Wonderful weekend – wish I saw it

May 4 – Wonderful weekend – wish I saw it. Finally we get a great weekend for weather and I am tied up indoors for most of it. Where’s the justice in that.

Saturday – Sport Oakville in conjunction with the Town held our inaugural “Family Sports Fair and River Oaks Community Centre. We felt it would be beneficial to both our association members as well as the general public to have a day where the local sports associations were all in one spot so that people could come out and see what they were all about. Ask questions about programs, and actually see or try some activities.

Overall it went well, but as any first year event, we could have used more spectators coming out. However, our members who were in attendance were very supportive, felt they had made some good contacts and it also served as member networking.

Sport Fair

Chalk that up as a 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM time filler. Afterwards, I did get to zip over to the park at Lakeshore and 3rd line to watch my “grand-nephew” from Guelph’s team play the local OMBA Rep team of 8-9 year olds. Things were going great as Shaun and Becky brought the GKs over to watch as well AND THEN – the bugs came out.

We were literally swarmed by clouds of either gnats or baby skitters that just made life miserable for all of us as they tried to fly up your nose or in your ears or investigate the tunnel down your throat. Ugh!

Sunday – was a treat. I have a one and a half hour presentation on Tuesday that I needed to get started on so I decided I would be better off going into the office for a chunk of the day rather than relying on the access and download speeds I could count on from local internet and VPN.

So far so good – it was a great morning so I jumped on Big Red, scootered to my local CTP Gas Station / Tim Hortons for a Java and over to Clarkson for my 9:33 GO Train. I no sooner park my butt and open the coffee then this heavily accented voice comes over the tinny PA to inform me that the 9:33 train has been cancelled due to unspecified operational issues and that I could enjoy the fresh morning air while waiting for my next opportunity – the 10:03. Fine!

The 10:03 dutifully arrives and I milk run into Union Station only to find that Union Subway has been shut down and barricaded out of bounds such that they would not even let me walk through to get the P.A.T.H. shortcut to the King Subway. I had to walk the circle route to get there and finally made it to my office around 11:30 AM. Of course I was there by myself – not necessarily a bad thing – except that with no one working, the air conditioning was not either and since I face southwest on the glass. Let’s just say it very quickly became a tropical paradise without the paradise element.

Then I had to do the circle tour on my way home, got to Union between trains and ended up getting home around 6:30. Another glorious day shot (so I then get dragged out grocery shopping) – had to source some prime BBQ material so we got fresh chicken breasts and Chef Moi did his usual superb job in creating the signature BBQ Chicken Breast Burgers.

Moorehead Estates Winery – Had fun bottling our plonk on Friday night. Has a good customer experience at Vin Bon and get “sold” on ordering another batch of a special Red plonk. Shaun took his bottles with him, but I am holding Andrew’s hostage as he is now off golfing in Arizona.

Sunday night was the official “lay down” night for our plonk. Apparently you are supposed to stand it vertically for two days to do something and then you tip it on its side to get working on the aging process. We are now aging with batch 1.

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Moorehead Estates Winery

May 1 – On the Road Again! – Big Red is Back. Yesterday that is because I wanted to say I was “biking” in April – and since I was out of town until yesterday, I just made it.

Not today – I could not put on the leathers and hit the mean streets today because it is bottling night and I am meeting “Da Boys” at the vintners to bottle our plonk. It was good to be back on the scooter as I enjoy the fresh air first thing in the morning and I can zip into my local Canadian Tire gas bar on the way for a fresh cup of Tim Hortons coffee for my train ride. Fortunately Big Red has a built in cup holder so that works out just fine.

Maritimes – was in Moncton Tuesday and Halifax Wednesday for a taste of Eastern hospitality. While the folks were great the weather going into Moncton was brutal. We flew in on a Dash 8 and could not see the nose in front of our faces. The pilot knew he had lots of runway to work with so we used carrier landing tactics. We went in smokin’ hot in case he had to bolter, so that when we touched down (.6 seconds after the white runway became visible through the snow) he ended up slamming on the binders so hard you really did need the seatbelt to keep from sliding off the front. Not a big fan of those touchdowns but considerably better than some alternatives. Folks on the ground were surprised we got in.

