Happy Birthday, Max!
Today is Max's birthday. He is officially five years old.
At the time I bought Max, there was nothing in my life that screamed I needed this responsibility. Not sure what the urge was at the time to get a dog, but I think that I wanted some stability in my life. Always moving around was tough; I wanted someone that was going to be there for me win or lose. The time was not right for marriage for me, so I decided to do what any 23 year old with no home should do: buy a dog!
There was no need for me to do this conventionally, either. My workout partner down in Providence had mentioned that his next-door neighbor was moving back to California and was getting rid of his dog. What kind of dog I asked? Beagle, was my buddy’s response. A tingling urge came over me. I was in love with Beagles. Christine's family dog, Zeke, was a beagle, a dog that was so excited to see me when ever I came over. Every time I went over to the DeMauro's house I looked forward to seeing Zeke the most. We would lay on the ground and he would give me kisses and he would tug at my socks, but he always let you know if you were sitting in his spot on the couch. He would sit right at your feet and bark incessantly till you moved. At hearing this, I had to meet the beagle that would be my future best friend.
Driving down to Providence with Christine, we were not sure what to expect. I had this version of Max that I wanted to see. I fully expected to see Uno, the dog that just won the Westminster dog show. I was also expecting the same poise and demeanor. But, oh no, out came flying this angular looking thing that flew past us to play with another dog in the neighborhood. He was cute, but not what I expected and he was certainly not quiet, as with every step he took, he took an equally loud bark. I was hooked though and had to have him. And the rest is history.
I have a few favorite stories with Max. In Providence we moved into brand new condo complex. When Max moved in he was just 6 months old. The predominantly brown fellow immediately marked his territory and let me know that we would be training me for the duration of our relationship. My first away game, I tried to let Max hang out in just the bedroom; I came home and Max had scratched a hole in the bedroom wall. The next trip I put him in the closet with all his toys; I came home and he had scratched a hole in the closet wall. I figured maybe he needed a bigger space, so I cornered off some space in the kitchen; I came home and he scratched a hole there too. Finally, I let him have run of the whole house, and since the moment I threw away the gates that did not allow Max entrance into another room, we have not had a problem.
In Providence, as well, they had the best dog park that I have come across. All types of dogs would congregate in the middle and they would sniff each other and then the chase was on. I did my best, along with other teammates, to get Max there everyday. There was this one particular March day. The temperature was about 60 so I was excited to be out in shorts and a long sleeve. There were no other dogs at the park, so Max decided that both he and I were going to get exercise.
He spotted a squirrel and away he went. I kind of let him chase him for a bit before I got scared. About five minutes had passed and I could no longer hear any howling coming from him. I leapt up and ran into the woods to find him. The park only had two exits and I was not really too worried, but the woods were deep and I did not know where he could be. I chased and I could hear him, but I could never get a bead on him. Then after 20 minutes of looking, there was no more barking, there were no more sounds.
I was mad at myself for having let him off the leash that day. I went and sat on the bench in the middle of the park. An hour and half went by. I would periodically get up and check if there were any sounds. I had resigned my self to the fact that Max had some how gotten out of the park and that was it. I had only had him for a year, but I would have been devastated had I lost him.
On the outskirts of the woods at the far end I could see this shadow; Max was somberly making his way to me. He had dirt and brush in his coat and his eyes were bloodshot. I did not want to get up and act too excited, because I wanted to be stern with him. He came to me, shoulders and head down, as if to say ‘I am sorry, but I am sorrier that I did not catch that squirrel.’ He lay down on top of my feet and we both just sat there. To this day, Max and I walk with out a leash and he has no longer left my side.
Max loves people. Every time someone walks through the door he goes berserk. When we walk in the park, he is always much more interested in the dog's owne, than the dog himself. My dad cries when ever Max leaves his house. Christine and I always say that Max is the best purchase I ever made. I love you Max, can not wait to see you. Happy Birthday, bud!
The streets are crowded. There is nowhere to park. The closest I can get to my destination is a city mile away. Christine and I park at my old stomping grounds, Boston University. I give the same parking attendant a wave and he lets me pass through without a fee. Christine and I embark on our journey, closing the door behind us. I realize that Christine is in heels. This inspires a heated debate over the merits of wearing heels to our daily activity, but Christine assures me that she can keep up with my pace. Reminding her that under no circumstance do I want to miss the opening act, we scurry down Commonwealth Ave.
There is the obligatory stop at the Bank of America. It is a dingy stop along Comm. Ave. Flyers for jobs and roommate searches litter the facade of the building. It looks more like an opening to a shady bar than an ATM machine. My baby blue gap t-shirt that I am wearing is beginning to get damp; not out-right soaked, but enough for me to recognize that I am anxious, even nervous, that I will be late. I type in my code, extract the money and cruise through the open door to a waiting Christine and her Minolo Blanc heels.
There is no discussion. We - or at least, I - put my head down and navigate the Boston streets in a panic. It is a 1 p.m. start time and Boston University is in full swing. Undergraduates litter the city streets. They are all over the sidewalks, reading their books, studying for their tests, philosophizing over what they should do with their evening plans. To heck with all of this. I just want to get down the street. Get out of my way and let me get there!
A fight erupts once again. Something about me not wanting to walk side-by-side with Christine. I only caught her statement in passing. I will be honest, I was not listening much. Kenmore Square is close now, and I can only see the shades of blue and red on peoples’ backs. There is a buzz in the April air. It is overcast, but a little muggy. There is a chance of rain, but no chance I will not have a good time.
We make it to Kenmore Square and I am in a full sweat, not just damp any more. Now I am thinking I should have brought another shirt. Christine is screaming something about stopping for a hot dog. I turn around and glare at her and she responds maybe when we get there. That is if we ever get there. Not only have Christine’s heels set me back fifteen minutes in my internal schedule, but little children have impeded my progress. They are holding their parents’ hands and looking both ways before they cross. I am weaving in and out of traffic, trying to stand in the middle of traffic, trying to time it right so that I get over to the other side.
