Gingerbread 2012: Canuck Place Children’s Hospice

A few years ago I received The Gingerbread Architect as a gift. It’s a great book, and it comes with recipes and ingredients for 12 different gingerbread masterpieces.

Last year, I opted to make the Urban Brownstone, which is rated as one of the more difficult houses to make in the book. Despite the written difficulty level, I found the baking of the walls to be pretty easy, and the decorating wasn’t too difficult. In my blog post summarizing that build, I wrote:

Next year, I am strongly considering making my own house out of gingerbread.

Canuck Place Children's Hospice (not a photo of gingerbread).

Perhaps I was just a bit too ambitious with my plans this year.

My inspiration: Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, also known as Glen Brae Manor, also known as the Tait Mansion.

Canuck Place provides care for children with life-threatening illnesses, and support for those kid’s families. The kids that stay here have access to the best palliative care that is available, at a first rate facility – the first of it’s kind in North America.

Players from the Vancouver Canucks are often seen at Canuck Place to visit – to put smiles on kid’s faces, and perhaps to keep their own lives in perspective.

Usually during a regular NHL season, there are great fundraising efforts for Canuck Place and awareness through those efforts is elevated. During the lockout this year, I thought it might be a fun idea to donate this year’s gingerbread house to Canuck Place. And what better building to model than the hospice itself!

The structure is a heritage building within the Shaughnessy neighbourhood in Vancouver, BC. It is a 4-story mansion, built in 1910. It has very distinctive domed turrets, and features curved exterior walls on nearly every side of the house. There is a large covered porch at the front of the mansion, as well as on the east and west sides of the building.

Photo of the final house.

That’s it! I have to thank my wife Marnie for being the voice of reason, and for the use of her equipment – it helps to have a cake decorator for a wife when you need to make 10 pounds of gingerbread dough. It also helped immensely to have her creativity and an extra set of steady hands. I’d also like to thank Dianna (@Dianna_Chr) for arranging access to the Canuck Place grounds, and Dawn (@light_and_lit) for some good baking advice.

Hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed making this house!

Emotional Stages of NHL Grief and Addiction

There’s something that has been at the back of my mind – it’s the fact that we are now nearing the end of October, and still no NHL regular season in sight. In fact, there are rarely any meetings between the league and the players union either. October comes, ring a bell, and we salivate for hockey. We’re conditioned addicts.

Today in the local newspaper the NHL was way back in the sports section, and this is in hockey-addicted Vancouver. Admittedly, it is a BC Lions game day, and there was a lot of excellent CFL coverage. However, when a retiring horse jockey and EPL soccer news bury the NHL news to the 11th page, that’s noteworthy in itself.

These 5 stages of grief and addiction (following the Kübler-Ross model) can be applied to NHL addicts, and hopefully help some of you in understanding your path to recovery.

Denial: “I feel fine. This can’t be happening, not to me.”

Not just a river in Egypt, denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage. It sounds something like this:

  • It’ll be fine, the NHL will start in October.
  • Okay November.
  • Okay, it’ll be a shortened season.
  • Don’t worry, we’ll still have the Winter Classic.
  • It’s OK, we’ll get started before the playoffs.

Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair! How can this happen to me? Who is to blame?”

Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with with NHL, or with the players, and especially those who are close to them. Many fans are stuck in this phase of NHL grief, angry with Bettman, angry with owners and players alike. This is where most people get stuck.

Admittedly, I feel angry most of the time when I really think about this lockout, the 3rd under Gary Bettman’s tenure as NHL commissioner. The owners and the players make are fighting over Hockey Related Revenues (HRR), to the tune of billions of dollars. They do not seem to realize that everything that is HRR is generated by the fans. It is on the backs of the fans that players, owners and the NHL as a whole make their money. The fans that make 5 or 6 figure incomes, not 7 or 8.

It is the fans that fill the seats, buy the jerseys, call in to the radio to rant, chirp each other on social media sites, and spend their time and hard earned money on the NHL.