The Moncton weather was so bad there was about three inches of heavy wet slush on the ground and it was not warm. There I was – not hat, no gloves, no boots and walking around in a sports jacket. Come on – it was the end of April – who’d a thunk it!

(Gerry – we did go past Rosario’s but it did not fit into the meal plan timing – I did plug it to the locals)

By the time we drove across the NB/NS border, the slushy snow became rain and had stopped between Truro and Halifax. Have hit a few restaurants in Halifax but got a recco for another and it was fabulous seafood – apparently more for the locals – not so much the tourists. Highly recommended.

McKelvie’s Delishes Fishes Dishes

1680 Lower Water Street, Halifax, Nova

We flew back on a 757 – nice big airplane with the cute little comfy cubbies up front. I did not have one of those. I was in steerage which is usually not so bad, except that this time the seat directly behind me was occupied by Mom and her screaming little hellion that screeched for most of the 2.5 hour flight! Even through my headphones it was very, very annoying. A relief to get back on the ground in Toronto.

Moorehead Estates Winery – It is now official. The bottling, corking, foiling, labeling and packing are complete and Moorehead Estates Winery was officially launched tonight with a modest 26 bottles of plonk heading to the Moorehead cellars.

Wine 2

So far a big plus and thumbs up to Vin Bon as the bottling session was great. We got lots of attention and help and got to taste a couple of their other products – clearly as a sales inducement but also as a nice customer service touch. It worked. We ordered a second “Batch” tonight as we headed out with the first.

No qualms in recommending this merchant to others as we felt they have done well by us. The Groupon deal was $59 plus we bought bottles for $1 apeice for the 26 bottles and a total cost of $85 or less than $4 per bottle for not a bad wine.

Let it stand for two days, then lay down to age (ideally 3 months or more but drinkable after a couple weeks – we tried some.

This may turn me into a wino, but remember – all things in moderation.

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Three Times Unlucky

Apr 27Mistake Number 1! – have just about recovered from my “Senior Moment” Friday and all the abuse I have taken since then for an innocent mistake.

As any commuter knows, Toronto’s Union Station has been construction central for the last couple of year with a major renovation / revitalization project that still has several years to go. Every morning and night is a wander through the maze to find the right rabbit hole to enter or exit.

The most recent changes involved a number of track changes to try to route customers around active construction areas. In the morning I now come in on track 25/26 (usually) versus formerly 10/11.

Going home is a bit more challenging as it depends on which train I catch given there are several options and the tracks have changed for all of them. All of this as preamble to last Friday when I rushed to make the 5:25 express. Formerly on tracks 11/12 now usually moved to 7/8 but Friday switched to 5/6. With the stairwells split, I zipped up the stairs to 4/5, exited, stage left and jumped on a very crowded train just ready to pull out as I had missed the last boarding announcement. Figuring that it was crowded with Friday folks wanting to get the express, I found a stairway – jam yourself in seat and sat down as the train started out of the station/

Only to hear the on route announcement – “Welcome to the 5:20 all stops train to Milton. Next Stop Kipling”! Oh Oh! The “exit stage left” had put me on track 4 not track 5 so as Maxwell Smart would say, I missed it by “that much”! At least it was another Westbound train as otherwise, I would have been on my way to Pickering or Barrie.

At this point there was no escape so I called Jane, fessed up on my bonehead play and we agreed to meet at the Erindale GO station. From there on it has been non-stop heckling!

Hope I find my way to the right track / train tonight with the new and probably confusing concourse now open. I think I will stick with the old one as long as I can!

New GO Concourse

Wrong Again – Of course after my Wings folded up like a cheap suitcase for 17 seconds in Game 4 and then lost in OT, I wrote them off. They had just blown a chance to go up 3-1 in the series, had lost the game and the momentum and had to head into Tampa Bay to basically play a best 2 out of 3 without home ice advantage. Being the astute hockey analyst that I am, I had come to the logical conclusion that they were done (as did probably every other analyst in the World). But, wrong – they go into Tampa on Saturday night and shut out the regular season’s highest scoring team to jump back into the series lead with Game 6 in MoTown tonight. While I really did not expect it, I will take it and once again fearlwessly predict that they have to win tonight if they are going to win the series. There is no way on GGE (God’s Green Earth) that they can even hope to win 3 out of 4 games in Tampa if it goes to Game 7.

