A Unique Canadian Hockey History Trip

Hockey Exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History

It’s been quite a while since I’ve jotted any original thoughts here, mostly due to the fact the Boy and Devil’s minor hockey careers are regrettably well behind us. We may still get to see the occasional university intramural game (which all will admit lacks the competitive drive and drama of a rep game). And even these occasions will now be limited to the Devil as the Boy’s university days are shockingly behind him. When the hell did those 4 years go by? A question I’m sure he’s likewise puzzled by as he officially enters the world of working adults.

However, while the tug of minor hockey has subsided, my love of the game certainly has not. In fact, Momma, the Devil and I probably spend more time watching NHL games together now than we ever did before (#GoSensGo and #GoPredsGo for those likewise following the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs), since we were always to busy with our own games. Hockey was and is seemingly ingrained in our DNA, as the six years worth of posts and over 15 years of memories transcribed here will attest.

So I was very excited to have received an invitation a few months ago to visit The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec for a guided tour of a newly launched Hockey Exhibition. The exhibition, which runs from March 10th – October 9th, is a celebration of hockey’s place in Canadian history and its effect on our culture. Fitting such an exhibition is held in the year of our nation’s 150th birthday celebration (and the NHL’s 100th anniversary) as the game has been central to our cultural evolution. The exhibition’s tag line properly and succinctly states, “Hockey in Canada: More than just a game!”

This past weekend, Momma and I had the distinct pleasure of being guided around the exhibition by one of its co-curator’s, Jenny Ellison. She pointed out the project was three years in the making with 280 unique and rare hockey artifacts from the museum or purchased/borrowed from other collections and private collectors; many of which have to be seen to be properly appreciated.

Old Indigenous Hockey Stick and Women's GameThe exhibition begins appropriately at the beginning of Canadian hockey time with one of the first hockey sticks ever used, which is really no more than a somewhat stick-shaped tree branch, juxtaposed against a photo of pioneer women fighting over a “puck”.  I should not have been, but was a little surprised to learn manufactured rubber pucks were preceded by those made of rock, wood and occasionally frozen cow dung. I guess yelling a player had a shitty shot may or may not have been considered a chirp back in the day (insert GROAN here). Dr. Ellison noted the exhibit aims to highlight the importance of both indigenous peoples and women on the game, which is borne out and prominent in many of the installations.

Goalie Mask EvolutionJerseys and gear are naturally a big part of the displays as well, with the older pieces naturally garnering the most attention as they differ so much in terms of their quality and size. Jacque Plante’s pretzel mask is quickly recognizable by any true hockey fan; though even calling it a mask is a stretch. Anyone who knows a little hockey history, knows there’s a radical difference in goalie equipment from past to present. Hell, there was a time when goalies didn’t even wear masks, though there was also a time when you weren’t allowed to raise the puck off the ice. By comparison, today’s goalies are sufficiently padded and armoured to withstand slapshots in excess of 160 km/h. The hooked tree branch you see at the outset has been replaced by graphite composite designed to generate the force behind those shots.

Other iconic gear of note includes Gretzky’s Jofa helmet, Teemu Selanne’s rifle aka his stick, five-time Olympic medalist Hayley Wickenheiser’s skates and Sidney Crosby’s game-worn jersey from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics gold medal game against the U.S. (a noted coup for Dr. Ellison and her team).

I was pleased to be able to make a couple of friendly suggestions for Dr. Ellison’s “future file” as I suggested both the aluminum stick and Cooperalls were, for me, noticeably missing from the range of historical gear on display. I used both in my brief, but brilliant, minor hockey career. Perhaps their omission is on purpose as, in retrospect, neither was a particularly good idea and both went the way of the dodo bird in the late 80s and 90s respectively. You need only get cross-checked by an aluminum stick once or twice to appreciate the error in the metal’s application.

