Tuesday, October 21, 2014
It's not just hockey for the MC Monarchs
Team owner Mark Gilman shares a laugh with MC Monarchs coach Jason McCrimmon (Photo courtesy of John Corzine/Hockey Weekly)
“He’s part hockey coach, part Father Flanagan.”
That short summation by team owner Mark Gilman described Macomb
County Monarchs head coach Jason McCrimmon.
Following a recent practice at Fraser Hockeyland, McCrimmon
gathered a handful of players in his office and closed the door.
“They have developed big heads,” he explained later,
Who can blame the upstart Monarchs for their confidence?
The team opened the season by winning its first six games. Those wins included
sweeping a three-game series against the third-ranked Tier 3 Junior team in the
country, the Soo Firehawks, as well as a victory over the previously undefeated
Detroit Fighting Irish.
The Monarchs were in Traverse City last weekend to play the
“Jason is a very well-respected as a coach,” said Gilman.
“He can be tough on the players, but he also knows when to laugh. He is not a
The Monarchs are a first-year Junior A (Tier 3) team that
plays out of Fraser. They are a member of the Midwest Junior Hockey League. The
Macomb County team joined the Alpena Flyers, Berkley Bruins, Decataur Blaze,
Michigan Ice Dogs, Soo Firehawks and Traverse City Hounds.
The MJHL is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sanctioned
Tier III league. Its stated primary goal is to develop its players on and off
the ice for higher levels of junior hockey and to be able to play college
After the MWJHL’s inaugural season, more than 30 players
had secured college hockey offers at the NCAA Division III level and at all
three levels of ACHA hockey. That number was similar after the 2013-14 season.
Still, the Monarchs seem to be about much more than wins
and losses. A look at the unique resume on the back of McCrimmon’s hockey trading
card might provide a clue.
McCrimmon was born and raised in Detroit. He’s from the
city and even though Detroit is called Hockey Town by some that is hardly the
“My mom was a social worker. She made me try hockey when
I was three years old. I hated it. Why did I want to stand around on some ice
and freeze to death? None of my friends were playing,” he said, laughing.
But McCrimmon kept playing, more out of obligation to his
mom than anything else. When he was 10, he moved on and played with some teams
in Grosse Pointe and then later with Belle Tire.
At 16 he quit. Other priorities beckoned, just like they
do for plenty of teens. He did not play again until he was 20 years old.
“I didn’t have any passion for the game,” he explained. “I
had other priorities.”
An opportunity presented itself at Northland College in
Ashland, Wisconsin. After two years there, he moved on to the University of
Massachusetts Boston. He later played for Muskegon and Flint of the IHL, as
well as other teams.
McCrimmon had just returned from a multi-year stint as
the captain of the Hela-Kiekko professional team in Finland when he met with
Gilman, who was intrigued by the 6-4, 260-pound McCrimmon’s story.
“I knew he had a lot of fights in his career and wanted
to see the toll that was paid on his knuckles. He made me laugh when he said
the worst part about hockey fights was not broken bones in the hand, but that
you never get used to being hit in the face. He wanted out,” said Gilman.
Scar tissue doesn’t negate compassion.
The Monarchs have formed partnerships with the Hope
Center in Fraser as well as with McCrimmon’s Ice Dreams hockey program in
The Hope Center is a non-profit, Christian-based,
human-services organization whose purpose is to address the hunger crisis and
respond to the needs of county residents. Ice Dreams is designed to introduce
ice skating and hockey to kids in Detroit.
“We want these players to be productive citizens. Not only
do we want them to get better on the ice but off the ice as well. We are not
only building players, but young men, too,” said McCrimmon.
The majority of the players are from Macomb County.
Several are Oakland County residents. There are also two on the roster from the
Cape Cod area and one from the Czech Republic.
The team will play 46 regular-season games. The playoffs
follow the regular season.
“I love hockey. Jason and I are really good friends and
he deserves this chance. I’ve seen so much bad coaching and situations where
the kids aren’t treated right. We wanted to start a team that would do right by
the kids. We’ll follow through on our promises,” said Gilman.
Gilman is the owner of Decus Strategic Consulting and Communications,
a marketing and public relations firm in Waterford. He resides in Clarkston
with his wife, Patti. They have five children in their blended family. Three of
them either played or are playing hockey.
“I’m just a hockey geek,” said Gilman.
Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, was a kids
geek. The Irish priest believed there were no bad boys. McCrimmon seems to
espouse that same belief.
