#GuelphForever: A playoff run I won’t soon forget

I thought my hockey writing days were over. Turns out, 2019 gave me an experience I won’t soon forget.

After leaving my job at theScore over a year ago, I knew I wanted to keep plying that trade in some form, but wasn’t sure if the opportunities would be there. I wrote a bit in this space over the summer, pitched a few ideas here and there, and was later given the opportunity to provide some content over at 

Why there? Guelph Storm defenseman Ryan Merkley was selected 21st overall by the San Jose Sharks – the team FTF covers for SB Nation – and I offered to track his progress for them from the point of view of a local.

Big thanks again Sie for adding me to the team, and to the Storm for giving me thumbs up to sit in the press box. It was a very cool way to stay in the hockey writing game and a perfect little side gig for me; work at home by day, head down to the Sleeman Center the odd Friday night or Sunday afternoon, and gain some media experience that I wasn’t afforded previously.

But then *record scratch, freeze frame* I learned that Guelph had traded Merkley to Peterborough, effectively ending my assignment. Sad! Thankfully, the guys at Second City Hockey soon reached out, asking me to cover the recently acquired Chicago Blackhawks prospect MacKenzie Entwistle, as well as London Knights defenseman Adam Boqvist.

Entwistle was one of several big names the Storm brought in prior to the OHL trade deadline, along with Nick Suzuki, Sean Durzi, Fedor Gordeev and Markus Phillips. This gave the roster an entirely new look, and the hope was they could contend for a league championship. While it was very touch and go at moments during the playoffs, they were able to do the damn thing in the end, pulling off three pretty incredible comebacks in the process.

I covered a thrilling Game 4 against the London Knights, and was fortunate enough to be there for the championship clinching game, which in and of itself was a bucket list goal for me. But to be able to take it in from the press box and even hit the ice in the aftermath to interview Entwistle … that was something truly special that I won’t soon forget.

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This team reminded me how much I love this game and why,  and I wish all these guys the best as they pursue pro careers.

Guelph’s run unfortunately came to an end with a Memorial Cup semifinal loss to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Friday, but there’s no shame in losing to the top ranked team in the country, and finishing third is still something to be proud of.

Hopefully I’ll be able to do kind of the same thing next season, but Guelph certainly won’t be this good again with a number of players set to go pro.

Going all in with was well worth it in the end, and I feel pretty lucky to have been part of it in some small way.

Guelph forever, indeed.

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry …

They did it again. And so did I.

For the third time in nine years, my favourite hockey team is heading to the Stanley Cup Final. While I didn’t get as emotional as I did back in 2011, I will freely admit to tearing up a bit as the Boston Bruins their Eastern Conference finals sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes last night.

It wasn’t when an injured Zdeno Chara came out on to the ice in full gear to accept the Prince of Wales trophy that I got emotional, nor when Patrice Bergeron hung back as the last Bruin on the ice, hugging every member of the team as they skated off.

It was when Cam Neely personally congratulated the players on their way back to the locker room.

As the story goes, I became a Bruins fan because my dad and his mother were big Bobby Orr fans, and Boston hockey fans living in Ontario by extension. By the time I came around in late 1980 – over 2 years after Bobby scored his final NHL goal – a love for the Bruins was entrenched deep enough in my dad that it was passed swiftly down to me.

My Bobby was Cam Neely, and my heart broke as a kid when his Bruins got so close but failed to reach the pinnacle of hockey glory. To see him still get so fired up as an executive, with a look in his eyes that says he wishes he could still get out there and help the cause, that got to me.

Four more wins, please. That’s all I ask.

You don’t have to root for Canadian hockey teams

The idea that all Canadians must actively cheer for the success of all this country’s NHL teams constitutes one of the great lies that we are sold as hockey fans.

There is absolutely no obligation for any hockey fan to support another team simply as a matter of geography.

My stance on this has softened in recent years, mostly due to having a job that required me to watch and write about every NHL team with as little bias as possible. That gave me an opportunity to appreciate teams and players all over the league, somewhat extinguishing the need to be tied to the fate of one single team. Life circumstances along the way also gave perspective to the fact hockey is, of course, only a game and mean to be an escape, not another trap.

Still, as a lifelong Bruins fan, it would be hard for me to bring myself to support the Canadiens or the Maple Leafs (the former as a matter of long standing tradition, the latter more recently as a result of dealings between the two clubs). At the same time, the 2011 Cup Final against the Canucks would eliminate all probability of me supporting Vancouver in the future.

So the simple fact that my team of choice is from an American city with rivalries with a few Canadian teams would preclude me from cheering for at least 3 of the 7, right off the bat.

