How to Deal When You Love Hockey, But Your Team Majorly Sucked This Season

Obviously, if you’ve read any of this blog in the past two years, you can safely determine that I am a tiny bit of a hockey fan. So, recently, faced with a new “my-Canucks-sucked-so-bad-they-didn’t-make-the-NHL-playoffs-and-oh-my-God-the-team-is-going-to-blow-up” world, a thought occurred to me. What’s it like to be a hockey fan in the depths of summer, when you have no one to cheer for? I posed this question to a friend of mine, we’ll call him Junior, and asked him to write his take of life deep into the most exciting time of the year, with nothing at all to be excited about. Is it really about the world’s best and most beautiful sport? Or do allegiances taint the love?

Junior:

It’s Wednesday, May 14th and the eyes of the hockey fans around world (really, mostly North America) are focused on the TD Boston Garden where the Bruins are set to face the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their war of attrition 2nd round playoff series. As a Vancouver Canucks fan, you would think that I would be greatly anticipating the prospect of the Bruins’ season ending at home – to a Canadian hockey team no less.

The sad fact is: I just don’t really care either way. I guess it’s a symptom of watching your favourite team’s season end before the playoffs even begin. Without a vested interest in the NHL playoffs, you find yourself saying things like “that Marchand is a talented two way forward” and “Milan Lucic sure seems like a classy fellow.”  Yes – you can become a bandwagon fan for a few weeks and cheer for a feel good story – there’s nothing wrong with that. (Editor’s Note- There is, 100% absolutely something wrong with BOTH of these former statements, and I have supporting evidence to both, but I digress.) But if you have not spent an entire season following a team through its highs and lows (and being a Canucks fan, there have been plenty of crippling, deeply dark, lows lately), that emotional component that makes the road to the Stanley Cup so exhilarating is noticeably absent. In other words, I could give a duck. It’s impossible to feel good about hockey in general when you realize that in the span of about eight months, your team went from being a high-calibre, playoff ready squad, to having two rookies in net, lowest scoring totals in half a decade, and an injury list that could reach Los Angeles.

Playoff Hopes

 And this is how I have come to feel strangely indifferent about the NHL playoffs this spring without the Vancouver Canucks’ involvement. There were never any potential second or third round match ups to worry about. Never any lineup controversies to get into a heated argument discuss with co-workers. Never any ridiculous time pumping quotes to analyze. No, being a hockey fan come playoff time when your team does not even qualify for postseason play is an altogether dreary experience. It’s like knowing someone’s going to win the lottery, someone you know, maybe even like a little, and you’re not even getting a penny of it. Maybe admitting this fact makes me a sad excuse for a hockey fan, but it also makes me an honest hockey fan. I’m a one-team, and one-team only kind of guy.

 The rest of you can enjoy watching hockey well into June. I’ll be sitting by a swimming pool somewhere eagerly awaiting (and maybe dreading) October.

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Church is in Session (The NHL is upon us)

The first week of October is brings with it many great things. Pumpkins start arriving on porches throughout my neighbourhood; the few deciduous trees in my lovely province begin to turn elegant shades of yellow, orange and red;  and cooler temperatures arrive, meaning sweater weather is upon us. Best of all, this means I can dust off my superstitions and get ready for another year for heart palpitating, anger-inducing and family-tie-testing hockey.

Yes, it’s Christmas in October for us die-hard fans. This year is especially great, coming off an NHL lockout that tested loyalties last year, a new collective bargaining agreement in place and rosters set, we can finally get rolling on a real season. I mentioned superstitions before, and I was not kidding. I take hockey very seriously. Last night, the first game of the season was on deck for my team, the Vancouver Canucks. I never, ever, watch the first game of the season. The handful of season openers I have watched, we’ve lost, embarrassingly so.

It’s for this reason I did my absolute best to avoid it on TV last night. Unsurprisingly, my brother-in-law turned it on at one point. Of course, I couldn’t look away. What was the result? Up 1-0 after two periods, and lost 4-1. I told them. I explicitly said, I don’t want to watch it, I can’t. So, thanks RDK, thanks a whole damn lot. I mean, sure, the Canucks historically seriously suck in October, but we didn’t need to start off with a loss.

Now begins 8 months of agony and boundless gloating. Things on the family front will stay stagnant until about December, then with the holiday cheer will come new levels of torment from kin and friends. This is life in Canada. People actually do get together on Saturday nights to “watch the game(s)”, it is our past-time. The Americans have baseball, football and Budweiser. We have hockey, poutine and Don Cherry. It’s just how the cookie crumbled.

Buckle up, gang this blog will continue to have light hockey commentary until hopefully June 2014. Next year is the year that keeps on giving in that sense, NHL and the Sochi Games will take place, and hopefully a Canadian repeat is in store for gold.

