AHL Outdoor Classic

I’ve been to a lot of live hockey games in my life: NHL, AHL, OHL, NWHL, CWHL, University etc… but I had never experience an outdoor game before, until this past weekend.

With the AHL Outdoor Classic taking place less than 100 km from my house, in Hamilton, I jumped at the chance to watch future NHL stars duke it out, outdoors, in the middle of January.

This is Canada, eh.

Everything about the entire experience, from purchasing tickets to the final buzzer, was above my expectations.

I purchased my tickets online, where I was able to pick my seats from the section, to the aisle to the exact seat numbers I wanted. (In the end I wound up sitting two rows, in the same seat numbers, in front of fellow Tweeter @thirtyonesaves).

The ticket prices were outstanding, $80 per person, for great seats AND that deal came with tickets to the PepsiCo Outdoor NHL Alumni Game Friday night between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs and tickets for the AHL Outdoor Classic Saturday afternoon with the Hamilton Bulldogs hosting the Toronto Marlies at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

In the days leading up to the event I was a bit apprehensive because of the strange weather we’ve been getting around here lately, but it turned out to be the most beautiful weekend possible for outdoor hockey!

A beautiful January night for an outdoor NHL Alumni game

I had never been to an NHL Alumni game before either and wasn’t sure what to except from ex NHLers, especially when some people on Twitter said they’d never waste money on that, but I was actually blown away.

Sure, it was much slower than an NHL game but damn, most of those guys can still outplay me, that’s for sure!

Cujo was absolutely brilliant for the Leafs, some fans even went as far as to say he played better in the outdoor game than he did his last few seasons in the NHL!

During the second half of the NHL Alumni Game, Kraig Nienhuis left the Leafs bench and climbed on stage, in full equipment, to rock the crowd with his rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

He wound up playing the tune again on Saturday for the record-setting crowd of 20, 565 fans at the AHL Outdoor Classic.

Before the game and between periods the ex NHL players signed autographs for fans waiting along the pathway to the dressing rooms.

It was funny how OLD some of those guys look now!

It wouldn't be an outdoor hockey game in Canada in January without a little snow.

The weather forecasters called for snow flurries at 9 p.m. and low and behold they were actually right, as flurries started coming down at 8:56, delighting the snow flake loving kid in me.

What I loved the most about this setting was how friendly the fans were – Habs and Leafs fans alike.

I was surrounded by Leafs fans and they chimed a few cracks at me here and there but they took the comebacks in great stride.

There were even a few people sporting Boston Bruins apparel -puke- that I was joking around with.

Normally the animosity between these fan bases is pretty high in other settings, so it was a welcoming surprise to share some good laughs with them.

Picturesque weather conditions for the first AHL Outdoor Classic in Canada

I couldn’t have asked for more picture-perfect weather for Saturday’s AHL game. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Hamilton came out flying, scoring less than 30 seconds in the game which led to an ensuing fight (which Hamilton won).

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs went on to lose 7-2.

The crowd kept cheering until the end though, not like the boos you would typically hear ringing through the Bell Centre.

If you didn’t have a chance to watch the live feed on Sportsnet, here is the game in six minutes from the NHL Videocenter.

You can find more photos of the game on the Facebook Page for the 2012 AHL Outdoor Classic presented by Molson.

Overall, it was a great experience that I would do over in a heart beat (although, I can’t see myself paying the $200+ ticket price for the NHL Outdoor Classic).

This guy made my night!

At Friday’s game there was a Habs fan sitting in front of us with a Cammalleri jersey on. He had taped over the name bar and wrote “GM is an idiot”.

I wound up posting the picture to Twitter and it was still getting retweets more than 24 hours later.

Amazing!

During the NHL Alumni game, one of the Hamilton announcers interviewed George Laraque at the Montreal bench regarding the coach, Guy Lafleur.

After telling the reporter what a great coach Guy was behind the bench, he threw a little jab at the Quebecois media with a sly grin on his face.

