24 January 2017

Great Lakes Brewery 2017 IPA LCBO Release Schedule

Some of my most favourite beers from Great Lakes Brewery are getting widespread LCBO release this year in honour of their 30th birthday. Happy, happy!

22 January 2017

Beer Saint 2.0


Sharing is caring!

Early last summer, I wrote about how sharing beer now was like making a mixtape for that girl I loved back in the day(Check it out, here). It echoed the sentiment that I was after when I would put together that collection of songs, trying to convey certain feelings and using the music I loved to do it. Being a Beer Saint is not just about trading beer, it's about spreading the love and joy that great craft beer has brought to your life. Whether it is a straight up trade, sending a care package of local brews, buying a pint or pulling something from the cellar or fridge, the act of sharing shows our commitment to not just drinking better beer, but preaching the gospel of the community. There is no higher recognition of what a beer means to you than to buy a few of them and share them with fellow craft beer lovers. Perhaps I preach a little much about sharing and maybe I am the lucky recipient of many beer saint moments, but the absolute joy I get when I open beer mail or meet up to trade beers is true and real.
Tabernac Crew from August in Quebec City
It should never be about hoarding or trying to one up someone. The truth about craft beer lies not in the singular experience or drinking alone. To be truly enjoyed, it must be shared and there is no better way to do that than with friends, new and old.
Meet up and swap stories with friends, new and old.
As the craft beer movement picks up speed and approaches the mainstream conscious of drinkers every day, its growth can only be enhanced by those who take up the mantle of being Beer Saints. From the singular bottle share to a night of multiple flights and pints at a local brewery, it can be the most wonderful way to bring people together. The next year will see more growth, new breweries, beers and experiences. To be able to do them all is impossible and sharing your latest discovery with the people who mean the most to you is but the start of what you can do to help keep our movement going. Social media is a great way to keep people informed of what's going on in your area, offering to trade that new find for something someone else has far away from you can spread that joy outward. I am a firm believer in the act of sharing coming back to you in double if you just put yourself out there. You will find a world of people who want nothing more than to see and hear what you think of their favourite brew and you will get that same feeling when you receive a notification that your friend tagged you in their post about that beer you sent them. Using the #beersaint to describe them is but one way to show the love.
 There is a real sense of excitement when I finally get to meet a friend I didn't know I had to trade a few beers or raise a pint or two in friendship. The smiles and handshakes are genuine and the banter quickly turns into friendly inquiries about your experinces and life before craft beer. How we got to this point, what we used to drink and what is your favourite beer now are questions that sometimes lead to an afternoon of laughter and happy new friends. Even the beer mail delivery can bring a smile to your face, especially if it is unexpected. It's like grown up Christmas morning when you open that box containing someone else's fave beer and their sincere gesture of sharing it with you.
Better than just sending beers and trading them, why not do what my friend Paul The Beer Guy is doing and organize a day of visiting a local brewery or two for some of your crafty friends who maybe haven't been to your area yet. Make it even better by having everyone bring something from their local or favourite craft brewer to share with everyone after the day is done and the party begins. Get the guys or gals together and do a beer run to a few places, then head back to someone's house for a night of new brews, styles and flavours. You might make some discoveries that you didn't know you liked and maybe make a few new friends along the way.
Beer Saints meet at Luois Cifer last Summer

Experience the feeling of becoming a Beer Saint not just because you want that limited edition barrel aged stout, but because you want to share that very beer with someone else. If you can truly let go of the macro and join the movement, it will change how you see beer, it will open a world you didn't know existed and you will be a better person for it. Go out and meet some new folks, share a pint and get to know them. I think you'll find, much like I did, that good people drink good beer.
Be a Beer Saint, it really does make the world a better place.
And we could all use a little more love right now.

Raise your glass and your standards,
One beer at a time.

19 January 2017

Polkaroo Beer Saint Giveaway with Hockey Valley Dark Ale

Watch as I go full #beersaint with my windfall from the Hockley Valley Brewing

Company. Good Luck!

