#HumboldtStrong

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The above photo is the only one on this post that belongs to me. I’m not going to identify the rest, though, because this blog isn’t about individuals. Its about a team and a country and a country full of teams and dreams.

I haven’t known what to say since the horrific bus crash on April 6th between a hockey team of Junior players heading up to Nipawin, Saskatchewan and a semi-trailer truck. It has touched me on an incredible number of levels, for so many reasons. 16 people died in the crash, 6 are still hospitalized with 2 remaining in critical condition.

I’ve asked my social media world to share a photo of their tributes to the crash. Photos came in from across Canada and the US. Friends. Family. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Hospital staff. Our goalie from our vet med team. Former students of mine and the children of former students of mine. The rest of the photos are theirs, used with permission.

I didn’t know what else to do but I can hopefully use words to express my feelings.

 

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This post is for the little kids who get up early on Saturday mornings or even before school to lace up their skates (or have their moms and dads lace them up for them.) The kids who don’t want to practice drills or skating. The kids who just want to shoot pucks and learn a slapshot. The kids who often got Timmie’s on the way to the rink and then got to enjoy McDonald’s on the way home.

The kids who look up to their coaches as their heros. The same kids who watch hockey games at night and want to grow up to be just like Crosby. They dutifully don their mouth guards and helmets and they learn to play and respect and love the game of hockey.

They are boys and they are girls and they are every color and every ethnicity you can imagine. They dream of professional hockey and while very few reach that level, many become coaches, parents of players, referees, minor hockey board members and host families.

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This is for the parents of those little and not-so-little kids. The parents sitting on the bench sipping coffee and hot chocolate during those early-morning practices and games. The parents logging countless miles driving for hours on winter roads to play games and tournaments. The parents who sometimes have to be apart because one kid has to go to Fernie and the other kid has to be in Nelson.

The same parents who listen to their kids complain about the amount of ice time, or about the center who’s a puck-hog and never passes. The parents who try to keep their mouths shut on questionable calls and line changes by the coaching staff.

The parents who work hard to pay for that new pair of skates, the private power skating sessions or summer camps halfway across the country.

They are the same parents who watch their kids load into the bus. Or they’re the house-parents billeting a player who loads onto the bus. The parents who all expect to see their hockey player again.

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This post is for the bus drivers of these teams who all love their jobs. Like my maid of honor’s dad, who drove for the Nelson Junior Leafs for years. Over mountain passes covered in snow with noise and adrenaline charging in the seats before the games and peaceful slumber in the wee hours of the morning on the way home.

Bus drivers who all have real lives and families and other jobs but they love being the man behind the wheel for these teams. Every player and coaching member knows the bus driver. Every host family knows them. They are as much a part of the team as anyone else and it breaks my heart  knowing the Humboldt Broncos lost their dedicated bus driver in the crash.

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I write today for the small towns who have Junior A or B hockey teams. I grew up in one of those towns and my friends who are still in Grand Forks continue to root for and believe in our Grand Forks Bruins.

It was just what many Canadians do on home game nights. At school on Fridays we’d say, “you going to the game?” Players from other provinces and even countries play on small town junior hockey teams. Every year we’d get new players at the high school and we’d all sort of try to help them fit in, even if they stuck mostly together and even if they might be traded the following week.

This is for Grand Forks, BC. Nelson. Creston. Fernie. Kimberley. Trail (even though I’m from Grand Forks and we’re not supposed to be nice to Trail.) In this case its okay because we are all the same.

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This is for the coaches of hockey players, who help the little kids when they hurt themselves and have tears streaming down their cheeks. The coaches who try desperately to decipher what their little Atom player is trying to convey with his mouth guard in.

Its for the high school hockey coaches who have to hold back the comments when their players are held hostage by their own hormones.

The coaches who listen to the parents with gripes about ice time, some other kid, or how the ref screwed up a call. The same coaches who hope the team starts to get along better, or that the girl’s team can put the drama aside for just one game let alone a season.

The coaches who have to teach the importance of skating, fast starts and sharp stops, stick handling, checking, respecting the refs and passing all while their charges just want to take slap shots on net.

The coaches who want every kid, regardless of their skill level to get a goal this season and really feel like they are a part of something bigger. Something special. Something they will pass onto their own children in the future.

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This is also for Saskatchewan, the province I called sort-of home for my 4 years of veterinary school. While the players of the Humboldt Broncos came from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they all called Saskatchewan home this season, too.

If you have never been there you might picture it as a vast open space with incessant winds and bitter cold. You’re not incorrect but there is so much more. There is the scent of the prairies on that wind- of grains and prairie grass and hope.

There is the ice arena and curling rink in every single town along with one or two great cafes that all serve poutine with home-made gravy.

Saskatchewan is full of hard-working people who learn they have to drive to get anywhere. Its nothing for a team of players to travel for hours for playoff hockey because most of them and their host families have been doing that all of their lives just to hit the big grocery stores.

Saskatchewan was good to me and it has become a part of my mosaic.

Saskatchewan has had to bear the weight of this terrible tragedy but I am given strength from the fact every other province has stepped in to help hold their Canadian teammate up.

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Its for the figure skaters who share the same small town ice rinks with the hockey clubs. They often share one sheet of ice with minor hockey, junior hockey and adult hockey and everyone has to get along.

The hockey players at school would bitch about the holes our toe picks created with flips and lutzes. They’d complain when our home club would host a competition or test session and monopolize the whole rink for 2 to 3 days. And they’d blame their early morning or late night ice times on the fact the skating club got a lot of prime time hours.

But they would also sit in the stands before a game taping their sticks while watching the sparkly skaters practice in front of them. In private, as we got older, they would admit having respect for our mastery of the blade and the fact we wiped out without padding. And then we’d get back up and try again.

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This is for the fans out there who have never put on a pair of skates in their life. There are millions of you world-wide and there is nothing like a die-hard hockey fan. Some are fans of a particular player or a certain team. Others just love hockey and change allegiances each season, or even within a season.

