We’re doin’ it live tonight thanks to mixlr! Here’s the link – http://mixlr.com/nipissing-lakers-hockey
So we’re starting something new today.. Below is the pilot episode of my new daily review show.. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, and now I have the time so I figured lets try.. The show is called Craig’s Daily Review. Every day I will review something.. And hopefully entertain/inform for a minute or two.. I promise they will all be shorter than this first one.
Henke Rink. Up and down the ice they go.
On summer’s doorstep in Melbourne, Australia the Melbourne Ice Women’s professional hockey team practice – and you feel as if you’re anywhere but Australia.
Stick saves, hard shots, fast skating – the defending McKowen Cup champions are coming off an opening weekend sweep of the Brisbane Goannas. After a punishing 8-1 win in the season opener, the Ice needed to rally late in game two for a narrow 4-3 victory.
Dotting the rinkside seats on this Tuesday night are various Melbourne hockey heads. Some players themselves, others fans, others god only knows. What they all have in common however is a pure and basic love for hockey that one does not expect to find in a country known for reefs, kangaroos and a unique brand of football with it’s own set of rules.
Yet here they are. After work they gather together. Men and women who share an unmistakable accent, and a desire for a harder wrist shot.
The passion these souls have for the game is nothing short of remarkable. They watch Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins games online via NHL Gamecenter. They spend thousands of dollars to play in recreational leagues so popular that the governing bodies have been forced to implement limits on their participation. Men can only play in the summer OR winter season because there simply aren’t enough teams to allow them to play both.
Women on the other hand, are allowed to play in both seasons if they so desire in an effort to grow the game among the fairer sex. But of course these girls are hockey girls, and there is nothing fairer about them. They’d sit out one of the two seasons rather than see a more skilled male be denied a roster spot.
There may not be an indigenous hockey culture here yet. But goddamn these guys get it.
What a welcome surprise for a Bostonian who’s walkabout into the hockey culture of Oz came with doubts and a genuine lack of expectations – good or bad.
It’s the other side of the planet, but it’s the same game. The same zamboni, the same rubber disk and the same blend of balance, skill, strength and attitude that you’d find in Detroit, Vancouver or Colorado.
What’s different is the pioneering nature of the skaters down here. A self-described “addiction” drives these men and women to pour all of their free time and money into frozen water. In a country that’s largely impervious to the language of hockey, these guys speak it fluently.
Nothing says hockey like a girl who’s forgotten her sports bra and laughs as she wears her expensive French lingerie to practice instead. It just doesn’t get any more hockey than that.
And while the skating isn’t perfect and the shots don’t get lifted too far off the ice, the game is here. It’s a crawling infant that drinks beer and eats steak. And before long, it’ll be strutting around shitting on the floor and telling you to pick it up.
It’s hockey in Australia – in the summer. And it’s bloody awesome to find.
My love affair with Jake Peavy the pitcher began in the summer of 2002, as a fantasy baseball obsessed 16-year-old on my annual summer vacation to my grandparents cottage in Baldwin, Michigan.
It was the days of dial-up internet, and my dad and I would rack up a bigger phone bill over the course of 7 days in the cottage than my grandparents would spend during the other 358 days of the year. My dad had legitimate work to do. I had a fantasy team to run.
And that summer I found my guy in the 21-year-old rookie Peavy, who I liked because he threw strikes. I read the scouting reports, drooled over the box scores, and waited up late at night to perhaps catch a glimpse of one of his West Coast starts on Sportscenter. This was, after all, back when Sportscenter was a medium for highlights – not hype.
I watched, and I liked, and the following Spring, as a Junior in high school, I made Peavy “Mr. Irrelevant”, the last overall pick in a live draft with a group of friends that I still play fantasy baseball with. I sat through 20-some-odd grueling rounds at Sawyer’s house in South Newton, just waiting for the moment when I could say, “I want Peavy,” and I could watch his name be drawn on the whiteboard with the rest of my team. Of course I knew he was a top tier player, but my arrogance, and desire to one-up everyone else made me content to watch him slide round after round. Just so I could say, “I told you so” later that year and for years to come.
Finally, after hours, he was mine, and he was good. Year after year after year.
Fast forward to 2013.
