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Cornered Coach: The Ice of March

 

When you're primarily a "stay at home" dad, (or mom) March Break is one of the most challenging times of the year.

Much like a hockey team peaking for the playoffs, a March Madness parent needs a solid game plan to have any shot at success and, around our digs, hockey plays a huge part in the program.

It has been way too chilly to hit the shinny rinks around Toronto this week. But, fortunately, our nine-year-old lad, Theo, has been busy on the indoor ice. He's a goaltender on a Minor Atom AA squad that is currently embroiled in an exciting semifinal playoff series against a powerful opponent that steamrolled to the regular season championship. During the regular season, Theo's side got stomped in all three head-to head matchups, getting outscored 19-5. But there's something to be said for being the heavy underdog – all the pressure is on the other side. In fact, going into the series, my little guy had a pretty good line.

"Dad," announced Theo, "I'd rather be the underdog than the overdog."

And, in game one of the series, wouldn't you know it?

The underdog had their day, pulling off a 3-2 upset victory for a little slice of a "Miracle on Ice.” Unlike the famous USA triumph over the Russians at the 1980 Olympics, however, Theo and his buddies are going to have to pull off FOUR miracles, as the winner is the first to rack up eight points. But at least it's a start and, for one night anyway, the underdogs got a chance to howl at the moon.

Speaking of underdogs, congratulations to the Toronto Jr. Canadians for marching into St. Michael's Arena this week and pulling off the game seven upset against the St. Mike's Buzzers. Game seven of that first round OJHL series was also on our family's March Break "must do" list, and what a night for the Junior Habs 18-year-old forward Callum Cusinato. He's a guy who has bounced around the junior hockey ranks the last few years but on Tuesday "The Cooz" had a career night, sniping four goals as the Canadians eliminated the Buzzers in a high-scoring 7-5 barnburner. One of the best things about the playoffs at every level of the game is watching under-the-radar performers emerge as unsung heroes, and it was really inspirational to watch Cusinato turn everything he touched into absolute gold.

Meanwhile, gold and cold intersected at Scotiabank Pond in Toronto this week with twenty Minor Midget squads battling for top spot at the OHL Cup. This is always one of the highlights of the hockey season – a sticks and pucks answer to the March Madness of U.S. college hoops. This year, though, you had to be a really hardy hockey fan to take in the tournament. Approaching the arena Wednesday afternoon, the cruel windchill cut though you like Connor McDavid (an OHL Cup grad, by the way) slices his way through a helpless blueliner. Inside the cozy confines of the Pond, however, the action was hot and heavy and we enjoyed the added bonus of witnessing yet another upset. The Mississauga Reps were a last-minute wild card qualifier into the Cup but, lo and behold, there they were Wednesday playing the game of their lives and knocking off the heavily favoured Toronto Marlboros 3-1.

Yes, even though school is shut down for the week, lessons abound during March Break; it's never over 'til it's over and, if you stick with it, underdogs can deliver a dangerous bite. Now, the scene of those "life lessons" switches to Peterborough, as my two lads and I are set to leave bright and early tomorrow to catch an OHL Petes game. Just to balance things out a bit, I'm also pleased to announce that we're also going to tour the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

But make no mistake about it.

When it comes to March Break, hockey is definitely the top dog.

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