Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Hockey Life: Two ways of doing things

When I first got into hockey hounding back in the mid 1980s, I really didn't have a clue as to how it was done. Sure, I understood you asked a player for an autograph, but I knew there was far more to it than that. How do you recognize the players? When did you approach a player? How many items did you ask a player to sign?

Since then, I've found the answers to my questions. Mostly, during the early years when we hounded the Carolina Hurricanes in Greensboro, N.C., I sat back, around the periphery, and observed. Doing so allowed me to learn from others.

Now, more than 20 years, I like to think I have a pretty good handle on the process. I take the time to memorize faces. I know the best times to find a team, though I can't often break away for them. I've learned to be happy with only one autograph

Really, it's not rocket science. Having said that, though, I spelled out my approach a few years ago with some Tricks of the Trade, in an attempt to flatten the learning curve for those just getting started in the hobby.

Along the way, I've become pretty set in my ways. I believe there's a right way to go about hounding and, ahem, some things that I'd never do. Unfortunately, I've seen some of those instances pop up this season, primarily with the lack of consideration and preparation among them.

All too often, I've seen or heard NHL players get skewered for signing a single item. I've heard wide-eyed, giggling "fans" say "Who's that?" so many times I wonder whether they're owls. And, most recently, I've seen a bothersome lack of manners by some younger hounds.

Despite its simplicity, it took me a while to gain a full understanding of the hounding process. I can't say, either, that I've never committed any of these acts myself over the years. The one thing I've done, though, is learn from my mistakes.

Really, it could be nothing more than I'm becoming more of a curmudgeon with each year. But I believe there are three things that any hound -- from dealers to collectors to fans -- must follow:
  • Know the players: Given the relative ease to access the Web for information, there's no reason, other than sheer laziness, to not know a team's bigger-name players and the top two to three lines and defensive pairings. Rookies and call-ups are one thing, and that's where last-minute homework is useful, but if a player has been in the NHL for three to four years, they should be fairly easy to recognize.
  • Practice good manners: Don't cut in front of others. You don't like it when someone does that to you, so why do it to others? Trust me, you're not as entitled as you think, even if you're a kid. Remember, too, to say "please" and "thank you." If someone does something nice for you, as in signing an autograph or providing a player's name, you're obligated to thank them for doing so.
  • Don't be greedy: This is a tough one, as the economy has led some people to become dealers as a way to have a primary or supplemental source of income. Still, even if a player signs only one item, it's still one more than you had before. That's where team items work best. If a player signs more than one item, good for you. Still, if you want to try to double-dip, please wait until everyone else has had a chance to get an autograph.
Having shared all of this, I honestly doubt anything will change. At the least, it allowed me to vent. Perhaps, though, a few people who need to learn -- and remember -- these things will stop by and turn this into a teaching tool. And, if you do, thank you very much.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good to go

Got some good news yesterday, as Colin's pediatric orthopaedist gave him the green light to return to physical activity, a month after he had his collarbone broken at his final Brandon Jr. Bulls practice.

That's good, too, because he took part in a Lightning Made Clinic the night before (shown above) at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. He has also been practicing his stickhandling and passing for the past few days, too. So, yes, he has been itching to get back.

He'll have to wait, though, to get back to playing games. With this Sunday being Easter, he'll return to the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars lineup for a pair of games April 7.  At least he'll get to practice with the team, rather than just skating around, on Monday.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Team report: Carolina Hurricanes

With the injured Cam Ward staying back in Raleigh, Eric Staal playing peek-a-boo behind a hotel curtain and Alex Semin leading hounds on a short waterfront walk, our recent hounding adventure for the Carolina Hurricanes was, in a word, lackluster.

In fact, the biggest score, beyond Semin finally signing Colin's team sheet, was Jordan Staal signing a card.

For a moment, we all thought Eric Staal would make our day as he stepped outside the team's hotel. It didn't take long, though, for him to duck back inside. A few minutes later, we saw him through a second-floor window, snuggled up against a curtain, making a phone call.

Semin, continuing his hit-and-miss ways from his days with Washington, repeatedly refused requests as he walked slowly along the downtown waterfront before grabbing a seat on a bench. It was only after he was back at the hotel, inside the facility's garage, did he sign for a handful of fans.