Most just love the game with its fast paced action, the blistering flight of the puck, the plays, the camaraderie on the bench, the potential for fisticuffs and the unexpected results when a young team, a rookie or an old veteran in his final season step up and create a great story.

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This is for everyone, everywhere who put a hockey stick outside their door or a jersey on their back in honor and remembrance of a bus carrying hockey players, coaches, a radio play-by-play announcer, a physical trainer, and a statistician to Nipawin for a must-win playoff game.

Its for all of you who shed tears even if you can’t spell Humboldt correctly. Its for the NHL players and the Stanley Cup itself who visited the injured in Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital.

Its for the outpouring of love and connection all wrapped around watching players race around an icy surface chasing a little black orb while following rules and respecting other players. Its for our collective love of the game. Its for hockey.

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Most importantly, this is for the players and team members on the bus that crashed on a sunny early evening highway along the flat prairie roads by Tisdale, Saskatchewan. For the survivors, their families, their host families and for the souls who were lost. For the emergency crews on the scene and the hospital staff who had to watch team players struggle to figure out what had happened. And who had been lost.

Thank-you to my friends & family for their touching tribute photos. May we all forever stay “HumboldtStrong.

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45 Years

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A lot can happen in 45 years.

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Me, last fall (this is the only picture today that is mine.)

Like me! I’ve been happening for 45 years and I’ve happened to pack a fair bit into that time frame.

World views have changed, the climate has changed, musical, social and clothing styles have changed- I’ll note that I remain a huge fan of the music from the 70’s but not so much the clothing- and the world just keeps spinning around on its axis knocking another year off its list.

In 45 years the world went from rotary dial phones and party lines to instant messaging and real-time video chats!

While its remarkable all of things that can happen within 45 years, its equally remarkable for the things that didn’t happen in all that time.

It took 45 years for Canada to proudly put a woman figure skater back on the top step of the World podium.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond, en route to World gold!

I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks as the talented, powerful yet graceful Kaetlyn Osmond of Marysville, Newfoundland soared through her Black Swan routine nailing each element with her trademark flow and speed and landed herself on the top of the podium.

It hadn’t been done since Karen Magnussen won World’s in 1973.

Josee Choinard tried but always succumbed to her nerves. Jennifer Robinson wore the Canadian crown for almost a decade when it seemed like Canada couldn’t produce a serious ladies competitor. Jennifer never, ever threatened the podium. And Joannie Rochette came close with the silver medal but not the elusive gold.

 

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Canada’s Joannie Rochette at the Vancouver Olympics

Joannie had the goods. She was fast, daring, talented and beautiful. She was strong-willed and dedicated and she finally showed she also had the mental fortitude when she competed in Vancouver days after her mother had flown in from Montreal and then died from a heart attack.

Her coaches kept her in a private, secluded bubble and the press gave her some respectful breathing room as everyone wondered if she would compete in her home country or not.

She was the current World silver medalist from 2009, though, and Canada was really hoping to get another lady on an Olympic podium since Liz Manley stood there, in second place back in 1988. Joannie’s short program was wonderful and clean and I’ll never forget the image of her collapsing onto her knees, sobbing when she finished.

She earned Olympic bronze that year, which Kaetlyn was able to repeat in South Korea this year.

 

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Kaetlyn’s sassy Olympic short program in February (in Chloe & Isabel earrings from me!)

She leapt up 10 placings from her appearance in the Sochi games 4 years ago and was amidst a bit of a skating controversy despite the media’s lack of attention to it.

It wasn’t Kaetlyn’s fault. It wasn’t the judges’ fault, nor was it the fault of the 2 Russian skaters who won gold and silver. Its sort of the fault of the new International Judging System (IJS) that was implemented after the Salt Lake City Games where a judging scandal in the pairs event (Russians and Canadians again, go figure!) necessitated a change from the old 6.0 scoring.

The Russian champion, Alina Zagitova had all of her jumps in the second half of her program- everything done in the second half gets bonus points because if you’re a normal skater, it gets kind of hard to leap into the air the correct way, spin 3 times, maybe reach back, pick, and leap up again for 2 or 3 more rotations and land on your toe-pick and look pretty after 2 or 3 minutes.

 

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Zagitova after her long program to win the Olympic gold last month.

If you’re a pre-pubescent 15 year-old, though, you don’t know what exhaustion feels like and your body can jump-jump-jump to its heart’s content. Its a completely unpleasant routine to watch because of the layout and also because she throws her arms in the air above her head on every single jump (another point-getter in the IJS.) (Suggestion- limit it to 2 hands-above-head jumps, please!)

These IJS bonus points are there to create an objectified way of scoring skaters. Like goals scored in hockey or a time stamp for a runner, its figure skating’s way of making things fair and keeping personal preference or nationality away from the judge’s bench.

However, for the first time that I’ve really noticed, it made for ugly routines and unappealing skating for the two Russians, unlike the stylishly-crafted routines (done by Lance Vipond) of Kaetlyn’s.

 

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More of Kaetlyn’s Olympic short program

Zagitova landed everything. Her training-mate, Evgenia Medvedeva landed just about everything but she also had a strategically created routine with arms up and big tricks near the end but it was a more pleasing routine. Kaetlyn skated with tremendous height to her jumps, flow going in & coming out of them with strength and style.

I would have put Zagitova in third.

And in an Olympic year, not everyone continues on to the World championships held just weeks later. Joannie Rochette understandably did not in 2010. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir didn’t compete in Milan this month at world’s after their Olympic glory and neither did the Olympic men’s champ, Yuzuru Hanyu.

Even Evgenia Medvedeva skipped a chance to reclaim her World title this year but young Zagitova joined Kaetlyn, Carolina Kostner, Gabby Daleman, and the 3 American Olympians, Tennel, Nagasu and Chan in Italy for the final event of the figure skating season.

 

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Carolina Kostner after her amazing short program in Milan

Imagine the skating world’s surprise as home-country Carolina Kostner skated to 1st place after the short! Carolina, herself looked shocked and the incredible 32 year-old got to take home a shiny gold medal (they do a “small medal” ceremony for the short program podium).

