Burnsy

I’m fortunate to cheer for a hockey team which has won six Stanley Cups during my lifetime. That’s right, Leafs fans under the age of 43: six. Suck it. Anyway, I’m too young to remember much about the first four of those Canadiens cup wins (in consecutive years from 76 to 79) except that it was during those years that I decided Montreal was my favourite team, much to my father’s chagrin. I only vaguely recall the arrival of St. Patrick (Roy) to win the cup in 1986, as I didn’t really start paying attention to hockey until I was fourteen. It was 1989, and Montreal had made the cup finals again in Pat Burns‘ first year behind the bench.

The Canadiens lost to Calgary that year, but it set a precedent for Burns: he had a habit of making a big impact in his first year with each team he coached. He won the Jack Adams trophy that year as best coach in the NHL. Making the traitorous move to Toronto in 1992, he led an underdog team of Maple Leafs to game 7 of the conference finals, before Wayne Gretzky eventually shot Doug Gilmour in the neck, peed on his corpse and threw the puck into the Toronto net with his bare hands. Or at least that’s how Leafs fans describe it. Nonetheless, Burns won the Jack Adams again for his role in turning Toronto into a contender. He would eventually be fired, but won a third Jack Adams trophy in his first year coaching the Boston Bruins. In 2003 he led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup, his first and only cup win. A few years later he would step down because of the cancer that would eventually spell the end of him. Pat Burns died last Friday.

It was a fitting coincidence, then, that Montreal and Toronto were to face each other the following evening. Montreal — as is their custom — held a touching and tasteful ceremony of remembrance before the game. It is well the game was not set for Toronto; I shudder to think how that tribute might have gone. The Canadiens then went out and stomped all over the Leafs, winning 2-0 for Carey Price’s third shutout in six games. Price looked, as he has all season, calm and focused and confident. After the game Price revealed to reporters that his inspired play of late may have had something to do with the very man the fans celebrated last night.

“He was a special person and he did a lot of great things in this league for both teams,” Price said of the 58-year-old who had success as coach in Montreal, Toronto, Boston and New Jersey before his illness drove him to step down in 2004.

“He left me a message before the season started and I was really touched. He gave it to (assistant coach) Kirk Muller and he passed it on to me.”

Asked what Burns said, Price just said: “That will always be here with me.”

Thanks Burnsy.

On the first four days of Christmas…

Here’s what we’ve been up to in the four days since we left you:

On boxing day we enjoyed the main part of Nellie’s gift to me: gold seats at the Air Canada Centre for the Montreal Canadiens / Toronto Maple Leafs game. We were eleven rows from the ice, right at one of the blue lines, and had a great view of the ice. I was actually surprised by the number of Montreal fans in attendance…I’d say maybe 20% of the fans were cheering for the Habs. It was amazing for me to be that close to the ice — in my previous visits to Canadiens games (both in Montreal) I’d been in the nosebleeds — and to see and hear everything. It was also nice to see my team win for a change (the Habs won 3-2 in overtime) as the first two games I saw were losses. Nellie had fun too, eating a hot dog and drinking beer and making eyes at Carey Price. It was a blast, and an experience I was worried I’d never get to have in Toronto. Top-notch Christmas gift, baby!

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December 27th was actually our anniversary. Typically we’d go out to dinner to celebrate, but it being Sunday everything was closed. We hung out with CBGB for a little bit and generally just took it easy.

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Yesterday we thought we’d get out of the house and see what all this Avatar fuss is about, so we walked in the freezing-ass cold to the Scotiabank to buy tickets. Little did we know that tickets to the IMAX screenings had been sold out for days. Bah, forget it. We cut back across King Street and decided to stop in at the beerbistro so that the afternoon wasn’t a complete loss. I had a Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale and a Maudite, while Nellie had a Durham Hop Addict and an Urthel Hop-It, which I think is her new best friend. We went to movie plan B at home, watching Defiance (imdb | rotten tomatoes) on the PVR (it was okay…given the subject matter it probably should have been a little more engaging than it was). Then we got ready for dinner.

Much like North 44, Scaramouche is such a quintessentially Toronto restaurant we couldn’t hardly believe we hadn’t yet tried it. An anniversary seemed like an ideal time for such an adventure, and it was settled. First, the room: pleasant, if a little dull & dated, and while we were seated at the window to appreciate the famous view, the evening’s snow squalls made it difficult to see much. Second, the service: a little off, to be honest. Our server was efficient enough but not exactly friendly, and somewhere between dessert and the bill he just disappeared. We never saw him again, and after several minutes of waiting we finally got someone else’s attention and they tag-teamed our bill, etc. So that was weird. Third: the food, and this — most importantly — was the best part. I had warm duck salad, venison wrapped & roasted in smoked bacon and coconut cream pie for dessert. Nellie had butter poached lobster, a grilled kerr farms filet mignon and her dessert was three kinds of cheese. We had various glasses of wine before dinner and with our apps, but the real star of the evening was the 2006 Petite Sirah/Zinfandel/Mourvèdre ‘Phantom’ Bogle. Excellent without the food and downright superb with it, neither of us wanted to finish the bottle, but we couldn’t help ourselves. Nellie’s port and my Calvados with dessert were good, but I know we were both thinking about that wine. Oh, and the restaurant did make a nice final flourish with our dessert plates:

scaramouche dessert

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Today was a bit more pedestrian: grand plans of shopping withered on the vine when we realized it was -20 with the wind chill, so we opted instead for leftovers, chocolate, napping and more movie-watching. Today the PVR served up the Warner Herzog documentary Encounters At The End Of The World (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Really, I could watch anything by that man and be happy, but from a strictly mechanical sense it did precisely what documentaries are supposed to do: answer some questions and raise still others.

