Monthly Archives: January 2012

Write me a letter

Write me a letter. Hand-write me a letter. Send me news of how you are, of how time has passed where you are since the last time you wrote me. Don’t leave me guessing as to what any of it means. I don’t want to have to fill in any blanks, there’s enough blanks in everyday.

Does anyone remember the times when we waited for a letter to come from someone? I mean a handwritten letter delivered to us by the postal service, not an electronic message of sorts that takes less time and often times less thought. A handwritten letter. Someone took the time to grab a pen or pencil, paper, and organize thoughts and/or emotions, writing all along the way, finish it, sign it, fold and mail it. They went to the end of their driveway after incurring the expense of the materials and the postage, made the effort to get the letter out to the street where only a postal worker could take the message from there.

Imagine for a moment that all your communication could be done by writing a letter. Would you have to print the words or could you write it out in cursive handwriting? I am not being facetious here. Cursive writing seems to be less and less important to everyone, each passing year. Kids aren’t learning it anymore, but they are taught how to use a computer right away. I am okay with the computer piece, but why can’t we learn to write our language the way it’s supposed to be written? Is this too grandiose an idea? Future generations will dig and find remnants from this generation and writings won’t be found, the printed word will be found, and the flowing artistic values of the written word will be absent. Anyhow, that wasn’t really the point of this whole piece anyways. Although my mom made sure I could write in cursive, and write it well. I am still glad she did.

Now in the direction of a point to all of this. I received more than 50 emails today, most of which were generic junk. Almost none were typed by anyone with a pulse. Most were a blast of emails going to a large number of people who may have signed up for this, visited that site, or used some product somewhere along the line. That’s okay really because, had I received more than 50 hand written letters today I may have struggled to read them all. But the point is, I would have likely read them all.

If you could only communicate outside of the spoken word, by writing, not printing, letters to people, would the contents of your communication be of higher quality and thought? I bet they would be. Imagine the time it takes to have a two-way text conversation with someone now. Not very long. Not very much thought either. Most text messages, even many emails, are written while the author is mentally engaged in some other thing, if not many other things.

Sit down at the table with your favorite writing utensil and some paper, and write someone. How many thoughts that may be okay to text or email someone would never even make it to that sheet of paper? Probably quite a few. In any event, think on it. Think of the words needed to describe the details you would like to share. How many thoughts does it take to come up with a single sentence or even a paragraph?

That’s the point. We have these amazing minds that God has blessed us with. We use a fragment of them to begin with and then we divide that number again by not being present in our day-to-day communications. If each of us had to give our friends a status update by writing each of them a letter, I bet it would be of better quality, thoughtfulness, and respect than half the garbage we send electronically. Trust me, if I could write this all in cursive to my audience, I would. To me, there’s nothing quite like the flow of the pen (I prefer pens over pencils, but it’s not a deal breaker) on a sheet of paper. Hearing the whisper of the pen’s contact with the paper as the loops, swirls, dots, and slashes come together to form a series of thoughts.

In a time not long ago, the written word was beautiful, flowing and smooth. The language, the command of vocabulary, was equally impressive and the descriptive writing style represented the thought process and effort that went into that unique piece of writing.

Hey, I type, I use spell-check, I text, I email too. Modern conveniences can be great, but they should never replace, diminish, or devalue thought.

The phrase that someone is “hanging on your every word” is every reason why every word deserves the thought necessary to speak, write, or otherwise communicate that word. Words still, and hopefully always will, carry more weight than sticks and stones. That’s just how powerful words are. And when thinking is reduced to reaction of a text or email, which of course is written in one light, but almost always read with the narrative and mindset of the reader, then that’s a recipe for destruction, if not a total breakdown of communication.

I enjoy reading more and more as I get older and my eyes get worse. Go figure. But I do. Anyways, I find that the well-thought out, researched written, words that describe many things I read are amazing. It’s almost like looking at a picture which is worth at least a thousand words, and that may be how many words it takes to paint that picture. If it takes that many words to frame the vision for all who peer at the otherwise blank page, then imagine how many thoughts were formulated to arrive at those words.

Again, the point is; think. Words are powerful. Use the ones that should be used. Dad and Mom used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say …” Same thing here. If you don’t have something thoughtful to say, then think until you do. Make it count. The recipient may have had the toughest hours of their life just when your words hit their phone or email account. So, were those the words you wanted to share? Describe the day, the feeling, the thought you had, dig into the depths of your mind and describe it. All of us have emotional ties to descriptions that we use in the truest stories we ever choose to share. Write it out. Write them out. As you write you may be surprised at how many emotions, how many details, how many alternative lines of thought, could have come into play had there been more thought at that time.

