A Nice Little Playoff Hockey Run

Erin_ShamrocksI hesitate to scribe anything here for fear of upsetting the Hockey Gods, but the improbable little David and Goaliath (yes, I’ve spelled it wrong intentionally) story the Boy’s Junior C hockey team is authoring right now is well worth sharing. You see the Shamrock’s (or Shammies to their closest fans) regular season performance at 14-23-3 would best be described as lacklustre. I believe they suffered from common Jr C afflictions including injuries, absences and intermittent apathy. The squad limped into the playoffs with a come from behind tie in their final contest of the year vs. the team who owned the inauspicious last place in the standings. Expectations were not high heading into the first round against the #2 team in the league who bested their point tally by 13. The only saving grace was they avoided having to play the number one team who were the undoubted cream of the crop. All this said, the Shammies did show flashes of brilliance in the 14 victories there were able to secure and we hockey veterans all know the playoffs are an entirely different season. A little luck of the Irish couldn’t hurt either.

Shamrocks Win Round One, Game OneRound 1 would open nearly three hours away from home in enemy territory where the Shamrocks had previously fallen by scores of 8-1 and 5-0. Not exactly trending in a positive direction. However, the few devoted fan who made the trip to witness the inaugural playoff match (present company and Momma included) saw a completely different team take to the ice and dominate their opponents in an impressive 6-4 victory, which at one point included a 5-1 lead. Did I mention how playoffs are an entirely different season?

Momma and I were begrudgingly unable to attend the next three games as we embarked on an uber-Canadian trip to an Ice Hotel, but we intently followed the Shammies online as they took a 3-1 series lead following a 4-0 thumping on home ice, a slim 2-1 loss back in their opponents’ barn and then a 4-1 dagger to the heart in their friendly confines.

Game 5 day arrived and brought with it a good ol’ fashioned Canadian snowstorm. I’m not usually one to let a little snow get in the way of watching a crucial, potentially series ending match, but local law enforcement was advising against non-essential travel and in fact the road to the game was closed in both directions for over two hours. However, the game was inconceivably not cancelled so the team made the perilous trip and showed up 10 minutes after the game was supposed to begin. We would reserve ourselves to again following online, not expecting much from the boys who had been stuck on their bus for over 5 hours, which is not particularly conducive to high athletic performance. And yet, we followed from afar as the Shamrocks quickly opened with a one and then two-goal lead. The Boy would later recall how the second goal was the proverbial nail in their foes’ coffins. The final score in the fifth and final game of Round One was 5-0. The upstart Shammies more than pulled off the upset to advance. Up next, the aforementioned cream of the crop who blew threw their first round opponents, outscoring them 26-9. To say David had his work cut out for him was an unmitigated understatement.

Pre-Game Round TwoGame one of the second round would see the underdog Shamrocks travel to play Number One in the rink where they had only lost one game in their previous 40. Slim odds to be sure. Goaliath’s strength would be evident early on as they would spend an inordinate time in the offensive zone. The Shamrock’s goaltender (who is sporting the league’s best GAA and Save Percentage in the playoffs) had to be on his game to keep the puck from getting behind him. Despite the league leaders’ dominant play, the Shamrocks would weather the initial storm and trail only by one goal heading into the third period. The score would remain the same until about 4 minutes left when the visitor’s would take advantage of a miscue and throw up a match-tying marker. Then, with only 29 seconds left and on their second powerplay in 2 minutes, the seventh place squad would shock their foes with a go ahead goal. Undaunted and in dramatic fashion, the home team would find a way to force a 20 minute sudden-death overtime with on only 6 tics left on the clock….and exxxxhaaaale. The Shamrocks would take a penalty a few minutes into OT and their game one road fate appeared to be sealed. But Lady Luck smiled again as a D-to-D pass was intercepted and turned into a game winning breakaway goal. In all honesty, it was the first breakaway goal I’ve witnessed them score this entire season. Maybe there were others, but this one came with pretty good timing if you ask me. David cast the first stone.

The series moved to Erin last night, where the Shamrocks knew they’d most likely woken up Goaliath and the Boy said the pre-game chatter was all about bracing for an expected onslaught. And while the visitors came on full-force, the home team more than held it’s own and counted the first two goals to the delight of the largest contingent of Shammies fans in the stands to date. The worst score in hockey (2-0 for the uninitiated) was erased by the series favourites a few minutes into the third period thanks to a 5 on 3 powerplay. Just a few minutes later, following another defensive miscue, a Shamrocks forward was able to poke the puck over the opposing keeper to push the score to 3-2 causing the stands and the Home team bench to erupt in unison. A no doubt shocked coaching staff was forced to pull their goalie in favour of an extra attacker with a couple of minutes left in the game. The undesired result was an empty net goal for the good guys who cast the second unlikely stone.

Shamrocks Celebrate Game 2 Victory

Shammies Win, Shammies Win

Which brings us to Game Three tonight back on unfriendly turf where the Shamrocks will look to take a stranglehold on the best of seven series. This battle is far from over as the favourites will no doubt come out guns-a-blazin’ and the visitors still have their work cut out for them. The Boy, for his part, is feeling the effects of two hard-fought series and an ill-timed head cold, but winning has a way of easing bumps, bruises and sniffles.

Regardless the outcome this evening or in the series, the boys in Irish green have certainly represented themselves well and turned the tables on an otherwise underwhelming season. Kinda reminds me of another team who not so long ago beat the odds and nearly went all the way.  In the process, the Shammies turned back the clock for at least one hockey dad and mom who are relishing every nail-biting moment.


And Just Like That…..Another Hockey Season Ends

The Sharks put up a heroic effort and battled hard down the stretch with a skeleton crew in an attempt to advance to our Provincial Championships. After the last game of our first round league playoff series we were reduced to 12 skaters, 1 goalie and no coach as I was resigned to catch the first game of our double round-robin competition from up in the stands.

Hockey Lady

The first two games would pit us against the number one team in our regular league, though they apparently had some challenges of their own icing only 13 skaters and likewise a lone goalie. Game one was a tight affair which saw the two teams battle to a 1-1 tie through two periods. I didn’t particularly enjoy my banished viewpoint, but did what I could to urge the team on as a mere spectator. I was pleased to have one of my players say all she could hear during the match was me yelling down at them; though I’m not sure whether that was a good or bad thing. In this particular game I shouted our embattled keepers name quite a few times as she turned in several saves to the spectacular variety – a much-needed boost for our undermanned bunch. The game remained close through the final frame and ended knotted at 1, which was something of a victory for we, the underdogs.