Not that I'm complaining, but there were maybe 15 hounds out, far below the crowds that Original Six, bigger names or better teams draw. All told, we added 41 autographs to the collection, a decent amount given the day's events. Nearly half of the autographs came on cards. The players who signed:

Top row: Drayson Bowman, Patrick Dwyer, and Dan Ellis;
Middle row: Justin Faulk, Riley Nash and Justin Peters; and 
Bottom row: Joni Pitkanen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty.

Two players, Jamie McBain, top, and Bobby Sanguinetti, each signed four cards; and 

first-year coach Kirk Muller, who had a long NHL career, signed these pucks.

Up next in hounding: Buffalo's Jason Pominville

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pleasant change

It used to be that Carolina's Jordan Staal wasn't the easiest of the NHL brothers to score an autograph from when he played with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, he'd sign, but you could sense it was a chore for him.

Conversely, his brother Eric Staal, the Hurricanes' captain, was more much approachable, signing at least one or two items for anyone polite enough to ask.

During the Hurricanes recent visit to Hockey Bay, we noticed a bit of role reversal between the brothers and teammates. Jordan, as you can see here, willingly signed for us, even as we spied him walking away from the team's hotel.

Eric, on the other hand, showed no desire to sign.

As for their other sibling in the NHL, Marc Staal, of the New York Rangers, it seems like he has had a change of heart in his signing habits. Something of a toughie in years past, he was very pleasant to approach and willingly signed when the Rangers stopped by earlier this season.

I've heard, though, that neither Jordan nor Eric Staal signed at game time, heading out of the hotel and straight onto the team bus.

Up next: Hurricanes team report

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Hockey Life: Spring break

I'll be honest, or as honest as I can be, and say outright: There are weeks when I struggle to come up with something to say every Sunday morning here on this little ole blog of mine. That doesn't stop me -- though it should at times, I suppose -- from trying. Nope, every Sunday, unless we're on vacation or something pops up, I manage to cobble together some random thoughts into a cogent column.

Yesterday, though, I wasn't so sure. There's not all that much going on, or so I thought. I lamented my  perception to Colin, who looked at me rather quizzically.

"What do you mean there's nothing going on," he asked? "It's spring break."

Well, you know, he had a point. It is spring break. Or, at least, it is here this week in our little peninsular corner of Hockey Bay.

To him, spring break means a week off from school, a chance to stay up late most nights and plenty of time to hang out and take some walks with Yours Truly.

Spring break also marks a pretty important date for him. This Friday, if everything goes well, he'll get a doctor's permission to shed his shoulder brace and resume playing hockey. It has been nearly a month since his collarbone was broken, thanks to the captain of his former travel team crunching him from behind during the final practice of the season.

For the past two weeks, Colin has been itching to play. He skated last Monday with his Pinellas P.A.L. Stars teammates at practice, working on his stickhandling and taking a few shots. Since then, he has worked out back, stretching his shoulders and arms with another session of stickhandling. Yesterday, we spent 30 minutes passing in a parking lot across the street.

Not once, from last Monday through today, has he said his shoulder has hurt. So, that's why we're hoping he gets the green light from his pediatric orthopaedist and can get back out on the ice.

"That'll be the highlight of my spring break," he told me.

Until then, though, we'll get to hang out. I look forward to his vacations from school. We don't get to spend as much time together as I'd like during the school year, so any time there's a break, it's a chance to chill out together and catch up.

Though nothing's written in stone, I'll do my best to keep him busy. We have a couple of hounding trips this week, as the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils come to town. I'll take him skating Wednesday, too. And he'll take part, as much as he can, in another Lightning Made Clinic on Thursday. I'm sure we'll get in some walks as well.

Simple stuff, really.

As much as I'd like to surprise him with an impromptu trip to a tacky tourist attraction or some overpriced theme park, we'll stick close to home. At the most, maybe we'll catch a flick, likely renting a movie over hitting a theater, or resume our Hockey Bay Pizza Tour, to see whether anything compares, or comes even remotely close to Precinct Pizza in Tampa.

Over the years, we've found that it seldom takes the spending of vast amounts money (not that we could ever claim to have that ability) to make lasting memories. Honestly, and this is a heartfelt truth, all it takes is spending time together. Quality time.

