Review: First Edmonton Oil Kings game

I have been to many, many Edmonton Oiler games over the years. Back in the day (when the team won games instead of simply embarrassed themselves during them), my family was lucky enough to split season tickets. It was always a good time.

The past few years, however, it has stopped being fun. Watching an inferior team makes for most contests to be quite boring, and the prices have spiraled so out of control, that seeing a game is unaffordable for the average person, like me. Now, seeing an Oilers game may be a once-in-a-season occurrence, most often tied into scoring some free tickets.

oil kingsTherefore, to satisfy our hockey needs, a friend and I went to our first Edmonton Oil Kings game last night, versus the Calgary Hitmen. I like WHL hockey, and the quality is good, so we figured to give it a try.

And it was excellent. Superior to an Oilers game on many levels.

Here are some notes (mainly positives):

  1. Nice to see a winning team! The Oil Kings took over first place with their 7-3 win last night.
  2. Those cool alternate jerseys. I am not a fan of the gaudy blue and reds they usually wear, but I like the black and neon green they are sporting. You can tell the fans reacted well to them as well, since there was a significant number of fans wearing the new colours. Not too sure about the logo, but the design is modern, bright, and fun.
  3. The price. Seats in row 14 nearer to one of the corners were $25 each. Those same tickets for an Oilers game would probably be $175.
  4. The lower price also contributes to a better environment. Tons of people decked out in Oil Kings gear, which is always great to see. I guess you don’t mind buying your kid a t-shirt or jersey when the games themselves aren’t costing you an arm and a leg.
  5. The quality of the hockey is strong. Again, it’s a winning team here. The Oil Kings went to the WHL finals last season and went o the Memorial Cup the year before. They are solid. And, to be fair, it’s not really that big of a drop off from the quality of Oiler games, aside from the opposition. The Oilers are terrible and make rookie mistakes. When the Oil Kings make those mistakes it is ok. This is junior.
  6. Family atmosphere. Tons of families there. And that was great to see. The Oilers have pretty much priced families out, so it is nice to see they still come out in droves to see good hockey in this town.
  7. Overall, much younger crowd.
  8. Great players. It was awesome to see New York Islander Griffin Reinhart play. Along with other future NHLers like Curtis Lazar. These kids are good.
  9. No drunken a$$holes. These are common at Oiler games. Not so much here.
  10. Leaner crowds. It is nice they block off part of the upper deck. Having fewer people in the arena makes the concourse area, washrooms, and concession lineups, much more pleasant to deal with.
  11. Only negative: concession and beer prices are the same. I thought maybe they would have dropped their beer prices a little for the Oil Kings, but they remained the astronomical $8.25 for a cup.

Great job by the Oil Kings. It was a fun game to watch, lots of good highlights. I will definitely be going back this season.

Because I can afford to.

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Happy 40th, Kelly Kapowski!

What male didn’t have a crush on Tiffany Amber Theissen when she was on Saved by the Bell, and then again when she appeared as a vixen on Beverley Hills, 90210?

She was hot, she was cute, she was cool. She was the object of Zack Morris’ affections, and she was the object of our desires.

Portraits of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen
How could you not love her?

Today, she turned 40 years old, which serves to remind us of how old we are getting, but a casual reminder that our idols and crushes from our pre-teen and teen years must age as well. As much as we remember our teen crushes as they were back in the day, they get older, as we do. In a way, it is sad, but at the same time, it is interesting to look back, and know that we have all gone through so many changes. Things were so much different when Kelly Kapowski would come on the TV in the afternoons after school. They probably weren’t any better, but our retrospect makes it seem perfect. The idolization of youth.

So, here is to a happy birthday to the one and only Tiffany Thiessen. Still definitely have a crush on her.

Deadly at 39, will still be deadly at 40.
Deadly at 39, will still be deadly at 40.

Open Letter from Daryl Katz

Rejoice all Oiler fans, both first tiers and second tiers!

Your owner cares about you!

katzSo much so that he is willing to apologize mid-season for the terrible hockey product that he has put on the ice this season. Who does this? In the middle of the year? Sure, there is no chance the Oilers are going to make the post-season this year, for the eighth straight season, but does it make the fans feel any better that their owner believes there is no shot?

Daryl Katz wrote an open letter to Oiler fans today, begging them for more patience in their rebuild. More patience, but of course, make sure you don’t stop buying those tickets and merchandise.

I wonder what the real goal for Katz is in owning the Oilers. He says he was always a fan of the team, and that is good enough. But, what is his incentive to win? He is able to put an inferior product on the ice, run by a string of incompetent management, where the only thing poor results gets you is a promotion (looking at Kevin Lowe here), and the fans will still crawl all over themselves in order to get season tickets. There is still a three year waiting list in Edmonton for season tickets, and this is for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since their miracle (read: fluke) run to the Cup finals in 2006.

’06!