13 January 2017

Three Craft Beer Thoughts on 2017

I'm not much of a prognosticator, leaving that to those who've been around the beer industry a lot longer and with more contact to what's coming down the pike. But I have been noticing some things and thought I'd share them with you because I always let my friends in on whatever happens to cross my path. Three things in particular have been floating around my mind for the last week or so and it has to do with the growth and direction of beer in this province.
Milkshake IPA's

I have noticed a newish trend coming from the west coast and decided to look a little deeper into the adding of lactose or milk sugar to ales, particularly IPAs. A brief history of the creation of the Milkshake ale by Pennsylvania's Tired Hands Brewing can be found at Punch Drink, but what we are starting to see coming from Canada's original craft beer scene in British Columbia is a hazy, silky smooth, IPA that has me intrigued. I have a few pals on the coast and have been following the slowly growing movement of these beers. Is it a matter of time before the juggernaut that is Ontario Craft Beer begins to experiment and put out this twist on the ever so popular India Pale Ale? We chase the hoppy dragon with higher IBUs and bigger, bolder bitterness but is the time coming where we see a smoother, yet still bitter style of this industry leader. There is little our local craft brewers won't try and experiment with and I think by the fall, we may see a few Milkshake IPAs come on to the market. Failing that, maybe I'll send a few of Ontario's best to my pals on the Left coast and ask for some of these hazy interlopers in return, in order to see what all the fuss is about. Science, my friends, is what it is all about. Keep your eyes peeled to see if this trend migrates east.

Expansion or Consolidation?
Late in December 2016, Ontario crossed the 200 bricks and mortar brewery threshold and that is quite rapid growth in the last few years. While there are many more new micro and nano breweries slated to come online this year and an ever growing list of contact brewers trying to shoe horn their product onto the shelves at the LCBO, I always wonder what the upper limit is before we are saturated. So far, most of the brewers seem to have found a dedicated local following, especially in the smaller towns where the one or two bars serve macro lagers and the breweries tend to place a premium on being both a place to get beer and a social hub. Many of them form clubs and hold events within the brewery (i.e. running, yoga, paint nights) to help connect to their community and it is this kind of place that will continue to grow their business as well as their footprint in my opinion. Being a part of the larger community not only raises your brand awareness, it connects your beer to more than just a drink, it makes it a part of peoples' lives.
While there are some who have gotten into brewing or contract brewing to take advantage of the current explosion and clamour for better beer, I can only hope that time will help shake the pretenders loose from the world I have come to know and love. There are real and passionate folks who want to make a living brewing beer, but also want to be part of something bigger than themselves; working tirelessly to bring amazing and well crafted beer to your glass and it will inevitably be we, the consumers, who direct the growth of our local brewers.
I don't think we've hit the top of the bubble yet, our love affair with craft beer is just beginning in many cases and while the time may come for consolidation and market corrections, I don't think it will be soon.

Does the size of your bottle matter?
One thing I think we will see for sure is the rise of smaller can and bottle sizes in 2017. The ubiquitous Tall Boy is favoured by most because that is what the LCBO finds easiest to carry. But there is a growing trend of craft beer drinkers towards the 355 ml. can or bottle. Many want to grabbed a six pack of their favourite craft beer to stick in the fridge and I think the brewers will respond in kind. Anderson Craft Ales in London opened last year and that was how they made their offerings available right from the start, along with, more recently, Descendant's in Kitchener and Side Launch from Collingwood with their Mountain Lager. There are others moving into smaller serving sizes and it is a trend worth noting. Collective Arts in Hamilton have long offered most of their core brands in 6 pack bottle format and they make an easy grab when heading to a party or poker game. While I personally love grabbing a mixed bag of tall boys and I am certain that will not change, I think you will see more of a mix of offerings size wise as the year goes on. As always, consumer demand will direct the market and with the growing number of beer drinkers coming to the craft side, we will see which way the can goes.
Another development worth noting is the just under 1 litre crowler, or can growler. A few brewers use this alternative to the glass growlers, including Redline Brewhouse in Barrie and the aforementioned Descendant's. While smaller sizes will drive that section of beer drinkers toward certain brews, this size promises to be a great way to share a pint with a pal or slow sip an evening on your own. Keeping the beer fresher than a growler or half growler is one advantage, the other being less chance of infection from improperly stored or cleaned bottles. Many people do not clean their growlers right when they finish them, leading to a sticky mess on the bottom. A quick rinse will not solve this problem and it can lead to some off flavours in your beer. The crowler solves these problems and still gives you a larger format to experience your beer with.
Take your pick, but I think the trend toward smaller sizes of both regular and growler options will be a continuing story in 2017. The Tall boy isn't going anywhere and the 750 ml. bomber bottle will remain the choice of many brewers, but I think we have glimpsed the future of many a craft brewer and it is trending smaller cans and bottles.

