took on the Ottawa 67’s:

1. On the way in, I noticed the contents of a woman’s purse scattered across the table as the rent-a-cops stationed at the Rankin Gateway were ravenously searching it for contraband material. For the love of Pete(tm), how much longer do they think people are going to put up with these shakedowns for the privilege of attending a junior hockey game? Enough already.

2. Outrageously priced souvenirs of the night: A fleece jacket for $67.95, a flimsy men’s hoodie for $59.95 and this knit cap for $24:

3. I can’t decide. Should I open MediaShare or not?

4. As the title suggested, this was Autism Awareness Night. For those who are not aware, there is a strong personal connection as my friend and subject of my second book, the late Carli Ward, had a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome. Hence the reason for my attendance. In addition to the autism-themed jerseys the team was wearing, there was a display in concourse from Autism Ontario selling jars of “Hugga Honey” for $15 with the proceeds going toward a camp of some sort. There were also shirts on sale with “I (heart) someone with autism” on it. Though it was tempting, I have more than enough articles of clothing.

5. Instead of my usual perch high up in the corner in the retractables, I opted for a different vantage point:

6. I was actually able to walk down to my seat without being harangued by an usher. Will wonders never cease?

7. Scenes from the warmup showing the autism-themed jerseys:

8. Miraculously, the P.A. announcer did not introduce himself before the game. Once again, will wonders never cease?

9. The pregame ceremony featuring an autistic child:

10. A choir from Dalewood Public School sang the anthem partially in Quebecese, giving the middle finger to their mostly Canadian audience in so doing.

11. In a common theme I’ve been noticing over the last couple of years, aside from the seat to my immediate right, this entire row was marked as “sold”:

12. Yours truly along with 5,000 others were alleged to have been in attendance. Something about that figure doesn’t quite ring true:

13. Make Hair Great Again:

14. Seated behind me were a group of chatty guys in their late 50s whom a long-lost friend would describe as “good ol’ boys.” As they entertained me with their in-game commentary, it was obvious they had long since graduated from being Howie Meeker-wannabees and were gunning for head coach Billy Burke’s job.

14a. As they added an “eh” at the end of every sentence, I didn’t need to check their passports to verify their Canadian citizenship.

15. During the game, they read an ad for Enviro-Niagara, which is apparently located on Highway 20 in Welland. Except that Highway 20 doesn’t go through Welland. Details, details.

16. Bones in the crowd:

17. Bones delivering birthday greetings, including a card signed by the team, to a child seated nearby:

18. Many of the people seated around me seemingly had ants in their pants and had to keep getting up during the play to head to the concourse. On one such occasion, someone came back with a beer, two rat dogs and an order of nachos, spending more in the process than I did on my ticket.

19. During both intermissions, I couldn’t help but notice the long lines at the concessions, proof that people will eat anything and pay any ridiculous price for the privilege.

20. For those so inclined, prices and offerings at “The 406 Bar”:

21. During the second period, Ottawa goaltender Olivier Tremblay acted like he had been shot in order to try and draw a penalty call. He stayed down for several seconds trying to milk his “injury” for all it was worth, but he was miraculously cured when an IceDogs player was winding up for a shot from the point. How very convenient.

22. Also in the second period, chants of “fight, fight, fight” began breaking out during an altercation. For a moment there, I thought I was at a Fighting Moose game.

23. During the third period, they had a friendly competition between the guys and girls to see which one could make more noise, completely excluding the transgenders, gender-neutrals and all the other made-up genders liberals are so fond of. I smell a human rights complaint coming.

24. I didn’t think it was physically possible, but regulation time expired without a single goal being scored. OHL history surely must have been made.

25. The lack of goals was not due to lack of effort on either side, but rather due to a comedy of errors. Missed chances, bad passes and pucks dribbling off the end of sticks along with some goal posts and crossbars defined this game.

26. It was more of the same in overtime, but just when it appeared the game was headed for a shootout, Ottawa scored with 4.3 seconds left.

27. Though I didn’t stay for it, the IceDogs auctioned off the players’ jerseys after the game in support of Autism Ontario, raising a surprising total $10,050. One player’s jersey fetched $1,200.

28. Waiting for the bus after the game, one guy dropped the F-bomb, then immediately apologized. This is not the Old Country, where such salty language is par for the course.