The central highlight of the exhibition is a mock hockey rink housing static reenactments of arguably the most significant events in Canadian hockey history:

  • Paul Henderson’s game winning goal in game eight of the 1972 Summit Series
  • Sidney Crosby’s goal in the aforementioned 2010 Winter Olympics
  • Marie-Philip Poulin’s game tying and OT winning goals in the gold medal game against the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (btw, she also scored both goals in the gold medal game at the 2010 Olympics.)
  • Mario Lemieux’s game winner in the 1987 Canada Cup. The goal assisted was Gretzky, but the play was started by Dale Hawerchuk (a certain someone’s favourite player of all time) with a defensive zone face-off win where he tied up two Russian opponents to create the historic opportunity for his teammates.

Feel free to argue amongst yourselves as to which of the moments listed above is indeed the Canadian capstone. I’m sure you’ll find equal numbers of those who will agree and disagree.

Frank Finnigan Jersey and the Winnipeg Falcons pennantThere is, of course, also an area dedicated to hockey fans and fandom, which contained several interesting and unique bits of memorabilia (a few too many of the Toronto Maple Leaf variety, but who am I to complain.) There are all manner of hockey trading cards, vinyl records and even NHL cookbooks, which were apparently a thing back in the 80s. One particularly interesting piece from the Mike Wilson (Ultimate Leafs Fan)’s collection is the game-worn and blood-spattered jersey of one Frank “The Shawville Express” Finnigan who won the Stanley Cup with the Leafs back in 1931-32. Next to it lays a pennant from the 1920 World and Allan Cup Champion Winnipeg Falcons (#GoWinnipegGo). No Canadian exhibition would be complete without an homage of the famous childhood story of “The Sweater” by Roch Carrier or the opportunity to play a game of bubble hockey; both of which have their respective spots.

Circling back to the effect of the game on society, Dr. Ellison shared one of her favourite pieces is an actual hunk of a plywood used to cover broken windows from the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup hockey riots. The wood is covered in messages detailing what people were feeling about the game, the city and the riots; a mixture of sadness and anger. The piece is another clear reminder of just how hockey is more than a game in this country.

Now, rather than continuing to steal the museum’s thunder with my virtual trip down memory lane, I highly recommend any fan of hockey or Canadian history buff visit the museum and the exhibition before it closes. I guarantee you will not be disappointed and will likely learn a thing or two.


Olympic Hockey Coaching Cues


As a diehard patriot the Canadian men’s and women’s teams’ Gold medal victories at the Sochi Olympics this past week were both fantastic events  proving we remain the preeminent hockey nation. The Devil, the Boy, Momma and I were all up before the crack of dawn on Sunday morning to join others at a raucous early morning viewing/cheering party, complete with Canadian beer and bacon. The game itself was a little anti-climatic as we all had a sense of the outcome after having seen our side systematically dispense of what was supposed to be a powerhouse American squad in a 1-0 semi-final game.


And the systematic nature of the victories has been my focus in recent practices and will be highlighted in upcoming pre-game speeches with my own team. These Olympic contests with all of their pre-tournament hype naturally grabbed our collective attention, like no other games in recent memory and were also chock full of excellent coaching opportunities. I recently said Hard Work and Team Work are core elements of hockey and its great to be able to reference how it’s done at the highest level. Here are some of the specific points I noted from the Games and have relayed to my troops, who quickly recognized and affirmed the lessons learned.

Keep Your Stick on the Ice

Goals for the Canadian men were few and far between as they took a decidedly defensive tack against the Olympic field. However, two of the prettiest goals of the tournament were scored by Jamie Benn in the semi-final against the US and Jonathan Toews in the Gold medal game because of sound fundamental hockey plays.

Jamie Benn with the Deflection against the US to get Canada to the Gold medal game.

Jonathan Toews tips in all the goals Canada needed to take the Gold.