Only after reaching the other side do I realize Christine is not with me. I look back, not out of fear, but to give her the eye to hurry up. Christine begrudgingly moves through traffic and greets me at the door to Pizzeria Uno, the site of many of our dates in college. We make the bend and there it is. The most glorious site in all of Boston. No, scratch that, the world. It is the Green Monster. Site of many a Red Sox failure and triumph.
The whole journey had been worth it. I forgot about Christine's heels, my soaked shirt, none of that mattered. I was at opening day for the Boston Red Sox. Walking into Fenway would be like walking into the Sistine Chapel. I do not want to offend anyone, but baseball is a religion in Boston, we live and die every Red Sox victory and defeat.
Christine and I stop for a hot dog. Clamoring around us are the most obnoxious, negative fans you can find, but they are one of us and we appreciate where we are for the moment. We push our way through the crowd, using our elbows and forearms to make our way to our seats. No one even turns around to tell us to stop because they are doing the same thing to the patron in front of them. We reach the end of the tunnel and there is the field. The most beautiful piece of landscaping I have ever seen. The field is cut all shades of green and the American flag engulfs the Green Monster.
Christine and I kind of take it all in for just a moment, before someone yells "move along." We reach our seats and a couple of teenagers, who almost assuredly skipped school and got in the player's entrance because their older brother knew "Sully" working the door, haggled with us for a bit if those were actually our seats. After it was all settled we crammed ourselves among masses, trying to perfectly adjust our clothes so that we fit in the sardine can that was Fenway.
We sat down and stared. No words were said, and even if anything was mentioned I missed it. I had dreamed so many times as a kid that I had won a World Series in this very park. Now I feel the same way, very much like a kid. I was anxious, excited and starry-eyed as the Red Sox jogged on the field. It brought me back to the days when my father and I would watch a ball game and then go out in the yard and try to emulate my favorite Red Sox, whether it was Roger Clemens or Wade Boggs. Fenway is my happy place. It allows me to always feel like a kid.
Opening Day is only 47 days away. I can not wait to feel like a kid again!
Starting with the completely obvious: as a New England Patriots fan, I am devastated. Had it not been for practice, I probably would not have gotten out of bed for the week. This hurts because of the history that they could have made. Everything that they did all year was out the window in the worst sixty minutes of football that they had played in possibly two years.
Now I know, they lost in the AFC Championship game last year, but they dominated the Colts from the outset and then blew the game in the fourth quarter. In the Super Bowl this past Sunday, the Giants’ defensive line dominated the game. The Patriots had no rhythm, and that was because Tom Brady was knocked around all night. I have been upset for days. However, I soon realized that the Red Sox were still World Series champions, so I will be happy with that.
We had a nice get together for the party. We had the whole team over at our condo complex. In our complex, we have a beautiful game room and pool area adjoining each other. The area has a shuffle board table, a pool table and a pool and jacuzzi. Pretty nice, eh? I would like to thank all the wives for making it such a nice event. We guys always love to plan the event, but we always come up short in execution. So, thank you for all the food and ambience.
Darren Helm and I teamed up to take on Ryan Oulahen and Mark Cullen in a best two-out-of-three shuffle board match. The matches were spread out over the course of the game, but were spirited nonetheless. Darren and I came back from the jaws of defeat to rattle off 12 unanswered points to defeat our captains, but they snatched victory from our hands in the rematch.
Somewhere along the line the third and final game literally got lost in the shuffle. I would love to have said I was watching the game; the fact was I was staring at the television set, but I was not comprehending what was going on. I was in such shock at what I was seeing that I chose to forget what happened. In my mind, the Patriots won the game 14-10. Did I mention yet that the Red Sox are World Series champions?
What else happened this week? Boston University lost in the first round of the Beanpot for the first time in 14 years. That was a pretty good streak, but one that was bound to end. The Griffins got Darren McCarty. That will bolster our lineup not only with a little bit of toughness, but also with great leadership qualities. It has been nice to watch him work his way seamlessly into our locker room. Definitely a great personality that will help us out for his time here. Who can forget his goal against the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals, when he undressed both Janne Niinimaa and Ron Hextall on his way to one of the finest goals in Stanley Cup history? To close out the week’s events, Christine and I are closer to getting a permanent play pen for Max. By that I mean we are closer and closer each day to getting a house with a yard. Keep your fingers crossed.
I am so glad that people wrote me. It has been a while and I am going to quickly answer all the questions that you wrote me this week. Someone answer me this first, though. I literally just did this, so this is real-time events. I am writing this blog when I get the urge to eat. I look in the fridge and I see yogurt boxed up from Costco. Now when you go there, you look at the quantity of the yogurt and the price and you are like, ‘what a deal!’ You don't even pay attention to the six peach yogurts that are in there. In my head anyways, I am like, ‘wow, I love strawberry and blueberry, I will just save the peach till the end.’ Now, of course, I reach my hand into the box and grab one. I undo the yogurt without even looking and then am thoroughly disappointed when I taste peach hit my mouth. How does that happen? When you don't want something you always get it. Frustrating!
Back to your questions. Ryan, an 11 year old for the Junior Owls, asks how many times I get my skates done. Well, Brad Thompson sharpens them before every game. I leave them all week of practice, because I do not want to run out of steel, but just before the games, I will have them done.
Rebecca wants to know if the apocalypse is upon New England, and is it time to run out because of the Patriots and Terriers lost this week? See above, Rebecca. The Red Sox are World Series champs! Hold onto to your home, you still have 86 years before you need to worry!
Elizabeth wants to know who takes the longest to get ready before and after the game? Before the game and, most times, practice, Jon Insana takes a long time. I am convinced he is just so busy being darned nice to people that he is last on the ice every day. Just a great guy and a wonderful hugger, too. After games is me. I have no one to rush home to, so I just take my sweet time.
