Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kevin Melnychuk is a Centaur

The snow is now long gone and the progression of the seasons brings change in active seasonal sports.
Although I haven't played in years I still feel a certain acclimation to kick a ball around as spring is the season for rugby.  Now that I am old, sore, tired and out of shape I prefer to watch rather then play. And if I am going to watch, I am going to watch Kevin Melnychuk (Melon) play.

For the last few years Melon has been playing rugby with his home team the Grand Prairie Centaurs. I  haven't gotten out to see him play as many times as I would like, but when I have it was damn entertaining.

The latest game was a cold Saturday morning.  The perfect temperature for rugby - when you get a scrape the blood cools and scabs quickly.   I arrived right in time for kickoff.

Kevin was wearing the #12 jersey meaning he was playing Inside Centre, what I would consider his speciality.

Like you would expect for a first game of a season; it started slow. Lot's of grubby penalties and knock-ons leading to scrums and free kicks as the boys were finding their stride.

Eventually, the game got a bit of a rhythm going and some good tough rugby was played.

The Drayton Valley Riggers popped in the first try which was answered by the Centaurs as Kevin scored on a nice 10 yard run in for a try. The game remained close with the Riggers getting in for another try early in the second half. 

Even though the wrong team scored, I had to admit I had a feeling of glee on what that would mean. Ever since high school Kevin has challenged the conversion kick. If a kicker is worth his salt at all, AT ALL, there should be no chance for an attacker to block his kick. I know it can be a distraction but really, it's the equivalent of the coyote chasing the roadrunner in looney tunes. There is no chance. True to form, Kevin did not disappoint by challenging the kick to no effect. Awesome!

Down by a try the Centaurs poured it on. They dominated field position with nice set pieces, some good inside running and even better support.

This pressure led to a poor clearing kick by the Riggers away from the pack straight into the Centaur wingers hands. The Winger poured on the speed to the outside and caught the corner to score. Full disclosure, I was right along the line cheering and I think he stepped out of bounds right before scoring. Good thing there was no flag man on the side.

Now leading by 2 the Centaurs kept coming with some straight ahead play.

I still can't believe that the 8 man tries this pass in the closing minutes. I also can't believe it works.

The quality of the rugby definitely improved through the game but overall it was pretty sloppy. I am sure they will take the 17-15 win as something to build on any day though.

From my perspective it was great to see Kevin again and it was even better to see him score and the team win.

Every time I watch rugby I think that I want to go and play again. But I know that I have no fitness any more and I fear that I am getting soft. My last 'comeback' ended abruptly with a stupid injury in practise which made me feel like a tourist.  So for now I will just try and make it out to watch a couple more of the Centaurs games in Edmonton this year.

Friday, May 24, 2013

We Shall Have Pie Fun Run

Last weekend I took part in my very first ever fun run. This was kind of a big deal for me as I am grossly out of shape and am generally built for speed as opposed to stamina (not a euphemism). So why may you ask was I willingly running 5 kilometres to no particular destination...It was for delicious pie.

For the last half year plus my friends Jenny and Tina have been blogging about food, fitness, and everyday life on their website As a way to promote general fitness, but mostly for fun they decided to put on their own 5km race with the proceeds going to KidSport Edmonton. The hook, or extra incentive for participants, was fresh pie (not a euphemism) upon finishing the the race. Truly a 'treat' for expending all your energy.

As organisers it was their first ever 'legit' road race and I think they ended up getting more work than they originally bargained for. But that was a good thing as they ended up with about 70 runners on the big day as opposed to their initial low estimates of a dozen.

The night before the race Chrissy and I checked in at the Kinsmen Running Room to pick up our swag and kit for the next day. As a great surprise we were greeted by Tina who gave us some extra encouragement and a new first for me - Pie in a jar.

The next morning I got up a little earlier than usual for a Saturday to do some yardwork and stretch everything out. Following all that up with a light breakfast Chrissy and I felt pretty good for the race...albeit I was a little off centre.

We arrived early at Kinsmen Park just under the high level bridge for some last minute stretching and posing.

And then we were off...
I started pretty good finding a quick but sustainable pace and held it straight for the first 2km before my shin splints became unbearable. For the next half km it was all start and stop motion as I had to stop and stretch out my calves to get feeling back in my toes. At the half way point I simply flopped to the ground, pounded back some water and stretched. For the next km or so I walked with my shoes off and then did more start and stops as both my fitness level and shins were getting the best of me. With the finish line getting in my sights I decided to finish strong and gave it my all for the finish line and a time of approximately 32 minutes.

Upon finishing the race I proceeded to fall into a heap massaging my shins and ankles.

Chrissy, a savvy veteran, patiently waited for me to finish and then attacked the pie table to collect her reward.

