Thursday, March 31, 2011

“Smoke and fire down your pants”

The following are all original thoughts from inside my little round head:

Mr. Harper will steer the election campaign toward the evil coalition.

Stupid idea.

He will also offer income splitting to some families... in the future.


He continues to hinder the democratic process as he has done in the past, as in the Tar Sands.

He relies on a negative ad campaign to do so.


There. Now I feel better.

But why is Harper so negative?


Welcome to Harperville PT 4: “Smoke and fire down your pants”

[Ottawa - Harper insisted the economy is his “No. 1 priority,” since the global economy remains “fragile,” hinting he’ll try to steer the election campaign towards the economy. Mar. 26, The London Free Press]

[“Mr. Harper will steer the election campaign toward the evil coalition. Stupid idea. He will also offer income splitting to some families... in the future, maybe. He continues to hinder the democratic process as he has done in the past, as in the Tar Sands. He relies on a negative ad campaign to do so.” Mar. 31, It Strikes Me Funny by G. Harrison]

Talk about smoke and fire down your pants.

Last night I was enjoying a program on TV and, during a break, one of Mr. Harper’s many negative ads appeared on the screen. Large white letters. Mr. Ignatieff linked to a coalition. Very small white letters. The date. 2008.

Old news it was. From an angry, insecure Prime Minister.

The ad helped me recall the time in 2004 when Harper wanted to lead a coalition himself to replace the Liberals. Was it a stupid, evil idea then?

["Is this head the home of all that is negative?"]

The reason why Harper, Harperites and all residents of Harperville love their blunt and bland negative ads is because Conservative support across Canada comes in at around 37% during elections, the majority of Canadians are completely willing to support someone who is not Stephen Harper, and negative ads encourage people to stay at home on election night.

That’s right, Canada. Harper doesn’t want all people to vote. Talk about a defender of democracy.

He wants Conservatives to vote (They love his ads, by the way. They’ll vote until the cows come home) but he doesn’t want the other 63% (approx.) of Canadians to vote.

He would rather blow smoke and fire down your pants, lead you to believe that there isn’t an MP in the House of Commons you can trust (except his band of merry men) and make you think there’s no good reason to vote.

Harper’s negative ads don’t work on me. They remind me of why Harper is the first PM in Canadian and Commonwealth history to be called into contempt of Parliament.

The Grand Wizard of smoke and fire is such a tiny little fellow when you get to know him.

More to follow.


Please click here to read ‘Smoke and fire PT 3.'


Zoom w a View: Signs of sprrring PT 2

Steve Coad, Wortley Village resident and sports columnist for The London Free Press, is now running in shorts. No more long johns.

["Go Steve, go!": photo GH]

He got me thinking... I still have running shoes with some miles left in them.


Thinking about jogging, running, walking the bike paths?

Please click here for more Zoom w a View, i.e., Signs of spring PT 1


Live Small and Prosper PT 3: It’s time for Frontier Stew

[“George Weston Ltd., one of Canada’s biggest bakers and owner of the Loblaw grocery chain, recently announced it would increase prices by 5%, effective April 1, 2011. The United Nations reports that average global food prices have soared 40% since June 2010.” - Mar. 21, London Free Press]

I make darn fine lasagna. Not the world’s best, maybe (chefs get paid big money to make stuff better than my homemade, and occasionally they succeed), but darn fine nonetheless.

I also save money by making it myself, even compared to the $9.99 frozen lasagna (Equity brand; the kind that lays in the pan like a pair of wet socks) from local grocery stores.

I know this for a fact. I’m the guy who challenged the CEO of Equity to a lasagna cook-off and won. I made much finer lasagna for less money per pound. My wife and mother-in-law gave it the thumbs up. Big sloppy smiles all ‘round. I wrote a column about the feat years ago. Talk about the street cred - and kitchen kudos - I got out of that one.

Due to the inevitability of higher grocery prices, I believe it’s time for another cook-off challenge to inspire Dads and Moms and kids over 14 to learn how to make great Frontier Stew - and save money - all by their lonesomes. With no help from a CEO or processed frozen foods or anything.

What’s Frontier Stew?

Well, according to the photo on a ‘no name’ label, the stew consists of preformed chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, corn niblets, peas, green beans and gravy.

[Photos by GH]

I tried a can two weeks ago. It was no taste treat. A chilling memory of wet socks came to mind while I supped. If I was already heading toward the frontier, this would make me go west.

I think Frontier Stew can be a lot of things. Get creative. My own slow cooker stew recipe consists of the following:

half of a small beef roast cut into bite-sized chunks, cooked in covered fry pan with butter and olive oil

lots of potatoes, carrots, green beans

1 can brown beans ‘maple-flavoured’

large Spanish onion, 2 bay leaves

gravy: 1/2 beef Oxo cube, 1 cup water, 1/2 can of Guinness and 1/2 cup of red wine per batch

(Note: Make two batches back to back to use the whole roast and so the remainder of the Guinness doesn’t go flat. Or... freeze the beef and bottoms up!)

Two slow cooker batches fills 3 - 4 large casserole dishes or large plastic containers. The smell, taste and price are all definitely in the ‘super supper’ category. (The gravy kicks!)

["A small roast can even be stretched into three batches. I love taters."]

Yes, it’s a new frontier out there with rising food and fuel prices, etc., but there are so many ways to survive, while eating better stews and soups and sandwiches, and getting healthier all at the same time.

Live small and prosper.


Do you like slow cooker or other homemade stews? Got a favourite recipe? Let me know.

Please click here to read Frontier Stew PT 2.


The Workshop: A few pencil strokes and ... voila

Six birdhouses, part of a ‘St. John’s street scape’ series, have their second coat. And they’re dry.

Now it’s time to cut and assemble windows and doors that will remind people of ‘Jelly Bean Row.’

I also have to do some fiddly work. E.g., small address signs for the front of the house, so birds will know exactly where they live.