Bruce just started playing hockey and he wants to know how he can improve his balance on the ice. I know this is going to sound weird, but I have two suggestions. One, hit the gym. Do core exercises and squats. The squats will help with your explosion and power on your feet. Also, as you spend more time on the ice you will get better.
Thank you for your time. See you next time! Go Red Sox!
Thank you to everyone that came out to the Sled Wings game last week. It was an unbelievable event. This game was unlike anything I had ever participated in over my seven years of pro hockey. The skill and determination that these kids show is awe-inspiring.
During the National Anthem I was trying to gingerly place myself into one of the sleds. It was a little small, but somehow the sled ended up around my head and landed with a resounding thud. The game did not go any smoother for me, as I believe that I never touched the puck and kept going around in circles on the ice, with the occasional slam into the boards. That was my only way of stopping. The game ended as it should have, with the better team winning, as the Sled Wings scored a late goal to pull off the come-from-behind victory. Thank you to all the volunteers and people that came out to watch and donate to a great cause.
It has been kind of a boring all-star break for me. Like I’ve said before, I am not much of a flyer, so it would not have been relaxing for me to get on a plane and fly two out of the three days during the break. It really stinks that I was unable to see Christine and Max over the break, but it will make it that more special when Christine comes out for Valentine's Day.
The break got off to a bad start. We lost to Chicago and I could have been one of the biggest stars for the Wolves that night, turning the puck over twice that spearheaded two of their goals. That’s all I have been able to think about for the last three days.
Then things got worse when Neil Clark was sent back to Port Huron. That is probably the worst part of this job; you get really close to people and then they get traded or released. Odds are that we will see Neil around these parts sometime soon, but in the meantime, when I could not see my wife, having Neil around made for good conversation and an excellent book club member. Over the past few weeks Neil and I had been trading books and discussing them. It was nice to break up the monotony of talking hockey and actually use my brain.
I got to watch a trio of dogs over the week as well. My roommate, Garrett, was able to step out for a few days and I had the pleasure of watching his dog, Jensen. He is just a little guy and it was nice to take him for short walks and just have some companionship over the break. It was also nice that he was unable to talk hockey. From time to time I would head down to the Cullen's house to watch their dogs, Millie and Dexter. I am thinking about a career in dog walking. That was my break. That was absolutely everything I did, which was absolutely nothing!
Just one email to speak of, but it has a number of questions. It comes from Michelle. She asks, what I do to get myself out of a slump? Well, if anyone knows the answer to this one please pass it along to me right now, because I could sure use the advice. Getting yourself out of a slump can come in many different forms. Yes, the coach can get all over you and try to motivate you that way, but most often it is internal. This game is all about confidence, and sometimes at this level it comes and goes. You just have to be mentally tough to handle things that come your way.
Some games things will be great and you help your team win, or there are other games like the other night where you almost single-handedly lose a game for your team. It is all about being on an even keel. If you get emotionally too high or too low, this may not be the sport for you. Actually, no sport might be right for you. For me it comes through practice. If you prepare during the week like you are playing the game, that will help you be prepared for every situation thrown your way.
Michelle also asks about practice, what actually takes place there. Early in the week is about conditioning and staying in shape for the upcoming games. As the week winds down you prepare for more specific game-like situations that might pop up, be it power play or penalty kill. But generally, the practice starts off with some sort of shooting drills to get the goalies warmed up. Then we might do some 2-on-1 drills, then break off into some line rushes. We never really play a controlled scrimmage against each other. We are usually doing stuff, skill wise, to get better and more prepared for the upcoming games.
Thanks for the continued support. I hope to receive some more emails. The crowd the other night at the Wolves game was awesome. Hopefully there will be better results.
Before I start, let me thank everyone that helped out with The Great Skate last Saturday night into Sunday. What a wonderful cause. I would be remiss if I did not give Bob Kaser a shout out for his work involved in this event. It is my understanding that this was his brainchild and it was pulled off magnificently this weekend. Thank you to all the volunteers, especially the ones that worked the wee hours of Sunday morning!
The hours for The Great Skate for split among the team based upon seniority. Luckily, for me, I am one of the oldest people on the team. That is one of the few time you will hear me say that being older comes in handy. That, and the fact that the Cullens’ dog was a little sick, helped me into a 2 p.m. time slot on Sunday. My roommate, Neil Clark, however, was not so lucky. He received the 6 a.m. slot on Sunday morning. He slipped in and out of the house like a mouse, not alerting anyone to his comings and goings.
Showing up for The Great Skate, I was not expecting many people. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many kids and adults whipping around in the cold on their day off. Upon arriving at the volunteers tent I was greeted by friendly faces and the command to hurry up and get out and replace Jon Insana and his wife, Ashley. Quickly lacing up the skates, I was introduced over the loud speaker, receiving muttered response. Children clamored off the ice and surrounded me asking for autographs. Signing jerseys and hats in the snow was a project, but it was the odd things that kids have you sign that is an intriguing part of the game. When they have no books or jersey to sign they are very resourceful. At The Great Skate I signed skates, foreheads, hands and legs. Parents cannot find it all that amusing, but I appreciate their interest in having anything signed by me.
Casually skating around was my goal of the day. After having played the night before I just wanted to chat a little bit with the fans and skate around at a gentle ease. As cute as the kids were wanting things signed, they were equally terrorizing trying to get me to engage in a game of tag. They used lines such as “I bet you cannot beat me in a race.” Another was a kid saying that I was really slow. The best of the day was a kid in a grey jumpsuit, who would just come up to me and hit me in the kidney. He hit me so many times that I tried to skate away as fast as possible. The skating fast attracted more kids and more punching. This was fine until they started trying to grab my Patriots sweatshirt and Red Sox winter hat. That was where I drew the line and left the ice.