Game two was only two days later and we again took to the ice down three players and an injured goaltender. It would take another big effort from those players who remained to give us a chance to stick with our competitor. This time I would regain my spot back behind the bench where I could feel a little more in control; though I may or may not have been. This match would again be closely fought, with our side being the first to find the back of the net. Meanwhile, the front of their net was something of a battlefield as their goalie (previously known to be somewhat erratic) made like a lumberjack with our players’ legs being her trees. I implored the referee to pay attention, but my exhortations were met with disdain as he suggested he would keep an eye on my players as well. With this game also deadlock at ones, my pleading finally paid off as the ref whistled down one of her whacks with less than two minutes left. Those last couple of minutes saw us get out chances to pull out a win with the puck narrowly skipping past the post on at least two occasions. While the W would have served us better, we were pleased with back-to-back pushes against the tough competition.

We’d have to wait a week to finish the back half of our double dip qualifier, during which time our task would be set for us.  Our first foe would mount two victories against our next by a combined difference of 4 goals meaning we would have to also secure two of our own with a five-goal differential in order to advance. A relatively tall order for a short-handed squad for which scoring during the season had been at a premium, which also happened to be missing 3 of its top 4 scorers to aforementioned injuries or suspensions.

The game three direction to our 12 skaters was simple, “Shoot the puck early and often.”  The message was heeded and our girls jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead, which ballooned to 2, then 3, then four before the final buzzer rung. In our end, few if any shots found their way to our net. Almost surprisingly, the four goal deficit we were up against was erased in just one game. That being said, moving on would require another dominant effort; one which would be complicated by the loss of yet two more skaters to a pre-planned trip to the tropics and yet one more injury (a dislocated shoulder suffered, but not succumbed to, by one tough young player in the second period).

The last match of the double round robin would pit our 10 skaters and a goalie against the same from the other side. We all knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I felt a little more comfortable than I had the game prior on the strength and quality of the win there. I quipped to my assistant coach that the Hockey Gods were really gonna make us earn this one. And so they did as we fell behind early on a good shot fired from just inside the face off circle to the right of our keeper, which found its way under the crossbar. We’d even the score before the end of the 2nd period, however would fall behind again 2-1 heading into the third and possibly final frame….of the season. Before our girls headed back onto the ice I asked them to give it their all for three of their teammates in particular who were on the verge of the end of their minor hockey careers…and a memory of the Boy’s last game flashed through my mind’s eye.

Our depleted troops were sucking serious wind, but were still game and giving everything they had to try to even the score. Unfortunately, time and again their shots were blocked or simply did not find their target. Our net was emptied in a last ditch effort with less than two minutes left on the clock and subsequently….in the season. Their keeper continued to turn our advances away until the buzzer sounded causing 10 skaters, 2 goalies, 4 unwilling non-participants, 4 bench staff and a bunch of disappointed parents/fans to simultaneously lower their heads in some disbelief. We only needed a one-goal victory to reach our provincial championship tourney aspirations; just a little more than our exhausted group could muster…and certainly not for a lack of guts or hard work. Kudos to our foils who took and fulfilled their no doubt coveted role as spoiler.

Post game was somewhat uncomfortable as no one, including yours truly, could quite come to grips with the loss and the suddenness of THE END.

We do still have a bunch of practice ice left, half of which is scheduled during March Break, so attendance by a bunch of teenage girls is expected to be thin at best (I can already report having only 5 and 4 skaters in the first two post-season sessions which have both turned into a lot of shooting practice). I’ve been asked if we can schedule a couple of exhibition games, but I’m not sure we have enough healthy or willing players to ice a proper squad.

And so, we will play out the next couple weeks, take a month’s break, then head right back into tryouts for next season – the final of the Devil’s career. Of course, the Devil herself may actually forego her final tryouts if the two bits of her fibula do not find their way back together in time. Guess she can consider herself lucky as the coach of her desired team is not “likely” to cut her sight unseen. Then again, ya never know, I hear he can be heartless.

Devil skating off

When she still had two good limbs…


Image courtesy http://www.someecards.com/

Hockey Playoff Losses Can Hurt

hockey playoffsThe Devil and her Sharks teammates had a pretty good run in our first round playoff run though it was stopped short and abruptly much to our dismay. We went in as underdogs being the 7th seed facing the 2nd, but were pretty confident in having played our opponents tough during the regular season with a loss, a tie and a win…in that order.

The second place finisher would naturally get home ice advantage, so we started last weekend with a game in “enemy” territory. In games past against this team we’d had some challenges with fair and equitable refereeing and I went into this series with some trepidation on this front. Before we played a single minute in this foreign rink, one of the officials commented to me,”I just want to let you know I like to call a fair game.” I thought it an odd statement at the time, but little did I know how it would foreshadow events to come. All I wanted for our playoffs was fairly officiated games decided by the two teams and I like to think I’m able to stay fairly objective when it comes to the conduct of my players.

In game one our side came out flying; taking it to the opponents buoyed by the knowledge they had a good chance to advance if they put in the work. We had far more scoring chances through the first half of the game and took a 1-0 lead halfway through the second period. Unfortunately, the home side scored with less than 10 seconds left in the second frame and the game would be decided in the third. The last period would see a trend of our goalie being poked at after the referee’s whistle was blown, which I disputed vehemently; disputes which fell on deaf ears. Instead, we found ourselves on the wrong end of penalty calls and shorthanded for a good part of the period. Admittedly, our side also let their combined foot off the gas. Long story short; the scoreboard read Home 3 – Visitors 1. Opportunity missed and game two quickly became a must win.

Game two would be in our barn and I did my best to convince the girls they had won two of the first three frames of the series. They agreed and were quietly determined to force a third game. Their steely determination was required as they would score the first and only goal of the game just 7 minutes into the first period. Two and a half periods is a painfully long time to have to hold on to a single goal lead. Partway through the second one of our players did have a glorious opportunity to extend out lead to two goals, but she didn’t realize how much time she had to convert a wraparound attempt and placed the puck under a sprawling goalie rather than in the more desirable empty net. Once the game was over and we were comfortable in our victory, we were able to poke a little fun at her miscue.

