Monday, 24 November 2008

Bowling to Rouen

Tomorrow we are off to Rouen for the second time this season. Last time we made history, defeating them for the first time in our team's history and since then we played them in Epinal, beating them 5-3 in the first of two games in La Coupe de la Ligue. So as we head there for the final game, we basically have a 2 goal lead and even if we lose by 1 goal, we still win the series and advance to the Semi Finals.

Also, on Saturday we hosted Tours, who before the game was 2 points ahead of us. Key word was "before" the game. The game was only a minute old and we already had a power play, then a 5 on 3, then another Tours player was sent to the penalty box. In all, Tours took 7 straight penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game and thankfully our power play was on fire, depositing 3 goals with the man advantage and another goal even strength for a 4-0 lead midway through the first period. That is the story for the game, we went on to win 5-1 and I must mention that Guillaume Chassard scored on the power play in the 2nd period to help celebrate his 31st birthday, so happy birthday Chass!

Sunday marked a great relaxing day too as I ate over at the Mauffrey's house! Sophie made a fantastic tartiflette, since we have not had that on any of the recent road trips and I have just been dying for it! Then to top it all off, for dessert- Creme Brulée, Woooooooooooooo! So it was awesome. Then for the 2nd time in a week, I was lured back to "Magic Bowling" or as they pronounce it here in France "booling." I can't believe I didn't know about this place before. It is a bit different than the bowling alleys back home in Canada, as there it is mostly.....well it just isn't a great crowd from my experiences. Here though in Epinal, as I walked in, very curious and excited at the same time about my new find, I was asked immediately to remove my hat. I though "oh, well yes of course, how could I have been so rude?" I felt as if I had walked into the Vatican and the Pope told me to remove my cap. I should have known.

Nice shot of Lane #1 where the Magic took place!

Perfect Form!

Myself and Nico, pose with my #15 Ball

Nico and Romain share a smile, even though they are tied for last place at the time!

Caicco was not too happy with his 2 gutter balls in a row, so he is seen here, practicing his approach with another ball. While Romain awaits the "Strike Maker" to surface after his shot.

It was a pretty good time there, with video games, pool tables, air hockey, and food of course. It is just a relief to finally start doing things in this town, instead of staying in the house all day waiting for practice to come. And while on my way to Magic Bowling, I noticed right next door they Go Karts and a Laser Tag place. It is funny how I am more excited about these places now, than I was when I was a kid. Too bad my birthday just passed, otherwise I would have invited the whole team for a Bowling/Go Kart/Laser Game Party!!!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Coupe de France (Gap)

A little delay here on the blog, I have just been side tracked a bit these last few days. So last Tuesday we were in Gap, playing the 1/8th of La Coupe de France. This was against a team in Division 1, (2nd league in France) so we should have beat them easily. That was not the case though, be it the long 9 hour bus trip, or maybe we just underestimated our competition. Either way, we had a tough time beating Gap and I give them a lot of credit for the game they played against us. We trailed 2-1 at one point and in the 3rd period it was tied 3-3. Ilpo Salmivirta and Alex (Klas) Sundquist had great games for us and carried the load on the second line. Our top unit was not too productive but were able to get on the score sheet for a goal by Plch. We won the game, I was able to get an empty net goal to finish them off 6-3. That was the first time I've scored an empty netter since I was like 19 years old in Leamington.

The rink in Gap was pretty cool, but if we had to play there on a regular basis I would think not because it was so cold. At both ends of the rink it is open to the outdoors, and by the time the 3rd period came around, having my t-shirt soaked with sweat, I was pretty cold before we got moving. After the game, we had some pizzas in the bar upstairs before embarking on our journey back to Epinal. It was a pretty long trip and we didn't get home until about 8:30am, probably the reason I slept all day.

Nice mountains in the background there

Oh and before the game, we walked around in the town a little bit, and I was fortunate enough to find a cool hat in Celio*. Most of the guys liked the hat and since there was no mirror in the dressing room, we had to use my camera to see how it looked on them.




Me! I think it looks best on Bora actually....

Well, it looks like it is bed time now, big game against Tours tomorrow, I forgot to mention I went Bowling today. First time in years, I will write a more detailed story about that next time!

Monday, 17 November 2008


Chalk up another win for the good guys! It seems so far away that this very team went 0-7 in the preseason with many skeptics wondering if we were even good enough to stay in the league. It is still long from over, but the way our team has come together in the last few months has been pretty special. On Saturday night, we bused up into the Rhone Alpes of the Haut-Savoie region to Chamonix. This is a major tourist spot as it is situated right at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe and was also host to the first Winter Olympics in 1924. It was nice to get a little revenge after losing our opening game in Chamonix last year 3-2. This year we walked away with an 8-1 victory and rolling pretty well as we head into our Coupe de France game against Gap on Tuesday.

Nice big dressing rooms in Chamonix. I was able to set up my stall before the game. As you see here, I have all of my equipment neatly placed. Pictured here on my pants are those suspenders I was talking about in a previous article, then there is my ipod on the towel, sticks, and protein shake for post game recovery!