That's all for this Friday my friends, I hope you have great weekend and maybe it's time to take a little road trip and visit some Ontario Craft Brewers to see what is going on. Drink local and support your community at the same time.
Happy Weekend!!
Raise your glass and your standards,
One beer at a time.

11 January 2017

A Saturday Night in Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls has long been a favourite spot for Kat and I. We honeymooned there 13 years ago and have been frequent overnight visitors since. It has always been a blast but of course it was usually fuelled by copious amounts of macro lagers and drinking way more than was healthy. Taking the sink over to keep my beer chilled to the point it was palatable was my number one concern and then the night could begin.

It's been a couple of years since we've visited and on Thursday night I decided it was time to head back and see what has changed. Of course, the fact that we could hit a few Craft Brewers on the way home and visit the Niagara Brewing Company on Clifton Hill in the Falls had a little bit to do with my wanting to go again. Both of us were off Sunday, so a room was booked for Saturday and we both were relieved to have a night away after a less than stellar holiday season.
Arriving at our old stomping grounds with but 3 beers and a bottle of wine, we had a quick drink in the room as opposed to power drinking as many as we could before heading out on our first brewery tour this year. I even brought proper glassware...because of course I did. Good start with a nice English Style Pale ale from Flying Monkey's brewery. New to Tall boys, Hoptical Illusion is a toasted malt, bitter easy drinker was the perfect kickoff to a night on the town.

We headed to the Hill and Niagara Brewing Company first, having heard mixed reviews on the beer, I wanted to check out this pretty amazing location and judge for myself. Located almost at the bottom of the hill with some beautiful views, it makes for a great way to spend some time planning your activities for the evening. Saturday nights are live music and we were treated to a couple of acoustic performances while we perused the menu. Having been a frequent visitor to Niagara Falls has led me to expect a certain up charge just because its such a popular tourist destination, but I was pleasantly surprised to find both the beer and food prices to be very reasonable, right in line with other breweries we have visited. We decided to order the Big Bang flight, which consists of all 8 of their regular or seasonal beers in 7 oz. glasses. Again, at $19.75, not out of the regular price range and that was a fantastic start.
The selection was pretty varied and we each tried the samples before deciding which ones we liked best. First up where the core brews. The lager was on point for the style, nothing outstanding, but sure to be a favourite of a macro drinker who stops in while vacationing. The IPA leans English with a toasted malt body and grapefruit/pine notes, while I found the Amber a little bitter for the style but not out of the ordinary. Finally for the regular brews, the stout was a little thin on body, but had a pleasant smoky and roasty note that I enjoyed.
The seasonal and one off selections was where I found some really unique picks and both of us found our favourite of the night. They've brewed three that I referred to as "Tourist" beers in an Ice Wine, Peach Radler and Maple Wheat. The fourth turned out to be the best of the night, a Marzen.
  We started with the big 9.7 % Ice Wine beer, which was a little extra to get added to the flight but I wanted to try all the beer, so add away was my philosophy. Clean and slightly scented of Ice wine, it was pretty easy drinking and hid that ABV well. Fruity on the finish, that was when the Ice wine kicked in. Sure to be a hit with those wine fanciers who want to try a beer, a little sweet for my liking. Next up was the very crushable (under 4%) Peach Radler Wheat. Loads of peach aroma with an unfiltered body that kept up the promise of that aroma. A pool beer in the making, it would be perfect for the summer months and again, a choice to showcase one of the regions most known attributes. The Maple Wheat was perhaps the most aromatic of all their offerings and smelled like syrup covered flapjacks and made me wish I could have bought some to take for breakfast the next morning. Creamy mouthfeel with a sweet maple flavour that would make this ideal for A.M. consumption or perhaps as a dessert beer. These three beers try to showcase the unique Canadian or Niagara flavours and would do well with visitors from all around. A little gimmicky but fun to try in my flight.
The biggest surprise was the Marzen. Very crisp and clean with a caramel note, toasted malts, bready texture and slight bitterness to give it a great balanced mix. Even Kat liked it and we ordered a glass (12 oz) and a Pint (20 oz) to sip while we enjoyed the atmosphere. It's a big space with two floors and an industrial chic look. The service was not only quick, it was friendly and that is all you can ask for when you hit the town for a fun date night. While we didn't get anything to eat, I saw a few items come out of the kitchen and again, the prices were not inflated for the pub style fare (Pretzels, Charcuterie board) that I would have enjoyed myself. I will say again that I was happy to see them keeping the prices reasonable despite the touristy location of the brewery.
The bottle shop had a nice selection but sadly none of the Marzen or Maple Wheat was available and we headed up the hill for our next stop.

