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A Christmas vacation in November: Part 1

First Person Exploits into the Unknown

If you were at the 3A provincial football final between the North Battleford Vikings and the Yorkton Terriers or the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League game between the Weyburn Red Wings and Battlefords North Stars on Saturday, a scant few of you may of noticed I wasn’t at Beaver Lions Stadium or the Civic Centre.

Well in typical Lucas fashion, despite there being two fairly big sporting events taking place in the span of one day in North Battleford, I had already booked my Christmas vacation for this week back in Ontario.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m going home for the holidays a month ahead of time.

There’s a two-part answer for that. For starters, it costs an arm and a leg to fly back home to Sault Ste. Marie during the holidays, and both myself and my parents weren’t really planning on selling my kidneys when we were looking at bringing me back to my hometown. (I should note that’s changed in the last week and we found an actual decent flight price to bring me home for Christmas, but that was about a day before I flew out of Saskatoon).

As such, it turned out that this week in November was a good time to visit the family as the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is holding an event in the Soo that will be pretty similar to what took place here in January, and I’ll actually be able to watch a big competition of one of my favourite sports from the stands instead of being in full-on reporter mode.

Before all of that, however, I’ve spent the last few days in Southern Ontario visiting two close friends of mine that I’ve known for about 15 years and who I don’t get to see all that often, which worked out really well for this particular trip.

We began our journey Thursday afternoon in Toronto as I made my way downtown to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Granted, I’ve been there four times now and try to make a point of going there every time I’m in The Big Smoke, as there are quite often new things for me to view on each visit.

This trip was no exception with a ton of new memorabilia on display, most of which is to celebrate the National Hockey League’s 100th anniversary. This included a WHL all-star jersey worn by Mike Modano when he played for the Prince Albert Raiders, a uniform that Teemu Selanne had when he played for the Winnipeg Jets in his rookie season nearly 25 years ago and items from this year’s RBC Cup final where the Cobourg Cougars knocked off the Brooks Bandits.

Naturally, my favourite part was all of the items involving my favourite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their 2017 Stanley Cup run. It was pretty cool to see a massive photo of everyone on the roster with the trophy as you walk into the Great Hall where all of the NHL trophies, the Stanley Cup and the plaques of all the Hall of Fame inductees are located, along with jerseys, sticks, helmets and pucks that were used during the playoffs.

Also, if you ever wanted to own socks with Connor McDavid’s face on them, you can get those at the Hockey Hall of Fame gift shop. I’m sure they are a hot holiday item.

Later that evening, I went for dinner at Real Sports, the massive sports bar located right next to the Air Canada Centre. With it being a Toronto Raptors home game that night, it made for a fun atmosphere.

On Friday, following a trip to the Eaton Centre for some Christmas shopping, I took the Go Train for the first time in my life from Toronto to Uxbridge, a community that’s roughly about the same size as the Battlefords.

While there, I was able to attend the Rembrance Day ceremony in Uxbridge. In what was a different experience to ones I have attended in the past, everything took place in the middle of the downtown with the streets blocked off for a march, speeches by local dignitaries and the laying of the wreaths. It was a very moving experience.

Later Saturday evening, I headed north an hour up the highway to Barrie, where I watched the Barrie Colts pick up a convincing 6-1 win over the Niagara Ice Dogs in an Ontario Hockey League game.

Those that have read some of my columns before know I like checking out new arenas and this was another interesting place to visit.

While the seats were shockingly narrow for a rink that was built in the mid 1990s, the way the building was set up reminded me a lot of what the seating arrangements are like at the Brandt Centre in Regina, though on a much smaller scale.

The atmosphere was a bit odd as well, as it felt really quiet for a team that’s among the best in the OHL’s Eastern Conference at the moment. Granted, this was a game that took place in November instead of playoff time, so maybe I was expecting too much.

Sunday marked my return to The Big Smoke and a visit to one of my favourite record shops, Sonic Boom.

Since I was last there three years ago, they have moved buildings and are now in a visually stunning locale. The first floor is full of books and other items, while the basement is full of used and new records. Safe to say, it’s perfect for a music lover like me.

All in all, it’s been a great start to my trip and it’s been good to recharge the batteries a bit, though I’m really bummed out about missing a great provincial final win for the Vikings.

At any rate, I’m now gearing up to watch six days of curling in the Sault, but you’ll hear all about that next week.