On the flip side, and given the fact that I grew up in Ottawa, I will admit to having a soft spot for my hometown team, and did in fact get caught up in the excitement of the Senators ’07 run, albeit while living in Manitoba. And hey, since I did live south of Winnipeg for 2 years, I was pumped about the return of the Jets, and would get behind them in the future, provided that it did not conflict with my first hockey love from Boston (same with the Sens on that point, in fact).

As you can see, it’s all terribly subjective.

Personal preferences aside, one major question to consider is this: what makes a team more Canadian – where they play or how the roster is made up?

Let’s use the Calgary Flames as an example of the difference between supporting a Canadian team (ie: city) and a Canadian roster. Jump back to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. The Flames, led by a good Canadian boy in Jarome Iginla, pushed the Lightning to 7 games, only to lose a Cup to a team based in Florida. What a sham, right? Again, nope.

While this idea of “supporting Canada’s team” was running rampant, there were many who were very much supporting Tampa Bay based on the the fact that their roster was made up of several incredibly talented Canadian players, including Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis & Dan Boyle, among others.

When the Senators made it to the Final against the Ducks, would it have been treason to support Anaheim? Not when their roster featured names like Pronger, Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Penner, Perry, McDonald, Kunitz, May, Thornton (et al). Cheering for the Ducks is a little gross, mind you, but I digress … 

To build on that, teams containing several Canadians will no doubt have folks from their respective hometowns rooting for them with all their hockey loving hearts. Why? Because based on the tradition of every member of the team having the opportunity to spend one day with the Cup, chances are it could come to a town near you during any given summer.

Again, to speak from personal experience, it was a thrill for me to be able to combine my joy over the Bruins winning the Cup with the ability to head down to the Sleeman Centre here in Guelph to get my picture taken with Rich Peverley and that beautiful silver mug. In fact, the place was packed with fans of the black ‘n’ gold, all thrilled to death that the Canucks had failed to “bring the Cup home.”

All this to say, let’s put any talk of “getting behind Canada’s team” to death, shall we?

For one thing, being a fan of one team negates fluidity in terms of backing a rival, and quite often a team’s makeup makes it more Canadian than the city in which it plays.

Bigger picture, Canada certainly doesn’t own the game of hockey. They are legitimate fans of this game all over North America and worldwide, all with a passion for seeing their favourite teams or homegrown talent succeed in the NHL.

In short, root for whoever the hell you want. It’s not a big deal.

*Note: The first version of this article was posted on The Hockey Writers back in 2012.

The time hockey made me cry

There’s nothing wrong with crying.

I don’t tear up as much as I used to, having said that. My first memory of crying comes from kindergarten, when I slipped on some ice outside the school, busted up my chin and had to get stitches. In Grade 3 or 4, someone tossed a pencil at me and it landed in my glasses, poking me in the eye. I cried then, and was so embarrassed when the teacher helped wipe my nose that I yelled “HONK” into the tissue.

I absolutely wept when Lauren decided to work at a different camp during the summer we were first dating, which is quite embarrassing in retrospect. I cried on our wedding day, when each of our sons was born, when our youngest was undergoing a procedure at 4 months to have a heart issue repaired, when Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer and many times during her treatment.

These days, I mostly get emotional watching an episode of This Is Us and when one of our boys tells us a story from school about kids not including them.

Hockey has only made me cry once, as far as I can recall. It was back in 2011, and the Bruins had just won a Game 7. They did that three times that year, and the one that got me emotional might not be the one you’d expect.

I had been a Boston hockey fan for over two decades by that point, really coming to love them in the early 90s thanks to Cam Neely, Adam Oates and Ray Bourque. In fact, one of the big pushes to cheer for this team was the fact my older sister was mad about Edmonton, and I took it upon myself to passionately cheer for the enemy during 1990 Stanley Cup Final. That didn’t go well for me, but the black and gold stuck.

The team hadn’t attained much success in the intervening years, and the previous year had featured the infamous collapse against Philadelphia.

Their run in 2011 almost didn’t happen, seeing as Montreal had gone up 2-0 in the opening round courtesy of two road win. The Bruins fought back and pushed the series to seven games, winning in overtime thanks to Nathan Horton.

No tears to that point, though.

Those would come in Round 3, actually. The Bruins were once again faced with a Game 7 on home ice, this time against Tampa Bay. Vancouver had already won out West, and as the Presidents’ Trophy winners, were sitting pretty as the Cup favourites awaiting their next combatants. Be that as it may (or mayn’t, as it happened), all I wanted was for the Bruins to have a shot at winning it all.

The game remained painstakingly scoreless until late in the third period, when Horton once again clinched it off a sweet feed from David Krejci. The Bruins held on, and as the celebrations began, I started crying.

 

 

We had a 9-month old baby, and he and Lauren were both sleeping at the time, so I went out into the backyard, raised my hands in the air, and let out whispery, teary, celebratory cries into the atmosphere. If my neighbours had looked out the window right then, they would have thought I was nuts.