The series winner would need to be decided six days later (the night before last) back in “their” building. Again, our side got off to a roaring start with several scoring chances and the first goal of the game. A couple of bounces could have given us a two or three goal lead going into the 2nd period, but we’d settle for one and battle on; a struggle made tougher by inconsistent calls by my favourite man in stripes. I hate to sound like a whiner or sore loser, but it wasn’t the calls against us; rather the calls which weren’t made against our opponents for obvious infractions getting under our skin. Or one of our players getting reprimanded for “snowing” the opposing goalie when she clearly didn’t from anyone but the referee’s perspective. I could feel our side getting increasingly frustrated. Shortly thereafter the home team would erase their deficit then take the lead and we would enter the final frame behind by one on the scoreboard.

Not long into the third I can, with little to no bias say, all hell broke loose. Time both stood still and flew by from moment to moment. First our opponents dealt a crippling blow when a seemingly harmless shot from just inside the blue line found its way past our keeper. Then only moments later another rush ended with the puck in our net, our defeated goalie sprinted to the bench for refuge and just like that we faced relatively insurmountable odds. Yet, with 11 minutes still left to play I implored our side to not give up and they did not. That being said, our striped nemesis called a 4 minute penalty against one of ours for a phantom check to the head.

On the ensuing penalty kill, the Devil barrelled down the ice with an opposing defender who had at least 10 inches in height and 60 pounds in weight on her in hot pursuit of a puck shot into the corner. Arriving simultaneously, the larger player used her size to knock her diminutive foe to the ice. Relentless, the Devil flailed and grabbed the puck with her gloved hand. Two players from either team arrived in support and at some point the Devil’s original counterpart toppled onto the little Shark lying on the ice. Moments later we all noted the Devil to be in some distress as she hailed for a couple of teammates to help her get up off the ice on what appeared to be a wonky leg. She was half-laughing and half-sobbing as she reached the bench and emphatically described what had just happened (her exact words are censored here to protect the innocent, but suffice it to say the air was blue). Hockey momma immediately ushered her injured daughter and her injured leg off the ice for closer examination knowing she rarely in 12 years of hockey has gone down without good reason.

The game continued and not moments later on another pursuit, this time into our corner, one of our defenders was dangerously tripped just before she reached the boards, crashing feet first. Another of our players rushed in to avenge her and whistles blew frantically. Our defender was barely able to rise, but made her way back to our bench where she immediately slumped down crying inconsolably. The next several moments were a blur as I was informed my newly injured player was being given a penalty. My frustration admittedly reached a fever pitch and I blew up letting my striped nemesis know what I thought of his judgment. I was livid. To be clear, I refrained from cursing, but my imploration was countered by instruction to leave the bench immediately. I received first official ejection from a game. Even now, I feel I was justified in defending my player who I felt then and still feel now was wrongly accused.

As I left the bench, I turned to remind my remaining players to hold their emotions better than I had mine. At that point, with approximately 7 mins left in the game and a series victory out of reach I just wanted the game to end quickly and without further incident. I would restlessly watch the rest of the game from just outside the arena. My wish was unfortunately not granted by the Hockey Gods. Minutes after my exit, our now least favourite official continued with his antics in deciding to accuse another of our players of phantom “snowing” of the goalie, only this time going a step further and assessing a penalty. What happened next I in no way condone, but can almost understand. The accused player in the heat of the moment swung her stick at the ref, striking him in the leg. She was naturally tossed from the game and now faces a severe sanction for her actions. Again, she made an egregious error and will have to face the consequences, however, I firmly believe the referee had some culpability in how the events of this period unfolded. This is the only platform I have to dispute so I’m doing so at the risk of this coming across as another disillusioned hockey parent. One more goal would be scored by the home side before the game mercifully came to an end. It was hard to believe you could pack so much drama and misfortune into a single period – a bitter loss after the effort put forth by our side throughout the series.

Devil with a broken legPost game the bulk of our players had to stand and wait outside our dressing room as the Devil’s injured leg had been assessed just inside the door and an ambulance had been called. The whole situation was a little surreal. I was still seeing red, but held my tongue as I wished the victorious coach and his team good luck in the next round. I did my best to console and prop up the spirits of my players who only an hour earlier were full of energy and high hopes. I think we all felt more than a little robbed. Players were eventually allowed in to change out of their gear one by one; each leaving in decidedly sombre moods. The Devil was eventually wheeled out on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance and our next stop was the hospital for x-rays on her wounded limb. broken legTrainer Momma was pretty sure it was broken. A few hours later her unofficial diagnosis was confirmed. The Devil’s hockey season would end prematurely and the team would be down at least three players moving forward (oh, did I not mention our backup goalie came limping off the ice from this game with a re-injured knee). The defender who I had been ejected for would be touch and go with a foot she had trouble putting weight on. And, of course, the story does not end there as our now depleted team would need to bounce back a mere 24 hours later to face the top team in our league to start a round robin series to decide qualifiers for our provincial championships; a daunting task with a full and confident squad.

Fast forward roughly 20 hours to a new rink and our new opponents, a strong team against which we’d yet to register a win in four tries at 0-3-1. I with a game suspension and three of our players (including the Devil sporting a fancy new air cast) would watch from the stands while one other was away on a humanitarian trip. Our remaining eight forwards, four defenders and lone goalie would need to put forth a monumental effort to pull off the upset. We (or at least I) cheered emphatically as they were able to get halfway through the first and partway through the second period before giving up the first goal of the game. Undeterred, our side countered just over a minute later with a goal of their own. The final period was intense with our foes getting multiple scoring chances which were turned away one after the other by a stalwart goaler who’d obviously erased the previous game from her conscience. The match ended in a 1-1 tie, but felt much more like a victory in light of the circumstances.

One game had left our players bruised, but certainly not beaten. There are three more games in our double round robin playoff which resumes tomorrow night. I will be doing my best to remind this resilient, scrappy group just how well they have played in the face of adversity. And as always, I welcome a little support and some icy justice from the Hockey Gods who were surely resting or focused elsewhere the day before last. Excuse me if I sound bitter. It’s only cuz I am.  I won’t lie…that one is probably gonna sting for a while.