Pucks were simply shot at the net where both players were able to deftly redirect them behind the opposing goalies because their sticks were ready and on the ice. On our team, this small detail is often the difference between a goal or at least a shot on net and more often just another errant pass. The night after the semi-final game I quizzed a few of our players at practice on what they remembered of the goal and they all chirped back “his stick was on the ice.” Lesson learned.

The dominance of the women throughout the tournament was likewise buoyed by their sound offensive play, including their commitment to keeping their sticks in shooting positions and at the ready resulting in the goals and wins they needed to reach the final. They too set a great example for us to share with our students of the game.

Quick Shifts

In the first couple of Canadian women’s matches, the amply experienced analyst Cassie Campbell was quick to point out several of the girls were taking shifts upwards of 50 seconds long. This behaviour did not hurt them on the scoreboard in their early games, but would need to be corrected if they expected to compete against their arch rivals from the U.S. who would play with increased ability and pace. Fresh legs would be required from one shift to the next.

The men, on the other hand, were lauded by other reputable commentators time and again for keeping their shifts under 30 seconds, in keeping with the game plan laid out by their coaching staff. Many of these superstars, who are used to playing 15-20 minutes per game, as the primary skaters on the ice, were being limited to under 10 minutes in order to make the “system” work.

In minor hockey, and for some on my team, shifts can get long, even eclipsing 60 seconds. Too long for a seasoned pro, much less a teenager. I ask for 30-45 seconds of all out effort, which should leave players out of breath and wanting to take a rest. Having Olympic examples to point to can certainly help to drive the point home.

Hard Work

Though they were not being “paid” to compete in these games, the men  on all of these Olympic teams certainly played with purpose and determination; no doubt taking pride in defending the crests on the fronts of their jerseys. Now, hockey players, by their very nature are a tough bunch who generally leave it all on the ice. However on this global stage, time and again there were clear displays of heart and courage. One that sticks out in my mind was US player and perennial shot blocker Ryan Callahan dropping to block three in one shift against Russia and stumbling to get back to his feet after the second.

The Canadian men for their part played a nearly flawless game of cycling the puck low in their foes’ ends game after game. This keep away strategy demands hard work by definition and Canada’s physically bigger forwards simply outworked all comers.

Just tonight we’ve learned Carey Price, Canada’s #1 goaltender aggravated an injury at some point during the Games, but battled through whatever pain or discomfort he felt right up until the final buzzer. I’m sure adrenalin had something to do with it.

Team Work

While both victorious Canadian squads arguably contained the best players in the world; neither could have reached their Golden goals without unselfish commitments to team play. I’ve already mentioned the men who logged uncharacteristically short ice-times, but perhaps the best example of the importance of teamwork came via the line shuffling done by the Canadian coaching staff. They knew they need to find the right combinations of superstars in order for their plan to work. All of these primarily offensive-minded players would need to adjust their games to suit the defensive approach; which most agree in the end was the key to victory. This group of players limited their opponents to only 3 goals in 6 games and none in either of their final two matches. In the third period of the Championship game Team Sweden, with its own bevy of offensive weapons, was only able to muster 4 shots.  Kinda tough to come back from a three-goal deficit at that rate. And then by comparison…

The Game Ain’t Over Till….

This one is the simplest and most dramatic of all lessons as our Canadian women found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 score with less than three and a half minutes left in their Gold medal tilt against those aforementioned (and somewhat disliked) Americans. American who, no doubt, had already started clock-watching in anticipation standing teary-eyed atop the podium as the Star Spangled Banner echoed through the Bolshoy Arena. Post-game several Canadian players claimed they never felt they were down and out. To say they never gave up is a severe understatement. To say they worked hard (see above) till the end would be spot on. The two-goal lead would be erased by Marie-Philip Poulin with a tying goal coming at the 54 second mark of the third period. Poulin and her mates would then complete the comeback with a heart-stopping overtime winner leaving the US side dumbstruck.