The last interesting thing about The Great Skate was the game of bubble hockey that I played with Neil Clark. We engaged in a battle with a couple of fans. Actually, it was Neil and two fans against me. There was not much competition, as I disposed of the three quite easily. I do believe that Neil was helping me score goals, just so that he could get out of there, because he had such a long day, but it was a nice opportunity to meet some of our fans that come out and support us win or lose. All and all, The Great Skate was a success.
That was not my only opportunity to meet with fans this week. I was given the chance to speak with the booster club the night before the first Rochester game. Last-minute notice did not allow me to prepare a thunderous speech, but it did give me a chance to speak about a great topic. Me! It is what I know the most about and what I like to talk about the most. Actually, that is not true; I love talking about Max. On a side note, I would like to send along my condolences to the Brumber family who lost their eldest dog, Daisy. She was a wonderful friend to me and Max and will be sorely missed.
A few of the stories that I shared that night centered around how I met my wife, Christine. Christine and I were actually second grade communion partners. At the time we were not aware of it, but at the wedding there was the proof, the two of us standing next to each other all dressed in white. I was much blonder at the time and had much more hair. Christine looked much the same as she does today. A funny story about that day was that I was going to do one of the readings. My mother, who was always concerned that I looked good, wanted to have my tie professionally cut. My dad did too. It was professionally cut too short. Thus, when I went to the podium to do the reading you could still see the tie. My mother was none too pleased, but it makes for a funny story.
We had a great time on Tuesday night. The booster club got a chance to know a little bit about me and I got a chance to learn a little bit about them. Thank you to all for supporting us, and a special hello to Amy, Ashley, Connie, Carrie, Gretchen, Michelle, Rick and Helen. It is always fun to meet fans, and I will always do my best to remember your names.
I have to tell you guys about our paintballing experience today. The event was set up some time ago, but the intensity did not step up until the last few days, as guys had been getting itchy as today rolled around.
My mental preparation began last night. The most important thing about paintballing is the outfit, of course. That being said, Neil Clark and I went out to find the cheapest sweatzedo we could find. For all of those scratching their heads, a sweatzedo would be any combination of sweatshirt and sweatpants that you wear at the same time. Same thing applies for a jean tuxedo, you know when you wear a jean jacket and jean pants, pretty hot.
Neil and I would not settle for just any sweat suit, so we scoured most of Grand Rapids (well, at least 28th Street) and after all of an hour we stopped at Steve and Barry’s. Great establishment, by the way. You can find great clothes at a reasonable price. Love it, will go back.
For all you Michigan State alumni, we settled in on a University of Michigan outfit. This did not please Jon Insana too much, but as we explained to him we were just going to ruin the sweat suit anyway, no big deal. With the outfit complete we were ready for our excursion.
Teams were split up haphazardly. However, Brad Thompson's team had far more skill. Dogg's team included Adam Keefe, who was in full army fatigues and paint, as was Jamie Tardif. His team had plans and strategies, while my team, which included Mattias Ritola and Mark Cullen among others, our only plan was not to get hit or get hurt. I took extra precautions, as I placed my actual hockey shoulder pads underneath my sweat suit.
As we headed out for the first game, which took place inside a mini warehouse in Holland, shots rang out from everywhere and my team was pretty much hemmed in from the onset of the whistle. The only rule of the game was that everyone must be eliminated, and in order to be out you had to have the paint splatter on your clothes signifying that you were out.
I quickly found the safest box to hide behind. Being the smallest guy that was not hard to do. Somehow, though, people were still showering paint right over my head. In front of me Tom Galvin was screaming that he was hit. He raised his hands over his head and was about to exit the warehouse. I quickly asked him if he was aware of any of the opposing team members’ positions. He just motioned with his head over his right shoulder. He exited the game and I followed just off his back hip and came face-to-face with the other team.
I shot the guy at close range with about two paintballs and was so excited about the game at this point. I was only momentarily happy. As I took a closer look at my opponent, I was able to see that it was Coach Stothers. I was embarrassed for a moment, but then was quickly eliminated from the game with a blow to the buttocks. That would not be our last encounter.
The game moved outside to a sort of obstacle course. The field was strewn with cans and tires and a couple of cars, a bus and a limousine. There was enough to hide behind or in, but not enough to completely avoid contact.
In one particular game, Adam Berkhoel and I decided to cover the right side of the field. We were hiding behind a single barrel and I decided to make a run for heavier cover. Berkie covered me with some fire over my head and I made a mad dash. The only thing was I slipped, fell and lost my gun. In the process I absolutely ruined my sweatzedo. I was devastated.
Berkie yelled to me and told me that we would get the gun, all I needed to do was cover him as he ran to pick up the gun. Seeing that I had no gun, I told him I would cover his position by throwing mud at the opposition. Long story longer, Berkie retrieved my gun and we began to exchange paintball fire with a bunch of guys just over our heads. Berkie ran out of paintballs and just as I was finishing giving him some of mine, I could see one of their team members sneaking up on our position. I quickly stood up and hit the intruder with a couple of shots. Of course, yet again, I hit Coach Stothers from about ten feet away. I felt good and Berkie went on to win the game for us.
Today was a great experience. We shared some laughs and some great times. I have to say that Darren Helm might have been the most valuable player. Not because he was the most skilled, but because I was not expecting him to be as aggressive and take as many risks as he did. Keefer and Tards took it the most serious and had a little more tact than I or most of us. I believe that they were two of the most efficient guys out there. All in all it was a great time and hopefully brought us all closer together.
I got some great emails from friends in different places. My buddy Steve Munn, who is playing over in Sheffield, England, wrote a nice note. Steve is a defenseman and I played with him three years. One in Providence, when I thought my career was over because I sat out a few games and Steve actually played forward ahead me. Then, we played the last two years together in Norfolk. I became really close with his whole family. He has a beautiful wife, Casey, and two gorgeous children, Keelor and Josslyn. I was pleased to hear from Casey's family, the Pangles. I miss my conversations with the Colonel and can not wait to see him, even though he called Max ugly.