And you can't put a price on that.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Team report: Montreal Canadiens

More than anything else, the memory that Colin and I will take away from hounding the Montreal Canadiens during their recent visit to Hockey Bay was the diversity of items we both got signed.

Well, that and the fact that it was the most productive outing, so far, of the shortened 2013 hounding campaign.

All told, between a puck (signed by Montreal rookie Alex Galchenyuk), a photo (like the one, at top, that Canadiens captain Brian Gionta signed for Colin), a memorabilia card, a slew of player cards and a wallpaper-based team sheet for Colin, we added another 57 autographs to the collection.

Here's a sampling of the cards that Montreal players signed for us:

Top row: Colby Armstrong, Francis Boullion, Peter Budaj;
Middle row: Gabriel Dumont, Lars Eller, Alexei Emelin; and
Bottom row: Alex Galchenyuk, Brian Gionta and Tomas Kaberle.

Also signing cards were:
Top row: Andrei Markov, Travis Moen and Max Pacorietty; and
Bottom row: Brandon Prust, Michale Ryder and P.K. Subban.

We also lucked out and had a pair of Canadiens knock out full card-book pages for us:

David Desharnais signed four cards.

Tomas Plekanic also signed four cards.

Peter Budaj added to the ongoing Threads project.

Next up: Carolina's Jordan Staal

Thursday, March 21, 2013

He's just a kid

I know, I know, I know. Despite telling a certain someone more than once that this team sheet for the Montreal Canadiens needed to be presented to players in a horizontal fashion, this person, who is very near and dear to my heart, decided otherwise.

Oh, well, it still worked as he scored 24 autographs on it during the Habs' recent visit to play the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Among those signing were Colby Armstrong, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Kaberle, Andre Markov, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanic, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and head coach Michel Therrien.

Up next: Montreal Canadiens team report

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just in case

Any time we hound visiting NHL teams over in Tampa, I make sure I have a few items for any Tampa Bay Lightning players or staff we happen to stumble upon.

At the least, I carry a current card book, two to three different Lightning pucks and any items for the team's call-ups staying at a nearby hotel. Having these items is an easy way to add an autograph or two to any adventure.

This approach paid dividends recently, when Colin snagged Lightning rookie Alex Killorn on the Harvard puck and Lightning coach Guy Boucher on an 8x10 of the two.

Up next: Montreal Canadiens team sheet

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Hockey Life: Big difference

When Colin was born nearly 12 years ago, many people had no qualms telling me that parenting wasn't going to be easy. Sleep, they said, would become a precious commodity. My life of perceived luxury, they cackled, would soon be over. Changing a messy diaper in 45 seconds, they offered, would be an accomplishment.

You know what? They were right, in each and every case. You know what else? There were a lot of things people never told me. That's why, for the most part, especially since I grew up without a direct point of reference of my own, I've had to learn as I've went along this journey of fatherhood.

Have I been perfect.? Hardly. Far from it, as a matter of fact. Parenting is not an exact science. There's no manual, only well-intentioned advice from those who have been there and done that.

One of the steepest learning curves has been -- and will likely remain -- understanding the difference between being a father and a daddy. Like most anything else, the delineation between the two isn't always clear. Never has been. It's unlikely, too, that it ever will be.

To me, being a father is far more difficult than being a daddy. It's not as black and white as you may believe, especially for someone like me whose life doesn't have nearly enough gray.

As a father, you have to teach important lessons that last a lifetime, not simply turn into monotonous lectures. You have to introduce the concept of consequences, and how their durations are seldom quick, without ending up with an unintended one of your own. You have to reinforce the value of hard work, without making that the sole purpose of a life.

Being a daddy, though, is more about having fun. It's about playing catch and skipping stones. It's about sharing stories from your childhood and turning boys' nights outs into memorable adventures. It's about sharing a passion and passing along knowledge. It's about making your child smile.

The tricky dribble, however, is blending these two roles. And that's a task that can be the hardest, when life dictates whipsaw moves from daddy to father to daddy, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

For the most part, being a daddy is my default. It's easier. It's natural. And, honestly, it requires very little practice. It's like I tell Colin, "daddy" rhymes with "buddy."