[Photos GH]

So, this week I’ll be thinking about ‘custom trim’ and a display sign.

“NFLD Revisited.”

“Collect the whole set. Please!”


Does the birdhouse look like a jelly bean to you?

Please click here to see more at The Workshop.


Zoom w a View: Signs of sprrring PT 1

New growth in our front garden.

[Photos GH]

Warm rays on my back while taking a photo.


Have you seen your first robin?

Please click here for more Zoom w a View, i.e., Good to the last drip


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Welcome to Harperville PT 3: “Smoke and fire down your pants”

[Ottawa - Minutes after his government (i.e., the Harper Government) lost a confidence vote and was branded in contempt of Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper came out swinging against the opposition “coalition.” Mar. 26, The London Free Press]

“What coalition?” one might ask.

Good question. Answer: Harper is just blowing smoke and fire down your pants.

Shortly thereafter Harper promised income sharing benefits to families. They can be collected in 2015 - maybe. Just more smoke and fire down your pants.

["Harper: Not friendly by half"]

Though there is a slim chance some Canadians will benefit from Harper’s promise, there is an excellent chance all Canadians will one day suffer the consequences of providing Harper and Harperites (important residents of Harperville) the keys to high political office.

This from a well-respected, local Member of Parliament:

“I have stood and voted for bills I believed vital to the future and health of this country, only to have the success of such votes ignored by the present government. I looked on as the Harper government secretly passed along a 200-page handbook to its members about how to scuttle committees and blunt their usefulness.” The Parallel Parliament

Surely the writer jests. Harper wants to scuttle committees, blunt their usefulness, slow or hinder the democratic process?

Unfortunately, according to a fine book I’m reading, the MPs words are true.

This from Tar Sands Showdown by Tony Clarke:

“Canada’s vulnerability in terms of energy security (e.g., having enough to heat our homes) was underlined by the response University of Alberta professor and president of the Parkland Institute Gordon Laxer received in April 2007 from the National Energy Board (NEB) regarding a series of inquiries he had submitted in preparation for his report Freezing In The Dark: “Unfortunately, the NEB has not undertaken any studies on security of supply.”

Yet, says Laxer, the NEB was established back in 1959 with precisely the mandate of ensuring the long-term security of Canada’s energy supply.

["Canada: Not secure by half"]

A few weeks later Laxer appeared as a witness before the House of Commons committee on international trade to present the results of his research on energy security issues in Canada. But, almost as soon as he began, his testimony was shut down by the chair of the committee, a member of the Harper government, who promptly adjourned the proceedings.

In short, there are serious grounds for concern about increasing energy insecurity in Canada, particularly in relation to supplies of oil and natural gas.”
pg. 206

Harper is in control? Yes.

Harper is doing what is right for Canada, for Canadians? Not a chance.

But... he is the Grand Wizard when it comes to blowing smoke and fire down your pants.

More to follow.


Please click here to read Smoke and Fire Pt 2.


The Workshop: Jelly beans anyone? Anyone?

Jelly Bean Row is a specific, very colourful place in St. John’s Newfoundland. It is there you will find ‘jelly bean’ row houses that appeal to the artist’s eye.

[“My own Jelly Bean Row will soon be ready for occupants”]

“The houses speak to me on many different levels,” she (Allison Earle) says. “Their bright, vivid colours appeal to the designer in me. The fact that many of them are heritage homes stirs a sense of history, reminding me of the generations of families who have lived there. And their Victorian features are so welcoming and friendly, it evokes feelings of home for me.” - Allison Earle, artist (Please visit Jelly Bean

Jelly Bean bird houses are taking shape in my workshop at the moment. Six lovely flavours.

[“Two of my jelly beans still need a second coat”: photos GH]

Hopefully, soon, each will appeal to a small bird with an eye for colour and a desire for cheap rent.


Please click here to view earlier shots from The Workshop.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Welcome to Harperville PT 2: “Smoke and fire down your pants”

[Headline - Harper 'lies' about coalition details: Broadbent

"I've never seen the leader of a Conservative party, certainly not Bob Stanfield, certainly not Joe Clark, lie — I choose the word deliberately — the way Mr. Harper has," Broadbent said.

The former NDP leader, who helped negotiate Monday's deal between the New Democrats and the Liberals with the support of the Bloc Québécois, said Harper also lied when he said the three opposition leaders refused to sign their agreement in front of a Canadian flag because Gilles Duceppe, a Quebec sovereigntist, objected.

In fact, there were at least two flags present at Monday's signing ceremony, as well as a painting of the Fathers of Confederation.
Wed., Dec. 3, 2008, CBC News]

I maintain that our Prime Minister is the type of guy who loves to blow smoke and fire down your pants.

Please regard the following coalition details, 'coalition' being the PM's favourite word lately:

Prime Minister Harper has a history of lying about coalitions. And the Canadian flag too, for Pete’s sake. As well, Harper forgets to tell Canadians he signed up for a coalition when Leader of the Opposition. (Did he wrap himself in the Canadian flag at the time? Did the Fathers of Confederation smile upon him?)

My goodness. The man who likes to blow smoke and fire down your pants got burned himself.

Some readers might ask, why should anyone believe his word about a coalition today?

["Is a half-truth the same as a lie?"]

My only response: You’ve never been to Harperville, have you?

However, that’s the past. Surely Harper’s contemptuous behaviour concerning coalitions is behind him. Except for the baggage of the recent, nasty and singular contempt charge (nothing like it in the history of Canada) against him inside the House of Commons, surely it’s clear sailing for our Prime Minister during his future weeks on the election trail.

Recently, the PM landed in British Columbia and promised parents with kids under 18 that they will be able to split their incomes for tax purposes if he’s re-elected.


“But there’s a catch - the measure won’t take effect until after the country is out of budget deficit, likely in 2015.” (Today’s issue of The London Free Press)

2015. That’s if all goes according to the Conservative plan and they can afford it then.

That’s if the real world doesn’t throw any curve balls along the way. Like another recession, financial or economic wrinkle.