I got a great email also from my friend Sarah Wilde. Her husband, Martin, is one of my best friends and was actually in my wedding. Sarah did a reading as well at my wedding. She had a couple of questions that I would like to address. She asked about my visits to Vermont. I have been a couple of times. Once for their wedding and once for Martin’s 30th birthday. There is a curse once I cross the Vermont border. I get violently ill. I believe that there is something in the water up there.
Martin had the best car out of anyone I had ever played with. He had two that I can remember; one was a black Volkswagen Golf. He was too large for it and his driver’s seat was in the back, making it a three-seater. He had some other red contraption, too. Martin was very frugal and very grumpy when he was unable to eat three pounds of food at a time. Sarah is one of the most down-to-earth people that I have ever met and I look forward to making it back to Vermont for another social gathering.
I had a great time today and a lot of fun. However, if I did not realize it already, I realize how much I respect all the men and women that protect our country at home and abroad. I was nervous today in paintball and I can only imagine what our soldiers and their families go through on a daily basis. No matter what your political beliefs are, I hope we all say a prayer for those who protect our country. Thank you!
The holiday season is far too fast. This year was no different. Is it possible that all of us spent more time shopping for the holidays than actually got time to spend with our families?
The shopping process for me lasted over three weeks. Now, I definitely don’t do three straight weeks of shopping – that would drive me insane – but I went periodically over that time span, the last being Christmas Eve, and my wife Christine was only here six days.
Christine and I exchanged gifts; she is a far better gift giver than I am. I was fortunate enough to receive two sweatshirts. One a Patriots, and another a World Series Red Sox. By the way, the Patriots are the first team in NFL history to win 16 regular season games and the Red Sox won another World Series. Christine also bought me an iPod. A little bit behind the times on my technology, but I figured it was about time that I had some music in my life.
Christmas Day was pretty hectic. Cleaning the house was a little hectic, the reason being that I left it to the last minute. What man does not procrastinate about cleaning the house or washing your clothes or just about anything that is really important? Well, I rushed around cleaning the kitchen, the bathroom and most importantly the bedroom and realized that Christine was missing what she probably wanted the most: Coca-Cola. If she does not have the soft drink on a regular basis she swears she gets a headache.
After cleaning, I had to figure out a place that would have both the Coke and some sort of adhesive hook to hang my make-shift Christmas tree, a wreath. My place of choice was Walgreens; they have everything you need. Driving was the easy part of the day. There was limited traffic and the only difficult part of my trip to Walgreens was replacing the windshield wipers Tom Galvin had messed with on my car.
After the trip to Walgreens I came back and placed all of Christine's gifts under the wreath that myself and Neil Clark rigged up with a coat hanger. By “all gifts,” I mean a pair of slippers, a game of Scrabble and some candles that she did not even like. We had decided on going on a trip at the end of the year and it made the Christmas tree look a little bare.
From there I rushed to the airport to pick up Christine. I actually parked in short-term parking. Usually I just wait in front of the terminal, but being in the holiday spirit, I went to see her at baggage claim. I thought that was pretty special. Christine was happy! I was happy to see her, but was a little disappointed that she did not find a way to stuff Max in her carry-on luggage.
We had dinner at the Cullen's. Mark and Jayme put together a nice spread with the help of Mark's mother, Nancy. Mark's mother had spent all evening and into the morning preparing dinner for her family, and myself, my wife, Neil Clark and Garrett Stafford all benefited from the preparation. I have to say the food definitely hit the spot and it made being away from home nice to have good food and great company to be around.
We all sat around and told some stories. I grilled Mark's sister, Annie, about being a National Champion diver. Not a bad family, three brothers that play professional hockey and a national champion diver. Pretty impressive.
We all had a great time and then Christine and I went to exchange gifts. My gifts were weak, as I explained, and Christine rifled around the room looking for extra hidden boxes. There were none, but she did spend the rest of our trip together looking up pictures of our trip to Turks and Caicos. I am not sure where we will be staying, but Christine definitely wore out the web site.
I hope that everyone had a great holiday season. I am going to do my best to get back on track with these blogs. The questions that you have all sent to me will be answered in due time.
We have really big games this weekend. Not that all games are not important, but we have to start looking at these games with playoff intensity. This will be a big challenge for us, with two of the better teams in the league coming to Van Andel Arena.
Rockford and Chicago have been battling for first place in the West Division, and they will each have a high-powered offense that we will need to contend with. Our problem as of late has not been shutting teams down, as both Jimmy Howard and Adam Berkhoel have played terrific hockey for us. Now, I know that the holiday season is upon us and people have a lot to do, but hopefully we will have big crowds this weekend, so that you guys can cheer us on and propel us to a couple of victories!
There are no excuses this week; I just plain forgot your emails. There were a bunch in my mailbox at the rink, but I failed to remember them today. In my old age and with each successive concussion, I fail to retain more and more information. All day today as I passed by my mailbox in the weight room, I told myself that I had to bring home my emails and write a blog. After finishing my bike ride and dressing probably three feet from the emails, I walked right out, no emails in hand.
The whole way to the car and at lunch I felt like I was forgetting something, but I was positive it had something to do with clothing or my wedding ring, which was on my finger. However, I got home after running some errand, looked into my bedroom and knew exactly what I had left at the rink: the emails you guys sent me. I apologize.
I need to apologize to Christine. She starts and finishes my conversation sometimes. Ever since my last concussion, which was courtesy of Kevin Colley in Bridgeport, I have been less quick on my feet. Thus, this has resulted in a lot of slow, long, drawn-out conversations with the wife. The conversation will start something like this: “Chris, we need to talk about ahh, ahh…" Christine will chime in a bunch of topics: “A house, bills, dog food, pocketbooks, a vacation at the end of the year."