Also with a small medal was Zagitova in 2nd, less than a full point behind Kostner. Kaetlyn, fighting back the post-Olympic blues, was 4th.

The post-Olympic blues exist. Not that I speak from experience but I sure would have loved a shot at that kind of depression. Highly decorated Michael Phelps is speaking out about the crash after such a high, especially when a medal or 2 is involved and I read in one of Kaetlyn’s interviews that she really had to rally to get her mind in the game for World’s.

 

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Kaetlyn & Ravi realizing she had won bronze in South Korea. What a high! (Michael Slipchuk from Canada is off on the left.)

Rally she did, though, and after several skaters, including the surprising Wakaba Higuchi from Japan who leapt to the top of the scoreboard an hour earlier, the sad and uninspired performance of Carolina Kostner who made several mistakes in front of the supportive Italian crowd,  and the shock of all shocks when Zagitova tumbled to the ice (and off the podium), Kaetlyn had the skate of her life and leapt into first place on World ice.

Two deserving Japanese skaters joined her on the podium, Higuchi in 2nd and Satoyo Miyahara in 3rd.

 

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Miyahara and her teensy, tiny jumps heading for the bronze.

Zagitova and her coaches were speechless. They’ve commented since that they will review everything and try to figure out why their 15 year-old skated so terribly that day. Carolina has shrugged her shoulders and is happy with her small world medal but hasn’t announced if she’s retiring or not.

The medals were placed around the ladies’ necks and the flags were raised. All 3 took to the ice, Kaetlyn wrapped in a Canadian flag and they did their victory lap, waving to the crowd. Nobody told Kaetlyn that they’d laid a carpet down and there is ample footage out in cyberspace of her nailing it and crashing to the ice.

Everyone is giggling and smiling, including the 2 Japanese skaters who helped Ms.Osmond back to her feet. Typical Canadian, she just laughed it off.

 

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2018 World’s podium (before the wipe out)

And Canada once again has a ladies world champion.

She hasn’t been back to Canada yet to receive a hero’s welcome in either of her “home towns” of Marysville or Edmonton, Alberta. She jetted off to Japan for a 2-week stint of Stars on Ice. She’ll be back in the land of the maple leaf for the Canadian 2-week Stars on Ice tour soon and I’m sure she will be adored.

I wonder if they’ll make a Kaetlyn Osmond doll like they did with Karen Magnussen (I had one! I have no clue where it is….)

 

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The K-Mag doll of the 70s!

 

At this point Kaetlyn says she is committed to continuing to compete and even wants to feel an Olympic rush yet again.

I’m so glad I’ve been here these 45 years to be a part of this. I’m so proud of my friend, Ravi, who has coached Kaetlyn since she was 10 years old. How lucky we all are to hopefully see more of this talented athlete and hey, I’m looking forward to seeing if Zagitova survives puberty (many Russian ladies are dumped at that point) and to see what she brings to the table. Will Carolina continue? How about Miriah Nagasu and the other American ladies? We need to get American ladies back on top, too.

Until next season’s B events roll around (check out Salt Lake city in the fall for the International classic- these skaters on a test run! I’ve been twice and its super cheap and super cool!), its all speculation. Regardless, GR8 SK8, Kaetlyn Osmond!

 

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Canada’s Josee Choinard, so pretty, so talented, so stylish. Just could never get the mental hang of it.

 

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Zagitova at World’s, still hoping to hold it together at this point.

 

APTOPIX Italy Figure Skating Worlds

Oh, Canada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coach Came Back

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Back on the ice! Virden, Manitoba last month.

My first language is Figure Skating.

First career language, that is.

I trained, competed, performed, and coached through the first 35 years of my life. I even skated, performed and coached off and on during vet school and after I became a veterinarian.

 

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2007, my Bismarck skaters during a video-review session

I’ve always enjoyed coaching and sharing my knowledge and love of skating with skaters of all ages and levels. The language flows fluently from my mouth when I explain the correct take-off for the flip and lutz jumps, how the skater has to mimic a pole vaulter with maintaining the momentum while vaulting themselves off of that extended toe pick behind them.

It reaches out through my arms and hands as I try to explain “Stupid Big Arms” with wide-sweeping, overly dramatic arm moves.

Its the language I used to speak without words when I could whip off killer flying camels or ridiculously consistent double toe-loops.

 

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1995, Watford City with the first Raise The Roof crew! I could still whip off the skills back then…

As I close in on turning 45 I have had to accept the changes to my body that I haven’t been in control of. Granted, the little extra around the tummy is my doing but my limbs don’t bend like they used to and my feet and thighs were inconsolable after the first few days back on the ice.

But I loved it.

I was given tasks to choreograph competitive routines and tweak ones that had already been designed earlier in the summer. Choreography has been a passion of mine ever since I was a young skater. I had my own routines but I also made new ones up to everyone else’s music at the rink. As I got older my coaches allowed me to have some creative control over my routines and I loved the task as a professional coach.

 

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Showgirl in Japan, 1992

So it was a blast to add swoopy arm moves and running turns to Caitlyn’s instrumental ‘Dog Days of Summer’ routine; I laughed as I threw sword-fight arms and dramatic lunges into both ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ routines for Cambrie and Haley; Abby got some fun footwork and funky arms for the part of her music that was heavy on the drums; I introduced more of an emotional welcome to Kiana’s Michael Buble routine; Charlotte worked on lengthening her reach and getting more dramatic as we repeatedly got down in our knees and held our poses to ‘Batman’; and Kylie’s arms, hands, elbows and feet are that much sharper with her Irish music.

And I learned some bad-ass moves myself when I got to research and then choreograph a pre-novice competitor’s long program…. to ‘Bollywood’.

Gasp!

Who knew there was so much Indian dancing on the Internet?

 

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Not Indian dancing but a fun routine the girls would sometimes do before the coaches hit the ice.

Creating and skating Lynice’s ‘Bollywood’ routine was a blast, particularly when both of us remembered what we were supposed to be doing and even more so when the moves hit the right notes of the music. If she competes well this year the routine could be seen on the national stage in Canada which is a dream for me and the routines I’ve created.

