Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The New Windsor Poet Laureate is......

Today I am taking the time to write about my dad, Marty Gervais, who was just named Windsor's Poet Laureate!!!  Great job dad!  The link is posted below

The way I understand this honour is that my dad was pretty much just named Captain of the city of Windsor. He will now be called upon to lead and represent our city with courage, fearlessness and a great competitive edge.... How will he do this you ask?  By the power and force of.......... POEMS!!!!

I am not entirely sure what approach he will take for this, as he has a long decorated career of poems, some inspired by the Catholic Church, some inspired by hockey or boxing, but don't be surprised if he catches everyone off guard with a quick Haiku!

Though most of us will be expecting his poems to be presented in a "Ballad"- written in straight-forward verse, seldom with detail, but always with graphic simplicity and force. Most "Ballads" are suitable for singing, and with my dad's extensive experience in the school choir as a young boy and the weekly Sunday mass he attends, this style is the heavy favourite moving forward.

We mustn't rule out an "Epic" a long narrative poem celebrating the adventures and achievements of a hero.  It will be difficult for him not to write about his hero, former Detroit Tiger Reno Bertoia. Who was also the inspiration for my dad's novel titled RENO, which was nominated for the international Three-Day Novel Writing contest.

Though every great warrior/superhero has a weakness. For superman it was Kryptonite, for the Green Lantern it was the colour yellow and for my dad it is math. That is why it will be very unlikely that he represents our great City of Windsor with a "Ghazal." This fearsome poem is made up like an odd numbered chain of couplets, where each couplet is an independent poem. The "Ghazal" has a refrain of one to three words that repeat, and an inline rhyme that precedes the refrain.
Lines 1 and 2, then every second line, has this refrain and inline rhyme, and the last couplet should refer to the authors pen-name... The rhyming scheme is AA bA cA dA eA etc.

See, there is just too much math and too many rules to obey for my dad, who was instrumental in helping us with our History or English homework, but just dreadful when it came to math. Hence, the reason I was enrolled (against my own will) in KUMON math, summer 97.

Expect some "Free Verse" poetry to be tossed into the mix, allowing my dad to parade freely, like a dog running around on a farm. Speaking of dogs, this particular form of expression was used by Ezra Pound, who our late Scottish Terrier "Ezra" was named after.

There you have it sports fans, new Captain, Marty (dad) Gervais and what you may or may not hear from him ;)

In closing, I honour my father with a Haiku

With no leadership
Father appointed the Throne
Windsor Poet Laureate

Friday, 18 November 2011

Tweets and Blogs

Since the recent surge in Twitter, I must admit that blogging has taken a backseat. In fact, blogging has pretty much lost its seat.  Especially after my girlfriend bought me the new iPhone, I have been on that thing all the time, mostly Tweeting.

Then I received an email today from someone telling me how much they enjoyed my blog, and since I have time to write, I figured it would be a nice break from watching Sons of Anarchy ;)

Where are we at?  We just fresh off of a break in our schedule, we will take on 1st place Chamonix tomorrow night at home. I am very excited to get back to game action, this week off has seemed like an eternity.  Though it has done some good, I feel more energized on the ice now, the practices are fun and the morale of the group is high. We have to make the most of that because in the game of hockey, morale can change in a heartbeat.

I might check out the GET Vosges Basketball game after ours. Hoping to arrive there after coming off a great win by our boys and celebrating with a few cold beverages in the stands!

On an unrelated note, I took advantage of our week off from practice to get my mind moving on some ideas. With lots of free time here in France and my passion for training and working out, I have been bouncing some ideas around, perhaps leading to my own Training/Fitness Website. The spin on this? It would be geared for the French population.

It is still in the works, it allows me to have other goals outside of hockey and it might even help with my game on the ice. For the first time in years, my entire day is NOT filled with thoughts about hockey.