Somehow during the suggestions she brings up, she will slip in an item she would like me to buy her. Finally realizing what I would like to talk about, in this case, a vacation at the end of the year, I slowly lead her through a list of options with a lot more “aahs” thrown in there. I like to say they are for dramatic pause or to keep her interested in the topic, but I can not always remember what I want to say. So thank you to Christine for remaining patient and for finishing my thoughts.
Christmas at the Corazzini household was a holiday tradition. When my sisters and I were children, the family - and I mean the Corazzinis and the Foleys - always came to our house. We always had a family dinner with my grandmother on Christmas Eve, and my mother would prepare for the feast on Christmas.
My grandmother would sleep over at our house and would keep up the whole family with her unique style of snoring. I am not sure that everyone remembers the game Speak 'n Spell, but that is what she sounded like. I was so convinced of the sound that I could not wait any longer one Christmas, because I was so excited that Santa had brought me the game, I was thoroughly disappointed to learn that it was only my grandmother.
Christmas morning we woke up to Cinnabons that my dad had brought home and we rummaged through the stockpiled tree. Santa always brought us far too much at our house. No matter what type of funds Santa had, the three children at our house were rewarded for being good kids. We tried to do it uniformly at our house, divvying up the presents into sections, Stephanie, Kristin and Carl. The pile was always a little larger in front of Stephanie, but Kristin and I were given more than enough.
The most interesting gift that Santa ever brought me was a pail and shovel for the beach. It was about the time that Nintendo had come out and that is what I asked for. Somehow, Santa had mistaken that for a pail and shovel. The irony was that I did not even like the sand.
Another mishap by Santa was when I asked for a pool table. What I received was a hand-held pool table where the little pool stick had a spring. Not what I wanted. In retrospect, and as advice to kids today, you have to give Santa specific directions on what you want. So I guess the pool table incident was my fault.
The best gift would have to have been my first hockey net. I can just remember shooting outside for day when I first got it. I would play in my driveway with my neighbor, Pat Young, and we would pretend we were one of the four universities in Boston. I always decided which team I was depending on which corduroy hat I wore. Most often, I was either Harvard or Boston College. Boston University never really ended up on my head. In every game I ever played I scored the game-winning goal in either the Beanpot or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. That net lasted me ten years or so, and each year I was convinced that net got smaller and smaller. I know that I got bigger and bigger, but I am still pretty sure that the plastic shrunk.
As I got older, I always felt quite ashamed that Santa only got cookies and milk or a tie. It is a good thing that Santa was always happier watching his kids receive than getting something himself. I hope that Santa will be as good to my kids as he was to the three of us. I could never figure out, though, why Santa had different writing every year. I will figure that out one of these days.
The family would trickle in throughout the day. My grandfather was always the first to arrive. He always came bearing gifts and lot of foods. It was not necessarily food that we wanted, but food he wanted my mother to cook. He would hold court in the living room at this old brown table we had, a cup of tea, some sort of treat and a Notre Dame hat on. We sat around the house waiting for my mother's brothers and sisters to arrive, and that was when the party would begin.
One particular Christmas, we had a karaoke machine courtesy of my aunt Eileen. There was a lot of bad singing but much worse dancing. I believe that I highlighted the evening with my dark blue suit and my rendition of “2 Legit to Quit” by MC Hammer. The suit looked like I got dropped out of a Smurfs episode, but looking back, I looked pretty smooth. I dominated the dance floor with back-and-forth flow and even threw in the odd running man. I might have had a different outcome had I perfected my song and dance. I might not be in the AHL. Maybe, just maybe, I could have given Justin Timberlake a run for his money.
The night ended with loud stories and football watching. There was nothing better than sitting around the living room eating my aunt Tricia's trifle and listening to my family’s constant buzz of laughter and sarcasm. Everyone would leave and I would sit in my bed with a smile on my face and an intense desire for next year to come a lot faster than it did the year before.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I hope that everyone gets a chance to enjoy their family this season. Eat, drink and be merry!
We are finding ways to win hockey games! I know it is not in the exciting manner that some fans would want, but it does beat the alternative, and that is finding ways to lose. We had been doing that for a while, playing close games only to see the game slip from our hands because of a bad penalty and eventually give up the game winner. Now we are doing the opposite, as you saw last Wednesday when we scored a power play goal within the last minute to beat Lake Erie. Now, all we have to do is get the power play to click on a consistent basis and we will be a formidable team.
My day thus far has centered around the Mitchell Report. This was an independent investigation into steroid abuse in Major League Baseball. The intrigue for me was not how this would positively or negatively affect the game I love, but who would be named. After I did an executive workout at the rink and watched some film from last night's game, I rushed back to my apartment to catch the 2 p.m. press conference.
I got all prepared, as if I was watching a movie for the first time. I made my turkey sandwich, brought out the Costco-sized CheezIts bag and sat in my Target chair. (I have no couch by the way, but that is a story for a different day.) The press conference started and I sat riveted for about twenty minutes before I realized the former senator was not going to be naming any names. Man, that was a let down. I did all this mental and physical preparation and I was sweating, wondering what Red Sox players might be implicated, then nothing. I wanted anything, any name, for the pure satisfaction of being right about players I suspected.
So this brings me to a question for Major League Baseball and Bud Selig. What was the point of this investigation? George Mitchell, for the current players that he did implicate, if you had the time to read his 300-page report, asked for no punishment. No punishment! Why spend all this money on a report that took nearly two years? I can only hope that the purpose of this was to show high school athletes that use steroids that there are ramifications for taking steroids, even if it is only public shame!
Upon realizing that the press conference was a bore, I quickly sped off to the UPS store. I had purchased Christmas presents that I needed to send back to Christine, so that they could be properly distributed to their rightful owners and in appropriate packages. If this had been solely left up to me, the present that I bought would have been sent off in its original package, probably with the price tag still attached.