Paige and Rudy, the former Olympian Canadian pairs skaters who grew up in this very same rink with Coach Patti and some of these current skaters took one of my show routines I did for them overseas years ago. It was a Celine Dion piece (how Canadian is that?) and it was pretty fun.

 

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Rudy, me and Paige at the Salt Lake City International competition a few years ago.

As much as I missed UB and Cleo (who I left with their Daddy in Bismarck, ND) and as much as I missed the kitties, Sport, Bebe and Jockey (who Jessi took care of for us in MT), I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in long days of hard training for 2 full weeks in Virden.

I loved the routine of my morning latte at Timmy’s. Where one of the women began recognizing me and told me to “have a great day, my friend.” Just like that… my new tribe!

 

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My morning pit-stop.

Tim Horton’s is as much a Canadian institution as the Tragically Hip is our national band. And about that… my hosts had the radio playing and I got to hear Canadian Content, or Con-Can once again. The Bearnaked Ladies, Jan Arden, Sarah McLaughlan, the Hip, Bryan Adams and even Gordon Lightfoot played in the background.

I’d take my yummy latte to the rink where head coach, Patti, who I stayed with, would hand out our lesson sheets and discuss what we were doing in group lessons for the day and I’d bind my aching, blistered feet into their cement blocks for the day and off we went for 7 or 8 hours to create figure skaters!

 

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1993/94 season with my young protégé, Tyler… who was coached by Patti the following year and, years later, moved to Virden to coach for 2 years, himself! There is symmetry in everything…

Patti also had a handful of dedicated hockey players who had booked a private group all summer for power skating. Thankfully I had my hockey skates to strap on (which weren’t anywhere near as painful as the cement bricks that encased my wounded feet) and my power skating ‘bible’ to refer to and Coach Fyfe was back teaching the four phases of the forward stride, running starts, how to push down into the ice and Russian stroking passes.

Coaching power skating is, obviously, a lot different from figure skating but there are similarities.

The students were all pre-teen through teen years with their own background stories and drama happening away from their coaches’ eyes. They all wanted to be the best that they could be at their particular sport. Each of them had appropriate questions and answers during our lessons or they came armed with them the next time. And they were all high-achievers, dedicating several hours of every single day for 6 weeks to develop and hone their craft while many of their classmates were lounging by beaches or doing whatever it is that normal kids do during their summer holidays.

 

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Power Skating coach for the Jr. A Bismarck Bobcats on the lower left. Not sure this gang appreciated my drills as much as the young men in Virden this summer…

It was different from when I coached power skating to the Bismarck Bobcats in the early 2000’s. Those guys “had” to work with me twice a week thanks to their Canadian coach, John, who understood the value of having some sweet skating skills and speed. No sense being the best puck handler or goal-scorer if you can’t get to the puck first, right?

So the coach came back, as the title says, and the coach had fun.

And I got to explore golf courses in both Virden and Rivers, Manitoba thanks to Patti, Julie, Lil, Cindy and my dear friend, Karla.

 

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Fab, fearsome foursome in Virden!

I also got to play our ND golf course, Painted Woods with Alistair on weekends when I drove the 4 hours to get down to Bismarck.

 

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Painted Woods, just before I went back up to Virden for one more week!

And we’re back to smoky Montana next to the highest priority fire in the nation with hazardous air quality and a Red Flag Warning now through tomorrow night where I can’t quite see the nearby hills and mountains and half the community is on pre-evacuation orders and the horse trailer is hooked up and our foyer is full of important things hubby boxed up for me before he had to leave yet again for ND. And there was a bit of tragedy on the ND Fyfe Farm and our horse herd is one head smaller while I was in Virden but Alistair was able to handle it veterinary-style when he knew nothing more could be done. And I’m back to my online cooking course where I had the knowledge and confidence to make my own chicken stock during the day today and I’m super excited to get going on the Stir Fry course but I’m going to whip up my tasty garlic & shrimp quinoa for supper with my freshly made stock.

But more on all of that another time.

This blog is about me speaking fluent skating again. Its about making friends from other clubs and other communities and even other countries. Its about being cool inside a lovely, big ice rink on hot summer days. Its about enjoying learning about other skaters, coaches and parents and maybe making the time to hit a few golf balls with one or two of them. Or enjoy a fresh-cooked meal in an outdoor kitchen. With a Caesar expertly made by my Canadian friends.

 

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One of Coach Tanya’s specialties! 2010 here in Seeley Lake.

 

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My last day on the ice with my Bismarck girls before I moved to Montana 10 years ago.

 

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Virden skaters (Brekken and Shanna) who had my camera in the locker room my last day there.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shanna & Haley, more locker room giggles

 

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Like an Oscars selfie… how many skaters can we get in here? I love that they did this for me so I will remember their happy faces (and wild hair… it was Crazy Hair Day…)

 

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My favorite skating partner (2010).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

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Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.

Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.

And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

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Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.

We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!

 

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Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.

 

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This was after the taxi cab decided he was going to cut through everyone.

I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.

Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.

This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.

 

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Robson st.

I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.

 

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BC weed on display… with cops right there.

Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.

How even more Canadian.

 

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Loved this!

I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.

 

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Oh, Robson st., you haven’t changed a bit.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.

And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.

 

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A little higher than the capitol building in Bismarck (tallest building in ND).

The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.

 

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Our hotel

Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)

Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.

 

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Hotel Vancouver on the left.

With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.

 

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Hello, Ocean!

It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club

It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.

 

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Alistair’s childhood home

And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?

We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.

 

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Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.

 

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Tan and Liz, together again… with bottled Caesars! So Canadian!

The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.

 

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On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.

Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.

 

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Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.

And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.

 

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Blurry. Back at our hotel.

The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.

Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.

More friends.

 

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Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

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Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

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Alistair hand selected a tray of Purdy’s chocolates (Canadian classic!) for his staff in ND

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

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Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.

It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.

I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.

 

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Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.

Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

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Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

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More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

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Oh, Ocean, it was lovely to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Week of Watching Worlds

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World’s ladies podium from Helsinki, Finland (not my photo)

Its the time of year when the figure skating world culminates in one spot to crown its new champions and I sit on my ass with coffee in-hand and watch, mesmerized.