The fans spend money on hockey. The league and the players make money on hockey. Never forget this.

Bargaining: “I’ll do anything for a few more years. I will give my life savings if…”

The NHL and the NHLPA seem to have skipped this stage.

Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything? I miss the Canucks, why go on?”

A hockey addict may feel that he or she has no choice or control over things. And in the case of the NHL, he or she may not. He or she then falls into depression. Hockey deprived individuals would have trouble making the best decisions, and all of a sudden they’ve purchased yet another vintage jersey.

But with the help of concerned family or friends, he or she may eventually be pulled out of NHL depression and binge buying of licenced paraphernalia. In fact, in the right situation, the addict might be convinced to return that Barry Pederson Flying V (and exchange it for something more contemporary).

Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay. I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

Acceptance is often the first step to recovery. By admitting that the NHL has serious problems, he or she will be able to seek professional help and commit to a healthy lifestyle without the NHL. An effective recovery program seeks to reinforce hockey abstinence, growth of other sports to dominate your TV watching, and necessary programming changes.

Relapse in the form of a ratified NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement might test your recovery, but by believing in one’s self, knowing the risks, and addressing the root of the problem, this can be overcome so full-term recovery can take its place in the person’s life.

I just want to remind the owners and the players: you guys make money because you’ve got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard. They buy tickets. They’re watching on TV. Y’all should be able to figure this out. Get this done.
– Barack Obama on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Wise words from the most powerful man on the planet. HRR is a budgeted projection of how much money they think NHL hockey can make. The NHL should take heed; if this season is lost, most casual NHL fans will have moved on, and the faith of the hardcore would certainly be shaken. Better put those losses into your HRR projections. I’m spending my money somewhere else.

Hockey For Rookie Parents – What You Need To Know

Hockey 2 Evaluations – they skate for 2 hours for 2 days in a row and are ranked according to skating ability. This way teams are balanced to start the year.

My youngest son Matthew is playing ice hockey this year, like any good Canadian kid. It is awesome watching him skate around out there and having fun! Like Matthew, I’m a rookie too, as this is the first year either of my kids are playing organized ice hockey. I’ve already learned some lessons that I can pass along to future hockey parents – hope you enjoy the post.

What Level Should My Kid Play In?

Matthew is playing hockey with the Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association. He turned 6 this year, which puts him at the Hockey 2 level, which is in the Initiation or Tyke age category for Hockey Canada or PCAHA. The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association is the umbrella association for minor hockey clubs like Semiahmoo Minor.

Category

Hockey Canada

PCAHA

Players’ Ages

Hockey 1

Initiation

Tyke

primarily 5 year olds

Hockey 2

Initiation

Tyke

6 year olds

Hockey 3

Novice

Novice

7 year olds

Hockey 4

Novice

Novice

8 year olds

Kids older than 8 years will play in the Atom level and advance from there:

  • Atom (ages 9-10)
  • Pee Wee (ages 11–12)
  • Bantam (ages 13–14)
  • Midget (ages 15–17)
  • Juvenile (ages 18–20)

My Kid is Really Good – What About Rep Teams and Junior Hockey?

First of all, everyone’s kid is really good. Yes, every single kid is going to the NHL. However, should you really and truly be raising the next future NHL star (like everyone – yes, everyone), elite players will play on travel or “rep” teams which scale up all the way to various junior level leagues, which are for players from 16-20 years of age. The age at which rep teams start varies between associations and provinces. I’ve seen rep teams begin as early as age 6 or 7. To make the roster of a rep team, tryouts are typically required. Those that don’t make it to rep are encouraged to stay in house leagues.

How Much Does It Cost?

Well, that depends. First – how good is your kid? No, seriously. Second – how much money do you have?

Here’s a breakdown of payables. For us, Matthew is beginning young, and in a house league, so this is probably the cheapest season of hockey we will ever pay for.