Thanks for reading and if you want to follow my Tweets, you might enjoy it. Lots of pictures!!!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Still nice to Win

We have now won 3 games in a row. Sounds great for a 26 game regular season but two of those wins are actually Coupe de la Ligue games against Strasbourg, who for some reason do not seem very interested in competing in that Cup.  Both times they have left their star goaltender on the bench and turned to their backup.  Usually a backup goalie in France does not see much action all season, except for when a game is out of reach (winning or losing). 

If they are only focused on the regular season, this tactic of resting their #1 goalie seems to be working, with lopsided wins in Grenoble and at home vs. Morzine. As for us, with our slow start, we want to win any game we can, build confidence and bring that into our regular season games.

That is just what happened when we got our first win against Strasbourg a week ago Tuesday. With a huge weight lifted off our backs, we carried that momentum into Saturday's home game and beat Amiens 3-1.  So now with another win under our belts last night in Coupe de la Ligue, we will head to Rouen on Saturday with a bit more confidence. We will need it as most of us recall the 17-4 loss we suffered last year in their building.  That just doesn't happen in hockey?

On a personal note, after a tough game at home against Amiens, I had a bit of a groin strain, so the coach wanted to keep me off the ice for a few days to heal up and prepare for Saturday. I was still planning on playing last night in Strasbourg but with Saturday's game in Rouen being a league game, he decided to keep me out.  I plan on practicing tonight to see how it feels and hopefully by the weekend I will be 100%.

In the meantime, I have been spending more time on my Twitter account @Gervz15 and even more time watching the Detroit Tigers try and take down the powerful Yankees. Just like what we will attempt to do against Rouen, take them down.

Go Tigers

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Different Fate

Do you ever look at a certain situation and wish it had turned out differently?  I'm sure we all experience this on a regular basis. The key is trying not to dwell on it too much, forget about it and move on.  Well our loss the other night to Gap is still stinging. It wasn't one of those close games that just happened to go the other way on a fluke play. This was a game where we were not into from the beginning.

We got scored on 12 seconds into the game, then a few shifts later and that was pretty much all she wrote!  We ended up losing 7-3 and just feeling like shit.  For a while we had been struggling to score goals, but for even longer we have been struggling to keep them out of our net. Every game we are allowing around 6 goals.  Mostly on our own mistakes, turnovers, giveaways and countless 2 on 1s or breakaways.

How can we stop the bleeding?  Well indirectly I believe that if we score the first goal and play some of the game with a lead, our defensive instincts will kick in.  I am hoping that Tuesday's home game against Strasbourg can be that game. 

I am not sure what tonight's practice has in store for us, but considering the way we played on the road Saturday night, I am thinking it will involve.........skating?  Bag skate or not, we are all just eager to get back on the ice and put our loss to Gap behind us and start focusing on our game tomorrow. 

It feels like we are in a slump right now but to be in a slump, you have to have previously been at a higher point, from which you have dropped down from...... So far our highest point was beating a Division 1 team, so we can't really call this being in a slump. Our team is too strong for this to continue, we will prevail, we will battle our way out of this and we will surprise everybody when we pull out a huge victory on an unsuspecting opponent.

Let's get things started the right way with a win tomorrow night in Coupe de la Ligue action, then follow it up with another one Saturday night. It is not going to be pretty, but we will get this done!!!

Monday, 19 September 2011

We're Back

Ok everyone, we are back in action, now in Pro Hockey France year 5!!!!

This is incredible how fast these years have gone by, I can't believe I am already in my 5th year of Professional hockey or should I say 5th year living the dream!

So let's get right to it, we played our Home Opener last Saturday at our new rink here in Epinal, the building was packed, it was a great atmosphere, but......we lost 6-1.  Ya, so on the hockey side of things, our team is a little behind in our preparations, we didn't get started until August 16th and with the new rink, there were a few technical things that interfered. No excuses though.

We have another game at home tomorrow against Dijon in Coupe de la Ligue action. I feel that this game can be a stepping stone for us and a game that can give us some much needed confidence as we head to Marseille on Saturday to take on Gap.  They are currently playing out of the new rink in Marseille because of renovations being done at their home rink in Gap.