I’m mesmerized by the incredibly beautiful costumes, the intricate, challenging choreography, the focus and intensity of the athletes and their coaches and most definitely the level of skill required to compete at the senior level nowadays.

When I grew up, my idol, Katarina Witt won World and Olympic championships with a triple loop as the top jump in her arsenal.

 

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Katarina Witt, 1980s (not my photo)

Now women absolutely must have a triple-triple combination and everything up to and including a triple lutz. And that’s just the women. The men’s and pairs disciplines have upped the ante making for tremendous challenges for the skaters and coaches.

This season the quad-fest that is the men’s event started to evolve early on. I thought I was finally watching creative routines that included one or two quadruple jumps (usually a toe and salchow) as well as beautiful movements and step sequences that tried to tell a story.

Until Nathen Chen blew everything out of the water at US Nationals back in January.

 

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Nathen Chen at Nationals (not my photo)

With two quads in the short and four in the long, including a quad flip in combination, Mr.Chen took the sport in an even more aggressive direction. And yet, he is quite balletic. Critics used to nail men like Elvis Stoijko for including too many quads because it took away from the artistry of figure skating but you can’t say that about Nathan. He was already an accomplished ballet dancer before he chose to pursue skating as his sole focus and it shows in his arms.

 

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Nathan Chen, this week in his short program at World’s

He arrived in Helsinki for this week’s World Championships with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Not only was there buzz that he would quad his way to the top of the podium, he was also expected to earn back three births for the US men into next year’s Olympics.

Pre-Olympic years force more pressure onto skaters from countries with more than one who can rightfully earn a trip to the biggest event of them all. If a country has one skater placing in the top 10 at World’s the year prior to the Olympics, that country gets to send one to the big show.

If you have two skaters whose placement numbers total thirteen or less, that country can send three skaters to the Olympics.

So not only do you have to skate lights-out, you also have to place high enough that everyone in your home country doesn’t hate your guts for losing a spot.

 

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Chen during his ambitions long program yesterday at World’s (not my photo)

Chen’s coach brazenly told reporters and fans that his pupil was going to go for six quads in his long program. He nailed the two in his short but sadly fell on the triple axel so he needed something ambitious to beat the men ahead of him and get that podium finish.

And he tried.

But it didn’t quite work out. He landed four out of six quads and ended up in sixth.

He did, however, help the US earn a third spot on the Olympic team because team-mate, Jason Brown (who fell on his inconsistent quad but dazzled everyone with his brilliant moves and effortless footwork) placed seventh. Six plus seven equals thirteen. Whew!

 

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Hanyu’s electrifying short program at World’s this past week (not my photo)

Japan made skating history by having two of their men take the top two spots on the podium with Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. While it was no surprise to see Hanyu on top again (he is the current Olympic champion, after all), he got there in a round-about way.

I love his short program to Purple Rain, by Prince, including the wicked knee slide thing he does to the high-pitched electric guitar part of the song but it hasn’t been received the same way by all of the judges.

And if you don’t land all of your jumps it isn’t going to receive top scores, either. His wonky landing on his first quad combination landed him in fifth place, which he admits was pretty depressing.

 

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A different, incredibly focused story for Hanyu’s long (not my photo)

Thankfully his team helped him keep his head together and his confidence high and he went out and performed one of the most incredible long program’s in men’s history. His focus was intense (see above photo), his choreography exquisite and his jumps were so solid and of such high quality they looked like doubles. He landed… no, he nailed four gorgeous quads and two triple axels and deservedly won back his championship title.

 

 

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Celebrating with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson his unprecedented 223.4 point score for his outstanding long program yesterday (not my photo)

It is worth trying to find a video online if you’re a skating fan because the routine is sublime. I love when everything can come together for an athlete- the planning, the preparation, the training, the practice, the coaching, the hard work and finally the fulfilment. Way to go, Yuzuru Hanyu!

And good for Shoma Uno, who sometimes can be a bit pissy and petulant when things don’t go his way. He also is a wonderful skater and artist on the ice with probably the softest knees of the current leading men.

 

 

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Boyang Jin of China during his Spider-Man short program at World’s (not my photo)

 

And great work Boyang Jin of China who wrapped up the men’s podium for the second time in a row. It was the first time ever that men from all Asian countries placed in the top three.

 

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The Men’s medalists at Worlds! (not my photo)

While I enjoy seeing things work out wonderfully for an athlete like Yuzuru, its heartbreaking to see things completely fall apart. Such was the case of Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya, last year’s bronze medalist.

A good skate in the short had her in 4th place, within one point of the podium. She had been known, up until last season, as one of those skaters who could have a complete and total meltdown on the ice. Sadly, THAT Anna showed up to skate her long program.

 

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Pogorilaya, looking good during her short which landed her in 4th (not my photo)

Oh, dearie, me, it was awful. I mean, after the third fall I was kind of thinking (wishfully, sort of) that she would just get off the ice. It wasn’t just wipe-outs, either. There were stumbles on other landings, triples popped into singles and slow, off-centered spins. After the grim-faced performance she dropped to her knees and sobbed. To the point where it became uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.

The crowd rallied to show their support and she eventually got up and made her way to the boards but she once again dramatically fell to her knees to bawl some more. Hey, I get it, it sucks, we’ve all had a bad skate, its embarrassing and demoralizing but please, for the love of all things holy, get your ass off the ice. Thankfully her coaches dragged her off.

 

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Elegant Carolina Kostner in her long program (not my photo)

While nobody else had quite the mess of a routine, many of the ladies were off during their long programs. The ethereal Carolina Kostner of Italy, back in action after an international ban, placed sixth with a few boo boos. She doesn’t have a triple lutz in her current arsenal so if you’re going to compete with the big girls you had better land everything else solidly.

She didn’t.

 

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Karen Chen of the US during her short program this week (not my photo)

Neither did the spunky new US Ladies Champion, Karen Chen competing at her first World Championships. She bore a lot of pressure because she bombed at the Four Continents championship last month, causing many to question her selection to the World’s team. See, the ladies, like the men, had the challenge of earning back a third spot for the Olympics.

