Don’t Mess With Leominster

That's Me On The Left
That's Me On The Left

Now, here’s a picture that I can remember just a little bit, since almost every weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) from September to April I was playing hockey. There were times that we’d travel to some far-off Massachusetts town and I’d play three times in a single day, then come home. I played my youth hockey for Leominster, not Lancaster. Leominster was closer to us and it is where I first started skating, because my dad ran the Orchard Hills Ice Arena. Lots of people don’t remember this place as an ice arena, because it is now a big obnoxious purple roller skating rink. But back in the mid-to-late 1970s, Orchard Hills was a two-building complex, the ice arena at the top of the hill and a simple tennis club at the bottom. If I remember correctly, it was run by Frank Montolio. My dad can confirm that if he’s reading.

Anyway, the tennis club is now a HUGE gym/fitness club and the ice arena on the hill was sold and converted to “Roll On America.” I only went in there once after the ice arena closed. It didn’t feel right. And it wouldn’t feel right today if I walked in there. The few memories I have of the ice arena are too vivid and treasured. I can remember like yesterday the first time I skated. I scored my first goal in a youth hockey game there – a rebound down at the far end of the rink. I was wearing #6, my powder blue Leominster Youth Hockey uniform with the Franco-American sponsorship logo on the front. Never forget it. I remember playing in the mother-father-son game -the only time I’ve played against my mother in hockey. Funny.

Anyway, this picture had to be taken at some tournament we went to. For some reason, I think it’s the rink up in Northborough, but I can’t be sure. It seemed whenever we played in a tournament, we got some minor, silly gift. Usually it was a towel. Sometimes it was a puck. Other times, it was sunglasses. So we all wore them out of the locker room and somebody snapped this picture. That’s me on the far left, again holding up the wall. I have my hockey bag in my hand and I’m still dressed in my hockey gear from the waist down, which was common as a kid. I will never get the spelling right, but to my immediate left is Mike Dellichiae, the resident clown on the team.  In the middle is my sister, who probably had no choice but to come with us! She looks pretty happy, though. Next to her is Mike Motta. He was our goalie and he wasn’t a very good one. Next to him – I am not sure. I think it might a kid named Mike Barone, but that’s just a stab in the dark.

This was my LIFE on weekends. Ice rinks. Sometimes it was my hockey games, other times it was my sister’s ice skating competitions. But know this – it was every weekend. EVERY weekend. And it is a treasured memory.

Problem Child

Somebody Get Me A Doctor

OK, this one is pretty funny and slightly embarrassing. It is the fall of 1990, my first year at Kent State. This is not the dorm, though, and it wasn’t shot on campus. A few guys in the dorm had gone to high school together and some of their friends from back home were having a party, so we tagged along, “we” being my friend Larry Cassen and his sister, Trudy, who was my girlfriend at the time. That’s her hair on the left in the picture. I am standing, and Larry is sitting right in front of me. I am obviously the very definition of high fashion here. Gulp. WTF? I am actually wearing Larry’s pink Vaurnet t-shirt. I can’t for the life of me remember why I would need to be wearing his shirt or why I wore a Vuarnet shirt in the first place. I can definitively tell you that this is the only time I have EVER worn such a shirt. And of course, it’s freaking documented. Rats. Anyway, the pink Vaurnet shirt, a CBS Sports baseball hat, black pants and an emerging mullet. Let’s just say this: it’s a good thing I had a girlfriend. I do get points for the double beers in my hand, though.

The Dorm Life


Another gem. This was taken in the fall of 1990 in my dorm room at Kent State. Of course, many many college mini-fridges looked exactly like this and still do today, I would guess. But for those of us who were in college in the early 1990’s, who could forget when Keystone burst on the scene!? They had a marketing BLITZ and they claimed to have some special can that kept the beer COLDER for LONGER! And it was CHEAP! Well, all of us fell for it and I bet you did too. I don’t even know if they still make Keystone (I think they do) anymore, but it was not great beer. Still, it was cheap! Anyway, my absolute favorite part of this picture isn’t that my dorm fridge is FULL of beer, it’s that it’s full of beer and one single jar of Miracle Whip. There’s no bread, no cold cuts, no food whatsoever. But there’s Miracle Whip. I guess that’s in case some bread and sliced turkey ever made its way into my room, I suppose. Funny.

Can You Do It?