Instead of yoga this morning, we took advantage of some free ice and had a practice. I think the more we hit the ice, the better right now. We really need to start executing and getting sharp out there. More crisp passes, better decisions and scoring on our opportunities.  This will all come and everyone is working towards making this happen, so with a solid game tomorrow night, it should send us on the right pathway!

Thanks for reading, check back soon

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Lighter Side

Hello everyone, firstly I would just like to thank everyone for the great feedback I got from my previous entry "The Dream." For those of you who took a few minutes of your time to read it then send me emails, I read everyone of them and really appreciate your stories too!

Ok, so what have I been doing at the start of this off season?  Well I am going to change things up today and not talk about hockey at all. Usually I am giving details on a previous game or talking about how bad some of the rinks are in France or pouring out an emotional blog about how much I love being a hockey player....Here I go again talking about hockey......Stop!

Ok, today I am going to write about what I did this weekend

Alright, so Friday morning I woke up and the first thing I did was check to see the Habs got destroyed by the Bruins 7-0, very upsetting news....  Look how pathetic I am, I can't avoid hockey, it is my driving force, I have no control over what I am typing....

Right, ok so Friday night my lovely French girlfriend Marion and I went to see a few of her cousins in Mulhouse about 85km away, but this includes many little towns and lots of 50km/hour speed limits, so it took a little while to get there.  Once we arrived, we were greeted with the standard kiss on each cheek.  I threw out a right hand for a manly handshake but was told in French "We are not gay, you are family." Ok so kiss away!  After the uncomfortable arrival, I was given a beer and quickly felt more relaxed :)   We had a great night, we made Flammenkuche which is a specialty from the Alsace region where we were and resembles a pizza but with no tomoato sauce and made on a wrap. The key ingredients were the cream and the onions ;)   After eating a few of those, the night was winding down and I stayed up with Marion's two cousins Philippe and Renaud to taste some of his Armagnac, which is a type of Brandy from the Southwest of France and distilled from wine and aged in oak barrels.

That lasted until close to 5am.  Then we woke up to fresh croissants and baguettes. The North American inside me was craving bacon and eggs but "when in Rome" right?

The next night we had a costume party for Marion's friend Marie.  This had been planned for over a month now and Marion was putting the pressure on me to get my act together and come up with a costume.  She was an 80s aerobics instructor and I was Elvis.

We both had a great time this weekend and taking advantage of it now is key because during the season and even late in the off season, this abuse on my body can't be the best LOL!  I forgot how much I love Pringles though.

I hope everyone likes the picture of Marion and I, out of the 25 people there, we were easily in the top 5 best costumes, but that's what years of celebrating Halloween in North American does for you!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Dream

A few weeks ago my dad sent me an email titled "The Dream."  At first I was not sure what it was but as soon as I opened the attached picture it was clear.  I had not seen these drawing in so long and had basically forgotten about it....

In my father's office at the University of Windsor, hangs a framed drawing I did back in around 1993, the same year the Canadiens won the cup!  Back then, I was very much into drawing hockey players, especially goalies.  I would always start with either their mask or their blocker and go from there.  But one day in front of Hockey Night in Canada I drew something different.

What I drew was actually a description of what I did every night; I would dream I was a Pro hockey player, scoring goals, winning championships etc...

I think every young kid who has a passion for hockey dreams of being a professional hockey player at some point in their life and for me it was no different.  Growing up with an older brother playing travel hockey and a father who worshiped Maurice Rocket Richard, it was from about the age of 3 that I wanted to be a hockey player for a living. It just seemed like the perfect job, so from that point on I dreamt of just playing hockey. It wasn't that I wanted to avoid working in the real world from 9-5, it was just that I loved hockey and that is all I wanted to do.

Over the years that followed, nobody would have predicted that I would be earning my living as a professional hockey player, not even my brothers, especially my brothers hahaha.  The fact is, I was not very good. Though the year I drew that picture I was actually voted "Most Exciting Player" for my league. What league you ask?   Tier II house league in Windsor.

