Monday, April 27, 2015

Pool Report: A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times…

It was the worst of times…

Ottawa, I know you’re feeling bad this morning. But you fought hard and you earned a lot of respect from hockey fans coast to coast.

And that showing plus Montreal and Calgary going forward might be giving the Brendan Shanahan and Trevor Linden a rebuilding hint –-add some red to the uniforms.

Minnesota and Chicago came through round one this weekend, so we only await tonight’s battles between Washington and New York’s Islanders as well as Detroit  vs Tampa to round out the brackets for Round Two.

Here in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, somebody who gave up on the Blues after three seasons and bet on their rivals pulled into the top spot with Will Dixon and Wil Zmak following – for now.

Now I don’t expect any plaudits for this. In fact, just treat me the way the Habs treated Carey Price last night after he led them to the next round…

The standings as of this morning.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lazy Sunday # 373: The Bull Rider

We’re coming up on Rodeo season in Canada. These are also the same months when most Canadian film and television goes into production. For me, the two have always been related.

I grew up around cowboys and rodeo. When I started doing theatre I noticed something standing in the wings before the curtain rose.

There was the same buzz. The same adrenaline. The crowd on the other side of the velvet fabric was a challenge. They roiled with energy, excited at the possibility of being entertained.

A bull in the chute exudes the same energy, fully aware, its senses reading everything around it.

The rider is like the actor (or the writer, or the director, or the stage crew), charged with guiding that electricity through what’s to come, knowing a truth coined by cowboys but lived by every Creative person, “You can fool everybody but the bull”.

If you’re not up to the task, the bull (the audience) will know. And while the human version may not desire to stomp you into the dirt, they are more than willing to toss the unskilled aside.

As are the critics, the network execs, the producers…

You sold your saddle for this ride, neither you nor they can go home unsatisfied.

But the analogy does not end there. The comparison goes so much deeper. A depth explored by filmmaker Joris Debeij in his wonderful character study of Bull Rider Gary Leffew.

As you begin your artistic endeavors over the coming Summer, make time for a working day-off to take in a rodeo.

And Enjoy Your Sunday…

The Bull Rider from The New York Times - Video on Vimeo.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pool Report #2: Winnipeg, My Winnipeg

As I stated somewhere else this week, any town with fans who think this is how you drink beer deserves to see their team go out in four…

I’m truly sorry, Winnipeg. You used to be where I went to have fun. Thank God one of us grew up.

But seriously, this is just in time. The snow around Portage and Main is almost gone. Meaning one thing. It’s mosquito season.

winnipeg mosquito

The fate of two of the remaining three Canadian teams will probably be sealed over the weekend. How’d you like the way Kesler played for Anaheim, Vancouver? Are you thinkin’ maybe you shoulda traded the Twins instead? Be nice to have some men on the ice vs Calgary, wouldn’t it?

I can’t be as hard on Ottawa. They’re trying. And they already have to live in Ottawa. But by Sunday the Flea Market will be back in the Canadian Tire parking lot with Sens merchandise going cheap.

For the most part the first round is turning out to be fairly predictable. That would certainly seem to be the case if the Infamous Writers Pool is any reflection.

Will Dixon hangs onto his slim lead with Wli Zmak, Chris Sheasgreen and yours truly barely a point behind.

But that could all change in the next couple of days. It’s still far too early to determine how this season is going to play out.

Pop another twist top and enjoy the weekend. And if you love your team, skip the Winnipeg shampoo.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Pool Report Week #1: Once More Into The Breach

Shakespeare in Sports

But we in it shall be remember'd. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”

Okay, so maybe the playoff picture is really hard to read this season. Maybe everybody’s really busy. Or maybe the long winter has made most of North America not want to look at sheets of ice anymore.

Whatever it is, we’ve got the smallest clutch of players we’ve ever had for the annual Infamous Writers Hockey Pool.

But will that stop us? NO!!!

Will that dampen our enthusiasm? NEVER!!!

Will that make our champion any less worthy of respect in the annals of hockey pools? Well, maybe…

But we’re still gonna have fun! Which is most of the point.