Embarking on the Second Hockey Season – Cue Motivation

Amassing a regular season record of 5-9-8 and a league leading 248 minutes in penalties, the Sharks enter the league playoffs as the 7th seed. Only the top 8 of 10 teams in the division were eligible to play in the next round, so we were pleased to simply earn the spot to begin with. The 7th place finish means we draw the 2nd place squad, against which, as it turns out, we have a quite favourable record of 1-1-1 including a win in our most recent contest just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve told our players I think part of their motivation comes from being haters of my beloved Winnipeg Jets as our competitors wear similarly designed jerseys. I’m all good with using whatever we need, including a little sporting irony.

Adding to the playoff challenge is a second, provincial playdown, series which starts next weekend. This will be a four game, double round robin format against the 1st and 6th place teams in our loop, which are also our closest geographic rivals with plenty of familiar faces to stir our players’ emotions. Some players from both teams even go to school together; an odd juxtaposition created by the lack of territorial restrictions in girls’ competitive hockey in our province. Players I’ve released are on one of these other teams and vice versa. Lots of motivation on all three benches to use and worry about.

roadtrippingLast weekend, we left the country for a little pre-playoff, team building tourney and some cross-border shopping (which may have been the highlight for some of our teen-aged competitors). The team fared well against some admittedly weaker competition winning the first two matches 7-1 and 5-0 respectively. However, we were still faced with a must win in game three against the apparent strongest team in the eight team tourney as only two clubs would advance to a single championship game, knowing one other team had a perfect record as well. A close 2-1 defeat in our third and unfortunately final game meant no fourth or chance to take home a tourney win. But the entire weekend experience was a success on a whole from a team building perspective and served to show the girls their goal scoring potential when they play as a team.

Taking the Ice for a Tourney

Pre-Game Prep

In a few hours, we hit the ice in the first tilt of a best 2 out of 3 series, with game two coming less than 24 hours later. Getting off to a quick start in such a short format is a must. To me, the difference-maker will be motivation and hard work; something our team’s success has hinged on in pretty much every game we’ve played this year. The girls have shown their ability to skate and play with every team we’ve faced to this point. And so, my/our challenge as a coaching staff will be to bring the best out of our players; to get them all on the same page and firing on all cylinders to lean on a couple of oft-used, but oh so appropriate clichés. I think I’ll lean on my previous playoff habit of creating a motivational sign to give our players something to focus on. The pre-game messages will be short and to the point.

Team Work, Hard Work, Work

If you’ve any last minute advice, I’m all ears.


We Have Ourselves a Hockey Contest Winner

With Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs coming to a dramatic close last night, my first contest ended right along with it. This evening, in a random draw from within the bowels of an old bucket, a single name was chosen as the deserving recipient of a much coveted prize pak courtesy Enterprise Rent-a-Car, an official sponsor of the NHL and its teams. Here’s a quick vid of the exciting ceremony.

So congrats to Kevin Francisco. I will grab your mailing address and have the prize pak delivered shortly. For those who are interested, here is the memory he shared (with apologies to Leafs fans, who are likely still stinging from their unbelievable playoff exit this year):

“Obviously its the ’93 Habs playoff run that sticks out in my mind. Not only do you have the Leafs & Habs going deep into the playoffs… you have Gretzky’s no call high stick on Gilmore & his final appearance in the finals. The biggest part of that Hab playoff run was the unbelievable run of OT victories. The Que/Mtl series was one of the best ever with the Habs taking 4 straight after dropping the first two games (2 in OT)… then taking out the hated Sabres in a 4 game sweep where all games finished 4-3 Mtl (3 in OT). 2 more OT victories vs NYI brought them an 11 game win streak before losing game 4. I couldnt believe how awesome this playoff run was going with Roy stealing games all over the place! I was actually looking forward to a Mtl/Tor final (how awesome would that have been?!), but had to settle for watching them beat Gretzky & Co in the finals with another fantastic 3 OT wins. 10 OT wins en route to Cup 24!! Too bad they havent won one since – but that was just such a ridiculous string of OT wins, it has to be one of the best playoff runs in history.”

This was just one of many great playoff stories I was very impressed and appreciative to receive over the last couple of weeks all of which you can find in the comments of my contest blog, should you be so inclined. Thank you again to all who entered.

Now off we go to the third round series pitting Bruins against Pens and Hawks against defending champion Kings. Both certainly look to have the makings of hard fought, tight scoring classics. I must admit, I’ve been riveted to most every game this playoff season regardless the combatants. Perhaps the shortened regular season has enabled me and many like me to maintain our attention longer, though with 25+ degree temps in the forecast, it may become more and more difficult, but we’ll see. Pretty sure the hockey won’t disappoint.




Anything Can and Did Happen in a Game 7

The Hockey Gods were working overtime the other night as I and thousands of others witnessed a couple of truly unbelievable sports moments in the NHL and OHL playoffs.

poochieFor me the night started kinda slow. In an odd circumstance, I found myself sitting alone (well almost alone save for good ole man’s best friend) and switching back and forth between two games:  the Boston Bruins vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs and my hometown Barrie Colts vs. the London Knights in the OHL Finals; and yes, both playing game 7s. One more game 7 was also in progress between the Rangers and Caps, but my ability and willingness to focus across three channels was limited at best. My unfamiliar solitude was due to:

  • Hockey Momma fulfilling secretarial duties at our local minor hockey league board meeting, which begs the question..Who holds a meeting during a Game 7?
  • the Boy risking his life cheering for the Bruins in a predominantly Maple Leafs-friendly Buffalo Wild Wing. He told me as he left to watch for a text message should the score be headed in a non-Leaf direction and he had no idea how prophetic that statement would be.
  • the Devil begrudgingly performing in a school dance recital; a minor commitment she suggested she could “ditch” in favour of watching the pivotal playoff games.  You can easily guess who won that school vs. hockey argument, though she made a pretty strong case to her hockey-luvin dad.

So poochie and I enjoyed each other’s company and cheered or booed as the four teams in our two primary games worked their way through their first periods with 1-1 results in each. Game 7s are generally pretty tight contests as neither team is willing to play a wide open game or risk making mistakes; mistakes which could mean vacations at their favourite golf courses.

