Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Olympic Gold!

One of the last events at the Olympic Winter Games is the men's hockey finals. The year the teams contending for gold in Sochi, Russia were the Swedes and Canadians.

Both teams had gone undefeated in the round robin part of the tournament. They were both considered very strong; the Canadians having let in the fewest goals in their games (only three in six games) and the Swedes with their standout netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

The game started 7:00 a.m. Sunday (local time). Of course I wanted to watch, but as most of you probably know, I'm not a morning person. I thought I would try staying up all night so I wouldn't have to wake up. But, by 3:00 a.m., I fell asleep.

I did wake up in time hear on the radio we were up 2-0. By the time I actually got up I was able to watch the last half of the third period. We were up 3-0 at that point (which happened to be the final score).

The Canadians were relentless on the forecheck constantly harassing the Swedish players whenever they had the puck. We totally smothered them.

Shifts were as short as 30 seconds with players hustling from the time their skates hit the ice 'til the time they left it. Superstar NHL players left their egos at the door and bought into the team concept willingly accepting reduced rolls and reduced ice time. It worked to a T.

The game finished at about the same time I had to head down to church. I could hear cars honking their horns and people cheering on the street below as I got ready to go.

Unlike four years ago when the Olympics were held in Vancouver, there weren't any street celebrations at Yonge and Eglinton after the Canadian men's team beat the Americans for gold. The main reason probably was because that game was broadcast in the evening while this one finished at 10:30 a.m.

Normally when I take the TTC to church I take the subway down Yonge and up the University line to St. Patrick station and walk from there. But, this time I had to get off at Dundas because they were doing work between Union Station and St. Andrew.

When I got off there was a huge street celebration as I sort of expected there would be. Police closed the road off to all traffic for a short time so revellers could enjoy themselves. It was a sea of red and white. Beautiful.

I managed to snap a few pictures before I had to run off to church. I wished I had a bit more time. Perhaps in four years I'll get another chance.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ottawa - Winterlude Pt. 2

Saturday was our first full day in Ottawa. We started off with a buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. They had things like scrambled eggs, sausages, diced potatoes, baked beans, pancakes, muffins, cereal, bagels, yogurt, and juice and coffee. Needless to say, I ate well.

As I mentioned there were a number of families who came. Some stayed at other hotels. We all met up at ours and after we ate went on our first outing. It was to nearby Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, Quebec. They had a snow park there. There were a lot of different activities for kids like big snow slides and tubing and different demonstrations and performances.

Sid, Pauline and I returned to our hotel a bit earlier than the others. They all had younger kids who could hang out and enjoy the age specific activities while Sid and Pauline didn't. I think they wanted to eat lunch. Since I had a big breakfast I wanted to get out onto the Rideau Canal for a skate while the light was still good for pictures.

Before I hit the canal I dropped by Parliament Hill to take some shots since the skies were relatively clear. There was some cloud cover, but it was still all right.

The canal was pretty busy by the time I got there. I was a bit surprised to see a number of people walking the route. Ice is quite slippery as I'm sure you know. I guess they just wanted to say they were on the canal regardless of their footwear. There were even some joggers I noticed.

Of course, most people were skating. People with babies or young kids would be dragging them along on sleds or pushing them in strollers or big red and white sleighs that you could rent.

Since I took so many pictures along the way, my skate along the 7.8 kilometres route took nearly two hours. I think the total distance would be closer to 13-14 kilometres (instead of 15.6 kms) though because it wasn't just a straight there and back route. At the end it split into a "Y".

The ice was okay. A bit bumpier at the start/finish where most people were. Not everyone skated to the very end where the ice was a bit better. I'd say it was similar to the ice at Toronto City Hall. Though there were places where grooves were gouged out. So you had to be careful not to trip on them.

After skating I returned to the hotel and took a nap. Normally I don't get up as early as I did this morning. Sid stayed in during the afternoon because he was sick. He had a persistent cough that just wouldn't go away. So we rested until dinnertime.

Even though our suite had its own kitchen we never used it. For dinner we went directly across the street to the East Indian buffet restaurant. It was just the five of us this time - me, Sid and Pauline and their son Nathan and his friend, Andy. It was the closest place to the hotel and it was relatively inexpensive. Dinner was only around $15 before tax and tip.

The food was fine. At that price you wouldn't expect anything fancy. For me it was about the volume. I figured I had done enough exercise during the day and needed the calories for future activities.

After we ate we went back to the hotel. A short time later we met up with the others to go back to Confederation Park. They had some musical and dance performances there.

I have to say, at this time of the night, it was freezing outside. During the day the high was about -5C. Quite pleasant. At night it probably dropped to around -15C or so. Some of the performers wore t-shirts. And there was one group of East Indian dancers that came out on the stage in traditional costume and bare feet.

After they performed they came back out to teach some of their dance moves. This time they had boots and shoes on. Smart move.

I don't know exactly what time the show ended. I left as it was winding down. I'm guessing it was probably around midnight or so. Time to get some rest and prepare for another fun day in Ottawa.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ottawa - Winterlude Pt. 1

I went to Winterlude in Ottawa over the Family Day long weekend with Sid and his family. There were five of us in his minivan - me, Sid, Pauline, Nathan and Nathan's friend, Andy. Joseph was at home. He was supposed to go to Montreal, but his plans fell through.

We left on Friday afternoon. Traffic east out of Toronto was slow. We hit rush hour unfortunately. Things didn't open up until we passed Whitby I believe.

