Saturday, March 24, 2007

NCAA 2007

Yah, so ya been watching the NCAA tournaments on TV, eh? Yah, me too. I gotta thank them guys over at Comcast Sportnet for putting some hockey playoffs on my TV. I’m just so sick of all this NCAA basketball shit. I don’t think that none of them boys is from the back woods if ya know what I mean. That B-ball crap is just hoggin up all my TV time in the evenins after I come home from a hard days work and can’t even watch none of my more favorite shows. It just really pisses me off. So here it is Saturday again and damn if there ain’t some good stuff on.

If ya get right down to it I guess I’m just some sorta cheap bastard too tight to buy the NHL and college sports channels from my local cable provider. So I suffer and I complain like some sorta sorry ass. Well big deal, I gotta right to vent a bit once in a while. I mean I’m not some sort prissy candy-ass. I get the elbows and stick up going into the corners and will sneak a hook when I can.

I slept in a bit this morning; but only cuz I woke up around 3:30 with this f’n neck ache and took some non-prescrip pain killers and read some Dean Koontz for a bit ‘fore it kicked in and went back to sleep. Only to wake up finally from a stinkin dream where I’m getting eighty-sixed from my job. Now that would really suck right now. There ain’t much other work here in the back woods and I’d probably have ta just hang out through the summer being a bum like a player on a team that didn’t make the Stanley Cup playoffs. Rich, ehh?

Had my bacon and eggs and went for my twenty mile bike ride. You sissies that ride in the gym. Checked out some wild turkeys and mule deer along the way. Good stuff! Walking with wood. Came back home showered and put some fresh duds on. Shorts and my Bragg Crane t-shirt. Used to use Bragg to do some a my work. They turned me on to some Ducks tickets once in a while. Four seats to the right of the net. They were positioned just above the glass and you really couldn’t look down at your nachos if play was coming your way cuz ya could loose your teeth or take home some souvenir stitches if ya weren’t careful. Now they got them fool nets up and no chance of free souvies. So this t-shirt – its maroon/burgundy with gold lettering on the front and a silk-screened crane thingy on the back. Ya know kinda like the Golden Gopher’s colors.

The first game of the day is Minnesota versus Air Force. Though I got ties to both St. Paul and Colorado Springs, I guess cuz a the t-shirt I’m going to root for Minnesota.

When I was a kid I used to climb around the capital building in St. Paul with a school buddy, Aron Yngve. His dad was a state senator or something like that and we used to sneak into closets, go out on the roof, and do other fool things that would get ya put away now days. Ehh, and I’ve been over to the Como Zoo in St. Paul a few times too. Any of ya ever been there? I’ll tell ya don’t go in that blasted glass plant place there on a hot summer day – it’ll cook ya. What, else? Oh yeah --- back in the day spent shit load of evenings chuggin sixty cent pitchers and eating pickled eggs at Culla’s that was over off of Riverside Drive by the University.

Later on after I had to earn a living I did some work on building Falcon Air Force Base just outside of Colorado Springs. I guess they named the base after the Academy’s teams’ name. While I was in town I visited the old Broadmoor Ice Skating Rink. Shit that place probably isn’t even around anymore. I drove out to the entrance to the academy once also. Nice town, Colorado Springs.

I don’t know why I’m thinkin about this right now, but did I ever tell you guys that my right leg is about an inch and half shorter then my left one? Yup. I think it was polio or something when I came outa the womb or shortly there after. It was going around back in the day. The doc’s tried to talk my folks into making me wear a brace and lifts when I was a kid. Shit it was far enough away to see a doc anyway and my old man says to em “He can live with it. Life ain’t easy from the get, ehh? Dis just might gib em some advantage later on.” Later when I started skatin he tells me “Jasper, ya gotta skate sorta squatty wit yore damn legs spread apart. Can’t be lookin all unstable out there. Ehh?” Yeah that was the old man – always riding my ass. Having this shorter leg gave me a hell of an advantage with my backhand being that I shoot righty, I could really lean in from my short side.