I am guessing also that whomever you write to will receive the written word with more weight on its meaning, thoughtfulness, and degree of respect than just about any other form of communication. Choose carefully as there just may be someone on the other end who is hanging on your every word. And that combination of words could be a series of blows to their psyche or it could be the elevation of a pedestal ‘neath their feet that they feel with each written word.

Words are where we can go when we have a vision and the thought process to go after it. Words are the picture we paint when there is no brush. Words are the weapons we possess but may have never been taught their power, both good and bad. If eyes are a window to the soul, then words are the bricks and mortar that are used to house the window. Think it over, pull a favorite memory from the annals of your mental filing system, and write me a letter.

We Were Friends

Recently a long time friend of mine passed away. I hesitate to say he lost a bought with cancer because he battled, he inspired, he laughed, he smiled, and carried others on his back at times for 9 years, while cancer gathered all its might, trying to take him down. I dare say cancer never took him down, because he won a lot more battles in that time than he lost. And cancer didn’t inspire anyone, but my friend Joe did. I wrote a tribute to him that I have linked here if you care to see it.

As a result of these recent events I have been thrust into a world of memories from 20-30 years ago. I wasn’t looking for any of these memories, nor was I avoiding any of them. These memories are real. Real people. Real feelings wrapped in a distant vision my mind conjures up at the sound of a song or the mention of a name from yesteryear. This has prompted some wonderful conversations and messages with these real people. One such chat led me to communicate some of my brief thoughts on the subject of friends. I have expanded on that framework here. Keeping in mind that I don’t expose these words or thoughts for any other reason than truthfully unearthing the source of the webs that hang like decorations in my brain. Thoughts and feelings that, for the most part, have been thought and pondered on before. Time and time again. Maybe just being a voice that usually is only heard in any of our deepest times of thought.

We were friends. We are, and always will be, friends. In an instant, my friend is gone. Gone. Then the story is told, we were friends …

We had so many spontaneous moments that were fun and almost unbelievable. So many moments that nobody else could ever care to hear about. Somehow though, those moments are exactly the ones everyone wants to hear, among friends. So many moments that we probably took for granted, for which I now long to hold onto forever. I wish I could live in all those moments again.

Then for those of us, still roaming God’s, not as green as it should be, earth, the internal questions begin. Self reflection. Self doubt. Remembering our friend we know with certainty how awesome they were while they were here. But, the question that haunts the depths of conscious thought to the point that it messes, too, with the subconscious, is how good a friend were we? My guess is that we meant as much to them as they meant to us. There’s no measurement with friends. No time elapses. No one thing better than another. There is just that relationship that any of us are lucky enough to live. And part of it is just being ourselves, because in that space that’s exactly who we can be. As it should be.

Then back to me. I hadn’t seen or talked to Joe in years but I do feel like 1987 was only a minute away if I ever saw or talked to him again. That’s how it’s supposed to be right? Unconditional. Conditions are for those who care more about the why’s in life, not the wonders in life. It’s the wonders in life that leave us wanting more when the wonder, we could never put a finger on, goes away. Which is also either miraculously coincidental, or more likely God’s plan, as to why we never could nail down the wonder of it all to begin with. Had we pegged it, our human minds would have picked it apart making it into something other than that which it was. So, I would rather stick to the wonders, the wonderment of those special relationships, and just know that we were friends.

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God’s plan – A tribute to Joe “Hub” Hubbard

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I got home from my son’s hockey practice earlier this evening. After everyone settled in, I flipped on the Australian Open as background noise while I checked email, FB, the weather, and a few mindless things. My mindless escape from … Continue reading

I am a hockey dad … and 13 things you need to know

I am a hockey dad. I love the game. I have loved the game since I was a kid. Although I never played organized hockey, other than when we played with boots for a goal and daylight as a timekeeper on the pond behind my childhood home. Sometimes I was the only one to brave the cold, the wind, and the fact that it was almost impossible to get to this pond on foot, but those moments are golden to me. Even all these years later.

Having been a hockey dad for several years now, with my third son now making his way through the ranks. I have thought for many years that there is something different about the hockey community than in other sports. There’s more of a sense of family and respect than in any other sport I have been around. I often hear or read stories of NHL players and coaches who go out of their way to pay tribute to former players and their families when there’s a death in the hockey community. I mean total reverence and treating the passing as if it was one of their own family. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen in other sports, I just hear a lot more of these stories coming from hockey. Hockey is a long season and for much of the season it might be one of the few reasons why any of us leave the house outside of going to work. Hockey generally isn’t one of those drop-and-go sports where the hockey coaching staff doubles as childcare excuse for an hour or two. Generally, hockey is an all-in sport. The whole family is all-in. The parents of the players, the siblings of the players, are all one family huddled in rinks several times a week over several months a year. Like them or not, they’re your hockey family from the end of August until the end of March, and you’re all on the same team. Not really different from real life. This is where respect is taught. Have your emotions, feel them, get lost in them, and then resurface and understand what respect means and how respect trumps emotions.