Even those boys who occasionally get big heads.
Friday, October 17, 2014
A Thank You note to Mike Ilitch
This is a Thank You note.
Not to my aunt for a pair of argyle socks or my
nephew for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt.
Nope, it is to Mike Ilitch.
And no, Mr. Ilitch didn't give me a Hickory
Farms basket for Christmas.
I want to thank him for the Red Wings. I want to
thank him for the Tigers.
I was watching the Red Wings beat the Bruins in
their home opener Thursday night and it got me to thinking; the Wings
have made it into the playoffs the last 23 seasons and I’m not sure we all
appreciate that fact.
I remember when Mike Ilitch bought a Red Wings’ team
that was so woeful he had to give a car away pretty much every game just to get
people to stop by the arena.
They had been called the Dead Wings by Channel 4
broadcaster Al Ackerman. Or was it the Dead Things? Either way, neither was
It's 11 o'clock, do you know where Ned Harkness
Those Red Wings were a joke and that is
something that should be remembered when people grouse about these Red Wings not
getting to the conference finals or the Stanley Cup Finals or even winning the
I just wanted to send a Thank You note to the
Not for argyle socks. Not for a T-shirt. Not for
a Hickory Farms assortment basket. But for turning the Red Wings back into a
winning organization and keeping them there.
While I'm at it I ought to get back to the
Hallmark store and pick up another card.
Dear Mr. Ilitch, thanks for the Tigers.
I know they have to be frustrating the heck out
of you lately. You spent all of that money and not all of it has brought a good
return. A team that was supposed to make a serious run at the World Series
championship stumbled in the opening round of the playoffs.
But the team has won the Central Division the
last four seasons. They have played some outstanding baseball and the lineup is
sprinkled with some of the best and brightest in the game. Comerica Park is a
great place to watch baseball and there has been lots of good baseball to see in
I know you are a baseball guy. I know you grew
up a fan of the Tigers and even had a shot in the minor leagues.
You are one of us. Someone from here who has a
passion for the game. You want the Tigers to win as much as we do if not more
and you're willing to pay the price.
That passion alone is something to say thanks
You have proven that you can field competitive
teams -- and even championship teams -- in a town about as far away from the
bright lights as you can get. We don't have South Beach. We have Metro Beach. We
don't have Broadway. We have Henry the Hatter on Broadway Avenue in downtown
Detroit. We don't have Malibu. We drive Malibus.
But we have Cabrera. We have Zetterberg. We have
Datsuyk. We have Verlander. So I guess that means we have Upton, too (Kate, not
B.J. or Justin)
We have our share of stars. We have more than
our share of wins and even a few titles.
We have a pretty darned good owner.
That Thank You note is in the mail.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Fanning the flames
I’m Wes from West Bloomfield. Joe Nathan is a jerk.
I am Frank from Fraser. Brad Ausmus is abysmal.
this is Rick from Royal Oak. What is wrong with Matthew Stafford?
this is Oliver from Oak Park. Oops, all right, I have turned my radio down. How
come the Pistons have been so pathetic recently?
there you have it. The voice of the fans.
has an opinion, especially the irate. Everybody can be heard loud and clear,
especially if they yell loudly enough. Not just on the radio, but also on
television, through blogs, on Twitter, Facebook and a variety of other social
at the stadium.
of speech. It is guaranteed in our constitution. I’ll bet our forefathers never
is entitled to their opinion. Wes from West Bloomfield. Frank from Fraser. Rick
from Royal Oak. Oliver from Oak Park.
is part of the game. Especially when Nathan blows a one-run lead in the ninth.
Or Ausmus makes questionable decisions from the dugout. Or Stafford throws two
interceptions. Or Jimmy Howard lets in four goals. Or the Pistons lose yet
brings up this old truism. The worst jobs in town are the closer for the Tigers,
the starting quarterback for the Lions, and the top goalie for the Red Wings.
folks are frequently the most unpopular people around. The best jobs in town: the
backups for all of the above. Hurray for Joakim Soria; yahoo for Dan Orlovsky
and Kellen Moore; and how come Jonas Gustavsson doesn’t play more?
adore our athletes. We despise them occasionally, too. We love our teams. We just
don’t like them sometimes. Win and we’ll put chocolates on their pillows. Lose
and there is a flaming bag on the front porch.