14 Oct

Random Thoughts – Involuntary Organ Donation, Million-Dollar Fiasco, Promotional Mailings and More

1. My former MP, Steven Fletcher, touched a very raw nerve with me this week when he announced that his so-called “Gift of Life Act” will be coming up for a vote in three weeks time. If passed, this would give the Manitoba government the legal right to presume upon your death that you consent to being an organ donor.

Let me be clear. I support organ donation. Voluntary organ donation. No politician, party or government has any moral authority whatsoever to harvest your organs without your express consent. No answer is just that, no answer.

Even though it does not affect me since I no longer live in the SPRM, I suspect the reason my dander is up about it is because it is being championed by a so-called conservative whom I know personally and once respected.

1a. For those who think this bill is a good idea, consider the example of an accused rapist who tells the judge, “She didn’t say anything, so I presumed she was OK with it.” Do you think that defence should allow the scumbag to get off?

1b. One of the reasons Fletcher broke ranks with the Manitoba PCs was because representing his constituents supposedly took precedence over the interests of his party. Yet I rather doubt the impetus behind this bill came from a groundswell of support from any constituents who wrote to his office or attended one of his Fletcher Forums. In this case, he is most likely only representing himself.

2. This week, the million-dollar donation IceDogs owners Bill and Denise Burke were to have made toward the construction of the Meridian Center officially came off the table. Yes, the city screwed up royally. It was a case of small-town politics at its worst. But as much as they are being portrayed as victims, the Burkes are not blameless in this sordid affair. When first having problems with city staff, rather than approach the mayor, they instead chose to air their dirty laundry in public. To their credit, when everything came to light, council and Mayor Sendzik acted decisively to address all the problems behind the scenes, yet the Burkes were still unmoved. All told, over the last year, they have come across looking very petty.

2a. If the Burkes really wanted to do something for the community, how about naming the team for the city whose taxpayers are putting up the bulk of the $50 million for the arena their team is the anchor tenant of? But I guess that’s asking too much.

2b. Since council is now free to rename IceDogs Way, the street upon which the Meridian Center sits, I propose calling it “St. Catharines Way.” It’s one way the Burkes can be forced to publicly acknowledge the city.

3. This week, this non-driver got yet another promotional mailing from CAA Niagara. When I shamed them on Twitter, they offered to take me off their list if I gave them my address, but I figured they should look it up themselves. After all, they added me to their list, they can do the work to get me off it. And if they can’t be bothered, far be it from me to stop them from flushing their money down the toilet.

4. I also got a promotional email from Bell recently patting themselves on the back for all the great things they’re doing for me. Call me a skeptic, but I get the feeling I’m being primed for another rate increase.

5. I am a frequent user of some highly credible open-source freeware such as the LibreOffice Writer and GIMP, the graphics manipulation program. But just because it’s open source doesn’t make it good. Consider the case of LibreOffice Base, the Access knockoff, that I had some experience with this week. On the surface, it has a lot to offer, but getting data in and out of it is clunky and it crashed more often in one day than Access has for me in several years.

6. Clear the track for Eddie “Shak” …

7. The apostrophe king of Vineland …

8. And on the other side of the street is “House across the street from the school:”

9. At the Tim Hortons/Vineland Seniors Center this morning, I was served by a clerk whose disdain for her job couldn’t have been more obvious if she put a flashing blue light on her head.

10. Seated nearby at said Tim Hortons was someone who said he lived in a townhouse near the “lie-berry.” Oy.

11. Maybe it was just me, but the tea I had at said Tim Hortons tasted like it was made with dishwater. Methinks the time to replace their water filters came and went several months ago.

12. I appreciated the fresh coat of asphalt on North Service Road between Jordan Road and Vineland. I appreciated that the project was completed the same year in which it began even more. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

13. Did the brainiacs who renumbered all the St. Catharines Transit routes consider that there is now a route 406, the same number as one of the main highways running through town? And that said route 406 doesn’t actually go on the 406?

14. Take the “huttle” …

01 Oct

IceDogs Home Opener 2017

Thoughts and observations from the Niagara IceDogs’ 2017-2018 home opener against the visiting Erie Otters to kick off my fourth season of IceDogs hockey since relocating to St. Catharines:

1. Don’t ask me why, but the drivers on the road on the way to the rink seemed to be in a particularly ornery mood. Maybe because it was Friday night.