Now, with the team in the gutter once again, and on their way to year another lottery pick, interest in the team is waning. It has got to the point where it is becoming tough to give tickets away to games, when someone can’t go. Sure, the ticket would be free, but people are saying no, because they know they are probably going to see a bad game from a bad team that will end up as a frustrating loss. That, plus, there is the general inconvenience of going to an Oilers game. The parking costs, the crowds, the horribly uncomfortable seating at Rexall Place, the overpriced food and drink…

I despise the Oilers, but love hockey, and I have already turned down free tickets on more than one occasion this year. I would never usually do that, at least because I would want to see the other team.

It is also at the point where there is a major social media movement called “Lowe Must Go.” People are speaking up. And people are angry.

A major problem is that the fans haven’t stopped supporting this team with their wallets. People will still pay $200 for a ticket to the game, plus another $100 for parking, beer, food, and merch. Stop it. If you aren’t paying for the product, maybe they will see that the fans require something worth watching in order to charge exorbitant prices for.

But no longer.

As hilarious as it is to listen to talk radio after yet another loss has piled up, I can tell that this town has had enough. We are upset, because we don’t see change. We see Kevin Lowe, a poor coach, become a poor GM, become a poor president. And we still think that everything is being run through him. I get it, he and Katz are friends. It would be hard to fire a friend. But the results have to be obvious. The wins aren’t there. Since Lowe has been in charge, the Oilers have the fewest points in the NHL over that time span. And it is a long time. There are a lot of bad teams and poor franchises that have been better than the Oilers. The Florida Panthers have been better than the Oilers over that span.

And a letter to fans is supposed to make that better?

It is just another shot to the face of the fans in this city, ones who want nothing more than to cheer to their team with a little hope.

But, the hope is gone.

Even your owner agrees.

Book Review: The Bone Season

A few words on the new novel by Samantha Shannon: too much! Reign it in!

The-Bone-SeasonThe Bone Season is a dystopian novel set in an alternate version of England where London has become a Scion Cathedral, a city where things are clamped down on, as they tend to be in dystopian novel. The biggest problem facing Scion seems to be the unnatural people in the city, mainly the clairvoyants.

Voyants are all over the place, it seems. Like, everywhere. There are actually tons of people who have a second sight, and they are all categorized into different groups, and gangs, living in criminal circles, doing unseemly things to the non-voyants in order to make a living.

If all of it sounds pretty convoluted, it’s because it is.

There are a lot of good ideas in this novel, and it is cool when voyants are stolen away to another place (formerly Oxford), where they are run by a new race, called the Rephaim. Here they are trained to fight an onslaught of menacing creatures that have put the Rephaim stronghold in danger. Each voyant has their own certain skills, from controlling poltergeists to being able to wander in to the dreams of another person. They do all of this by working within the aether, a place beyond the aura that a person puts off.

It is confusing to explain, and more often than not, it was confusing to read.

I wanted to like this book, because it is an investment in time, but when it came down to it, I found the book to be only alright. There were cool moments, but they were interspersed with pages upon pages of confusing explanation of different types of voyants and a myriad of forgetful characters that you begin to wonder if they are really important to the story or not.

This novel is the beginning of a long series, and I’m sure that Shannon would be able to do something interesting with it. She has certainly created an elaborate world for her novel. She is definitely a capable writer. One that I could see a lot of people buying into.

Just not me.

This was not the novel for me, but I understand that there is much to like here, and a definite audience that will gobble it up.

Captain Crosby

Of course Sidney Crosby needed to be the captain of Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team.

He is the best hockey player in the world. He is the face of the NHL. He is a Stanley Cup champion. He has won Olympic Gold before, from that little overtime goal that may be the most memorable moment for an entire generation of hockey fans in Canada.

Photography by Kristian Bogner Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.It is definitely possible to debate Crosby as our captain. He has had a history of whining to refs, but that was before he matured in to the player he is now. There is also Jonathan Toews, who has won two Cups with Chicago, and presents himself in the stoic manner of other Canadian legends, such as Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. But is seems natural that Crosby is the choice, simply because he is the best. Over the years of being scouted and being a phenom from an early age, he has been saddled with pressure to perform since he was a kid. And nothing will change as the team heads over to Sochi, Russia, to attempt to defend our gold medal on foreign soil, on the much bigger ice that gives our guys fits.

There is no debate from me on this choice. Crosby is the perfect captain for us, the natural leader of this team. Along with him, I really like the selections of Toews and Shea Weber as his assistants. A great group, all with tons of experience.

Hopefully enough to help lead us to gold once again.

Eating Edmonton: Ale Yard Tap & Grill

The Ale Yard has some good things about it, and some that make it seem as though this place is doomed to failure, as was its location predecessor, Don Cherry’s. While this pub and grub spot seems to have an ideal location, at 13310 137th Ave in Edmonton, it really isn’t. It is on a main drag, and it really isn’t that close to a large residential population, which makes it more of a place to stop on the way home for a pint and a bite, instead of a place where you will spend the whole evening. Now, this does afford it some charms, such as it really is never that busy, allowing for fast and friendly service from a great wait staff (they really are awesome, and they take the time to know their regulars. Even new waitresses will come and introduce themselves if you are recognized as a frequent visitor), but it lacks the party atmosphere of a more Whyte Ave type of pub, if that’s what you’re looking for.

ale yardThe food at Ale Yard is as typically pub grub as you can imagine. The food is standard, and tastes like you would expect. It is no different from anywhere else in the city. However, they do have some of the best french fries, and for some reason, the chicken fingers from their appetizer menu are particularly delicious. Also, they have solid chicken wings, with some inventive flavors that are actually pretty good. These include tandori chicken, and butter chicken. Doesn’t seem right, but they are pretty damn good. Aside from that, you won’t find anything new here. You get what you pay for, and you get what you expect.