I was cut from AAA (obviously), then cut from A, then assigned to a team in Teir I house league.  I played 1 game and was then cut from that and dropped down to the lowest possible level for my age, anything lower I would have been playing in a  road hockey league.  But I did win "most exciting."  :)

So to fast track, I finally made a travel team, then got a bit better, I made a junior hockey team, was drafted to the OHL in the14th round, 293rd overall (at least I was drafted right?)  Then I played up and down with Jr. B and the OHL, until settling in at the University of British Columbia for 4 years. Faced with many different challenges, my dream was still clear.

Seeing this drawing now is pretty cool. It is like I could see the future back then around the age of 11. Wearing the number 88 in the drawing was most likely for Eric Lindros, my favourite player at the time. Though some may contest that I wore number 88 because unconsciously I knew that I would be playing Pro Hockey in Epinal, France where the city postal code is 88 000 or perhaps it is because my French girlfriend who is from Epinal was born in '88???

This is my 4th season in France and my 3rd in Epinal.  The French league is nowhere close to the NHL but it is a good league in Europe and just perfect for me.  The feeling really sets in when I am asked what I do for a living....Occupation: Pro Hockey Player!
That is just how I envisioned things as a young boy in Windsor, Ontario watching Hockey Night in Canada.

The dream lives on....

Monday, 7 March 2011

Season is over, now what/where?

Well, another season has come and gone, this one was probably one to forget, at least on a personal note.  With the complications after the operation this summer, I did not start playing until late November, and for the next two months I was playing on 1 leg.  It was a tough season but I wanted to contribute in whatever way I could and though I was not at 100% until the end of January, it was still important to be out there with the guys to battle each night.

With the playoff format for the first round best of 3 series starting on the road for the higher seeded team, it does not really give you that "home ice advantage" that you get in the second round (first 2 games at home).  So we started off in Strasbourg and lost the first game 4-1, then came home for games Friday and Saturday.  After trailing 2-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the 3rd period of Friday's game, we made a dramatic comeback to win 3-2 with just over a minute left to play.

The same could not be said for Saturday night, where we quickly went down 2 goals in the first period. Then with 2 minutes left in the first period, the referees decided to stop the game to repair a hole in the ice.  Flash back a few weeks ago, our game was canceled before the 3rd period due to a huge hole in the ice, and it was replayed in the Alpes.  After sitting in the dressing room for almost two hours, we were told that we would be continuing the game.  We started around 10:30pm and the game ended around midnight with a 2-0 loss.

There were not too many scoring chances after starting up the game again, most guys were hungry and mentally shut off after the near two hour delay.

Now that we are done, it is time to think about next season.  What kind of adventure will I be embarking on for 2011-2012?

I wanted to give an update and next time I will recap my return to Briancon for our last regular season game.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Pedal to the Metal!

The break is finally coming to an end soon.  We get back to action on Friday night at home, against Grenoble after a 2 week break in the schedule.  Everyone is looking forward to getting back into game action but with 4 games in just over a week, I'm sure the fatigue factor will be setting in quickly.

Normally we only play 1 or 2 games per week in France, but for some reason, we play Friday, Sunday, Tuesday and then Saturday to close out the season.  With playoffs starting 2 days later on the Tuesday.  I am not sure why the schedule is set up this way, as teams get used to playing 1 or 2 games per week, then when the playoffs hit, we could play 5 games in a week.

Either way, it is going to be an exciting month at full speed!  The best part about this would be to get into a good rhythm and just ride that momentum through the playoffs.  We have a very good team and if we can stay healthy and play our best, we will be a very dangerous team to face in a 5 game series.

Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Allons Enfants de la Patrie....

Allons Enfants de la Patrie.....Le jour de gloire est arrivé....

That is the first part of the Marseillaise (French National Anthem), so it is fitting to start off this blog post with that because last Friday I received my French Passport!  It was a very exciting day because since being informed that I have become a French citizen on June 22nd 2010, I have been waiting patiently for my official documents.