Everyone figured Ashley Wagner would pull off a top spot. She won the silver medal last year and she likes a good fight for her long program but nobody knew what to expect with the newbie, Chen.

 

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Wagner during her funky short program, which placed her in 7th

Ashley sat in seventh after a sub-par short and then completely underwhelmed everyone in her long. It was actually a somewhat boring routine where her pesky under-rotation demons returned and she didn’t land all of her jumps.

Her coach looked more annoyed than anything as she awaited her marks.

Chen looked up at the scores before her warm-up and saw that Ashley placed lower than expected. So not only did she have to prove she deserved to be there, she also had to place well for all of America.

Thankfully, the diminutive skater did, earning a well respected fourth place behind the Russian and two Canadians.

 

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Yeah, you read that correctly. Two Canadians. Women. On the podium. At World’s.

Its simply never happened before. While Canada is known for creating amazing skaters and hockey players, we just haven’t been able to do it with the women. Its been discussed for decades why we could only produce a Liz Manley and a Joannie Rochette every now and then but not alongside another top tiered woman.

Until now. When Gabrielle Daleman and Kaetyln Osmond put their skills, training and mental preparation all together at the right time and the maple leaf flew high two nights ago.

 

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Gabrielle Dalemen, 3rd after the short, en route to the bronze medal here during her long (not my photo)

Gabby was in third and held that spot even after following the champion, Evgenia Medvedeva, and hearing the roaring crowd after her record-breaking scores had been announced. That can be a bit rattling when you step out onto the slippery surface but Daleman held it together and put on a fun, sassy show to that old warhorse, Rhapsody in Blue.

Skating immediately after her team-mate, miss Osmond, who trains in Edmonton with my dear friend, Ravi Walia, put on her own jumping clinic with a mature, silky, elegant long program featuring a soaring triple-flip, triple toe and blurringly fast, centered, gorgeous spins.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada, ready for that silver medal at World’s (not my photo)

Both girls gave intelligent, sweet and friendly interviews together (you can look them up at cbc.ca) and proudly wrapped themselves in the same Canadian flag after the medal ceremony.

On a side note, watching as the camera zoomed in I noticed Kaetlyn’s earrings… Through my friendship with Ravi, I had offered to sponsor some jewelry to the Canadian champion back in January. She and I spent a morning online in my Chloe & Isabel boutique (www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe… you have to check it out now, right?) and she chose the sophisticated Bianca collection. Which includes lovely, on-trend ear climbers.

 

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Which she appears to have worn during her short program…

 

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And in her silver-medal winning long program!

Who would have known?

My beaming smile was more for the ladies’ placement than the bling, though, but it still made me chuckle.

 

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Ladies medalists, live, at World’s

So Canada gets to send three women to the Olympics! Huzzah!

And we get three ice dance teams as well thanks to Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir returning to competitive skating this season and winning everything they entered, including World’s. It wasn’t simple, though. In first place after their awe-inspiring short dance (to Prince songs), Scott stumbled during their free dance and the two-time former World champs from France actually won the free dance.

 

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France’s Papadakis and Cizeron after their emotional, strong, high-scoring free dance (not my photo)

The French had to settle for silver behind their training-mates, Virtue & Moir. American cutie pies, the Shibutanis finished in third. Sadly, the US team, Hubbell & Donohue, who were in third after the short dance, tumbled and missed the entire twizzle element which sadly sent them tumbling down to ninth place.

 

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I thought Hubbell & Donohue were finally going to claim some glory this year but it wasn’t to be. (not my photo)

Ice Dance is art on ice, with athleticism thrown in for fun. The skaters are all beautiful (I think its a requirement nowadays), they all fly around the ice (especially the Shib-sibs) and they perform dangerous, acrobatic moves that leave the audience breathless as they watch. The Olympic showdown will be fabulous.

The Pairs event wasn’t so hot for Canada or the US this year, particularly since the Americans only had one team finish in the top ten… meaning the United flight to South Korea next February won’t be as full with only one team getting to go to the Olympics.

The former two-time World Champs from Canada, Duhamel & Radford, fell off the podium thanks to a pesky hip injury that flared up for Eric. They are always exciting to watch and they finished in seventh, which isn’t that terrible. (Maybe I should have sent Meghan some earrings?)

 

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Skating their free program at World’s, Meghan Duhamel & Eric Radford (not my photo)

They’re right behind their team-mates, meaning Canada gets to send three teams.

The brand new World Champions are from China and hardly competed at all this year. Sui & Han sat out while she had both feet operated on several times to repair shattered ligaments that are the result of years of Chinese level throw jumps.

 

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Han throwing Sui into orbit (not my photo)

I’m happy for them that they won. The world has watched them grow up together on the skating stage and this is perfect after all that they have endured.

Behind them is the somewhat newer team of Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot. They represent Germany, where neither of them is from but you just have to let that go. In third were the Russians, Tarasova & Morozov, arguably the tallest male red-head to ever grace the ice.

 

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World pairs podium (not my photo)

So, while nothing got done around the house, I was relaxed and able to fully enjoy watching World’s this year. Our Siamese cat, Sport, watched much of it with me from my lap, my shoulders or the back of my chair.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on the state of figure skating, the point system, the outfits, the lack of scandals, the Russian drama, the choreography or whatever. Figure skating is my first language and I still speak it fluently.

 

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Virtue & Moir, golden again! (not my photo)

 

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Evgenia Medvedeva, gold medalist again during her weird, 9-11 themed long program (not my photo).

 

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Former two-time World champ and global heart-throb (sorry, ladies, Miki Ando has him) Javi Fernandez of Spain won the short but (as you can see) wiped out in the long, falling off the podium and into fourth place.

 

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The Beautiful People of ice dance (not my photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Me. Still Canadian.

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Its not Canada Day today nor is it any holiday my home land has deemed important enough to mark on my wall calendars. Its not the anniversary of my US naturalization and I’m not feeling nostalgic for poutine, maple syrup or Canadian Content.