Don’t Forget to Say Your Prayers

Ok, just to make sure we tell the whole story of the Canadian Women’s victory and pay proper homage to the ever-present Hockey Gods, we would be remiss if we did not give some credit to a certain goal post, which allowed the game to go into overtime.

So thank you Teams Canada (and the all-knowing Hockey Gods) for setting the standards by which we can work to groom our own Champions. I’m always looking for ammunition to inform, encourage and rally the troops and you provided the same in spades. Over the next week I hope we’re able to glean inspiration and execution from the example you’ve set to secure a berth in our own Provincial Championships. I’ll just be happy if they never give up; a lesson I’m fairly confident they’ve already learned based on recent events.


Team Canada Olympic photos from the Hockey Canada Facebook Page

Minor Hockey Pays It Forward

In our town, like so many others across Canada, minor hockey is a pretty big deal. Countless people are involved in making the game happen; from arena workers, to association representatives (one of which to whom I am happily betrothed), to officials and we hockey dads and moms who shuttle kids to and from rinks day after day. As they say, “It takes a village to raise a child” and hockey is simply a microcosm of the phrase. The game provides hours of enjoyment for its participants and in my view helps us parents raise better rounded individuals. With the greater community providing so much, it’s important for those of us on the hockey side to give back where we can; presenting an opportunity to further contribute to our kids’ social development. The Boy’s teams over the years took part in Christmas toy drives, wore pink skate laces and used pink tape in support of Breast Cancer Research and helped organize hockey practices for special needs children. Paying it forward has likewise been a focus of mine for both of the rep team’s I’ve had the pleasure of coaching with great team-building results.

Two years ago, my  team participated in a pre-season walk to raise funds and awareness for Juvenile Diabetes. As it turned out, we had a teammate who happened to be afflicted by the disease and it was great to be able to support a cause so close to home, which our players could easily relate to through their new friend.

Walk for Juvenile Diabetes

This season we chose to take part in a Holiday Food Drive for the local Food Bank. An added incentive was a chance for the team collecting the most food (by weight) to win a practice coached by coaches from the local OHL team (a slight upgrade from the current coaching staff). A bin was decorated and made available for donations at our games for three weeks in December. I let the visiting teams know about our campaign and was pleased to see visitors arriving with bags of food in tow. In three weeks we were able to collect roughly 450 lbs of food and a couple hundred dollars in cash donations, which we were told would feed approximately 20 families for a month. A fine local charitable endeavour for the holidays indeed.

Food Bank Donation


Now with Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada coming up on Saturday, January 18th, Scotiabank would like to hear about how your team has paid-it-forward in your community. By sharing your community events as statements, photos or videos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and including the hashtag #scotiahockey, you will be entered into a contest with a chance to win:

  • an NHL Alumni Tour visit to your community between January 21st 2014 and September, 6, 2014 or
  • one of three (3) custom 10-20 second video responses from an NHL Alumni highlighting a community post submission and celebrating how they give back to their community. The videos will be posted on the Scotia Hockey Club’s Facebook page.

Entries can be submitted until 4pm on January 18th. The contest is open only to legal residents of Canada who are age of majority.

So get to sharing your pay-it-forward stories and encourage others in your hockey community to do the same to improve your town’s chance of winning the NHL Alumni Tour visit. Everyone in the community, hockey or otherwise, wins from good deeds done.


Ending Anticlimactically and on to the Next Hockey Season

The Devil and her Shark teammates rolled into the Nation’s capital this past weekend for our provincial championships with high hopes based on a successful regular season, but likewise some trepidation following an unflattering early exit from their league playoffs. Adding to the concern was the fact the girls had not played a meaningful game since qualifying for this provincial tournament over a month ago. There were a bunch of practices, an exhibition game against one of their provincial opponents and a fun parents/siblings vs. the Sharks game, but nothing to prepare them again for real competition. But they had played some great hockey earlier in the year and perhaps they could regain their icy mojo.

