Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daring To Dream

Before today, practically no one would have thought it was possible.
  • A former last place hockey team becomes a legitimate Stanley Cup play-off contender.
  • They set a franchise road record, winning 5 games straight.
  • An underestimated goalie working on less than 24 hours rest proves the doubters wrong, stands tall, and stops 26 of 28 shots.
  • And 20 year old sophomore defenceman beats the best goalie in the world with a slapshot to win the game with 27 seconds left.
Practically no one thought it was possible. But Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, and the other players in the Kings locker room BELIEVED it could be done. Such is the power of dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it.

So when a friend gave me this dream capsule this afternoon, I knew it was a sign. And right away I knew which of my dreams would be written on the small slip of paper inside.

There are three. And this capsule stays with me until they ALL come true.

Such is the power of dreams. GO KINGS GO!

Friday, January 29, 2010

For a Good Time, See Jay Flats!

Jay Flats is a man of many talents. I became acquainted with him through (you guessed it) the Kings, in his role of in-game entertainment host. I'm sure that's not technically his job title, but Jay isn't the kind of guy who's hung up on things like titles. And come to think of it, he does a lot more than in-game stuff. Since words are failing me, let's try some pictures to help you understand what Jay does.

He conducts interviews.

He hosts Kings charity events.

He promotes products, Kings Team Store sales, and anything else the Kings are trying to sell or give away during games.

And he's even a part time ice runway model!

A huge part of Jay's job is having fun, and helping other people have fun with him. What I didn't know until recently is that Jay Flats is also funny as hell in a professional sense. That's right...Jay also does stand up comedy! He was kind enough to invite me to check out his set last night at The Icehouse in Pasadena, and since I'm on vacation for another couple of days recovering from my actual vacation in Canada, I couldn't resist.

While I'm sad to say I don't have any photos of from Jay's performance (mostly because I was laughing too hard and partly because it would have looked strange trying to take a photo in a comedy club), I can report that with the exception of the headliner (whose name escapes me at the moment), Jay was the best comedian performing. It takes a creative mind to put together a wickedly funny routine including references to iPods, 80's music, GPS voice selections, and skateboarding. As they say in comedy circles, Jay killed it! If you'd like an idea of just how funny he is, check out this link for some video of one of Jay's performances at The Comedy Store.

And by all means, if you see Jay Flats on the marquee at a comedy club near you, check him out. He's good for more than a few laughs!

The Thought Locker: Things I Miss About Canada Edition

  • Tim Horton's commercials. How can you NOT love Sidney Crosby as a Timbit? Really!
  • Cold crisp air. I love heat, but something about cold air just makes you feel alive.
  • Talking about hockey with everyone from the door guy to the waitress at the sports bar to the security guy at the airport that conducted a hand search of my luggage.
  • My ear warmer, which also functioned very well as a headband.
  • Having my only wardrobe decision of the day be which hockey jersey to wear.
  • The Harbour Sports Grille's French onion soup. Warms you from the inside out on a cold winter's day.
  • The Westin Mac & Cheese. The most unusual presentation ever, combined with all that crunchy goodness on top, all eaten from the comfort of your bed....very cozy.
  • Seeing a hockey game or highlights on almost every channel at any hour of the day.
  • Seeing my Kings LIVE. Hockey on TV just isn't the same. Thank goodness they'll be home Tuesday! GO KINGS GO!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The L-EH Tour: Au Revoir, Oh Canada!

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And so, Nadine and I got up this morning to finish packing and check out of our Toronto home to start the long trek back to Los Angeles. So many good things happened on this trip, it makes leaving difficult, but the memories we get to take home are good for a lifetime. And I’m certain we’ll be back, it’s only a question of when.

So as we leave this wonderful place, I want to give thanks to the city of Toronto and the county of Canada for, among other things...
  • The oasis called the Harbour Sports Grille, home of awesome French onion soup, friendly service, and TV’s loaded with hockey games.
  • The comfort of the Westin Harbour Castle Resort, including easy walking distance to everything hockey related in Toronto, terrific service, a nice gym and warm beds.
  • The vigilance of the Westin security staff for the protection of our players, even if that protection is from their own harmless fans.
  • The grandeur of Temple of Hockey, safe haven of the Stanley Cup which, the Hockey Gods willing, will one day be lifted by a lucky group of Kings.
  • The good-natured temperament of the Leafs faithful, who are gracious hosts even when faced with a losing season.
  • The pleasure of spending loonies, toonies, and colorful bills on great souvenirs

  • The opportunity to visit with wonderful friends.
  • And most of all, for the pleasure of watching the best hockey players in the world in the place where hockey was born!
Oh, I almost forgot! Thanks for giving us SNOW on our last day, even if it was only a brief, light flurry of flakes.