“He’s great…and he can speak French”

The entire stadium roared with laughter and the play-by-play announcers had a field day!

Oh, George…you funny man, you.

Here are a few other photos I took with my iPhone…sorry for the quality.

Canadiens Alumni lining up for the national anthem

Alumni players walking to the dressing room between periods

Rocking my bleu-blanc-rouge touque and Josh Gorges t-shirt before the game

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Tebow Time

I just finished reading “Through My Eyes” by NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow.

All I can say is WOW!

His book has been such an inspiration to me in more ways than I can count…and part of the reason I started going back to the gym again.

Before he was even in grade eight he was working out like crazy; his dad wouldn’t let him use weights yet, so he used rubber tubing and his own body weight. He’d do 400 push ups and 400 sit ups a night! Say what?!

I can barely do 30 push ups and I don’t think I’ve even hit 400 push ups in total in my entire life.

His descriptions of his workout regimens and his insane attitude towards making sure he was always the best are just unreal. I can’t believe his body can even put up with the amount of work he’s made it do.

If I wasn’t a girl, and worried about becoming butch looking, I’d totally try some of the intense workouts he did/does.

I think I may give the book a second read and write out the workouts he did and see if I can even half attempt any of them.

The dude is crazy!

Y’all Tebow haters out there can hate him all you want for his over exposure in the media, his unorthodox (or bad if that’s your spin) ways of playing QB, and his in-your-face religion but the man is a true work horse who has put so much dedication and passion into football that he deserves to be in the NFL just as much as the next guy, if not more.

I get it. I watched the playoffs when Tom Brady tied records and threw for more touchdowns in one half than Tebow threw completions. It was ugly (but extremely amazing for Brady).

Tebow is a saint off the field, and I think he can (in my opinion) develop into a (better) NFL QB.

*Cue the hate mail*

By the way; if you haven’t read the book yet I would totally recommend it! 

Finding Motivation

Since getting cut from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and losing my job all in the span of two weeks, in September, it’s been difficult to find the motivation to do anything.

I stopped going to the gym for almost two months, always finding some excuse to keep me from going, and it only made everything worse.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions so I had to find something else, meaningful, to get me motivated again.

Luckily, with my wedding coming up in 227 days, ringing in 2012 had a much bigger impact on my motivation than I thought it would.

Last Monday my gym introduced a new class – kickboxing – and for once the fitness leader is actually more in shape than I am.

The class runs twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, and is an hour-long combination of kickboxing and mixed martial arts techniques to improve cardiovascular endurance while strengthening and toning the entire body.

I’ve gone to all three classes so far and I am loving every minute of it!

After the first class I made the mistake of telling the trainer, Geoff, that I play hockey and I paid for it in the second class.

“Get those knees up, you call yourself a hockey player?! Come on!”

Amazing.

I also want to start running and spinning again, as I was in the summer. I’ve never been much of a runner my whole life but was thrilled when I was able to run 1.5 miles in less than 13 minutes on just my second attempt back in August.

I haven’t done much cardiovascular training, aside from hockey once a week, since September and I’d like to get back up to 3-4 times a week.

My new gym schedule is going to look something like this:

Monday is kickboxing, Tuesday is back and shoulders, Wednesday is legs, Thursday is kickboxing, Friday is arms, Saturday is a rest day, Sunday is hockey. 

Everyday there is a cardio portion and a core workout.

For my leg routine today I began with a 25 minute bike ride on levels 6-8, whatever that means  on the machine I was using, and kept my RPM above 85 for the duration.

Resistance training began with four sets of 12 squats, while holding a 50 lbs bar.

Circuit one was walking lunges (4 sets of 24) with 15 lbs dumbbells in each hand followed by hamstring leg curls (4 sets of 12 per leg) where I lifted 20 lbs the first two sets and 15 lbs the last two sets.

Circuit two was box step ups (4 sets of 12) while wearing ankle weights, lateral squats while holding a 50 lbs bar (4 sets of 12) and back extensions (4 sets of 12).