Ehh, back to the playoffs. Now I ain’t no sports writer that tells ya a tale that so twisted up ya can’t tell who scored first or what the final was. I like to tell it straight – there ain’t no bullshit comin from my piehole. I gotta tell ya for most a the game I felt like the Falcons were out-playin the Golden Gophers (I ain’t never seen no gopher that was golden – what the heck were they thinking, ehh?). It started with the Falcons first goal about ten minutes into the first period. Hanjer, freshman from Las Vegas, put a snappy little wrister in from the left slot. It was sweet goal for a kid that got his start playin roller hockey.

Minnesota looked good on a power play a short time later but couldn’t put it in the net. Then there was some real good bit of end to end action where the Falcons almost score again.

Jay Barriball, a freshman for the Gophers from Prior Lake, Minnesota scores in close from the left side on a slapshot with eleven minutes left in the second period. That was his nineteenth of the year. Pretty damn good for a freshman, ehh? With a little over a minute left in the period, the Air Force goes on a five on three power play. The crowd in Denver, being probably mostly locals, comes alive cheering on the Falcons. With less then thirty-seven seconds left, Andrew Ramsey, a senior from Noblesville, Indiana, scores from the right corner of the crease with Briggs, Minnesota’s goalie, giving him almost an open net. Funny thing guys, Briggs’ hometown is Colorado Springs. Ehh? Bet he had some family and fans there for the game.

The game goes into the third period with the Falcons still on the power play and nothing additional comes of it. But at about five minutes into the third. Bret Nylander, number 29, of Baudette, Minnesota, puts a wrap around in for the Falcons. They’re up three to one now for those a ya keepin score. Nylander’s goal reminded me of Alexander Frolov of my LA Kings – tits ehh, but not with Frolov’s reach!

About eight minutes left in the game Minnesota scores their second goal on a power play as number 29, Stoa from Bloomington, Minnesota, puts one in the five hole from just to the right side of the crease. A short time later Barriball almost ties it with his wrap around. This is some good stuff folks.

Minnesota finally ties it up when Johnson takes a monster slapper from the left point. Jim O’Brian of Maplewood, Minnesota tips it in with less then six minutes left.

Damn if my left foot ain’t itchin like shit right now. There’s a medical term for it but crap if I can think of it. It’ll come ta me, maybe. Ehh? It itches where my little toe is supposed to be. Yup, I lost that sucker back when I was in my twenties. I had gotten lucky and pulled a tag for a moose hunt. The unfortunate thing was I was a little short on cash. I’d been savin for some new boots when I got the draw so I had to pinch for the tag instead a the boots. My old boots didn’t look really, really bad so It was what the f—k. The only problem was that the last time I had worn these RedWings was giving an acid cleaning to old man Steenwyk’s cement driveway. The acid had dried into the stitching and I sure the shit didn’t realize it. By the time I was half into my hunt the stitching got wet and started falling apart. I came upon some fresh moose poop about then and wasn’t about to give up the hunt. The left boot fell apart the quickest and I didn’t have no duct tape to fix em. Awfully damn soon my toes started going numb, must a been only about ten below. I didn’t think it was too bad, I could handle the numbness – just like having your skates a bit too tight for too long. Anyhow I never got the moose, but the frost bite got my little toe. Sorta changed the way I skated after that, but all for the good.

Oh yeah, we was talking about the game. About a minute after tying the game, Mike Carman of Apple Valley, Minnesota finally put the Golden Gophers in the lead. The goal was contested but stood.

The Falcons were down and pulled their goalie with more then two minutes to play. Again I’m reminded of my Kings – back in the day when Andy Murray was coaching them and would pull the same stunt to try to come back at any cost. Unfortunately it didn’t help this time and the Falcons had to put him back in with thirty-nine seconds left cuz of a faceoff in their end.

So Minnesota with three straight unanswered goals beat the Air Force Academy four to three in Denver and will advance to the Frozen Four in St. Louis. The next game had the University Of Massachusetts Minute Men losing to the Maine Black Bears at Rochester, New York’s Blue Cross Arena. And Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish are losing right now to the Michigan State University Spartans while playing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I sure the shit don’t have the energy ta give ya the details on these games. Hope ya watched em. Ehh?

