Sunday, August 21, 2011

New blog

C'mon now, did you really think I'd stop blogging about hockey and hounding? well, I haven't. If that disappoints you, well, oh, well. If it doesn't, feel free to check out The Hockey Life.

It'll be a little different than the Hound Centrals. A little less on hounding, but a lot more about living the hockey lifestyle.

With Colin embarking on another season of travel hockey, making the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirt A squad for the 2011-12 campaign, I'll share what it means to be a hockey parent.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thanks for stopping by

Now that the 2010-11 hockey-hounding campaign is over, and Colin finds himself immersed in travel team hockey, it's long past due for our priorities to change. That's why, as of this post, among the more than 2,500 I've written since I started blogging Sept. 10, 2005, Hound Central 5.0 has run its course.

It's been my pleasure, for the most part, to share our hockey-hounding exploits and misadventures with you over the past six years. I'm grateful, too, for all of the people who've helped out: Moody, Al and Mike among them. But it's time to redirect our energy, and as any hockey parent knows all too well, our resources.

I've also pulled the plug on Hockey Hounds Universe. All along, the focus was to chronicle the 2010-11 hockey-hounding campaign. Again, I appreciate anyone who took the time to stop by and everyone who helped. It truly was a learning experience.

As always, folks, thanks for your support over the years. I hope my efforts were worth your time. It was, and remains to be, truly appreciated.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My 2010-11 NHL awards picks

Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Marty St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Vezina Trophy (best goalie): Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
James Norris Memorial Trophy (best defenseman): Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie): Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (gentlemanly conduct): Marty St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward): Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Jack Adams Award (top coach): Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning (yes, I know he's not a finalist)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship): Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks (pretty weak field, too)
Ted Lindsay Award (players' MVP): Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Hockey Life: Week 32

When Colin was born, I reached out to the man whose named is listed on my birth certificate as my father. He had no interest in meeting his grandson, let alone his son. His concern, beyond being tracked down so many years later, was that the news would upset his family.

From that moment on, I vowed to be the man that man – Vincent Wynn Parry -- never was.

Over the course of my nearly 50 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have father figures who taught me valuable lessons about being a man, a husband and, most importantly, a father.

On this day, I don’t have one father to thank, but many: Roy F. Saar, David Howard, Russell Saar, Harold McLeer, Fenton Thomas McGonnell II, Lester Baum, John Schurr and Russell Asquith.

My only hope is that I pass these lessons to my son and become the father I never had. More than anything else, that's what I want as my legacy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The thrill of victory

At practices Monday and Wednesday, Colin wore his Bruins Patrice Bergeron jersey, taking some ribbing from his teammates who, suddenly, were Vancouver Canucks fans. Well, after Boston's 4-0 victory Wednesday night, it looks like the Hockey Gods have once again smiled upon Colin.

At game's end, Colin donned his Bergeron jersey again and lofted a Stanley Cup in celebration. "I have a lifelong right for bragging now," Colin told me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Hockey Life: Week 31

We were on our way to a Florida State League baseball game, braving rush-hour traffic as we headed to Dunedin, when my cell phone rang. The caller ID showed it was a call I wanted to take. It was Colin's coach from the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning, calling on the day when we'd hear whether he'd make the Squirt A squad for the fall and winter season.

After exchanging greetings, Coach Dave got to the business at hand -- Colin would, indeed, be sticking with the Jr. Lightning, having earned his keep, so to speak, over the course of the 10-game summer season. With 41 kids trying out for 22 to 24 positions over two teams, we were pretty psyched to get the news.

"You can't teach speed and tenacity," Coach Dave told me.

We've enjoyed watching him play this summer, learning from his earliest games against much-better teams that playing hard and engaging the competition would make a big difference. Since he started playing, I've stressed the need for him to skate hard and be active. In fact, Coach Dave related how Colin's name came up in conversations with teammates on  the player they'd least want to go up against in one-on-one drills.

That doesn't mean, though, there isn't room for improvement. It's likely that Colin will play more defense than forward in the upcoming season, meaning he'll have to learn a more positional game and become a better heads-up stickhandler. Advice like that will give us something to work on over the summer.

A kick in the grass
Over the years, we've taken Colin to many sporting events, mostly hockey and baseball games and a handful of Nascar races. Later today, we're attending his first pro soccer game as the FC Tampa Bay play the Atlanta Silverbacks at Al Lang Field in downtown St. Petersburg.

Beyond having fun with a loud, vocal group known as Ralph's Mob, I'm hoping Colin draws some parallels from soccer that he can use in hockey -- relentlessness, playing your position, pinpoint passing and rock-solid defense.

For me, it'll bring back memories of watching the Tampa Bay Rowdies during my first tour of duty here in Hockey Bay as well as covering the team during my early days as a sportswriter for the Clearwater Sun.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Colin's new wheels

We went to a Sports Authority yesterday afternoon looking for a new pair of sneakers for me. Didn't see anything I liked that was within my budget, but Colin stumbled across these new Mission Helium Quatro 3500 inline hockey skates in a bargian bin.
Once priced at $119.99, the price tag read $34.99. When we went to check out, though, the register rung up $19.99. Can't beat that, can you?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Time off, baby!