Mrs. Polkaroo has always wanted me to go on the Ferris Wheel in the Falls and despite my crazy big fear of heights I agreed, on one condition...that I get to do a video beer review high above Niagara Falls. Check out the video on my YouTube page here. Suffice it to say that having a delicious Equilibrium ESB from Nickel Brook helped me have some courage while we soared into the night sky. The view was spectacular and I am glad I finally put my fears aside and tried it.
On the way back to our hotel, we decided to stop in at Kelsey's Restaurant at the top of Clifton Hill for something to eat and check out if their craft beer selection had improved since we last stopped in. It used to be near impossible to find anything that wasn't Molson-Coors or INBev while in the Falls and I was very happy to see a few great selections on the menu. The Black Lager from Silversmith Brewing in nearby Virgil was my favourite of that style last year and as soon as I saw it on the beer list, a pint was in front of me. Big smiles from this guy at a surprising and delicious improvement on what used to be in my glass. We enjoyed another acoustic set and meandered over to the bar for a nightcap and to my joy, Muskoka Detour was also on tap and helped finish the night with a hoppy kick.
Sunday morning found us headed home but not without a few stops along the way. We couldn't head out this way without popping in  at Silver Smith and Oast House in Niagara on the Lake and even managed to finds a new to us brewery in Port Dalhousie, Lock Street Brewing. Picking up some new beers and old favourites capped off a wonderful, albeit too short, couple of days. These types of road trips always fun and I would encourage you to be a tourist in your own area, exploring something new and revisiting places you haven't been in along time. It is eye opening to see things again for the first time with a new perspective. Plus, think of all the new beers you can bring home, that makes it a winning plan all around.
Until next time my friends,
Raise your glass and your standards,
One Beer at a time.


3 January 2017

They used to call me Coach

Simply the Best.
Standing behind the bench will always be one of my favourite memories. Coaching hockey occupied everything about my life from 1987 to 1995 and there will always be a spot in my heart for those teams that became my extended family for 7 months a year. Looking back now, I long not only for those simpler days, but for the time when I could feel the vast and open possibilities of the future.
My seven years as a Hockey Coach run right through some of the most difficult, joyous and interesting times of my life. This are how I see them now, through the lens of nostalgia, tinged with love and a little bit of regret.

Goalie Coach (1988/89)
At 15, coaching was becoming my life.
It started after I had been playing for a couple of years and was coming to the realisation that my playing career (I wrote about it here) was soon to be over. My skills never quite matched my heart but I didn't want to walk away from the ice completely. We had become increasingly more involved at our local minor hockey association in  Stoney Creek and in 1988, I was asked by Al Kaine to help out with his goalies. I was so happy to help pass on some of my knowledge, as little as that was at the time, and leaped in with both feet. Mom or Dad had to drive me to the games still as I was only 15, but they did it because they could see how passionately I loved the game and knew it was good for me to be involved in the community. Al was a proponent of fast and aggressive attacking hockey and along with my minor hockey coach, Sid Nelson and later on, mentor Rick Ferroni, was instrumental in helping to form my style behind the bench. It was a glimpse into what I could do with my mind and of course the ever present numbers ( I was into stats way before today's obsession with them) to help shape strategy and plot a winning game plan.