Back to la Marseillaise.... I felt it was important to learn the French anthem so on my flight over to France with my girlfriend Marion, we spent a good part of our 12 hour flight from Vancouver singing together. Line after line it would go until Marion was just so exhausted with the sound of my voice, she put on her headphones and watched a movie as I continued writing out the lines in the song and going over it again and again.

By the time we landed in Paris (and for the next 3 weeks) that is the only song I had in my head.

When I received that call from La Mairie on Friday morning that my passport had arrived, I simply said "J'arrive!"  (I'm on my way)

When I arrived, there was nobody there so I went right in, signed a few documents, they took my fingerprints because this is a Biometric passport, then it was official!  Right after that, being in the French spirit, I went to my favourite Boulangerie where they have the best "pain au chocolat" in the world and amazing "croissants" too.  After grabbing 2 of each, I parked the car in the Centre Ville and walked up to the Castle.  From the top of the Castle you can see the entire city of Epinal, so I sat up there and took 45 minutes to just appreciate my French Nationality and eat my treats from la boulangerie.  During that time, I just looked back upon my arrival in France and thought about how far I had come and how many people helped me get to this day.  It was almost 4 years earlier that I sat in that very spot thinking "holy crap, I am in France playing hockey....what an adventure"

It feels real now that I have my actual documentation, but the day I get to use my passport in the European Union line at the airport is that day that I believe it will really sink in. No more big long lineups hahaha.

Monday, 10 January 2011

I have the Greatest Job in the World!!!!

I have the greatest job in the world!  I really do!

I am a professional hockey player :)  It just seems so simple to say this and it isn't anything new or a surprise the just arrived on Christmas morning.  I am in my 4th season of Pro Hockey in France and I feel that over these years, at times, I may have taken things for granted or maybe been just a bit too serious or emotionally invested.  Don't get me wrong, I do take hockey very seriously, but getting too emotionally upset about a mistake in a game or being injured or the coach not playing you on the power play...etc... If that stuff starts creeping into your everyday life and getting you down, then it is time to remember how lucky we really are with hockey being our passion and also our job.

Over the course of my first season in France I was just living in the moment, picking out all the cool differences France had from Canada, keeping a journal and planning trips to Munich, Paris and Dublin.  The hockey was going great, and that was just a bonus.  I did not really consider myself as a professional, because I was barely getting paid and did not even sign a real contract.  In fact, it was agreed that I would work part time to earn my salary and they would give me 200 euro/month for food.  At the time I was also applying for Teacher's Education, a 1-year program that started in September.  My dream was always to play pro hockey, and I was doing it, but being a teacher was something I was interested in doing for a career also, mostly because of the holidays and summer vacation! 

My coach in Epinal at the time was Shawn Allard.  He was a very good motivator and a great coach who got the best out of his players.  Once our season ended, he started to assemble next year's team. He was selling me on playing another season and putting Teacher's Education on hold, as it was something I could do when hockey was finished.  Shawn pushed the right buttons and knew my passion for the game and my fierce competitiveness were much too strong to walk away from hockey to become a teacher. Without even waiting to see if I was accepted into the Teaching Programs, I signed for another season with Epinal.  Later that summer I was accepted to the University of Toronto, which I confidently had to turn down.
The day I considered myself a pro hockey player was a warm day in March of 2008 as a posed in a picture for the paper at La Capitainerie restaurant, having just signed my first "real" pro hockey contract.  It was not huge money but it was a real salary for a real job.......A Professional Hockey Player.

Still that summer I was back in Vancouver working as a Strength Coach for the Hockey Camps at Twist Conditioning like I had done the 2 summers before.  I would get my workouts in after 6pm when the work day was finished with (my roommate/co-worker/work out partner/party buddy) Casey Bartzen, who was also playing hockey in Europe. Working at Twist is awesome, but also very tiring when seriously preparing for a hockey season. Though with such a positive work environment and so much energy in the gym, I was getting really pumped up for the season in France and looking forward to starting my "real job."

Once I arrived in France again, I could not help but to feel such gratitude for my life.  I was living the dream!  I remember going to sleep at night and staring at my Canadian flag on the wall, thinking just how lucky I was in my life.  It was not a 9-5pm job, it was hockey, it was my passion and they were going to pay me to for it too?  Wow!  I could not even sleep at night, I was so excited, as my dream was being realized.