I recently re-read an article that was written by ESPN’s John Buccigross a while back. I don’t know that I could have put this any better than John did in his article. I have included the link to his article here. I have also listed out the article below. John’s piece is in italics.

Women and men used to gaze up at the stars, awed at the sight and size of the universe, much like Detroit Red Wings fitness trainers used to be in awe at the sight and size of Brett Hull’s butt during his final Motor City days.

My understanding of the sky’s map is limited to the Big Dipper (good nickname for Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, by the way) and the constellation Orion. Orion is located on the celestial equator and can been seen across the world, much like Pat Quinn’s head. Its name, Orion, refers to a hunter in Greek mythology. Since my late teenage years, whether I am in Mingo Junction, Ohio, or Vancouver, British Columbia, I always look up and locate Orion. It’s my satellite to home and youth.

I first became aware of Orion from the now bankrupt movie production company Orion Pictures Corporation, which made movies from 1978-1998. I remember the company’s animated intro prior to the start of a movie: stars from the constellation would twirl into the letter “O” before the entire word “Orion” was spelled out.

It seemed as if 46 percent of movies produced in the late ’70s and early ’80s, my HBO sweet spot years, were produced by Orion. I am sure this number is probably much lower. “Back to School,” “10,” “Hoosiers,” “Platoon,” “No Way Out” and others all began with the animated Orion logo. I would like to publicly thank the now defunct movie company and HBO for my astronomy acumen and the indelible image of Bo Derek jogging on the beach with wet, braided hair. (“Before the Internet, there was HBO.” Now there is a slogan to believe in.)

Today, kids, teenagers, adults and Sean Avery don’t so much stare up to the trees, clouds, airplanes, stars and 6-foot-9 NHL linesman Mike Cvik as much as they used to; now, most stare down at their cell phones and personal digital assistants (Jim Balsillie’s PDA BlackBerry, yo). As a result of all this “looking down,” we miss so much up in the heavens. We even look down at these things during dinner, hockey games and Heisman Trophy presentations. People even look down at their PDAs while they drive. Who needs a moon roof on a clear summer night when I can play Tetris on I-95 while I soar through the E-ZPASS lane?

This is my gigantic preamble to why you should one day sign up your young son or daughter to play youth hockey at a local rink near you. If nothing else, it gets them away from electronics and teaches them a small slice of humanity that they can take forward through life, a life with more heart and less battery power. The rink’s cold robs electronics of their battery power and signal reception, anyway.

So, if you are a first-time hockey parent, or dream of one day spending more than $10,000 and sacrificing weekends for a decade of glamorous youth or “minor” hockey, here are 13 important things you need to know about the youth hockey universe — and hockey in general — to help speed up the assimilation process in joining the “Congregation of Independent Insane in the Membrane Hockey Community Union” or COIIITMHCU. If you move those letters around you eventually get Chicoutimi. A miracle from the star-filled heavens above. (I’m sure my fellow COIIITMHCU members will offer even more, and we can post next week.)

1. Under no circumstances will hockey practice ever be cancelled. Ever. Even on days when school is cancelled, practice is still on. A game may be cancelled due to inclement weather because of travel concerns for the visiting team, but it would have to rain razor blades and bocce balls to cancel hockey practice at your local rink. It’s good karma to respect the game.

2. Hockey is an emotional game and your child has the attention span of a chipmunk on NyQuil. The hockey coach will yell a bit during practice; he might even yell at your precious little Sparky. As long as there is teaching involved and not humiliation, it will be good for your child to be taught the right way, with emphasis.

3. Hockey is a very, very, very, very difficult game to play. You are probably terrible at it. It takes high skill and lots of courage, so lay off your kid. Don’t berate them. Be patient and encourage them to play. Some kids need more time to learn how to ride the bike, but, in the end, everyone rides a bike about the same way.

Your kids are probably anywhere from age 4-8 when they first take up hockey. They will not get a call from Boston University coach Jack Parker or receive Christmas cards from the Colorado Avalanche’s director of scouting. Don’t berate them. Demand punctuality and unselfishness for practice and games. That’s it. Passion is in someone, or it isn’t. One can’t implant passion in their child. My primary motive in letting my kids play hockey is exercise, physical fitness and the development of lower-body and core strength that will one day land them on a VH1 reality show that will pay off their student loans or my second mortgage.

4. Actually, I do demand two things from my 10-year-old Squirt, Jackson. Prior to every practice or game, as he turns down AC/DC’s “Big Jack,” gets out of the car and makes his way to the trunk to haul his hockey bag inside a cold, Connecticut rink, I say, “Jack, be the hardest, most creative and grittiest worker … and be the one having the most fun.” That might be four things, but you know what I mean.