is the epitome of a love-hate relationship, and when fans hate we speak very,
very loudly. Justified or not, the volume increases when we start thinking
about how much our professional athletes who are screwing up make. They are all
most of us are not. We pay to get into the stadium. We pay 20 bucks or so to
park our cars. If we go out to eat, the food is more often than not served via
a drive thru window. We regularly have to make decisions like whether to pay
the mortgage on time, or instead pick up a prescription at the drug store;
should we put a new muffler on the car or deal with Detroit Edison and
am not sure our professional athletes agonize over the same things. Do they want
a Porsche or Mercedes; an Escalade or Land Rover? What do they feel like eating
tonight, filet or lobster tails? Where will they vacation; the French Riviera
we get mad at times, but don’t take it personally, guys. We love you. We love
our teams. At least most of the time.
we don’t it’s time for Wes from West Bloomfield, Frank from Fraser, Rick from
Royal Oak and Oliver from Oak Park to speak up.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Every kid should have an inalienable right to play
Every kid should have
the inalienable right to go down a slide.
Or sit on a swing, climb
on some monkey bars or just go out and enjoy themselves in a playground.
That should be written
into our constitution, shouldn’t it?
For most youngsters, it
is. But there are thousands of kids in this area alone who cannot enjoy a
Carla Fanson’s son,
Mason, is five years old. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He
also has an autism spectrum disorder.
“I would say that during
Mason’s five years, we have been to a regular park playground only four or five
times. He is just very limited. I have to lift him into a swing. Climbing the
stairs to play structures is dangerous because he cannot lift his legs fully at
times. Even the woodchips they use underneath most regular play structures are
a hazard because if Mason falls, he is at risk for seizures.
Carla Fanson and her son, Mason, look at plans for a barrier-free park.
“A barrier-free park
would open so many doors for him. It would allow Mason to do things independently.
He would be able to socialize with other kids,” continued Carla Fanson.
A barrier-free park and
playground is exactly what Vania Apps and the Fraser First Booster Club have
been working hard to create.
“We created a non-profit. We worked with the
parks and recreation department in Fraser. Initially, we just wanted to see
better parks. The more we learned, the more we realized that a large group of
kids were not able to play at a conventional park and playground. Because of
that, many special needs kids don’t even bother going. There’s usually nothing
they can do. If there is, their options are very limited.”
Work is underway on the McKinley
Barrier-Free Playground and Park located at Grove and 13 Mile in Fraser. Stakes
were put in the ground this summer and construction is underway on the parking
lot, walking path and comfort station.
While that is a start,
it is hardly the completion of a dream. The park and playground’s design will
allow everyone to easily access the play equipment, structures, approaches and
Among its many special
features will be ramped wheelchair access to the highest platform of the play
structure; swings with back support; elevated sand tables and activity panels where
children of all abilities can play together; and sensory-rich activities that
can let imaginations soar – for the hearing and visually impaired as well as
for every child.
A legacy dinner in memory of Sandy Caloia to
benefit the barrier-free park was held recently at Fern Hill Country Club in
Clinton Township. Tickets were $100 and entertainment was provided by The
Island Doctor. It was a Caribbean themed buffet and a silent auction was held.
Caloia was a very important member of the Fraser First Booster Club.
Despite the group’s
fund-raising efforts over the years that has brought in over $400,000, nearly $250,000
is needed to help complete the project.
Apps wrote a blog that
is published on the group’s website. It is titled “The Power of Play.”
In it, she writes, “I
could speak all day of the power of play; the creativity it evokes, the
opportunity for problem solving that it presents, the connection to the now
that it demands, the focus and ultimate confidence gained. Yes, I could speak
all day on the power of play.
“But barrier-free play
is the most powerful play of all because it is inclusive. Although kindness
will be fostered in barrier-free play, its greatest power is to educate. Let me
share this story about my niece’s daughter, Lila.
“Lila, who was four
years old at the time, was shopping with her mother. She saw a person who was
mentally and physically challenged and gripped her mother’s hand in such a way
that my niece looked down at her and said `What’s the matter, Lila?’
“Lila in all the innocence
of a young child answered, `I’m afraid of the handicaps. They scare me.’
Isn’t it time that Lila
and Mason got together and played? She’ll see there is nothing to be afraid of.