Jake Peavy is an aging hurler with a lot of miles, but still some of the best raw talent in the game. I live in Mobile, AL, Peavy’s hometown, and work as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Mobile BayBears – where Peavy pitched in 2001 and 2002. Jake Peavy is a member of the BayBears Hall of Fame, and Suite 21 at Hank Aaron Stadium is the Jake Peavy suite. He buys the suite for every one of the 70 BayBears home games, and he donates the suite to deserving charities throughout the community throughout the season. Seeing his name every day at the ballpark is a thrill. Having a signed limited edition print of him as a BayBear hanging beside my desk is even cooler.
I live 2 1/2 miles from St. Paul’s Episcopal High School, where Peavy pitched from 1996-1999, and from where he was drafted in the 15th round by the San Diego Padres in 1999.
One of my first assignments upon moving down to Mobile was to work a high school baseball tournament. As the official scorer for a game at Mary G. Montgomery High School, I sat in the press box next to one of Peavy’s hunting buddies, the PA announcer, who regaled us with tales of Peavy the outdoorsman throughout the night.
It was cool to feel so close to a pitcher I so irrationally loved back in February, and even last week when there was no telling where he would end up pitching the balance of his current contract. Now that he’s been traded to the Red Sox, and could presumably finish his career with the Red Sox, I’m simply over the moon.
Imagining the ’44’ in red on the mound at Fenway against the Rays in Spetember (because who really cares about the Yankees any more) is awesome. The thought that I might be back in Boston with a chance to see Peavy pitch at Fenway during this postseason is surreal.
Red Sox fans who don’t really know Jake Peavy, know this, we just made our greatest deadline deal since ’04. Get excited. Should his health hold up, we’ll be getting at least 14 more months from one of the 21st century’s great pitchers. And that’s worth a Jose Iglesias every day of the week.
And by the way guys, I told you so!
You know what’s not particularly fun? Or easy?
Being a Boston Bruins fan in Mobile, Alabama.
In a year that is shaping up to be historically exciting – a 48 game blitz to the playoffs with one of the most complete teams I’ve ever cheered for – there is nothing I want to do more than watch every single minute of the action.
Unfortunately, that’s not in the cards.
Here are three little anecdotes that should give you a pretty good idea of what it’s like to bleed Black and Gold in a land awash in a Crimson Tide.
It started with a simple conversation.
While downtown for my first Mardi Gras parade of the season (there are literally multiple Mardi Gras parades every day for weeks) I came upon a familiar shape; a beautiful structure. An arena that had all the makings of a hockey house.
I asked a Mobilian in my party what it was used for, hoping that maybe I could at least see some decent amateur hockey…
I was about 10 years too late.
Originally it had housed the Mobile Mysticks, a minor league hockey team that lasted all of seven seasons in the mid 90’s and early 2000’s.
“What’s it used for now,” I asked.
“Mostly gun shows and knife shows.”
And there I had it. Everything I needed to know about the hockey culture in my new home.
My next experience came later that same day. The Bruins were in Toronto to begin another season of utter dominance in that particular match-up, and the game was on NHL Network.
I don’t have cable, but at least I could go to bar and watch it.
I arrived at Baumhauer’s just in time for the start of the second period.
What’s Baumhauer’s, you ask? Well it’s your traditional family sports restaurant, full of big TVs, burgers, wings, and two beer sizes – 10 and 25 ounces. Named after a former Miami Dolphins lineman, Baumhauer’s, ironically, was brimming with patrons who, to my Yankee ears, sounded an awful lot like Boomhauer from King of the Hill.
But I digress.
I sat at the bar and asked the bartender to switch one of the many screens over to the NHL Network. The request was so unusual that the manager actually came out to see who had asked for it.
She couldn’t have been nicer in explaining that she’d never had anyone ask for a hockey game before, and together we found the game. There was nothing bad about the experience at all, but it was another stark reminder (at the end of a week full of stark reminders) that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Or Canada, for that matter, either.
My third and final experience was certainly the best of all, and as I sit here and type I am actually full of hope now that I see the trend this story has revealed to me.
Not only was Wednesday night the first Bruins/Canadians game of the season, not only was the game on NBC Sports (meaning I could find it at a bar), but it was also Wing Wednesday at Hooters.
I’ve never been more serious in my life when I say that it literally doesn’t get any better than that for a hockey fan down here.
