Thursday, February 28, 2013

Headed to the IR

We won't know for certain, likely sometime tomorrow morning, but it looks like Colin's hockey season is over. It appears he sustained a broken clavicle (collarbone) last night after getting run by one of his teammates (the team's captain) during his Brandon Jr. Bulls Peewee A practice.

Though I'm just a journalist, the X-rays don't look good. It's doesn't appear to be a clean break, so he'll likely need more than four to six weeks of immobilization for it to heal correctly. We'll get a better idea of what he'll need, and just how many weeks he'll miss, once we meet with a pediatric orthopedist tomorrow.

For him, it couldn't come at a worse time. He was supposed to play in the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida championship tournament down in Ellenton this weekend. Now, he can only watch. Beyond that, he won't be able to play for the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars for the rest of the Tampa Bay Metro League recreational season.

In hockey speak, he's "doubtful" for up to the next 10 weeks with an "upper body injury."

I must say, too, just how impressed I was for the toughness he showed after getting drilled by a kid who's about 5 to 6 inches taller and at least 45 to 50 pounds heavier than Colin. He picked himself up, had to be called off the ice and, after catching his breath in the locker room, went back out to participate in drills.

After a few drills, though, it was apparent that he wasn't up to full speed. I had him come off again and took him into the locker room. He never yelped as I poked and prodded his shoulder, and had him go through range-of-motion activities. When I told him he was done for the night, he said he wanted to finish practice.

"I want to send a message," he told me.

Thinking it was just a bruise, I relented. It wasn't until this morning, at school, that the pain became too much. Last night, he ranked the pain at a 4 out of 10. This morning, after taking off a heavy backpack, he rated the pain considerably higher and had the school call me.

You know, a lot of kids think they're tough. But, really, they're not. If they get their kicks hurting or picking on kids smaller than them, and they've shown a pattern of doing this, toughness really isn't the attribute that comes to mind. Not. Even. Close.

Luckily, I know one kid who's tough. I also know he'll be back. He's a kid to be proud of.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Hockey Life: In the running?

When I heard last week that the Buffalo Sabres fired longtime coach Lindy Ruff, I sensed an opportunity to break into the NHL. Even though the team named Ron Rolston as the interim head coach, I didn't hesitate to make my play for the gig.

Here's my application letter, submitted to the team through its website:

Should this interim coach thing not work out for the Sabres this season, please accept this as a request to become the next permanent full-time head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

My qualifications? I've suffered with the Sabres since Day 1, as a child growing up on the city's West Side and in Machias, N.Y. I played town-team hockey for the Machias Norsemen in the Arcade Hockey League in the mid to late 1970s, being among the league leaders in PIMs. I'm also the father of a youth hockey player (Peewee A level) down here in the Tampa Bay area.

I stress the fundamentals of skating, playing every shift like it's your last and working together as a team. I have zero tolerance for  any foolishness (such as bullying and locker boxing) and all displays of a lack of respect for the game would be met with harsh discipline.

My salary demands won't break the bank: $350,000-a-year salary, $50,000 in housing expenses, $15,000 in moving expenses, a $1,000-a-month car allowance, my own room on road trips, first-class flying accommodations and a luxury box, with all food and beverages supplied by the team, for all home games during the regular season and playoffs.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from the organization.


Ron Saar

P.S. I'll be attending next Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. We can meet then to finalize the deal.

As of late Saturday, I've yet to hear back from the organization. That could mean one of two things: Given the Sabres' lackluster play under Mr. Rolston, my offer is receiving serious consideration from the highest levels within the organization; or they haven't stopped laughing yet.

To maintain my candidacy, I've created a new Twitter account: @NewSabresCoach. If you support my effort, I'd appreciate you becoming a follower.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Historic moment

Due to a major test in French for Colin and my busy work schedule, we never made it out to hound the Boston Bruins this week. It was the first time in years, possibly stretching back to the late 1990s, that we'll go a season without getting autographs from the team.

