Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New NHL Season: The Good, the Bad, and the Coffey

Coffee and Coffey are both tasty and compelling

Top 10 things to look forward to:

1. the prospect of Peter Fosberg’s career being over… dead, buried, in the ground with fresh flowers laid across the gravestone.

2. 2008-2009 World Championship Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey League! (only 1 spot left!)

3. Patrice Bergeron back in action after almost a year. If you don’t remember, he got his head rammed into the boards. It was a dirty hit from a dirty player, a Philadelphia Flyer. Those guys were all over the ice last year; swinging sticks, slamming bodies from behind into the boards, whining, dishing out cheap shots. Not a pretty sight. Not really hockey at all.

4. Jarret Stoll suiting up for the LA Kings. This is interesting because Stoll is now a heck of a lot closer to his girlfriend, former wife of Rod Stewart! I am not kidding! Jarrett Stoll, 26, had been dating Rachel Hunter, 38, for about 2 years and in August they got engaged. Crazy!

"She is engaged. She's never been happier," said the rep, Mike Heller. "She has been with Jarret for a long time and everyone is thrilled for them. He was recently traded to the L.A. Kings, so it's a really exciting time in their life together. He is an amazing guy and she is an amazing girl – they're truly meant to be."

From small town Canada to LA and a superstar wife! Sound familiar? This is in the top 10 because it is really funny and, according to rep Mike Heller, Rachel Hunter has finally found the right 26 year old father for her 16 and 14 year old children. Go Jarret!

The life of a hockey player in California

5. 46 year old Chris Chelios suits up for his 25th NHL season. He first hit the ice with the Montreal Canadiens back in 1984, when I was 3 and a half years old! I don’t really like the guy that much, but he is the only player still around from the first days that I started watching hockey. A faint memory of him on the Canadiens seems to reside in my mind. When he’s done playing I will officially feel a lot older than I think I am now. I count down my life in hockey years.

6. When the season starts there will be less time for the temptation of looking at Eklund’s crappy hockey rumor blog.

7. Erik Cole is on the Oilers! I love this guy. Ever since he played in the finals with a broken neck I’ve loved him! He’s fast, strong, and likes to score goals. That’s pretty much what we want. My modest Erik Cole prediction: GP 79 G 32 A 38. Watch this move.

8. Something a friend of mine pointed out to me last season. Watching Pierre McGuire of TSN pronounce the names of NHL players, my friend noticed that he usually says the player’s full name. “Steven Staios”, “Daniel Heatley”, “Joseph Thornton”, “Christopher Pronger”. Actually, its quite a fun game to play and its quite refreshing after hearing so many annoying nick-names that fans seem to make up for every single player in the league. Go Pierre!

"Should I call you Sidney or Sidonio?"

9. Joni Pitkanen will wander around the ice for another team far away on the other side of the continent. I hope someone over there can help him figure some things out. Maybe he’s depressed.

10. The Oilers have a good team. There is a lot of depth in case of injuries and it seems like the playoff expectations are well deserved.

I can’t watch the games at all, but I can listen to them on the radio. This helps me to use my imagination. It’s always good to use your imagination, so that’s why this is the #1 thing to look forward to. Imaginations rule!

Top 10 Things to Avoid:

1. Avoid Swedes with green/clear eyes. The possibility that Peter Forsberg will return to play for the Flyers/Aves/Preds/ sometime around January or February makes me a little sick. A few shifts into his comeback and we’ll expect him to injure himself one last time. This, hopefully, will result in his retirement. The worst thing is that the media will talk about him before, during, and after all of the above happens.

2. Avoid the CBC. Though it does not affect me much at all, listening to the “hockey theme song” before games on TSN instead of CBC will break many hearts. Is it just me or does it seem that TSN is trying to monopolize the Canadian sports industry? It seems as though CBC is getting ready to die or something.