Half the teams in the first round are three games in as we begin Week 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup, with only one looking like it might have a stranglehold. But since nobody in the pool picked a single player from Ottawa who cares, right?

And see, that alone is a tribute to the hockey wisdom and prognosticative skill that has always exemplified this particular band of brothers.

So “Game on”! Here are the standings as we enter the heart of Round One with Pool Founders Will Dixon and myself leading the way and Chris Sheasgreen right there with us.

A third of the pool in a virtual tie for the lead. Now that’s what I call competition.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lazy Sunday # 372: Castaways

At a specific hour everyday, my dog interrupts whatever I’m doing with a tap of her paw and an expectant look. It’s time to go to the dog park and she’s making sure I haven’t forgotten.

The dog park is the high point of her day. Better than a walk or a car ride. Some days there are only a couple of other dogs. Sometimes upwards of 20. Doesn’t matter to her. It’s the canine version of “Happy Hour”.

dusty charges

A few weeks ago, a new member dropped by. She was a rescue from one of those notorious Whistler Mountain sled dog outfits. Terrified in every sense of the word.

She immediately found a corner in the furthest reach of the fenced area in which we unleash our animals, getting as far from all of us possible.

Her “foster parent” did her best to let the animal know this was a safe place. And one by one, the other dogs (and dog owners) made it clear they were approachable and no threat.

Over the next couple of weeks we all watched her come out of her shell, tentative at first, observing the play and the chases, carefully coming closer and slowly turning back into a real dog.

Now she initiates play, even comfortable enough to steal somebody else’s ball in order to be chased. She doesn’t cower when people approach, allowing all of us to offer a kind word or a stroke.

A little while longer and she’ll move on, free of whatever terrors made her the way she was, ready for a fulltime family of her own.

It’s a nice feeling to have been a small part of the process, also making you wonder if the same could be done for people.

Apparently it can.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The 2015 Infamous Writers Hockey Pool

I can’t believe I’m putting myself through this again!

But then – I’m a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan so I understand that tradition and dedication require lacing up the skates and getting back in the fray –- no matter how hopeless the quest may seem.

And a special thanks to perennial poolie Peter Wildman for helping me to my feet and finding my mouth guard. For this is the moment when those with hockey smarts and the courage of their convictions shine. Because next to getting stitched up on the bench or playing with a broken leg, the most venerable tradition in the quest for the Stanley Cup is the "Hockey Pool"!


Will Dixon and I have been organizing hockey pools almost as long as we've pretended we were adults. No matter where we were or what we were doing, we celebrated our on-ice warriors by picking the best among them and placing a little wager.

Many seasons back, being thousands of miles apart and with most of the people with whom we regularly communicated passing through our blogs, we cooked up a plan to hold our hockey pool online. It was an astonishing success! As have been the years that have followed. And 2014 will be even bigger and better.


You join "The Infamous Writer's Hockey Pool" by sending me an email at with "POOL PICKS" in the subject line between 8:00 AM Eastern Tuesday April 14/15 (today in some parts of the world) and 8:00 PM Eastern Thursday. (04/16/2015).

Now, “Technically”, that will be after the opening games on Wednesday night and a period or more of Thursday’s action.  But any earlier becomes a deadline far too tight for even a seasoned prognosticator like me. So we’ll take our chances that nobody gets a leg up knowing those results.

In your email, list the 10 skaters and 2 Goalies who make up your team. They can be members of any of the 16 teams competing in the opening round.


At least THREE of your picks must come from one team. Three skaters, two and a goalie, your choice. The point is to make a small commitment (25% of your roster) to a team you think is either going to win it all, go deep or roll up a lot of points.

The scoring is as follows:

For every goal or assist scored by your skaters you earn 1 point.

Should one of your skaters score a “Game Winning” goal, that’s worth two points.

Every time your goalie wins you also earn 2 points and you tally seven points each time he earns a shutout.

Shutouts in Stanley Cup play are rare and skaters will always earn more points than a Goalie, but this is a way of evening things up.