Now, should the Bruins and Lightning meet in the NHL playoffs this season, we might have a chance to extend our streak.

Colin and The Missus, however, did attend the Bruins-Lightning game that evening, where Patrice Bergeron, Colin's best NHL buddy, acknowledged him twice -- with a nod of his head and an "air" fist bump -- during warmups. So, at least, one streak says alive.

After last week's Sunday column, when I wrote that we'd hound the B's and my hometown Buffalo Sabres, it was important to provide this update. Conditions exist, thankfully, for me to hound the Sabres on Tuesday afternoon.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I still believe in miracles

Thirty-three years ago today, a nation stood tall in a time of trouble. All thanks to 20 young American hockey players and a guy named Herb Brooks.

Well done, gentlemen. Well done.

You can watch the last minute of Team USA's victory over the Russians here.

He's a big name now

Tampa Bay may have some of the best-known stars in the NHL these days -- Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier -- but one of the most sought-after autographs belongs to Lightning rookie Cory Conacher, last year's most valuable player and rookie of the year in the American Hockey League.

Given his torrid start this season, leading all NHL rookies in scoring, it's easy to see, as well as say, that he picked up where he left off. This stage, however, is much bigger. So, good for him.

We caught up with Conacher not too long ago, as he was heading back to his hotel after a morning skate. Unlike most top NHL draft picks, Conacher, who was undrafted out of Niagara University, was more than willing to sign this puck and chat for a bit.

It's no wonder he's become a fan favorite.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A couple of Swedes

Like I said a few days ago, the Lightning Radio Show, which stops at various McDonald's throughout the Tampa Bay area, is an easy way to score a couple of autographs. Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman, top, and Anders Lindback were the players appearing at the first show of the 2013 season.

Though we planned to have Colin get the pucks signed and I would offer up cards, a one-per limit changed our approach. The cards, as you can see, will wait for another day.

Next up: Cory Conacher

Monday, February 18, 2013

Captain Dave

When our schedules allow, we try to take in the Lightning Radio Show when it hits the road at several McDonald's locations every season. No, we don't always go for the Big Macs and Happy Meals. We go to get autographs.

Most times, the show features one or two Tampa Bay Lightning players as the radio show guests. After taking part in the show, the players will stick around and sign autographs. Really, if you don't mind a sometimes long line, it's a pretty easy way for us to add to our collection.

Dave Andreychuk, captain of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning squad, is a fixture at these shows. Every so often, we'll pack some cards or a puck or two just for him. Colin added these four a couple of weeks ago after the first road radio show of the season.

Next up: A couple of Swedes

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Hockey Life: Back to my roots

When the abbreviated 2013 NHL season schedule came out, and I was penciling in a hounding schedule, the next 10 days drew my immediate interest. It's a span when two NHL teams near and dear to our hockey household will pay a visit to Hockey Bay.

For Colin, this Thursday will be the big day. The Boston Bruins, his favorite team, and Patrice Bergeron, his favorite NHL player, will be in town. Once again, he might miss a day of school so he can spend the morning, at the least, trying to rack up more autographs for the collection. We'll see. If not, I might drag myself out for them. Since winning the Cup, though, the team hasn't been the friendliest

Having said that, he and The Missus do have tickets to the game. At the least, hopefully Colin can get down to the glass during warmups and see his old buddy Patrice. I'll have to pass, as it'll be my first day back after nine days off.

Next Tuesday, it'll be my turn, when the Buffalo Sabres, the team I grew up rooting for, pay a visit to Hockey Bay. It's a time to put some pucks I bought on our road trip back home last summer to good use. It's funny, here I am, more than 50 years old, and I still get pumped up to see the Sabres.

Of course, I wish the Sabres I'd see were the ones from my youth. Danny Gare. Gil Perreault. Rene Robert. Rick MartinJim Schoenfeld. Jerry KorabBrian "Spinner" Spencer. Don LuceDonny Edwards. Larry Playfair. Still, today's edition, even if they're not having the best of the seasons, brings back fond memories.

