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Archive for October 2008

Novice hockey

Quebec adjusted the ranks of its minor hockey leagues over the summer. For example, Novice previously consisted of kids in grades two and three – in other words, the age cut off roughly matched the age cutoff schools use, of September or October.

The province moved the age cutoff date to January 1, so that novice this year consists only of players born in 2001 and 2000. All kids born in the last third of 1999 move straight to Atom after one year of Novice.

My Novice B team from last year, 14 kids, is returning only three kids to Novice. Child Three is one of them, and he’s the most veteran goalie remaining in NDG at the level. Last year, NDG had seven Novice teams: two A, three B, two C. Each A team had a goalie and each B team had two. Of those eight goaltenders, six have moved to Atom and one is now a skater. Child Three alone remains.

Novice this year has many fewer kids. We’ll only have four teams (one A, two B, one C). On top of that, the quality of the skills at the Novice level seems to have dropped. I hope that trend holds citywide, or it’s going to be a long year for NDG at this level, especially considering the league championships we won last year at A, B, and C.

The winnowing of the kids into the levels is more secretive this year. Even the coach selection has become bureaucratic. Last year, we had a big happy meeting of volunteers. This year, some board has to approve all requests to coach. I asked to return as a head coach, but I don’t know the status of my application.

Although I’m not privy to the process of grading the kids, from what I see on the ice, there are two goalies in the running for the A team: Child Three and another goalie in her first year of novice. They play different styles and are about equivalent prospects. The other goalie makes more stops right now, but Child Three is more dynamic and I think will be the better goalie by the end of the year. Still, it’s a tough call, and one of these two goalies will be on the A team. Another consideration is that I think the other goalie has a temperment better suited more competitive hockey. Child Three gets too frustrated and discouraged at times.

I’m concerned by the goaltending quality. I hope it’s a byproduct of the change in age-ranking and of what we see among the skaters, but none of our goalies are as good as the ones we saw on any team in Novice B last year. I hope it’s the same in other regions.

I have mixed feelings about Child Three’s prospects for other reasons. If he makes the A team, I have a feeling I won’t be the head coach – other volunteers have been asked to rank the kids and I have not, mostly because this year’s Novice brain trust is a clique of parents who know each other and not me. Yet I excel at head coaching, I think. I could be an assistant, but I want to teach a team of kids my way. My team improved so much last year and I want to succeed at that again. That’s a possibility if Child Three plays in Novice B, a better possibility than were he to make A, for sure.

All should be resolved by the end of the week.

Tuesday at the Canadian War Museum

I’ve been debating posting about my Tuesday because the events as they happened could embarrass Child Three, but I’ve concluded that the humour of the situation trumps his feelings. It’s no wonder they call me Superdad.

The kids had Tuesday off for Rosh HaShanah – even Child One at the non-Jewish school – and in a surprising development, I knew that ahead of time. Two weeks ago, I hatched a plan to take Child Three and possibly a friend and siblings to Ottawa to spend the day in the Canadian War Museum. My girls had no interest (freaks!) and the friends we asked couldn’t make it so just the two of us went.

I had told Child Three the day before that we should probably leave around 9:30. He woke me at 9:31. We packed a knapsack with snacks and a reference book, and I took along a plastic cup with my lukewarm morning coffee. That will become important.

The first two hours of the drive passed uneventfully. We chatted, we listened to the radio, Child Three used the iPod. About 20 minutes from the museum, still in a rural environment, Child Three said he had to use the bathroom. I asked him if he could hold it and he said he thought he could. I told him that if he thought he couldn’t, to tell me and I’d stop to let him pee.

We drove a few minutes more and the boy started to rhythmically repeat, “Good… good… good….”

“What does that mean?,” I asked.

“It means that I’m good and don’t have to go to the bathroom.” I drove on with “Good… good… good…” coming from the seat behind me.

The boy piped up again, “OK, now when I say ‘good’ it means that I have to go.”

“That’s confusing. Just say ‘pull over, I have to go’ and I’ll know I have to pull over to let you go.”

“OK.” About 20 seconds passed, then: “Pull over, I have to go.”

I think Child Three had been waiting until we passed some fields and got near some trees that would hide him better. I pulled off the road, and he could see that the trees, which look close to the highway at speed, were actually about 50 meters away and that grass twice his height grew closest to the shoulder.

He took a look at the grass and told me he was fine, we could keep driving. I told him to get out of the car and pee on grass. No one would see and it was just like the trees. He got out of the car and meandered to the grass, then meandered back to the car. “It’s OK, I’ll wait.”

Superdad knew this would not end well. “Are you sure? I’m telling you, if you pee in my car I will be livid for the rest of the day. You asked me to stop so you could pee, so you should pee. If you get back in the car, you better be absolutely sure you can hold it in the rest of the way.” He got in the car.

As we entered urban Ottawa, I heard a rhythmic thumping behind me in the car. I asked and the boy explained that he was kicking to take his mind off his bladder. I asked him if I should stop somewhere and he said that I really should.

We drove around what seemed to be the Chinatown area of Ottawa and we saw no gas stations or fast-food places with easliy accessed bathrooms. Nor were there any alleys or trees to pee in or behind. I told him the museum was just down the street and asked if he could hold it. He said he thought he could.

With the museum in sight, Child Three sounded worried. There was still no place for him to go, so I offered him the cup that had held my coffee. He accepted it because he couldn’t last those last three blocks.

In case you were wondering, and eight-year-old boy’s bladder holds about half a cup of urine. He didn’t spill a drop. He wanted to hand me back the cup, but I told him to hold on to it and make sure it didn’t spill. He put it in his cupholder.

I spilled the pee down the sewer drain in the parking garage and Child Three washed it out in the bathroom. It stayed in the car while we toured the museum, reference book in hand because they don’t allow backpacks in the exhibit.

If you visit the museum, do bring a reference book. Ours added much value to our visit. The basement gallery is filled with guns and vehicles that the museum explains only briefly, often with only a name. Fortunately, I have enough knowledge of the small arms and heavy weapons (machine guns, mortars, grenades) that I didn’t need a book for those. If you’re driving in from out of town, you might also want to bring a cup.

Bonus war story:

There’s a video on YouTube of an interview with Jack Cohen, whom I also interviewed by proxy several years ago. My interview was conducted by my late friend, Michael “Burbank” Hyde, who was also a gracious host to my brother when he toured Australia.

Here’s Jack:

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