Since the bus ride was going to be pretty long, I decided to take some reading material. One of my roommates here in Epinal, Erwan Agostini thought it was a great idea to get me a book for my birthday so I could learn more about the history of France. I thought this was a very nice gesture by the young Frenchman, when I unwrapped the gift it read "L'Histoire de France pour Les Nuls" (The History of France for Dummies). It is actually very informative, however, the real prize was the gift from his father, "Cuisine Familiale" which has 155 great recipes. If you have been reading my blogs, you know how much I love to eat!

I tend to skip all the way to Napoleon, that guy was a warrior!

Do you mind? I am trying to read here!!!

I will not go into much detail about the game other than to say that is was very one-sided and we dominated throughout. On the first shift I took a high stick in the neck and got a pretty good burn. I was not affected too much by it though at the time, I think watching Braveheart on the bus ride here kind of desensitized me to that stuff and I was grateful my head was not completely cut off by William Wallace and his men. I most note, Mel Gibson also speaks French very well.

Oh ya I am so tough! You can see the mark from the "Guillotine" as they attempted to behead me. Still finished the game.

It could not be complete unless I mention what we ate! As I predicted the Tartiflette, I was wrong and quite frankly, very disappointed. We had dry pasta again, no sauce and some beef. Looked a bit like dog food actually haha. I am only kidding, it was pretty good, tasted better with the red wine, but I had high hopes and anything less than potatoes smothered in Reblochon cheese and mixed in with lardons would not get my approval. Winning the game though, that makes everything taste better!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

We are a Pretty Good Hockey Team

It is shocking how the team with the smallest budget in the league is somehow competing with, and knocking off the best teams in France. For the second time this season, we beat Rouen. This time it was at home, so our fans got a taste of what it is like to beat the team that usually comes into our building and dismantles our defense and walks away with an easy 2 points. Previously beating them in a regular season match up, our game yesterday was the first of two games in the 1/4 of La Coupe de la Ligue.

We were short staffed yet again, with only 5 D and our coach being suspended for 3 games from the controversial OT loss against Strasbourg, in which beer cans littered the ice. We went into the game with a different mindset than we would normally have playing one of the top teams in the league, we knew we could beat them. We never trailed this whole game, and our Captain Jan Plch paced our attack with 2 goals and 1 assist en route to a 5-3 win. The win brings us that much closer to the semi finals, and just so everyone is clear on how this works I will briefly explain. Now in the quarter finals, we play a home and home series against Rouen, the winner of their pool. With only two games, goals for and goals against becomes the first tie breaker. Since we beat Rouen by 2 goals, they must beat us by 3 goals to win the series, if they beat us by only 1 goal, we still win and if they beat us by 2 goals, we go into a 10 minute overtime period and if necessary a shootout. If we just win, then you don't have to worry about any of that stuff.

Yesterday, in the last minute of the game, I was wondering why they were not pulling their goalie, but as I reflect now, it was a lower risk for them to keep the goalie in and not give up an empty net goal, than try to score another goal. It was very refreshing to have this win for our home fans, they have been incredible this year and they pay good money to see us knock off those great teams.

Since the game was a 5pm start due to the holiday, we had plenty of time to go out for dinner. Most of the team gathered at Les Babouches for a great Couscous meal. I personally went for the Couscous Royal Traditionnel (mouton, poulet, merguez). This is the same restaurant I ate at with my father when he was here last year. It is a pretty classy place, and it prompted him to write an article about it in the Windsor Star, just how different things are with a hockey team in France. Whereas in Canada you would most likely be heading out for pizza and beer, maybe some cheap wings, and not indulging in the great French cuisine and toasting a Bordeaux wine while reflecting on the great win only a few hours earlier.

I seem to write about food very often, and for those who know me, you know I love to eat. Our meal was great, but if I had to rank my favorite french dishes, I would still have Raclette and Tartiflette at the top. It must be my infatuation for cheese!!!!!

Next game is in Chamonix, I am anticipating a big win and a great Tartiflette. Stay tuned!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Back to Work

It is Sunday night, we are about to hit the ice for a practice in a few hours and I thought I would get a quick blog in here. I just got back from visiting my good friend Adam Spinarsky in Holland where he is playing hockey. "Spinner" as he is known, has been one of my best friends for a long time. We are both from Windsor, Ontario and live in the same neighborhood. We went to high school together and played on the same junior hockey team in Leamington, carpooling to all the games and practices together. At the age of 25, this is Spinner's first time leaving home and he seems to be adapting quite well. He plays in the Dutch Pro league in the city of Eindhoven and lives in a house with 4 other Canadian players.