I have heard it said: “A TV station cannot live on re-runs of The Littlest Hobo and Road to Avonlea alone, but must be sustained by the traditions of pucks, toothless grins, and skates.” Wise words.

I hate to say it, but by now the Littlest Hobo is most certainly dead! Tomorrow's settling down came and went a long time ago. He had so many chances.

. Avoid looking up Mike Comrie in People Magazine. He is reportedly still dating Hilary Duff. Some rumors even suggest that they are engaged. We Oiler fans remember all of the “interesting” controversy surrounding little Mikey. I find it funny that he continues to intrigue. She seems a little young for him. Isn’t she still on Disney? I guess not. Actually, good for Mike. I hope you grow a whole field of Comries.

4. Avoid Mats Sundin in your hockey pool, who, while I am writing this, is still “thinking” about his future. How long does it take for someone to figure out if they want to spend the rest of their life swinging a golf club or if they want to play professional hockey for one more year, while making a ridiculous amount of money?

“Make up your mind already! You are a great hockey player, but you don’t deserve all of this media attention. It is annoying to hear your agent say every couple of weeks that you are still “undecided”. You are hovering dangerously close to Forsberg territory. I am starting to not like you. Not as a hockey player but just for your decision making skills.”

UPDATE: after trashing the guy, I realized that he's on one of my fantasy teams!

5. Avoid Ryan Smyth. We must witness another awkward season with Ryan Smyth on the Colorado Avalanche. That was really awkward last season, wasn’t it? So awkward. If you see him at a party or some other function, walk to the other side of the room and sip your drink. You can stare back at him awkwardly, but don’t let him catch you doing it. Imagine if he did?! That would be awkward.

Sad, but also very awkward.

6. Stop thinking that Bertuzzi is finished. I don’t like the guy but he is a good hockey player and he makes less money than a lot of junk on a lot of other teams. I think he will light it up. This is not good for the Oilers, at all. My modest Bertuzzi prediction: GP 78 G 37 A 33. All that equals a pretty good deal for the Flames.

7. If they sell chicken wings at your hometown arena, you’re going to want to avoid them. They are too sticky and it is gross to imagine 10 000 fans with sticky chicken wing fingers. Yuck!

8. Avoid printing your own name on the back of your hometown jersey. Despite what you may think, the league will never have any players named “Gruggs” or “Horne” or “Platch”. If it ever does, it won’t be you!

9. Avoid wearing your home team’s jersey to anywhere but the game. Those jerseys are way too big for you to be taken seriously. I mean, they are meant to have a bunch of hockey equipment under them, not your thin, phuny, weak little body. They look too much like the nighties that women sometimes wear to bed. The only place that they actually look okay is on a professional hockey player’s body, or on a lot of people in one place. That place is the arena.

10. Avoid cheering for the Maple Leafs. They have a gazzilion dollars and with that they bought about 5 professional players and 18 minor leaguers pretending to be professionals, and some pucks. Probably nice pucks, but still.

And finally, Paul Coffey rules!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nomad Boarding School

In August, I had the privilege to travel to a boarding school in the southern part of Qing Hai Province to help distribute coats, hats, mitts, shoes, toys, and candy to needy nomad children. The money for the project was donated by children from a summer camp in Washington. Here are some of the highlights.

Tents and yak grazing could be seen at just about every turn.

A few days into the trip, a snow storm caught up with us and we needed to wait it out in a small town for a few hours. This was the first time I had seen snow in August. Snow at this time of year in this area, I am told, is quite common. I am mostly impressed by the amount of snow. Our Land Cruiser could handle the roads, but we passed a lot of people in cars whom I'm sure had a hard time making it to their destination.

Above are the children welcoming us as we arrive. In total, we had 325 traditional Tibetan coats to give out along with over 200 pairs of shoes. For most of these children, the thick coats arrived just in time as the snow seemed to follow us from the mountain pass. We left the next day with a few centimeters of the white stuff on the the ground.

