Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hounding report: Winnipeg Jets

Though we didn't top our season-high hounding haul of the 2013-14 campaign, our tag-team effort for the Winnipeg Jets in early December came awfully darn close. All told, including Colin's 24-signature team sheet, we brought home another 56 autographs for the collection.

Want to know what's weird, too? Not a single one came on a puck. No, the rest came on cards. For me, it's hard to believe we'd have such a good day and not add another puck. I guess that's what happens some times, right?

So, who signed? Just about every one:

Top row: Dustin Byfuglein, Michael Frolik and Matthew Halischuk; 
Bottom row: Olli Jokinen, Al Montoya and Adam Pardy;

Top row: Ondrej Pavelec, Anthony Peluso and Devin Setoguchi; and
Bottom row: Eric Tangradi, Chris Thornburn and Blake Wheeler.

Two Winnipeg players signed four cards each for us:

Bryan Little and

Mark Stuart.

In the odd move of the day, to me at least, Mark Scheifele personalized these two cards. While I have no problem with that, having him sign one for Colin and me, I can only wonder whether he had a conversation recently with Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.

Frolik also added to the Threads collection:

And last, but not least, and only because the math didn't add up when scanning the cards, James Wright, a former No. 1 pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning and one of the nicest players we've ever met, signed this card for us.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hounding report: Ottawa Senators

If you ever want proof of my "bell-curve approach" to hockey hounding, make a trip out for the Ottawa Senators. In my theory, I surmise that all NHL players go through stages in their willingness to sign. In today's example, we'll discuss Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.

While every one of his teammates took to time to stop and sign for us in early December, the talented Senators' defenseman held himself in such high regard that he repeatedly denied requests. In my theory, which suggests that players become increasingly difficult in signing as they gain in NHL stature, Karlsson must be at or near the apex of the bell curve.

In time, especially as his skills erode and his speed dissipates, Karlsson will likely soften his approach. And, in doing so, further prove my point. When, and not if, he does, I'll be there waiting, blue Sharpie in hand.

Thankfully, though, Karlsson proved to be the exception, rather than the norm. All told, I added another 33 autographs, including this Jason Spezza card for the ever-growing Threads collection, in a hockey-hounding adventure that bookcased Ottawa's game-day morning skate.

Signing pucks, shown above, were Cory Conacher, from left, Hall of Famer Denis Potvin and Mika Zibanejad.

A number of Senators signed cards that day:

Top row: Craig Anderson, Erik Condra, Joe Corvo and Jarde Cowen; and
Bottom row: Eric Gryba, Robin Lehner, Clarke MacArthur and Marc Methot;

Top row: Milan Michalek, Chris Phillips and Zack Smith; and
Bottom row: Spezza, Kyle Turris and Patrick Wiercioch.

Colin Greening also signed four cards:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Hockey Life: Sidelined -- again

In case you haven't noticed or heard yet, Colin's fall-winter travel hockey season came to an unfortunate close a week ago, when he fractured a bone in his right ankle during a tournament game in Brandon with the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning. He got hurt going hard around a net, helping out on defense, and his right leg buckled outward.

I'd been recording his shifts lately on video, at the suggestion of a friend in Canada, so I caught the whole thing. It wasn't pretty at all. To his credit, he tried getting up not one, but three times, before he knew something was wrong.

Thankfully, it wasn't a serious break. In watching the video, especially frame by frame, I was surprised it wasn't worse. We'll just leave it at that, OK? He'll be in a cast for four weeks.

I'll be the first to admit I took it pretty hard. No one wants to see their child get hurt or be in pain. Watching him try to get up and falling back down struck a nerve. So did when he looked at me after his second attempt. That's when I knew something was wrong, as he has always gotten back up, even after a hard hit.

Last year, about this time, in a season darkened by repeated instances of bullying, Colin got rocked by his Brandon Jr. Bulls team captain in the final practice before the state tournament. The hit, which the kid's father (a lawyer, by the way) claims was an accident, broke one of Colin's collarbones. We didn't know that, though, until the next day, as Colin finished that night's practice.

