The Hockey Community Coming Thru Again

December 16, 2008

I apologize for the lack of original Tools’ World material as of late. The publishing environment is not great right now. If you can read between the lines. Adam sent me this one about the Chicago Blackhawks and I wanted to share it. Besides having the best jerseys in the league, the Blackhawks have some good guys..

The Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks set off on a six-game, 12-day road trip on Nov. 18 — to, in order, Phoenix, Dallas, Toronto, San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. (Who thinks of these itineraries? Magellan?) In between a Saturday night date with the Maple Leafs and a Tuesday noon flight to San Jose, the players were going to have their one day off on the trip, a Sunday, back home with family in Chicago.

But the day before they played Toronto, the players learned that Stan Tallon, the father of Chicago general manager Dale Tallon, had died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease in a rural Ontario town, Gravenhurst, two hours north of Toronto. The director of team services, Tony Ommen, told the captains that he could try to arrange a team trip to the Sunday night wake in Gravenhurst if they wanted to go. But if they did, of course, they’d be giving up their only day off on a grueling trip in a two-week period. It was a day most of the players had plans to do something, if only to watch football on TV, sleep all day, Christmas-shop, hang with family.

“Guys like their time off, that’s for sure,” Patrick Sharp, an assistant captain, said via cell phone. “But this was something, when we got together, we felt we had to do. Dale’s a part of us.”

The team meeting was brief and to the point, and there was no objection from a single player: The players would stay over in Toronto, surrender the day off, and bus up to the wake in mid-afternoon on country roads with a fresh blanket of snow. Ommen arranged two buses, one for the coaches and staff, and one for the 23 players on the trip. In all, about 50 members of the Blackhawk traveling party made it to the W.J. Cavill Funeral Home in Gravenhurst, and when they walked quietly through the side door of the place, Dale Tallon couldn’t believe his eyes. He tried to say something.

“I couldn’t talk,” he said. “I just started bawling.”

The players and staff all filed past the open casket and paid their respects to the family, including Tallon’s 80-year-old mom, whose mood brightened tremendously. She knew the players from watching the games on satellite TV. Now here they were, her heroes! She had a little crush on the big star, Patrick Kane, whom her son had drafted first overall last year. “Patrick Kane!” she said, and hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Tallon,” Sharp said.

“Ooooh,” she said. “I enjoy watching you play.”

And then the players sat respectfully among the townspeople for a while, and then they went into a side room to look at the photo display of Stan Tallon’s family, which could have been any hockey family in Canada, with shots of Dale as a tyke and moving up through the years ’til he thrilled the family by making the NHL. Before the players left, Dale Tallon told them how touched the family was that they’d make this trip for him.

Last week, Dale Tallon tried to explain why this happened. “I think hockey’s unique,” he said. “In every Canadian town, the hockey rink seems to be the center of the community. Families do so much for their kids and sacrifice for them so they can play. You rise up through different levels, but you never forget how you got there. With these kids on our team, I scouted, recruited and drafted so many of them. Watching them walk through that door made me feel so good about the type of people — not just the kind of players — we drafted. I hear so many people talking negatively about the youth of today, but don’t underestimate these kids. They’re good kids. My mother is there. Her husband of 59 years is laying in a casket next to her. And these kids walked in and she was just on Cloud Nine …” And then Dale Tallon got a little misty over the phone.

“I’ve played for different teams in juniors and the pros,” said the 26-year-old Sharp, from the Ontario hockey hotbed of Thunder Bay. “And you walk into every locker room and you become brothers. Maybe it’s rare in pro sports, but it’s not rare in hockey, I don’t think. We’re all in this together. It goes back to growing up in hockey. My older brother played, I played, and my parents made huge sacrifices to drive us everywhere we had to go. Everyone in this game knows how much family means.”

Said Ommen: “The culture of hockey revolves around family.”

The team boarded the buses to return to Toronto and the charter flight home. But on the way out of town, as happens with two dozen premier athletes who have not eaten in some time, the players saw a McDonald’s. They got the buses to stop. Inside, as the Chicago Blackhawks walked en masse into a sleepy McDonald’s in rural Canada long after the dinner crowd was gone, a teenage kid behind the register figured out who he was looking at. “Coooooool!” he said.

