Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hockey is our game

I'm writing this on the eve of the Olympic Gold Medal match-up between Canada and the United States. This is a big deal for us. It's a big deal for them too. Hockey is a great sport played, and highly valued, in many countries around the world.

For Canadians it's our national sport. We play it all across the country and every province has it's own championship. Entire states in the US haven't a clue what the fuss is all about. To be fair, not every single Canadian is a champion of the sport either.

It's a lot more personal for me. Growing up in the military and moving from community to community; hockey was a constant. In Germany, we'd go to the arena and watch my dad play teams from all over Europe. At Christmas, Santa brought us hockey sticks so that we could play in the lane with Dad. We were young kids living in a foreign land staying connected to home through a game my father grew up playing with his father and three brothers.

In Kingston, we were old hands at road hockey. Glenn Holland made me play in net because I scored more than he did. If only I'd known then that some day women would play hockey in the Olympics. I was a fairly sharp goaltender, as much for self-preservation as through skill. As a family, we'd go to OHL (Ontario Hockey League) games and watch young stars of the future.

In Summerside, PEI, I only dated hockey players. That wasn't saying much. I think every young man in our community played that sport. We drove all over the province with the Away team. My favourite rink was the one that had live trees as the corner posts of the building. On our way home we'd stop at the one and only McDonald's on the Island for a milkshake. To this day, I can't believe the machine never once worked. We'd laugh and sing all the way home. Because the military was such a small world, one of the forwards was a young man I'd played road hockey with in one of our German postings. I loved hockey so much I tried out to be a referee. I cannot tell you how many hours Dana and Gerald Walker spent trying to teach me to skate as fast as the boys so that I could keep up. I never mastered that stop without toe picks. Who knew then that balance was so far out of my control? But I aced the written part of the referee test.

We moved to a small Northern Ontario town when my dad retired from the military to become a teacher. I was a teenager and had no point of reference with these new kids. Most of them had grown up together. But they had an arena. The entire town supported that team and I made friends through a sport I knew as well as I knew my own name. The articles I wrote for the local paper helped me get into college.

I studied Broadcast Journalism at Niagara College and fought hard to be one of the first years lucky enough to cover the local hockey games. Arenas were my comfort zone. I grew up on the sport. I'd watched Tony McKegney play as a junior in Kingston, long before he hit the NHL and Buffalo. While I wasn't a stats junkie, I still knew my stuff. I convinced the teachers to give one of the cameramen and I the same hockey test. Whoever passed could do camera for the next game. I won - by a huge margin. In my second year, I was doing colour commentary for the local cable channel and getting credit in school. Two years later, crew was being determined by knowledge of the game, not gender, as it should have been all along.

I'm not sure where that passion for hockey went. Over the last few years, other things have taken precedence. I haven't been to the arena in far too long. Thanks to the Olympics all the memories of hockey in all those towns has come rushing back. This is OUR game, in large part because of geography. We play it on ponds, on roads, in lanes, arenas and television. We connect over this sport. No matter how far from home,or where our travels take us, strangers become friends and we bond over this game.

While I know the following is merely a commercial selling a product, the music at the 48 second mark perfectly illustrates how I feel where hockey is concerned. Enjoy. And no matter who wins the Olympic Gold Medal, hockey will remain Our Game. It's a lot more fun now that the rest of the world plays with us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Casey heals

Last week, as declared, I finished editing Hell to Pay. Some of those pages have layers of ink, and arrows to other pages but it's done. I'll input it next week and send it out.

Because I always travel with manuscript pages in my purse, I was able to get a lot of work done on Heal, Casey this week. You never know when there will be time to kill in a line, or while waiting for an appointment. I tend to do a lot of editing on my lunch and work breaks. I used to have days in which to write without distraction. Now my schedule is much busier and I take every opportunity I can to work on Casey's book.

I have a very strong vision, not only of the book's format, but also of its marketing. It helps that he continues to improve with every swim. Last week, he was running around the house without his brace on - four feet on the floor. Then my dad, Casey's entire reason for being, moved. The dog spun his head, then pivoted on his left foreleg. The bad leg. The one he uses for balance but doesn't trust. That's the leg he shifted all his weight onto and used to turn his body to watch His Boy's movement through the house. That was a Big Moment in the evolution of his healing.

When we went for his hydrotherapy treatment at Canine Wellness on Thursday, the book came up in conversation. They were curious about my motivation for writing it.

Not only his therapist was there but also the wonderful Janice who created his brace. I think if we'd found Pawsability when Casey first came to us, his progress would have been a lot quicker and less traumatic. He owes his improvement primarily to the women at those two facilities.

There are a lot of injured pets out there who can benefit from our experience. There are also a lot of physically challenged people like my mom who can benefit from having a pet with demanding needs. They heal each other.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celebrate love

I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day. It's another one of those commercial holidays designed to put pressure on people to spend obscene amounts of money. Nor can "they" make up their minds to whom the holiday is aimed. If it's for lovers then why are there all those cards for Grandma, cousins and co-workers? I doubt the dog cares if he gets a card or heart shaped bed, though I suspect he'd be thrilled with more treats and a belly rub.

What I can get behind is a holiday celebrating love - as long as there aren't a bunch of requirements to prove said love. Today I'm helping homeless pets find love in new homes. In years past, I've invited all my friends to drop by for a bowl of pasta, glass of wine and tons of laughter so that we could celebrate the love we feel for each other. Last night, I went out for dinner with a friend and my niece.

Tonight, I will finish writing the love story between a demon and an injured adventurer. Finally.

Enjoy your day, however you choose to spend it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


The Olympics are coming. You're going to hear the word Hero a lot. I suspect what they really mean is role model. Someone to look up to and admire. Though there are times when Olympic athletes not only inspire their fellow countrymen but also change the way the world views them.

I've been thinking about heroes. About the strong Alpha males who grace the fronts of pocketbooks. Tough guys who lead nations to greatness, save the world, get the girl. They entertain me in the realm of fiction but I suspect life with one of those heroes would be annoying in the extreme. Extreme being the operative word.

How come accountants, garbage men and busboys rarely appear as the main character? They manage crises and get the girl. Their lives may even involve the occasional high drama. Who says their lives aren't interesting?

Basically heroes are protagonists but the word hero has come to mean so much. Our expectations of such men are high. They are well nigh on perfect. And while that's hard to take in real life, for some reason we desire it in fiction.

I wonder how many of our real-life heroes would translate onto the written page. When I think of the men I admire who have changed the world, few of them did it through sword play or intrigue. Many of them quietly and steadfastly stood their ground for what they believed in.

Hero. What does it mean to you?