Our first break was at a rest stop in that general area. We stopped at a place for dinner. Most of us had Burger King. We saw Danny and Judy's family there. Judy is Pauline's younger sister. They were also going to Winterlude as was their other sister, May, and her family. There were a number of families and friends going in fact.

I forgot if this is where we changed drivers. After Sid, it was my turn.

We arrived in Ottawa fairly late. I'm guessing it was shortly after 11:00 p.m. I'm not sure why it was so late. I know they had to pick me up at my parents' place. Then we went to pick up Andy. Rush hour traffic was a headache. That probably had something to do with it.

Sid and Pauline had booked a suite at the Marriott Residence Inn close to Parliament Hill. Along with May and Judy's families, we were all on the 8th floor. All the rooms had a kitchens (we didn't actually use ours).

After we checked in we went out to nearby Confederation Park. Even though it was late the ice sculptures they had there were still lit. It was all part of the ongoing two week Winterlude festivities.

I hung out at the park for 1-1/2 hours taking pictures. It was pretty cold being out for that long. I don't believe the temperatures were that bad though. Maybe -10C or so overnight. Relatively warm compared to what we've had for most of this winter.

Everyone was back by the time I returned from the park. Nathan and Andy decided to sleep on the sofa bed in the living room. I guess they didn't plan on sleeping much at night so didn't want to share the second bed in the bedroom with Nathan's parents and keep them up. That's how I ended up with it.

End of first night.

Friday, February 14, 2014

OOTC - Dishwashing Crew v. 2014

This year's Out of the Cold program at Knox Church has been running since the beginning of November. Vicki and Bill have been heading it for at least 15 years now I believe. I've been coming for 7 or 8 years I'm guessing.

Over the years our dishwashing crew has evolved. When I first started it was with my CPC church friend, Fred. His friend, Lynn, was helping run it with Vicki.

This is the latest incarnation of our crew. Actually, most of the folks are returnees from last year. They're a great group. From left to right: Me, Sam, Young-Wha, Joe and Melinda.

We decided to pose with aprons on for this year's shot. There were only four black aprons, so we gave Joe a grey one.

Sam and Young-Wha started a couple of years ago I think. Joe started around 3 or 4 years ago. He's been a great help coming almost every single week.

Melinda first started volunteering around the same time as me. I had no idea she started back then. We never had much contact. Normally I would be stuck in the kitchen the whole night washing dishes. When Melinda started she was helping Bill with cutting/dying hair. She does a variety of things at the program. We both remember when they ran the 5-pin bowling in the basement. That was a long, long time ago.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good Start, Canada!

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia started recently. The opening ceremonies were held on Friday, February 7th.

But, before that, some events had already started. One, Snowboarding Men's Slopestyle, involved a number of highly touted Canadians - Mark McMorris, Maxence Parrot and Sebastien Toutant.

This event involves snowboarding down a course with various obstacles like rails and long barrels and doing tricks on/over them. As well there are three large jumps that the participants do flips and twists over.

Like in gymnastics or figure skating, competitors are then given marks on their technical proficiency and level of difficulty.

In the preliminary rounds Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant advanced directly into the finals. Favorite Mark McMorris, who was nursing broken ribs, had to go through a secondary round because his scores weren't high enough.

I watched the second round live Friday night/Saturday morning (at around 3:00 a.m. Toronto time). It was pretty tense. McMorris scored well enough to squeak into the finals joining Parrot and Toutant.

The finals were held later that morning. I turned on the TV in time to watch Toutant and Parrot snowboard. Mark McMorris had already finished his run by that time though. He was holding on to second at the time with, perhaps, 7 or 8 competitors to go.

Sebastien Toutant was the next Canadian in line. His performance didn't quite make the cut unfortunately, eventually finishing in 9th.

Maxence Parrot was the last snowboarder down the course. I have to say I thought he pulled off quite a good run. The judges didn't quite see it that way and awarded him a 5th place ranking.

McMorris, by this time, had dropped down to the bronze medal spot having been knocked down by Norwegian, Staale Sandbech, who took silver. American, Sage Kotsenburg, won gold.

Considering his injury it was a great result for McMorris and a good start for Canada in our Olympic medal quest.

Later in the day it was the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, Maxime, Chloé and Justine, competing in the Women's Moguls.

I have to say I didn't get to see it on television. I only heard about the results afterwards. But, what incredible results they were. Little sis, Justine, 19, won gold; middle sister, Chloé, 22, took silver; and big sister, Maxime, 25, placed a respectable 12th. As well, Audrey Robichaud, came 10th to round out the standings for the Canadian contingent.

A great first day for our country if I don't say so myself. Go, Canada, go!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year - Year of the Horse

My family and I went to Asian Legend at Finch and Leslie for dinner for Chinese New Year. It was on New Year's Eve, so it was, understandably, very busy. Wisely, they made reservations for 6:30 p.m. So we didn't have to wait.

Work was busy for me, so I arrived somewhat late. But, everyone else was already there so they ordered ahead of time.

We had quite a few dishes. You know, the usual beef and green vegetables, chicken fried rice and Shanghai noodles. We also had the soup dumplings that are quite tasty. And, for special occasions such as this, we ordered Peking Duck. It's always quite tasty with the crispy skin you wrap in soft, doughy "pancakes" with cucumbers and scallions and hoisin sauce.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!