Some of the girls waiting in line for their coats. We had quite a mess of a time trying to figure out which children needed the coats the most. There were only about 250 students there at the time, but many others would be arriving for classes in the following weeks and we wanted to make sure that we saved some of the supplies for them.

Showing off the new coats!

All of the kids were very shy at first, but after showing them a few photos they all decided to give me their most striking poses!

After we were finished handing out all of the clothing and toys, the kids wanted to sing some songs for us.

We were happy about that, of course.

These girls are very talented
To watch video go here

So, all in all, it was quite a memorable trip. Over the last 4 years I've been on a half dozen trips out to the countryside in Qing Hai and it is easy for me to say that this was, by far, the best trip I've been on. Just knowing that these kids will be warmer this year makes the whole thing worth while.

On our way back home to the capital city of Qing Hai, Xining, we ended up stopping at 2 other boarding schools. These schools were literally in the middle of nowhere. Even though these visits were not planned, the staff of the schools were very hospitable to us. They gave us all of the yak meat, fresh yogurt, and butter tea we could handle! It was also really nice to see how well these schools are kept. Though they still have many needs, the current living and studying situations are excellent. It was very nice to see. We hope that we will be able to work with these schools on similar projects in the near future.

Yak meat... it's what's for dinner!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I knew it would come to this.

As the cold air continues to choke the life out of another summer, I can’t help but get excited for the upcoming hockey season. Actually, the truth is, I’ve been taking looks at my favorite hockey websites (look to the left) every couple of days ever since the Red Wings hoisted the cup back in June. What was I looking for? What news did I expect to find? Not much, I guess. But every once in a while I found a tiny morsel or a small scrap of something lying on the floor of the hockey dining room. These sources of nutrients kept me alive all summer long, just barely, and now I can finally nurse myself back to health as the season is only a few weeks from dropping the puck on itself.

So, what to say? I live in China. Not much hockey going on over here. When I bring it up with the locals it usually takes a little bit of explaining for them to understand what I’m talking about. Hockey, in Chinese, is “Bing Qiu – 冰求”. The translation for that is “Ice Ball” so you know that, from the name, there is not much interest in the sport.

Yet every fall I actually set up a little bit of a schedule that allows me to listen to the Oiler games on the internet via 630 CHED radio station. I am very thankful for that. Live Oilers action at 7am with a cup of coffee and a few slices of toast is something one must get used to while living life over here.

Rumor has it that I might even be able to watch a few games this year. After openly criticizing TSN for quite a while (I wrote them a letter) I am actually quite thankful for them now. They have a Video on Demand section that enables people, like me, to watch entire CFL football games on the Internet. Though they aren’t live, it is often loaded only a few hours after the game ends. That is nice. I noticed an NHL section on there as well. I’m hoping that it will soon be full up with all kinds of hockey goodness.

Whenever I am needing to actually watch a hockey game and nothing is available on the internet, I always have my stash of Oiler games from “The Cup Run” on DVD. Thank you to my friend Phil for the DVDs!

Thus is my situation. Being one of the only Canadian men living in this city (there is another guy from Ontario, but he lets his son wear a Leafs jersey) I am usually left alone in a lot in my hockey conversations. The bulk of this void usually falls on my poor, yet understanding wife. The only other guys that can maintain a hockey conversation for more than 2 minutes are both from Texas and… well, you get the idea.

So, that is the background. Now I want to look into the future. What does it hold and how much of whatever it holds does it hold?

One of the answers to that is something called “fantasy sports”. Kind of sounds like a questionable activity, but I swear that it is actually quite respectable in some circles. The city in which I live, Xining, has a very large circle. To learn more about fantasy sports go here.

We stick to the basic food groups of fantasy sports: baseball and football. I follow along with the Americans. At first (3 years ago), I didn’t care much for either, but as the time went by baseball has actually turned out to be my favorite. Football is growing on me too.