Registration Fee:

 $535

Equipment:

 $200

Tournament Entry Fee:

 $60

Trophy, Socks, Gift for Coach:

 $65

Volunteer Fee:

 $200

Total:

 $1060

We got the cheap starter equipment bag from Canadian Tire, which includes pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shinguards and a practice jersey. We got a cheap composite stick from Costco. Matthew’s skates are hand-me-downs from his older brother, and he had a helmet that still fits from his old skating lessons. So this is on the very cheap side of the scale, even for a 6 year old player. The Volunteer Fee is interesting – if you choose not to “volunteer” you can pay a fee of $200. All others are “Voluntold” to put in at least 4 hours of work for the association, which usually involves fundraising of some kind.

There is a much broader conversation about the cost of hockey in North America. There have been many articles written about how much minor hockey costs, and how the cost to play is prohibitive.

“We are catering to the kids that are more spoiled in that they come from money – they want this, they want that – and those are the kids that eventually down the line don’t make it because they’ve had everything given to them easy. It’s the ones that have to work harder, train harder and don’t have the money (who) are hungrier to get (successful) and we’re knocking those kids out of the game.”
– Peter Zezel, former NHL player. Quote via The Star

The cost to put Matthew in minor hockey, playing with his 6 year old buddies is on the very low end of the spectrum. As the kids get older, registration and equipment can cost more than $10,000 a season, and God forbid you have a kid that’s a goalie.

What Do We Get For This Money?

Semiahmoo Minor has hundreds of players registered every year, and the vast majority of people are volunteers. Matthew’s team has a Head Coach, two Assistant Coaches, Team Manager, Player Safety person. In addition, there is a power skating coach who specializes in improving the kids’ skating skills.

If you’ve played any hockey, you know how expensive ice time can be, even if you’ve got a dozen players splitting the cost at midnight. Despite the cost, I thought there was actually decent value for what we’ve paid – 2 to 3 sessions each week, varying days and times. Ice times are as early as 7AM, as late as 6PM, which is not bad at all. From October to mid-December, it’s strictly practices, power skating and scrimmages. Our one tournament is just before Christmas, which is also when games begin against other league teams.

What’s Next?

Matthew and myself both love hockey, and we’re both competitive. Once he and his brother threatened to cheer for the Blackhawks because they had beaten the Canucks in the playoffs. I then promptly told them to pack a bag if they want to cheer for another team. I’m certain there will be some future posts about Crazy Hockey Parents, which may in fact be introspective. I’m also hoping to write posts about coaching, scheduling and finances.

If you’ve got any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know below.

Canucks Summer: No News is Good News?

The Colour of Money – it’s not Canucks blue and green

Two of the biggest free agents this summer were Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They signed twin contracts in the Twin Cities with the Minnesota Wild. Both players signed for 98 million over 13 years. Are these guys worth their contracts? Are any players worth this kind of money? Inevitably, comparisons will always be made to other contracts in the NHL. Parise’s contract makes sense looking at other big name offensive stars in the league, but Suter’s contract is the type of deal that artificially drives up the prices of lesser players. Suter’s cap hit is the 2nd highest for an NHL defenceman, only behind Shea Weber, and ahead of big names such as Zdeno Chara, Mike Green, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith. Time will tell if Suter is worth that type of money, without Shea Weber playing next to him.

Rick Nash was traded from the Blue Jackets to the Rangers. Although Columbus GM Scott Howson insists that this was a good deal for the Jackets, it’s not. Columbus gets Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon. Dubinsky and Anisimov are two roster players, and Erixon is a young depth defenceman who will get a chance to play in Columbus. Generally speaking, the team that loses the best player loses the trade. In this case, Nash is by far the best player in the deal. Columbus lost their best player, and look to be treading water again. The Rangers on the other hand look great – they still have a great young defence corps, and added a top notch goal scorer to help out up front.

The Canucks did manage to pick up Jason Garrison, for a cap hit of 4.6 million per year, over a 6 year term. Garrison will hopefully fill the holes left by Sami Salo and Aaron Rome. Garrison could be described as a combination of the two – he possesses the heavy shot of Salo, and has the size of Rome. Time will tell if this former Panther is worth his contract, as the jury is decidedly still out on both David Booth and Keith Ballard, also picked up from Florida.