2. I passed by two people with dogs and both had their canines on leashes. This is not the Old Country.

3. Sign of the times: A woman sitting in a park with her head down busy with her phone and not paying the slightest bit of attention to her children.

4. Odd sightings en route: A biker sitting in a bar was a spitting image of the poor sap whom Arnold Schwarzenegger targeted in the opening scene of Terminator 2. Not more than two blocks later, the cyclist I spotted on Welland Avenue bore a striking facial resemblance to former IceDog Brendan Perlini.

5. Maybe I’m just noticing them more, but many, shall we say, diverse characters were coming out of the woodwork as I made my way through downtown. One of the strangest was a woman lying on the ground who was so disoriented after getting up that she nearly staggered into me. I don’t want to know the substance she was under the influence of.

6. The purpose of this headless mannequin on St. Paul Street is …

7. Why our civic leaders are celebrating the installation of a crosswalk half a block from a traffic light as a great accomplishment is something I don’t quite understand.

8. The long line on the Rankin Gateway of people waiting for the privilege of getting in.

9. When we were finally allowed in around 6:05, ravenous and rude rent-a-copettes were again rifling through bags and purses just as they had been back when the building first opened. In response to complaints, the practice had since been greatly relaxed, but it’s apparently back and with a vengeance. I hope it’s not the case of the new general manager looking to flex his muscle in order to impress his masters at SMG.

9a. Being among the thick crowds, I was able to run a pass pattern to avoid them and sneak in a juice box. Take that, SMG!

10. Outrageously priced souvenir item of the night: A baby outfit for $15.

11. This season’s menu and prices at the concessions, which did a booming business:

11a. The two women seated to my immediate left each had a mozza burger and three beers and shared a tub of popcorn, spending more than double the cost of their respective tickets in the process. And they probably drove home.

11b. Seeing how much cash people blow at the concessions, it’s no wonder the governments they elect spend money so wildly.

12. Obligatory scoreboard and center ice shots:

13. The usher at section 106 who was standing in the middle of the aisle acted as if she was doing me a big favor when she got out of my way. The role of an usher is to help patrons, not to obstruct passageways. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

13a. Note to IceDogs ushers: Being a volunteer does not entitle you to annoy the living daylights out of paying customers.

14. There was a booth from a radio station offering a chance to win tickets to see Elton John at the Meridian Center. The school project I was forced to do on him in Grade 4 is the only reason I even know who Elton John is.

15. New sponsors this year include Niagara Airbus, whose service brought me from Pearson Airport to my new home on the historic day of August 1, 2014 when I became an Ontario resident, as well as OPSEU, which is advertising on the ice and on one of the Zamboni machines. Like I always wondered with MGEU, why do they feel the need to advertise? It’s not as though public sector employees can go to another union.

16. Sadly, Horizon Utilities remains a sponsor. I still do not understand why does a publicly owned utility with a monopoly has any need to spend money to promote its brand. And why the municipalities which own Horizon/Alectra do not put a stop to this frivolous practice with an iron fist.

17. I liked this clever IceDogs-themed ad:

18. There were many familiar faces in the crowd. Perhaps I’m becoming one of them. After all, this is a small town.

19. Among the crowd of 4,768 that, if anything, was under-reported, was a big contingent from the Commonwealth who came to see their team, including the group in my row. Seated to my immediate right was a 40-something teenager who spent the entire night trying to become the next Howie Meeker. Her favorite player appeared to be Christian Girhiny, whom she first called “Pogo” then later “Coco.” Her calls of “hit ‘em,” “skate, Jordan,” “Jordan, what are you doing?” and “get up there, get up there” were pretty tame, but I nearly jumped when she yelled “Shoooot!”

20. Seated in the section to my right was a woman in her 20s with “LOVE ME Always and Forever” emblazoned on the back of her blouse. Are people that desperate for affection?

21. Sadly, the band was back, but at least they weren’t too obnoxious.

22. The presence of so many higher, designer numbers on this year’s roster is further proof Marty Williamson is no longer in charge.