Getting My Feet Wet (1989/90)
The very next season, Dad and my Uncle Jim volunteered to coach a team with my middle brother Dave on it and I went along with them as an assistant coach. It was also the year that I ended up with my own team as my little brother Mike needed a coach and I leapt at the chance to get behind the bench with a few of my pals.
I was always a student of the game and I strived to learn all about not just the skills I could teach, but ways to motivate and inspire these two groups of young people. From my own experience with both good and bad coaches, I took the lessons and applied them to myself when I grabbed the whistle. I swore to be true to who I was and treat each kid fairly, be demanding of performance but ultimately try to be a positive influence in their lives. I took courses to become a better coach and worked to bring interesting and new drills to practice to help them improve.
Coaching my first team with my pals, Kevin, Kyle and Mike.
That season saw many things occur, including The Party (read about it here) that changed the direction of my life and my first Championship as a coach. The Penguins finished last in the standings, but led the league in parties and it was fun to be able to help my brother Mike, a goalie, continue his development. Brother Dave's Pee Wee team was another story altogether and was a juggernaut in the playoffs. Led by Dave's swift skating and aggressive defence, this team was a throwback to the teams I had played on a few years earlier. Fiercely loyal to each other and never afraid to take it to the other team, these kids became an extension of my philosophy of going after what you want with reckless abandon. I will always have a special place for this team in my heart because it cemented my path after I stopped playing the next year.
These guys won it all. Dad and Uncle Jim brought out the best in them.

The Lost Year (1990/91)
1990 brought many changes to my life and I was behind the bench again coaching Mike's team as we moved into the Pee Wee division (12/13 year olds). I was in and out of my parents house at this point and it probably led to the teams struggles because I was not able to focus on doing my best. I always regret that year of my life, not only because of the hardship I put on my family and friends with my behaviour, but because I can't really remember much about this team. It wasn't a championship team but as '90 turned to '91 I started to get my own act together and the next season was to be the start of a two year run that gave me hope about a future in hockey.

Things Start to Come Together (1991/92)
An almost dream season and where I found my best coaching and managing
Having cleaned up myself and returning to school, I was a little more focused as the 1991 season began. Once again coaching my brother Mike, I was joined behind the bench by my best friend, Kevin, who had been with me since the beginning and brother Dave, who handled the defense that was our hallmark. Mom came aboard as manager and she was the glue that helped form an amazing group of parents who were vocal and enthusiastic in their support. I began wearing a sport coat and tie to emulate a more successful approach and it worked. Look good, feel good was true then and now. I worked hard to create a positive environment and with my assistant coaches, built our practices into skill sessions that took us near the top of the standings. We won the local Christmas tournament with Mike playing perhaps one of his finest games ever in a 3-0 win that we were outshot 29-10 in. I'll never forget the smile on his face after that one.
Come playoff time, we took on my first real "rival" coach, Harper Appleton. While time has taught me that is a pretty funny thing to think that about another volunteer coach in minor hockey, at 18, I was full bore to beat this guy. We met in the semi-finals and our defense nullified their high scoring forwards with Mike doing yeoman's service in net. We moved onto the final and lost the first game of a 3 game series in overtime. A few days off before game 2 and I was boiling over with enthusiasm. I knew our strategy and close knit team were going to win despite the loss and my gut told me to go all out in my pre game speech. My old coach, Sid, had told me you couldn't try to gear the players up to high before every game and to be judicious when you brought in the big guns of motivation and inspiration. The next two games were not close (5-2 and 7-0) and it was a bit of a preview of what was to be my favourite team and year of coaching I was ever to have.