Luckily for me, Christine is very efficient and systematic when it comes to wrapping and handing out gifts. Thus, my only job was to buy the gifts and send them out to her. First, I looked up where I could find a UPS store. I found one on Monroe. Driving around for twenty minutes produced nothing but what is called a self-drop box. Never had heard of one of those before, but I certainly needed help with what I was going to need. I drove back to the house, got the direction to an actual store on Wealthy Street and headed back out. The direction said 3.5 miles away from where I live, but when you do not actually know where you are going those miles take what seems like hours.
Finally pulling into the store was a relief. That was tempered by the fact that everyone was shipping presents today. I rolled into the store and the line was nearly out the door. Standing in line, I had to fill out a sheet of where my BOX A was going. I filled it out and waited and waited. Things were moving smoothly till the girl in front of me had to send out 60 CDs to three different locations. My time came and I was in and out of there. The longest part of my time was the wait. No one to talk to, just me standing in line with my own thoughts!
That was my day today. I look forward to watching the Red Wings game tonight and seeing Mark Hartigan play. Other than that I am just going to sit back and relax, maybe make salmon and brown rice.
Christine was said to have pictures of Max frolicking in the snow today. There was a nice size storm at home and Christine was told to go home from work. The first thing she did was take Max out in the snow. Max hates the rain but loves snow. He is really agile in the snow, however, Christine is not, as she said she landed flat on her face. She is okay though and Max kept bounding around.
Hopefully, I will receive some emails this week.
Man, what a road trip! It has been quite a stretch for our team lately. We will finish up with our 11th game in 18 nights this Saturday at Van Andel Arena. The toughest part of our schedule had to be our road trip last week. The week started with us busing out to Toronto for a 11:30 game on Wednesday against the Marlies. We woke up the next morning for a flight to San Antonio to play the Rampage, drove to Houston after that game for a Saturday night game against the Aeros, which we lost in overtime, had just enough time to grab something to eat and wake up for a 5:45 a.m. bus to the airport, where we flew to Detroit, caught a connector to Milwaukee, collected our personals and went right to the rink for a 4:00 p.m. game, won that game and hopped quickly back on the bus to arrive at our respective homes at 1:30 a.m.
Now, I am completely aware that the above line was a run-on sentence, but there were no breaks in our schedule last week and I wanted you all to get a sense of how the trip was for us, long and winded!
I am going to get right to the questions this week. Not having written an entry for a week, the emails have piled up and I would like to answer a few of the interesting questions and emails I have received.
The first questions is from Sandy. Her question was, at what age did I start playing hockey? The truth is that I started figure skating before I played hockey. My sister, Kristin, skated and I wanted to be just like her, so I went to the rink just to follow and ended up skating. I started organized hockey at 6 and won my first championship at the age of 9 for the Framingham Jets. On that team were future NHLers Dan LaCouture and Blake Bellefuille. We were treated like heroes in our hometown. We got these really cheesy red shiny jackets and we walked into our arena to a Whitney Houston song and we toted our State Championship trophy around. We thought we were pretty cool.
The other part of your question is whether I played any other sports. In high school I played both baseball and football. My dad was a a big football player in his day, but he never pushed the sport on me. One day in junior high I decide that I wanted to play. I played quarterback and safety. The dream of NFL super-stardom quickly ended when I realized I could not tackle, so I stopped playing my sophomore year. Baseball was my passion. It was a sport that I thought I would continue on into college. I played through my senior year of high school, but got better offers to play college hockey. I miss baseball almost everyday. That being said, I must congratulate the Tigers for making a deal for Dontrelle Willis and Miquel Cabrera. However, the Red Sox will be defending Champions all next year. Go SOX!
The next question is from Tina. She wanted to know, during the shootouts, if the coach instructed us what type of shots to take. The answer to that is not really. It is less prevalent now that they dry cut the ice right up the middle before each shootout. If you remember from our game against Iowa, it took the Zamboni driver a good ten minutes to get this accomplished. Before, they never cut the ice and the ice would be chewed up pretty good. In these cases the coaches would suggest that you shoot, because it is too difficult to make a move without losing the puck. Most often another player on your team will give you a suggestion if they have had particular success against a goalie. Other than that, players are most often on their own.
As for your question about how we stay in shape for our upcoming games, after practice most guys like to jump on the bike and flush their legs. This means you do a 15-20 minute ride where you keep a consistent pace to remove the lactic acid buildup in your legs. From there most guys will do a light workout routine. Somedays it might be a lower body routine and others it will be upper body. The guy with the most interesting regimen would have to be Darren Helm. Everyday he is on the bike getting a good sweat, and then he consistently is jumping over chairs, rollers, anything he can get his hands on. That is for explosive power and, as you fans can tell, it is paying off for him, because he is by far the fastest player I have seen.
The most important part of a routine has to come from your sleeping and eating. If you do not get the proper rest and nutrition you can be sluggish and not perform at your best. Usually I will wake up, eat my bowl of oatmeal with berries for breakfast, turkey sandwich with a protein shake for lunch, and then a big dinner with some protein and carbohydrate mix. I have been lucky to live with Garrett Stafford, who is very health conscience. That has helped me maintain my weight. I cannot speak for sleeping, but I am the worst at that. If there were a professional sleeping league I would always finish in last. I like to get up in the middle of the night and just think. I will read, watch TV, but nothing helps me sleep. The only thing that was a comforting feeling was having Max sleep next to me, now I just settle for a couple pictures of him and Christine.
Well, I apologize for not having responded to some of these questions earlier. Butterfly, it was so good to get the monkey off our back and win at home. Hopefully, fans will continue to come out and support us; we do feed off the crowd's energy. It does help. Mr. Landry, I am excited to hear from a Boston University fan. I bet my uncle talked your ear off in that section. It does not look like our team is doing real well this year; it reminds me of my senior year, and I feel real bad for those guys. I have no other relatives to speak of this week.