To end the workout I did a short core circuit where I performed Russian twists, while crisscrossing my legs like scissors, with an 8 lbs ball (4 sets of 10 per side) followed by stability ball roll-outs (4 sets of 12).

Needless to say, I was sweating tons and breathing hard by the time I was done this almost two-hour workout.

Protein and veggie filled post workout meal

After the gym I had a delicious dinner of three steak strips, a small strip of ribs, mushrooms, potatoes, onions, green beans, peppers, and half a sweet potato.

Before bed I’ll have a vegan protein shake with almond milk.

Mm…protein.

Tomorrow is kickboxing, where we do combinations with a partner for 45 minutes followed by a kick-ass core workout for 10 minutes before we do a cool down stretch.

I am going to own that wedding dress on Sept. 2!

Montreal on Three-Game Slide

The Montreal Stars (12-3-1) have dropped into second place behind the Boston Blades (14-2-0) after a three-game losing streak that began Jan. 8 with a 3-1 loss, at home, to the Toronto Furies (5-6-4).

Gigi Marvin, Erika Lawler and Whitney Naslund pose during an autograph session at the International Ice Skating Centre. CWHL Images

The Blades played host to the Stars this weekend, where they handed the visiting team a pair of losses.

On Saturday, Montreal took a 2-0 lead into the second period with goals from Caroline Ouellette and Sarah Vaillancourt, but went on to lose 3-2 in a shootout.

Kacey Bellamy (shorthanded) and Whitney Naslund scored for Boston in the second period.

In the shootout Ouellette and Meghan Agosta, the league’s top two scorers, were stopped by Mandy Mackrell while Kelli Stack and Bellamy both beat Catherine Herron for the win.

On Sunday, Bellamy netted two, including the game winner, as Boston defeated Montreal 6-2 despite the Stars going 2-for-5 on the power play and outshooting the Blades 36-27.

Jenny Lavigne allowed four goals on 13 shots and was replaced by Herron in the second period.

Erika Lawler, Kate Buesser, Alyssa Wohlfeiler and Naslund also scored for the Blades while Caitlin Cahow and Stack had two and three assists, respectively.

Boston is on an eight-game winning streak.

Brampton Jumps to Third Place

With back-to-back wins over the Burlington Barracudas (1-14-0), the Brampton Hockey Club (6-5-2) has moved into third place, pushing the Toronto Furies (5-6-4) into fourth.

Vicki Bendus scored a hat trick and Jayna Hefford added two of her own as Brampton broke a four-game losing skid to start the New Year with an 8-1 routing of the Barracudas.

Lori Dupuis, Cherie Piper and Kerri Palmer also scored for Brampton.

Burlington goaltender, Christina Kessler, suffered a lower body injury during a scramble in front of the net in the first period and was replaced by Mandy Cronin.

For a detailed recap of the game, read this article on the CWHL website.

On Sunday, Bendus and Piper had two goals apiece as Brampton beat Burlington 5-3.

Gillian Apps also scored for Brampton, while Sarah Dagg, Sommer West and Samantha Shirley scored for the Barracudas.

New Year, Not So New Outcome

After putting away their first win of the season just before the Christmas Break, the Burlington Barracudas (1-10-0) fell 5-2 and 4-3 at home against the second place Boston Blades (10-2-0) to start the New Year.

In Saturday’s game, Burlington took an early lead on the power play but it would be their only lead of the night.

Jaclyn Hawkins tied the game in the second period, then Erika Lawler added a 5-on-3 power-play goal before Caitlin Cahow sealed the period giving Boston a 3-1 lead.

Shannon Sisk gave the Blades a 4-2 lead with 1:29 left in the game and Whitney Naslund scored 12 seconds later for the 5-2 win.

On Sunday, Hawkins scored Boston’s first goal of the game again, at 4:48 of the opening period as the Blades took a 2-1 lead into the second.

The Barracudas came out strong in the second period, scoring two goals on Mandy Mackrell to take a 3-2 lead into the final frame.