I sat myself out of everyone’s way at a back corner table and had a front row seat in front of a decent sized TV for a great third period comeback and another dominant 60 minutes from Tuukka “I’m the reason Stuart Scott coined the expression ‘cool as the other side of the pillow’” Rask.
It was awesome.
But now as we head into a weekend that features a pair of games, I am faced with the prospect of 120 minutes lost. No David Krejci, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic. No Dennis Seidenberg.
No national coverage, about five Mardi Gras parades to ride in, and nothing but weapons to be found at the local ice rink.
That’s the name of the game though. Nobody ever said life in the minor leagues was easy.
And honestly, it could be a lot worse. At least I’m lucky enough to have the internet and cable TV. At least I can circle the next Wednesday night NBC Sports telecast (March 27) and start saving my pennies for 6.99 wings and 7.99 Miller Light pitchers.
And at least I’m not a Montreal Canadians fan.
I’m trapped. On vacation. In London.
O woe is me.
What was a perfect five day trip that featured golf, rugby, a Patriots win and countless pints of deliciously bitter beers (in remarkably cozy pubs) has been extended by a massive storm that I will never experience. Hurricane Sandy is blocking entrance to the east coast and I’m here for at least two extra days.
My nerves don’t know what to make of the situation.
This trip was made possible by the fact that, despite my three jobs, I have very little actual responsibility in the world. Yet, I just don’t feel right about being here these extra days.
Why do I feel guilty? What responsibilities am I actually neglecting? Well, my three hours of volunteer teaching tomorrow for one. My four hour shift at the movie theater on Wednesday for another. Will the school and theater be able to go on with out me? You bet. So why the butterflies?
I think it speaks more to a general feeling I’ve noticed lately than the specific situation I’m facing. I just feel an intense internal pressure to maximize every minute of every day of this one life I’ve got (and already wasted so much of).
Today is a microcosm of that daily struggle.
I awoke this morning and weighed my options. After breakfast, do I go out and explore this incredible city – on a rare sunny day no less – or do I use the morning to catch up on emails and write on the neglected blog. It’s a catch 22. But here I am. Clearly, I chose the latter.
If I had gone out sightseeing and fresh air collecting I’d be haunted by the inbox that I’ve largely ignored since my arrival in jolly old England. I’m also quite sure that if I was out strolling I’d be flooded with ideas for blog posts – ideas that would float in, take shape and expand – before evaporating like so many others before them. I just couldn’t deal with that again. So here I am.
Now emails have been sent. Words have been strung together. And I’m almost free.
Then it comes again.
What do I do once I leave?
I know what I want to do. I want to see the new Bond movie. I mean, how many chances will I get to see a Bond movie in London? But I know the decision to actually do that would come with consequences. That old feeling would creep up through my belly and the noise would grow between my ears… Why am I at a movie in a foreign city when I could be walking and exploring? Why aren’t I taking advantage of this lovely fall day? Why did I spent nearly $20 on a movie ticket?
Then there’s the alternative. I walk around, likely rather aimlessly, watching people and admiring architecture. Accomplishing nothing. Probably feeling lonely. Wondering why someone as gregarious as myself has so much trouble striking up conversations with strangers. Having a pint or two. Regretting my decision not to see a Bond movie in London.
So why is this?? Why can’t I just feel good about what I’m doing? How can I reach a place of acceptance??
While the above examples are all specific to today, I deal with these feelings every moment of every day wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. I never feel like I’m in the right place or doing the right thing. And that has to change.
I think I’ve become more aware of these feelings thanks to the book I’m currently reading – Flatscreen, by Adam Wilson (the perfect Newton novel). In it, I have met my polar opposite. Someone I can learn a lot from. Eli, a young man who lives a life of wasted time. And (for now at least) he seems largely OK with it. Sweet contentment. Gotta get me some of that.
Maybe I don’t need to go out walking today. Maybe I should just draw a bath and read. That’s sounds more like what Eli would do. But even typing it gets the guilt flowing. Oy.
So I guess I’ll go out. I wrote the damn emails. I wrote another damn blog post. So there it is – I feel a tiny bit better at the moment.
Just a shred of guilt left, and for a change it’s not internal.
In putting this therapy session out there I fear I’ve wasted some of your time.
And for that I sincerely apologize.