Feeling completely down and like a big sissy that I couldn't even run 5 km I did what any 34 year old adult would. I took my sorrows to a Splash Park where I could feel like a big man.

That's right, big man, totally an adult.

I arrived back at the race start/finish in time to grab a slice of pie and then settled in to watch our hosts hand out cool prizes from sponsors, Wajax, Running Room and more. 

Chrissy even won a prize.

To drown my sorrows of running failure and to celebrate the success of the inaugural race (Great Job Girls!) we headed out for a beer. Unfortunately, Tina couldn't join us as she had to start her shift at the Running Room when the cleanup finished (she's hardcore like that). 

It wasn't till late in the day Sunday that my body started feeling the effects of the run. My right foot couldn't take any weight without having considerable pain. Recollecting a past visit to a podiatrist I figured it to be some tendon damage or inflammation and my internet searching identified it as just that...or polio...thank god for the internet. A few days later my foot still hurts and I'm contemplating never ever running on paved surfaces. Maybe I should take up baking. 

BTW - Follow Tina and Jenny on Twitter or click on the permanent link on the right toolbar under We Shall Have Pie.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alzheimer's Hockey Pro-Am Tournament

Regular readers of my blog will know I quite like hockey. So when I learned of the Scotiabank Pro-Am for Alzheimer's in Leduc I jumped at the chance to volunteer for a worthy cause where I could actually have some fun. As someone who has seen the degenerative loss of those suffering from Alzheimer's I feel that its one of the most worthy causes to support  So that day my efforts were larger than just keeping myself entertained, it was also for Grandma Kaminski and Auntie Marian.

The Pro-Am tourney kicked off with a draft where each team chooses an available NHL alumnus to play on their team. Draft positions were determined by the total dollars raised by each team for Alzheimer's. This years tournament had a strong contingent of former pro's who plied their trade here in Alberta including a ton of Flames from their Stanley Cup year.

Ready to get to work I got to the rink early on Saturday and was given a couple small tasks before being assigned my regular role for the weekend - room attendant. My job was to set-up the rooms for the teams before they get there and make sure they are generally content. So basically, put out Jerseys/Socks for each teams inaugural game, then name tags, waters, fruit, tape, etc as the games progress. It may seem excessive but for each team to play in this tournament they must fund-raise at least $25,000. So very rightfully they get treated like rock stars.

Here is the Journeyman's room prior to their arriving.

The volunteer coordinators and my fellow volunteers were all very organized and professional so we got most of our work done quickly enough to actually watch the hockey.

The skill sets of the players were all over the map and the pro's generally played to the level of the competition.

I didn't interact with the pro's too much but I was very impressed every time I did by their humility and general 'regular guy' presence. You can't go wrong with any of the pro's but I can tell you that if you ever get the chance draft Lanny McDonald or Marty McSorley. They are true gentlemen who tell great stories and make sure their 'boys' have a good time.

The whole weekend just hanging at the rink was great, and it was all for a good cause, so I was content to do my part. But, the event organizers and the NHL Alumni staff really went out of their way to say "Thank You" for volunteering and I got a couple lifetime memories as a perk.

First up - Special Jewelry. 

I got to wear Mike Krushelnyski's 4 Stanley Cup rings including one won as a RedWing. Of course, as a total poser, I went with the tough guy face.

Second Up - Meeting Mr. Hockey.

The tournaments un-official ambassador is Gordie Howe who lost his wife in 2009 from Picks Disease.  Gordie now is no longer a young man so while he always wishes to attend the games the cross country travel can be taxing. When I signed up to volunteer I knew there was a chance that he may show up for the weekend but it was far from a sure thing.  So much to my surprise and elation, he showed up for the ceremonial All Star game to drop the puck. Thankfully it was on my ice surface so I got the chance to meet him and get my picture taken. 

You could tell he appreciated the volunteers. As soon as the camera came out his elbow came up on me. 

As we waited for the All Star game to start I couldn't help but be drawn to Gordie so I stuck around the dressing room. As word got out that Gordie was in the building a lot of the other pro's came through to the dressing room to get an autograph or a picture. Mr. Hockey was still a draw!

As it was the last weekend of the NHL regular season the discussion in the room eventually turned to the playoff run of Gordie's old team, the Detroit Redwings. At that point I realized that with all of the hockey genius in the room, it was myself who had the best understanding of the final games of the season and the playoff implication. Finally, my turn as a Redwings superfan to shine.

Here's one of my new all time favorite pictures: This is me describing to Mr. Hockey, his son Marty and Jeremy Roenick what it would take for Detroit to make the playoffs and how they would be ranked if they won their game that night.

I think I found you a new analyst. Seriously, I work for cheap. Call me.

