Sunday, March 27, 2011

Today in Glenn Hall history -- Tuesday, March 29, 1966

Boston 2 at Chicago 4

The Black Hawks moved to within two points of league-leading Montreal with their 4-2 victory over Boston tonight. The Hawks opened with a 2-0 lead on a first period goal by Lou Angotti and a second period marker by Doug Mohns. The pesky Bruins battled back, with Ron Stewart and Johnny Bucyk beating Glenn Hall to even the score. But Bill Hay restored the Chicago lead later in the second, and Phil Esposito notched his 27th of the season to round out the scoring.

This was a memorable game for Hall as he drew a ten-minute misconduct in the second period. The puck was sent down the ice by the Bruins into the Chicago zone. Linesman Brian Sopp signalled icing and Hall relaxed. Out of Hall's vision, the other lineseman, John D'Amico, waived off the icing call. The puck bounced crazily in front of Hall's crease and Johnny Bucyk swooped in to bat the puck past the unsuspecting Hall. Mr. Goalie chased after the officials all the way to the penalty timer's bench but received no satisfaction -- just the misconduct penalty. Trivia fans will note that Pat Stapleton served the penalty for Hall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Grow up, Vancouver

You’d think that the good burghers of Vancouver, after having performed the Herculean tasks of (a) landing the Winter Olympic games, and (b) executing a most efficient and tidy preparation for those games, would have, in the eight-year process, generated ample self-confidence and possibly even an obnoxious swagger of equally Herculean proportions. If they showed it, I wouldn’t complain. I’d be the first to say they’d earned it.

But apparently not so.

After the opening ceremonies – a/k/a “kitsch and glitch” – and the international chorus of arched eyebrows and yawns and catcalls which ensued – their collective self esteem collapsed in a fashion strikingly similar to a 13-year old who discovers a whopper of a pimple on their nose the morning of yearbook photo day.

You know, that calm, measured, reasoned reaction:




Word was received earlier today that some groups of volunteers working at the Games were read an epistle, presumably to buoy their sagging spirits in the light of shameful taunts from the international community.

In a real Dave-Barry-I-am-not-making-this-up spirit, I am pleased to reproduce the tract in its entirety … with some fair-minded qualifications in parentheses to some of the more egregious claims:

This is for all the PROUD Canadians working for the games!

We never claimed to be perfect,

That means we’ve learned to be humble.

We say excuse me and I'm sorry…as well as please and thanks,

Even when its not our fault we apologize.

Sure one arm of the torch didn't rise, (you spent $30 million on the opening ceremonies, and I saw some great costumes and all, but why not a redundant hydraulic cylinder or a $500 limit switch? Ah, Canada … the land of the Avro Aero and the Canadarm, once we could lead the world in some cutting-edge technologies … now, give us millions and we’ll pour it into veneer and frills, but not on hardware. I can see the international community lining up to invest in our manufacturing sector)

But when the earthquake struck Haiti, Canadians raised their hands to say…”We’ll help.” (Indeed, individual Canadians have been very generous, donating at least $113 million, matched by $113 million from the federal government, for a total of $226 million. But what, the rest of the world sat by and twiddled thumbs? Individual Americans donated at least $774 million, with $655 million (so far) from their federal government (USAid and DoD), for a total of $1.429 billion.)

And yah, there is a fence around the torch, (no doubt cleverly designed with aesthetics to pay homage to that oppressed class of Canadians [prisoners] forcibly incarcerated at Oakalla)

But you can walk right up and shake hands with our prime minister and most famous Canadians.
(uh, do the phrases “Pepper Spray” and “Chretien” when strung together mean anything to Vancouverites? And considering that Canada (i.e. Chretien) turned its back on its best ally and bailed on the Coalition of the Willing … if you don’t irritate the extremists of the international community, no, they don't want to take a swing at you or blow up your Skytrain or knock down your buildings. Such are the benefits of not taking a stand)

We put Gretzky in the back of a pick up, in the rain, not surrounded by police…and he was okay,
And by the way... the great one is Canadian…and HE wasn’t complaining! (WHAT!!! Did CTV not show the look of seething disgust in his eyes while he waited … and waited … and WAITED … while the torch arm failed to launch??? That came through loud and clear on NBC!)