Luongo not yet traded, Schneider signed to 3-year deal

Roberto Luongo is still a great starting goaltender, and his cap hit of 5.3 million is actually 9th among active goalies. Not bad, but it’s not the cap hit that teams are shying away from – it’s the length of the term, and to an extent, the uncertainty of the upcoming CBA structure.

As if to confirm the Canucks are looking to trade Luongo, they signed former backup Cory Schneider to a 12 million dollar contract over 3 years, at a cap hit of 4 million per year. With Luongo at a cap hit of 5.3 million per year from now until eternity (2021-2022), that means 9.3 million per year is tied up with 2 goaltenders. Mike Gillis doesn’t want to be burned with a bad trade (see: Rick Nash), and he has stated that he isn’t afraid to start the season with both goalies in the lineup.

Having said all that, Luongo has gone on record saying that he believes it’s time to move on. During this interview, Luongo was thoughtful, humorous and candidly retrospective – qualities that were missing too often from his post-game appearances, especially during his tenure as the team’s captain.

Roberto Luongo Interview with CFOX’s Jeff O’Neil Show

What does this all mean?

At this time, the core roster players are mainly the same, including the excellent goaltending tandem of Luongo and Schneider. Arguably, the Canucks have lost a key piece of their defence with Salo leaving, but Garrison fills that spot and adds durability. With the Canucks winning the President’s Trophy for the last two seasons, they might be alright heading into this season. Then again, with some of their divisional rivals getting better (the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild), points will be tougher to gain in the Northwest Division.

Fans should keep the faith. The Canucks always seem to play well when the pressure is on, and with management holding onto vast majority of last season’s roster, the pressure has never been greater.

Canucks Season Post-Mortem: Everybody Relax

Now that the taste of bitterness of the Canucks first round exit has diminished, and the second round is now underway, it’s a good time to look back on the Canucks season.

The Canucks earned their 2nd President’s Trophy in a row this season, earning the most points in the league again. Say what you will about a weak Northwest Division, I maintain that it’s still a great accomplishment. Look around the NHL – the only truly competitive divisions in terms of playoff calibre teams are the Atlantic, and the Central. If you’re the class of the Pacific, Northeast, Southeast or Northwest, you should have a shot at the President’s Trophy. So where are those teams in the race?

With respect to the playoffs, every year there are teams that win and lose unexpectedly. The playoffs aren’t played on paper, they’re played on the ice. Teams rise and fall in cycles – players get hot and cold, teams look good and bad. If you’ve ever played any competitive sports, you know this. Sometimes you’re in the zone, and feel unbeatable. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t get it together. If you’ve watched the Canucks for a long time, this isn’t the first time you’ve suffered, and you know it won’t be the last. If you’re new to being a Canucks fan, welcome aboard, and hang on tight. There will be ups and downs, but it’ll be fun.

Coaching controversy

Alain Vigneault is still the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, and I feel he will be for next season. There is no shortage of opinion on the matter on Twitter, and @korvan made an excellent point just after the Canucks lost their series to the Kings:

If you let go of Vigneault, who’s out there that’s better?

Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in the 2006-07 season. All he’s done since then is gone on to coach the team to two President’s Trophies and to the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s not too shabby. Who is available that can be better than that? Ron Wilson? Marc Crawford? Mike Keenan? Come on now.

Goaltending controversy

We will look back on this time as a golden age of goaltending in this glorious city. For a city with fans that love the backup more than they love the starter (Attaboy Troy!), we may all rue the day that we had to trade Number 1 away. A lot has to happen for Roberto Luongo to be traded away from the Canucks, but this seems to be a foregone conclusion. He has said he will lift his no movement clause if that is what’s best for the team, and speculation about where he will go to has run rampant since then. Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida seem to be the most popular destinations. Other cities in the conversation include Edmonton and Chicago, among others. Personally, I can’t see Mike Gillis trading Luongo to a team that could come back to haunt us early in the playoffs, unless the deal is something he can’t resist.