So we packed up the van for the second time in a few weeks, made a traditional pit stop at Timmies to load up on caffeine and Timbits and then hit the road for 4+ hour scenic drive on a long overdue warm spring morning.

hockey roadtrip

Tim Horton's Drive-Thru









This hockey trip started off on a pretty good foot as I found out before I left I had lucked into some tickets for a game between Canada and Finland at the World Women’s Hockey Championships, which were also being held in Ottawa over the weekend courtesy of a fortuitous tweet from Club Hockey Canada. My other life as an online marketing geek was coming in handy. We had wanted to go to the game and were offered tickets a few weeks prior, but found the prices a little dear with the games being played nearly an hour from our hotel. But free tickets were gladly welcomed. When we arrived at our hotel I was pleasantly surprised to not find just a couple, but in fact, 8 tickets to the game being played on our second night in town.

After a quick check-in, we headed to the rink for the Devil’s first game. Another bonus to this tournament was its location as all of our sides games would be played at the alma mater of both Hockey Momma and yours truly.

Carleton University Ice House Hockey Arena

Returning to the scene of our “glory days” would surely resurrect some misty remembrances in both of us. As it turns out, the hockey rink our girls would be playing in did not even exist when we went to school there some 20+ years ago (as liver spots begin to burst onto my hands and my aging neck starts to stiffen). Indeed, driving onto the campus brought back a flood of memories of both a clear and somewhat foggy variety. The Devil would have to endure our recollections of “when we were here” for three straight days.

Hockey-WarmupBut back to game one, where the Sharks would face a team they should be able to handle based on their comparative records. Unfortunately, our side came out a little flat (which is not recommended in a short round robin schedule)….for two periods and would trail by a score of 2-0 heading into the third. They would pick up steam and the Devil would pick up a goal to cut the lead to one, but this would be all they could muster. In the final minute a great shot would ring off the post and the Devil would launch a shot which found its way between the opposing keepers pads, but not quite across the line. Game one would end 2-1 in the wrong direction forcing a must win or at least tie in the next contest. A curfew was set by the coach and all players were expected to come to the rink bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Of course, as with any away tournament, the hotel always has a central role to play in the weekend plot. In this case, the hotel’s role was one of antagonist as the Inn did not offer the Comfort it’s name suggested. The first offense being a quite loud buzzing noise coming from somewhere in or around our room. A fellow hockey dad/HVAC specialist would later help the night manager discover and temporarily correct said buzzing by slamming his fist on an electrical panel. Crude, but effective. Strike two came in the form of a much less than comfortable pull-out sofa, which I was quickly directed to by the Devil and her mother when we first entered our luxurious accommodations. Suffice it to say, I was certainly glad for being short in stature on this particular occasion. A larger man would have had a even more restless sleep than I; even with the assistance of a few hockey dad libations. The third and final nail in the two-storey motel’s coffin was a distinct lack of hot water for showers when we woke up the first morning. Apparently, this hotel did not anticipate having more than three people wanting to maintain their personal hygiene within the same one hour period. There have been a couple of occasions on hockey trips where a cold shower was warranted, but this was not one of them. This was not a good start to the team’s second tournament day.

Game two would, of course, be against stiffer competition meaning the Sharks would need to step up their effort from the previous match.  Maybe the cold showers would serve to wake up those who braved them. Indeed they did skate harder for the balance of this important game. However, for a second consecutive game they would have a tough time finding the back of the net, while the solid opponents managed to bulge the twine three times. Hopes of advancing to the next round were all too quickly dashed. Game three would simply be played for pride and perhaps a chance to spoil another team’s chances (which is sometimes a small consolation).