That’s if Harper is still leading the Conservatives.

In other words, Harper can afford to give wealthy corporations another tax cut next year but can’t afford to help families the way he would really, really like until 2015 - maybe.

That’s what I call blowing smoke and fire down your pants. The guy’s a whizz bang.


Please click here to read PT 1 Smoke and Fire.


Live Small and Prosper PT 2: It’s time for Frontier Stew

[Economists say the cost of food in Canada could jump by 8% in the coming months and stay that way for the next year. Breads, grains and cereals will rise the most, with the global costs of wheat, corn and soy increasing. Analysts say the cost of meat also will rise, because livestock consume the same grains.” - Food Prices Forecast To Rise, Mar. 21, London Free Press]

To stay alive, maybe McDonalds will make the Big Mac just a bit smaller.

Maybe Canadians will eat a meatless meal once per week. Maybe twice.

Maybe some will switch from Double Chocolate Oreos to McVitie’s Digestives. They are ‘The Original’ after all.

Maybe PM Harper will increase corporate taxes by 1 or 2 per cent and we’ll all live happily ever after.

What do you think? Any of those ideas stand a chance?

Here’s what I think. In order to survive, save a few dollars here and there, all Dads and Moms and kids over 14 need to learn how to make Frontier Stew. And I don’t mean heating up a tin from the corner Valu-Mart. I mean the real Frontier Stew. The stuff that early Canadians ate from a pail. The stuff that made this country strong.

Yes, we’ve had some downturns and recessions, many Thing$ are going North $$, The Leafs won’t make the playoffs, and we may have to throw a handful of oatmeal into our next batch of BBQ burgers - to stretch the ground chuck, you know what I’m saying - but deep in our genes lies the ability to make stew so fine it makes tinned stuff taste like the crap that it is.

(Admittedly, Puritan Irish Stew, with its preformed chunks of meat, passes muster while camping).

And not only can we make fine stew, we have the opportunity to save money in the process.

["Homemade saves money. Frontier Stew is in there!": photos GH]

Warning: A digression ahead.

Years ago, while shopping, I saw a pan of frozen lasagna on sale for $9.99, and for a brief moment I was tempted to buy it. Then I recalled what a pan of frozen lasagna tasted like at the last staff supper I attended. It was crappy stuff, especially compared to homemade. It lay there in the tinfoil pan like a wet pair of socks.

So, believe it or not, I stepped back and challenged the makers of Equity frozen lasagna to a duel.

“I bet I can whoop your skinny little butt,” I said (inside my little round head, of course) to the CEO of Equity Co.

I tore up my grocery list, turned my cart away from millions of dollars worth of prepared and frozen food and tracked down all the ingredients for fine lasagna.

Though my bill came to more than $9.99, I left the store certain in the belief I would whoop serious butt when I got home.

Stay tuned.


Please click here to read Frontier Stew PT 1.


The Workshop: Finally. Jelly beans are getting painted

After a long delay, I’m finally back to work in the shop, and all I can say is...

... three down. Three to go.

That’s only as far as first coats are concerned. Second coats next. Then back doors have to be attached and the fronts have to be decorated with windows and doors and signage.

Signage will include street names and numbers, e.g., 24 Newfoundland Dr., 42 Water St., 6 Flower Hill St., 14 Portugal Cove Rd., etc.

["A long way to go to fill the tank on my motorcycle": photos GH]

I was told recently the colourful houses in St. John’s that I am trying to copy (somewhat) are called ‘jelly bean houses’ by some.

If you live in a jelly bean, send me a picture and address. ‘Cause I’m not done yet, as you can see.


It feels great to get back to work, at long last.

Please click here to visit The Workshop again.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Thing$ Going North $$: Beer prices


[Headline: Beer Price to Rise?

Brewers may get a reprieve this year from tight supplies of malting barley in Canada, but higher costs will likely force them to raise the price of beer next year.

Flooding lowered the quality of the latest barely crops in Canada and Australia, leaving some unsuitable to turn into malt. Mar. 8, London Free Press]

["The glass should always be half full": photo GH]

This hurts.

I’ve been keeping a list: Thing$ Going North $$.

I’ve been checking it (more than twice; I think the official list is up to an even dozen, all important items).

And today is a sad day. Not only do I have to add one more item but the item happens to be a heavy favourite of mine - beer.

When will the misery end?

How will it end? With an empty mug? I can’t think.


Please click here for more about Thing$ Going North $$.


Live Small and Prosper: It’s time for Frontier Stew

[QMI Parliamentary Bureau - Get ready to pay even more at the grocery store.

“We haven’t seen the worst of it yet; it’s going to impact all prices of pretty much every food,” said Francis Fong, an economist with the TD Bank group.]

When Francis Fong was just a wee tad, classmates used to sing, “Francis Fong is never wrong. That’s why we sing this little song.”

Francis would smile. They won’t sing it in high school, Francis thought, and was right. Never wrong.

All prices. All prices of pretty much every food. It got me thinking.

Is it time to share my Frontier Stew recipe? No? You’re still hanging in there?

["I make it better and cheaper all by my lonesome": photo GH]

Well, maybe I’ll share just a bit of background then.

See, my theory (call it a well-grounded philosophy, if you must) is that as food prices rise a door of opportunity will open for us.

Oh, it will seem pretty darn scary at first to peek through the door, let alone walk through it, especially for those folks who suck up fast food and restaurant meals and processed supermarket food a lot of the time and who forget what a slow cooker or stove looks like.

You know the opportunity I’m talking about, the one where you cook your own meals and save a ton of dough over the course of a year?

“Pre-heat oven to 375, then bake for 30 minutes! What the heck does that all mean?” many folks will say when it comes right down to it.

“I’m pretty sure my new luxury condo doesn’t even have a stove. Maybe it does. Stink. I never looked. I don’t know. Maybe I can Google some images,” others will say. While pouting.