Au revoir, Toronto!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Flat Stanley Goes to a Hockey Game....In Canada!

Hey everyone! I’ve seen some really neat things during my trip to Toronto with Meg, but the big event was tonight, when we went to see the Kings play the Toronto Maple Leafs. Meg and Nadine have been talking about this game all week long, so I couldn't wait to see what it’s about. They said watching hockey in Canada is a totally different experience because hockey started in Canada and people here are crazy about it. And hockey in Canada is an even bigger deal this year because the Winter Olympics are being held in Vancouver, which is another city in Canada not far from Seattle, WA. I think these gloves will come in handy tonight!

The Air Canada Centre, where the Leafs play, certainly is big!

And so are the Leafs! They call themselves "Canada's Team" even though there are a bunch of other hockey teams in Canadian cities like Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa. I wonder if any of those teams think they should be "Canada's Team?"

And our seats were in a really different part of the arena than where we sit in Los Angeles. There, we’re only a few rows from the ice, but here, our seats were much farther away!

Even though we were watching the game from way up high, it was still REALLY fun! The best part was being able to see all the players on the ice at one time, even if they were about the size of ants.

The Kings played really well, and won the game 5-3. I felt a little bad for the Maple Leafs, because it must be hard to lose a game in your home arena. But Meg and Nadine were very happy, especially because Drew Doughty was the #1 Star of the Night! He scored a goal and got an assist. I just love the fact that he signed my jersey and he’s one of the best players on the team.

It’s too bad the game is over, because that means we’re going home tomorrow. I’m really going to miss Toronto!

The L-EH Tour: This is What We Came For!

As much as Nadine and I have loved visiting the city of Toronto, the whole trip really came down to one thing - we came here to see our Kings win. Tonight it was finally time for the big game we've been anticipating since August when we snagged our tickets.

It's a funny mixture of anxiety and excitement going to a game in another city. I have such an established routine at Staples Center - which entrance I go in, where I get my pretzel, who I chat with during the game, greeting my regular usher Luis. But being in another arena, everything is uncertain. How do I find my seats? Will the fans around me be cool or throw beer on my autographed jersey? And most importantly, can I get down to ice level with my sign to watch warm-ups?

I shouldn't have been one bit nervous, because Canadians LOVE anyone and everyone that appreciates their national sport. I was able to get down to ice level for warm-ups with my sign, in spite of a little ribbing from the first usher I talked to. He was in the Leafs end, saw my Kings jersey, and kindly pointed me to the other end of the ice. When I finally got down there, I was standing next to an adorable little kid wearing a Drew Doughty jersey.

Our Captain Dustin Brown certainly wasn't nervous. It must have paid off, because he ended up having a great game.

After warm-ups, I joined Nadine up in our seats. And when I say up, I mean UP.

We knew when we bought the tickets we weren't close to the ice, but apparently there are sections even higher than we sat, and I felt like we were in the nosebleed section. Watching hockey from up here is a quite different experience from sitting 7 rows behind the glass like we do in Los Angeles. First of all, the game looks incredibly SLOW. Nadine and I were both commenting during the first period about how sluggish the boys looked, but the more we watched the more we realized just how different the sense of speed in the game is up higher. And I really missed hearing the sounds you get at ice level - the crack of the glass when the puck hits it, the thud of players crashing against the boards, players calling to each other, and the snap of the puck making contact with a stick.

On the plus side, all the fans around us were really cool. A couple of guys in front of us even turned around at one point, smiled, and said, "Hey, could you guys let up on us a little, please?" And the gentleman sitting next to me pointed out 3 Leafs players by name as being good, then told his date the rest of his team was a bunch of bums. A number of people also stopped Nadine on the concourse, asking her how she got the whole team to sign her jersey. Apparently the Leafs don't have their own version of "Tip-a-King" and team signed jerseys are rare in Toronto. I guess some things about American hockey ARE better!

The Kings came out strong in the first, with Drew Doughty scoring the first goal! Just the kind of start we were hoping for.

The first period ended tied 1-1, but the Kings didn't let up for the rest of the game and played VERY well. At one point we had a 4-2 lead, thanks to goals from Jack Johnson, Jarrett Stoll, and Ryan Smyth. Dustin Brown was on fire with assists on 3 of the 4 goals. Then we gave up a goal late in the 3rd and let it get interesting. But my boys held it together in the last 2 minutes of the 3rd. Then Alexander Frolov had the final goal, an empty netter, that gave the Kings a 5-3 win over the hometown Leafs!

Incredible win boys! That deserves a little fist bump!

But the big hero of the night was Drew. He scored his tenth goal, another assist, was named #1 Star of the Night, and picked up a $200,000 bonus - all in front of his Mom and Dad, as well as other family and friends in attendance. I think he's on the hook for dinner after the game! Well done, Drew!