Going into this abbreviated season, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about hounding. It had been a long time, since last April, that I'd been out. And, I'm ashamed to say, I still have items to put away. But after a few trips so far this season, it hasn't been all that hard getting back into the groove.

In the days ahead, you'll see some more of the rewards of our early season efforts. I'll get around posting the results of trips out for Winnipeg and the Rangers. I'm sure, too, we'll head out for a few more teams,

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying the return of my hounding posts. When I started this blog, the theme was going to be more than hounding. And while I believe I've held up that end of the bargain, I don't want to give up what originally gave me my voice.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Team report: Philadelphia Flyers

Game times other than 7 or 7:30 p.m. are a little tricky. When a game starts at 2 p.m., you know there won't be a morning skate. But when a game starts at 6 p.m., like it did recently when the Philadelphia Flyers came to Hockey Bay, you're not quite sure if there will be a morning skate.

We found out the hard way, then, putting in a long day. Thankfully, our patience was rewarded. In our first shared hockey-hounding adventure of the 2013 season, Colin and I racked up another 39 autographs, including 35 cards, for the collection.

The biggest score of the day came from Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke, who signed a Team Canada puck and two cards for us. Also signing pucks, shown above, were Bill Clement, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and former No. 1 draft pick of the Flyers, and Sean Couturier, selected eighth overall by the Flyers in 2011.

The biggest haul, as I said before, came through cards. Of them, Joe Mullen, a Hall of Famer and assistant coach of the Flyers, added to our ongoing Threads project:

We were fortunate enough to have three Philadelphia players Michael Leighton, from top to bottom, Luke Schenn and Wayne Simmonds each sign for cards for us, too:

A dozen other Flyers players signed at least one card for us:

Top row: Ilya Bryzgalov, Braydon Coburn and Ruslan Fedotenko; and
Bottom row: Kurtis Foster, Bruno Gervais and Claude Giroux.

Top row: Andrei Meszaros, Matt Read and Jody Shelley; and
Bottom row: Maxime Talbot, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek. 

Next up: Captain Dave

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bob, not Bobby

Any time we've gotten Philadelphia Flyers legend Bobby Clarke to sign for us, he's always signed as Bob Clarke, not Bobby Clarke. Certainly, he's a much more refined gentleman these days, far removed from his terrorizing of opponents during the Broad Street Bullies' heydays.

But to any hockey fan, he's Bobby Clarke. Always has been. Always will be.

I'll what you what, though. I'm not going to argue with him. If the Hall of Famer wants to sign as Bob Clarke, like he did on this puck and two cards during the Flyers recent visit to Hockey Bay, who am I to argue?

In fact, all we said was thank you. Thank you very much -- Bobby.

Next up: Flyers team report.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Hockey Life: Family reunion

Later this week, we'll be heading north for another hockey tournament. Last time, just two weeks ago, we traveled to Atlanta. This week, though, we're headed to the Carolinas. And I couldn't be more excited.

My enthusiasm isn't all about the hockey, mind you. No, there's much more to it than that. The bigger draw, if you will, is getting a chance to reconnect with family and knowing that some for the first time will get to watch Colin play. That alone, to me, is worth the price of admission.

Actually, the tournament is in Indian Trail, N.C., a little southeast of Charlotte. Three-game round-robin next Saturday and Sunday with a fourth game, either the championship or a consolation, later Sunday. The tournament, which features games against three tough teams from Atlanta, Charlotte and Frederick, Md., should be a good tuneup for the state playoffs in early March.

As always, I hope Colin and the kids do well and, more importantly, have fun.

But, like I said before, hooking up with family members is the whole point of the trip. At least for me, that is. We'll have a mini family reunion south of Columbia, S.C., on Friday evening, reacquainting ourselves with relatives, some of whom we haven't seen in more than five to 10 years.

The following morning, some of my relatives will make the two-ride ride north to the Charlotte suburb. Though they've seen countless photos and videos of Colin playing, on Facebook and included with Christmas cards, they've yet to see him play live. I'll take special pride in watching them watching him.