Petr – stay hot for one more game. Stamkos – stay sleep for one more game. Wings in general – stay out of the box – and we have a shot!

Go Wings Go!

So far 2 – 0 for Tampa in the first! Definitely not good.

Third time lucky – or since bad things happen in threes, I got disrupted in my morning routine which is always problematic. I got my coffee, I got my tunes got my backpack with all my stuff in it – BUT – forgot to grab my eReader as I went out the door and did not realize it until I was at the bus stop – too late to go back. Not good as it meant I did not have my normal read and had to make do with one of the free daily rags that really has nothing in it. Hopefully, that has got all the silliness out of my system and I can get back to normal!

On the road again – No, not Roger Miller, moi. Off to the east coast again with a visit to NB and NS on Tuesday / Wednesday. That will chew up a good chunk of this week.

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17 Seconds and Kaput!

Apr 24 – 17 Seconds. That’s how long it took my Wings to hand their play-off series to Tampa last night! Up 2 – 0 in game four with less than six minutes to play, Detroit looked to be cruising to a 3 – 1 series lead heading back to Tampa and a great chance for an upset series win – I also had a beer riding on this. I did not expect them to win the series up front, but things were looking good. 17 seconds later the score is 2 – 2, the Wings are shell shocked, lose in OT and now head to Tampa with the Lightning re-energized and the series tied at 2. Had my hopes up – only to get hit with a harsh case of reality. Get the golf clubs out. Its a cruel, cruel game for us hockey fans!

Wine – Got the call! (email actually). My homebrew, commercial grade, is ready for bottling. I guess it was 4 – 6 weeks ago I bought into a Groupon deal for winemaking at Vin Bon. My “vat” of grape juice is now ready for stage two which is going in and bottling it to take home and “lay down” to “age”. We are going in next Friday for the bottling ceremony and division of spoils (Shaun, Andre and Moi). It then is supposed to age for at least 4 to 6 months before you indulge. I suspect that timeframe is to let the vintner leave town in case it is really bad? Here’s hoping.

Without waiting for this batch to “age”, the plan is to identify a couple of other “deals” for the three of us to get at least two other varieties on the go. With folks extolling the virtues of these instant wineries and a “deal” cost of $3 – $6 a bottle I hope they are right. In this case, literally, time will tell.

Taxes – It is that time of year where one is once again forced to face the “cost of living” in this country and its visible impact through that temporary war measure called “income tax” (bet you didn’t know that it was supposed to be a temporary measure to raise money to “support” war spending). Of course, when the pols saw how great a funding tool it was – good-bye temporary, hello permanent and escalating.

Right or wrong, I have always done my own taxes which brings me up close and personal to those boxes on my T4. Every year my blood pressure skyrockets and the quality of my vocabulary drops when I have to enter the tax withholding amounts. I always look at the (obscene) total and compare it with what my gross salary was many moons ago when I was first employed by the Economical Mutual Insurance Company who as their name suggests were not big spenders. Yes it was a number of years ago and yes the times they are a changing, but the initial salary to current tax withholding ratio is an incredulous and absolutely useless number.

As a long-term Quick Tax, now Turbo Tax (Intuit) user, the moment of truth when you check the final “Summary” is always a nail biter. It always used to be a “How much more do I owe the S.O,B,s this year” kind of moment but in the last couple of years I have managed to make them write me a check. While it does make me feel a bit better, it still rankles at how much blood they get out of this stone. This year was one of my better ones but that still does not appease me totally when I think about all the other “hidden taxes” we cover over the year. Gas tax – excise, provincial and HST, Beer and Liquor taxes, property tax, school tax, sales tax, taxes on utilities, licences and so on.

There is a date published that is known as the “Tax Freedom” day – i.e., the day when you had covered off all of your covert, overt , direct and indirect taxes for the year. According to the Fraser institute, the day came a day later in 2014 than 2013.

The 2014 Tax Freedom Day was June 9th!


In other words, you were working almost half of the year for the government! I thought that was silly servants that worked half a year but that is a different concept.