But what about hockey?

Trying to find people for my fantasy hockey league is like trying to find some sort of ancient treasure. It’s a desert, nothing but sand and empty water canteens. One of the Texans signed up but that’s it.

Plan B? To search the free agent waters of facebook. So far, so good. It’s actually turning into quite a diverse league. People from Xining to California to Calgary to Edmonton to Montreal and all the way around to Eastern Europe. This league should be a lot of fun. 3 spots left. Let me know if you are interested.

On top of this league I am also apart of the Kateri Super League. This league is going into it’s 2nd season and things are looking really exciting there. Most of the teams in this league are either related to me or are related to or friends with the people that I’m related to.

So, if you were worried that Brett might be loosing interest in sports, fear not! Even though they may not be real sports, they are still real fantasy sports.

Stay tuned for the next hockey blog where I count down the top 10 things to look forward to and the bottom 10 things to avoid regarding the 08-09 NHL season.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Moustache Mayhem!

After not shaving for a good month and a half, I thought it time to start the school year off fresh. I decided to document the shave...

This was the basic style that I decided to work with throughout the shave. The "handle bar" look was something that I thought needed to be elaborated on. Most men tend to trim down the bars a little too early for my liking. I figured that, considering the length of the whiskers, I would let them hang down slightly lower to give things a little more of a creepy look. Upon further review, it is clear that this method is effective.(see below)

Those lower whiskers are reaching close to chin level.

The Creepy Look

The creepy look has been brought to completion in this next pose. Notice the contrast portrayed on both the left and right side of the face. Having the left eye squint along with a slight raise of a smirk gives the viewer a feeling that is both nauseating and fearful.

The look is completed by the knowledge that, in this photo, I am not wearing a shirt.

For a good look at a classic "creep stache" check this out.

Ineffective Creepy Look

The above image is a big moustache no-no. As I once again go for the "creepy" look it is evident that the smirk is much too large to be considered a decent attempt. The squint also gives off a slightly cross-eyed vibe. This is obviously a sorry attempt and something one must look back on when deciding exactly how much smirking and squinting is needed.

That's My Buddy!

Ahhh, the buddy look. This is one of the most difficult poses to pull off when utilizing the "handle bars" look. It takes a great deal of grit and determination in order to achieve such a high standard. I can only take a small amount of credit here. Most of it needs to go to the people that, though facing harsh scrutiny, still manage to keep the dream of moustaches and normalcy alive. In no particular order; Burt Reynolds, Jake Plummer, Adam Morrison, and, the master, Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap.

This is simply called the "eating pop-rocks with a moustache" look. Amazingly enough, there were no pop-rocks available and the whole thing was done ad lib.

Moving right along....

This next section gets a little tricky. It is something
I like to call "the invisible moustache" trick. Take a look to the right. Looks clean shaven, right? Keep in mind that these photos are all 100% genuine and there was no doctoring involved whatsoever.

Now take a look below...


"How the heck did he do that?... without any hidden cameras or stunt doubles? Invisible wires? Did he summon the mystics of the ancients? Is he dabbling in some sort of tribal craft?"

Settle down, settle down. There is a simple explanation posted below.

Now you see how it was done. It was quite simple, actually.

Saying goodbye, no matter what the situation, is always a tough thing to do.

A Shadow of a Man?

As you gaze upon this photo I know that a lot of you have a mixed bag of feelings sitting way down in the depths of your beings. Sadness. Confusion. Loss of the ability to taste food. The chills. Or maybe its something that you can't quite put your finger on. Fret not, brothers and sisters. In a mere 2 months or so, the moustache will be back!!!

That's right. No Shave November is right around the corner, followed by everyone's favorite, yet mostly unrecognized holiday, Moustache Day! Mark December 1st on your calender and start getting excited for a day full of joy, laughs, tears, and probably balloon animals. Stay tuned!