Hockey Heartbreak

I am writing this in advance of my team’s fourth (and potentially final) game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I am by no means admitting defeat, in any way shape or form, of my beloved Canucks to the San Jose Sharks.

Today, I am here to confess that I am a hockey instigator. In no way do I claim to know all about hockey, rather the opposite.  However, I am no slouch. I know teams, most relevant stats, player statuses and rumours inside and out. It is this knowledge that becomes my best friend and mortal enemy during playoff season.  You see, I am not what one would call a “silent spectator”. Sure, I watch games in relative silence, I enjoy the peace, for goodness sakes we all know I have to watch the first period of a regular season game on mute! Playoff hockey brings out the Jekyll in me. I am a raging, high-strung, stressed-out, heart-racing, clawing-at-my-jersey, monster. A monster. There, I said it.

This can best be exemplified by my actions last Friday evening. I was having a girls day out, ending of course in time for puck drop to go spend the evening with my boys. We watched Ottawa and Montreal play, Montreal winning 3-1, and I convinced the keeper of the remote to play the Vancouver-San Jose game immediately after. Down after 20 minutes, Ryan Kesler (Kes-lord to you plebes), strapped the Canucks on his back to score twice in the third, ensuring a Canucks win, with a minute left to play, right?  Wrong. Patrick Marleau, ever invisible, scored the game-tying-goal at 19:04 in the final frame.

Now, until this point, I was quiet. Occasionally looking skyward, praying to the hockey gods for a goal or four to break the opposing goalie’s Berlin Wall-esque demeanour. There were  a few groans on bad hockey plays, and a few instances of shouting at the TV while the boys looked on at me in disbelief. I only acutely resembled this guy, I swear!

At 19:04 of the third, everything changed. I made the quick decision to split, immediately.  Forcing myself to bust-my-butt to get home for the start of overtime (OT).  I explained to the boys that I did not want them to see me “that way”, and scurried out the door. You see, OT makes me freak out. The sit in a corner of my room, rock back and forth and repeat “come on boys” kind of freak out. I am a mess when it comes to sudden-death overtime, why? Because that’s it. That’s all she wrote. No re-dos, no play out the rest of the period, that’s it.  Your goose is effectively cooked, and being down 2-0 in a series is never, ever a good thing, even worse when your next two games of a seven game series are in the other team’s house. Last Friday, I made it home for OT. I loaded up a stream in time to hear iron ring and pray to God that puck hit the post a few inches inside the bar, and not out.  God did not answer those prayers. A minute later, the Sharks scored, the game was over and my team is headed for what many feel is a second consecutive ousting in the first round of the playoffs.

Losing did not sting as badly as it should have. Losing in OT, when your team out hustled, out hit and out shot the winners is the stinger.  This, friends, is hockey heartbreak, and this is why I am writing this today, ahead of game four, down 0-3 in the series with supposedly no hope left. Friday night was heartbreak night, Sunday was time to be enthused and hopeful for 40 minutes, and then watch your team implode night. I have hope. There will be a game 5, at least. There has to be, because if not, I have to hear it from my “friends”, the Leafs fans, in particular, who after 9 years of ridicule, shame, and constantly cheering for a team who fails to live up to expectations, they will seek their revenge.

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Hockey 101

I am blogging once again during the intermission of a Canucks game. (Quick update- we’re on a three game win streak, capped by a lovely outing against the in-laws’ team, Detroit, Wednesday night). The theme of tonight’s post is based on the request of my friend to “teach her hockey, fast, so she can talk to a boy”. Well my dear, it’s Christmas, so your wish is my command. (It’s a one-time deal, so consider yourself cashed in). Below is my “cliff-notes” version of Hockey 101 for rookies.

Long story short, she’s interested in a Senators hockey-fanatic guy, and by proxy would like to learn the game to a point where should there be a potential for some quality time, she could pass with flying colours. Let’s start with the basic layout of the game.

Hockey is played in three 20 minute periods with intermissions of 15 minutes between. There are five men per team on the ice during play: the forwards- Right Wing, Center, Left Wing, Left and Right Defensemen and the Goalie. The players are formed into lines (the forwards), and pairings (Defensemen), both rotate throughout the course of the game. The goalie is the only player who normally plays a full 60 minute game, whereas the players average around 15-25 minutes per game, depending upon their position. So, to the rink we go. I’ve attached a photo of the rink layout below to help this explanation along. NHL rink specifications of 200 feet (61 m) × 85 feet (26 m). The corners are rounded in the arc of a circle with a radius of 28 feet (8.5 m). The NHL attacking zones are expanded, when compared to international ice sheets, with blue lines 64 feet (20 m) from the goal line and 50 feet (15 m) apart.

