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Happy Birthday, NHL!

It’s Grey Cup Sunday in Canada, a day when some of us go a little wacky over that game played with a pigskin. I only mention it because this year’s game (held in Ottawa) was the 105th Grey Cup and I like to acknowledge significant anniversaries on this blog.

Oh, and I also mention it because it is a game always played in late November. Most often outside. And this year, in a blizzard.

No, seriously. They couldn’t keep the field clear. Players were sliding all over the place. Camera operators, too. And the half-time show? Shania Twain was brought out to centre field by dog sled. And then escorted to the stage by a Mountie.

Canadian enough for you? Hee.

But now I am going to change the channel and talk about the other most Canadian professional sport.

I’m talking about hockey. Of course.

Another hee. I’ve been waiting a long time for an excuse to post these photos. And today I have one: it’s the 100th birthday of the National Hockey League.

For my non-Canadian readers, just know that Canada is a hockey-mad country. And if you visit Canada during playoff season — you know, what the rest of the world calls spring — you will see for yourself just how hockey mad we are. Sixteen NHL teams play four rounds of best-of-seven series … it goes on forever.

If you still don’t believe me, how about this? A hockey rink has been built on Parliament Hill for the upcoming holiday season as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. (Except, um, no hockey sticks or pucks allowed, so maybe not so much hockey rink as ice rink, despite the boards surrounding it.)

All of this is to say that it would be most un-Canadian of me to let today go by without acknowledging the date in some way. A hundred years ago today, the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators, and the Quebec Bulldogs got together and agreed to form a hockey association they named the National Hockey League. At that time, the best players earned $900 a season.

The league had a bit of a rough go at first. The Wanderers pulled out before the first season was over because their arena burned down and Quebec pulled out before the first season even started because they ran out of money. Enter a Toronto team that had no name (eventually known as the Toronto Maple Leafs).

The first games were played on December 19, 1917. Toronto lost to the Wanderers by a score of 10 to 9 and the Canadiens beat the Senators 7 to 4. Some of the rules then in place: no forward passing and no zones. It took less than a month for the first rule change: allowing goalies to drop to the ice when making a save. (Initially, they were instructed to remain upright. Yeah, good luck with that.)

The nameless Toronto team took home the Stanley Cup in 1918, beating the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in a best-of-five series, although Lord Stanley’s Cup didn’t become the official league trophy until the 1926–27 season.

Last summer, one of my German friends asked me about “ice hockey.” When I gave him a funny look, he corrected himself.

“You don’t call it ice hockey in Canada, do you?” he asked.

“Yeah, no,” I said. “There’s only one kind of hockey we care about in Canada. And it goes without saying which one we mean.”

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Through My Lens: English Bay Morning

Now I’m really back.

Back in Vancouver, that is. After three months away, I’m so happy to see my English Bay again.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Through My Lens: Sunset at Sunset Beach

And … boom.

No sooner is it officially summer and we’re in the middle of our first heat wave. Heat waves in Vancouver are rare, which means few homes have air conditioning.

Which means I’m awfully warm.

Some friends surprised me with a picnic at Sunset Beach this evening, and instantly I was able to cool down. There’s often a breeze that comes in off the bay, but it also helped that the clouds moved in to block the sun’s heat from us as we enjoyed our meal.

Which means I didn’t take this photo tonight.

But you get the idea. There’s nothing like a picnic on the beach while watching the sun set.

Through My Lens: Music Under the Sun

It’s the first day of summer! Finally!!

This week also marks the start of Vancouver’s outdoor music festival season. The big ones are the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which starts this weekend, and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival at Jericho Beach in July.

Vancouver is not that different from other Canadian cities in having great outdoor music festivals, but what we do have that is uniquely West Coast are some pretty spectacular settings.

Like the stage at Jack Poole Plaza with the North Shore Mountains as its backdrop. This photo is of Spirit of the West performing on Canada Day a few years ago.

Through My Lens: Celebration of Light

For three nights every summer, three different countries compete in Vancouver’s annual fireworks competition, known as the Celebration of Light. More than half a million people from the ’burbs descend upon my neighbourhood to watch some pretty impressive pyrotechnic displays set off from a barge moored in English Bay. This year will be the 27th consecutive competition. It’s the longest running offshore fireworks competition in the world and, I am told, BC’s largest event.

Which is obvious once you’ve tried to make your way through those crowds.

I used to overlook English Bay from a ninth floor apartment and I could watch from my balcony. Now, I walk down to the beach a few minutes before they’re scheduled to start and I always have a great view.