In the third period, Jessica Koizumi scored her second of the game to tie it, before Marvin netted the game-winning goal.

By the way, if you’re looking for an inside look at life in the CWHL and life on the road for the Boston Blades, Jaclyn Hawkins writes an excellent blog on WomensHockeyLife.com (an amazing portal of blogs and information for all you women’s hockey needs nationally and over seas).

Here’s her post about the road trip to Burlington, with a must-watch video.

Toronto Has Better Weekend in Montreal

The first place Montreal Stars (12-2-0) scored a goal per period on Saturday as they went on to shutout the Toronto Furies (5-6-4) 3-0 at Arena Etienne-Desmarteau.

CWHL scoring leader Meghan Agosta scored a goal and an assist while fourth ranked scorer Vanessa Davidson added two helpers.

Sarah Vaillancourt and Catherine Ward, ranked third and fifth in scoring respectively, also scored for the Stars.

On Sunday, the Furies were on the winning side of a 3-1 score, handing Montreal just their second loss of the season.

Sami Jo Small made 47 saves en route to her second win between the pipes.

After a scoreless first period, Martine Garland scored her first of the season, short-handed and unassisted, to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.

Brooke Beazer added what would be the game-winning goal at 14:22 of the second period. Tessa Bonhomme also scored for the Furies.

Agosta netted the lone goal for the Montreal Stars.

Montreal also hosted a fundraiser, including a silent auction, door prizes, chuck-a-puck competitions and presentations by their Olympians, with proceeds going back to support the club.

The Montreal Gazette wrote a great preview of the Toronto vs Montreal game, check it out.

CWHL Season Review

As the two-week holiday break comes to a close in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), teams who had a slow start to the season will try to turn things around in the New Year.

Heading into the break, the last place Burlington Barracudas (1-8-0) got their first win of the season against the Toronto Furies (4-5-4) in overtime.

With a new head coach, the Barracudas are looking to improve their stats and move up the ranks in the second half of the season.

“This team is good enough to win,” says Burlington coach Robin Bird. “This team can win. They just have to stay positive when they’re down, no matter what happens.”

The Barracudas will have a tough challenge in their first opponent of the New Year, the surging Boston Blades (8-2-0), at home at Appleby Arena on Jan. 7 and 8.

In their inaugural season last year, the Blades only mustered 10 wins in 26 games mostly due to a small roster, including several part-time players which resulted in a very short bench at most games.

“This season, we have added both quantity and quality,” says Boston general manager Paul Hendrickson. “Our new players include USA national team players Molly Schaus, Kelli Stack, Gigi Marvin, and Meghan Duggan (joining this month) as well as several talented non-national team players. As a result, we have had a full bench for every game, as well as a significant influx of highly talented players.”

 

The second place Blades carry a four-game winning streak into the New Year, chasing the first place Montreal Stars (11-1-0) who are currently on a hot eight-game winning streak.

Boston handed Montreal their only loss of the season, 4-2, back on Nov. 19.

“We have a lot of new players, so we are still settling in to standard line combinations, power play and penalty kill units,” says Hendrickson. “We hope to reach our peak performance level as we approach the playoffs and the Clarkson Cup.”

The defending Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars are hosting the Furies at Desmarteau Rink, also on Jan. 7 and 8, where Toronto will be looking for a fresh start with new coaches behind the bench.

The match up features a handful of 2010 Canadian Olympic gold medalists including tournament MVP and CWHL first pick Meghan Agosta who leads the league in scoring with 21 goals and 14 assists in 12 games.

After Agosta, the Stars boast another five players who top off the six leading scorers in the league; Caroline Ouellette (17 goals, 17 assists), Sarah Vaillancourt (7 goals, 18 assists), Vanessa Davidson (10 goals, 8 assists), Noemie Marin (7 goals, 11 assists), and Catherine Ward (1 goal, 17 assists).

Both the Brampton Hockey Club (4-5-2) and the newly added Alberta Hockey Club (3-4-0) have the weekend off as their game was postponed until February.