So the Kings are off to Columbus tonight, and Nadine and I are headed home tomorrow. Thank you, Toronto, for being such a wonderful host and bringing us excellent hockey luck. We can't wait to come back!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Flat Stanley Visits The Hockey Hall of Fame

Hi everyone! It's still raining on our second day in Toronto, so it was a good day to so something inside. That meant a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, because Meg says when you're a hockey fan there's no better place to go.

It's just a short walk from our hotel, and the building itself is a really cool old bank!

Inside, they have all kinds of skates, jerseys, pucks and other stuff from famous NHL players. We saw so many neat things I can hardly remember them all! If you want to read more about what you can see in the Hall of Fame, I found you a good link on the Internet. Just click here and learn more!

There were a few cool displays involving people I've met or seen around Staples Center. First, we saw the exhibit honoring the Kings Director of Hockey Operations, Luc Robitaille. He was just inducted into the Hall of Fame in November, and Meg took me to the Kings game where they celebrated with him! He was an amazing player during a lot of years for the Kings, and Meg says he currently holds record for the most goals ever scored by a left wing. I guess that's why he's now in the Hall of Fame.

And I was REALLY excited to see Drew Doughty's jersey on display! I got to meet him at Tip-A-King, and he signed my jersey, except his number is 8 with the Kings. This jersey is from an international tournament he played in with Team Canada, which is why the number on the jersey is 3. I can't wait until they put one of his Kings jerseys in here, but it's pretty amazing he's in the Hall of Fame already!

But the highlight of the day was getting my official picture taken with the Stanley Cup! This is the biggest, most important trophy a hockey team can ever win, and from the size of it I can see why! Meg says the Kings have never won one, so we're hoping to bring them some luck with our visit to the Cup. When your team wins, all the players get their names engraved on it, and they stay there FOREVER! No wonder every hockey player wants to win one!

Maybe I should learn to play hockey so I can win a Stanley Cup some day. I'll bet there aren't any other Flat Stanley's on it, so I would be the first one! I think I'd make a good goalie. What position do you think I should play?

Today was so much fun, but tomorrow is going to be the best day of our visit. Because tomorrow, we finally get to see the Kings play! As Meg would say, GO KINGS GO!

The L-EH Tour: Praying at the Temple of Hockey

If you're a true hockey fan, and you're in Toronto for any reason, you MUST visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's not optional. You HAVE to go. And based on what we saw today, you should WANT to go. Because the Hall of Fame is so much more than a collection of memorabilia - it's a living, changing monument to the sport, seamlessly blending the old and new through static and interactive displays that truly offer something for everyone. Plan to spend some time there and you won't be disappointed.

We also figured going to the temple of hockey to pray for our team would be a good move before the game tomorrow. As we were leaving the hotel, I saw our captain Dustin Brown sitting in the lobby by himself, so I went over to say hello and politely tell him we where we were going and wish him luck tomorrow. He was very nice, but I was advised by the head of hotel security as I walked away that unless I knew any of the players personally, I was only permitted to look at them. Because apparently visiting hockey players are caged animals. Did I ask for an autograph? NO. Am I trying to get a picture? NO. Whatever, lady....

If you come to Toronto for a hockey-related vacation, I highly recommend the Westin Harbor Castle for your accommodations, because everything you want to see is an easy walk, including the Hall of Fame. After only a few blocks in light rain (we still have not seen any snow), we were smack in the middle of hockey heaven.

I could probably write several blogs discussing everything we saw, but since we're here supporting the Kings I'll keep the focus on Kings-related displays, with a couple of other quick hits thrown in.

Overall, the Kings didn't have a ton of stuff represented, but given that the franchise is only a little more than 40 years old, and has never won a Stanley Cup, I guess you can't expect too much. It was nice to see a classic crown jersey from the Great Western Forum days.

Wayne Gretzky stuff, of course was everywhere.

Although my favorite Gretzky items were of the pop culture variety. Loved the lunch box most of all!

And Flat Stanley checked out the brand new display commemorating Luc Robitaille's induction into the Hall back in November.

The Hall of Fame does do a nice job making sure every team is represented in the NHL Today section. Anze Kopitar is featured in the Kings franchise display.

And Dustin Brown gets some face time in the Western Conference area.

But my absolutely favorite Kings related moment was seeing Drew's jersey! Granted, it's from the World Junior tournament last year and not his NHL stuff, but it's still very cool to know that he's already represented in the Hall of Fame, and his career is just getting started!

One unexpected surprise we got was a traveling display of Olympic Medals from 1896 through present day. Looking at the evolution of the design of the medals, and how they reflected the country where the games were being held was fascinating.

And seeing the medals from the Berlin Olympics when Hitler was in power gave us a moment of pause.