23. I’ve officially lost hope that the glass will ever be cleaned in that building. Worse yet, the floor beneath my seat was so sticky that I had to keep moving my feet during the game to avoid the risk of having my shoes permanently adhere to it. I suppose the off-season wasn’t long enough for them to clean the place properly. *eyeroll*

24. Before the game, I did another eyeroll as they again showed the “Hockey Night in Niagara” graphic on the scoreboard. Funny, but I don’t see any other Niagara municipality rushing to help pitch in to help retire the debt and share in the cost of maintaining the building. Yet they’re more than willing to share in the glory and celebrate the IceDogs as a regional team. Yes, that remains a sore point.

25. Among the hockey operations staff introduced before the game was the IceDogs’ new director of analytics. Seriously? This is junior hockey, not the NHL. Let the kids have a little fun, for the love of Pete(tm).

26. Dear public address announcer whose name I will not repeat since he loves to promote himself so much: We know that St. Catharines, Thorold, Mississauga and Oakville are in Ontario. When giving the player’s hometown in the introductions, you don’t have to repeat it each and every time. Even if we didn’t know, the fact that we’re at an Ontario Hockey League game might give it away.

27. It was a nice touch to honor longtime season ticket holders and others in the IceDogs family who had passed away in the off-season with a moment of silence before the game.

28. The Grand Avenue Public School choir handled the anthems poorly and sadly, did part of the Canadian anthem in Quebecese. Not cool.

29. The winner of the “Move of the Game” was a little kid named Gavin, the same name of the lead character in Shattered Dreams, my fifth book.

30. When visiting the washroom, I noticed many people using the sinks as well as the urinals. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

31. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. The first period was relatively uneventful, and despite the rash of penalties called in the second, it wasn’t until the 16:45 mark that the IceDogs opened the scoring. Erie answered just over a minute later, but the IceDogs regained the lead early in the third and put the game away with two more late in the period.

32. In the third period, I laughed as Elijah Roberts tried to put a spinerama move on an attacking Erie forward at the Otters’ blue line. Kid, you’re not the second coming of Serge Savard.

33. The IceDogs saluting the crowd after the game:

34. While waiting for the bus after the game, I spotted a guy wheeling a bike to the platform. He likely didn’t know it, but his bike needed a new cog. He also seemed to have a great deal of trouble figuring out how to read the board showing when the next buses are coming. They taught us that in Grade 8, but it didn’t look like he had gotten that far in school before dropping out. Or flunking out, if they allow that these days with the “no-fail” policies in place.

35. On the bus, the back door opened automatically and all but one departing passenger thanked the driver. You’ve heard this before, but this is not the Old Country.

01 Sep

Hockey in August – Black and White Game

Observations from the annual Black and White game to wrap up Niagara IceDogs training camp:

1. En route, I spotted someone picking up after his dog. Again, this is not the Old Country.

2. Also en route, I passed by this sign. I asked it how I could become a member, but it didn’t answer. How rude of the sign. If the Lions are really serious about wanting to add new members, they really should consider replacing this sign with a more friendly one.

3. I guess that’s what smoking weed does to your brain.

4. Spotted downtown was a pair of young women clearly dressed to begin their shift selling their services on the street. One was dressed in a tight top with her cell phone tucked inside her bra, no doubt waiting to be dispatched by her pimp, while the other had a short skirt with smurf-blue hair.

5. A rather interesting paint job on this barrel:

6. No doubt the driver will claim to be a dog lover …

7. Stopped at the light at St. Catharines’ answer to Confusion Corner were two women arguing, one of whom was insisting she wasn’t using her phone while driving. With the disturbing prevalence of texting and driving, why is it that I didn’t believe her?

8. Not too far from that intersection was a mentally disturbed couple engaged in a heated F-rated conversation. As I got closer, the man leapt out of his wheelchair to grab the woman’s purse as the two of them continued to argue. Two blocks later, it was an argument I could still hear quite plainly.

9. Farther down St. Paul Street was a bum stretched out on a bench using his backpack as a pillow. But at least he wasn’t smoking.

10. It would have been nice if the staff at the Meridian Center had actually propped open the doors instead of leaving attendees to guess as to where to go. But I guess that’s asking a little too much.