We do have security at the games, of course, but most people don't even have a gun they have to leave at home. (Correct. Thanks to Chretien’s $1.5 billion gun registry, only criminals are allowed to carry guns in Canada)

The medals ARE under lock and key, but our doors and our hearts are open to the world. (As open as ... as open as ... well, as open as are the locks to the Tasers with which to welcome Caucasian immigrants to our friendly and welcoming country)

It has been pointed out that some buses broke down last week (Holy Lake Placid, Batman ... do you think with the Olympic Games going on and all, maybe we should do maintenance on our bus fleet?) …but let’s not overlook the fact that our banking system didn't. (Excuse me. I think you just offended the entire nation of Greece with that remark. Care to apologize?)

We didn't get the "green ice maker" right this time…but we will, eventually,
Just like we did when we invented the zamboni. (“We”? Ahem … good thing there is no gold medal for fact checking. The Zamboni was invented by Frank Zamboni, American citizen, in Paramount, California, because the Canadian system of drawing water and tipping barrels to flood the ice was too inefficient. The Canadian Brotherhood of Coopers has never recovered)

Citius altius fortius

If you don't reach higher how do you get faster and stronger? (Stanozolol?)

Was the first quad jump perfect? (The judges don't even look for it anymore, according to Elvis Stojko)

Should we not have given snowboarding to the world "in case" it didn’t take off? (I hear that the Jamaican snowboarding team is hoping to “own the podium” this year, if they can only get by those pesky Egyptians and Uruguayans. Actually, I shouldn't mock snowboarding. It's as legitimate an Olympic winter sport as the others that Canada has proposed and the IOC is considering for 2014 in Sochi, like Short Track Ice Fishing, Snowmobile-X, and Making Snow Angels in Fresh Powder Snow)

So big deal…one out of four torch arms didn't rise. Good thing we had three more! It’s called contingency planning! (It’s also called failing in 1/4 th of your design objective, albeit with a small audience of only like 1200 million people watching)

But remember…the Canadarm works every time (yes it was a piece of Canadian mechanical ingenuity which actually worked more than 3/4 ths of the time, and it was developed back in the 1970’s when we invested in technology ... and what did Canada [MacDonald Dettwiler] do with the technology? We SOLD IT!! To an American buyer, of course) …in outerspace…and insulin turned out to be okay. (much better than rice beer)

We couldn't change the weather, but maybe we can help to stop global warming. (uh, didn’t the [disgraced] head of the East Anglia Research Unit just admit last Sunday that there has been no statistical warming of the earth over the past 15 years? Isn’t the Antarctic ice mass growing [inconveniently]? I’ve got some flat earth in Florida you might be interested in…)

We don't have the tax base of the US or the power of the Chinese but, per capita, we ponied up for some pretty kick-ass venues in the worst global recession ever. (Oh, you mean like that spanking new figure skating venue [1967, PNE money], the hockey venue [1995, Griffiths money], and all other venues and infrastructure for which funds were committed before the recession even hit?)

Sure, some folks couldn't afford tickets, but our health care is universal. (And 10 out of 10 9 out of 10 provincial premiers agree!!!! – [Hat Tip: Danny from St. John’s, Newfoundland])

We have shown the world that we can raise our voices in celebration and song, but moments later stand in silence to respect a tragic event...together...spontaneously…and unrehearsed.

What's more, we don't need permission from anyone to have a slam poet, fiddlers with piercings and a lesbian singer tell our story to the world while our multilingual female Haitian-born, black head of state shares a box with her first nations equals. (Or to totally embarrass the rest of the country in front of the world with the national anthem. Did the slam poet get permission from Molson’s for lamely ripping off the “I am Joe and I am Canadian” concept? Though, we did appreciate the impromptu 6-minute bathroom break we got when the Fred Ewanuick lookalike floated … and floated … and floated … and floated stultifyingly during that Joni Mitchell song. And if Bryan Adams, whose career peaked before the Calgary Olympics, was relevant, then where were Trooper and April Wine and Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers and Rolf Harris? I'm actually surprised DOA and Steve Fonyo [with J. Bob Carter] weren't part of the festivities in the interests of inclusiveness)

We’ve shown the world that it doesn’t always rain in Vancouver, that you can strive for excellence, but not get hung up on perfection. (great! Next, try working on not being hung up on criticism!)

