Earlier this month I made my annual visit to Oak Grove Elementary School, whose principal Jill O’Connell-Bogle is a longtime family friend. There I spoke in front of approximately 275 fourth- and fifth-graders about what I do for the Ducks, and I spent most of the time answering questions from the kids. The questions ranged from the simple (like asking me who my favorite Duck is) to the more insightful (like the boy who asked me afterward what I thought about hybrid icing).
The Oak Grove visit is always made even more fun by the fact that one of the teachers, Mr. Elliott, is a huge Kings fan who encourages his students to pass on that passion. This year that was combated by Mr. Short’s class, who were strategically placed in the front row and coached to ask me questions like, “Why are the Ducks so much better than the Kings?”
I had a great time once again, and the thank-you notes arrived in a large envelope yesterday. I read every one.
As usual, there included a number of entertaining ones, from the Ducks drawings the kids decorated them with to the messages inside. Some were scribbled on notebook paper, on sheets with a photo of Wild Wing at the top, on orange paper and – of course from Mr. Elliott’s class – on grey paper adorned with Kings logos and other drawings.
Here are some of my favorites, complete with my comments:
You might be the only one.
P.S. How dare you.
Something tells me this kid is going to become an investment banker.
My head is spinning.
My work is done here.
I feel like I'm on the campaign trail.
No, but wouldn't that be cool?
Not sure how to respond to this one.
And then there were the cards from Kings fan Mr. Elliott's class...
I highly doubt it.
Talk about a backhanded compliment.
Okay, this is getting out of hand.
This is actually pretty impressive.
I certainly do.
Pretty darn awesome.
Dustin Penner, as I shot this photo with my phone: "Is this NHL Revealed?"
Maybe we're nitpicking, but they don't exactly look much like the actual Ducks. For instance, the difference between, say, Perry (who's somehow been fashioned with brown hair) and Selanne is little more than the thickness of their eyebrows and an "A" on the jersey.
Meanwhile, Getzlaf inexplicably has some well-manicured facial hair.
Nevertheless, they're kind of cute, and if you're interested in buying them, click here.
Silfverberg sent his own descriptions with these photos, during which we learned he loves using exclamation points. (We also learned that Skickat från min iPhone means "Sent from my iPhone" in Swedish.)
Here they are:
Got one right outside the arena!
The bikes we cruise around here on!
From today when we watched Sweden men's team win gold in skiing!
And Teemu appears to be soaking in the experience away from the rink, as these photos (the first six shot by his business manager Pasi Jaatinen) attest:
With wife Sirpa and his parents at the women's quarterfinals game between Finland and Sweden.
Not looking very helpful as the group attempts to fix a bike for Finnish teammate Antti Pihlström.
Okay, now it looks like he's helping.
Doing some bike-riding in the Olympic Village.
With Corey Perry at NHLPA headquarters in Sochi.
With some Ducks parents in the postgame tent.
Walking to the arena on Friday.
Teemu looking awesome.
Our latest subject is Hampus Lindholm:
Location: The port of Lerberget is a former fishing village on the Swedish coast in the Vasby parish and now an area in the south of the urban area Höganäs.
Population: Approximately 3,000
Current weather: 5° and mostly cloudy
Lindholm on his hometown
If you translate Lerberget to English, it translates to “mud mountain.” It’s small with about 3,000 people, but it’s close to a bigger town of like 25,000 called Höganäs. It takes me about five minutes to bike to the center of town. It’s an older town, a quiet little place. I lived there my whole life with my dad (a funeral director) and mom (who works in elderly care) and my sister. We moved around to a couple of different houses, but we always stayed in that town.
I played hockey like 15 minutes away, but I would play street hockey there or soccer or basketball. It’s a nice, small community and everyone kinds of knows each other.
The winters get pretty cold and get some snow, but there is real nice summer weather there. We don’t have a long summer like you guys have here.
Getting Back There
I go back there in the summer. It’s very nice that time of year. A lot of people from Stockholm come down there in the summer. I’ve lived there so long, I know all the secret spots for swimming and everything. You go up to the cliffs and it’s kind of quiet. You jump in the water from those cliffs and it’s just really quiet and nice and perfect.
Our latest subject is Jonas Hiller:
Location: Urnäsch is a municipality in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, located in Eastern Switzerland.
Population: Approximately 2,200
Area: 18 square miles
History: In 831 A.D. a part of Urnäsch known as Färchen was first mentioned.