But when conditions dictate, and Lord knows there have been a few as of late, it's time to be a father. It's far more important to raise a solid young man, who knows right from wrong, than it is to have him be anything else. Sure, I'd love to someday say my son plays in the NHL. But I know that his character and education will take him further in life than any abilities he has on skates.

Bottom line, that's my job. That's any father's responsibility. Like I said before, no one ever told me it was going to be a thick slab of chocolate cake. And, honestly, nothing good comes easy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Team report: Buffalo Sabres

One of my highlights of any hockey-hounding campaign is any time the Buffalo Sabres -- my hometown team -- travel to Hockey Bay to play the Tampa Bay Lightning. By and large, the Sabres are one of the better signing teams in the NHL. That, alone, makes it worth the trip.

Just as much fun, and maybe a little more, is the opportunity to commune with like-minded people. Over the years, I've found that while you can take the person out of Western New York, you can't take the WNY out of the person.

Kindred spirits, we are, rooting for the Blue and Gold.

On the Sabres' last visit, I was flying solo during the hounding adventure. Given work, school and hockey schedules, that's the way it will sometimes this season.

Still, that didn't keep me from adding another 24 autographs, including the 2010 American Hockey League All Stars Game puck, shown above, signed by Tyler Ennis.

Signing the pucks shown above were, from left, Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek.

For the record, Patrick Kaleta, a fellow Buffalo kid, also signed a puck and Steve Ott showed my resourceful nature. The rest of the haul came in cards:

Drew Stafford signed these four cards.

Also signing were:

Top row: Nathan Gerbe, Christian Ehrhoff, Jonas Enroth and Jochen Hecht; and
Bottom row: Cody Hodgson, Mikhail Grigorenko, Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

He's a Buffalo kid

When we took our road trip last summer, one of the destinations was the Buffalo Sabres pro shop at the First Niagara Center. For me, it's like being a kid in a candy shop. I don't know what to look at first and, quite honestly, spend more money than I really should.

This puck, though, caught me eye. As someone who spent part of his childhood living in Buffalo's West Side, and has been a fan since the Sabres' first season, I immediately identified with the phrase "We Live Hockey."

When planning for the Sabres' recent arrival down here in Hockey Bay, I set aside one of these pucks for a player who typifies that phrase. All it took was one look at the Buffalo roster and a little research to settle on Patrick Kaleta.

A gritty player, who was in the NHL news lately for a hit on the Rangers' Brad Richards, Kaleta was born in Angola, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, and played his high school and minor hockey around Western New York. So, to me, he's a Buffalo kid and certainly worthy of this puck.

Up next: Sabres team report

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


With most everyone I know, including us, still feeling an economic pinch, I'm finding autograph platforms just about anywhere I can. In this case, it came from a stack of hockey magazines, courtesy of Capt. Al, our hockey-hounding buddy in Toronto.

Within the stack was a "Best of ..." edition of The Hockey News. In its pages, we full-page images just like this one of Steve Ott, who now gets under the skin opponents for the Buffalo Sabres.

What I like about this one, though, is the designation: Best Pest. Because we're raising Colin to become a pest, I thought it was fitting to get it signed and added to the collection.

Cheap? Maybe. I like to think of it as being frugal and taking full advantage of any available resources.

Up next: A Buffalo kid

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Hockey Life: Decompressing

When I take my walks, my primary goal, as it has been since last September when I started keeping track, was to shed weight so, some day, I could get back out on the ice with Colin. From those first walks, when eight measly blocks looked like miles, each step has brought me closer to better health.

Along the way, and I've logged more than 640 miles since then, I've found another benefit of walking: They're fantastic for clearing the clutter from my mind.

Thankfully, Colin's travel-team hockey season with the Brandon Jr. Bulls is over. Given all of the issues that went on, it's now time for all of us to chill out. Last Wednesday, I took a big step toward that, taking my longest walk (4-plus miles) in some time. And, man, did it ever feel good.

My route, mostly through one of St. Petersburg's oldest neighborhoods, eventually led me to the city's waterfront. That's where I took the picture. And, for the first time in a while, I took some deep, measured breaths. With each one, I felt tiny knots of tension slip away.