And we’ve learned what it feels like to be picked on by some no-name newspaper guy and we don’t have to take it lying down! (great! Next, try working on not being hung up on criticism!)

So the point is not the snow, or the hydraulics or a couple guys being 5 minutes late to a ceremony,
We know we’re lucky that these are the biggest problems we've had to deal with in the last couple weeks.

So take your cheap shots…Guardian newspaper and cynics of the world,

We're bigger and better than that.

What's more we're finally starting to believe it!
(If you did believe any of it, would any of this creed have been necessary at all?)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

ObamaCare versus NobamaCare

Being a Canadian and married to an American means having American in-laws, which means usually that once per visit, I will be asked by somebody on my wife's side of the family what I think of the Canadian Health Care system.

I used to be pretty smug about the Canadian system. Even after the time when we lived in Peterborough (1998) and found that family doctors were, uh, "rationed", and because once, in a pinch, we saw a GP in Lakefield about a bug that our son had, that one visit therefore committed us to that doctor to be our family doctor.

And when we wanted to find a family doctor in Peterborough, since that was where we actually lived, well, first we had to get a signed letter from the Lakefield doctor "releasing us from his care", as a precondition just to apply to a new GP starting practice in Peterborough to be his patients. So Dr NewDoctor, who had collected one or two PhD's before seeking the challenge of his MD (think: subsidized post-secondary education), interviewed us so he could determine if we would be suitable patients for his fledgling practice. Which, because of our relative youth (at the time) and lack of impending ailments, thusly we were found to be not suitable. In the which case we suddenly became orphans of the medical welfare state, having formally cut our ties with the Lakefield doctor but then being ajudged too healthy for the liking of the one doctor in Peterborough (population 67,000) who deigned to take on new patients.

But I still maintained the superiority complex, even up to the time in Trail BC (2001) when we felt our 18-year old son could stand an MRI as a follow-up on his neurofibromatosis. So after a preliminary consultation with our family GP, we obtained a referral to the nearest specialist, who was a 50 mile drive away (Nelson BC).

When the wait for that appointment with the specialist was finally over and my wife and son made the 50 mile (each way) drive, we possessed a referral for an MRI ... which placed our son on a waiting list ... which would take between 9 and 18 months to work through ... and would be performed in Calgary AB, a nine hour drive east.

We moved to Ontario at the end of 2002 and never did get a call for the MRI. But before we left BC, I had a brief discussion with my chief technologist at work. He was a Canadian, married to an American, and he spoke glowingly about the American health care system.

I asked him if he was a little off his rocker, since the Canadian system was still undeniably, er, incredibly, er, overwhelmingly, er, somewhat superior to the American health care system.

He replied that actually, he was doing the paperwork to be able to move to and work in the US. All because of the health care system.

"Hey Rob," he continued, pulling down his coveralls and opening up his shirt to reveal a gruesome scar on his chest. "I've got a pig valve in there."

"A what?" I meekly responded.

"A pig valve in my heart. I've got a piece of a pig in my heart. And," he went on, "the way I see it, if I'm living in the United States, and I need a repair to my heart, I'm going to get it."

"And it's going to cost you a fortune. It's going to bankrupt you!" I retorted.

"Exactly!" was his response.

I was not expecting that response.

"If I'm still in Canada, I'm on a waiting list" he continued. "And I'll probably die before I get repaired. If I'm in the US, I get it repaired the next day. And I'll be $75,000 in debt. And I am going to have to work the rest of my life to pay off that debt."

"But," he continued, "I would rather work the rest of my life to pay off that debt, than not have the rest of my life."

Which is one of the reaons why I, as a resident Canadian married to an American and with a keen interest in what is happening in the US, agree that ObamaCare must be stopped at all costs.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The New Year's Eve I Almost Partied with Frank Sinatra (a true story)

Okay, it's a snazzy title, but it is a true story and I really was disputably close to celebrating New Year's with Frank.

And it's a long story, but I will try to curtail my digressions ...