Really, really good stuff – this college hockey playoffs. Sure beats the shit out a basketball cuz winner’s or losers these boys are walking with wood.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Being Gavin

Ya the days are gone now from my short life when I could lace em up and skate with the best of em. Ehh? You guys are thinking that I’m over the hill though. Well that ain’t quite right. I'm still walking with wood and kick some shit when I can. The north woods have been good to me and the years have been equally good as they’ve been equally rough.

I had some two goal games, hell I’ve even got a rookie of the year trophy from my first year in the men’s league. Most a ya that read my shit probably weren’t even a twinkle in your folks’ eyes yet back then. We won some league titles and we lost some too. It was all some good shit – no matter what. I mean I can even write ya a good story or two about injuries. Its all good stuff when ya been on the ice.

After my third year in the league and having completed my second season with Terry’s Tavern’s Sharks I got traded to the scum bags of the league – Happy Jacks Good Time Saloon Seals. We wore those damn yellow and green colors of the Golden Seals. Our sewn on emblems were these damn huge fifteen inch diameter, thick, son-of-bitches that didn’t breath to well and left ya hotter then hell. Crap I didn’t want to play for them. They always got their butts whipped and I figured I didn’t think that I’d be enjoying that.

Well the game a hockey bounces ya like a good board check and you come back from the impact with more vigor and vitality then you can imagine sometimes. Happy Jacks Good Time Saloon’s Seals is one fine example of this sorta bounce. We went from being the hacks to being regular winners if ya know what I mean. We went through a gradual transition to get there but we did. Some of the boys hung in for a heck of a time. Others passed through for a season or two. Kenny kept us together for many years. He went through some hell himself which is a story that I’ll tell you guys someday. We had Shep or “Suitcase” that’s gone on to become the mayor of some town in the Sierra foothills. Shit, I saw him about a year ago and he looked like he was as old as the hills himself. We had another infamous character Pete “Knuckles” Viger. For those a ya in the know – he was foiling up before foiling up became respectable (thank you “Slap Shot”).

One a best dang things we did as a team was to change our name to the Outlaws. Yeah the Outlaws are walking with wood boys and that ain’t no shit. Sure we spent a good deal a time pounding em at Happy Jacks but even they changed ownership and names. Sure we found other places to drink after that time but the Outlaws just kept on staying bound together pretty tight. And I’ll tell ya this every one a those boys that put on the yellow and green or the later black or white and gold are Outlaws. Ehh? Yep, Outlaws! And every Outlaw’s got a story.

Gavin was one those Outlaws that had been there for the long haul. He was on the team before I came on board and carried a bit of reputation with him. Solid and able to bring up an easy scowl he was always intimidating. Playing center with brute determination overwhelmed any weaknesses that he brought with him to the game.

He came from Detroit with a band of buddies. Not all of em played the game but they new that hockey was what bound us all together. Gavin looked like a beach bum when he was in street clothes. I think that the only time he wore socks was when he was in his gear. His hair was bleached from the sun, skin was always tan and that mustache of his made him look like a cowboy surfer. Before he ended up with the Outlaws he had spent about a year living on the beach in Hawaii with some of his crew. Chasin women and enjoying life. Ehh?

If my memory has it right he drove a V-dub van back then and owned a small catamaran. He kept the sailboat in the driveway at the house over on Randy Lane. Yeah, that house had some stories too. It was a big and fairly new two story that Kenny owned and rented to the guys. Mikey, one of my defensive partners, lived there too; along with Sully and off and on a couple of other guys who were either part of Gavin’s Detroit crew or just puck heads needing a place to crash. We had some pretty damn good hockey parties at that house on Randy Lane. Ehh, the tales it’s keeping secret? I can still remember the day that a bunch of us were over there watching Stanley Cup playoffs on cable cuz most of us hadn’t been hooked up yet. Must a been about a dozen of us eatin pizza and pounding brewskies. We we’re yellin and cussin and just generally having a good ol time. Kenny was there watchin with us and after the game was over he got up off a one a the couches, did his little stretch for show, surveyed the mess downstairs, and said “I think I’m gonna kick you guys out and sell this place.” Whoa dogs if the whole of the Outlaws weren’t in for change of eras from that damn for shit revelation. Kenny was from Buffalo, NY and they must raise em that way in blizzard city. No holds barred, ehh?

