Sunday, February 22, 2015


ALPHA PUPS are defined as the leaders of the pack (Here come the alpha pups.  New York Times Magazine, page 38. J. Tierney, 2001).

You can’t buy your way into Major Junior A hockey.  It doesn’t matter who your father or mother is, or who your grandfather was, or what business your family is in.  Nor does it matter if you live in the most remote corner of the most northerly province in Canada.  If you have ability, the vast network of hockey scouts … will find you, and if you are willing to work to develop that ability, the (hockey) system will reward you.  Success in hockey is based on individual merit … (from M. Gladwell’s Outliers, 2008)

Individual merit eh (I’m Canadian) … this is not entirely true.

Malcolm Gladwell states that his book, Outliers, is not about tall trees.  It is about forests.  In his book he mentions an iron fact and law of Canadian hockey: In any elite group of hockey players – the best of the best – 40 percent will have been born between January and March, 30 percent between April and June, 20 percent between July and September, and 10 percent between October and December.

In Canada the cut-off for age-class hockey is January 1st.  A boy born in January could play alongside a boy born in December, a twelve month gap in age, and in physical maturity.  Around age 10, coaches begin to select players for all-star teams and of course then, the bigger and more gifted players are the ones making the teams.  Once making an all-star team, these selected 10 year-olds will then get better coaching, more games to play, and most importantly, more practice times.  (Competitive hockey teams practice more than thrice the time of regular recreation teams.)  By the time they are age 13, with the benefits of better coaching and more ice time, these January, February, and March birthday boys not surprisingly become better-than-average hockey players.

It is by this design that the biggest boys become the best players.  This is called the accumulative advantage.  Starting out a little bit better than their peers at 10, with the accumulative advantage kicking in, and making tier one and triple A teams for as long as they love the game, those 10 year old little-bit-better players get opportunity upon opportunity to improve their hockey skills.

Everyone knows the ingredients of success in Canadian hockey: passion, talent, dedication, determination, grit, and … imagine if you will … a tucket, a fanfare of trumpets blowing out the candles on the most important ingredient of all … a January, February, or March birthday cake!

BRAD HORNUNG, NATIONAL LEAGUE HOCKEY scout, and I attended a game the other night, the REGINA PATS vs the SASKATOON BLADES.  Both teams play in the WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE, which is, according to DON CHERRY, the toughest hockey league on the planet.  The WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE contributes more players to professional hockey than any other league in the world.

Of the 23 players listed on the current REGINA PATS ROSTER, 52.17 percent were born in months of January, February, and March.  (Five were born January, four in February, and three in March.)
On the BLADES’ ROSTER of a total 22 players, three were born in January, three born in February, and four born in March.  These 10 players make up 45.45% of the team.

BRAD (HORNUNG), who also played for the PATS, was born February 13th.  None of this is coincidence.  This is the zeitgeist of Canadian Junior Hockey.

Growing up in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada, my favorite players were GORDIE HOWE, MISTER HOCKEY of the Detroit Red Wings, born March 31st; BOBBY HULL , THE GOLDEN HAWK, later to become THE GOLDEN JET, of the Chicago Black Hawks Winnipeg Jets, born January 3rd; BOBBY ORR, my favorite, favourite player ever for the Boston Bruins and was known only as NUMBAH FAHR in the brogue of the Boston fans, was born March 20th.  

Probably the most popular player ever, WAYNE GRETZKY, THE GREAT ONE of the Edmonton Oilers and L.A. Kings, was born January 26th.

Fact:  All boys who play junior hockey are alpha pups.

When I was a kid, LARRY HOPFNER was the best athlete our town.  In Track and Field, Larry won first ribbons in every event. In hockey, Larry was the best player within fifty miles.  He was so good that the coach of the SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS, Harvey Roy, offered Larry a spot on the team whenever he wanted.  The SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS, like the REGINA PATS, was a WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE team, the next thing to professional hockey. Larry chose to play in Regina for the Pats. Larry was born in January.

I am right now reflecting on my adolescent days in SPEEDY CREEK (Swift Current), when I played senior hockey for the SWIFT CURRENT INDIANS.  At that time on the BRONCOS roster of the WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE was team captain, JOHNNY MIGNEAULT.  Johnny was strikingly handsome and very confident.  John grew up in small town Saskatchewan; his father was a bartender.  In the summers, the confident cigar smoking Johnny sold Chevrolet cars at Standard Motors in Swift Current.  Johnny went on to play professional hockey with the PHOENIX ROAD RUNNERS of the WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION.  Johnny’s birthdate is February 4th.