It was the Christmas break in 1981 and three of us 3rd-year engineering students at UBC in Vancouver BC had decided to do something really adventurous -- drive down to sunny California for the holidays.

Our organization was deplorable. The plan had been hatched in March 1981 and originally had five participants. But Richard Glue failed out that spring, and then Gary Sheffler backed out on December 23. That left myself and two classmates, Henry Man and David Fry.

We met at a Rent-A-Wreck in downtown Vancouver on Boxing Day, figuring we could just stroll in on a statutory holiday and rent a car. Amazingly, we could.

Feeling self-conscious about being the only traveller without a three-letter last name, I signed for the car. We had about $300 US cash amongst the three of us. Our collective analytical skills had determined that we could arrive in Los Angeles in 24 hours if we drove non-stop and rotated the driving.

Our arrival in LA was delayed by 24 hours for other amusing reasons, but we did make it and lived it up. We were staying in the le Parc hotel in LA and watched the sports news the night Wayne Gretzky scored 5 goals against the Flyers and hit 50 goals in 39 games.

The next morning, New Year's Eve, Henry suggested we visit a fellow UBC engineering student, Eddie Wentworth, whose family lived in 'nearby' Palm Desert. Eddie was taking Mechanical engineering and I never thought any of us knew him very well, but Henry was in Eddie's drafting class two years earlier, so I suppose that constituted a sufficient bond. Somehow, Henry found out that Eddie would be back home with his family for the holidays, and being the forthright person he is, Henry essentially invited us over to Eddie's place for the holidays. Eddie, being way too nice a guy, agreed. (Or maybe he was just not able to say no to Henry).

We were driving in the dark and were lost somewhere around Hemet, but grooving to the tunes of radio station XTRA, "the Mighty 690". All we had were some scribbled directions and Eddie's phone number. Being males, we ignored both sources of information and kept driving.

Finally, as we were becoming most unfashionably late for a New Year's Eve dinner, panic set in. A review of the directions suggested we were excruciatingly close, but must just be missing a minor detail. There was a phone booth outside a lonely but closed grocery story, so Henry and Dave tumbled out to call Eddie for directions. I opted for plan B, which was to make my way over to the Ranger station across the road.

It was pitch black, except for a street light by the phone booth across the road, one light outside the Ranger station, and one light inside. I knocked on the door but drew no response. Hearing voices and moving inexorably toward the light, I found myself looking into the kitchen and knocked on the window.

A Ranger was washing dishes at the sink; the sink was right below the window. When I banged loud enough, he looked up and was startled to see someone staring back at him. He motioned me to come to the front door.

Opening it cautiously, he asked me what I wanted. I told him I needed directions to the Wentworth's house. He asked me where the Wentworths lived and I said, "Pinyon Crescent".

He stopped short, looked me in the eyes, paused, and then demanded, "who do you know who lives on Pinyon Crescent?"

"The Wentworths!" I replied cheerfully. I assumed he must have known who they were.

He pulled out a plot plan and studied it carefully. With an air of surprise he declared, "well, what do you know, there is a Wentworth on Pinyon Crescent. How do you know them?"

"Oh, my friend Henry Man was in Eddie Wentworth's drafting class, and Eddie is home for Christmas, and he invited us for dinner tonight. How do we get there?"

The Ranger recited some directions which sounded simple enough, but did so as if describing how to defuse a bomb. When he got to the point about a fork in the road, his words became halting and he explained, "you turn left at the fork. Not right. You turn left. Understand? You turn left."

"Uh, sure. Left at the fork. Sure. Thanks!" I stammered.

"Remember, you turn left at the fork. And you're going to see the Wentworths, right?"

Wow, I thought. Eddie's family must be pretty special to get this kind of personal protection! I was daydreaming what kind of a mansion they must have -- maybe a swimming pool! A private vineyard and wine cellar! This must be California at its best!

I crossed the road back to the car, delighted that I had scored the good directions at last. But the wind was taken from my sails when Henry and David announced that Eddie was going to drive down to meet us and drive us to his place.

In about 20 minutes, Eddie arrived and we exchanged greetings, as if we were all old friends. Eddie told us to follow him in his car.