I'm also expecting my godfather, Fenton, to make the ride down from the Durham, N.C., area. Seeing him for the first time in, I don't know, 30-plus years at the McGonnell Family Reunion last July was my highlight of our summer road trip. It'll be good to see him again, knowing that he, too, will be watching Colin play.

It's no secret that Colin has gone further in youth hockey than his old man. From the moment he was born, playing hockey was in his future. Where I played on more swamps and ponds than rinks, Colin has skated only on rinks. I put in the extra hours, building my freelance business, so he can have every opportunity.

For the most part, the ride, and each game, has been enjoyable. Sure, there have been moments of frustration, mainly related to effort. Just like life, there are highs and lows. But, then, I remember that his journey has, really, just started. And I want as many relatives as possible to share it with him.

For the past three years, it's been mostly The Missus and myself who've watched him play. Colin's grandparents, Nana and Babop, have seen him play. My cousin, Noelle, has been to a couple of games, too. Knowing that more of our family will watch him play, and take another step in his journey, is special.

In the years ahead, we hope that the journey takes him farther north, so more family members can share Colin's experience. His godparents live in northern Michigan, near Traverse City. The Missus' family lives in northern New England. More of my family, as well as childhood friends, are back home, in western New York. Each represent a destination we intend to reach and a rink for him to play hockey.

The same holds true, too, for friends in Canada. We're planning a trip to Toronto in the summer of 2014 to catch up with two families we're awfully fond of. And, yes, trips to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Gretzky's restaurant, perhaps even in a limo, are on the agenda. After that, likely a few years later, we'd like to travel to Alberta, visiting Calgary and Edmonton, and, if time allows, a little town in Saskatchewan.

For right now, though, we're looking forward to this weekend. And it's hockey, the sport we hold so dear, that will bring us back to family. For me, it's the best of both worlds.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Team report: Ottawa Senators

Nothing fancy, just like last year, but more of a general "Look at what I got" approach from my first hounding trip of the 2013 season. All told, I added another 19 autographs to the collection, mostly in cards. I'll add that all were obtained after the Ottawa Senators morning skate, a departure from my normal routine of hounding before the morning skate. 

Beyond  having Daniel Alfredsson sign an 2012 All Star Game puck, which, by the way, was the first autograph of the season, this puck, signed by Kyle Turris, was the only other one I got that day.

Over the rest of the season, expect to see a lesser emphasis on pucks than I've placed in the past. With the autographed puck collection nearing 2,500, I'm finding it increasingly more unnecessary to load up. Besides, I'm behind in cataloging the pucks, so the more I get the further I fall behind.

Excuses? Yes. But it's the best I have. And, honestly, it's the only one I have. That's the way it goes. Between work at the newspaper and my own freelance efforts, shuttling Colin to school each morning and our increasing focus on his hockey, hockey hounding has slid down the priority list.

Still, the trip out for the Senators was only the first of at least seven or eight (maybe even more) hounding adventures planned for this season, And, for the first trip out of the gates, I was surprised at how well -- relatively speaking, mind you -- the day went.

One highlight, if you ask me, was having Sergei Gonchar sign these four cards. Just as in the past, I'll take the time to separate and show these four-bangers any time I score them. To get that many from an NHL star like Gonchar was surprising. 

Another highlight was getting Ottawa's Colin Greening to personalize a card to Colin. Going forward, we'll try to focus a bit more on these, getting pictures and subsequent autographs of the handful of players who share that first name.

Beyond that, I was pleased to get autographs from 13 players that day. Nine are shown above:

Top row: Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Erik Condra
Middle row: Kaspars Daugavins, Mark Methot and Milan Michalek; and
Bottom row: Chris Phillips, Peter Regin and Jakob Silfverberg.

Next up: Bob, not Bobby

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On the bench

The Missus captured a moment of my short-lived stint helping out a Pinellas PAL Stars Bantam game last Saturday at the Clearwater Ice Arena. It was fun watching the game from there, but forgot just how cold it can get.