This injury, however, was different. He was hurt in a game, working hard and it just happened. It wasn't a cheap shot. I've also pushed Colin to go hard, not just in hockey, but in school and life. I worry now that I've pushed him too hard. And I continue to wrestle with the guilt.

I've told him a couple of times since last Sunday afternoon, after we left the hospital emergency room, that he could walk away from hockey. After broken bones ended back-to-back seasons, who could blame him? Not me. His response? He told me I was crazy for even bringing it up. I will never again question his resiliency and toughness.

In many ways, Colin has handled this far better than I have.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Team report: Pittsburgh Penguins

Any time the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town, I have the hardest time getting ramped up for hounding the squad. Sure, the team is loaded with superstars. But, that's the problem. It's teams like the Penguins that bring people out of the woodwork.

I have no issues with the Hockey Bay regulars coming out in full force. It's teams like this that often create a reunion-like atmosphere, allowing us to catch up. But, when you get people who show up only for teams like this, decked out in their new hats and sweaters (tags still attached), that my mission goes from scoring autographs to simply getting in the way.

Thankfully, Colin was able to snag a handful of Pittsburgh players -- seven to be specific -- on his team sheet, so the morning-only session wasn't a complete loss. Among those who signed were Marc-Andre Fleury and Pascal Dupuis.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hockey snapshot No. 5

After breaking an ankle Sunday in a tournament game, these crutches had been a near-constant companion of Colin since leaving the hospital's emergency room.

This morning, however, he felt confident enough that he wouldn't need them to get around at school, relying solely on his walking boot.

 Last night, he even spent a few minutes taking shots out back in the hockey lab.

Though it'll be a month or so before the cast comes off, he has told me many times that he won't let this setback keep him from playing hockey.

"Are you nuts?" he asked me after telling him if would be OK if he didn't want to play hockey again.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reunited, sort of

Yeah, I know I've shown this photo, or something very similar before, but as I'm recounting our 2013-14 hockey-hounding campaign, this trio of pucks, from the Tampa Bay Lightning's one-time Big Three, is a definite highlight of the season.

What I like about it was that we snagged Philadelphia's Vinny Lecavalier, the Rangers' Brad Richards and Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis all within 48 to 50 hours on three separate hounding adventures during Colin's Thanksgiving break.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hounding report: Philadelphia Flyers

Between our tag-team effort to double-dip the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning in late November, dab smack in the middle of Colin's Thanksgiving break, we put together our most productive day of the 2013-14 hockey-hounding campaign.

With the 23 autographs Colin got from the Lightning, we added another 58 from the Flyers, giving us a total of 81 autographs, on a variety of platforms, on the day. The biggest haul, shown above, was Colin's complete team sheet, bearing 29 signatures from the likes of Claude Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.

Signing pucks for me that day were:

Above: Ray Emery, from left, Lecavalier and Steve Mason. Apparently, I was focused on the team's goalies and Vinny, who was making his return to Tampa Bay that day.

At left: I used an old-school Flyers puck to snag three old-school Flyers: general manager Paul Holmgren (top), announcer Bill Clement (left) and coach Craig Berube.

Cards, however, made up the bulk of my efforts:

Top row: Braydon Coburn, Sean Couturier, Giroux and Nicklas Grossman;
Bottom row: Grossman (again, sorry), Erik Gustafsson, Scott Hartnell and Andrej Mezsaros; and

Top row: Zac Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn and Simmonds; and
Bottom row: Mark Streit, Chris Therien, Kimmo Timonen and Voracek.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hounding report: Tampa Bay Lightning

I'm quickly learning, much to my dismay, that waiting so long to share our hounding-hockey adventures may have created some unintended consequences. Take the Tampa Bay Lightning, for example.