To me, there's something about being at water's edge. It's the gentle sounds of waves brushing against a seawall. It's watching brown pelicans cruise effortlessly, mere inches above the water. It's the subtle hint of salt in the air at high tide. Calming, all.

We all face pressures in life. Work. Bills. Traffic. School. Parenting. You name it, it causes stress. If I've learned anything from my first 50-plus years on this planet, it's that I should worry only about the things I can control. Anything else, to me, is wasted energy.

Sometimes, though, that's easier said than done. It's easy to get caught up in issues that are better to simply let go. Looking back over the past season, using that crystal-clear 20/20 vision that life calls hindsight, there were enough instances and incidents -- and not all were chronicled here -- that could have been avoided. Instincts, I know now, should have been trusted.

Were they mistakes? No, not really. They were teaching moments. And, trust me, plenty was learned. I'm more than happy, too, to share this wisdom. All you need to do is ask.

So, in a way, I'm thankful for those opportunities, just like I am for my walks. In some cases, you learn lessons that will serve you later in life. In others, you just forget.

You know what, though? You keep moving forward, step by step, until you reach your goal.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Team report: New York Rangers

Any time an Original Six team rolls into Hockey Bay, it draws a big crowd of hounds and fans. When that team is the New York Rangers, seasoned hounds know that crowd will be that much bigger. Big teams with big-name stars mean big crowds. It's just the way it is.

That doesn't mean, though, that you won't score some autographs. 

After Colin and I headed out for a Saturday morning adventure -- our first of the 2013 hockey-hounding campaign -- we certainly didn't head home, only hours before into his final two regular season Jr. Bulls travel-team hockey games, empty-handed after dealing with the masses. 

No, sir, not one little bit.

Though we missed on Brad Richards, arriving a few minutes too late, and later watched Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash ride the bus to the team's morning skate, we came home with a respectable 24 autographs, including this puck signed by Marc Staal and another by Marian Gaborik.

Signing cards, shown above, were:

Top row: Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and Benn Ferriero; and
Bottom row: Gaborik, Daniel Girardi and Carl Hagelin.

More Rangers players who signed cards were:

Top row: Jeff Halpern, Ryan McDonagh and Taylor Pyatt; and
Bottom row: Staal, Derek Stepan and Anton Stralman; while

Michael Del Zotto inked a quartet of cards.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yes, that's an autograph

Not that I'm complaining (OK, maybe just a little), but I could only chuckle when New York Rangers star Marian Gaborik handed me back this puck that he signed during the team's recent visit to Hockey Bay.

I know it's unrealistic to expect a letter-perfect autograph, especially from someone who gets hounded as much as Gaborik, but this is what passes for his signature these days.

Still, it's better than nothing and only adds to our collection. I'm thinking, though, that it'll go into storage, rather than be on display.

Up next: Rangers team report

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Team report: Winnipeg Jets

When the revamped 2013 NHL schedule was released, I was psyched to learn that I'd be able to go out and hound the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, I know they're the old Atlanta Thrashers and, really, they don't have many, if any, of the league's biggest names.

Because of schedules -- both work and Colin's hockey -- last season, I never got the chance to hound the team, the first in their new look and home base far north of the Mason-Dixon Line. And, after a season's worth of card releases, I had a decent stack of cards, as well as a few items, that showed the new team logo.

That's why I made sure I put myself in the right place at my new-found right time (after morning skate, rather than before) to get some ink from Sharpies and some paint from pens on our Winnipeg Jets items.

At day's end, too, I had no complaints, adding another 28 autographs, including this puck signed by team captain Andrew Ladd and another by Evander Kane, to the collection.

Signing cards, shown above were:

Top row: Ron Hainsey, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Mark Scheifele; and
Bottom row: Jim Slater, Kyle Wellwood and Blake Wheeler.

Among the other highlights:

Alexander Burmistrov, top, and Ondrej Pavelec signed four cards each;

Olli Jokinen signed a pair of pucks;

Dustin Byfuglien, left, and Al Montoya signed specialty set cards; and

Byfuglien also added to our ongoing Threads project.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Don't be greedy

I'm seldom surprised any time a new face hits the hounding scene down here in Hockey Bay. Most are either ill-prepared, scrambling for scraps of paper and asking for your Sharpies, or, from my point of view, just another person who makes it harder on collectors or those who hound for a living.