Mikey and Gavin got an apartment together down about a block from the ocean but it was never the same. We really never had a team house after that. Damn shame it was I’m tellin ya. I guess Kenny sold a bunch of the properties that he owned around that same time and banked the proceeds. Bragged a couple of years later that just from the interest alone he was able to buy a Mercedes for his gentle wife, Mary Rose. Now ain’t that a nice name – aw sorry guys, didn’t mean to be getting soft with ya here.

Well Gavin was a boisterous son of bitch. Don’t hold that against him though. Serves a purpose on a team to have a few like that. I told ya about T-Ball in some earlier story and these two guys carry the same weight in this department. Gavin would come into the locker room just all pumped and ready to roll. If his spirits were up then he was gonna pump up yours too. He was always shuvin and joking around with us before the games gettin us lit. I told ya folks a time or two how I needed one of my bro’s to blindside me in warm up to get my juices flowin, but Gavin didn’t seem to need any outside influences. Guys like that are good stuff for a team, ehh?

Shoot, one time he comes into the locker room and says that one team or other finishing up their game ahead of ours is just getting slaughtered. If that don’t get him all riled. He’s got his t-shirt pulled over his head now and starts tellin us about how way back when his great or great-great grandpa had instigated some horrific slaughter back in Michigan. Guess this was way before civilized times, cuz this forefather a his organized some posse or some such group of vigilantes and headed out to some island and killed all the injuns that lived there. Shit that’s nasty. But he just blurted it out and said he was pretty shamed by it now but when he was a kid he figured it was pretty cool. Yeah you young pups, us older folks were raised on TV cowboy and Indian shows – good guys versus bad guys. But who’d a thunk back then. Drugs and gangs and shit weren’t the norm back then. Ehh?

One of Gavin’s other little tricks took place during team pictures. He always lined up in the back row behind the guys that were kneeling. Then he put on his nastiest and grimmest facial expressions which I’ve already told ya was a damn ugly scowl. Ehh? And all the time while waitin for the camera dude to take a couple of shots, he’d be standin up on the tips of his blades adding about three or so inches to his appearance. Always the actor that way, sneakin in a punch on a guy in a melee and actin like he’d done nothin when the ref starts dishing out the time. Just totally full of it but we loved it just the same.

Some of the craziest damn stories he told us was from a time when he was still back in Detroit. Once he’d gotten a might concerned about a little lump on his pecker. With all the fooling around he partook of he wasn’t to sure what the hell it was so he went to the doctor. The doc did his examination and said it weren’t nothing to worry about. Its just a little planters wart and the doc whipped his own little johnny out and said “Look, see I’ve got one there too.” If that don’t beat all, ehh? What kind a doc would do that shit?

Another time he said that his crew had noticed an abandoned car in the neighborhood. Nobody had messed with it for a while so they got inside and painted the windows black. Used it for drinkin beer and other stuff that underaged punks ain’t sposed to be involved with. Gavin said that they pushed that car to a different spot every couple a days to keep it from getting towed away. Kind a reminded me of some guys I knew in my hood that went together and rented a small little run down store front place for their party shack. Gavin’s place was jus a might cheaper to maintain.

One a the best little stories about Gavin was again his rushin into the locker room all pumped and gettin ready to skate. We knew he’d been out huggin the boards watchin the game ahead a ours. We’d heard the final buzzer before he came in so we knew the game was over. Somebody says “Hey Gavin what was the score?” Without any hesitation he yells back “Three two tie boys, three two tie”, not even realizing the mistake he’d just made.

Years later he got all of his gear stolen and didn’t really skate too much after that. He had awfully wide feet and getting new custom skates that didn’t give him a lot a pain was a costly proposition to his part time job at the local paper. He’s stayed athletic over these years surfing and running marathons. It’s a good life and he’s still walking with wood.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Seriously - Minnesota State High School Hockey Playoffs

Its mid March folks and the NHL is starting its down hill run to the playoffs. Minor league teams are heading the same direction as are the college leagues.