The drink menu is a strong point for the bar, one that I feel needs to be built up more. They have a great selection of beers, ranging from your standards, to a decent import list, to a strong selection of local “Premium” beers. The prices are fairly normal, but it is best on a Thursday, where half-pints are only $2. Otherwise it can get a little silly paying $6.75 for a pint of Keiths.

ale-yard-tab-and-grillIt seems apparent that the Ale Yard is too big of a place for its operation. I feel it would be better served if it were cut in half, and they avoided some trappings of the neighborhood bar, like karaoke night. Dump it. It doesn’t get the crowd any bigger, and when looking for a calm pub, it kind of ruins that atmosphere. Don’t try to be a dance bar on the weekends. Just because there is loud music, it doesn’t mean that people are going to pack a dance floor. They don’t. And a dance bar is not what the area needs. Ale Yard should be focused on competing with other beer-centric places, such as Beer Revolution or Kraft. The Ale Yard really can’t decide who it is, and its identity is one of throwing many things against the wall and hoping that something sticks. For a real boost, they need to cut the size, focus on improving their food to the point where it is something different and original, and then I feel they would be a stronger draw. It is a good place to hang out, but it could be better.

I’ve checked out many of the reviews for the Ale Yard on Yelp, and notice that many of them are negative. And even though this is a place I like, I can’t disagree with them. Although I have always received great service, to the point where some waitresses know my friends and I by name and will often sit for a quick chat, there are times I could see them being too slow for some customers based on how packed the place is(n’t). Many of the reviews comment on the food, which I agree with. But this is a pub. I don’t expect anything more than standard fare. And the prices are average, not the best. You just have to know to hit the deals on certain nights of the week, and it comes out being reasonable.

When it comes down to it, the Ale Yard is a good place to hang out, have a couple of beers and a snack. If you go in expecting something amazing, you may be disappointed. For a regular pub, it pretty much ticks all of the boxes.

A Town Called Å

In the course of my travels, I have ended up in some pretty interesting places. The well-traveled big cities, the amazing capitals of the world, the out of the way towns, the middle-of-nowhere train stops, and the places off the beaten track, have all been trampled under my foot. My backpack and I have been to 45 countries (hopefully more to come) and have experienced things that I often struggle to even believe truly happened to me.

One of the most interesting places I have ever ended up is the tiny fishing village of Å). Å is located above the arctic circle, on the amazing Lofoten Islands.

NorwayHow I ended up in this place was a story of loving the country of Norway too much and not wanting to stop exploring it once I had hit my major destinations. So after a lot of train rides and stops in interesting small towns up the coast of the country, I ended up on the islands.

Å was a wild frontier, in my mind. The town was miniscule. One store, one restaurant, one real place to stay. A place where I could eat whale steak in the evening, and enjoy the absolutely phenomenal beauty of the fjords during the day. Å was such a small town, that once I had arranged a ride in a fishing boat with a local, to get to an even more remote area of the fjords for an incredible hike, I was given the keys to the local convenience store.

The owner wasn’t awake yet, and a friend of his had the key. He told me to go in and take what I needed. I would be able to go back later to pay for what I had gathered for my day of hiking and exploring. I was pretty floored by this, not exactly something that happens all the time in our untrusting, big city lives.

I came to think again of Å over the past couple of days as I contemplate an Alaskan road trip during the summer. I like the idea of the frontier, of the last inhabited places, where people become communities due to the isolation of their location. To me, it is almost fairy-tale like. Hence, the reason for remembering Å, possibly the place where I felt the most connected to the people there, as they quickly accepted me into the circle of their small town. I was the traveler who was visiting their daily lives, and they respected me for that, as I respected them for their ways. Fishing, and making lives for themselves in what could otherwise be seen as a desolate area of the country. I consider the natural beauty that I was able to see on the islands, highlighted by the town and area surrounding Å, and consider myself lucky. I have been able to do some things on the road that were perfect moments. Being able to stand on the quiet shores where the frosty North Atlantic meets the Arctic Ocean, staring up at the beautiful mountains rising up from the sea to create some of the most picturesque natural beauty I have ever seen is a true point of thanks and appreciation.

Norway was a fantastic place, one of the countries I have loved the most. Part of the reason for loving this place was my time on the Lofoten Islands, and that, in turn, was a big part due to the people and village of Å.

I often hesitate to write about certain places I have visited, because I have accumulated almost too many stories to tell, and I don’t know that my words are able encompass the time I was able to spend in such an interesting, and off-the-track place like Å. But since it was sticking in my head over the past while, I figured it was time to try and tell a little something about the village with the one letter name that I was lucky enough to visit.