A few days ago I was, as I do every day, scanning my feedreader for stories that interest me. A site I’ve been reading lately is and they had a post about encouraging and empowering your children and letting them know they can do anything if they really try hard and apply themselves. As I was reading that article, a distinct memory suddenly came to mind.

When I was growing up and especially between the ages of, say, 10-18, I was pretty sure I wanted to play hockey. In the early part of that time period, I was sure I could make the NHL. In the latter part, I grew to be more realistic, but felt like I might be able to hook on as a 3rd or 4th liner at a lower level Division 1 college. Neither goal was reached and that’s fine. Not being able to do that led me to other things for which I am very grateful for. You can see some of those things on my about page if you really want to.

Anyway, our house was probably a typical house. It was not littered with empowerment, inspirational posters or TV show perfection (is anyone’s family or upbringing like Family Ties was? I think not). We were a family, like any other family, trying to get through our days and make do as best as we could. We all have pockmarks. Good times and bad. Laughs, cries, ups and downs.

This one particular story involves my Uncle Donny. I was probably 11-12, which would have made him about 26 or 27. He had an absolutely GRAND personality and as a 11-12 year old, his grandeur was enlightening, entertaining and occasionally frightening and overwhelming. Not frightening in a violent way, let me make that clear. Just frightening in a way that an 11 year old feels so small next to someone so physically and mentally big. This is a guy who literally picked me up and THREW me out of the way of a falling tree in our backyard when we were putting in the pool. See?

So anyway, we were sitting on our couch at home one summer and I think we were either watching the Red Sox or Wimbledon, two of his favorite things and our conversation turned to what I wanted to do with myself. I told him I wanted to play hockey. He immediately and flatly told me “you are not good enough, you should think about something else,” and then he went off to the fridge and that was the end of the conversation. I remember wanting to ask him more about it, but he bolted off and went into another conversation with someone else. Those words have lay dormant ever since, given he was tragically dead two years later of a brain aneurysm.  Now, at first glance, his words seem closed-minded and borderline mean. I’ve wondered ever since what his intention was in saying that.

So here I am, 38 and still wondering. Knowing my uncle, I am pretty sure he meant it to be inspirational in his own unique and odd way. I am pretty sure that he thought it would spur me to prove him wrong. That maybe he would be part of the inspiration for me to knock down walls and do everything I could do to reach my goals and stick it to him! I think he would have actually been proud to have me prove him wrong. Anyway, that is what I hope his goal was in saying that.

Now, the other side of the coin is this: maybe he really knew I wasn’t good enough to make a career out of it. Maybe he used that statement as a true realist, trying to help me realize that you should always be thinking about door #2. Having options. Being prepared.

I will never know his aim in that statement, but for some reason it has stuck with me for a long, long time. I do have great confidence that he didn’t mean it in a demeaning way. Because I (and we) knew him well enough. The shitty part is that I never got to ask him and it will lay out there in the ether for the rest of time.

Uncle Donny on the left. Me on the right. Unidentified girlfriend in the middle.
Uncle Donny on the left. Me on the right. Unidentified girlfriend in the middle.

My Life In The Game

I couldn’t but laugh as I walked down the supermarket aisle recently. I was just hopping along on my way to get orange juice (I’m back buying Tropicana again now that the cartons are back to normal) and on the way to the OJ section, you have to pass by the magazine section. I had no intention of stopping at the magazines until a casual glance stopped me. A Dustin Pedroia book sat on the shelves. Now, for those of you that don’t know or care, Pedroia is the Red Sox current second baseman.Now, by anyone’s admission, Pedroia has had an impressive first couple of years in the major leagues. All of 25 years old, he’s already won himself a Rookie of the Year trophy and was last years AL MVP. All well and good. But a book? Come on! A BOOK!? Even better, the book is called “My Life In The Game,” as if he’s 62 years old or something. He’s twenty-freaking-five! If I want to read “A Life In The Game” I want to read it from Hank Aaron. Or Sandy Koufax. Hell, even Ron Luciano (old school reference…..and yes, I saw him ump a game in 1979). OK, I get that kids might look up to him. I get it. But a book from a guy whose been a major leaguer for about 2.5 seasons? Cripes! Off my soapbox.

I know, I know. There are a lot of obnoxious parents out there who blog, talk and pontificate endlessly about their children. I try really hard not to be that guy, unless, of course, you ask me. Then I’m a proud, blabbering idiot. But today I’m posting this video, just because I feel like doing it. So enjoy.