Next up, we go over a few basic penalty calls. Penalties are called when an infraction occurs against the NHL rulebook and the penalized team services between 2 minutes and 4 minutes in the box, giving a man advantage to the opposing team. When a penalty is handed out, the penalized team is on the “PK” (penalty kill) and the team with the man-advantage is on the “PP” (power play). Below is a basic run through of penalties that can be called during play.

Boarding– Checking a player violently into the boards.

Charging- Violently hitting an opponent as a result of speed and distance traveled, or by leaving their feet to deliver a hit.

Elbowing- Using an extended elbow to make contact with an opponent.

Holding- Impeding an opponent by grabbing onto them.

Butt-Ending- Jabbing an opponent with the knob of their stick.

Cross Checking- Checking an opponent with the shaft of the stick held in both hands.

High-Sticking- Hitting a player in the head or shoulders with a stick. A penalty (a single minor-2 minutes if no blood is drawn; a double minor-4 minutes, if blood is drawn).

Hooking- Impeding an opponent by placing the blade of a stick into their body.

All right, after this, I’m not sure anyone can handle more information. But, these are the basics to get you going, to sit through a game, comprehend it, and most of all enjoy it.

Who said you can’t wear heels and be knowledgeable about hockey?

 

Trees, sticks and pucks, Oh my!

Preparation is now in full swing here in south-west British Columbia. It’s bitingly cold out of doors (sadly no snow yet), children are losing their minds in local shopping malls, and everyone seems to be in one of two distinct moods: Happy or Anxious. The latter mood, probably stemming from too many commitments in too little time. December creeped up on these sorrowful few, and slapped them straight across the face, it seems.

I fall firmly in the “Happy” camp. I love Christmas, I love winter, and I like the overall feeling of people attempting to be generous towards each other for a few weeks a year. Yes, I suppose I am a romantic at heart, lord help us, the jig is up.

The festivities started in earnest this week, with my first ever Christmas tree-chopping excursion! (Thanks, RDK!) I went in blind, so-to-speak. A Christmas tree farm novice, we hunted, and scoured for the most perfect tree in Richmond at H&M Christmas Tree Farm, settling upon a “Noble Fir” after a mere two hours in pursuit. I now know more about finding the perfect tree than I ever dreamed possible. From needle type, to shape, to fullness, and overall lasting ability. I bet next year, we’ll wrap this up in twenty minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the seeking out the perfect tree. I just feel that the act of doing so is really beckoning the sense of nostalgia attached to it, particularly for my brother-in-law and his childhood. I can imagine what sort of family adventure this would have been for him as a tyke, waist-deep in snow in the depths of the US mid-west. Now, that’s a family holiday memory to cherish, and I can only hope the same for my (eventual) family, and now my sister’s family with him.

My parents are not normally the Christmas celebrating type. Sure, growing up we’d have a nice meal with family friends, but no gift exchange, no holiday traditions or “must-have-menu-items”. I think having that fresh influence in the family is a good thing moving forward, family’s all we’ve got these days as a constant in our lives, why not spend more time enjoying them? We’ll be getting together for a Swedish-infused meal on Christmas Eve this year with friends, which I am absolutely looking forward to. Until then, there is a lot to be done. Christmas decorating, parties, baking, and gifting, all of which are items on my to-do list.

Decorating was in to full swing at my sister’s after our tree adventure, and I got a first-hand taste of how intense, and awesome it can be. There’s something to be said about walking into a house with a real tree, and the smell that engulfs you. That woodsy, comfortable, homey smell. It smells like holidays, and I love it. It’s like narcotics for your olfactory system,  just legal. This should go without saying, but I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there this season. Couple this fragrance with the little surprises sprinkled throughout the house, and I’m in heaven. We’re talking about chocolate just materializing on tables, little centrepieces here and there, garland on the mantles, a fire going. Everything completely and utterly cliche, and perfect. We set to work decorating both trees rather quickly. Yes, two trees, the aforementioned tree, and an artificial “family tree” on the lower floor- one that would be a hodgepodge of ornaments and popcorn string; the bigger one on the main floor being colour coordinated to a certain extent. Technically, three trees, if you count the pint sized little fella in the office. Christmas went and threw up all over this house.