Listen. Let’s not all get into a panic. Higher food prices will not be the end of the earth.

Ever heard of Frontier Stew?

More to follow.


Please click here to read a Series of Significance that will provide some context.


Welcome to Harperville: “Smoke and fire down your pants”

[Ottawa - After more than five years as the leader of minority governments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally lost the confidence of the House of Commons on Friday...

“The vote today, which obviously disappoints me will, I suspect, disappoint most Canadians,” Harper said. - March 26, London Free Press]

Welcome, one and all, to Harperville... the wee little corner of the universe inhabited by a reformer, deformer and smoke and fire performer of some caliber, and all those who know and love him.

I present to you the Prime Minister of Canada.

Before he says a few words, however, let me just say that Friday’s vote should have disappointed the Prime Minister. It should have disappointed each member of the House of Commons and each law-abiding citizen of Canada, even those in Harperville.

[“Harper is not even half disappointed”: photo link]

But it should disappoint us for the right reasons.

The following comes from an insider’s view of the House:

“And now the House has found the government in contempt, for the first time in Canadian history, as well as the first time in the entire history of the Commonwealth. The PM dismissed it all this past weekend as procedure; the Speaker has concluded it is pivotal.” - The Parallel Parliament

Harper, along with the rest of Canada, should be disappointed that he is the only Canadian Prime Minister in history to be found in contempt of Parliament. But will Harper say one word about what makes him so contemptuous?

Let’s hear what he has to say for himself. Shhh. He’s about to speak.

I'm standing quite a ways back from the podium now, and I think he said that he's come to blow smoke and fire down your pants!

Stink. Business as usual, as one might expect.

More to follow.


Please click here to read more at the Parallel Parliament.

Please click here to read more about PM Harper and Harperville.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ollie and Me: This is for all you chumps out there

This post falls under the heading of ‘Ollie and Me,’ though it could just as easily fit under ‘Where did he hear that?’ or ‘WTHeck!’

This afternoon Ollie and I played a marble game together (Drop marbles into a shute. See which one crosses the finish line first.) and I learned something new.

“The red one will win. The losers are chumps,” he said.

“What? Where did you hear that?” I said.

["Ollie. Let's try to keep things light.": photo GH]

Ollie provided a fairly detailed explanation and it goes something like this: If you work on Sunday, like his mom does sometimes, and you get home late, after dad gets home, you’re a loser. Loooossserrr. And losers are chumps because they miss supper.

The kid is four. Already he has life figured out?

Anyway, if you’re still working right now and you’re going to miss supper... pick up the pace!


Okay, I'm pretty sure Ollie's dad was just joking around. But, what goes around...

Please click here for more Ollie and me.


Small Pleasures: I’m undefeated, with unlimited potential

I’ve been writing and talking a lot about hockey lately. And brainpans and concussions.

And as circumstance would have it, last Wednesday, after our age 50-plus hockey game, a few other fellows and I got talking about our hockey experiences in our ‘early days.’

Some shared stories from their Jr. A and AHL days. One had been Wayne Gretzky’s teammate when he played with the Soo Greyhounds.

I told them about my two-piece leather helmet, and pants with wooden slats for padding and protection.
Some of us wondered how we got out of the ‘60s alive.

Talk turned to other sports. Football, baseball, soccer, basketball, wrestling.

When wrestling was mentioned my eyes brightened.

“I graduated from high school undefeated in four years of wrestling, including county meets against schools that cleaned our clocks during hockey season,” I said.

When a few guys began to look me over pretty closely (I bear no hint of super strength; nary a six-pack to be seen), I added, “It sure helped - in wrestling, at least - to be under 125 pounds in grades 10 to 13.”

Others were undefeated in other sports and events. We ran the gamut and I had a few perfect closers.

“I was undefeated in the 220 yard dash. I was the only kid with track shoes, with spikes, and could handle the curve better, especially on grass tracks.”

“Dave Alexander I were also never beaten in the three-legged race. Five or six years running. The school principal eventually cancelled the event and mailed ribbons to our house.”

That needed some explaining for a few younger members of our team. (Two boys run side by side, hands around each other’s waist, inside legs tied together, usually with a belt).

My last (and much-celebrated) feat needed some explaining too.

“I sit here today undefeated in the 50-yard sack race, six to seven years running.”

[Photo link to the sack race]

The dressing room was silent when I explained the event.

“Everybody brought a sack of some kind, got into it, and then had to get from start to finish, hopefully, without falling. Most people hopped. But there was no rule against running. And the bran sacks my dad had in the barn were so big I could stick my feet into the corners and run as fast in the sack as I did without it.”

“The principal eventually cancelled that event too. No ribbons in the mail, however.”

Give me a bran sack and I’ll show you how it’s done. And I’ll easily clean your clock.


Do you sit or stand undefeated in some sport or event?

Please click here to see rescued lumber with unlimited potential.


It Strikes Me Funny: It might as well be today

At some point in your long and illustrious life (at least I hope it’s long and illustrious and you celebrate birthdays with vigour and pizazz) you should check out my weekly column, also called It Strikes Me Funny.

Because my deadline is Sunday, 2 p.m., and it appears the following Thursday (sometimes earlier online) and I am usually thinking about another topic or two by the time it hits the street - or I’m out shopping like a little demon - I often answer the question “So, what did you write about this week?” by saying “I have no idea. Really. No clue.”

Like a real schmuck I feel.

So I often hand people my card, on which is the online address to my column. Then they visit the paper’s website and discover the titles of columns are listed - but no names of columnists.

Later, people come back to me and say, “I checked out the website but couldn’t tell which column belonged to you.”

So, I pull out another card, or a napkin (not always fresh, mind), and write down what I think the title is, or was, when I wrote it several days before. Sometimes I get it right. And people are delighted.