“So on the wall there’s this big billboard,” Sharp said. “I guess McDonald’s in Canada has hockey cards, and we’re looking at this, and there’s [teammates] Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, looking at this. They had cards in this McDonald’s series. We all had no idea. So a few of the guys bought the Happy Meals, or whatever, trying to get their cards.”

A couple of weeks have passed. The Blackhawks lost all three games on the last leg of the trip, but no one was blaming the Gravenhurst detour. I asked Sharp if the team had any regrets about attending the wake.

“None,” he said. “No complaints. We were where we should have been. We’d do it again, 100 times.”

And that’s my good news story of the week. Be proud, Canada. You’ve raised some nice boys.


American League MVP and the Jimmy Fund

December 5, 2008

I am still alive people. I apologize about the lack of posts. Here is a great story about Dustin Pedroia’s connection with the Jimmy Fund.

Nice Memorial for a Wonderful Teacher and Coach

November 24, 2008

I was lucky to grow up in West Springfield, MA and attend the public schools there. I had many wonderful teachers, starting right off with Mrs. Hefferan in kindergarten at McDonough school and all the way thru to my senior year. Mr. Jones was a physical education teacher at the high school and coach. He earned his accolades for coaching our Gold Medal winner Tim Dagget in gymnastics. Mr Jones passed away this summer and nobody in our town knew. The guys he coached thru the years have organized a memorial/tribute for him this weekend. Its a great touch and well deserved. Here is an article about it from the Springfield newspaper.


Movies, TV, Netflix

November 11, 2008

This will most definitely be a long post. I have been abusing Netflix the last few months. On the other hand, I don’t think I have been to the movies since Vicky Christy Barcelona, although that is feeling wrong, think I saw something else since then. My movie going streak will be broken tomorrow, going to see the latest Kevin Smith flick, Zac and Muri Make a Porno. Should be nothing but an evening of high brow entertainment!

First off, what I am watching currently. I am sticking to my game plan of not getting on anything weekly thru the networks.  I am watching both True Blood and Entourage on HBO though thru the beauty of OnDemand. Entourage came out of the gates strong after a weak season on the last go round. Its fading quickly though. I think Vince and the boys have hit their peak. True Blood is the new vampire show from Alan  Ball who did Six Feet Under. It started off a little rough, a mix of good and bad. I am seven episodes in now and its found its stride. I am in for the rest of the season.  I’ll let you know more after I finish the season I think it will be 12 episodes.

My big new show that I love is Mad Men thru AMC. Yes, I missed the entire first season but due to the beauty of OnDemand, when the second season started, they put all the season 1 episodes out there. I caught up in about four days. Love it! It is very well written. The acting is great. Complex characters. The whole time warp factor of being in a Madison Ave ad agency in 1960 is an amazing factor too. If you get the chance thru dvd, you will enjoy. Don Draper the main character is already way up there on my favorite tv character scale!

Now, I have to throw some praise on the series that Showtime is pumping out. I recently went thru 3 seasons of Weeds in quick fashion and the first season of Californication as well. Two great series. Its funny, because I read alot of mixed things about both of them, but I thought both were great. Californication is David Duchovny as a famous but non writing writer with family and life issues. It is a comedy for the most part but some dark stuff in there as well. Weeds is the story of a suburban widow/Mom who turns to selling the sweet leaf to keep up her suburban existence. The best part of Weeds, the title/theme song sequence, excellent shot at all the mctowns in suburbia land! I would definitely get these on your rental list.

If you couldn’t tell I have been focusing on the tv shows thru Netflix lately. I do have a few movies that I enjoyed in the past couple of months. First is a documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, its a doc on the treatment of war prisoners with the Iraq war at Guantanamo Bay, etc. Very good film but a bit disturbing as well. The Bank Job was a movie I put on my list reluctantly. I figured it was just another Jason Stratham shoot ’em up when it came out but it was a very good caper film.  The final one was depressing as hell but it was a quality film, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell were in it, Snow Angels.