As quoted:

“If you had to pay all your taxes up front, you’d give government each and every dollar you earned before Tax Freedom Day. The later the Tax Freedom Day, the heavier the tax burden,”.

According to the source – this year, the average Canadian family will pay $43,435 in total taxes, or 43.5% of their annual income.

The Fraser Institute has a neat little “personal” Tax Freedom Day calculator – by province. Try it.

Happy Tax Time Everyone!

Note: in today’s mail I got my nice juicy tax refund check! I only filed last week – what happened? I guess they send refunds quick as a teaser and then they hit you with an audit!

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We want warm!

Apr 23 – A bit of a cold and dreary week. After the “taste” of great weather Saturday, I want that everyday – starting now! Got to the office Monday, only to find that some unnamed party(s) was aware of my birthday Saturday and had terrorized my space – well done! As an added bonus, our network was done which impacted my ability to get up and rolling but fortuitously gave me downtime to deal with the “decorations”!Office decor

I was in such shock and awe that I haven’t posted since (actually was way too busy and, or lazy).

Sens – Are heading for the golf course. Not as early as the Leafs but down 3 – 0 to the Habs before last night’s win, they might as well mail it in. Too bad as this series could just as easily have been at 2 – 1 or 3 – 0 the other way “subject to the breaks” but Montreal is the better team. Sunday’s overtime winner was one of those classics – the ones that should go in don’t and those that should not go in do! It was nowhere near the toughest of the 49 shots Anderson faced but it was the 49th. Thankfully the Habs did not win on their overtime powerplay as in my opinion, the boarding call was a pretty chintzy call – especially in overtime of what was a pretty physical game where a lot else was let go.

After they stole one, my Wings came back to earth with a more indicative and expected 5 – 1 loss. While I would like to see them advance, Tampa by rights is a stronger team and should advance – but you never know, which is why they play the games.

That got proven again on Tuesday with their big home ice win over the Lightning where they played solid home ice hockey and managed to protect the one goal lead in the third until picking up the insurance goal.

They have now gone up 2 – 1 in the series and have another home game tonight. Dare I get my hopes up/ If they win tonight, I think they have a chance. If Tampa evens it out heading to game 5 then I still think the Floridians will win – unfortunately.

The picture is a challenging one for the first round match-ups so I don’t really know who I would pick to grab the cup – definitely wait to post round 1. It was too bad to see Winnipeg get the broom but it sounds like they were a pretty beat-up team and they had trouble with those pesky 60 minute three period games.

I think they were also put off last night seeing the PM show up wearing a Team Canada sweater when everyone else in the building (almost) was sporting the Winnipeg Whites. If Harper thought the TC jersey was a neutral sop to all the Canadian teams by not showing a favourite, I think he got bad advice. He should absolutely have had the Jets logo on his chest. Wonder how many votes that cost him?

Cogeco – suffered an outage that impacted a lot of people on Saturday night for cable, internet and phone. We had the trifecta so all were down at our place. That did a number on any live TV watching – especially the NHL playoffs so I imagine there were a lot of PO’d people. Good news is my backlog of downloads worked fine so at least we had something to watch. Just another reminder of how dependent we have all become on technology for our fun and games. Note to self – keep a supply of “unwatched” downloads on hand.

C McD Sweeps – despite finishing a convincing last, the Sabres are still not where they want to be going into the NHL draft as the luck of the lottery smiled on the Oilers “again” to give them the top pick despite quoted odds of 12%. This will be the 4th time in 6 years that Edmonton has been able to scoop the #1 choice and this year is a great one to have the first call. However, 4 times #1 in 6 years does suggest that there should be some type of “purchase” limit for repeat offenders. At some point, either you need to demonstrate team improvement with your high picks or get blackballed from the process.

Another way to look at it is Edmonton has had the first crack at the best “world” entry players four times in the last 6 years and they are still worse than the sad sack Leafs who have done nothing and have not had a #1 pick since Wendel Clark in 1965 – fifty years ago!

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It has been a while

Apr 19 – It has been a while since I found time to make a blog appearance. So much to do, so little time but now that I am a year older and wiser – it won’t make any difference. At the ripe old age of “64”, there are a number of people, including myself, wondering when I am going to retire. Other than the facetious “never”, I really don’t have an answer. Most days I enjoy what I do and feel I continue to make a worthwhile contribution (plus I get paid for it). Given that I am not a sit around kind of guy, I have to figure out what I want to do when I grow up to stay occupied.