Well, I have these photos as proof-positive that Lightning players signed these items for us during Colin's Thanksgiving break from school, I couldn't remember which day we hounded them.

Fortunately, a little research around this Marty St. Louis 1,000 games puck helped me figure out that we pulled double duty on the day the Philadelphia Flyers came to town in late November.

Bolts players signed 23 items for us (really, Colin got all of them) that day, adding to a nice haul from the Flyers.

Signing the cards, shown above, were:

Top row: Eric Brewer, Victor Hedman and Anders Lindback; and
Bottom row: Teddy Purcell, Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson.

Two Lightning players signed four cards each for us:

B.J. Crombeen, and 

Sami Salo.

Finally, Alex Killorn added this puck:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hockey snapshot No. 4

After four games in two days last weekend and the possibility of another five or six this weekend, I figured today was a good time to wash Colin's hockey sweaters, from his Pinellas P.A.L. Stars teams (left) and the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning.

Rather than run them through the dryer after the final spin cycle, I took advantage of today's sunny conditions and light breeze to dry them outside. And, yes, that's Goalie Dude hanging out in the background.

As I was hanging them, I realized that it might make for a good photo. I liked it so much that it's now the cover photo on my Facebook page.

I've also updated Colin's page on YouTube with some videos from this past weekend. Feel free to check them out.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hounding report: New York Rangers

After taking a month off from hounding, for reasons I can't draw from memory, we used the first day of Colin's week-long Thanksgiving break to try our hand, as well as our luck, with the New York Rangers at that downtown Tampa hotel that requires a far-greater effort than others.

One of us had great luck, as evidenced by Colin's team sheet, shown above, bearing 16 signatures. Me? Well, not so much. When it came time for the final tabulation on the day's effort, I got my hockey-hounding fanny handed to me -- once again.

And, you know, I don't have a problem with that. These days, especially when Colin can join me, it's more about making memories and having fun, rather than simply adding stacks and stacks to the collection.

So, who signed Colin's team sheet on that late November morning? Here's who, listed in alphabetical order, as that is easier for me (maybe):  Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto (since traded), Dan Girardi, Chris Kreider, Henrik Lundqvist, Dominic Moore, John Moore, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, Anton Stralman, Cam Talbot and Mats Zuccarello.

Thankfully, I didn't get skunked. Three autographs, I suppose, is far better than not scoring a single one, right?

Richards signed this Rangers puck for me, starting what would be a one-time Tampa Bay Lightning Big Three project, my only hounding goal of the week. How'd that turn out? You'll have to wait and see over the next week or so.

Beyond that, I came home with two -- yes, go ahead and count them on one of your hands, two -- hockey cards. Like I said, it sure beats coming home empty-handed and having to listen to Colin give me a hard time about getting shut out.

So, who signed the cards? Kreider, who I'd like to get on a 2012 Frozen Four puck as he was part of Boston College's national championship squad that year in Tampa, and Zuccarello, only the seventh Norwegian to play in the NHL, did.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hounding report: Boston Bruins

Aside from the potential "drama" of a snub from his favorite NHL player, Boston's Patrice Bergeron, the two-part hounding adventure for the Bruins, interrupted by one of Colin's games, went as well as could be expected.

Primarily, the team was staying at a downtown Tampa hotel, one that has become more favored by visiting NHL teams, that employs a more vigorous defense against hounds. That doesn't mean, though, that you can't get autographs, it just means it takes a little more work. As a result, the bar of having a good day lowers.

That's why, despite getting 15 autographs, we'll chalk up the Bruins' visit, way back in mid October, to be a good day, with greater emphasis on quality than quantity as well as the first appearance of the 2013-14 hockey-hounding campaign of Colin's team sheets.

Signing picks were, from left, Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla.

In what was the biggest surprise of the day, Shawn Thornton signed multiples, including these three cards.