Also on that BRONCOS roster was the top scorer in the league, DONNY KOZAK from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  On the BRONCOS, Donny was the fastest skater with the hardest shot.  Donny played professional hockey with the LOS ANGELES KINGS of the NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE.  Donny was born February 2nd. 

MURRAY MEYERS, too, played on that same BRONCOS team.  Murray’s father was a grain buyer in Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan and also did some farming in my hometown, Vanguard, Saskatchewan. Murray went on to play pro with the VANCOUVER BLAZERS and CINCINATTI STINGERS of the WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION.  Murray’s birth-date is February 9th. 

I should point out that especially in their home towns, off the ice, these January and February and March boys of winter were alpha pups. When on the ice, however, the boys were competing among their peers to be alpha pups, with age, size, and ability, mascularity and baditude, being the determining factors.  

Off the ice, Johnny and Donny and Murray were very much the alpha pups.  Donny was an alpha pup because he was the top scorer.  Johnny was an alpha pup because he was the oldest and the toughest and ... the CAPTAIN.  Murray, however, was not an alpha pup on the ice.  Fortunately for Murray, being an on-ice alpha pup is not requisite to making it to the pro league.

BRAD HORNUNG (NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE SCOUT) and I attended another WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE game last night, our second game in two nights, the REGINA PATS playing host to the RED DEER REBELS.  On the 23 player roster for the REBELS, one was born in January, five born in February, and six born in March.  A total of 12 out of 23 players with birthdays in January, February, and March, or in another term, 52.17% … the very same percentage as that of the REGINA PATS ROSTER!

With the REGINA PATS winning over RED DEER, my favorite player, WILLY (COLBY WILLIAMS), #5 for the PATS, was selected as the FIRST STAR of the game.  “He was planned as the perfect hockey baby,” states his dad.  Colby was born January 26th, the same date as Wayne Gretzky.  Colby, indeed, is an alpha pup, but … had he been born on another date, he may well have been sitting in the stands, with us watching the game!    

According to Brad, back in the mid-eighties when he played for the REGINA PATS, the quintessential alpha male at the time was KENNY MCINTYRE.  KENNY, an alpha male both off and on the ice, was the best bantam player in the province when he was drafted by the REGINA PATS.  And when Kenny played for the PATS he was the toughest guy on the team.  He was the toughest guy, too, when he played for the SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS and MOOSE JAW WARRIORS, all teams being in the WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE.   
But Kenny’s birthdate is … JUNE 5TH!

Over 40 percent of the elite hockey players on the planet were born between January 1st and March 31st, but Kenny was born in June.

Hmmm …



Sunday, February 15, 2015


The Perfect Day:

Picture your world to be a windless and sunny day, a blue sky, a spottle of cotton-ball cumulus clouds, along with the continuous clink of coins providing the auxiliary percussion as your feverish fingers pluck and thrum the guitar strings.  A day such as this, along with other requisites, will allow your days of busking to be ever munificent. 

(Just remember that dark clouds and windy days are adumbrating to crappy coin returns.)

The Perfect Place:

Your buskspot needs to be a place of high density pedestrian traffic.  For example, any noon hour at a downtown open mall,  or anytime at an outdoor farmers’ market is a great place to set up for busking.  You just need to produce a peaceful and melodic song amidst the pell-mell and the continual colubrine of people passing through the market place.

(Just remember that a buskspot is not an evangelical bully pulpit.)  

The Perfect Costume:

Projective psychology suggests that you should always wear what you find most comfortable; any clothing you wrap yourself in will suggest an image you may or may not want to project.  Keeping your costume clean shall suffice.  Typically, cap-a-pie I am hatless with a Kennedy coiffure, looking through black shades, wearing a crisp white t-shirt, faded blue-jeans, and polished work boots.  Delusional, I am aplomb in my alterity.

(Just remember you don’t need to be campy; there is never a need to don a duck costume to be a successful busker.)

The Perfect Playlist:

A cappello works if you have the pipes of Perry Como.  Cacophonous singers like me need instrumentation, and preferably it is that instrument of the quintessential busker, a guitar.

Your perfect playlist should be at least a half an hour of tunes you are able to play with confidence, without the clunky of a music stand having music sheets clipped on the side.  While busking, simpler is always better.  Simpler is also symbolic of a transcendental spirit providing entertainment comfort in a somewhat chaotic surrounding.

(Just remember you don't to be a virtuoso instrumentalist with an interior list of  the latest pop songs; you do need to be steady and confident.)

