Monday, January 11, 2010
The pretty young woman is my great grandmother, born Mary Ann Whelan, known as Polly. The fellow with the Lanny McDonald is my great grandfather Neil McLean, youngest of eight children, namesake to our first McLean to come over to Canada. His father had settled up by Barrie, married and farmed there and then, over twenty years and those eight children later, moved to the Bruce peninsula. Almost immediately after that one of the older brothers, Malcolm (Uncle Mac), sailed across Huron and into Superior, heading just west of the Soo to a brand new settlement at the mouth of the Goulais River. Soon after his parents and at least two brothers followed. When the younger Neil passed in 1929 he was survived by Malcolm as well as two sisters and a brother who lived on the Prairies. Another brother, John, drowned in Lake Superior. His body was never recovered. One other brother and one other sister are mysteries, at least to me, although the story becomes clearer every passing year.
The younger Neil died at 54 which is young for a McLean. My grandfather passed in an accident just short of seventy but his brothers and sisters were all long lived and tough. His youngest brother fought in the second world war, fathered eight children of his own and made his living as a trapper. He lived into his late eighties. The remaining four made it into their nineties, including my great aunt Dora, who lived to be ninety nine, and my great aunt Gladys who was at the reunion in June, looking spry and drinking a beer.
Neil's own brother Malcolm lived into his nineties in a small house on the family property on the Goulais, Uncle Mac was a kind and gentle man and is actually remembered by the youngest of my own father's siblings.
Some crazy shit.
For some reason when winter comes my thoughts turn to these people and the lives they made for their family a century ago. Winter in most of Canada is awfully tough even now and all of those years ago it must have really been something. I have an uncle who was born on a train in a snowstorm as my grandmother hurried to the Soo from Franz. When they reached town her and her newborn were pulled on a sleigh to the hospital, the roads were impassable due to the storm. As for Goulais, well its a half hour on the Transcanada today and then another twenty minutes down the old road to where my great grandparents farmed, right at the mouth of the river. One hundred years ago in the dead of winter they may as well have been on the moon.
And yet one thinks that they made the best of it. There is a short history of the town that I read this past summer and it was a close knit community. Polly's table was known to always have food and drink on it and the farmhouse was a centre of the social fabric of the town as folks would make their way to the mouth of the river for cards and some music and some food and probably, knowing my family, a few drinks. The river was there and one guesses that there was skating and hockey games there and sledding in the surrounding hills.
This past weekend on the cold Friday night neighbours tramped up the street and came into our home with a bottle of wine. As the kids played we ate and drank while the wind roared outside. Saturday morning I was up at the crack of crow's piss and took the two oldest to skating lessons in a rink that was nearly as cold inside as it was outside. Saturday night I played hockey myself and had a couple of pints at our tiny local, surrounded by muttering Irishmen plotting their own nights. And then Sunday it was to the park and back on the rink as neighbours tore down the hill in the sunshine.
In short, it was glory and all that winter can be and except for the Thai food, the Australian wine and Irish beer and the Japanese car it really was probably not all that different from live on the river a century ago. Or so I'd like to think anyhow. ;)
Haven't given up on the Oilers or on writing about them. There's just so very little to say. MacKinnon writes in the Journal about how the club has a big decision looming. What the hell is the decision? They're terrible and Carolina is coming up hard. Hemsky is gone and so is Khabibulin and Comrie is still in the iron lung. The opposition is keying on Penner and whoever lines up with him and the results are as expected. And when it comes down to it even if Tambellini wanted to start dumping contracts the guys he would want to move are immovable. So his decision is either to stand pat or to start trying to move guys that would likely help the club win a little, like Souray. Some decision.
It remains a fucking disgrace.
Naw what I wanted to talk about a little are a couple of pieces of old news.
The WJC ended with a bang last week with an exciting final. Of course the media is trying to find an angle and right now it seems to be that the Americans are coming and that they are going to dominate hockey in a few years from now. Every time the Americans win anything this is what the media comes up with and forgive me for suppressing a yawn, considering that they now have three medals in the last thirteen years at the WJCs. This isn't to say that the Americans aren't quality, indeed with the Russians and Czechs and Slovaks struggling more and more I would guess that they may be our primary rival in the years to come. Considering that this Canadian team was a poor one in my estimation and that they still only lost in overtime I would not worry too much.
Overall the tourney was a dull one. Nearly every game lacked drama and if the American goaltender Lee had not been so shaky the final may have been a blowout. The Americans looked terrific, fast and hard charging, while the Canadians were no great shakes from their goaltending all the way out. Allen was awful, the blueliners were slow (I don't rate Pietrangelo at all, other than the big goal on NYE I thought he was pretty poor actually) and up front they had Eberle, Hall and a good showing by the Luke Adam line and then a bunch of meh. Kadri left me cold, especially with the ridiculous throat slashing gestures, and the rest of the forwards just seemed to get very little done. I was left wondering why Seguin was not kept as a thirteenth forward.
Oh well, you can't win them all.
The other big news was the Canadian Olympic team selection. Unlike 2006 which was an absolute mess (Bertuzzi? McCabe? No Crosby or Staal!) this went pretty well according to form. You can certainly quibble over individuals here and there through the roster but I don't really see any that are out and out terrible. Bergeron was slightly controversial but the guy is serious quality at both ends of the ice, imo. he's no Rob Zamuner. The San Jose guys are always going to get questioned until they actually do something but its pretty well impossible to ignore them and I do remember a time a few years back, BJT, when Patrick Marleau had a great playoff, the year before the lockout. I would have guessed that if Ryan Smyth had stayed healthy that he would have made the team but as I said I have few quibbles with the forwards.
On the back end I worry a bit about Niedermeyer. Everyone assumes that he wil get it together. Lets hope so. Green was the big omission in many eyes but I think it was Bob MacKenzie who expressed my biggest reservation about him. I liked him as a seventh man to run the PP but my biggest fear is that an injury would move him up to the top six and I don't think he can handle that.
The biggest surprise to me was Bouwmeester's omission I guess. What do I know though? I haven't followed much of the league outside of the Oilers this season. I presumed he was a shoo in and would have taken him in place of Niedermeyer or Boyle I think but I guess with either of those you get the puck moving and the experience in the big games.
A lot more speed on this club, a lot more offence from the back end and a lot more talent than 2006 so here's hoping that they can get it together and bring some life to what has been a dreary winter, hockey wise anyhow.
Posted by Black Dog at 5:30 PM