Young Leafs fan

However, towards the end of the first period in the NHL affair, I answered my ringing phone and was greeted by the desperate voice of one of  Hockey Momma’s co-workers. On my way home from work earlier in the day, I was forced to take a detour as my primary route was closed due to a downed hydro pole. It seems the crippled pole was now responsible for power outages in the homes of hundreds or perhaps thousands of rabid hockey fans all around me. The first strike by the Hockey Gods perhaps? Regardless, I naturally offered to share my den and television; the only problem being my new viewing mates were all Leafs fans – then again this never mattered before so why should it now. Shortly after this family of Leaf-lover arrived, they were followed by a Bruins fan to even up the vibe in the house. And just like that, I was hosting a min-playoff party, conveniently equipped by Enterprise Rent-a-Car, a sponsor of the NHL and all of its teams, I might add (more on that below).

Bruins-Leafs-ScoreShortly after my impromptu party mates arrival, both games started to get interesting as the bad guys from my humble perspective each scored goals to give them 2-1 leads, which they would take into their respective third periods. Third periods we shant soon forget.

In London, the Colts, missing three of their top forwards, continue to battle tooth and nail squaring the score at 2-2 with just under three minutes left in the third. This Game 7 was most assuredly going to overtime as the clock ticked under one minute then under 30 seconds. But then on a literally last second drive to the net, the puck inexplicably found its way up, over and behind the Colts keeper, who swung at it wildly and knocked it away from the net. The on-ice official waved no-goal, but with 1.1 seconds left on the clock, there would be a video review. Fingers were firmly crossed and quick prayers were issued to the aforementioned Hockey Gods. However, video from an overhead camera told a sad story as we saw the puck float through the air and over the goal line.  We waited and hoped our eyes deceived us and the TV commentators. No such luck and the Knights completed a comeback from 3-1 in the series to win the OHL Championship in the absolutely last possible moment of regulation time. Maybe the Colts would have completed the comeback in the game had the buzzer sounded one second sooner or maybe not. One Game 7 ended in despair.

Boston Bruins fans
Meanwhile, back in Boston, more inexplicable action ensued as the Leafs proceeded to open up 3-1 and then 4-1 leads with only 15 minutes left in the third. Could it be that the upstart Leafs would serve up a major upset in the first round and send the Bruins packing, much to my dismay? Hockey Momma had returned from her meeting and the Devil from her recital by now. The Boy’s bar safety appeared secure. On TV, you could see some of the less-faithful Bruins fans themselves leaving the building. The Bruins would score with just over 10 minutes left in the game, but a two goal deficit was surely too big to overcome; even for the hardluck Leafs whose ineptitude dates back to the year before I was born.  With it being 9:30 on a school night, our friends having younger kids, the game in hand and power apparently restored to their home, the Leaf fans decided to take their leave. As they walked out, I quipped “We’ll have to get together to watch the Leafs play the Rangers in the next round (also to besponsored by Enterprise Rent-a-Car as part of a NHL Playoff giveaway contest).” The Rangers and King Henrik Lundqvist, in the other game 7 were embarrassing the Caps 5-0 in their own rink.

Then the Hockey Gods flexed their muscles and changed the course of history in Boston. The veteran Bruins woke up somewhere around the 15 minute mark of the third, putting sustained pressure on the less experienced Leafs who were trying desperately to hold on to their tenuous two-goal lead. The Bruins, as per standard procedure, pulled their goalie with about two minutes left. A shot from the point with 1:22 on the clock found its way by the Bruins towering defenceman, Zdeno Chara, who installed himself as an immovable fixture in front of the Toronto goal and also by the Leafs’ defenceless keeper. A mere 16 seconds later the Bruins would bury the most incredible Game 7 tying goal in history. With momentum decidedly and understandably on their side, the Bostons (with a few missing fans who were no doubt banging their heads against walls somewhere) completed the biggest comeback ever with a now-anticipated goal in OT; leaving Leafs fans everywhere standing, sitting or lying drop-jawed and numb as the realization of another playoff failure struck them like a bolt of lightning hurled at them by you know who. At my house, we erupted from the couch in awestruck amazement and at Buffalo Wild Wing, da Boy, my progeny, ran and high-fived the few other Boston fans in the joint at the risk of physical peril.

Bruins Leafs NHL Playoffs Game 7 2013

Once the jubilation subsided, I admittedly found myself feeling a touch of sympathy for the Leaf fans, many of whom are my close friends; who sat expectantly in front of their TVs on the verge of heart attacks or who crammed themselves among thousands just outside the Air Canada Centre in Toronto; only to be let down yet again. This morning the feeling returned as I read a great article in Deadspin about the risks of raising your child as a Leafs fan entitled “This Is How Hockey Hurts“. Perhaps I should send the link to my viewing mates, who still have a chance to reprogram their young Leaf fan.  Everyone says you need to lose, before you can win, but this was one helluva way to lose. I think a lot of people would have preferred they succumbed to the Big Bad Bruins in Game 6. Or maybe not.  I can’t really say, not being a Leaf fan. I can tell you, I’d take a Game 7, win or lose, as a Jets fan.

Just like that, in a matter of a few hours, I’ve yet two more fantastic and not-so-fantastic memories of playoff hockey. Some of those young OHLers were distraught last night, but have plenty to look forward to.  Tis the nature of the game. Real-life drama played out in real-time at breakneck speed right before your eyes. And hell, this was only Round One. The rest of the playoffs have a tough act to follow. Chances are we’ll be there watching at the edge of our seats; I type while watching the Kings and Sharks finish their first game of Round Two at 9pm PST – midnight where I’m sitting.


Disclosure:  Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the NHL provided me with a gift package to host my watch party as a thank you for writing this post. However, the views and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Find out about my own #imahockeydad giveaway at http://www.imahockeydad.com/2013/05/11/nhl-playoff-hockey-is-back-giveaway, which is open  to entries until the end of Round 2 of the NHL playoffs.

p.s. Just found this link from the NHL to a video montage of 17 overtime game-winning goals from Round 1, which by the way, was a record – Enjoy!

And Just Like That…A Minor Hockey Career Nears Its End

For the second time in a few weeks, I find myself begrudgingly having to recap a playoff series; only this time the taste is a little more sour as the end of a series marks the almost-end of the Boy’s minor hockey career.