11. Strolling through the souvenir store, the outrageously priced items that grabbed my attention were the $120 light jacket and the $45.95 golf shirt. With prices like that, it’s no wonder sightings of IceDogs paraphernalia around the region are rare, much like it was with the Fighting Moose in Winnipeg.

12. I keep hoping this will be the year the glass at the Meridian Center will see its historic first cleaning, but understandably, my optimism is waning.

13. The management at Meridian Center wants my feedback like they want a root canal without anesthetic. I’ve already given it to them. More than once. Publicly. What do they do about it? Nothing. What they really want is for people to tell them what a great job they’re doing so the bigwigs can pat themselves on the back, just like the politicos did at Lakeside Park earlier in the day.

13a. That $20 at the concessions sure won’t get you very far.

13b. Case in point, last night’s shortened menu:

13c. I could only shake my head when I walked past two teenage heavyweights standing near the concessions debating what to fill their faces with. It didn’t seem to occur to them that they didn’t need anything. Save your money and more importantly, your health.

13d. Am I just noticing it more or is obesity on the rise? Maybe it’s a little of both.

14. It’s “merchandise.” A common word. Not hard. And the space is there to print it out in full.

15. A few shots from around the rink:

16. The crowd was a little light as hockey in August is evidently not terribly popular. Even the team’s photographer was noticeably absent. But despite the few number of attendees, I did notice a few familiar faces, including some from past bus trips.

17. It is apparently not a proper IceDogs event unless the PA announcer introduces himself. Which he did. But he broke from tradition and didn’t introduce himself again after the game. It was a faux pas he is undoubtedly still kicking himself over and one he will surely never repeat again.

18. Did they really need to blow the horn after each goal? All it did was wake up the otherwise comatose “crowd.”

19. Seeing the name “Hooper” on the back of one of the linesmen made me think of “Jaws” and the scenes where the bounty hunter Quint kept yelling at the oceanographer.

20. This is the start of my fourth season since moving to St. Catharines, yet I’m already going on my third head coach, second mascot and have seen many front office people come and go. I’m getting to think that the IceDogs must give long-service awards after six months.

21. This year’s marketing slogan is “The New Age.” Isn’t every year a new age in junior hockey?

22. During the second period, an usher was walking through the stands handing out finger-licking-good wall-size posters with the home schedule and a little bit of his spit on it. It didn’t take me more than two seconds to spot the glaring error:

22a. It is incredible to think how many hands this passed through on its way to the printer, yet no one else seemingly caught it.

23. I wonder if that same usher remembers the game last year where he chased me down an aisle trying to force me to accept his “help.” He might not remember the occasion, but I do, and that incident will be among many featured in a future book I intend to start in a couple of years time on my fan experiences with the IceDogs, similar to what I did with the Fighting Moose. Some people will like it. Others won’t. He will likely fit into the latter category.

24. Spotted in the “crowd” was someone wearing a #31 Brent Moran jersey. There’s a player whose name will live in infamy longer than any other in the annals of IceDogs history.

25. For the record, the black team beat the white team by a score of 6-4. Now let the real games begin.

26 Jul

Random Thoughts – Scheer’s New Deputy, Dave Bell, Winter Cycling and More

1. Newly minted CPC leader Andrew Scheer appointed Lisa Raitt as the party’s new deputy leader. As I’ve noted previously, Raitt is a capable backbencher and she’ll make a good member of Scheer’s cabinet down the road. She’s definitely no empty-headed Barbie doll the likes of which fill Selfie Boy’s cabinet, but her appointment still reeks of affirmative action. Just because the Liberals and NDP are going hog-wild with gender-balanced cabinets, it doesn’t mean the Conservatives have to blindly follow along like sheep.

2. Though she is being hailed as some kind of role model, I had never heard of Julie Payette, who is scheduled to be our next Governor-General.

3. I can’t help but think that Ken Noakes’ involuntary departure as the general manager of the Meridian Center will be a good thing.

3a. I hope that his successor or successorette will soon be presiding over the historic first cleaning of the glass in the three-year-old building. At least I can hope.

4. Longtime Jets fans may recall that during the WHA era, the princely sum of $9.25 bought you an ice-level seat on one of the orange chairs behind either the north or south end goal. Today it gets you a jumbo hot dog at a Chipman game. How times have changed and not for the better.