I have some films that I am looking forward to getting to the movies for. I really want to see Rachel Getting Married, the new Bond and some others. Hopefully, I can start getting out some more for some overpriced tickets and popcorn! I will report back when I do. Until then, its wait for another red envelope to show up in the mail!

Run Like An Antelope

November 10, 2008

Great Phish song but it does not describe the way that I run. I am plugging along at the running.  My race schedule is just about dried up since we are quickly approaching Mid November in New England.  I ran one on Saturday and only have one to go.

On Saturday, I ran the 4th Annual Freedom Run in Hartford. It was a benefit for the CT National Guard Foundation. It was a great cause and a great setting. The race started outside the Armory in Hartford andfinished inside the Armory. An old fashioned color guard was at the starting line for it.  I ran with my nephew Billy for the first time. Billy is a runner, he just finished his cross country season at Longmeadow High. He was unable to break 20 minutes this year, so I told him at a road race instead of a cross country course, he could get it done. At the start of the race, he asked me what my goal was and I said, well I have been breaking 30 minutes consistently, my low so far this year was in the 27’s. Billy goes, ok, then your goal today is to break 27. I said, I don’t know if I can do that. He said, yes, you can. 

It was funny running with Billy, he has only run cross country, so he was shocked to see all the people running with Ipod’s, he never does. Where as I can’t imagine what I would do without mine.  I hit the first mile split at 8:30 and I thought, whoops too fast. The second mile was a bit hilly, so with my style I went harder to get them over. I hit the 2nd mile mark at 17 something, so I thought, ok, I can do this. I got into the armory and did not see a timing clock. After further review, I ran right past it. I checked my IPod and it had me at 26:52. I met up with Billy and he did the same exact thing as me. Cruised right by the clock. We hung out til they posted the times andwe both beat our goals! Billy did 19:42 and I did 26:32! It gave me a pace of 8:33 a mile. I was very excited. Billy finished 14th overall and finished 3rd in his age division! He was quite pleased.

At this point, the last race of the year for me will be in Northampton. I’ve wanted to do a run up there all year since its one of my favorite towns. The mayor of Northampton, Mayor Higgins hosts the Hot Chocolate Run on December 6th. The charity is to a local house for abused wives and children. I am looking forward to it and hope the snow andice isn’t around by then. It will be nice, because the run should end in just about time to lead into a post race burrito at Bueno Y Sano! Ha, Ha.

I recently passed the 500km mark on my IPod, love that they update me with those milestones. I am concerned about going three months without a race. I love the competitiveness of it as well as the feeling of accomplishment and helping out charities. Maybe I can tough guy it thru some winter races if the weather isn’t too bad but I am not counting on that in New England.

All Things Music

November 10, 2008

Let’s continue on with the catch up posts on my favorite topics. This afternoon, its everything that is music going on in Tools’ World currently.

The cd purchasing has been slowed down as of late. One, I don’t know if you have heard but the economy is a little f’d right now and big layoff talk at my job. Two, I haven’t been getting to Northampton as much for nice shopping trips at Turn it Up! I did however pick up the new Lucinda Williams cd, Little Honey. Love this cd. I got turned onto her thru some guest spots she did as well as an Austin City Limits performance, very distinctive voice. Love her though. The other new cd is Kings of Leon’s latest, Only By the Night. I am a big Kings fan, so this could be taken with a grain of salt, but love this one as well. The boys are rocking hard on this one and still writing great songs, should be a much bigger band than they are, sales and popularity wise. The last new cd I got was Spoon’s latest, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.  I got turned onto Spoon by KGSR online. They are a great band out of Austin, they write great catchy tunes, that the kids would like to dance to. The cd gets a little repetitive in spots, but I dig it. Would love to check them out live sometime.