Already, I am looking forward to next year. If you don't see me on the ice, look for me scurrying around the benches with my camera.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Christina's Birthday 2013

On May 3rd it was my betrothed Chrissy's birthday. Although the day is important I have learned that she tends to celebrate about a week prior till a couple of weeks later. So as far as I can tell we are somewhere near the end of her celebration and so I can finally write about it.

On the day before her birthday I realized that it was officially the last time I would ever get to date a smoking hot 32 year old so I took her out for dinner and a show. First stop was Packrat Louie for a great supper then we took in Flight of the Viscount at the Varscona Theatre. The show was pretty fantastic (it is only playing till May 19th) go see it!

For the big day, after receiving a small token gift in the morning, Chrissy and I met her (future and always) bridesmaids and their menfolk at our favorite restaurant in Edmonton: Continental Treat Fine Bistro. Home to the best dill pickle soup you will ever have!

Finishing off the weekend and the halfway point of her 'no clutter, experiences gifts' was a trip to Fort In View golf course by our house for a quick 9 holes of golf.

But nearing the green on the first hole, tragedy strikes! Leaning over awkwardly to grab her ball out of a puddle Chrissy rips the bum on her jeans wide open.

Like a champ she finishes out the hole.

Completely composed she raps her bunnyhug around her waist and we walk back to the clubhouse to buy a skirt or new shorts. But, alas, so early in the season there is absolutely no womens 'bottoms' to buy in the pro-shop. Thinking that we may have to turn back in to town the course manager appears with his extra pair of shorts from his office. We gladly accept and Chrissy changes into a male strangers shorts.

And she rocked it out having a fantastic game.

The festivities slowed down during the week until her official birthday gift on the 1 week anniversary of the actual day. My gift? A surprise night out with her parents and myself at Jubilations Dinner Theatre to see  My Big Fat Edmonton Wedding.

We have a stressed out Bridezilla, whose mood swings make Jekyll and Hyde seem tame. There's the nervous groom, with a seemingly dangerous secret past, and the "thrifty" Father of the Bride, who fancies himself to be a wedding singer. The best friend/bridesmaid with an eye for the groom, and a best man who has crashed more weddings than he can remember and has both eyes on every female have My Big Fat Edmonton Wedding!

Unbeknownst to us the whole venue and staff are fully involved in the plotline of the wedding with the servers all being cousins or friends of the wedding party with their own back-story. The show clipped along quickly inter-spliced with the our multicourse meal. Both the production and the food were top notch.

It being Chrissy's birthday (kind-of) she was personally serenaded at our table by the bride from the production and then ushered on stage with the other birthday folks to give her age and take part in a dance. As you can see she's a natural.

I am a lucky man. 
Happy Birthday Chrissy. I can't wait to spend many more with you.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Putrella Flower at the Muttart Conservatory

In late spring we had a strange, yet fascinating event happen in Edmonton. The Muttart Conservatory hosted it's own form of celebrity as its Amorphophallus Titanium or "Putrella" came to full bloom.

"Native to Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia, Putrella was acquired by the conservatory and arrived in Edmonton in August on a flight from Boston. Detained by suspicious inspectors, the 275-pound tuber was eventually hauled away to the Muttart, where employees used a forklift to hoist it out of a truck and place it in a greenhouse."*

The flower is famous or infamous for two major reasons. The large and quick phallic growth which produces the largest inflorescence (flower on a stem) of any plant and it's horrible florid smell which has given it the colloquial name of the 'carrion' or 'corpse' flower.

The fragrance of putrella is similar that of a rotting mammal which attracts carrion eating beetles and flies that pollinate the plant. Additionally the deep color of the bloom and temperature of the spike approximates that of a freshly killed piece of meat. Delicious.

Now if you're asking yourself who the hell wants to see a flower that smells like death? - The answer is a lot of people. I had been following the plants progress on facebook and when it finally bloomed I convinced Christina to go visit the Muttart with me. Unfortunately, a few hundred people had already beat me to it and were lined up well outside the building waiting to see it.

Scared that I would miss the big event I took my lunch break very early the next day and got into see putrella hours into the second day of its bloom.

The smell by this time wasn't as overwhelming as I expected, I think the natural aeration and being in its second day lessened the smell to mostly a musky, dirty scent.

On a pure sensory input level it's an impressive plant to say the least. However, I have to admit that to me the most impressive aspect of the plant is it's wild growth cycle. Taken from the Muttart Conservatory's facebook page I have made the following GIF to show you it's crazy progress from March 13th when a bud first appeared above the dirt to about 8 feet just a month later on its bloom date of April 20th and the eventual sag of April 28th.

Muttart Conservatory Putrella

I am thankful that the Muttart had the foresight to invest in this special plant and I hope that the extra attention they received and the hopefully successful 'harvesting' of the flower lead to them bringing more exotic and interesting plants to Edmonton.