All good things have to come to an end. So when October 4th arrived, it brought to an end the most magnificent three weeks of my life.
To begin this final chapter of my World Cup of Hockey diary, I want to pay tribute to the miracle of a man that my Dad is. Bringing up one child isn’t the easiest of jobs, I can imagine. However raising three children, along with the many pets we’ve had in our childhoods must be a whirlwind to control. Yet everyday without failure, he rises at six in the morning and heads to work, gets his head down despite the many distractions of being a Manager as well as a Dad.
The effort he pours into his work, along with his role as Secretary and Kwick Cricket Coach at South Wingfield Cricket Club, is admirable. Besides, it’s not like he’s also currently redeveloping what seems like our whole house.
With this all in context, rewinding back to when he first joked about ‘carrying my bags’, I now couldn’t be more thankful that he did. Having to spend so much time with him, really opened my eyes to just how incredible he is and the trip wouldn’t have quite been the same without him.
What you may not know though, is the scare he arrived back in England with. After a trip full of exercise and long walks, it appeared Dean had suffered a stress fracture to his lower left leg. After a trip to A and E it turned out that it was in fact an infection of his tissue. Not the best news to come back to.
Have I mentioned how good the trip was? WOW!
From day one to day nineteen, I couldn’t have planned for more productive, educational, eye-opening experience as the one i had.
The Killers kicked off the trip in style. Talk about putting on a show. Two hours of high quality, live music. Sensational.
Ice Hockey began on September 17th. This was a day I had been waiting for, for years. Since first being in Canada and being exposed to the passion that runs throughout the game, many nights have been spent waiting until three o’clock to watch games live on television. Inheriting a love for the game that surpasses anything ever felt towards football. Ice Hockey is a sport for not only communities but for countries to come together and so it proved in Toronto this summer. Canada has become my adopted country, with everything crossed, hopefully one day I can call it ‘home’.
Cheering on Canada through the tournament was easy. Second nature, as well as being so enjoyable.
Walking around the Air Canada Centre before the opening game was just so refreshing. Chants of ‘U-S-A’ drowned out by the local ‘Lets go Canada’. Over 14 different countries colours parading around one venue, it was mind blowing. Not only this but bumping into two Fife Flyers fans from Scotland, was also a great coincidence. The atmosphere for the entire two weeks was incomparable, never have I heard so much noise in a venue for a sporting event.
Every game offered something a little different. Compared to Ice Hockey over here the difference is of mammoth proportion. Speed, Skill, Quality was all more than I could have imagined. Obviously when the fixtures were released the one that grabbed me more than any other was the match up between Canada and USA. Ice Hockey heavyweights, a fierce rivalry and two sets of fans who quite passionately hate each other. Just imagine England vs Germany at football.
Canada brushed USA aside four goals to two. It probably wasn’t the greatest game of Hockey ever, but I do think you’d struggle to find a better game than North America versus Sweden. Goosebumps are normally a common occurrence when you’re cold or scary, but these were from neither such emotions. Instead they were from jaw dropping spectacle that was unfolding on the ice. End to End, heart racing moments, edge of your seat stuff.
Thank fully the first week of the trip passed by quite slowly, which when on holiday is perfect, so I wasn’t complaining.
When the round robin fixtures ended, it meant more free time to see what Toronto had to offer. A trip to Ripley’s Aquarium allowed for a relaxing day away from the rink. Situated in between the CN Tower and the Air Canada Centre meant there wasn’t too far to travel either. As far as aquariums go, probably ranks right up their as one of the most impressive. Alongside this there was a day spent at the Royal Ontario Museum, not quite the Natural History Museum of London, but it goes Along way to matching it.
After not having the guts to venture up the World’s third largest free-standing structure, last time around, it was imperative to go up this time around.
So we did, boy was it worth it. The views were perfect on an almost crystal clear day. Of course on the way down, a quick browse of the shop led to an even longer viewing around the BlueJays shop. It’s just one of those natural things I guess.
As the Hockey returned, the games became more and more intense. Russia had to face up to the hosts Canada in game that had everything. A bitter rivalry dating way back when, the noisy Russian supporters tried their best to over come the power of Canada, but all to no avail. Canada had grounded out and made it to the Final. The perfect result. It would have been bitterly disappointing for them not to have reached the final two, which in turn meant an extra two games to see them play.
Between the Semi Finals and the final, having watched so much of it on the TV, we treated ourselves to a game of Baseball. The famous New York Yankees were in town, hometown Toronto BlueJays were pressing for a Playoff spot so spirits were high heading towards the Rodgers Centre. I wasn’t really sure what to expect in all honesty. As a big cricket fan, it’s reasonably easy to find the long formats quite boring to watch, so part of me was fearing the worst. How wrong was I. Now hooked on the sport, shirt and cap purchased, constantly following the scores as well as live streaming the games, I can’t get enough.
Toronto Football Club were also at home during the second week, so felt it necessary to get our normal football fix. A rather unique ground it could be said, situated in Exhibition Place, it was quite different to visiting the IPro. A drab game of football was perhaps the only downside of the trip, but still a night of laughs with my Dad nonetheless.
The Hockey Hall of Fame provided a good days entertainment, with the history of Ice Hockey laid out in a terrific manor. The glorified history of the National Hockey League, dating back to the original six, is on display for all to see. Well worth a visit for anyone with he slightest interest in the game.
As the Hockey drew to an end, Canada successfully painted their colours back onto the World Cup of Hockey. The dream had now become reality. As Toronto partied into the night, you got a real taste for Canada. Alcohol a plenty and a real party atmosphere hit downtown as car horns were met with cheers and chants from the Canadian natives.
So with a few more days off than expected, we hired out a small car allowing us to visit an unfrozen Niagara Falls. You may be asking why I say ‘unfrozen’, well it’s because last time we went to visit, Canada was hit by one of it’s worst winter storms for decades. Thus meaning Niagara was fully frozen. As good as the falls were when frozen, they were just as stunning when full flowing. The luxury of being on the Canadian side, meant you could see both the American and Canadian falls, making for a real picturesque setting.
Having the car for a couple of days meant we were also able to have another step back in time, and visit Toronto Zoo. Being able to vaguely remember what it was like (minus the snow) meant pulling into the entrance gates was just as I remembered. Six hours we spent inside, visiting all the animals on show, including the baby pandas/zebra/rhino/polar bear and the whole array of other exquisite creatures. The obligatory visit to the shop (both shops, it would have been rude not to) brought the day to an end, and a very good one at that.
Casa Loma was the last of the tourist attractions. The castle on the hill provided us with beautiful view of Toronto as well as very historic look into the history of the great city. As well as this it was the day we really discovered the extent to which my Dad had hurt his leg. Not the most ideal way to bring the trip towards the close but all for the best given the state it’s in now.
On a much lighter now however, Throughout the three weeks I (believe it or not) took a step back from my strict diet and indulged in many a treat meal. A few Chinese dishes, a scrumptious curry, pulled-pork sandwich, and not to forget our final night Swiss Chalet visit. No better way to cap off a trip to Canada than having one of the most typical Canadian meals possible. A messy sandwich accompanied by poutine and a pint of Molsons Canadian. Boy life is good over there.
I guess that’s that. Three unforgettable weeks, reflected back on, a fortnight after returning. It has meant it’s been a relatively easy time recollecting the amazing memories me and my Dad forged together. An opportunity that may (hopefully not) be once in a lifetime so I am and will remain eternally grateful for this chance. For those who have managed to get through my sometimes complicated and confusing blogs, I thank you. It may seem like a pointless thing to some of you, but this is hopefully the start of my successful career.