I recently recycled the cd’s that I have in the car. I do this usually on a regular basis but I got stuck for a couple of months with the same discs in there. So, I dug deeper into the collection this time around and grabbed some discs I hadn’t listened to in a while. I focused on the Boston years specifically and pulled out a live Mighty Mighty Bosstones disc and two Guster cd’s. Two bands I followed for a bit while living in the Boston area. It was great to pull these out and bring back some great memories with some great friends.  I also brought back a Queen Greatest Hits 2 disc set that I had. I like Queen but when you listen to a bunch of their stuff at once, what an odd band and how amazing they got as big as they did. Love those Big Bottom Girls! Ha, Ha.

I never did a review of one show from September. On golf tourney weekend, I went to see a Boston band, Bang Camaro at Pearl Street with the #1 nephew. I had read quite a bit about them but never saw them. They are an 80’s har band. No covers or tribute act type of thing. Its four awesome musicians, then a chorus of 12-15 for the lead singers. It is insane as it sounds, great show though and a great time and I was never a hair metal fan.

The big, big music news is Phish is coming back people. They announced a three night run in Richmond for next March. I am cautious about this. The band broke up for a good reason. Musically and health reasons it was time for it to go. Trey got caught by the man with pharmies and heroin, so everything was out in the open. If they come back with a fire and creativity, then I am in. Ryan is all fired up and ready to do the whole run. I am not even travelling for them yet.  Exciting news though, be nice to have the Vermont hippies back in my world. Who’s got my Goo Balls???

I am up in the air on New Years Eve this year. The current economic climate and job uncertainity has more or less made my decision that I will not be attending an out of town show for New Years this year. There are some great options though. Gov’t Mule is playing the Roseland in NYC and My Morning Jacket is playing Madison Square Garden. In Boston, Soulive is playing the Paradise. Fiscal sense is to spend a quiet evening at home but I love to ring in the new year with some music.

One thing I want to try is each month, recommeding some songs of bands that I run into over the course of the month, this will be a long list of tunes to match the long post.

Lucinda Wiliams- Honey Bee, Real Love and a great AC/DC cover, Its a Long Way to the Top all off the new disc.

Kings Of Leon- Closer, Sex on Fire, I want You and Be Somebody all off the new disc

Spoon- Don’t Make Me a Target, You’ve Got Your Cherry Bomb, Don’t You Evah all off the new disc.

Back Door Slam- I saw these three young lads open for Gov’t Mule on Saturday night.  They ripped. Here is a link to some of their downloads

Sports and Nothing But

November 4, 2008

Yes, I have been slacking on the posts.  We can use this week as a catch up. Separately I will run thru a few of my favorite topics. Let’s go with what is going on in sports as far as Tools’ World is concerned.

Longmeadow Football continues to roll thru Western Mass. Undefeated still but injuries are starting to pile up for the Lancers. This means #42 has moved into the starting lineup on defense at defensive back. I haven’t made it to a game in two weeks but all reports are good. I am 50/50 for attendance at this week’s game. If I don’t make this one, I won’t see him until the Turkey Day game against East Longmeadow.

The Raiders hit a new low this week at home against the Falcons. 77 yards in total offense for the game.  Yeah, let’s let that one sink in. Coaching change not so much of a help Al!

Newcastle has shaken out of the dreaded relegation zone in the Premier League. They have put together back to back wins in the league. Including a most impressive one on Monday at home, 2-0 over Aston Villa. The Magpies are now starting just about all talent that suits the league and the results are coming.  I haven’t caught a ton of soccer so far this fall but I did this past weekend. Really enjoyed some La Liga from Spain and Serie A from Italia.

UMass hoop season is around the corner with new coach Derek Kellogg. They have an exhibition game tomorrow night up to Amherst, not sure if I am making the trip up for that or not.

The hockey team at UMass is off to a great start. They are currently, 4-1-1 and that includes a win over North Dakota, a strong tie at UNH and most recently a weekend sweep of Providence College, who always gives the Minutemen a tough time. This time got them ranked 19th in the nation in one poll this week! Due to scheduling conflicts I will not be seeing a home game until Thanksgiving week but hopefully the boys can keep things rolling!