The provincial semi-finals started quickly, just beyond the end of a dramatic three-game comeback by the Boy and his cohorts; a series no doubt mentally, if not physically draining. I would miss game one as I stayed back to escort the Devil to her own provincial playdown game.  As chance or bad luck would have it, the Devil’s game would be played in one of the only places on Earth without cell service and so I would have to wait until her game ended to get an update. Just moments after pulling out of the arena parking lot, I noted a faint signal so I pulled over to the side of the road (much to the dismay of the Devil who’d just finished competing in a dramatic game of her own) to see if my Hockey Momma had relayed a recent score. Instead I was greeted by a flurry of messages from one of my bestest friends who actually drove over an hour to catch the game after having acquired the playoff bug by attending two pressure packed games  in the previous series. I was pleased to hear the Boys were up by a goal in game one and apparently controlling most of the play. I drove home quickly so I could continue following the game via my loyal texting messenger. For the next hour I was treated to and suffered through updates every 15 to 20 seconds as the game made its way back and forth, up and down the ice as my brother from another mother cursed and clutched his heart as he reported each painful highlight from a distance. All was positive until about 5 minutes left in the third when I saw the omninous word F#@K flash onto my mobile screen. The bad guys tied the game and would shortly thereafter force a 10 minute overtime. I bristled on the end of my phone as a few minutes later the offending four letter word was repeated, thereby signalling a 1-0 series deficit. Upon their return from the game shortly before 1:00 am, Momma reported ours was the better team overall.  She said the series was their’s for the taking if the Boys replicated their performance from the two previous series victories, which brought them to this point.

A few days later the home stands were packed and hummed in anticipation of a Colts victory to knot the series at one game apiece.  I was personally confident in light of the game one reports I’d received.  Game two would see the good guys take a one goal lead early as they had apparently done in the opener. And while the opponents were game, the home side certainly dominated the balance of play. Still the visitors would tie the score at 1-1 just before the end of the second period after a scramble in front of the net.  The Colts got a much needed goal to pull ahead in the third and we all held our breaths hoping they could extend or at least protect the lead over the next 10 minutes. As time ticked down under two minutes we all exhaled as the rivals took an ill-timed penalty. They would remove their goaltender moments later and everything seemed to be headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, under the pressure of desperate play from their opponents the home side would take one and then a second penalty of their own. Suddenly, their one man advantage had turned into a two-player deficit. And then, with only 31 seconds left in regulation time, and me perched behind our keeper (which is an admittedly odd place for me to be watching a game) I saw the puck land precariously close to the goal line in behind the scrambling netminder. Sensing the dangerous position of the offending disc, he swung his arm back but touched no frozen rubber. The one or two seconds the puck laid there felt like an eternity. I so wanted to lunge headlong through the plexiglass myself to bat the puck away ahead of the foreign stick I saw poke it over the line to tie the match and send it to another 10 minute overtime; one in which the Boys would have to start with a player still in the penalty box. Luckily, they would weather that mini-storm, but would leave the game down three points to one instead of being tied at two. The next trip to the opposing rink would need to be more fruitful than the first. So far, by all accounts, the Boys had been the “better” team without the record to show for it.

Not surprisingly, it was apparent early on that game three would be another close contest – how could it not.  The Colts would have a couple of great scoring chances off the hop, but would not find the back of the net. Instead, the home side would sneak one behind our goalie, which evaded the view of the head referee who was apparently out of position and would need to call on his linesman for confirmation; much to the chagrin of us watching in the stands. More scoring opportunities would come, only to be turned away or narrowly missed. 1-0 would hold up until the 13:40 mark of the final frame, when our keeper would be pulled in favour of an extra skater. The advantage would not be enough as the puck found its way into our empty net, forcing a do or die contest back on home ice.

Game four started only a few hours ago with everyone trying to say all the right things. “You’ve done it before Boys…and you can do it again.” But somehow, for me anyways, there was a more palpable bad feeling around this game borne out of the frustration of having outplayed, but not outlasted, the competition to this point. Many of us sincerely hoped, nay prayed, for another great comeback. Yet knew it would take a monumental effort with only one point to spare through the next three contests.  And for a fourth time in as many games, the Colts buzzed around the opposing net with nothing more than shots to show for it. One made scramble and several whacks at close range were somehow stifled by the other side’s large, agile netminder.  Instead, and as had become the norm of late, they trailed 1-0 heading into the third period. They were by no means out of it, but assuredly feeling the pressure of being 15 minutes away from elimination. A fellow spectator correctly observed and pointed out, “They need to get a bounce…bang in a dirty goal…just something to get them going.”  Yet, the dirty equalizing marker would not come.  With six minutes left in the game, a powerplay for the visitors after a questionable tripping penalty would result in a  doubling of their one goal lead.  Now the series and the season were indeed slipping away. Our young men would continue to battle. Goals would remain elusive. The final buzzer sounded and shortly thereafter I watched a few Boys (and Hockey Momma to be sure) wipe their eyes before entering the series-ending handshake line. Something may have inadvertently found its way into my tear ducts as well.  A wonderful, somewhat surprising, playoff run had ended sooner than any of us were ready for; particularly in light of this being the final season for a majority of our lads. Though it ended abruptly, these young men and the older men who led them can be proud of the way they competed and conducted themselves throughout the season.  The efforts of all are to be commended.

hockey team discussion

Yet, I said off the top we marked the almost-end of a minor hockey career. Almost because we’ve been notified there is one more tournament on the horizon. A coincidental affair tied to the Boy’s 18th year of existence. He’ll enter adulthood playing his beloved childhood game in an official minor hockey capacity one last time. Not to say there isn’t likely plenty of hockey in some other capacity in his future, but what more fitting conclusion to this chapter for him and a certain proud hockey dad?


Back to Barely, But Winning, Ways

Fresh off of their disappointing early playoff exit, the Sharks needed to refocus their attention this week on a four-point series to qualify for the Provincial championships, a daunting task considering the opponent; one of the only teams they hadn’t beaten all year with a less than stellar 0-1-1 record. As I’ve likely bemoaned here in the past, the whole qualification process is a little misguided as some teams, depending on their geographic location, are required to face-off against several opponents while others may automatically qualify if there is no team at their level in close proximity. In the Devil’s team’s case, the number of teams in their way was just the one.

pre-game hockey strategy

Early on in game one it was obvious the Sharks’ closest nemesis would continue to be a bee in their hockey bonnet. This series would be much like the games preceding it.  The Devil and her mates would hold the balance of play, but their scoring woes of the past couple of weeks would continue. They would be able to net a single marker, which would be matched by game’s end. A win and at least a tie in the next  two contests would be necessary if the Sharks hoped to move on. Neither was expected to a simple proposition.