After about 15 minutes of slow going uphill on a dark, unlit road, Eddie stopped his car ahead of us in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. He got out and motioned us to get out, too.

Being a rational engineering student, my thoughts naturally turned to something logical like Eddie pulling out a gun, tying us up, robbing us and pushing us down the hill. What a way to go. I wouldn't even find out if I had passed Thermodynamics II.

But Eddie had his usual pleasant disposition and told us we were at a fork in the road. Aha! I knew where we were.

So did Eddie. He told us we had to follow him left to his house, because if we went right, we would be approaching Frank Sinatra's driveway.

* * *

We had a nice dinner with the Wentworths, and then Eddie took us to a night club in Palm Springs called Nasty's to ring in the New Year, and we had a decent time. But deep down I wished we had accidentally taken a right instead of a left, and partied with ol' Blue Eyes like it was 1982.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Today in Glenn Hall history -- Tuesday, March 28, 1961

Montreal 5 at Chicago 2 Dickie Moore's goal at 17:57 of the first period put the Montreal Canadiens in front 2-1, a lead they would never relinquish as they won going away, 5-2. The win for Montreal tied the best-of-seven semi-final at two games apiece. Ex-Hab Dollard St-Laurent tied the score for the Black Hawks after Phil Goyette opened the scoring. Second period goals by Billy Hicke and another by Moore and a third period tally by Hicke were too much for the Hawks. Stan Mikita scored the other Chicago goal on a rebound of a Bobby Hull shot.

The two goals for Moore were a redemption of sorts -- he drew a penalty in game three which caused Montreal coach Toe Blake to take a swing at referee Dalton McArthur. NHL President Clarence Campbell hit Toe with a $2,000 fine for those actions. The Hawks were playing without Ab McDonald, a key member of the Scooter Line with Mikita and Kenny Wharram. Despite losing, Hall was sensational in the nets for the Black Hawks. They were outshot 26-4 in the first period alone, and an incredible 60-21 for the game. The Canadiens were a powerhouse and were trying to win their sixth Stanley Cup in a row. But the Hawks, with Hall tending the nets, polished off Montreal in six games in this series and Detroit in the next, to put an end to Montreal's reign and claim the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Today in Glenn Hall history -- Wednesday, March 27, 1963

Chicago jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup semi-final series with Detroit by defeating the Red Wings 5-4 at the Chicago Stadium.

Hawk coach Rudy Pilous devised a keen bit of strategy before the game, switching the positions of Eric Nesterenko and Ab McDonald to enable "Elbows" Nesterenko to shadow Detroit's Gordie "Elbows" Howe.

The strategy worked -- Howe was held to only two shots on Glenn Hall for the entire game.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Today in Glenn Hall history -- March 23, 1967

Definitely not a night to remember for Mr. Goalie. It was the last game of the 1957-58 season and the Black Hawks had already been eliminated from the playoffs. They must have been comparing Monday morning tee times, because the Boston Bruins blitzed Hall and the Hawks for five first period goals en route to a 7-5 win.

Hall showed no partiality, as seven different Beantowners put the puck behind him. The Hawks clawed back to a 6-4 deficit before Jerry Toppazzini put them out of their misery with a back-breaking goal at 16:43 of the third.

The Black Hawks finished the season at 24-39-7, good for 55 points, fourteen behind fourth-place Boston, but three ahead of last-place Toronto (who finished in the basement for the first time in their existence).

But two seasons later, the Black Hawks -- backstopped by Glenn Hall -- would win the Stanley Cup.

My Dad, one year on

I caught the 7:30 pm flight from Toronto to Edmonton, on business. I had a pounding headache that not even a Tim Horton's french vanilla cappuccino, consumed quickly at the airport terminal, could fully quench. The plane was only about 1/3 full and I had the whole row of three seats to myself. I sat in the middle seat and set up shop. I unpacked my duffel bag and marked up (corrected) about 120 vendor drawings, most with the same tedious corrections. I felt good that I was able to carve into the mountain of work I had been swamped with in early 2004.

We landed in Edmonton at about 9:30 local time, and I buzzed through the Wendy's drivethru for a hamburger in Nisku and was on my way to Fort Saskatchewan by 10:00 pm. It was just before 11:00 by the time I got to the hotel.