Those of us that are fans are in for some great excitement. There will be no measly five minute overtimes nor any teamless shootouts. Stanley Cup Playoff games will be ended via victories requiring one team to have scored a minimum of one more goal than their opponent and that goal could come in regulation or in the third or fourth sudden death overtime period. As fans we will stay up late to see the finish and will pay for it the next day at work as we struggle to stay alert.

Those of us that are players and still in the game are emotionally moved to a new level. You’re pumped, you don’t sleep well and you become road weary. If you don’t eat and sleep right then you lose weight. You’re edgy and you’re psyched. The intensity is such that you often times can’t even remember which day of the week it is. You want to win and you want it to be over. You want to celebrate for being the best, never second best.

Minnesota originates some of the finest hockey around. I definitely don’t want to diminish the hockey of any other state but Minnesota’s High School Playoffs just stand out as something spectacular. Years ago I lived in Wazata, a suburb of the Twin Cities in the Gopher State and I remember at that time that the High School Final drew more fans then the North Stars. That is really something! Wayzata’s teams at that time were perennial losers so we never had much to look forward to ourselves. Quite a shame.

This will give you some idea of how important the Minnesota State Finals are: Herb Brooks was once asked if coaching the USA Olympic Team to the Gold Medal in 1980 was the greatest thing in his life. He reportedly answered, “No, that honor went to going to the High School Finals with St. Paul Johnson.”

I’ve never been to a Finals game. I’ve seen some on TV and I was fortunate enough a few years back to see regional playoffs in Rochester. My son-in-law, SSgt. Michael A. Johnson, is a Marine and at the time he was managing the recruiting office in Rochester, Mankato, other southern Minnesota locations. So I was back visiting him, my wife’s daughter and our grandkids. That’s some good stuff all by itself, but I found out that there was a playoff game one night and decided to go. The game was between two local Rochester teams, John Marshall and Century. The rec center was walking distance from the house and I took off on foot not knowing that the game was sold out. Luckily when I got there someone offered me a free ticket so I got in. It was standing room only and I was only able to get to a position about three back on a mezzanine walkway between each side of the ice. I loved it – even having to stand up the whole time. The intensity in that arena was extreme. Both high schools had their bands there and there was so much constant cheering that I never even heard my cell phone when my wife and oldest granddaughter called me three times (I guess they were worried because I had walked – heck its nothing compared to thirty below outdoor practices). You know, I don’t remember which school won the game but I was elated as I walked home afterwards. It had been years since I had seen a high school game and here I got to see a local playoff game. That was really something for me. My son-in-law is over in Iraq now for his second time and the family’s in North Carolina. I spend about as much time thinking about him as I do about hockey. When he retires from the Marines he wants to move the family back to Rochester. If he does, we’ll visit and I’ll get to see some more games.

Well the other night Minnesota had its Class AA finals game at the Xcel Energy Center. There were over 17,500 spectators on hand for it and I bet there were more than twice that many that wanted to get tickets. 17,500 spectators, that’s five or six times as many people as live in the town of Roseau, that ended up winning. Yup, the Roseau Rams, with a 28 and 2 record, beat the Grand Rapid Thunder Hawks 5 to 1 for their seventh state championship. Roseau has only about 325 students and that should have put them in the A division, but they decided to play up in AA and took it all. Sweet! And this was with the Thunder Hawks out-shooting Roseau 29 to 24.

Roseau has a tie-in to the Marines also. Their coach, Scott Oliver, very unfortunately, had his nephew, Marine Sgt. Chad M. Allen, die from a road side bomb in the Al Anbar province of Iraq on February 28th. Sgt. Allen was from Maple Lake, MN. Flags at state buildings flew at half mast in his honor.

So folks, I tip my glass to the Roseau Rams and all of Minnesota’s other fine high school hockey teams and I say a prayer for all of our country’s military that are doing their duties overseas for the rights of others. Yup, in my book all these fine people are walking with wood!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Tech-Heads Walk With Wood

As all of you know that are reading this – the only way that you can is by being on line. A blog can be printed out but its origination is from the use of a ‘pooter. I wrote this on a ‘pooter. I accessed my blog site by using a ‘pooter to post it and you used your ‘pooter to open it up and read it.