Current weather: 32° F and mostly cloudy
Hiller on his hometown
Funny thing is, in Switzerland, you have your birthplace and your place of origin. My birthplace is listed as Felben Wellhaussen, but I never lived there. I was born in Wattwil, but I grew up in a place called Urnäsch which is almost in the Alps, close to the German and Austria border. We moved there when I was 2 years old and I was there until I was 18.
Living in Urnäsch
It’s a really small village, but it was nice. It was really laid-back, and I loved growing up there because you could go outside in the greenery, or the woods were about a two-minute walk away. It would get quite cold in the winter, but in the summer, you had a lot of time in the afternoons to play soccer or do different stuff with friends after school. When I got into hockey, there were a few guys my age who joined the team too, and we always had a good group together, so the parents didn’t have to drive every single time. They were able to switch off a little bit.
Getting Into Hockey
I have pictures of me at 2 years old on the ice, but I really got into it when I was 5 or 6. That’s when I started going to organized practices. I started as a forward and a defenseman, but I was always amazed by the big equipment, so I wanted to become a goalie. But it wasn’t until I was 8 that I got into it, but my parents made sure I kept doing both so I could learn to skate and shoot. At around the age of 12, I didn’t really want to be a goalie anymore, but the team was looking for a goalie so I was like, Okay, I’ll do it for one more year. I kind of had a great year and I just thought, I’ll stick with it. I’ve been a goalie ever since.
My parents were both really into sports, not really into hockey at first but more into basketball. My mom was a teacher at the school, so even in the winter, we were able to go in the hall where they have sports classes and use them in the afternoon when nobody was at school. That was a little advantage I had there. She later became a principal and still does that. There was a printing factory that my dad used to work for, but he’s retired now. He still lives in the same house I grew up in, but my mom lives about 45 minutes away, close to where she grew up.
His Own Private Rink
We had a huge balcony, like a terrace, at our house – about 20 meters by 20 meters – and my dad would make an ice surface right on it, so I could go out and skate right at home. It was really fun. We would inline skate in the summer. Underneath there was an office space, and one year a particular guy moved in who wasn’t really happy because he could hear the noise up there all day [laughs]. So, that one year we had to stop playing hockey up there. There were other places to play street hockey and stuff like that.
Learning Foreign Languages
It has changed there a little bit, but when I was in school, you would have French and Italian classes starting in your third year, depending on where you lived. Those are the other spoken languages in Switzerland. Some schools, they start with English at that age and teach the French and Italian later. I learned French starting with the fourth grade probably all the way through to when I finished college. I started English in the seventh grade and continued in college, taking classes like three times a week. My spoken language is Swiss-German, which is different from High German because there is no grammar or written language. It’s just a German dialect. I learned French, which I used to be really fluent in because I played in the French part of Switzerland. And I speak a little bit of English [laughs].
Getting Back There
I try to go back there in the offseason. I have made a home in the summer in Bern, which is where my wife is from and we have friends there. It’s [three hours] away, so I don’t get to see my parents as much as I want to, but I try to get out there as often as I can and enjoy some time there.
Our latest subject is Kyle Palmieri:
Montvale, New Jersey
Location: Northeast New Jersey, close to the NY/NJ border
Population: Approximately 8,000
Area: 4.009 square miles
Current weather: 20° F and sunny with a low of 13° and a chance of snow tonight and this weekend
Palmieri on his hometown
I was born in Long Island, but I only lived there for a year or two, and I moved to Montvale when I was really little. It was your typical suburban town, but I lived on a farm, so it was a little different from most people. It was my grandparents’ farm, and they’ve had it for 50, 60 years now. It gave me a lot of space to do what I want, and I lived not far away from my grandparents. So, we always had plenty of family around, and the whole farm was run by family members. That was pretty cool.
Working on the farm
I have two older sisters and a younger brother, but I was the only person of my siblings not to work on the farm at some point. They worked in the store, which was kind of like a Trader Joe’s that has a little bit of everything. My two sisters worked there when they were old enough, until they went away to school, and a lot of my friends worked there too. They always hired kids looking to get work.
I was always so busy in the summers with hockey and everything else that it was tough for me to commit to anything, but I’d help out if they needed me. A lot of it was cash register, but I’d help stock shelves and stuff. I never worked in the fields or anything, but we lived amongst the fields, so if my mom needed something for dinner or anything, I could walk out and pick something out of the dirt.