But absolutely nothing was a moving as seeing the Stanley Cup - the holy grail of every hockey player, coach and fan.

I got my "official" photo taken with Stanley as well, but made sure not to touch the trophy. Bad juju until you win it, or so I'm told. I want the Kings to win one badly, so I'm not taking any chances.

The only real disappointment in the Hall of Fame was the gift shop. Most of the stuff was either junk or straight out of the NHL catalog. And other than a couple of pucks and some mini-sticks, the Kings were largely absent from the selection. But I did find something useful...

I plan to giving it to my mom for her birthday so she can learn how to talk to me again (just kidding, Mom). And if you don't know what a Texas Hat Trick is, give me a call, because I can tell you.

Tomorrow, we see if the Hockey Gods answer my prayers and continue the Kings win streak en route to a long-overdue play-off run. GO KINGS GO!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Flat Stanley's First Day in Toronto

Hi everyone! We sure had a long trip yesterday, but I was so excited to get out and see some of the city of Toronto. Meg said we would be able to see ALL of the city today, because we were going into a very tall building and be able to see things from really high up! So we headed off to the CN Tower. It's that thing in the picture that looks like a really big needle.

Boy, is this thing BIG! We had to take an elevator all the way to the top, which is 1465 feet off the ground! That's 147 stories!

I learned some very cool facts about the CN Tower today. For instance...

  • It was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1995.
  • It took 1537 workers going around the clock almost 4 years to build.
  • A 10 ton helicopter was used to lift the 44 piece antenna into place.
  • When it's a clear day, you can see the US-Canadian border, and even see the mist rising up from Niagara Falls.
But the best thing about the tower is how much of Toronto you can see!

And they even have a glass floor so you can look straight down if you're brave! Meg was very brave and took this photo of me! The building with the white roof is the Rogers Center, where the Toronto Blue Jays play baseball.

As we were leaving the CN Tower, we saw some really funny bears, and Meg and her friend Miss Nadine wanted to take some pictures. I've never seen a bear dressed in a Canadian policeman's uniform before!

This bear looks a little more normal...but only a little.

We did some other walking around today as well, but it was kind of hard for Meg to get good pictures because it was raining so much. I said I didn't mind, but she didn't want my hockey clothes to get all wet since they're signed by the Kings players.

Speaking of the Kings, we're going to see them on Tuesday! I'm very excited to see a hockey game in another arena besides Staples Center. But before we do that, we're going to a place where they know everything about hockey...

I'd better get some sleep!

The L-EH Tour: Off to a Wet Start

Greetings from lovely, rainy Toronto! After an excellent nights sleep thanks to our lovely hosts at the Westin, Nadine and I headed out for our first day of exploring Toronto. After we looked at the forecast this morning and realized today might be our best weather day, we decided to put off the Hockey Hall of Fame until tomorrow and attack some other things instead.

The fun started in the lobby of the hotel on our way out, where we promptly ran into Kings Coach Terry Murray, waiting in line for coffee. We congratulated him on the win last night against Detroit, and told him we were here for the game. He recognized Nadine from Tip-a-King, which was totally hilarious! A few of the boys were there as well, and looking at the clock we realized they were probably getting ready to head out for morning practice. Nice to know they departed Detroit safely.

Then we headed off to the CN Tower, the worlds largest freestanding structure, to take in some views of Toronto. It was overcast but not raining yet, so it was the perfect time to go.

It doesn't look like much from this angle, but when you get to bottom you know you're in for one heck of a ride getting upstairs.

The highest observation deck is 1465 feet (147 stories) straight up - the elevator ride is NOT for the squeamish. I recommend not looking down.

Although the views of the city you get from the top are absolutely worth it.

You can even see Toronto Island, which apparently is a very nice place to go in the summer, but not much is open there in the winter.

Nadine immediately spotted an outdoor ice rink right on the water, so we're making that one of our stops before we leave.

In the base area of the tower building, they have a nice little gift shop and all kinds of fun photo opportunities. The first one was with this lovely moose. He's a little stiff, but he's got a great smile.

Then a bear took a liking to Nadine and Flat Stanley.

He took such a great photo I thought he deserved a high-five.

And we both feel in love with the Canadian Mounty Bear. He rules!

After we were done at the CN Tower, we spent a little time walking around town, the headed back down towards the water near the hotel. It was raining pretty steady by that point, but neither one of us minded very much. Such is the joy of being on vacation!

It was strange to see ice in the water, at least for me. I haven't lived many places in the past 20 years where large bodies of water freeze over. The ducks were managing OK, though.

I think the black squirrel thought they were crazy. Much warmer and drier up in the tree.

But by far the funniest thing we saw all day was in Union Station...

Makes me proud to be a Kings fan!