For your own delight, you should read my most recent column. Follow the links in the right hand margin under the heading “It Strikes Me Funny: Weekly Column.”

I think it’s about hockey. I forget. My mind is elsewhere right now.


Please click here to read a Significant Series about my last topic, i.e., hockey.

Yup, pretty sure it was hockey.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Zoom w a View: Good to the last drip

I can’t stand under the blue spruce today.

Unless I wear a poncho.


Please click here to see more Zoom w a View.


Series of Significance: The NHL has a ‘small’ problem

[The following collection of posts were originally published separately. For your convenience they are now together in one piece. No extra charge. GH]

The NHL has a ‘small’ problem PT 1

Headline: NHL tackles issue (i.e., concussions) head-on

“After a week that saw the NHL pounded on the public relations front, the league came out swinging Monday with a five-point plan to improve player safety.” (March 15, The London Free Press)

Concussions are a big problem (PR-wise; and otherwise as well, i.e., if one gives half a thought to players’ brainpans). And, in my humble opinion, the NHL’s five-point plan falls short of solving the problem.

The number of concussions related to legal hits (the cause of 44% of 80 concussions in the current season), fights (8%), and illegal hits (17%) will gradually continue to rise, even after the glass and boards are covered with sponge and repeat offenders are hung by their thumbs from the back of the team bus.

And why do I say concussions will rise?

Easy. Psych 20 easy. B.F. Skinner easy. There are too many rats in the box. Big rats. And they’re getting bigger all the time.

Let’s go back in time for a minute to the 1970 - 71 season. Normie Ullman played center for the Toronto Maple Leafs and tallied 34 goals and 51 assists. He stood 5’ 10” tall and weighed 185 pounds. The guy appeared huge among his fellow players.

[“Would Norm Ullman be a big guy today?”: photo GH]

Why, when he entered the Leaf dressing room for the first time during the 1967 - 68 season, Davie Keon welcomed him with a big hug (well, kind of a hug; more like a slap on the backside, completely illegal in the day) and said, “It’s nice to have you here, big guy.”

“Big guy.” At 5’ 10” and 185 pounds. Imagine that. He’d be considered kinda puny by today’s standards, wouldn’t he? You could actually lose Normie Ullman in a modern hockey dressing room. He’d be smaller than some kid’s triceps.

Go back farther in time and players were even smaller by today’s standards. I’ve heard it said that during the game’s infancy (e.g., in the 1860s, when the game was called “Smackafrozenhorseturd” - always expressed in one word), the average size of the players was 3’ 9” tall. The first player to surpass 4 feet was Moons Malone, aka Moons the Goon, or simply The Goon. He earned 3 cents per game, whittled his own sticks and signed his first contract with an X.

[“Paul Haynes, 5’ 10”, 161 lb., Montreal Maroons, 1924 - 1938”]

[“Babe Siebert - actual size!!”]

Well, times have changed. And having a five-point plan in the NHL isn’t going to cut it if concussions are to be reduced.

More hard hits to follow.


PT 2 - The NHL has a ‘small’ problem

Headline: (NHL) Rulebook re-emphasized

Boca Raton, FLA. - “... There was no appetite among NHL general managers for a sweeping ban on contact to players’ heads... they do, however, plan to put more teeth into charging and boarding penalties in an effort to cut down on injuries."

Ottawa Sens GM Bryan Murray said, “We want to apply the rules that are in the book more adamantly... the rule in the book is fine. We’ve just been more reluctant maybe to call it to the letter of the law the way we want to re-emphasize.”
(Mar. 16, The London Free Press)

And in my humble opinion (how could it be otherwise), the number of concussions related to legal hits, fights, and illegal hits will gradually continue to rise, even after the glass and boards around rinks are covered in something very forgiving (bales of hay?), repeat offenders are forced to play in old rubber boots and the current NHL rule book re-emphasized.

Why? Too many rats in the box. Too many big players on the ice. And they’re getting bigger all the time.

In an earlier post I mentioned that the average size of a power forward in the 1860s (during hockey’s very early stages) was 3 ft. 9 in. tall, 94 pounds. In 1970 - 71, Normie “Big Guy” Ullman, a centerman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, stood 5 ft. 10 in. and weighed 185 pounds.

Many of today’s players are bigger than Eric Lindros (listed at 6 ft. 5 in. tall and 228 pounds in the early 1990s), are twice as fast and eat handfuls of raw meat between shifts. Inside an infantry division’s protective gear, a power forward at a typical NHL game would remind fans of a tank on the loose.

["Eric Lindross - lookin' tough": photo GH]

Coincidentally, the increase in size of goaltenders and their equipment is almost no different.

I read somewhere that Tubby Mullard, all 4 ft. 5 in. and 98 pounds of him, the 1890 winner of the first Venison Trophy (a frozen hind-quarter, and the precursor of today’s Vezina Trophy), wore nothing more in net than his father’s plaid shirt, his older sister’s ball glove and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues strapped around each shin.

By the mid-1960s, goaltenders were a bit bigger.

Lorne “Gump” Worsley (1929 - 2007), a goalie of some renown (he shared the Vezina Trophy with Charlie Hodge in 1966, with Rogatien Vachon in 1968, and played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1965 and 1968), stood 5 ft. 7 in. tall (amazingly!), weighed 180 pounds soaking wet, and wore padded leather protective gear on all but two parts of his body, one being his head - the size of a ripe honeydew.

Today, the average goalkeeper is over 7 feet tall and weighs 400 pounds when fully dressed in protective gear.

This trend toward taller, heavier, faster, more-heavily protected players will likely continue for the rest of this century and culminate in more concussions per season than can be counted as players bounce off boards and one another with willful abandon. All H-E-Double hockey sticks will break loose after the introduction of jet-packs in 2030.

So, what can be done concerning all this inevitable damage to the brainpans of NHL players?

I’m glad you asked.