Make no mistake: Roberto Luongo is the greatest starting goaltender ever to put on the Canucks uniform. The statistics below don’t lie. It’s also no coincidence that teams and cities that loved to cut Luongo down are falling all over themselves, in search of a starting goaltender who can take them deep into the playoffs. Yes Vancouver, it’s true. Many teams in the NHL believe Luongo can take them deep into the playoffs, even as some of us have doubts.

Goaltender Season GP W L T OTL     GAA     SV%
Roberto Luongo     2010-11     60     38     15     -      7 2.11 .928
Kirk McLean 1991-92 65 38 17 9 - 2.74 .901
Richard Brodeur 1981-82 52 20 18 12 - 3.35 .891
Dan Cloutier 2003-04 60 33 21 6 - 2.27 .914
Arturs Irbe 1997-98 41 14 11 6 - 2.73 .907
Corey Hirsch 1995-96 41 17 14 6 - 2.93 .903
Cesare Maniago 1976-77 47 17 21 9 - 3.36 -
Félix Potvin 1999-00 34 12 13 7 - 2.59 .906
Cory Schneider 2011-12 33 20 1.96  .937

I believe Cory Schneider looked good this year. I believe he will be a great goaltender for this team. However, what I believe, and what is factual are different things. Here are the facts:

  • Schneider is a Restricted Free Agent still in search of a long term deal. If a long term deal can’t be made, the Canucks can always make a qualifying offer for him, but risk losing him as an Unrestricted Free Agent next summer if they do so.
  • Schneider didn’t play a starting goaltender’s minutes in Vancouver this year.
  • The glare of the spotlight is much brighter – and much hotter – on the starting goaltender in this city.
  • Schneider has 1 playoff win to his credit, and 38 career regular season wins.

Hopefully Mike Gillis can get a long term deal done with Schneider, and trade Luongo to a team that won’t break our hearts in the playoffs next year.

Playoff Injury Report

It is always interesting to see which players had which injuries once they are out of the playoffs and the Cone of Silence is finally lifted. As it turns out:

  • Ryan Kesler has problems with a shoulder, as well as nagging post-surgical hip issues. He is looking at a long period of physical rehab and strengthening this summer. Only his abs remain uninjured.
  • Chris Higgins was suffering from an abdominal strain as he took the sit-up contest with Ryan Kesler a little too far.
  • Kevin Bieksa has finally admitted his “Maintenance Week” was just a little more serious than “Maintenance Days”.
  • Alexander Edler indeed played with one eye, and only one half of his brain in the first round.
  • Sami Salo is remarkably uninjured.
  • Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre were drinking Faderade instead of Gatorade.
  • Mason Raymond as suspected, has a serious leg length discrepancy, which explains all of the falling.
  • Roberto Luongo played despite a broken heart.

Nothing wrong with the Sedins – they were pretty good.

Thoughts regarding the early demise of the Canucks

The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.

Galadriel – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

There is no question that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult championship to win in pro sports.

There are 8 great teams in the Western Conference that made the playoffs this year. No easy matchups – just ask the Red Wings, Sharks, Blackhawks and Canucks – all out in the first round, joined by the Bruins and Penguins in the east. I have long stated that to go deep in the playoffs, it sure helps to have a hot goaltender. I have to amend that this year – it sure helps to have two hot goaltenders.

Still doesn’t work?

To go deep in the playoffs, it sure helps if you have two hot goaltenders, and play a goaltender that isn’t hotter, and you can score a few goals.

When the playoffs begin, it is a new season. A chance to clear away the disappointments of the regular season. As the Canucks learned, if you have a slow start in the playoffs, you might as well pack your bags. There’s no room for error. If you’re lucky enough to make it through one round, you get to do it all over again. And again. And again.

The Canucks have a great team. Two President’s Trophies do count for something. Not as much as a Stanley Cup, but .. there’s always next year.