4a. Are there really suckers out there willing to pay $9.25 for “meat” shoveled into a casing with a backhoe?

5. IceDogs head coach Dave Bell took everyone by surprise when he suddenly left to become an assistant with the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Certainly no one can begrudge him for taking an opportunity to move up the ladder, as the OHL, after all, is all about development, and that includes coaches, officials and front-office personnel as much as it does the players. But leaving your team in the lurch with just over a month before training camp has a serious odor to it, an odor that may follow him all the way out to California.

5a. I don’t envy IceDogs GM Joey Burke. He sounded like someone who was completely blindsided by Bell’s announcement and now he has to scramble to find a coach.

6. This almost comical article on winter cycling penned by Anders Swanson came across my Twitter feed today. In it, Swanson, a Winnipegger, cavalierly states that, “in a city, the risk of being harmed by the weather while cycling is reduced to nil with a basic scarf and jacket.” Um, not exactly. As someone with thousands of miles of personal experience in this regard, trust me, you need a whole lot more than a scarf and a jacket when trying to get around Winnipeg on two wheels in January. Add a down parka, the thickest pair of mitts that money can buy, a couple of layers of socks, some longjohns and a good balaclava. Even then, you can soon end up with frostbite on your face and searing pain in your fingers by the time you get to where you’re going.

In his piece, he also stated, “Those -30C days do happen in Winnipeg, but they are pretty uncommon.” Sorry, Anders, they are quite common. And they last for weeks on end with the wind chill values reaching into the -40 and even -50 ranges.

7. Once again today, Mayor Sendzik sure didn’t miss his opportunity to bash Donald Trump. No doubt his Liberal masters are pleased as punch. I only wish he cared as much about his city as he did about being a good Liberal.

7a. A “good Liberal” is a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?

7b. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a municipal politician who didn’t run under a party banner pushing partisan politics as hard as he has.

26 Mar

IceDogs Road Trip to Peterborough

Thoughts and observations from Sunday’s road trip to Peterborough to see the IceDogs battle the Petes in Game 2 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

1. The bus was completely full and two people who showed up hoping for an empty seat were turned away. They probably could have filled up one or two buses more if the IceDogs had done something really radical like promote it on their website.

2. Kudos to the IceDogs for having our tickets ready in sealed envelopes before we even stepped on the bus. Normally, the IceDogs rep heads to the box office once we arrive and distributes our tickets there.

3. Once again, I was seemingly the only one on board not sporting any IceDogs paraphernalia. Yes, I’m cheap. Yes, I’m stubborn.

4. Fortunately, unlike last week’s trip to Mississauga, this was not the Drunken Seniors Bus. This group was quiet and well behaved.

5. Though he did keep the pedal to the metal, our driver was alert and attentive. It continues to amaze me how much more safety-conscious the bus drivers are here than they were in the Old Country.

6. En route, I spotted a couple of cars pulled over by the OPP. Given that 110-120 km/h is quite normal on the QEW and the 401, I wonder exactly how fast you have to be going before the boys in blue begin paying attention.

7. On the way there, the woman seated to my left helped herself to one of the mini sugar donuts someone was passing around. Along with the chocolate bar she had on the way back, she would have been better served to employ the Nancy Reagan approach. Just say no.

8. At the 403 split in Oakville, I spotted a Reimer Express truck. He was following a big rig from Bison Transport. Try as I might, I cannot escape the SPRM.

9. Speaking of the SPRM, I spotted this Manitoba-esque pothole on Highway 7 near Peterborough.

10. In spite of some stop-and-go traffic in the universe’s center, we arrived plenty early, allowing me some time to walk around and get some pictures outside.

I also had plenty of time for some shots around the concourse and seating area:

11. They do an outstanding job celebrating their past throughout the building. There are banners hanging from the rafters honoring Roger Neilson, Scotty Bowman, Bob Gainey and Steve Yzerman, among others. There is also a Peterborough Sports Hall of Fame, which I toured before the game.

This Jets jersey from Doug Evans understandably grabbed my attention.


As did these two. The Sabres jersey is from Craig Ramsay, the last Thrashers coach, and the Utah Grizzlies jersey is from Mark McArthur, who I once saw play in the IHL.