Among those signing the team sheet, shown above, were Bergeron, Gregory Campbell, Jordan Caron, Chara, Iginla and Thornton.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Hockey Life: More important than hockey

When Colin first started skating and playing hockey, we asked ourselves the question, like most hockey parents do, what if he is good enough to do it for a living. Would he be big enough? Talented enough? Strong enough? Smart enough?

In those early years, we heard from other parents, coaches and other "experts" that no kid out of Florida would ever make it. Don't get your hopes up, they'd all say. Yes, it was good advice and something that has stuck with us since first hearing it.

All along, and I told The Missus and Colin this a long time ago, I'd know by the time he turned 12, maybe 13, whether he had that proverbial snowball-in-hell's chance of doing anything else than be a beer-leaguer. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, as hockey is a great game to play. And, at this time, I'm not making  plans to attend the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, though it's still thousands of days away.

Another principle we've followed since Colin started to play dictated that good grades would ensure he'd have every opportunity to prove me and others wrong. That's why I work the hours I do, deal with a car that lacks air conditioning and get after him to play as hard as he can. Bottom line, education will always take people further in life than most everything else, unless, of course, your last name is Gretzky, Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos or Malkin.

Up until this year, though, good grades hadn't been much of an issue. By getting more A's than B's, making the honor roll was a given. Occasionally, he'd make high honors, even to the point where the financial rewards of good grades were costing me a bundle six times a year. But, like I said, up until this year.

On his most recent report card, which came out after the holidays, he brought home the grade that no parent wants to see. Granted, it was in advanced algebra, where, as a seventh-grader in a STEM magnet program, he finds himself working at least one grade level above traditional students. Still, it was a cause for concern.

So, we had our little chat, encouraging him to buckle down, take his time to do his homework correctly and remember to turn it in, and bring up his grades. A pep talk, so to speak, with a little grit, as I told him that anything but that would lead to a benching.

Want to know what happened? He missed three practices last week and, quite honestly, faced the prospect of not playing any games until his grades improved. The result? He improved his grades in three classes. Not to where they need to be, mind you, but headed in the right direction. For that alone, he was able to participate in a rec league game yesterday, when he logged two goals and an assist.

I can be strict, but I try not to be a prick, if you know what I mean.

To me, it is important to reinforce the message delivered a long time ago. To not hold up my end of the deal (get good grades and you'll play hockey) after he failed to hold up his end would, to me, be the worst message that any parent could send. That, my friends, is the difference between being a father and a daddy.

As much as I tell Colin that practice and repetition will serve him well in hockey, the same holds true -- even moreso -- in his education. If this "hockey thing doesn't work out" (his words, not mine), he wants to design ships, especially "green-technology" naval warships, or become an architect. To me, each is a worthy goal.

In each case, though, from playing hockey to building a battleship, getting good grades will open far more doors than anything else. That's why I tell him all of the time: His education is far more important than hockey -- if he makes it or not.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hounding report: Minnesota Wild

Any time you have a bad outing, be it at work, play or at something else, you want to show resilience by stepping up your game the next time out. That's a lesson I've learned and try to follow, and now that I'm a father, one to pass along.

That's why, after scoring only four autographs from the Los Angeles Kings only two days earlier, I had a little extra motivation when the Minnesota Wild came to Hockey Bay. And though my standards may have lowered a bit, especially when it came to pucks, I felt a lot better making the westbound trip back home across the Gandy Bridge.

After all, I snagged 19 autographs, including a dozen pucks. And, that, is nearly five times what I'd done with the Kings.

Here's the haul, including the pucks shown above:

Top row: Niklas Backstrom, Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley; and
Bottom row: Darcy Kuemper, Zach Parise and Nate Prosser.

One highlight was getting a trio of pucks from a player and an assistant coach:

Matthew Dumba, taken seventh overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, who's back with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League; and

Darryl Sydor, an assistant coach.

Besides signing a puck, Backstrom also signed these four cards:

Also signing cards were:

Matt Cooke and a pair from Nino Niederreiter.