My Best Year Behind the Bench (1992/93)
The best team I ever coached. Period. Full stop.
The 1992 season dawned as the year I really felt I came into my own and began to coach with a true passion. I took a job working night shifts so I could be completely focused on hockey and it was a good move. The 1992/93 Bantam (14/15 year olds) Stoney Creek Lightning will always remain the very fondest memory of my time as a coach and it was equal parts the success, parent support and players who gave it their all. This was to be the height of my personal joy and it was once again the same people helping make it possible. Dave, Kevin and Mom were back with me and we knew that our success of the year before was but a taste of what we could do. Led by Mike in net, this was a talented but not easily corralled group of kids. I had purposely took on some of the players other coaches felt were troubled and difficult to coach because I knew I could get to them, help them and by extension the team have an amazing year. We started off a little rough as I tried to find the right motivation for each kid, but when the season really got going I could feel the team gelling and coming together. These kids quickly bonded and were often responsible for keeping each other honest. Lack of effort was the only sin I preached against and rarely did that happen. My "rival", Harper, was once again in the same league and after a loss in the Christmas tournament in overtime and his team leading us in the standings, he looked to have the upper hand. I felt the team was drifting, winning and losing with equal effort and it was after a loss to a team from nearby Grimsby (we played in a loop with a few other small communities), in which their goalie was late and they played with an empty net for half the game and six players on the ice. My guys had thought it would be an easy win and played selfishly, trying for goals instead of working as a team. I said nothing after the loss and when we hit the ice the next morning at 6 a.m. for practice, I told them to toss their sticks into a pile at center ice. Happily thinking we were going to scrimmage, they were shocked when Kevin and Dave calmly picked them up and took all their sticks and the pucks to the bench. I then told them that if they didn't want to play as a team and work together like we had seen the night before, they didn't need sticks. Thus began the one and only time I bag skated my team. Nothing but skating drills for the entire hour, followed by a heart to heart meeting after changed the course of our season. We never lost another game for the rest of the year, going 15 and 0. The commitment level, closeness and desire on this team came together and we just didn't win, we dominated. The Interlock playoffs saw us win 7 games by a combined score of 37 to 10, including an 9 to1 win in the finals. Our local Stoney Creek playoffs were pretty much a walk as we won 5 games straight, scoring 32 and only giving up 8. Defeating league leading and once again rival coach Harper in the City final was the icing on the cake as our season finished with an 8-1 Championship game win. One of my favourite players and fiercest competitors, Donnie Stacey scored 4 shorthanded goals and shutdown the league's leading scorer in the process. This was the year I thought seriously that coaching was going to be where I would stake my claim to hockey glory and the next season I took a step forward while also stepping back.

Moving on Up (1993/94)
As the 1993 season began, I had taken a role with one of my mentors, Rick Ferroni coaching a rep team in Minor Atom (10 year olds). It represented that step up I mentioned, as this was a higher level of competitive hockey. The step backward was going from head to assistant coach/manager. It was evident that I needed some guidance to be able to move up in the coaching ranks and my experience with this team was an eye opener. The parents were a lot more intense, the games seemed to take on more importance and the kids under a little more pressure. I brought my style of interactive coaching with me and learned from Rick the importance of not only skating drills, but doing things that others never would. We used some unorthodox Russian inspired drills and I was also left with the teams goalies as my charges. I hope we imparted some skills and made them not only better players but people in that first season of rep hockey for us. Both Rick and I were rehabilitating our often short tempers with those we disagreed and working together, we quickly discovered our common love of seeing the kids get better and of course, winning. Ultimately we fell short of our goal, but I was excited when we were awarded the Major Pee Wee team in AAA the next season, as it represented the highest level of competitive Minor hockey and a true step toward my goal of professional coaching.

The Last Season (1994/95)
1994 was to be my last year coaching. I was now coaching two rep teams, with my own Head coaching gig of an Atom A team to go along with my duties to Rick and the AAA Pee Wee team.
Over 100 games and an equal number of practices to go along with travelling all over the province and a full time night shift job at Tim Horton's was heaven to me and I could feel the strength of my future coalescing every time I took to the ice or got behind the bench. Both teams made the finals of their respective leagues but were ultimately unsuccessful in winning it all. Coaching at the higher levels was indeed giving me inspiration and I had plans to take even more advanced coaching courses to increase not only my knowledge, but my chances of someday finding myself behind the bench full time and getting paid to do so.
It was the end of one path and the beginning of another.
The End of Coaching (1995)
Life, of course, had other plans for me and it was while I was winding down this season and preparing for the next that I met someone who would help shape a new direction in my life. I was never one to do anything in half measures and when I fell in love for the first time, it was with everything I had. My choices in life have never been overly logical, often done with passion as opposed to thought and I abandoned my old dreams for new ones over the objections of my love. I should have taken her support of my coaching dream and listened when she implored me to keep at it. I unwisely didn't and will always wonder what would have been had kept my spot on the bench while learning to love.
But time is a great healer and to this day I'll run into a former player and he'll call me Coach. That is what makes me smile the most about my time as a leader and teacher of young people; to know I made a difference to some of these kids and I am humbled by their love, many years later.
Perhaps my own management style is patterned after my coaching one, I was always a players coach and to this day always work hard to build a team and help those in my charge achieve their goals at work and in life. Hockey taught me a lot and I hope one day to be able to give back a fraction of that.
The game will always mean more to me than the score and if you want to know the truth, there are times when I am slowly drifting off and I can hear the scrape of the blades on the ice, the slap of the puck off the boards and see myself on the bench one more time.