I can get most of the things I identify with being Canadian right here in the United States. Most things.

I can’t get The Hip.

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My Canadian peeps know I’m talking about the Tragically Hip, our uber cool, exclusively Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario. Canadians will also know why today is a gut-wrenchingly special day and that people from the Yukon to Newfoundland will be tuning in to the most poignant concert in our country’s history.

Tonight is the very last night of the very last tour of our iconic band.

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The Tragically Hip. Not my photo.

 

The lead singer, Gord Downie announced this year that he had terminal brain cancer.

Their gift to the only country they’ve ever cared about was a final tour from coast to coast that began in Vancouver this summer. Several of my friends and family have been to the concerts and they all said it was a jubilant, festive celebration despite the gloom and doom of the knowledge we are losing The Hip.

That Gord still wore some crazy assed outfits and still gyrated and moved in a manner that would make Michael Stype of R.E.M. proud and that he could still belt out some massive poetry put to music.

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Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip. Not my photo.

Maybe one reason us Canadians are fiercely protective of Gord and The Hip is because they were ours. They never became mainstream outside of Canada and they never tried to “make it”  globally.

They have a guitar-rich sound with real drums that back up Gord’s distinctive voice. They never changed and despite not becoming huge in Europe or the US they have sold more albums in Canada than any other Canadian band. They sound as good at a backyard BBQ as they do in a small pub, live or through the speakers.

Every Canadian who enjoys The Hip has a favorite song.

I’m all about Ahead by a Century. I like Cordelia, Little Bones and Fiddler’s Green, too, but Ahead by a Century is definitely my favorite. I get it. Like many of their songs you know it within seconds of the first few sounds you hear from the radio or your cd player or now your iPad.

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Classics. Particularly Road Apples.

When we drove up to Saskatchewan last summer for my 10 year veterinary school reunion and turned on CBC radio the first song we heard was by the Tragically Hip. I remember asking Alistair, “How Canadian is that?”

And yet not all Canadians share the love. Alistair would be hard pressed to name a song and he has a wealth of musical knowledge including Canadian artists. Neither of us are huge Leonard Cohen fans, for that matter but we aren’t talking Lenny right now.

So tonight, thanks to CBC radio, even if folks aren’t in Kingston to share the final live performance of the Tragically Hip we can all watch it live, even in the US. (www.cbcmusic.ca)

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Their final tour this summer…

I feel a tad nostalgic writing about an iconic band I saw once years ago.

No, check that.

I feel old.

It has a bit to do with the Golden Girls theme of my last blog and watching my animal companions over the past 2 years age before my eyes.

I look in the mirror and sometimes I’m not sure about the gal looking back at me. Why is there more grey hair than before? Why is there less hair?

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thankful the flash hid a bunch of the grey!

The gal in the mirror has a ton of laugh-lines around her eyes and mouth.

I can attest to having laughed a lot over my 43 years on the planet. Its one thing I enjoy doing, both making others laugh and busting a gut myself.

And while my hair is thinning my ass certainly isn’t. What’s with that? I’m not complaining about my size but it has become a heck of a lot harder to just drop 5 pounds whenever I wanted. (Its the figure skater in me. Puberty in spandex, remember?)

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More laugh lines proudly being made!

And what’s with the tears? This getting older business and perhaps a certain (gasp) maturity that has come along with it also opened up the flood gates. For me to cry watching Olympic athletes perform to the best of their ability and then win a medal for their country is nothing new but dog food commercials? Insurance commercials? Facebook posts that have nothing to do with animals? Who the Hell am I?

I know I’m still me because I can still laugh at myself while the tears are streaming down. And while too much Kona coffee gives me a bit of heartburn (WHAT THE HELL? I used to drink coffee all freaking day and into the night!), I still love my fun meals and red wine.

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Riding around in Norman this year!

And Alistair still seems to love me even after hanging around with me for 22 years.

I am choosing to look at this as a personal evolution rather than me actually changing. I’m shaped by individuals and events that have been a part of my world all these years. I’ve been influenced by news, books, music, sporting events and movies that have all gone through as many eras as the fashion industry has.

But I’m still me.

I’ll continue to listen to music and let it play as the soundtrack to my life in the back of my head while I work on my golf game and my obsession with make-up and bling. I’ll crack jokes and sometimes say them out loud and hopefully it will be an appropriate time to do so.

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2 of the Golden Girls, Phillipa & I a few nights ago.

And I’ll probably cry tonight watching the Olympics and the Tragically Hip concert livestream on my iPad while sipping some wine (cabernet or merlot… which is more appropriate?) and playing with the ferrets with little Loki cuddling up on the couch as she always does every single evening.

I’ll still be the honest, happy, dorky, somewhat naïve, tree-hugging, laughing skater-wife-stepmom-petmom-veterinarian-bookworm-writer I’ve always been. Just with more grey hair. And a bit more girth.

Maybe a dose of maturity isn’t so bad after all. As long as I’ve got waterproof mascara I should be okay.

To quote Gord Downie, “Its been a long time coming. Well worth the wait.”

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Aw, Gord. Fight the brave fight, man.

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Getting ready to film one of Luigi’s videos this spring… because ferrets with accents is just what I do.

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’nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blades and Clubs

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Fernie, BC!

I’m back!

I unintentionally took a blog-break and Alistair and I took our own break but I’m back in the blogosphere.

With fabulous house-sitters (Whitney & her husband, Lau visiting from Kauai), we decided to disappear for a few days. We cruised up north to the homeland and hung out in the ski town of Fernie, BC for 2 nights.

Fernie is surrounded by majestic mountains but the town itself pretty much shuts down when the ski hill closes.

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Checking out the closed ski hill on a beautiful sunny day.

Restaurants were short on staff but we still had some wonderful Indian food at Tandoori Grill. And our Park Place Lodge was a bit dated and the view from the teensy balcony was overlooking a somewhat tough-looking neighborhood where a beer & BBQ bash thankfully wrapped up before bedtime but they had something we have rarely seen in hotel or resort rooms…

Wine glasses!