Myself and Ryan Caicco, (who played with Spinner at St. Clair College in Windsor the last 4 years) drove 5 hours to Eindhoven and spent a few days there with our good buddy. It was a nice change of pace and scenery going to a big city with a little bit more going on. We spent most of our time in the "Centrum" (centre ville or city center) where we spent lots of time catching up and share some great stories of our experiences so far playing hockey in Europe. One of the main differences from France and Holland for me was the bikes! Everyone is on these old grungy bikes riding all over the city, sometimes the bike lane proves to be more dangerous the car lane. My bike experience got off to a rough start, and I can sum it up pretty easily. It was STOLEN! I was borrowing an old beat up, rusted, brown bike from one of his teammates and when we went back to the very crowded bike racks and it was gone! Not a big deal, the value of the bike was probably at its peak in 1970 when it first came out so it was not a huge loss.

The next few days, we took in one of their team practices. They have a very nice rink, and attached to it is a speed skating rink, as well as an outdoor rink. After their practice we hit up a few pubs in the Centrum, much different than the life in Epinal, but not far off the life in Windsor. There were plenty of options for us to hit up so we went to many different places to try to take in the whole experience. Turns out it was student night and a beer was only 1 euro, good timing on our part. The next day we took the train to Amsterdam, only about 1 hour away and spent the afternoon and evening there trying figure out what the big deal was about this place??? Just a normal city, no? Wow, this place was some sort of bizarro world, I will leave it at that. Amsterdam is like the Stanley Cup, all the stories and rumours you hear about it....They are ALL TRUE!

Since we had to be back in Epinal the next day to hit the ice, we did not stay the night in Amsterdam, and boarded the train that evening to head back to Eindhoven, then depart in the morning. Turns out we got on the train that stops just about everywhere, so instead of taking 1 hour, it took us almost 4 hours to get back to Spinner's place. Leaving us very little sleep for our voyage back to France. What I thought was so cool about our trip is that we passed through 4 countries on the way, in only 4 hours, starting in Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and finally arriving in France.

On the hockey side of things, I was not able to write about our big win against Strasbourg last week, as we advance to the second round of Coupe de la Ligue where we will face Rouen on Tuesday. They are one of the best teams in the league and having beat them in their own building this season, they are going to have a little more incentive to knock us off. Our defense will have to be solid, as they possess some of the most dangerous scorers in the league.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

We Never Quit

Last night we played host to one of the top teams in the league as we faced off against last season's Coupe de France Champions Grenoble. In our team's history, we have never beaten Grenoble and as we went down 4-1 and 5-2 during this game, history was well on its way to repeating itself. I wish I could continue to write a great ending to this story but we did in fact lose the game, but not before a courageous comeback by our team to force overtime.

Facing off against a team like Grenoble, for us to win, we would have to play a perfect game, that meant no mistakes on our part. For the most part, we played well and often carried the play spending much time attacking around their net. An area where we struggled was not being able to clear the puck out of our own zone, resulting directly in 2 of Grenoble's 4 goals in the first period alone. We never quit and would inch our way back as Michal Petrak scored a great shorthanded goal to make it 4-2 but on that same power play, their sniper Martin Massa responded, scoring on a 3 on 1 break to make it 5-2 with a high shot to the blocker side.

As we continued to chip away, and with the score now 5-4 and less than 2 minutes remaining in the game, we were given a 5 on 3 power play. Guillaume Chassard fanned on his shot and it seemed as if time stood still, (if you can image the TV Show "Saved by the Bell" when Zack would say timeout! Then manipulate things in his favor) this allowed Ilpo Salmirvirta to deposit his second of the night into an open net as the French National team's goaltender Eddy Ferhi looked on. Moments later, still on the power play, Ilpo went in alone on a breakaway but was hulled down, resulting in a penalty shot! How much more exciting can this get, tied 5-5 and we have a penalty shot with 1 minute remaining. If Ilpo scores, that would be a hat trick for him, his 3rd of the night, but with the bad ice late in the game his was stopped by Ferhi.

The way the game played out in the overtime, you would think the referee must have had prior engagements and wanted the game to end sooner than later. As a Grenoble player was carrying the puck in the neutral zone along the boards, another player collided with Ilpo and tripped, the referee out of the corner of his eye sees their forward fall and signals a penalty that was completely away from the play and one that should never be called. Especially in overtime! Those are the french referees for you, as I have not even mentioned how the linesmen love to kick guys out of the face offs with their trademark pump fakes to catch the center man cheating.

They eventually scored on us on the power play to end the game, Stan Petrik played a great game for us and made some key stops when he had to. Our fans (Supporters) were incredible, you were like a 6th player for us on the ice. After the game we went out as a team to Le Wellington to have a drink together. I believe it is important to stay together as a team, win or lose because this is a long season and we have another big game on Tuesday, so it is time to forget about this game and try to get a birth into the 2nd round of Coupe de la Ligue.

As many have requested, I will begin writing some of my blogs in french as well, it will not be nearly as detailed as my french in the written form is at the level of an 8 year old, but I will do my best and get someone to edit it! Thanks again to Les Supporters for making lots of noise and giving us that extra energy in the game to help us comeback. We hope to hear you all cheering loudly again on Tuesday!