12. As I was snapping pictures, someone came up to me to point out a jersey and medal from a member of a women’s hockey team. As they say after the visiting team scores at an IceDogs game, who cares.

13. On the way in, there was no security detail assigned to rifle through women’s purses and such.

14. I toured the souvenir shop and quickly discovered that their prices are just as outrageous as the IceDogs’ are. Given the differences in the price points, a junior team charging $120 for a jersey is the moral equivalent of an NHL team charging $1,000. Certainly no one expects them to give their stuff away, but a price of $70 or $80 would be much more appropriate. And just because everyone else in the league gouges doesn’t make it right.

15. We were seated in their Family Zone, where no alcohol is permitted. Egad! What a novel concept.


16. The sections of this Family Zone were, in order, 18, 19, 17. You can’t make stuff like this up.


17. There was an incredibly steep incline as I walked up to my seat high up in the nosebleed section. There was also next to no leg room. It reminded me of the upper deck at the Winnipeg Arena.

17a. Fortunately, there were no sunflower seed shells in my shorts after I got home.

18. Despite how quiet things were on the bus, there was no lack of enthusiasm around me and among the group. A few seats to my left was someone with a flashing goal light, a giant flag and a bullhorn. On either side of me were two guys screaming at the top of their lungs all night long as if the players and officials could hear them. The guy to my left candidly admitted he might not get his voice back until Tuesday, but I’m surprised it lasted until the third period.

19. The P.A. announcer unnecessarily introduced himself before the game, though at least he didn’t lead off with his name, as if he were the star of the show.

20. The mascot for the Peterborough Petes is not named Pete, but Roger. As I suspected, it is a tribute to the late Roger Neilson, the Petes’ former coach.

21. The anthem singer performed one of the slowest renditions of O Canada I had ever heard, but at least she was fully dressed and sang it entirely in the Canadian language.

22. After the first period, they flashed a message on the scoreboard with a welcome to those on the Niagara IceDogs Fan Bus.


23. During the intermission, Roger came out with a rat cannon reminiscent of Fighting Moose days, but he only fired a few T-shirts into the crowd before making a hasty retreat.

23a. The more I see of other mascots around the OHL, the more I appreciate Bones.

24. Unlike the Mississauga game, the IceDogs came ready to play and put in a spirited effort from start to finish. After Aaron Haydon’s blood had to be scraped off the ice, the IceDogs erased a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead after one period. They held the lead until late in the second, only to have Peterborough score twice within a minute to take a 3-2 lead to the dressing room. Undaunted, the visitors kept fighting in the third, but were stopped on a breakaway and couldn’t score on a two-minute two-man advantage. Soon after, Peterborough scored to effectively put an end to the competitive phase of the game.

25. Each time the IceDogs scored, everyone in our group stood up and cheered. Except for me. I wish I cared more. But I don’t. I was there for writing fodder and good stories. Which I got. Oh, and highway pictures, of which I got plenty. Soon to appear on a website near you.

26. Each time the Petes scored, an older woman seated in the lower rows stood up and waved what looked to be a dark red bra. I don’t get it. And that’s probably a good thing.

27. Early in the second period, the particularly rabid fan to my left was genuinely surprised when he looked at the scoreboard and saw that the IceDogs were leading 2-1. He had forgotten Ryan Mantha’s first-period goal and thought the game was tied. Only after a fellow fan seated nearby jogged his memory did the light go on. This was the same guy who probably thought I wasn’t paying much attention.

28. After a frustrating episode later in the game, the same guy responded with an F-bomb, but quickly apologized. This is definitely not the Old Country, where such salty locker-room vernacular is part and parcel of daily life.

29. A “Carly J” was one of the winners of a prize as announced on the scoreboard later in the game. Once again, I knew I was not alone.

30. As the end of the game grew ever closer, with a freezing rain warning overnight, I couldn’t help but think back to the late Mike Doran, John Ferguson’s right hand man, who was severely injured in a car accident in 1984 on his way to a game in Peterborough. For that reason, I was especially relieved when our bus pulled up safely in the parking lot at the Meridian Center.

31. There was a surprising amount of traffic out and about given the lateness of the hour. Too much traffic, in fact. As they say, nothing good happens after dark.

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!”

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.

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.

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.