It seems silly, looking back. Crying over a game played by people I’ve never met. I was certainly overtired at the time (see note about baby), and I had never really seen my favourite team advance to the Final with years of disappointment behind me. The fact it was up in the air until the very end set it apart from Game 7 of the next round, which was won with far less dramatics and was enjoyed my yours truly with smiles and beers.

I’m not sure it will ever happen again, either. Even if the Bruins were to go all the way this year or in the future, I’m not in that space anymore. My head and heart don’t have as much emotional real estate for fandom as they used to, and my time writing full time about hockey helped me learn to appreciate good stories all over the NHL and therefore become less invested in one particular outcome.

Still, I’ll never forget that moment.

Horton from Krejci forever.

5 Simple NHL Trade Deadline Rules

Copy of custom home trends 2019

 

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that this will be my first NHL trade deadline as a casual observer since 2013. In recent years, I had the privilege of covering the annual gong show as “work”; this year I’ll be at my home office, performing my current duties while obviously keeping an eye on the proceedings (although I did write something for Daily Hive already).

 

 

In my experience, these are 5 simple NHL trade deadline rules you need to follow:

  1. Don’t expect anything to happen before lunch – If you tune into the trade deadline shows in the morning, you’re basically watching a hockey version of The View.
  2. Don’t fall for breaking news from fake insiders and team accounts.
  3. Remember that not every report or rumour is fact until it’s announced by the teams, even if it’s coming from the most trusted hockey people.
  4. Don’t immediately judge a trade. Sometimes these things take years to gestate. (Exception: Anything resembling Erat for Forsberg).
  5. I originally have “everyone have fun out there!” here, but Ashley (who rules and you should all be following on Twitter) wisely came through with a good and important one here: Don’t @ your team.

Finally, don’t forget there are actual human beings with feelings and families involved in these decisions:

Seriously, this is too much.

What say you? Did I miss anything?

Guelph Storm unveil John McCrae Veterans’ Game jersey

The Guelph Storm unveiled plans for the team’s annual Veterans’ Week game on Sunday, November 9 vs. the Barrie Colts.

The team will honour all veterans and Guelph native John McCrae with themed jerseys that will be later auctioned off online, with every dollar raised donated to local Royal Canadian Legions including Guelph’s Colonel John McCrae Memorial Branch 234.

Here’s a look at the special threads:

From the team’s official release:

Always remembered in his hometown of Guelph with the conversion of his family home into the McCrae House Museum, the Guelph Storm are honoured to recognize the local, national and worldwide legacy of Lieutenant John McCrae exactly one hundred years after his passing.

On Friday, November 9 at our annual Veterans’ Week game, Storm players will be part of the #CanadaRemembers campaign by wearing Lieutenant John McCrae jerseys that include images of one of Guelph’s most famous sons, the words of “In Flanders Fields”, the poppies blowing “between the crosses” on Flanders Fields and the statue that was erected at Guelph Civic Museum in 2015.

John McCrae was born in Guelph on November 30, 1872, and attended Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute before leaving to attend the Royal Military College of Canada. In 1915, he was appointed as Medical Officer and Major of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery.  When his friend – Lieutenant Alexis Helmer – was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres on May 2, 1915, his burial inspired McCrae to pen Canada’s most famous wartime poem, “In Flanders Fields”. Less than three years later on January 28, 1918.

These jerseys, then, also commemorate the 100th anniversary of his untimely death.

As per tradition, a Remembrance Day ceremony will be held at John McCrae House on Nov. 11.

Hockey Fights Cancer ‘Money on the Board’

Welcome to my #HockeyFightsCancer ‘Money on the Board’ campaign, where the hockey community can come together to raise funds during the month of November to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society or the NHL’s official campaign.

As some of you may know, our family of 5 recently experienced a first-hand battle with breast cancer, and we received so much love, support and help during that trying time. I know that together, we can keep making a difference in the lives of people with cancer, as well as help in the fight against this terrible disease in its various forms.

To participate, please fill out the form below, and if you share on social media, please use #HockeyFightsCancerMOTB.

Thank you so much for joining in.

– Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren)

For more, visit:
http://www.cancer.ca/en/donate/?region=on#ixzz5Vdg2JQT2
https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer/donate-ca

Edmonton Police tweet the best winter driving advisory of all time

How good is Connor McDavid?

The Edmonton Oilers superstar is being invoked by local police as a standard to which our vehicles won’t be able to reach during the winter driving season.

Well played, YEG.

McDavid really is unfair.

Stoop Time w/ Kelly McDavid

Kelly McDavid joins for me a chat about her son Connor, how to make hockey more accessible, why playing hockey is important in a child’s development,  and how to keep equipment from getting too stinky (spoiler alert: Febreze).

 

 

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