It’s one of the perks of living in the West End.

Through My Lens: Pool With a View

One activity that is definitely possible here only in the summer is swimming in one of Vancouver’s five outdoor pools. This being Canada, the pools are only open between May and September. Two of them front English Bay, so they qualify as “oceanfront pools.” (The mountain views are a bonus.)

By no means is Vancouver a tropical destination, but for a couple months every year we put on a pretty good pretense.

Through My Lens: Siwash Rock at Dusk

After a miserable fall, a weird and wacky winter, and a cold, wet spring, we are finally experiencing some summer weather. And you know what? It’s absolutely spectacular.

Vancouver is at its best in the summer. Because of that, and because summer is usually the busiest time in my line of business, I rarely do my travelling in July and August.

This year is going to be an exception, however, as I’m gearing up to spend the summer in Europe. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity that has come my way. But I am also feeling just a little bit wistful about all the fun I am going to miss right here at home.

And so, for the next few posts, I’m going to show you what is so spectacular about Vancouver in the summer.

For my first photo, I give you Siwash Rock at dusk. Dusk in Vancouver in the summer is late — I took this photo in early August just after 9 p.m. — and that means there is no excuse for not going for a long walk after work.

Walking the Stanley Park seawall is probably one of the city’s most popular activities for locals and tourists alike. And although we locals do it year round, it is so much more pleasant on a summer evening.

River Otter

In my last post, I mentioned that one of Lost Lagoon’s four remaining Mute Swans had been killed by a river otter. These furry fellows can be found in Lost Lagoon, but also like to hang out wherever there’s fish. Sometimes, that brings them to the beach in English Bay

Which is where I took this photo.

River otters are not the same as sea otters, so don’t be confused by the fact that they can be found near the ocean. They go wherever the fish are, so if that means they hang out on the beach, so be it.

Sea otters, I’ve been told, are not found in the Salish Sea. They live on the west coast of Vancouver Island or along BC’s northern coast. One clue, apparently, to tell the two types of otters apart: river otters almost never swim on their backs, while sea otters often do.

Mute Swan

Indulge me, if you will, as I post yet another set of bird photos. This is the Mute Swan, which, until last August, was a common sight at Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon.

The reason Lost Lagoon no longer has any resident swans is that the last three swans were officially retired and now live at an animal sanctuary somewhere in the Fraser Valley. The move came after a fourth swan was killed by river otters. The swans are geriatric, and it was decided they should live out their remaining years without the threat of predators.

The Mute Swan is not native to North American, but you see them everywhere on this continent, mainly in city parks. Back in the 1960s, there were at least 70 of them living at Lost Lagoon. These days, however, the caretakers at Stanley Park are keen to ensure that native species thrive over invasive species. (I could tell you about the blackberries, but that’s a whole other post.)

Don’t worry, though. This isn’t the last you’ll see of swans in Stanley Park. Because the park is on the Pacific Flyway, you have a good chance of seeing either the Trumpeter Swan or the Tundra Swan as they pass through when they migrate — and they are far more likely to stop in if there are no more of the territorial Mute Swans.

But, invasive species or not, aren’t they magnificent creatures?

One last note: The Mute Swan is the national bird of Denmark. Does that surprise you? It sure did me. I would have guessed England, but apparently that country is still trying in the process of choosing a national bird. As is Canada.

Northern Flicker

Today is the first day of Vancouver Bird Week and to make it a little more interesting, the city is taking a vote on which of four birds should be Vancouver’s Official Bird.

Vancouver has had a City Bird for three years now. The Northwestern Crow was selected in 2014. In 2015, the honour went to the Black-capped Chickadee and in 2016 to the Peregrine Falcon. But this year is different: the honour of City Bird will become permanent.

Oh, the pressure!

None of the previous City Birds are considered eligible. Bummer, as my favourite Vancouver bird is the Black-capped Chickadee. Also not eligible are any birds that are a city, provincial/state, or national bird elsewhere. (That kinda narrows it down. Another choice of mine would have been the Bald Eagle, of which Vancouver has plenty.) Two final stipulations are that the potential City Bird cannot be viewed negatively by any cultural groups (?), and cannot be commonly found outside of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver’s City Bird has to be uniquely West Coast.

So, which birds made the Final Four??

Those would be the Spotted Towhee (photo here), Anna’s Hummingbird (photo here), the Varied Thrush (sadly, no photo), and the Northern Flicker (below).

Which one did I vote for?

Now that would be telling.

But may the Best Bird win.