Learning to play hockey there
My sisters were in gymnastics, and one of their teammates had a brother who played hockey. He was around my age, so 5 or 6 at the time, and they had a rink in their backyard. That’s where I tried on my first pair of ice skates. I slid around on the outdoor rink for awhile, and my dad saw how much I loved to play, so he wanted to build one at our house. My dad [Bruce] was never a hockey player, so we kind of both learned to skate at the same time. When I was probably 7 or 8 years old, he built me my first rink in one of the fields, because it gets too cold in the winter to farm. It was probably 100 feet from my house, so I could go out there and skate whenever I wanted.
My dad is a builder, so he picks up on that kind of stuff. He took it as a challenge to himself, something he had never done. He took care of it like you’ve never seen. He’d be out there in the middle of the night, filling the cracks and sweeping it. There were little boards about [ankle] high that went around the rink, and behind the net there were bigger boards. He put netting in and all that stuff. The boards lasted awhile until I started being able to shoot harder, and then we had to replace them every year. So, I started when I was around 8 and he’s been keeping it up for 14 years now and never missed a year. He takes it seriously.
Playing hockey growing up
It’s changed a lot in the years and gotten so much bigger there, but I had a rink within 10 minutes of my house that I played at up until I was 12 or 13. Then I started playing at a rink in West Orange, where the Devils used to practice.
Going back home
In the summers I live in Boston, but I go back home a lot. Most of the kids are starting to move out now, so it’s a pretty empty house. My brother is the only one at home. One sister lives in Georgia and the other one lives close to home. It’s only a couple of hours from Boston, so I like to get back there and hang out.
As much as Wednesday night's game resonated with Ducks fans -- who watched their team score a club-record nine goals in a 9-1 trouncing of the Canucks at Honda Center -- it meant a little bit more to one family.
I got an email this morning from a friend named Thomas, who was a former staffer with the Ducks and Kings. It read:
My Uncle Dave Myers – a long time Ducks season ticket holder – passed away last night at 67. You guys put on one hell of a show to send him off. We had started hospice Monday. He wasn’t talking or opening his eyes since Tuesday. We put the game on last night to watch one last Ducks game with him. They say the hearing is the last to go – I am pretty sure he heard all nine Ducks goal horns last night! He grunted a few times throughout the game – usually after goal horns. When the final horn sounded – we turned off the TV and he gently drifted off at 10:30.
Ironically – he brought me to my first game in 1993. I don’t think I ever would have worked in hockey had he not.
Anyway – I thought I would pass on the story.
Here is a picture of Dave:
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Our first subject is Matt Beleskey:
Midhurst in Central Ontario, Canada
Location: Southeast Canada, approximately 70 miles north of Toronto
Population: 3,000 (approximately)
Founded: early 1800s
Current weather: 23° F with snow showers
How it’s described: Midhurst is a small community located just north of Barrie amongst an area of 70-year-old pines. It is a 5-minute drive to the Bayfield Street shopping strip (the golden mile), 5-10 minutes to alpine and cross country skiing and 15-20 minutes from Wasaga Beach (largest fresh water beach in the world). Springwater Provincial Park is nearby where deer, bear, wolves and other animals can be viewed. There are also picnic areas and recreation areas where families and other groups can enjoy a day of fun and relaxation in the outdoors.
Beleskey on his hometown: "I was born in Windsor (Ontario) and moved to Midhurst when I was 3. My parents still live there now. It’s just a small village outside Barrie. It’s a pretty small, quiet town, or really a suburb outside of town. It was kind of the countryside, but not quite.”
On playing outdoor hockey: "I played quite a bit growing up. We had an outdoor rink in a park right by my house. I just had to hop the back fence and I was right there. I’d be there every day after school, or I’d go find a better one that had some boards or something. There were a lot of them to choose from back home, so I have my fair share of outdoor experience."
On the weather: "They just recently went through a week of -20 Celsius (-4° F). That was pretty cold, but I hear they got into the pluses the last day or two. They get two or three feet of snow in the backyard, and it’s pretty cold."
On getting back there: "I have a house out in Minesing, which is about 10 minutes from the house where I grew up, so I hang out there a lot during the summer. It’s got lots of mountain bike trails, and it’s right on a ski mountain, so you can bike around there. It’s quiet, kind of remote, but it’s great."