In addition, the pool will also award one point to a goalie who loses in overtime.

The 12 players you choose are yours for the entire tournament. As the teams your players represent fall by the wayside, they cease earning points, but their totals remain part of your total.

In the end, the pool contestant with the most points wins.

I'll post your team online. From then on, you can check your progress by visiting our private online pool site whenever you like. All players will be provided with a login and password so they can check their progress throughout the playoffs.

Once you're inside the pool site, you'll see all the information on the teams you’re up against. You'll also receive a twice weekly (Monday and Friday) update of the pool standings, which I will post for all the world to see here at The Legion.

See -- easy and fun!

The only thing missing is the chance to share beer and wings and make fun of each other's choices. Anybody who wants to open a Facebook group to handle the trash talk or Twitter their opponents has our blessing.

But to help that along this season, I’m also asking everybody who wants to join to reach out to somebody who’s either never been part of the pool or has skipped a season or two.

And if you’re a fan or follower of The Legion who’s never played, give it a shot. You certainly won’t fare any worse than I have!

The more the merrier as Brendan Shanahan says as he escorts Maple Leaf Sports Execs out the door.

Now, playing in a hockey pool is very simple. But a certain amount of strategy is involved.

I've seen contestants pick players from teams that exited early still win because their players racked up so many points in the early going. I've also seen contestants with terrible picks come out on top because they had a hot goalie.

Like everything else in the game, it's ultimately up to the Hockey Gods.

If you're new to pools or the game, you can learn more on who you perhaps should pick for on your team by visiting TSN or Sportsnet.


Well, since gambling is technically illegal around here and Infamous Writers entrants come from several disparate currencies, your entrance fee should be something either related to your career or a sports souvenir you've acquired as a fan.

What you choose to wager is completely up to you and never revealed to anyone but the eventual Pool Winner.

Once our winner is decided, all entrants ship him or her their prize. In the past, the winner's booty has included DVDs, autographed scripts, game worn jerseys, signed hockey cards and much more.

For a full list of the kind of stuff you might win. Please contact Will Pascoe.

There will also be prizes for finishing 2nd and 3rd as well as our incredibly popular "Props" contest in the final round.

There are no other restrictions to participating. Just join up, pick your players and set aside your victory swag.

A lot of great Canadian artists (even some you might recognize) and hockey fans from here and elsewhere are looking forward to playing with you!

So jump in the pool!

Game on!!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lazy Sunday # 371: Editors

My apologies for the lack of posting lately. But I’ve been stupid busy with a pilot and a feature on the bubble.

This being Canada, I’m sure that one or both of them will go away and I can get back to blogging. But in the meantime, they’ve got me thinking about what the directors and editors will do with what’s been put on the page.

Directors, as always, will do what they will, enabled or distracted by our studio masters. I’m one of those writers who’s mostly okay with directors, believing thoroughly in what a second point of view can bring to a project.

I’ve only once or twice felt my work wasn’t elevated by its director. And in those cases, I’ve always been saved by the talent of the editor.

I think of editors as the guy who does the last pass on the script. If what you’ve written is cogent and worthy a good editor will bring it back from whatever brinks the exigencies of production took it.

If what you did was crappy, they’ll find a way to make it look like you knew what you were doing.

I once had a director turn in a low budget feature a full ten minutes shorter than the distributor required, with no money to shoot anything additional and no place for more story if the money had been there.

I was devastated. Until a wonderfully talented editor began adding a few frames here and a perfectly placed pause there to make up the difference.

Editors also work with a visual story-telling awareness many writers ignore in honing their dialogue and too many directors ignore as they wrangle all the shiny bling they’ve been given in the form of actors, locations and CGI.

An editor, however, thinks like a member of the audience (the guys we all forget along the way) and brings what you wrote and shot back to the reason you wrote and shot it in the first place.

Befriend editors. Appreciate them. Don’t tell them how to cut but how you want the audience to feel. Then leave them alone. They know what they’re doing.

And Enjoy Your Sunday.

Okay – for some reason embedding isn’t working for me today. So here are a couple of links.