Sheeeeeeet! We can hardly function without these stinkin letter peckin processsors.

I get my hockey scores from my ‘pooter and even listen to my damned for losin LA Kings on it too (Oh yeah! Whooped the Ducks the other night in OT – Thank you Rob Blake!). What else? Oh yeah – the social club I belong to called – ain’t that somethin – a place to make friends. Yeah I belong to a few large friendly groups there that ain’t bout nothin but hockey. Now that’s some good shit. I’ve still got some good drinkin buddies from the teams I played on but now through myspace I’m makin lots a new hockey buds and gals with my ‘pooter.

But I’ll tell ya something that just drives me nuts. Its when my ‘pooter ain’t kickin the shit the way its ‘sposed to. Its worse then skatin with weak defense that can’t take their man out. It’s like takin that killer slap shot that’s going to stretch some net and the damn shaft snaps below your lower glove. You’ve been there. You know the frustration….. oh fuckkkkk…….

Well, over the last couple of weeks my ‘pooter’s been on the shits. I mean some brown gravy coatin the shorts. Damn it – it hasn’t been good. Some a-hole sent me a friend invite on myspace that had some phony add covering up their user name and picture. When I clicked the damn thing to close it all kinds of shit popped up and a vicious ass-smellin virus climbed on board. It started accessin all sorts of my personal files, making ads pop-up for all kind a shit that I didn’t need and slowing my ‘pooter down to a crawl. You know how a puck stops when it hits a spot of water during times when the rink’s refrigeration system ain’t working right? Well that’s what my ‘pooter was up to. It really was pissin me off if ya know what I mean, ehh?

There are a variety of names that the techie folks use for this viral shit. They call it virus’s, Trojan horses, malware, spyware, adware, etc. Careful buds, some of this shit is really malicious and you certainly should protect your ‘pooters these crafty characters who think up this crap.

I’m sure some of it has some real business and marketing aspect to it. The adware and tracking cookies ain’t much different than those rating systems that the radio and TV folks use to keep track of what were watching and pay more for advertising for the shows that have the most viewers. Gol-damn them advertisements on NHL games must be awfully damn expensive based on that idea, ehh? (Come on guys – bring back my favorite ad: “Dodge Caliber – Silly Fairy”.) We’ve got commercials and advertising all over the damn place. After a while maybe we become sorta numb to it. Ehh? The last time you went to a game or watched one on TV, how many advertisements did ya see? The boards are covered with them. Right? Even the arena’s that the games are played in are named after big businesses that get the right to slap their name around.

I’ve got a University of Minnesota, Duluth vs Wisconsin on the tube right now. Tied at zero in the third period (missed a lot of this good game – season finale for each - while a damn basketball game was running into OT) and you can easily see ad’s even inked into the ice. Yeah, the boards are covered with them and the building structures between levels are coated with them too. We just sorta live and breath this marketing pizzazz every moment of our lives. Shoot folks, I even ‘member skatin with a kid from Finland a few years back that had so many ads on his pants that you couldn’t hardly tell what color they were supposed to be.

Got a little side tracked there folks. Sorry about that. But shit, I was awfully damned upset about the way my ‘pooter was running. I already had some antivirus software on it but it again was like weak defense – just not too good. So I left the woods for bit and rolled into town and picked up something better. Got home and loaded it but it was too late. This viral piece a shit was rewritin itself and stuff so fast that alone the new stuff was having a hard time too. But they’ve got a phone number that you can call to do some hands on fixin. This I did, ya betcha! Took a bit a time, several calls, several re-downloads, etc (I’d be bareassed to tell ya how much time I spent on it today) but I’m back up and runnin just fine. Because of the help I got I’m back poundin the keys for your swell entertainment again tonight. Hope ya’ve enjoyed it!

They say word of mouth is some damn good marketing. So with no regrets I want to commend them tech-heads at Symantec no matter where in the world they are. They’re walking with wood!

Jasper Wheats here – walking with wood again.