This edition has been kind of bland, but I will make that up to you sometime soon. If there are any baseball fans out there please let me know, because I would love to write a whole blog just about that. I am going to hand this in now without using spell check, so I apologize to whoever has to read my mistakes. Happy Holidays to everyone this week!!
There are many things to be thankful for this week. First and foremost, my wife is here for Thanksgiving! No Max though, that is really disappointing. Secondly, there are 65 games to go during this hockey regular season. We have not given you, the fans, much to cheer about. I feel like I am constantly writing this, but we have far too much talent in our locker room to continue to lose. There has been much soul searching, and hopefully we will be able to correct our mistakes and string together some wins. There is no better time than the present, as we embark upon a stretch of 8 games in 12 nights. If we are able to build some confidence over the next week and a half, I believe that you will see one of the better teams in the league.
Thanksgiving, not Christmas, is my favorite holiday. I believe the reason for that is that it centers around family, at least it does in my home. On Christmas, you are too worried about what presents to buy everyone and you get caught up in the moment and never actually enjoy the day. However, on Thanksgiving, it is about the food and family. When I was a kid my family would drive to Londonderry, NH. That is where the Moran’s, who I spoke of last week, lived. We ate till we could not eat any more, laughed till it hurt, then listened to my cousin Tim play the piano. It was an exciting day, usually capped off by my cousin Chris and I throwing around the baseball or watching the Detroit Lions play. Once in a while I was lucky enough that my Uncle Tom would grab my ear and pull me to the ground. We always had a great time, but it was always so simple. You were not showing off gifts or asking your cousins what Santa brought them. The day was just about eating food, telling stories and playing in the New England leaves.
It has been a really long time since I have had a Thanksgiving like that. Ever since I have played college, I do not believe that I have been together with my family. My sophomore year in college, I remember saying grace at a Holiday Inn in Potsdam, NY. Last year I did not even eat Turkey. I was holed up in a hotel in Chicago. It would have been the first Thanksgiving together for me and Christine as a married couple, but I had been called up just a few days prior. Christine was very good about the whole thing and actually still had a dinner at our apartment back in Norfolk for a bunch of Canadians. This year I am very fortunate that she was able to get some time off from work and we are able to spend some time together.
The best part about doing this blog is that you get to hear from some fans. This week I received a lot of correspondence, not just questions, but a lot of people telling me about themselves. That is pretty cool. I enjoy reading about other people's lives as well. One of the nicest emails I received was from Rebecca Sullivan. I may be biased, because she did send me photos of the fall in New England, but I appreciate her time and candor. The question she asked was, what is the biggest difference between college and pro hockey? The biggest difference would be the number of games. Most people would assume that it is the speed of the game, but that is not the case. In college you only have 30-40 games and everyone plays hard and frantic from the drop of the puck till the end of the game. If you ever watch a college hockey game it is always hard hitting and very fast. With an 80-game schedule you have to almost pace yourself. You can not play at the same energy level that you did in college. It is just not possible when you play three games in three nights.
That being said, the players are a lot better in pro hockey. You see a lot of good players in college not make the pro level. For whatever reason, their game does not translate the same as it did in college. It is the skill level, not the speed, that is another difference. The passes are always right on the tape, shots are better and goalies move quicker. Another thing is the knowledge of the game. In order to get to this level you have to be able to think the game. You cannot always just let your natural talent take over. That is why everyone seems to be in the right position at all times. So the speed of the game may be less frantic, but the players are better and smarter!
My favorite question is from Sherry. She asked me about my first NHL goal. Now, I do not have many, but I do have a couple and that can never be taken away from me. I went undrafted, but was fortunate enough to have signed with my favorite team, the Boston Bruins. I did not believe that I would ever get the chance to play in an NHL game, but I got the chance and tried to make the most of it. My only NHL goals came in the same game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. I was killing a penalty. On the ice at the time were Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Eric Lindros and Alexei Kovalev. I was pretty nervous, just to say the least. I did not want to get scored on so I was playing pretty conservatively. We broke up a pass and tried to clear the puck, and in an attempt to keep the puck in at the blue line, their other defensemen fell and Ted Donato stole it and had a clear-cut break away. He saw me coming up off his left shoulder and unselfishly gave it to me. I went in and deked Mike Dunham and went back hand over his shoulder. Greatest thrill of my life. I could not stop smiling.
I was lucky enough to have scored again in the game off a rebound, and you could see Mike Dunham look at me as if to say, who is this kid? The moment was made that much more enjoyable by the presence of some family members. My uncle Pat, who had a feeling I was going to score, let my cousin Garret take school off and come to my game in NewYork. My cousin Elizabeth was there and my best friend, Adam, was entertaining clients at the game, not even aware that I was playing and snapped some unbelievable photos of my second goal. The puck is mounted on a plaque at my home.
This is the second installment of my cousins. This is the Foley's, the Irish side. There are too many really to get a full description of all of them, so to them I apologize. There is Julie and Joey Ardagna. There is Sean and Meghan Connolly. There is Aidan and Monica Foley. There is Jessica, Danielle and Garrett Foley. Last but not least are my cousins Adam and Matthew Sances. They were the two that I looked up to the most as a kid. Whether it was watching their baseball or basketball games or just getting the chance to stay over their house, I was just so excited to be around them. The fondest memory I have from childhood with them is hitting a homerun at the gate of heaven playing a wiffleball game with all of their friends. I just remember being so proud of myself. There is a picture of the three of us and their friend Kevin Doyle at one of their baseball games that I still look to this day that brings back fond memories. I can only hope that I am as good a role model for my younger cousins as they were for me. One of the worst things in pro sports is missing family events. My cousin Adam just got married and I hate having missed out on that. My wish for Adam and Adrianna is that their children turn out as caring and generous as Adam and Matthew were to me!