5. Your kids should be dressing themselves and tying their own skates by their second year of Squirt. Jack is 67 pounds with 0 percent body fat and arms of linguini, and he can put on, take off and tie his own skates. If he can, anyone can. I don’t go in the locker room anymore. Thank goodness; it stinks in there.

6. Do not fret over penalties not called during games and don’t waste long-term heart power screaming at the referees. My observational research reveals the power-play percentage for every Mite hockey game ever played is .0000089 percent; for Squirts, .071 percent. I prefer referees to call zero penalties.

7. Yell like crazy during the game. Say whatever you want. Scream every kind of inane instruction you want to your kids. They can’t hear you. In the car ride home, ask them if they had fun and gently promote creativity and competitiveness, but only after you take them to Denny’s for a Junior Grand Slam breakfast or 7-Eleven for a Slurpee. Having a warm breakfast after an early morning weekend game will become one of your most syrupy sweet memories.

8. Whenever possible, trade in your kids’ ice skates and buy used skates, especially during those growing years and even if you can afford to buy new skates every six months. Your kids don’t need $180 skates and a $100 stick no matter what your tax bracket is. They will not make them better players.

9. Missing practice (like we stated above) or games is akin to an Irish Catholic missing Mass in 1942. We take attendance at hockey games very seriously. Last week, the Islanders’ Brendan Witt was hit by an SUV in Philadelphia. Witt got up off the pavement and walked to Starbucks for a coffee, and then later played against the Flyers that night. Let me repeat that: BRENDAN WITT WAS HIT BY AN SUV … AND PLAYED THAT NIGHT! Re-read that sentence 56 times a night to your child when they have a case of the sniffles and want to stay home to watch an “iCarly” marathon. By, the way Philadelphia police cited Witt for two minutes in jail for obstruction. Witt will appeal.

10. Teach your kids not to celebrate too much after a goal if your team is winning or losing by a lot. And by all means, tell them celebrate with the team. After they score, tell them not to skate away from their teammates like soccer players. Find the person who passed you the puck and tell him or her, “Great pass.” We have immediate group hugs in hockey following a short, instinctive reaction from the goal scorer. I am proud of my boy for a lot of things, but I am most proud at how excited he gets when a teammate scores a goal. He is Alex Ovechkin in this regard.

11. There is no such thing as running up the score in hockey. This is understood at every level. It’s very difficult to score goals and unexplainably exhilarating when one does. Now, if we get to 14-1, we may want to take our foot off the gas a tad.

12. Unless their femur is broken in 16 places, Mites or Squirts should not lie on the ice after a fall on the ice or against the boards. Attempt to get up as quickly as one can and slowly skate to the bench.

13. Do not offer cash for goals. This has no upside. Passion and love and drive cannot be taught or bought. I do believe a certain measure of toughness and grit can be slowly encouraged and eventually taught. Encourage your kid to block shots and to battle hard in the corners. It will serve them well in life.

Enjoy the rink. Keep it fun, keep it in perspective and enjoy the madness. In this digital world of electronics, you may find hockey to be the most human endeavor you partake in. Cell phones run on batteries. Hockey players run on blood. Blood is warmer. Welcome.

John Buccigross’ e-mail address — for questions, comments or crosschecks — is john.buccigross@espn.com.

Thank you for reading through this. I guess I will sign off for now. My oldest son is playing hockey for his fraternity at Dartmouth and having the time of his life. My next son is playing baseball in college out in California, but took time to skate on our little rink out back while he was home for Christmas, and his smile took me back many years to the 530am arrivals at the rink. The rest of the kids are in bed. My eleven year old has to be up early for a hockey game tomorrow morning. Our weekend schedule is gently distorted by hockey, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Just like when I was a kid longing for my late grandfather to give me the okay to turn on CBC (one of three channels with reception on the farm in New Brunswick, Canada), after my parents gave me the nod to stay up late, I now return to Hockey Night in Canada. I am a kid that grew up to be a hockey dad.

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Fresh snow and morning light

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Good morning from New Hampshire. We received just about three inches of snow at our house overnight. Since the temperatures have been well below freezing, the snow is light, fluffy, particularly reflective, and blows around easily. So, while keeping one … Continue reading

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Inspired by her drawings

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If you have read my blog at all you know that I enjoy taking pictures. I enjoy photographs taken by others. I love what pictures have to say without a single written or spoken word. This blog post is a … Continue reading

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It’s all about the kids

I am pretty sure that my views and thoughts that I am about to share are either warped or certainly not taken serious by many. We will see how many times I change the words that end up in this … Continue reading