At the stroke of midnight today, I begin 16 straight days of vacation. Won't be traveling far, sticking mostly close to home. Aside from a few hockey-related activities, this vacation is more about chilling out and resting up than running around the Sunshine State or the East Coast like a sunburned, money-spending madman.

Instead, I'll get to watch the Bruins beat the Canucks, in seven games, to claim Lord Stanley's Cup.

With any luck, some pucks and cards, currently taking up space on any flat surface in the office, will also get put away and, possibly, some collections within the display case will be updated. Hockey Hound Universe also needs a few more posts, too.

What I'm really looking forward to, though, is spending the first week of Colin's summer vacation with him. We'll do a little fishing, fly some kites, look for trains and continue our search for the best pizza in Hockey Bay. Some joint in Tampa that serves deep-dish pizza is our first stop.

If you see us, don't be afraid to say hello. We might even offer you a slice, as long as you ask nicely.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Hockey Life: Week 30

Last Wednesday morning, I stumbled upon two face-value tickets for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Wanting to put Colin in a position to watch his favorite team -- the Boston Bruins -- make the Stanley Cup Finals, it was a no-brainer to pull the trigger on the tickets.

After picking him up from school and putting him through a quick skating session, we headed over to Tampa. As always, we followed our pregame routine, venturing down to the glass so Colin would watch the team during warmups.

Only a few minutes in, a Bruins player skated up to Colin and tapped the glass in front of him. In his hand, he held a puck. Seconds later, he tossed it over to Colin. While this hasn't been that rare of an occurrence this season, the player who did it was a bit of a surprise.

Instead of Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Colin's best NHL buddy, it was, instead, Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin. Stunned by the gesture, Colin and I looked at each other with wide-eyed amazement.

For regular readers of Hound Central 5.0, it's common knowledge that Seguin didn't rank near the top of Colin's favorite NHL players, even despite playing for his hometown Bruins. A little incident earlier this season saw to that.

After Wednesday night's warmups, though, Colin now considers the matter closed.

"Apology accepted," he said.

The thumbs-down, too, was for the Lightning, not Seguin. I just hope that doesn't come back to haunt him.

He'll take it

Brett, owner of the top-shelf My Hockey Card Obsession blog, is one of Hound Central 5.0's most faithful readers. As a result, he's very familiar with Colin's passion for the Bruins. Brett, however, is a Canucks fan. And with the two clubs squaring off for Lord Stanley's Cup, he proposed a friendly wager.

If Boston wins, Brett will create a custom Stanley Cup Patrice Bergeron card for Colin to get signed. If the Bruins lose, though, Colin will create a Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup Champions team sheet to get signed.

After consulting with Colin, he's accepted the wager and is looking forward to his new card. It'll look good, he said, with the other Bergeron card Brett created for him a few seasons ago.

Not too smart, folks

If you ask me, it was pretty freaking stupid for Lightning and Bruins fans to throw those plastic thunder drums onto the ice at the end of Game 6. Players from both teams got hit as did a few unsuspecting fans.

I mean, what were people thinking? That this was cool? Hardly. All it showed was that a few numskulls, likely fueled by a few too many overpriced alcoholic beverages, fell far short of acceptable behavior. I wonder, too, how many kids followed the leads shown by their parents?

It's one thing to cheer for your team or, within reason and boundaries of good taste, give an opponent a hard time. Tossing projectiles, however, crosses the line.

As for the Lightning, let's hope there was a lesson learned. As vigilant as they were about fans entering a game (bags checked, pockets emptied and a body scan with a metal detector), the organization showed a lack of foresight in handing out these items.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Big night tonight

When Colin first tried out for the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning a couple of months ago, we heard that the spring season would serve as a warmup for the real deal -- the fall season. Well, after making the spring squad, Colin takes the next step in his journey tonight, when he tries out for the Jr. Lightning's fall squad.

So far, in six games with the Jr. Lightning, he has a goal and two assists and has earned a reputation for a tireless backchecker. To me, he's doing what he supposed to -- being a role player.

Last Sunday, he played his 20th game of 2011. Wearing the jerseys of the Jr. Lightning and the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars, in travel-team and rec league games, he has scored 11 goals and has 12 assists. At more than a point per game, I'd say he's doing pretty good.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Hockey Life: Week 29

It's not too often that I've been able to try my hand at hounding during an Eastern Conference final. That changed last week, when the Boston Bruins came to town to play the Tampa Bay Lightning. And now that I think back, this is the first time.

After two trips in less than 24 hours, however, I'd call it a waste of time. Though the coaches and lesser-known players will likely sign, it's apparent that most of a visiting team's bigger-name players are in shutdown mode.