However, in game two a few days later, ours was the dominant side from start to finish. The net result was a slim 2-1 victory, but at least to me it felt like the team had regained some of its swagger.  The score would have been much more lopsided had it not been for some  very good netminding between the opposing pipes.

And so, there would be  an opportunity to finish the mini-war in the third game with a draw or victory.  The script in this fifth meeting of the year between the two combatants would repeat itself as the good guys on the home side would start as the aggressors, throwing plenty of pucks at the visiting keeper. Plenty of pucks, which would be turned away time and again.  At the other end of the ice, a miscue in the defensive zone was turned into a one-goal advantage, which would remain in tact until halfway through the second period when the score was finally knotted at 1-1.  A tie would be enough, but sure wasn’t welcome by those of us with weak nerves on the sidelines. A two or three-goal victory would have been far preferred. While the girls did not provide the wanted margin, they did spend the majority of the third period in the offensive zone again registering several good scoring chances. Yet, the only other goal they would score to cap the series was an empty-netter when the visiting coach realized a draw was not enough for his crew to stave off elimination. Regardless the means, our ladies are headed to the Provincial championships for a chance to avenge their league playoff defeat.

The only problem now is the Provincials are five weeks away.  There are a bunch of practices scheduled between now and then; with a few of those likely becoming exhibition games, but ya gotta figure in a month’s time a lot of players will have lost that hockey luvin’ feelin’. It will be interesting to see how long it might take some to get back up to speed. Other teams, having advanced further, or who’ve had to battle through bigger divisions will not have had a chance to get rusty. Then again perhaps ours will surprise and be chomping at the bit. In either case, we’ll be cheering them on.

The Provincials will also set the stage for 2013-14 season rep tryouts happening in our centre just one week later. On that note, I’m going to have to get back up to speed myself as I’ve managed to secure another head coaching position; a new adventure which will no doubt provide plenty of hockey and rink-related fodder for the next 12+ months.  Feel free to send along your congratulations and/or condolences as you see fit. I’m hopeful a year’s experience followed by a year in the stands will serve me well to guide my new charges through a successful season. More on my specific plans and aspirations for next season to follow. Let’s finish this one on a high-note first. Go Sharks Go!


Playoff Hockey Highs and Lows

In fairly stark contrast to my last entry, I am going to take less pleasure in recounting the Devil’s second round playoff series.

However, before that series started the Sharks made their way a few hours north for a “tune-up” tournament.  A three-team tournament with two of the teams classified at a level above our girls.  None of us were quite sure what to expect.  We knew our ladies had competed at the highest level in their own division for a good part of the season, though not so much at the tail end or in their first round playoff series having barely survived to see round two. This mini-tourney could be a potentially good or bad thing. For the first two periods of the first game it felt like the latter. The girls were out-skated and out-battled for pretty much every puck.  A conservative shot clock dually managed by the scorekeeper indicated only a couple of shots on net having been registered. It seemingly took until the third period for the girls to realize they could skate with this team or maybe some just needed to work off the rust of a 3+ hour drive. Either way, the game would end with ours on the wrong side of a 2-0 score, much of the credit for which could be attributed to solid goaltending.

We would see how the rest of the team would respond the following morning when they would take on the home squad. Game two felt closer, similarly had some strong goaltending, but lacked scoring punch from the visitors and ended 3-0 for the home side.

The Sharks would only have a couple of hours to recover and prepare for a rematch with their game one opponent. Advancing to the Finals of this tourney was a longshot with an 0-2 record to start, so I think we all just hoped for at least a better effort since they now knew they could compete. What we got was a complete turnaround and a mark of revenge as the girls brought their A game (pun fully intended) against dumbfounded opponents. This time around our girls were the aggressors, out-skating and out-battling their latest rivals on their way to a 2-1 victory. They would need help from the keeper again, particularly down the stretch, but they were full measure for the win and pretty pleased with themselves.

Being a mini-tourney, they actually had a slim chance to move on to the Finals with a four-goal win. They would get to sleep on it and take on their hosts again in the morning. They would sleep and parents would do “hockey-parents-at-overnight-tournament” things, which I will leave at that.

Suffice it to say, the morning came earlier and more abruptly than anyone wanted it to.  We got to the rink only to find out we could have slept a little longer as someone forgot to tell the rink rat to open the joint on time.  After an hour delay, game four got underway and the Sharks battled hard again. They weren’t able to secure the multi-goal victory they needed, but represented themselves well in a 0-0 draw. With an overall strong showing in the Near North, we returned home with the next playoffs series just around the corner.

Sharks on ice

Two nights later our ladies, second-place finishers from the regular season, would face-off at home against number three. During the regular season, the Sharks were able to win three times in three tries, though everyone knew their opponents were not a team to be taken lightly. Nor were they, as our side came out strong in the first match of this four-point series. They held the balance of play for much of the game and had several scoring chances. Unfortunately, all but one of those remained chances and not goals.  The visitors were able to find the back of the net twice making game two a must win on the road. Post-game, I heard someone question if perhaps the girls were still a little tired from having played four games over three days during the weekend just past. Maybe a little emotionally if not physically fatigued.  Regardless, they would need to come back fresh to avoid elimination.

I hoped lightning would strike twice for my kids as we coincidentally and almost fatefully returned to the scene of the Boy’s team’s successful series two capper only one day prior. Surely the girls would be able to summon the strength and bounces to pull their series even at one game apiece. Again, early on they were the stronger team recording several chances (there’s that word again) to score. Their four-goal per game pace from the early regular season was not being sustained. They entered the third period 2-1, but it still felt like a comeback was within reach. They just needed to bury a few of the opportunities they were generating.  The game would indeed be knotted at two about halfway through the final frame giving everyone on our side of the glass a little hope. Hope only to be dashed a few minutes later as one of the bad guys found some open ice and fired a shot past our keeper. The same keeper was pulled from her goal with under 90 seconds left in favour of an extra attacker. But the empty net drew the attention of one more home marker. And just like that the playoff run was over. It almost didn’t seem real and certainly not fair based on the regular season success the girls had enjoyed. The only silver lining was finding out one of the Devil’s mates was credited with her first goal of the season; something she and her hockey dad had been waiting far too long for. Yet, I’m sure this was a weak consolation in light of the surprisingly quick playoff exit.

The team does have an opportunity to exact a measure of vindication with provincial playdowns still underway.  They’ll need to put their disappointment behind them and focus anew on their secondary goal.