Tonight the plan (well…my plan) is to watch Canada’s junior team play the Slovaks, and then tomorrow it’s back to work for a bit. In other words: wow, it’s been a relaxing vacation.

Hooray for schadenfreude!

Today started off pretty crappy. Annoying, puking cats. Broken PVR. Lack of sleep. 2.5 hour meeting. It didn’t get much better either. Bad lunch. Headache. Frustrating day at work. I finally got home excited to watch the Canadiens game (in English for once!) only to find that Sportsnet was blacking the game out* in Toronto. Oh, and more cat puke. Argh.

However, just a few minutes ago events transpired to make my day, despite it having only a few hours of life left: after watching Montreal beat Ottawa 4-3 I flipped over to TSN where I saw…Florida 8, Toronto 0.

If my heart has cockles, they just got warm.

* I’ve never understood the whole local blackout thing. Or rather, I understand why it’s done, but I don’t understand why fans haven’t demanded an end to the archaic practice.

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It’s pretty obvious to me now that music, once the most significant art form in my life, has diminished in importance. I’m still a big fan, but I simply don’t consume as much of it as I used to. In 2003 I bought 64 CDs. In each of the following three years I bought about 40 (some time in 2006, though, it became downloads and not CDs), but in 2007 I bought only 20. That’s still a lot for most people, but it corresponds to a decreased interest in seeking out new music, attending concerts (I go to maybe one a year now), reading music reviews, etc.

Movies, clearly, are my new crack. I was unable to watch as many as I would’ve liked in 2007, but in December I made up for it by watching 26. A friend of mine recently pointed out she probably hasn’t seen that many movies in her entire life. I watched 144 films (watched for the first time, that is…I don’t count re-watches) in 2006, and this year I plan to take a week’s vacation to watch 30 films at the film festival. That’s a lot of time and money spent on films.

I guess old obsessions don’t die, they just shift mediums.

[tags]canadiens, senators, panthers, leafs, music obsession, film obsession[/tags]

'Tis the season to be forechecking

There’s no Christmas present quite like a 4-1 win over the Leafs. Fa la la la la la la la la.

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Been watchin’ some movies. Not much else to do when it’s a squall out there.

The Illusionist (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was hard to like at first, and didn’t exactly thrill me with the ending, but in between it was pretty good. There was a very particular style to the film that I had to adjust to — the visual effect of being shot through amber, the simulated screen wipes that made the film look decades-old, etc. — but once I did, and I got into the film, it wasn’t bad. Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti are just good in anything, and pretty much made up for the useless Jessica Biel. It’s worth a watch.

Flags Of Our Fathers (imdb | rotten tomatoes) and…meh. I don’t know; I like war movies, and it was well done, but it was the same well-done war movie I’ve liked about six times in the past six years. I always compare them to Band Of Brothers, and they never stack up. Worth seeing, but there certainly won’t be anything shocking in it for you.

[tags]canadiens, leafs, illusionist movie, flags of our fathers[/tags]

Was Anna Nicole 2006? Or 2007?

From OpenCulture: an interview with Stephen King. Normally I have no interest in what King has to say, but this is pretty funny:

STEPHEN KING: So who’s going to be TIME Person of the Year?

TIME: I really don’t know, there’s a very small group of people who make that decision.

STEPHEN KING: I was thinking, I think it should be Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

TIME: Really?

STEPHEN KING: Yeah. You know, I just filmed a segment for Nightline, about [the movie version of his novella] The Mist, and one of the things I said to them was, you know, “You guys are just covering — what do they call it — the scream of the peacock, and you’re missing the whole fox hunt.” Like waterboarding [or] where all the money went that we poured into Iraq. It just seems to disappear. And yet you get this coverage of who’s gonna get custody of Britney’s kids? Whether or not Lindsay drank at her twenty-first birthday party, and all this other shit. You know, this morning, the two big stories on CNN are Kanye West’s mother, who died, apparently, after having some plastic surgery. The other big thing that’s going on is whether or not this cop [Drew Peterson] killed his… wife. And meanwhile, you’ve got Pakistan in the midst of a real crisis, where these people have nuclear weapons that we helped them develop. You’ve got a guy in charge, who’s basically declared himself the military strongman and is being supported by the Bush administration, whose raison d’etre for going into Iraq was to spread democracy in the world.

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I have to tell you, a Canadiens win over the Leafs puts me in a good mood for at least a couple of days.

[tags]stephen king, time person of the year, canadiens, leafs[/tags]