Bits and Pieces – since last I wrote.

Looking back to April 9th and my last post, there have been a lot of things I could have covered – but didn’t. No chance of capturing them all today but to close off on a couple.

Minor Hockey – The OHF championships are now long gone which allows the 2015/16 Rep try-outs to start. That is a whole other can of worms I don’t even bother talking about it. Funny though – at the Blood Donor clinic Friday, I mentioned minor hockey to one of the nurses which launched her into a tirade about how unfair they were, how kids were picked, not on ability but for their parents influence or money and how political the whole process was. Given that she was about to stab me with a sharp object, I did not add any fuel to that fire.

However, to wrap the 2014/15 season, the locals had two teams in the OHFs, the Peewee AAAs and the Bantam AAs.

Peewee AAAs – Finished second in the round robin games, lost their semi-final qualifier for the gold medal game but went on to win Bronze. Well done. The Marlies ruled the roost.

Bantam AAs – Finished second in the round robin as well and lost their gold medal game qualifier. There was no Bronze game so that’s all she wrote. Good for them for getting there.

Let’s remember both of these teams are the OMHA champions.

NHL – My Wings staggered into the play-offs but kudos to them as it marks their 24th consecutive appearance – a pro sports record. I have little hope for them in the play-offs as I think Tampa Bay is a better (and healthier) team and the only way Detroit advances is if they get superlative goaltending that steals four games. Not going to happen even though they literally did get a win in game one as Mrazek stole that game with unbelievable play as the Wings were outshot 46 – 14 and won 3 – 2. The magic did not hold for Game 2 (a 5 – 1 loss).

I missed logging into the NHL.com playoff pool by a half hour as I forgot to do it and the pool entries were locked with puck drop of the first game. Had not given a lot of thought to the match-ups so I will wait until after the first round to decide on who I will pick for Lord Stanley’s Mug.

Blue Jays – We were off to the Jays home opener again thanks to Danny’s tickets – with the same results as last year. Dickey started and the Jays lost. Apparently it is my fault and I can’t go anymore. At least this game was not the 6 hour charade that they put on last year. Probably since it was a night game and not the season opener. The big deal about the increased security and scanners was not a big deal. It does take a bit longer to enter but not a lot of extra time as I guess most people are now used to the scanner deal and it looks like the ones at the park are set a lot less sensitive than their airport cousins. I guess the best that can be said here as this has been a windfall opportunity for the scanner manufacturers as they now have an all new market – pro sports venues. I wonder between NHL/MLB/NBA.NFL how many venues with how many “lanes” they got to equip!

The execs are rubbing their hands going “Big Bonus” time.

Jays 2 – For my birthday Andrew, Shaun, Ben and I were off to the Jays / Braves game yesterday. Shaun is a big Braves fan so the inter-league play was a chance to see his team. We had great seats in the 200s (Section 18L – Row 1) which were in line with 1B and basically a level up but in line with Danny’s tickets. The 200 seats are better in a couple ways as they may be farther away from the field but with the first row and the “cushioned” seat they were more comfortable as there was actually legroom for anyone over five feet tall! Both seats were great and I would take either but my knees were not screaming at me after yesterday’s game.

10 inning walk-off homer made it fun for the Jays – too bad for Shaun and his Braves, but 10 innings was lots long for Ben who did well to make it through the game without complaining. He got to run the bases after the game as it was a Junior Jays day but next time we will have it figured out better and send a photographer out ahead as the Jays crowd control on the field made it impossible to get decent pics of him on the bases as they blocked everyone out from the field and told you to go to Home Plate, which was also blocked off to take pics. By the time any of us got there, Ben the speedster had already zoomed around the bases. We did get some shots of him by the coaches box at third base, so all was not lost.

Ben 3rd base

And, he did enjoy his GO Train rides.

