Thursday, July 15, 2010

Awe and Wonder, Terror and Disgust



Going to British Columbia in a week for my youngest cousin's wedding. He's a very very cool dude, a mountain man through and through, into the hiking and the back country skiing and all that inner BC mad shit that is foreign to someone from my neck of the woods. He's marrying a sweet girl from a little town in Alberta and they're going to make beautiful music together, one hopes, for another half century or so.

Brendan is an adventurous sort. He did a workterm for a year in Europe, living in Switzerland, which suited him fine. Probably the greatest thing about Europe, other than the fact that it is Europe, is the ease of travelling about. Its cheap to fly anywhere and the distances are short and so my cousin did what any young fellow would do and went to Munich for Oktoberest and went to the fiesta in Pamplona and ran with the bulls and generally took as much in as he could. He also skied a lot, some recreationally and some competitively as he managed to hook up with a minor circuit that held races in the Balkans. I used to have a picture of him on a podium somewhere in Bulgaria, with a huge beard and one of those oversized cheques for 10000 euros.

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This will be my third trip to BC. Its really something else out there. My first trip to the coast was in 1999. We were living in Florida at the time and we were having a family reunion up by Wawa. One of my best friends had left Sudbury in the early nineties and moved out west. Unable to find work (the early nineties were a little barren in terms of work when you got out of school) he packed up his old Jeep and headed for the coast. He came back a few times, most notably to get married to a girl he met on Vancouver Island, and at the turn of the century he was living the life in Kelowna, married, a new baby, a house in the valley. And so after drinking beer and kicking ass all over Ontario I flew out to see him.

Started in Vancouver and took the bus to Kelowna where I spent a week between there and Salmon Arm, drinking beer and being a goof. At the end of my week I was scheduled to go to Cranbrook to upgrade a customer's hardware and software there (this was during the whole Y2K preparations) and then from there I would go to Fernie to hang with my cousins who had returned from the reunion and then to Calgary to fly back to Florida.

It was a one way trip to Calgary and so when I went to get my rent a car to take me through BC I was given probably the least likely vehicle one can get, a full sized van. No problem, right?

I set out on a beautiful morning and made my way south through the Okanagan. I had discovered upon arriving in Vancouver that basically everytime I turned a corner I would stumble upon the most amazing scenery I had ever seen, until I turned the next corner, and so it was this morning as I wandered lazily through the valley. And then in the distance I saw where I would turn east to head to my destination, the foothills of the mountains and then I realized what lay before me and then I began to sweat.

Because I, my friends, am terrified of heights. Not a little nervous. Not a little queasy. Full out completely pathologically terrified. When we were in London we went to St. Paul's, one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen and we decided to go up the stairs that run up the hidden blackness of this wonderful structure and check out the circular gallery that overlooks its centre, right under the famous dome. We got up there and Jenn immediately began sauntering about, looking over the rail at the people below, checking out the sights.

Me, I shrank against the wall and cowered on the narrow bench that ran around the outer wall. And then slowly I began to scootch along the bench on my ass like a dog on a lawn towards the exit and a way out of my nightmare. I saw a woman doing the exact same thing coming from the other side and in her hollow eyed, pale, sweaty face I saw myself and we exchanged weak frightened smiles.

Go back a number of years and that jaunt up the steps in London had nothing on my journey across the Kootenays. Up and down and around mountains, one after the other. I remember rounding a curve after climbing and climbing and seeing the climb continue a couple of miles in the distance and nearly breaking down in tears. There was sweating and swearing and shitting of the pants. I considered pulling over and abandoning my vehicle except then I would have been stuck up there. I drove in the middle lane and hugged the yellow line and anyone stuck behind me was cursing me as I drove thirty kilometres an hour on the highway.

I kid you not. And the worst part about it was that I was sitting so high up I could not ignore where I was. I could see it all, the deep valley awaiting me if I tumbled over the absolutely tiny and useless barricades on the absolutely tiny and useless shoulders, the miles of climbing before me until I rounded another peak and began my descent.

It was horrible.

It was nothing compared to what awaited me at my destination however. I arrived in Cranbrook a couple of hours later than expected due to my quality mountain driving. I went to the lab, kicked off the switchover and then went over to the customers' home. With a lot of smaller customers they often asked us to stay with them to save on the cost of hotel and food and as long as they were reasonable it was usually not a bad deal. Homecooked meals are better than restaurant food. And so we sat on their back deck, eating steak and new potatoes right out of their garden, drinking cold beer as the tension drained from me. They were a couple in their fifties and they ran the business themselves. After the meal he told me that I was free to do as I pleased in the house and brought me downstairs to show how the TV worked. he had a big big screen and he had satellite and he was flicking through the channels as we sat in gigantic easy chairs. His wife was just bringing us another beer when he turned it to the nastiest, hardest core porn I have ever seen. He chortled, she didn't blink, and I had a sinking feeling that they were about to bring out the gimp. They did not, although we sat in silence, all three of us, while he cackled as some pizza guy gave it to a bored housewife up the ass while that porn music played.