To wit, according to several Hockey Bay hounds who put in more time than me:

~ "I'm not signing this trip." Boston's Zdeno Chara

~ "C'mon, it's game day." Boston's Tomas Kaberle

~ "(Bleep) you, you fat (bleep)." Boston's Tyler Seguin, during a testy exchange with a Hockey Bay hound (not me, though)

Granted, it's easy to understand that the players are focused on the game, not signing autographs. At this stage of the season, players need to think about the task at hand. But to sneak out a hotel's back door to catch a ride, rather than walk out the front and politely decline requests, is, in a word, weak.

Checking in

Because the Bruins were in town, Colin joined me for both of our hounding adventures. It wasn't so much to score autographs, but the trips represented opportunities for Colin to see his favorite NHL buddy, Patrice Bergeron.

Unfortunately, Bergeron was one of the Boston players who ducked out the back, meaning Colin didn't get his face-to-face with the reason why he wears No. 37. We had made a quick trip Friday to the hotel's Starbucks, hoping to see him there, like we did Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Johnny Boychuck, Shawn Thornton and Tomas Kaberle, among others.

To Bergeron's credit, though, he nodded at Colin as he stood along the glass during Game 3 warmups. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but Colin certainly appreciated the gesture.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hockey Life: Week 28

Because I've been a gypsy journalist, working at papers large and small along the Eastern Seaboard, I've had the opportunity to follow a number of NHL teams -- the Carolina Hurricanes (the first two seasons after relocating from Hartford, when they were practically giving away tickets), Boston Bruins and, now, the Tampa Bay Lightning. It doesn't mean, though, they're my favorite team.

The honor, for better or worse, goes to the Buffalo Sabres. From the days of the French Connection to Donny Edwards to Ryan Miller, I've always bled blue, yellow and white.

That doesn't mean, though, that I can't, or won't root, for other teams, especially when living or working in a particular city, save for when the Sabres come to town. To me, it's a right of being a hockey fan.

This issue has come to the surface recently, at home and on Facebook, over my stated hopes that the Lightning beat the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final. It seems I'm the only one in the house, besides the cats, who isn't rooting for the Bruins. And after a couple of pointed posts at Facebook, it's apparent I've stepped on a few toes.

My response requires only two words: tough beans.

For one, once the Sabres were knocked out, I wasn't going to sit idly on the sidelines. I'm too much of a hockey fan to not have a dog in the fight. So, for a couple of reasons, I'm sticking with the Bolts.

In two tours of duty, so to speak, I've lived in the Tampa Bay area for nearly as long as I have in western New York. I may have been a kid in Machias, N.Y., but I grew up down here in Hockey Bay. It's where my favorite Bruins fan learned to skate and plays his hockey, too. And given that the Lightning has enjoyed a truly remarkable turnaround this season, it's not hard to appreciate the team's fortunes.

As for Boston, well, that's a different story.

I really love the city itself. It's steeped in history; you can walk on the very same streets as America's first patriots. It's great for people-watching, as its international appeal and many top-rate universities make the Hub of the Universe moniker deserving. And the Public Garden is one of the coolest places I've ever visited (I even know of one spot where you can sit, in summer's full bloom, and not see a single bit of the city).

The fact that Colin was born near Beantown and grew up watching the Bruins, including his favorite NHL buddy Patrice Bergeron, practice and play, from Wilmington, Mass., to Boston and from Brandon, Fla., to Tampa, made it easy to cheer for the Bruins, but only when they weren't playing the Sabres and, now, the Lightning.

My biggest reason for abandoning the Bruins in this series raised its ugly head last night. With the Lightning holding a commanding lead in the third period, I was appalled by the spacious gaps of empty gold seats at the TD Banknorth Garden. Rather than stay to the end and boo their team, as any loyal hockey fan worth his or her salt would do, the "fans" left. Unfortunately, a few knuckleheads stayed behind, throwing debris (playoff towels, perhaps?) at the Lightning players at game's end.

And then you have the cheap-shot sucker punches thrown by Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Sure, it stinks getting embarrassed on your home ice. Rather than man up, admit that they weren't prepared and dedicate themselves to Game 2, all these two clowns did was disgrace themselves, their team and fans with their selfish actions.

In both cases, it only solidified my decision to root for the Lightning. I made sure, as a father and a hockey dad, that Colin knew the fans' and players' actions, were teaching moments on how NOT to act.

For that, I'm appreciative. Go Bolts!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moms rock

In lieu of another Hockey Life offering, I have but one simple wish: That all moms are shown love and respect not just today, but every day.

To all of the hockey moms, thanks for all of the sacrifices you make. Behind every hockey player is a mom who cares not only about her child, but the sport as well.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's go Bolts!

Never had the chance to witness a series-clinching game. Here's hoping it happens tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. If it does, the joint will be rocking.

Couldn't bring myself to drive over to Tampa this morning and hound the Washington Capitals. Facing elimination, I can't imagine them being in anything other than a surly mood.

Doesn't mean, though, we won't see if some Lightning players aren't staying at a hotel. Got a lot of stuff for them we'd like to get signed.