First Intermission: Equipment is not the NHL’s ‘small’ problem

While writing a couple of posts re a ‘small’ problem in the NHL (related to concussions), I came across an old photo that shows players getting ready for a game.

Look at their helmets. Two or three thin pieces of padded leather. Yikes.

I remember those days. I wore a similar helmet, and it now hangs in my workshop beside vintage hockey gloves and an old catcher’s mask.

Helmets and mask have improved greatly in 40 - 50 years, have they not?


PT 3 - The NHL has a ‘small’ problem

Today, in the new and improved NHL (the league is promoting a new five-point plan to improve player safety, don’t ya know) many players are bigger than Eric Lindros (6 ft. 5 in. tall and 228 pounds in the early 1990s), are twice as fast as Normie Ullman used to be in the 1970s and can devour a full hot meal in 60 seconds between shifts.

Inside his protective gear approved by the United States Marines, a power forward at a typical NHL game looks a lot like a military weapon. 

As well, the average goalkeeper has grown from 4 ft. in height (e.g., Tubby Mullard, 4 ft. 5 in., the 1890 winner of the first Venison Trophy) to well over 7 feet tall, with a weight of 400 pounds when fully dressed in protective gear.

This trend toward taller, heavier, and faster players will likely continue for the rest of this century and produce more concussions per game than can be counted on two hands.

So, what can be done to accommodate modern-day NHL players and reduce injuries without slowing down the game?

I’m so glad you asked.

The NHL should continue to evolve their game in much the same way it evolved in the past and adopt the five-player game. One goalie, two forwards, two defenseman, or, a goalie, two forwards, one rover, one defenseman.

Students of the game will know the term ‘rover’ is not a new one. They will also know that reducing the number of players on the ice at one time has worked successfully in the past.

An interesting online article entitled The Evolution of the Game tells us how the number of players on the ice has changed over the years:

“The first recorded occurrence of organized indoor ice hockey took place in Montreal on March 3, 1875. It was played in Victoria Skating Rink, with nine-man sides on a surface that measured 80 by 204 feet.”

You might be thinking, how could so many players find space to maneuver or work their magic?

Remember, as I wrote earlier, the average player was under four feet tall.

The article continues:

“The popularity of the game began to spread, and in 1883 the annual Montreal Winter Carnival featured "the novel game of hockey". The rules for the series said the teams would carry seven men per side and play two 30-minute periods with ten minutes between periods.”

“By 1898 the rules had further standardized. Ice hockey by this time was a seven man game: the goalie, three forwards, a rover (who switched from defense to offense, as the play required), and the point and cover point (the defense included the cover point in front of the point, rather than side by side as they are today).”

Readers may well ask, did anyone wear a helmet?

As far as I know, three players wore small metal pails over their heads (with holes cut out for their eyes) but soon discovered the pails did more harm than good when they got to spinning around. Pails were retired until someone invented leather.

Sorry, I digress.

“In 1911-12 the position of rover was finally eliminated, making hockey a six-man game per side, and it was decided that players would wear numbers on their sweaters.”

As you can see, the NHL has kept the number of players on the ice unchanged for 100 years, even though during that time the players have almost doubled in size, weight and speed.

Maybe it’s time for the five-player game as I suggested earlier.

Don’t like that idea?

I’ve got another one. Stay tuned.


Second Intermission: Five-man hockey one way to go

Per team - One goalie, two forwards, a rover, a defenseman.

Five-man hockey makes sense. In the last 100 years, NHL players have doubled their size, weight and speed. And concussions, on the rise, are an ugly part of the game.

Each player would have more room on the ice in which to maneuver. More reaction time to a charging rover. Fewer head injuries. Fewer penalties. A faster game.

Nazem Kadri, former London Knight, said the following about his biggest adjustment to the NHL game after returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs from 30 games with the Marlies:

“Just being able to recognize danger.” (Mar. 16, London Free Press)

[“Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs”]

“When you’re playing against such good hockey players they can close gaps real fast.”

What do you think about four on four hockey in the NHL?


First Overtime: Concerning ‘The NHL has a small problem’ Series

As you already know, Tubby Mullard, 4 ft. 5 in. tall, and winner of the first Venison Trophy (circa 1890), typified the average goaltender in the early years of the game.

Over 75 years past before goalies were the size of Lorne “Gump” Worsley (5 ft. 7 in. tall, 180 pounds soaking wet), though, as I seem to recall, when he accepted the Vezina Trophy with Charlie Hodge in 1966, he stood on an old Coke crate in order to be seen.

Today the average goaltender stands well over 7 feet tall and weighs about 400 pounds when fully dressed in protective gear.

But, I ask you, has the size of the NHL ice surface grown to accommodate the larger, heavier and faster breed of player?

To find out, tune in for PT 4 in the exciting series “The NHL has a ‘small’ problem.”

Or, do all the research yourself. Really, I won’t mind.


Bits and Pieces: PT 4 - The NHL has a ‘small’ problem

“Most North American rinks follow the National Hockey League (NHL) specifications of 200 feet (61 m) × 85 feet (26 m).” [Wikipedia]

Word is, Tubby Mullard, a 4 ft. 5 in. tall goaltender, and winner of the first Venison Trophy (circa 1890), was near-sighted.

That little-known fact affected his answer when asked what his favourite rink was, by Din O’Danny O’Doyle, a seasoned reporter for Le Gazette du Montreal in 1895.

“I loved playing indoors at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal. It was so well-lit I could see the puck past center ice, even though the pad was over 200 feet long.”

[“The Victoria Skating Rink”: Link to photo]

“Why, some of the barns I played in were just that. Barns. Lit with gas lanterns. And though many of the rinks were shorter than The Grand Victoria - I always call it The Grand - I couldn’t see the d--- puck until it was almost in my face.”

“And it did get in my face. Look here. I lost this tooth just last week. Look at this big gap now up here inside my mouth. Look it. Makes me cry, it does.”