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Wine glasses in the room just classed-up the Park Place Lodge!

Its fun going back to Canada but we have definitely become a bit Americanized. Watching people in Canadian Tire or on the streets or golf course the song, Far Too Canadian by Spirit of the West rang through my head. I can’t put my finger on it but we have definitely changed in some ways.

While the golf course was fun and beautiful there were some super disrespectful golfers out there. Is this a Canadian thing?

I’m all for having a drink or two on the golf cart but being loud and rude and dropping F-bombs on almost every shot and playing music behind us while we’re on the tee box just isn’t cool.

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Fernie golf… amazing views!

Nor is slow play, which the groups ahead of us didn’t seem to care about.

Its common practice to let faster players go by but the group of nine people who were all together ahead of us spread out over three groups didn’t bother. And they visited and they took practice swings and they drank (“There’s no bar car today, boys, but I’ve got a mickey!”) and they smoked and they laughed and they talked with each other some more while noisy rude-man and his girlfriend and their music kept riding up our asses.

And yet, it was fun. Its golf. Its Alistair and I enjoying new terrain in our old homeland on a sunny day.

We also got to witness two separate incidents of young children having complete meltdowns in Fernie. Usually a parent gets the kid out of the public place when this goes on but not these cases. These were quite the tantrums- I have never seen anything like them- with the final one culminating in a little girl screaming through her tears to everyone at Canadian Tire, “I HATE MY LIFE.”

Maybe she is far too Canadian.

We also got to enjoy a night in Whitefish, Montana at the The Lodge at Whitefish. They had a wonderful spring rate for early season golfers and a beautiful room in the Viking Lodge.

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Making friends in the lobby of the lodge

Fancy schmancy supper at a golf course and our 18 holes with a cart the next day after Eggs Benedict by the lake made for a perfect experience.

Whitefish is also a ski town but they have much more to offer their permanent residents and the town maintains its activity during the off seasons. Hiking around downtown we were amazed by all of the restaurants and shops and variety.

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The Lodge at Whitefish (on Whitefish Lake)

The town’s population of only 6500 seems much larger when you consider the size of the downtown core as well as the fact they are one of the only towns in Montana to maintain a year-round ice rink!

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Random show-girl outside of the Glacier ice rink in sunny Whitefish, MT

Successful competitive skaters train year-round, which is why I moved to Vancouver and lived with other families for the spring and summer sessions beginning at the age of 12. So I was excited to see an active Montana club in the making.

The golf course we played at was in terrific shape and had some beautiful scenery as well.

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Somewhere around the 8th hole, ski hill in the background.

We caught up to a funny guy whose golf game was well-suited to ours and we played the back 9 together.

And we played not badly!

Which is unusual for me.

As we have learned this game I have always become overly self-conscious if others are watching. Good friends are one thing (sometimes) but having to drive in front of a stranger usually is the kiss of death for my ball flight not to mention my confidence.

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You got this one, Honey!

I’ve often wondered how pro golfers do it.

How they can handle the crowds and the volunteers and the markers and the other players and the caddies and then the incredible silence of all of these people when a volunteer puts their arms in the air so they can tee up their little white ball and try to make a decent swing.

Especially when they might be under unreasonable pressure!

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The golf world puts a lot of pressure on this young man.

Like this guy, Jordan Spieth.

So young, so talented, so well-spoken and so honest about his game. He was player of the year on the PGA tour last year and won a boat load of titles, including the Masters.

As this year’s Masters began he was one of the guys expected to run off with the title and after the first three days he was leading! The hype, the predictions, the background stories, the interviews, the short clips… everything was all about Jordan but then he didn’t win.

In fact, he lost in colossal fashion on one fateful hole towards the end of the round on Sunday.

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Rory McIlroy & Jordan at the Masters this year (not my picture).

You could see him beginning to falter after the turn and then things went sliding downhill fast. I can’t imagine what went through his mind but I’ll bet anyone he wanted to take a few of those shots again.

Start over.

At least the back nine. Where, maybe he held back a little because he had a substantial lead and didn’t think he had to attack the course. Who knows why the best trained athletes in the world falter at crucial moments? For Pete’s sake, I used to fall apart just because someone on the next hole might be looking in my general direction.

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Jordan last year (not my picture).

When the pressure and expectations are so high the fall back down to earth seems even more horrible than if someone who isn’t well known fires a ball into a water feature. Twice.

Just like at this year’s World Championships in Boston, Gracie Gold, our American ladies champion led the young Russians and her American colleague after a brilliant short program. She was radiant! She put on a jumping clinic the way she confidently nailed everything and she dazzled us all.

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Frank, Gracie and Scott after her short program marks went up.

So what went through her mind when she faltered in the long program? It wasn’t a bad skate, really, but it wasn’t good enough given the amazing performances by the Russians, the Japanese and country-woman, Ashley Wagner. In fact, everyone but Gracie had a great night and when all was said and done she was off the podium after being on top of the world.

A crash down to earth that had her apologizing to the media, saying she had to re-think her goals, sounding so confused that she didn’t put it all together when it was right there in front of her.

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Iconic moment at US Nationals earlier this year when Michelle Kwan, the Kween joined the American ladies’ medalists. Gracie Gold living up to her name. (not my photo)

Maybe this is why I love both golf and figure skating so much. Individual sports where I can be my greatest ally or my biggest threat. I can get too much inside of myself and over think things and that’s where you slip entering a flying camel or your golf ball pops ahead two feet on a drive.

And you have no one to blame but yourself because these aren’t team sports.

But when you hit amazing shots or you reach the top step on the podium it feels great to know that you did it. I’m sure having been a competitive figure skater explains a lot of the things I do in real life.

What does all of this have to do with our little mini-vacay in Fernie and Whitefish?

Nothing, really.

Its just where my head is and what I’m thinking about and where I’m thinking these thoughts and I’ll try to be more organized about it all next time.

Until then, its good to be back.

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Just arrived in Fernie. First stop- a selfie!

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More new friends in Whitefish, MT

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Golf team extraordinaire back on our home course with the kids.