Ben GO Home

Maple Leaf Square / Jurassic Park – Through the magic of scheduling, both the Jays and Raptors were playing yesterday afternoon. Our timing worked out not too bad on the GO Train but south of Union was a gong show on the way in. I always take the “south” side walk to the dome as it is shorter and brings you closer to the right gates – especially when you come in on the boonies tracks. However, the “northern” route on Front would likely have been a better bet yesterday as the round ball fans were out in full force with barricades up and people everywhere as they prepared for their game one loss. That area is a nice spot to people watch (in warm weather) as there is no shortage of lunatics on the loose.

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Two days in a row

Apr 9Two days in a row – Fire or fire warning delays on my morning subway hike. At least today was only about a 10 – 15 minute delay not the 3+ hours from yesterday. I had reached Sumerhill before we stalled out so I could have walked if I was desperate. Today’s problem child was at my destination, the Yonge / Eglinton station. Yesterday was just down the line at St. Clair. Given that I don’t believe in coincidence, I wonder what was going on? Interesting that the natives are getting restless based on the bitching, moaning and complaining coming from the mole people this morning.

The Masters

Jack – While Jack is not back, he did drain a hole-in-one during the par three round yesterday in advance of “The Masters”. The Golden Bear is not ageless, but it was really nice to see him sink that one. Years ago, Jack was my favourite golfer and we watched quite a bit of golf, especially the year we lived out West. A lot of the financial success of today’s PGA traces back to the interest that grew out of the development of the game in the 70s with names like Jack, Palmer, Trevino, Casper, Watson, and Crenshaw when television discovered golf and these guys were the show. Viewership and interest in the game soared – as did purse monies. Arnold and Jack became millionaires in the game when that was almost impossible to do on purse money. Today, a champ can pick that up with one win.

The Masters – Having said that, the Masters is snobbery at its best. Some comments about The Masters that you may or may know have heard or know!

  • The Beginnings – The Masters as we know it would never have been, if the USGA hadn’t turned down Bobby Jones’ request to host the 1934 US Open. Angry at the rebuff, Jones and Clifford Roberts decided to stage their own event
  • Words you shouldn’t hear – “fans,” “bleachers,” “sand traps,” “front/back nine.” The officially preferred words are “patrons,” “observation stands,” “bunkers,” and “first/second nine.” That last distinction is aimed at avoiding use of the phrase “front side” for the first nine holes, leading inevitably to the so, so vulgar “back side” for the next nine
  • You should never hear the word “championship” on the telecast – The U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA are championships held by the major ruling and organizing bodies of the sport (or a vestige thereof in the case of the PGA). The Masters is an invitational tournament held at a very pretty golf course, given prestige by the involvement of Bobby Jones. The winner is not the champion of anything.
  • “Mob” – More than 40 years ago, during one tense moment, CBS commentator Jack Whitaker used the term “mob” to describe the scene around a green. The Masters leadership let his bosses know that he wouldn’t be invited back, and he wasn’t.
  • The Masters invented the template for what we know as tournament golf – It was the first 72-hole four day event and the first to use the over/under par system. The Masters also saw the first grandstands for viewers.

Even with its “warts, it is my favourite tournament to watch and in early April with the magnolia blossoms, it is the promise of summer weather to come. Besides, where else can you cheer for “Bubba”?

NHL – Thank you Washington for tagging the Bruins with an “L” – (3 – 0) that improves the playing field for my Wings although they simply (!) just need to win one of their last two games to lock up a spot. Easier said than done, as they hit Montreal first and then close out on the road against Carolina.

Hopefully Philly will take a round out of the Hurricanes tonight to soften them up for my Wings.

Speaking of “softening up”, I watched a bit of the Leafs / Columbus game last night and without paying a lot of attention it seemed like another pathetic effort, 5 – 0 and it could have been a lot worse. I think most people as saying “Please let it be over!”

Based on the above though, regardless of the outcome, it is good to see play-off berth battles coming down to the wire in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. It gives fans a way to possibly generate some interest going into the playoffs as typically the regular season is becoming a “yawner” for a lot of folks.

Peewee AAAs – Congrats to the locals as they wrapped up the round robin with two wins today and locked up 2nd place overall heading into the playoffs for the OHF Championship. They finished their 6 games at 4 – 1 – 1 and play the Eastern Ontario Wild tomorrow at 10:00 AM. In today’s round robin game, Oakville defeated the Wild (ODMHA) 3 – 1. Keep it up guys.

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