For the most part, all I did was open and close the bench door for the team's defensemen. I also encouraged some of the kids to channel their energy, especially as the game got chippy, into beating the other team.

As much as I wish my schedule would allow for me to take a more active role in Colin's hockey, I immediately "retired" after the game. In time, hopefully that will change.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Being the Thunder

For the second time in as many NHL seasons, Colin got to skate as the Lightning Dream Kid before the Tampa Bay Lightning's game against the Winnipeg Jets last Friday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Like I've said before, if he does nothing else in hockey, the memories from these adventures will last a lifetime. For an 11-year-old kid, this is an amazing opportunity that very few get to experience.

He was able to skate serving as a emergency fill-in when another youth hockey player couldn't skate because of an illness. Of course, we were more than happy to help out the Lightning. Thank you, too, for the shout-out to the Pinellas PAL Stars team, as Colin represented that team rather than the Brandon Jr. Bulls.

Major stick taps, a tip of my old Cooper SK600 helmet and heartfelt thanks to a family friend for providing the video shown above of his entire skate. Thank you, Miss Eliza.

Here's a link to the shorter video I managed to capture after overcoming my nervousness and remembering to press the shutter

Here's another link, too, to a work-in-progress photo album from the night. I'm expecting a few more photos over the next week or so.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Hockey Life: No need for that

As much as I'm delighted that the Brandon Jr. Bulls Peewee A squad did what had to be done to make the state playoffs yesterday, I find myself wanting to apologize to the Scorpions Black and Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Blue teams for what happened before their games against the squad.

It seems that a handful of Jr. Bulls players thought it would be funny to enter the ice as if they couldn't skate, holding onto the boards or falling -- repeatedly -- to the ice before each game. Sorry, kids, it wasn't funny. Want to know what it was? It was disrespectful.

It was disrespectful toward the opponent. It was disrespectful toward the game. And, frankly, it was an embarrassment. I don't believe that's how the organization wants itself represented. Then again, I could be wrong.

Thankfully, Colin and a few of his teammates chose the higher road and didn't participate in either bout of misguided foolishness. I'm also glad to hear the coaches spoke to the kids -- after it happened a second time. It's too bad, though, it didn't happen after the first.

Here's hoping that I'm not the only parent who was embarrassed by this bush-league act. Yes, kids will be kids. But, one would hope that parents are teaching their children about respect. Hopefully, that conversation, even if it happened for the first time, took place on the ride home.

One way to send a message is to put the kids through 60 minutes of hard skating at Monday's practice. If the kids are that bad at skating, it sounds like the perfect opportunity to get in some practice. It wouldn't be right, however, to single out the guilty parties. I'd make the whole team skate. Then, maybe, the lesson would get through.

Sooner or later, children have to learn to be responsible for making poor decisions. So, we'll see what happens. I'll be honest, though, I won't be holding my breath. There's a reason why some reputations are well-deserved.

I couldn't be more positive of anything else.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Well done kids

Congratulations to the Brandon Jr. Bulls Peewee A squad for getting the job done today. Needed to win both games to ensure a spot in the state playoffs and they did just that.

Friday, February 1, 2013

No complaints here

Every so often, when certain planets align and the Hockey Gods approve, we find ourselves with a weekend dominated by the hockey. This weekend is one of those times. And, I'm psyched to say, it begins around noon today.

How busy is it? See if you can keep up:

~ I'll hound the Winnipeg Jets after their morning skate today;
~ Later tonight, Colin serves as the Lightning Dream Kid before the Lightning's game against the Jets, the second time he has had that honor;
~ Saturday morning, we'll hound the New York Rangers;
~ Saturday afternoon, Colin will have two games with the Jr. Bulls, closing out the Central Florida Hockey League regular season. If the kids win both games, they'll qualify for the state playoffs in early March; and
~ On Sunday, he opens his Tampa Bay Metro League recreational season with the Pinellas Police Athletic League Stars.

So, yes, it'll be a busy weekend. A fun weekend, too.