This certainly sounds picturesque, a family around their tree, hanging ornaments, humming along to carols, and it was. At least until my parents called, asking about puck drop time on the Canucks game. That was when my older sister, now referred to as that misguided “Toronto Maple Leaf Fan”, decided to add some two bit commentary about my beloveds. “Doesn’t matter what time the game’s on at guys, you know the Canucks are gonna lose anyway”. Oh. No. You. Didn’t. You see, eventually everything can come back to hockey in this family, even Christmas. I should mention at this point that the Maple Leafs fell to the Boston Bruins the night previous, in a stinker of a game. Oh, additionally, I should point out that the Canucks beat the Calgary Flames 5-1 down a defenceman and forward. See how she’s misguided? Now, when I say everything comes down to hockey, I mean it. In our little family, we have 3 main camps: the right, the misguided, and legacy. My mom, middle sister and her husband are on “team right” – the Canucks. The sister mentioned throughout this blog, well, she’s the misguided Maple Leaf fan. This brings us to the legacy, the brother-in-law from the US. A black sheep, if you would. He cheers for Team USA, and the Detroit Red Wings (as does his entire family- no joke). You can imagine dinner conversations, and you’d probably be right in whatever it is you’re assuming. Now, come playoff time, take your assumption and multiply by about 10. That’s when things get real, and hostile. Makes for interesting family get togethers, doesn’t it? To top it off, the culprits of most debates are our mothers. Oh, family.

So, how does hockey come back to Christmas, holidays and great memories?  The fact that both trees in my sister’s house are littered with ornaments of varying hockey importance, (and the slideshow below) should speak to this. It is a bit more involved than simple decor for me: I spent the last two years of my high school life playing road hockey with my closest friends throughout the winter holidays. As a result, I have a hard time disassociating the two now. I remember drawing the short stick for goalie, taking a slap shot to the thigh, or scoring my first goal in three outings. Most of all, I remember that feeling: not having to get up for school, laughing so hard my stomach hurt, running in to the house for tea or hot chocolate and something delicious out of the oven; smiling so much my cheeks couldn’t settle, and every one of us on the floor of my friend’s living room around his tree.. Being outdoors with your best friends, having a great time causing a ruckus, and tying those moments to a time of year is what the holiday spirit is meant to be. Something to illicit nostalgia, years down the road, and setting a precedent you would want your own to emulate. When I stated in my first post that hockey was a religion for me, I was half-joking, of course. However, if religion is defined as “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance“, (Oxford English Dictionary), something you believe in, and accept in your day to day life, in my case, I guess I wasn’t too far off, was I?

Just something to think on, friends.

xo,
Meera

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Ponder Me This

Meteora, Greece (2009)

Bear with me as I attempt to make sense of my random thoughts and creative outbursts in this blog. I’ll predominantly blog about food: my favourite dishes; techniques and step-by-step instructions on recipes new and old; as well as some arts and crafts blurbs; travel and travel goals, tips, tricks, aspirations; the occasional guest blog by a friend or two; and most definitely my two or ten cents on the world of hockey. (I’m Canadian, hockey is a religion, not an option).

The notion of a blog was first proposed to me by my sister about six months ago, I kept putting it off, thinking it was too savvy, hi-tech or too time-demanding for me to keep up with. Then, as life so often does, it threw a curveball. I found myself re-assessing my goals and life direction, with a lot more time on my hands. Her original proposal was to get back to something I was passionate about: writing and sports. Or, more specifically, writing about sports. So, without further ado, let’s get my bias’ out of the way- I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan. That does not mean I am incapable of being impartial in my peanut gallery commentary, it just means I’ll stick up for the home team more often than not. Hockey is not my sole sports obsession, either. I regularly follow football (Arsenal); American football (Patriots); baseball (Red Sox) and basketball (Mavericks). To ensure you are able to grasp my love for hockey, I should inform you I am currently writing this blog post during national anthems, and TV time-outs during the Canucks game at the moment. Now that’s what I call bad ass.

Needless to say, my sister’s encouragement back in the spring did not lead to this blog manifesting any sooner than today. The final push was the urging of a few friends, who, after sampling my cooking prowess encouraged me to post recipes and dishes for them to sample. Kind of like a virtual dinner party. I figure, hey, it’s December, I’ll be cooking, baking, and basically committing delicious gluttony all month long, why not write about it? I firmly and adamantly believe that food can unite people, and that people who cook and feed others are probably the most generous, candid and best people on earth. (Not to mention, their kitchen dancing skills are amazing).

I hope to post something twice a week, so, for those friends of mine reading this- don’t be afraid to give me a kick in the pants about it from time to time.

I leave you today with a sneak peek Christmas baking line-up for 2011, and what you (and my local friends) get to look forward to:
– Chocolate Chip Cookies
– Sugar Cookies
– Mocha Bites
– Checkerboard Cookies
– Lemon Wreaths
– Ginger Sisters
– Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie
– Raspberry Cheesecake
– Tiramisu

xo,
Meera