I slept with one eye open the rest of my stay thre, let me tell you.

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The summer for the Oilers has not been such a roller coaster ride of emotions as my first trip to beautiful British Columbia. Even for someone who has little faith in Oilers' management, like me, I have to say that I am pleased with what has happened so far and any complaints (like JFJ)I have are pretty minor.

They still have Souray to deal with and I think that Cogliano is going away as well but there seems to be a lot of waiting going on around the league these days. Clubs with money have no cap space and clubs with cap space have no money and so we have a logjam and there are an awful lot of useful players who are waiting around for work. A guy like Frolov would have had a ton of cash thrown at him in years past but nothing so far. Its pretty crazy and one certainly has to believe that if the Oilers wanted they could or will be able to pick up a couple of useful veterans for cheap, either as free agents or in trades from clubs who are looking to sign free agents.

The thing about the Oilers is that they have three goalies (and it certainly looks like Dubnyk had passed ADD by, imo) but with Khabibulin's health issues and legal problems they may be running the two kids out again. Which means that with that defence they may be in lottery territory once again. This blueline is a lot thinner than last year's and if you believe that Foster and Smid make a credible second pairing then you may be the only one. An injury to Gilbert or Whitney and they are going to be totally and absolutely screwed unless they bring at least one more legitimate top four guy and I don't think its going to happen. They have the four aforementioned and Vandermeer and Strudwick and one guesses that Peckham will be the last man standing after camp.

That's a pretty piss poor defence and the uncertainty of the goaltending and the green forwards mean that this team is going to give up a lot of goals. Even if Khabibulin in healthy and a free man.

So while last year's club needed soem help with injuries and illness to clinch first overall, so to speak, I don't think its too farfetched to see this year's edition being, if not in the lottery, certainly in the top ten picks.

Up front, well its the same old story. Too many fourth liners (though less than in past seasons) and too many guys who need sheltering. In a way though Tambellini's hands are tied a little. Of course he's the one who bought the rope and tied the knots. He has the following guys on the roster presently:

Penner/Horcoff/Hemsky
Hall/Gagner/Brule
Jones/Fraser/Stortini
Cogliano
Jacques/McIntyre

So two more spots and I would bet that Paajarvi and Eberle can win those spots. Plus you have Omark who has more experience than any of the other kids.

So do you bring in a couple of vets to augment these forwards? A couple of guys who can check and PK?

I say yes although I suspect that Tambellini is waiting to see who is available and will invite a guy or two to TC. If the kids falter then they sign the invitees. If they do not then he cuts them.

Trying to have it both ways.

Personally I would sign a couple of guys. Lets say Eric Belanger for example and a guy like Owen Nolan. Whomever you want though, you get the picture.

If the kids do well then Stortini and Jones slide into the pressbox. They'll be back. Guys get hurt. If the kids do poorly then your vets just go right into the lineup.

Belanger and Nolan or whomever aren't going to make this team a playoff team but they will make it a better team and help keep the puck out of the net a little bit. And if things go south you can move them for something come the spring.

The only problem is that Jacques and McIntyre already have two spots and this is where Tambellini has fallen flat a bit I think although its minor stuff really, at least compared to his work on the farm club, which has been admirable and will have a big impact longterm. McIntyre is probably the worst player in the league and his presence didn't stop guys from getting run left right and centre the past two seasons. Tambellini is not the only GM to have this cowbell. Goons who can't play are getting hired everywhere this summer despite the fact that the last three Cup champs hadn't a single one on their roster. And so too is Jacques a usual type of choice for an NHL GM. Buddy can't play a damn lick but he gets a contract while guys like Pouliot and Potulny and Comrie and Pisani get cut loose.

For the record the culling of Pouliot and Potulny was perfectly understandable to me. They were relatively expensive and neither adds a ton, imo. I liked Pouliot but every year was a tease. Plus the injuries killed him. Comrie was fine last season but he's redundant on this roster, same as last season. He'd be a better idea than JFJ or MacIntyre of course.

And I will be doing a little writeup on Fernando once its official. I can't see him getting a contract anywhere, even at the minimum, not with that illness hanging over him. Its not like a guy with a bad knee. More like a guy with a bad back. He can get hurt tying his shoe. Same deal with old Fernando. And he's not 2006 Fernando anymore. He's a shadow. Hate to say that I hope that's it but I hope that's it and he retires as an Oiler this year.

And yet with all of the issues with these four guys they are all better players than JFJ. So is Liam Reddox.