Consider this scene not that long ago, for example, when one hound, apparently visiting from New York, via Orlando, wasn't happy with just a single autograph from Winnipeg's Evander Kane.

After getting one puck signed, the young man pushed another toward Kane.

"Just sign this, so I can go home," he said. "Please. It's all I need before I can go home."

Kane, on the phone, refused. In an instant, the hound got ugly.

"C'mon, you're telling me you're just gonna sign one puck?" the continued. "Really? You players owe it to fans to sign. We pay your salaries. If it wasn't for us, there's wouldn't even be a league."

Kane smiled and turned his attention to another hound, signing his item. Then, he signed the puck, shown above, for me.

Kane's moves only incensed the first hound, who continued his diatribe against Kane, who was now smirking.

"Oh, yeah, you're a big star. A big star," he said. "Really, who wants your autograph anyways."

It's instances like this, as regrettable as they are, that none of us need. That's why I told Kane that I was appreciative of the puck he signed for me.

"You're welcome," he said. "Have a good day."

Up next: Jets team report

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Hockey Life: Pleasant surprise

I hadn't been at work for more than 10 minutes one day last week when a visitor arrived at my desk. It was Mr. Joe, one of the paper's photo editors that day. Usually, when a photo editor stops by, it means one of two things: they have a photo for me to use in the next day's edition or, and this doesn't happen all that often, they have a question about how I "played" a photo.

This visit, though, was different. Mr. Joe didn't have a photo for me. Nor did he want to talk about a photo. Instead, he had something for Colin. And, what it was absolutely floored me.

It seems Mr. Joe was going through some papers in his desk at home and came across an old, folded-up envelope with two signatures on it. One read Bobby Hull, The other read Gordon Howe, who is more likely better known as Gordie Howe.

"I knew you and Colin like to collect hockey autographs, so I figured you'd give it a better home," he told me. "Will you give this to Colin for me?"

"Certainly," I told him. "But, really, Joe, these are two pretty big guys. They're Hall of Famers."

"Oh, I know. I know who they are," Mr. Joe said. "But, really, this doesn't mean that much to me."

Mr. Joe went on to tell me how he, as a teenager in Detroit in the mid to late 1960s, got these autographs. First, he recognized Howe after a game-day practice and had him sign the envelope.

"It was the only piece of paper I had with me," Mr. Joe explained.

Later that night, acting on a hunch, he found Hull at the Detroit airport.

"He was wearing a full-length mink coat. When I handed him the envelope, he looked at it and then at me," Mr. Joe recalled. "He told me 'I'm not going to sign below his name.' "

After Mr. Joe told me that story, I was even more stunned. Two Hall of Famers, still in their prime, in a single day and on a folded-up envelope. And, now, so many years later, he was passing along this piece of hockey history, so to speak, as well as one helluva story, to a member of a young generation of hockey fans.

All we can say, Mr. Joe, is thank you. We certainly appreciate it and will take care of it. I think finding a card of each player from around that time and getting all three pieces matted and framed will make for a nice father-and-son project in the days ahead.

An update

We had some good news Friday at the pediatric orthopedist. Thankfully, Colin won't need surgery to repair his broken collarbone, the result of a nasty hit from behind by his much bigger and taller team captain during a Brandon Jr. Bulls practice last Wednesday. Over the next month, he'll have to wear a figure-8 brace or a sling to keep his arm and shoulder immobilized as the broken bone heals.

He'll likely start doing some light skating in three weeks, but won't return to playing until being cleared by the doctor for contact. Honestly, after he season he had, it's likely good that he takes some time away. It wasn't how he, or we, wanted this season to end.

To his credit, Colin was in pretty good spirits as he attended the three games his Jr. Bulls teammates played this weekend, hanging out before and after games with them, at the State Amateur Hockey of Florida championship tournament down in Ellenton. The team finished 1-2, however, out of the medal round. We learned, later, that the team they beat eventually won the state title.

On Monday, the team will have a season-ending get-together at the Brandon rink. Colin and The Missus will attend, so he can say goodbye to some of his friends on the team. At the least, he'll be able to end his time with this organization on a positive note.