2013 Womens World Hockey Championships - Canada v FinlandWith the gravity of game three lessened, the curfew was lifted and the Devil chose four teammates to join us at the Team Canada hockey game. Our one extra ticket went to an equally fortunate Canada (Joe from Oakville, an apparent superfan and friend of former Team Canada member Jennifer Botterill, decked out in a Team Canada jersey) who was flabbergasted when I handed it to him just before he was about to line up to buy one. A good hockey deed I am hoping doesn’t go unnoticed and gains me some favour with the Hockey Gods at some point down the road. The Provincial Championships and World Women’s Championships being in the same city at the same time was no coincidence as it seemed players from nearly every team in the province were at the Friday night match at Scotiabank Place. 2013 Women's World Hockey ChampionshipIn fact, our little group was part of something historic as the crowd of 18,103 represented the largest ever to attend a women’s hockey game. A great sign for the sport moving forward. The relatively young crowd was vibrant and electric, cheering the Canadians on to an unsurprising 8-0 drubbing of the overmatched Finns. It was a great experience for our young ladies and I am indebted to Club Hockey Canada for making it happen. The unfortunate postscript being a 3-2 Canadian loss to their nemesis from the USA in the Gold Medal game a few days later. Yup, even the best in the world have their off games when expectations are high.

Not too many were early to bed in advance of game three, but we were still hopeful their pride would kick in and allow them to pull out a victory to end their season on a relatively positive note. We had beaten the same team 4-2 in an exhibition game only a week earlier, so we all knew our girls could play with them. Yet, our opponents in this game had a little more to play for as a win would secure them a spot in the next round. The match was tightly contested with a scrammbly marker registered by the bad guys mid-way through the second period. As had become par for the tournament, the Sharks offence sputtered though they had several chances turned away by a hot goaltender who made some great saves.  As the game and season wound down under 90 seconds, the coach pulled his goalie in favour of an extra attacker. Shortly thereafter a puck was innocently lifted out of the opponent’s end, propped up on its edge and curled its way into the Sharks unprotected net. Make the final score of the final game in the 2012-2013 season 2-0.

2013 Midget BB Sharks Hockey Team

Following the match, no one seemed too dismayed as their ultimate tournament fate had been realized the previous afternoon. Out in the parking lot an end of season team photo was snapped. Congratulations were given on an overall positive season.  Cards and parting gifts were handed out. For one player, #18 who coincidentally turned 18 on this very day, this final game marked an end to her minor hockey career complete with the emotion we experienced with the Boy a couple of weeks back.  She was presented with a jersey signed by all the players and a few appeared to have something irritating their eyes. Players, coaching staff and parents shook hands. Thankyou’s, goodbyes and good lucks were exchanged. Because, don’t ya know, the beginning of the tryouts for next season are less than a week away when friends and teammates will become rivals and competitors. I, in fact, know all too well as the joy and stress of a head coaching gig are calling my name.

The trip ended with a quick campus walk to rekindle a few more memories and then long overdue visits with a couple of close friends Momma and I had not seen in far, far too long (like we needed more reminders of how quickly time flies). As usual, a hockey tournament provided the backdrop for a much larger and significantly richer life experience to all of our personal benefits.

Next up: Tryouts aka The Coach’s Week from Hell. Stayed tuned for what is sure to be an interesting ride.


The Good Old Hockey Game in the Sky

A true part of our Canadian fabric shuffled off this mortal coil earlier today, but his words and music will no doubt live on in hockey rinks around the world for years to come. Stompin’ Tom Connors’ iconic “The Hockey Song” has been played before, during and after minor, recreational and professional games for as long as any of us can remember.


My own little memory goes back to when the Boy and the Devil were a few years younger. At the start of each season I religiously created a pre-game pump up CD and every one of those new-age hockey mixed tapes started with The Hockey Song.  To this day, when either play teams with pre or in-game music, the classic tune invariably and eventually rings through the rafters.

Before he died, the fine Canadian musical gentleman penned a final letter to his fans, speaking volumes to his love of Canada, its people and culture.  Thanks Stompin’ Tom for providing the soundtrack to so many past and future hockey memories, which sit close to the heart of our northern nation!