The Perfect Reason:

For me the art of busking is both quixotic and pragmatic.  Quixotically, I love the notion that I can sling my guitar down any street in any city that I so choose.  I love the notion that I present a wind-swept road metaphor kind of guy that has the debonair of Cary Grant and the wanderlust of Rudyard Kipling.  I love the notion that when strangers look at me (sometimes down at me) they think I am a rather exciting protagonist in a predictably sad story.  I love the notion that when strangers look at me they see a reflection of their bildungsroman and boustrophedon selves.  I love the notion that when strangers visit me I sense a certain jealousy in their analog conversation.

Pragmatically, I love the notion that I can practice my guitar skills and get paid for doing so!  I love the notion that I can release my extroverted self onto the streets and into the ears of those passers-by listeners or conversationalists.  I love the notion that busking forces me to keep alert and ever aware in the physical surroundings I have chosen to ply my skill of busking.  I love the notion that I follow a rather strict regimen of food and drink and fitness mainly because I'm a busker.

(Just remember that busking is a physical art as much as it is a mental art.)   

The Perfect Finis:

(Just remember that the Above notions are MY perfect guidelines for ME.)  

However, I do believe that if you are a busker wannabe, just reflect on what I’ve written, and with practice, practice, practice, you will eventually be that bona fide busker, that guitar slinging boulevardier that you have imagined!


Sunday, February 8, 2015



I am thinking about writing as I am writing about thinking.  Metacognition (literally) means cognition about cognition, or more simply: thinking about thinking.  And since writing is an extension of thinking, I have decidedly suggested that thinking about writing is an example of metacognition.  Are you still with me?

My blog entries are typical examples of narrative writing, a weekly essay that tells some sort of story that is mostly true, but sometimes fictitious.  Also, each blog entry is mostly written within the device of stream of consciousness, a narrative mode that depicts the multitudinous thoughts passing through my mind during these focused given minutes (usually 90) that express my interior monologue.

Thinking about writing is not writing.  Just as thinking about running is not running, thinking about skating is not skating, and thinking about academically preparing is not academically preparing.  Thinking about writing is not writing but … it comes close, this blog entry being a perfect and lazy example.  Did I say lazy?

I never know what I’m going to write for my blog until I think out a snappy title.  If, dear reader, you scroll into my blog past you will find snappy title after snappy title after snappy title.  Titles are my strength.  Titles are my shine.  And keeping with the metaphor, the actual essay would by my shoe.  Sometimes, my essays are all shine and no shoe, but never are they all shoe and no shine, if you know what I mean.

I am NOT a brutto tempo busker.  The Canadian winter season is too algid for me to busk.  Winter is my time to play shinny on outdoor rinks, to gig in raucous bars, and to write folk songs and stream of consciousness blog entries. 

Let me begin.  I did not go with my favorite NHL scout, Brad Hornung, and sit among the 4702 fans to watch the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League play the Spokane Chiefs.  Among those 4702 fans was Julie Stewart-Binks of FOX SPORTS (pictured above with Brad).  Had I been there, I would have been in that picture!

I would have also witnessed the Pats fourth straight win, beating the Chiefs 4 to 2.  Also I missed my new best friend, Colby Williams, winding up for one of his famous slap shots!  (Remember Colby, the hockey player that gave me the skates ... Colby, the same player that produced four points the previous evening against the Saskatoon Blades, earning him the First Star billing for the game.  I was there, with Brad, at that one!)

My thoughts go now from skates to boots (not a thick transition):  Colby gave me skates but … I do buy my own boots.  Here are my two pairs of Demonia boots bought from my favourite downtown shop, MADAME YES.  They are identical, save for the color.  One pair is black; the other pair is brown.  These are my wheels everyday spinning me along with my white or black shirt and blue jeans.


And now from boots to booth:  My complicated friend, Robin, took a time out (pun intended) to send me this picture of a TARDIS down the street from her.  Hmmm ...  I knew that Robin was a huge DOCTOR WHO fan!  (Now I  know that ROBIN IS DOCTOR WHO!)


And last, this, too, from my complicated friend and dog lover, Robin.  Keeping in my metacognitional theme, albeit with a telepathic twist, methinks Robin thinks I should draw her time-traveling companion, Rudy.  After all, I did draw her other canine traveling companions, Max and Luke and Zoey.  Recognizing my talent for drawing faces, I could eke a Spartan living drawing pooch portraits but … I am a BUSKOLOGIST.  I prefer busking with a pencil and sketch pad in my present time zone.  In a line, I prefer staying put in the 21st Century!


Whatever you want to do is what you’re doing (Tony Robbins).

And thus my essay for today, a string of metacognitive words from the esemplastic power of my imagination.   I’ve done what I wanted to have done ... 
and right now I want to write and think and write this to a close.