I am hopeful of being able to report more playoff highs than lows in the coming weeks for the Boy and the Devil, though either way games will be won or lost and lessons will no doubt be learned.


Against All Hockey Odds & With a Little Help from the Hockey Gods

Just when we thought we’d been put through an unmatchable emotional wringer with the Boys in their first round series, they messed with our frail hockey parent nerves again in round two.  We all knew going in it would be an uphill battle, having to upset the second place team on the heels of having ousted the first, but we were hopeful the Boys would ride the wave of momentum they’d created.

Unfortunately, what we ended up watching in game one could only best be described as a sh*t show. The previous series, which had only ended two days earlier, had drained  the kids (much as it had us watching in the stands) both emotionally and physically. They surrendered a goal on the very first shift and the match went downhill from there with the scoreboard showing a 4-1 deficit heading into the third period. Then the fun really started as an over-zealous referee decided to put his mark on an already lopsided affair.  Now I don’t want to sound like one of those biased hockey dads, but there is simply something unfair about spending 12 of the 15 minutes of a period on the penalty kill, with the majority of it being two men down. I believe the final tally was 34 minutes in penalties for the visitors to six for the home team. What was particularly frustrating was watching our Captain trying to get clarity from the head ref on why a couple of the questionable calls were being made and being demonstratively rebuffed.  He further refused to even speak with the head coach who likewise wanted to have calls explained.  This particular referee was going to do what he was going to do without question.  The bench did what they could to try to keep the Boys’ emotions in check, but their frustration got the best of them and one was ejected from the game for what were likely unsavoury comments. Another was tossed after he took a hit to the head and retaliated with his stick. Just after the game we would find out his penalty would escalate into a four game suspension; thereby removing an important component from our side who were already underdogs. To put the cherry on this mess, the goaltender took a pretty good slash up around the neck during a scrum in the crease late in the third period prompting a visit from the team trainer aka our hockey Momma. Her attempts to get the ref to acknowledge the flagrant foul likewise went unheeded as he stood at centre ice with his arms firmly crossed. She was able to grab the ear of a linesman who actually sympathized with her saying, “This guy shouldn’t even be reffing at this level,” a damning comment to be sure. After all the drama the game ended with the Boys on the wrong side of a 6-1 drubbing, but the officiating was so bad it almost lessened the sting. The Boys did not play well and would have lost the game, but I thought the third period simply fanned the flames of their determination. Surely they would bounce back with a better effort in game two.

I was not able to attend the second game as it coincided with playoff game for the Devil. However, I was told the team indeed turned in a much better effort, though they would find themselves behind two games to none after a 2-0 loss. Pretty much everyone had a feeling the end of the kids’ run was near as it would take three victories to advance. It wasn’t feeling like the tide would turn any time soon.

I was likewise not able to be at game three as the Devil and I had ventured north for a three day weekend tournament, which generated a few stories of its own to maybe be recounted at a later date.  So I waited and watched my cell phone with bated breath expecting hockey momma to report less than favourable news.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Boys were able to grind out a 3-1 win in enemy territory.  While faint they had injected some hope back into their quest to advance to the provincial semi-finals.

Game four was played just a couple of nights ago and started out well with the two-goal hero of game three getting the ball rolling with another marker in the first period.  But the visitors would bounce back with two goals of their own and would carry a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Boys were 15 minutes away from elimination, hadn’t played a great game to that point and an uneasy feeling made its way into my stomach. The stress induced indigestion would hold firm along with the rivals’ lead until five minutes left in the third when our side managed to bang in a rebound to knot the score at 2-2. A tie would prolong the series, though the opposing side could end it with another tie to reach the magic six point threshold.  Little did we know our side had no intention on settling for a tie. As luck, or fate, would have it, my Boy would supply the heroics. He says right before a draw to the left of the rival goaltender he went up to his centreman and said, “Tie him up, I got this,” a conversation I haven’t corroborated with his linemate, but I believe him. The centreman did as he was told and the Boy swooped in from the right wing boards to throw a shot on net; a shot which found its way under the goaltender’s left arm and into the waiting mesh behind him. The home crowd erupted in near disbelief and my pride-filled heart nearly burst from my chest.  The series was tied at two games apiece with the deciding game five scheduled a mere 17 hours later back down at the enemy rink.

Could the Boys complete the surprising, amazing comeback? No other team had beaten their counterparts three games in a row all season.  We would find out early in game five our guys were more than ready to change that trend. It was their take a quick lead again courtesy of one of their hottest scorers who’d had three goals in the previous two games. He rifled a shot over the right shoulder of the keeper to provide the quick advantage.  A couple of minutes later the Boys doubled their lead, the shaky opposing goalie was yanked  and the visiting crowd around me was ecstatic. But we all hate two goal leads, particularly in such a pressure-packed game against a tremendous foe who we suspected would not go quietly.  Early in the second period the Colts would get the insurance goal we all hoped for. Yet games of this magnitude rarely end easily. In a seeming flashback to game one, the head referee suddenly found his whistle, calling no fewer than five consecutive penalties against our side. The Boys would need to fend off several minutes on the penalty kill, near the end of which they surrendered the first goal against.  However, they counted a small win in only giving up the single. The upstart visitors would head into the third period with a still precarious two goal lead. The ice flood between periods gave us all a chance to take a breath and check our unquestionably rising blood pressure.  In the third, the ref continued to emphatically blow his whistle, only this time primarily signalling penalties against the home side who probably felt they needed to play more aggressively to survive.  Instead, one of the two-man deficits they created provided an opportunity for the underdogs to extend their lead by one; more high-fives and hollers echoed from our end of the rink.  The Boys, on the shoulders of an incredible playoff-long performance by their netminder, would successfully protect their three-goal cushion and secure their spot in the next round. The Boy, in his final year of minor hockey, has now risen to the loftiest heights of his personal career thanks to a true team effort. Though I’m pretty sure if you ask any of them, they are far from done their ascent and all have their eyes firmly fixed on a berth in the Finals.

Coincidentally, I am spinning this tale from a seat looking out onto the very ice where the Boys completed their comeback a day ago, as the Devil and her crew prepare for a do or die match on a rink only a few steps away.


Stay tuned hockey fans (and maybe say a wee prayer to the hockey gods)…methinks, nay I know, there is plenty more drama to come.