I checked in and the night clerk handed me a slip of paper. "You have a message to phone home." I figured Alexa wanted to know I had landed safely and maybe had a story about Rocky to tell me. I nodded and smiled. She kept her gaze fixed at me and said, "It's important." And I nodded and smiled again. I figured Alexa wanted to make sure I didn't ignore the request or just send her an e-mail once I got unpacked in the room.

So I took my time unpacking my clothes, unpacking the vendor drawings, getting the laptop plugged in, and dialed home. Alexa answered and asked how I was doing. I said I was fine and asked how she was.

Then she said, "Rob, I'm sorry. I have some very sad news for you...your father passed away today."

I think those were her words.

We talked for another 10 or 15 minutes, though I don't really recall what was said, and I don't really believe anything else needed to be said.

Well, I do recall saying, "this is the saddest day of my life", and Alexa agreeing.

It was more emptiness than sadness. It was one of those moments when your heart really gets ripped out of you, and you feel empty and incomplete.

I called my parents place, but my Mom didn't answer the phone. The answering tape came on -- it was my Dad's voice on the recording. "I'm sorry we can't answer your call right now...". I laughed quietly at both the irony and the truth, and cried a little more.

I was able to get in touch with my sister, who lives nearby my parents, and shortly after that, finally, my Mom. Then my sister in Edmonton, and we kicked off the first formative discussions about arrangements for the funeral and flying to Vancouver.

Ever the engineer, I calculated that he would have passed away around 5:00 pm PST or so, while I was up in the air, doing my excruciatingly important work of correcting instrumentation drawings for a filter press I might never actually see operate.

I was up in the air, and he was down on the earth, at home. When he needed me, I couldn't help him.

I suppose I can't explain the bond between my Dad and me. There is a percentage of you out there who are fortunate to have a similar bond with one or maybe even both of your parents. But we were very close. We didn't even have to say many words. Just knowing he was there, 3000 miles away, made me feel good.

He had done so many things for the family...for Mom, my sisters, and for me. Compared against common measuring sticks, I am sure there are many fathers who spend/spent more total hours, more total money, did more favours, than my Dad. But there was a just a quiet, understated, humble, pure and honest love in the way he treated me. He treated me differently. He behaved differently toward me. It was a different gear. There were different rules. Favouritism (as an only son) really isn't the word. He just acted out a father's love for his son like it was an art. And not in any overt was very natural, but very gripping too.

I don't think you stumble on that. I knew he drew that from his father. But his father, my Dziadziu, had five sons. Dziadziu passed away in 1965 (on my Dad's birthday) and I only knew him through a child's eyes. How special HE must have been to have been able to distribute that love to all his boys. And how lucky I was to have my father's love-for-a-son all to myself!

But back to the point. All his life, he had done things for me, and I never had a chance to pay him back. I was a university student for way too many years, which meant I was usually low on cash and somewhat dependent on the generosity of my parents to keep me going. (The money I did have was accumulated from five summers working. He got me the job, where he worked, it was union wages...hard and dirty work, but in the summer of 1979 I made $7,900.)

Then I was off to make my way in the real world, saving up money to buy a car, buy a house. Never really had a chance to repay him, or my mother, for their sacrifices and their love.

So all these years it was him nurturing me, teaching me, helping me, supporting me, encouraging me. It was all one way.

And all I could think of, here was the one time where he, who I always considered to be a rock, was helpless, and I couldn't help. I was in an airplane still two time zones away.

Of course, in the logical sense, it is exceedingly foolish to even entertain the notion that I could have helped in any practical way, and proud, and vain, and selfish. And I knew that. But that was the raw emotion.

If that was the case, if he was lying there, breathing his last, beyond the help of even the paramedics, helpless, I still wanted to be there, to hold his hand, to give him a hug, to walk with him that last step, to thank him, to tell him I love him, to just BE THERE to let him know I was loyal to the end, that I would never forget him.

From time to time I reflect on March 23, 2004, on being on the airplane, and I feel that pain and frustration all over again.

I am sorry I was not there, Dad, for your last step. But I am still loyal, I still love you, and I will never forget you.

A grandfather's love for a grandson, too