Its not the signing of JFJ in itself that bugs me. Hey I can see the tools that make the Oilers not want to give up on him and his presence isn't going to be the difference between the Cup and lottery land. Plus he comes cheap.

What bugs me is that Tambellini thinks he is a hockey player who can help this team win when other than hitting he doesn't do a damn thing well. Could have kept Ryan Stone who was ten times the player. He'd hit too.

Oh well. Bad with the good I guess? Overall its been pretty good.

12 comments:

spOILer said...

You've mastered summer. Now do the Coquihalla in winter.

I don't think the D is as bad as everyone else seems to think. Defensively, I think they're probably actually better. Whitney > Lubo, Foster > or = Souray, Vandermeer > Grebs. Puck movement from the back end though is going to be a real issue. I'm sure our forwards will circle depper, hang out in the zone longer, and help out.... BWAHAHAHAHA!

Brad said...

BD - I think you said you're staying out east this trip, but if you hit Vancouver, the first beer or two are on me.
Does your boy still want to be Batman? Mine's more a Spiderman type of guy.
Have a good trip!

Ribs said...

Great stories, haha. Those BC roads are wild. I remember a trip to Tumbler Ridge back in junior in the middle of winter when I surely thought our bus and its passengers would be found the next morning at the bottom of some gorge as we careened at full speed corner after corner downwards. The roads were slick and the driver seemed a little too confident in himself. We made it safe and sound but I think there were a few soiled seats that day.

Give me a nice flat prairie road any day!

BBZC said...

I am not so sure JFJ makes the team. With Mac and Stortini signed and the Oilers apparently promising Giroux that he would get a real shot, I am not so sure JFJ makes the team.Remember Giroux is also on a one-way.

Eventually what has shown up in the stats for years will eventually show up on the tape as well, the question is how long will it take Renney to notice?

Black Dog said...

BBZC - you may be right although I really can't see them keeping MacIntyre over him. JFJ is awful but MacIntyre makes him look like Gordie Howe.

I think they see all of the physical tools and figure he merits another shot but its that ten cent head thats the issue.

Brad - His old man is a Spiderman guy and the boy likes the webslinger too but yeah he's still a Batman man for the most part.

Thanks for the offer, if I'm in Vancouver I will take you up on it. Going through Calgary this time though.

Black Dog said...

Ribs - yeah I could never even imagine the mountains in winter. Never going to happen. Ever.

spOILer - oh I don't know pal. Our D weren't great shakes but I don't think Foster or Vandermeer are either. Guess we'll see. At least Vandermeer is going to make guys pay the price. Haven't had that since Gator went away.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* miss the Gator one arm slamsdowns...

With all the expected fun watching the young forwards, the defence and penalty killing is worrisome. Hoping (praying?) it'll be good enough that the aforementioned youngins don't get slaughtered.

Love drives through the Rockies...when someone else (I trust)is driving lol

Tim said...

Great write up Dog. I'm back in Canada, heading to the MTS for 2 weeks of fly fishing, mountain biking and hiking. Planning to hit 3 of my top 5 streams.

Your fear of heights reminds me of this adventure race I was in (I think last year). I am a chicken shit mountain biker, and the bike leg had an unholy rout with sheer and utter death on the right hand side for far too long. I dismounted numerous times and, according to my brother-in-law, rode like a soft wet pussy. I should mention that I have no fear of heights. I do, however, fear stupid and needless death. Anyway, I threatened to shoot him if he told anyone.

If you ever want to cure your fear of heights, give me a call and we can go for a ride ;)

doritogrande said...

You've mastered summer. Now do the Coquihalla in winter.

Seconded. I had the pleasure of attempting it in a snowstorm in April this year. Having to pass semis with the wipers on full bore with a nervous co-pilot who had not driven in mountains before, going downhill and not wanting to touch the breaks for fear of sliding.

Ah, memories.

Give me a nice flat prairie road any day!

Hah. Hahahahaha.

You ever been caught driving through a Prairie windstorm? Fuck it, I'll take the mountains. At least there's some shelter from the gale-force winds and driving snow. Last time was so bad, the Trans Canada highway all stopped on the side of the road, trying to wait it out.

In fact...we've got video proof.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I_oOXhHiZA

Check out the 3:30 mark, and you'll never want to tackle the Prairies in winter again.

As an added bonus, I'm the genius who took an epic landing halfway through the video.

Ribs said...

Oh yea, dorito. I've been through many a windstorm like that one. We went through a good one last winter where we had 10-15 deer jump in front of us on top of not being able to see anything. Luckily I noticed them in time and no one was behind us at the time.

That crap is no fun but it beats feeling nauseous when you get winding up and down a mountain any day in my books.

uni said...

I'm a bit late to the party here, but every time I see a picture of Marion Cotillard the first and only thing that comes to mind is this:

Forehead Tittaes

You're all welcome =).

Black Dog said...

lol Uni