That year was amazing in so many ways.  I was not as much of a tourist anymore, though my trip to Amsterdam in November to see my great friend Adam Spinarsky was pretty awesome!  In October I met Marion and we have been together now for over 2 years, my team finished 6th out of 14 teams, our best finish in history, I was the top scoring defenseman in the league and I signed with the top team Briancon for the next season! 

The reason I feel so compelled to write about this today is because a few times over the last few years I think I forgot just how lucky I am to have a career playing the game I love.  A game I began playing in the Met Hospital parking lot across the street from my old house on Alsace in Windsor. The same game that I learned at Lanspeary Park Outdoor rink where my dad would bring ovaltine in a silver thermos to keep warm. Thinking about that now, I don't think that would be the best thing to stay hydrated eh dad?  I still have a huge bump on the side of my head from when I collided with my older brother Andre at Lanspeary. 

This is such a dream, to be able to live in Europe, play hockey at a high level where the team provides you with an apartment, a car, equipment, gym membership and a good salary.  If you stand back and look at this deal, it is a "dream job."  Not to mention all of the amazing people you meet along the way on this adventure.... the incredible fans in Epinal and Briancon who are so welcoming and passionate. 

Just today some mail arrived that was forwarded from Briancon to my address here in Epinal and inside the package was a note from the young mail man who was a big fan of Briancon hockey saying "Hey Steph, Happy New year and good luck for the rest of the season.  Nico."  Incredible!

So in a way, this blog serves as a reminder to myself,  when things are not playing out exactly how we want them to, take a step back for a minute and realize just how lucky I am to have this wonderful life.  I admit, this year has been very difficult with my injury and staying positive has been tough at times but something happened today that made me think "Ok, I am playing hockey for a living, I have my dream job, injuries are part of it, coaches make decisions I may not agree with, but how can I be negative or bumbed out when so many people are in jobs that they hate."  Just this past May, I was at my brother Andre's house and his next door neighbour Mark was over.  It was the off-season and a few of my friends were going out to party, so I was bugging them to come with me.  Mark apparently had to work the next day and replied "Sorry I have to work tomorrow, when do you work next, September?"  Hahahahaha, "ok, you got me Mark, haha"

My typical day involves waking up at 8:30 or 9am, making some breakfast, then hitting the gym for a workout, maybe even a sauna ;)  Then home for lunch (today was a salmon salad with tomatoes, onions and avocados), read a bit (Bob Probert's book: Tough Guy) or play PS3 (NHL 11) with my Finnish roommate Timo. Then go to the Wellington for a hot chocolate, maybe go to some stores in town, head home for a snack (eggs), play a little guitar, then go to practice at night.  The best part is coming home to my beautiful French girlfriend Marion!  She usually has dinner ready too!  Then we watch some TV together and go to bed!  Game days are a bit different but that would be just a regular day in Epinal.

I owe so much to the game of hockey, I am so grateful for the people I have met and the relationships I have built. Coming to France was the greatest decision of my life.  I now have a great hockey career that I will continue playing for years to come, I have learned to speak French fluently, won La Coupe de France Championship in Paris, have an amazing French girlfriend Marion, learned to play the guitar and harmonica, play hockey in front of amazing fans in a city I love, Epinal.  And to top it all off, I have even been granted French Citizenship!  My passport will arrive in a few weeks!  Wow!

I love when my family comes to visit me so we can share this amazing experience together. I wish they could come more often, the simplest things like having traditional French meals together are just so fun. I LOVE the food in France!!!!  We live right across the street from the grocery store (Géant Casino) so it works out perfectly!

So many more things I could add..... The Mauffrey family has been a huge help and a big reason I stayed in France after my first year, and Marion's family has been amazing too.  I am so grateful for this opportunity in life and I promise not to take anything for granted the rest of the way on this adventure. I will be in the moment and enjoy every minute of it because being a hockey player