Tubby was always one for pointing out his battle wounds and went on to show O’Danny O’Doyle fresh stitches behind his left ear and a scar on his buttock from a high stick he caught late into the 1894 season.

Readers have probably heard stories like Tubby’s many times over, but it is worth repeating here a few details related to the size of hockey rinks in the National Hockey Rinks, because I feel the size of the ice pad is connected to the rise of head injuries, heat-shots, high elbows and concussions that we hear so much about today.

From Wikipedia, as stated earlier:

“Most North American rinks follow the National Hockey League (NHL) specifications of 200 feet (61 m) × 85 feet (26 m).”

Nowhere could I find the area of the ice surface, and after several complicated mathematical calculations I discovered it to be 17,000 sq. ft. That works out to 1,700 sq. ft. per player (not including goalies), which seems like a fair amount of space per player to skate around upon - perfectly safe, unhindered - but a lot of them seem to bunch up in the corners with elbows flying at ear level, and as we all know, ears live just outside the brainpan.

Wikipedia supplies an answer to the obvious question, why are NHL rinks 200 by 85 feet?

“Origins - The rink specifications originate from the ice surface of the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, constructed in 1862, where the first indoor game was played in 1875. Its ice surface measured 204 feet (62 m) × 80 feet (24 m).”

For those who must know (and I think you must), the area of the The Grand Victoria was 16,320 sq.ft.

Admittedly, the regulation NHL ice surface is larger than that at the Victoria, but... is it large enough for today’s giants?

Stay tuned for more of my brilliant ideas.


Second Overtime: More concerning ‘The NHL has a small problem’ Series

Modern day NHL players have increased in height, weight and speed by huge amounts compared to players from the 1880s.

Remember Moons Malone, aka Moons the Goon, or simply The Goon?

Moons played during the game’s infancy (e.g., in the 1860s, when the game was called “Smackafrozenhorseturd” - always expressed in one word), and when the average size of the players was 3’ 9” tall.

Moons earned 3 cents per game, whittled his own sticks, signed his first contract with an X and stood out because he was, or so I’ve heard, the first player to surpass 4 feet in height.

He’d still stand out today if he was alive. And why?

Because most NHL players are 60 - 70% taller than Moons, three times as heavy and could eat Moons’ weight in burgers between shifts.

However, in spite of the huge increase in size and weight and speed of today’s players, they blast around on an ice surface only 4.2% larger than their predecessors.

Is that enough ice for today’s game?


PT 5 - The NHL has a ‘small’ problem

I ended PT 4 with a brilliant question, prompted by the regulation size of modern-day NHL rinks and their predecessor, the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal (also called ‘The Grand’ by Tubby Mullard, a 4 ft. 5 in. tall goaltender, and winner of the first Venison Trophy).

The regulation size of NHL rinks is 200 feet (61 m) × 85 feet (26 m) and an area of 17,000 sq. ft.

The Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, constructed in 1862, measured 204 feet (62 m) × 80 feet (24 m), with an area of 16,320 sq.ft.

My brilliant question was, and still is, the following:

Is the regulation NHL ice surface large enough for today’s giant-sized players?

[Photo link - Ray Bourque]

Some will answer, “Of course it is. It’s a fantastic game. The hits, the speed, the shots and incredible goals.”

I also say, it is a fantastic game. But because of the rising number of head injuries, let’s look at a few more numbers.

Since the game began in 1862 on the Victoria Skating Rink, the ice surface has increased in size by 4.2%

The increase, however, in players’ heights and weights far exceeds 4.2%.

For illustrative purposes only, note the following:

Trevor Linden, at 6 ft. 4 in. and 205 pounds in 1990 - 91, was 8.6% taller and 11% heavier than Normie Ullman when he played in 1970 - 71.

Eric Lindros, at 6 ft. 5 in. and 228 pounds in 1990 - 91, was 8.5% taller and 30% heavier than Pierre Larouche when he played in 1976 - 77.

[P. Larouche, 5’ 11”, 175 lb., 1976 - 77”: photo GH]

For an exact measure, of course, one would have to examine all stats for all players from the beginning of the NHL to today, and for that job I do not have the records, time or energy. But I bet the overall increase from 1862 to today is far greater than 4.2% in the height, weight, speed and aggressive tendencies departments.

One has to look no farther than current day team rosters to be left with the impression that the players have grown too big for the old sandbox.

For example, here are current stats related to defensemen playing for the Boston Bruins:

Boychuk, Johnny - 6'2" 225 lbs
Chara, Zdeno - 6'9" 255 lbs
Ference, Andrew - 5'11" 189 lbs
Hnidy, Shane - 6'2" 204 lbs
Kaberle, Tomas - 6'1" 214 lbs
Kampfer, Steven - 5'11" 197 lbs
McQuaid, Adam - 6'4" 197 lbs
Seidenberg, Dennis - 6'1" 210 lbs

[Link and learn here.]

Average height is a touch over 6 ft. 2 in. and ave. weight is 211 lb.

Go back 20 years to 1990 - 91 (Ray Bourque guarded the blue line) and you’ll discover the players weren’t much smaller. The average height of a Boston Bruin defenseman was slightly under 6 ft. 2 in. and average weight was 203 lb. Over 20 years, they grew by only 0.54% in height and 3.94% in overall beefiness.

However, go back to the 1960 - 61 season (Doug Mohns and Leo Boivin were stalwarts) and you’ll see a remarkable difference. The average height of a Bruin defenseman was just under 5 ft. 11 in. and average weight was 182 lb.

[Photo link - Dougie Mohns]

Today, a defenseman is 4.6% taller and 16% heavier than those in the 1960s. The increase, I’m certain, would be far greater if we went even farther back in time, to the very days when the modern size of the rink surface was born.

So, where’s the beef related to concussions? On the bones of NHL hockey players, and they are using their additional size (and speed and aggressiveness) to rattle more brainpans than ever before.