The NFL and College Football seasons are chugging along. I haven’t watched a whole lot of NFL yet this year. I am sure that will be changing as the weather worsens.  I am really enjoying what I have seen of college football this year. The Big 12 and SEC are outstanding and there have been some great games. I have two trips coming up in November. I am going to Baltimore on the weekend of the 15th for the Notre Dame (they continue to disappoint) and Navy game. The weekend after that is a big one, I am travelling with my brother and his second son to Louisiana to see the LSU-Ole Miss game, cannot wait for my first southern football exposure.  I forgot, I also got to two UMass home football games this year. I haven’t done that in quite a while. It was good times. They have a very strong Division I-AA program. It also got me my first order of wings from the Hangar in quite a while, can’t go wrong with that!

I think that should cover the wide world of sports for now!

There’s Alot of Culture

November 4, 2008

I had a big run of cultural events last week. Last Tuesday, the opera made its annual return to the Fine Arts Center at UMass. Once again it was the Teatro Lirico opera company from Europe.  This was the same company that performed Tosca last year. The FAC gets one opera a year and this is the third year that Mom and I have gone up for it. This year’s production was Carmen. A classic. It was sung in French and had the English subtitles as usual. I would put Carmen in third place for the productions I have seen at UMass, which is also all the operas I have seen. I really enjoyed it, it was very good but everything was not as quite wow as previous years.  I think it may have been a few of the singers. The stage was great, orchestra was amazing, the woman who played Carmen was great, as was the bullfighter’s voice.  Mom took an Opera Appreciation class thru a Senior Learning Program at Springfield College this fall. She is now officially the opera expert in the family. After the show, she  declared that Carmen was a classic opera and not a romantic. Rock On Mom!

After the Opera exposure, I had a chance to go to Hartford Stage to see their latest production on this past Saturday. I don’t think I have posted about a Hartford Stage show. I know I missed all of last season. No theater friends among the work or Western Mass crew. I found one at work and we went on Saturday night.  I have never been disappointed by a show there. Classic, romantic comedy, drama, liked them all. Resurrection was outstanding. Its a play about six interconnected African-American men. Each represents a different decade of age, from 10 to 60. The characters were incredibly well written and performed brilliantly. It covered many serious issues for African Americans as well as men in the broader sense. It sprinkled a good bit of humor as well. It was a one act play but it delivered through out! Another win at Hartford Stage!

It was a great week for the more cultural side of Tools’ World!

Very interesting Radiohead Stats

October 21, 2008

If you recall I was a big fan of Radiohead putting their latest disc In Rainbows available for download on their site as a pay what you want deal before releasing it to the usual outlets. This link contains the stats on how it worked out for them. Hopefully more bands consider this option…

My first 10k is done!

October 20, 2008

I had my first 10k on Sunday. It was put on by the Boston Fire Dept. Local 718 union.  The race started down the street from Florian Hall in Dorchester. The course took us out to UMass-Boston and around their campus and back to Florian Hall. It was very windy and very cold. I struggled thru most of the race. I think I was a bit cocky after the success of the 5 mile run. My legs and feet were bugging me, I didn’t really get into any kind of decent groove until the 2nd half of the race and even that wasn’t great. I did however beat my goal which was an hour. I finished in 58:56. The last mile I think I got passed by about 100 different women, which were probably all named, Meghan, Maura or Shannon. My friend Todd and I laugh about someone’s face being the Map of Ireland, that’s all this race was. 

Ryan ran with me and I have to thank him, if it wasn’t for him, I may not have made it. As were running into the campus, I was hating life. The wind was whipping off the harbor, my legs were hurting. I couldn’t let him get away from me though. He stuck with me until about the 7th km and then pulled away. It was funny, as he was running away, I felt like I was doing better then, but Ryan kept getting further away from me. 🙂

The party afterwards was a good time. They had a great Irish band, Fenian Sons. They were playing all the standards, Whiskey in the Jar, etc. They had free drafts from the local Bud distributor. We could only stay for two though, it was too damn windy and cold hanging out in the parking lot, even after putting our sweats back on after the race.