Though I still think the NHL should consider five-man hockey (one goalie, two forwards, one rover and one defenseman per team) in order to give players more space and more reaction time, perhaps it’s time to grow the ice surface to accommodate the growth of the players.

Larger ice surfaces are commonly played on all over the world. Why not in the NHL?

More excitement to follow.


PT 6 - The NHL has a ‘small’ problem

“Hockey rinks in most of the world follow the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) specifications, which is 61 metres (200 ft) × 30 metres (98 ft) with a corner radius of 4.2 metres (14 ft).” (Ice hockey rink - Wikipedia)

I’m going to come to my main point quickly today. The NHL has a ‘small’ problem related to concussions and other injuries. And the problem is... its ice surface is too small for the size and speed of the modern player.

[Pat LaFontaine: “Early in the ’93 - ’94 season he suffered a serious knee injury that kept him off the ice for a year and a half.” Celebrating the Game, A. Podnieks]

The game of organized hockey was born on the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal in 1875. The ice rink was 204 ft. x 80 ft. It had an area of 16,320 sq. ft. for nine-man teams, each player being no more than 3 ft. 9 in. tall (so I’ve heard).

The game of modern-day NHL hockey is played on an ice surface 200 ft. x 85 ft. (regulation size) with an area of 17,000 sq. ft. (a small 4.2% increase in size from 1875) for six-man teams. However, the players have grown so big and fast over the years that more concussions and injuries will be the order of the day until the puck is dropped on larger ice surfaces.

I suggested earlier that playing with five-man teams would also reduce the risk of injury. Larger rinks, however, would be my primary solution.

[Pat LaFontaine: “A worse injury befell him though, on October 17,1996, another date he won’t soon forget.”]

Yesterday I wrote the following:

“Today, a defenseman is 4.6% taller and 16% heavier than those in the 1960s. The increase, I’m certain, would be far greater if we went even farther back in time, to the very days when the modern size of the rink surface was born.”

Surprisingly, I proved myself wrong when I compared the height and weight of the 1930 - 31 Boston Bruins to that of today’s team. The early Bruins were a tall bunch of boys and today’s defense is only 3.3% taller. However, they are 17.8% heavier. More beef between the buns of the modern burger has something to do with that, I suppose.

Because I had the complete roster in hand for both teams, I decided to look at the overall change in height and weight over the course of 80 years, bearing in mind that the Bruins played at The Boston Gardens in the ‘30s (191 x 83 ft., or 15, 853 sq. ft., one of the smaller NHL ice surfaces) and now play at the Fleet Center on NHL regulation size ice (7.24% bigger in area).

[Pat LaFontaine: “He took an elbow to the head and suffered a serious concussion, so serious that not only did he miss almost another year but the Sabres didn’t want him back for fear of contributing to a more serious injury.” Celebrating the Game, A. Podnieks]

The average height and weight of the entire Bruin team (excluding goalies) in 1930 - 31 was 5 ft. 10.6 in. and 172.6 lb. Today’s team stands at (on average, excl. goalies) 6 ft. 1 in. and weighs in at 202.5 lb.

The Fleet Center can certainly accommodate the 3.33% increase in height of players (sure, Zdeno Chara, at 6 ft. 9 in. and 255 lb. has been known to bump into the odd door frame), but, in my opinion, the current ice size cannot easily accommodate the 17.3% increase in their overall weight. (I’m certain other NHL teams have also seen the same increases in growth. What are they eating for supper these days?)

In addition, couple the obvious increase in player size with a clear increase in the speed of the game (shifts have decreased from 2 - 3 minutes to 30 - 45 seconds in length since the 1960s) and a perfect environment has been created to see an increase in aggression, violent contact, concussions and several other injuries.

[Pat Lafontaine: “He started fresh with the New York Rangers, in ’97 - ’98, but just when things looked like everything would be fine, they weren’t.”]

The international rink has an area of 19,600 sq. ft. (15.3% bigger than an NHL regulation pad) and I propose that the NHL adopt the international rink size, as soon as possible, or go one better and build rinks of 220 ft. x 100 ft., producing a playing surface of 22,000 sq. ft., because the way players are growing and shifts are shrinking, the NHL will require the added space by 2020 or 2030.

Players with brainpans take notice. Modern NHL rinks are too small. You’ll live longer on bigger ice!

[Pat LaFontaine: “LaFontaine played 67 games (w the Rangers) and scored 23 goals, but in the 67th game he suffered another concussion. This time he called it quits...]

In my opinion, if player safety is in fact a priority with players, coaches, general managers and the league commissioner, simple tinkering with the rule book or adding a five-point plan will not be enough.


Third Overtime: ‘The NHL has a ‘small’ problem’ is quite the series, eh!

I learned quite a bit about the heights and weights of NHL hockey players over the years while putting together this series of posts.

Not enough to say my brain is encyclopedic, mind. More like it feels as heavy as a pail of pucks.

For example, I learned the following:

Harold Darragh
Team: Boston Bruins
Position: Right Wing
Birthdate: Sep 13, 1902
Height: 5.09
Weight: 145 (in 1930 - 31)

Zdeno Chara
Team: Boston Bruins
Position: Defense
Birthdate: Mar. 18, 1977
Height: 6.09
Weight: 255 (in 2010 - 11)

I calculated the following:

Chara is 17.4% taller, 69% heavier than Darragh but plays on a rink only 7.24% bigger than the one Darragh played on in 1930.

I thought about the following:

Junior age players in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), e.g., The London Knights, are all smaller (on average) than their NHL counterparts but play on the same size ice, i.e., 200 x 85 ft. When an OHL player makes it to the bigs he steps onto the same size pad to oppose players who, in the main, are taller, much heavier and faster.

[“The Knights have Rob Drummond out with a concussion, Kevin Montgomery out with a leg injury and a variety of bumps and bruises.” Mar. 27, 2007, The London Free Press]

I concluded the following:

No wonder brainpans are getting rung every other day.

NHL ice is too small.