For more information on
the Fraser First Booster Club, visit www.fraserfirst.com
Friday, September 19, 2014
A coach knows the importance of high school sports
cynical folks have it wrong.
dismiss sports and game results, saying they are not life and death.
school football coach Alfredo Calderon would beg to differ.
doctors have told me that I shouldn’t be out here. They told me I should stay
home and let my body heal. Well, if I didn’t have this, I don’t know what I
would do,” said Calderon.
was on the sidelines with the Michigan Collegiate football team as the Cougars
rolled over host Plymouth Educational Center Prep, 45-0, one recent Friday evening.
locale isn’t surprising. Calderon has been the head coach of the Cougars for
he was in a sit-down walker. While he could get up and stand, those moments
were brief. Calderon had on the obligatory headsets.
knows he is not just fortunate to be with the Michigan Collegiate Cougars in
the fall of 2014. Calderon is also fortunate to be alive.
was Thursday, Oct. 31, when he began to feel ill. He told his wife that he
thought they should go to the hospital.
was a boil. I’m diabetic and I’ve had them before, so I wasn’t too concerned.
But one doctor came in and then another and another. That got me a little
worried. I told them I had a game the next day.”
Collegiate was scheduled to play host Livonia Clarenceville at 7 p.m., Friday,
Nov. 1, in a Division 5 pre-district tournament game.
3 a.m., Friday, the coach was taken into surgery. He did not wake up until
December 17. He’d been in a coma. He had sepsis. His kidneys had shut down.
you know what it is like to have a month and a half missing from your life? I
had missed Thanksgiving. It was a week before Christmas and I had no idea. But
the first thing I asked was `Did we win?’”
Collegiate had fallen to Clarenceville, 51-21.
Calderon regained consciousness, he soon became conscious of the fact that he
couldn’t talk. He could not feel his legs. He would have to re-learn some of
the fundamentals of life like walking, standing and even going to the bathroom.
month or so later, Calderon was rushed back to the hospital for an obstruction
in the intestinal tract. Complications from that surgery ensued.
told, Calderon spent over six months in the hospital. He still goes to the
wound clinic regularly and has rehabilitation three times per week.
has come a long way. In football parlance, he knows there are many yards left to
travel. He wears braces on his feet to combat foot drop.
been with the team since the summer,” he said. “I was with them during passing
camps. I was in wheelchair at Wayne State. It was just important for me to be
on that recent Friday evening, meant Kilgore Field on East Forest in
Detroit. Calderon was on the headphones helping Johnny Guth, who has taken over
as the head coach at Collegiate.
is doing a great job. He was with me the whole time at Collegiate and he is
smiled and gave a thumbs up. You just knew there was nowhere he would have
rather been than along the sidelines.
gets me going. This keeps me going,” he said. “There’s no way I would stay away
if I could possibly be here.”
He missed the Cougars’ playoff game last year. They are 3-0 heading into
a Week Four game against Detroit University Prep at Bishop Foley. Already, they
are halfway to another berth in the playoffs.
way Calderon will miss this one. Not with everything he’s been through. Not
with everything he has done to get back.
Monday, August 11, 2014
The Beach Boys span the generations
I’m watching the Beach Boys at Freedom Hill.
It is Sunday night and I’m on the lawn with my wife, Kim.
We are looking at a complete mix of people; from infants in
Pampers to their grandparents in Depends. Sitting close by are teens. Also on blankets near us are folks whose high school graduations were so long ago that Abraham Lincoln gave
the commencement address.
Some are eating soft pretzels. Some are drinking
beverages that are definitely not soft drinks.
Spanning the generations isn’t an easy thing to do in the
Filling up a place like Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights
It is a testament to the music of the Beach Boys.
Good Vibrations isn’t just a song. It is also a feeling
and the Beach Boys make people feel good.
Truthfully, growing up, I was never that big on the Beach
Boys. They were a little too straight-laced and I was into music that had more of an edge.
Groups like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and the Stooges.
As I get older, my appreciation for longevity increases.
I find it remarkable that songs first performed in the 1960s and 1970s can
remain so popular today. Think of everything that’s gone on in society since
Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and Alan Jardine got
together in California in 1961. The war in Vietnam. Richard Nixon and Watergate. Mark Zuckerburg
and Facebook. Bill Gates and Microsoft. The riots in Detroit. Detroit and bankruptcy.
The Beach Boys sing about surfing and somehow it works even
though most of us have only surfed the web. They sing about a little deuce coupe
when most of us are tooling around in minvans, SUVs or trucks. Somehow that
They unabashedly wear Hawaiian shirts in a Rust Belt state
and somehow that works, too.
The Beach Boys sing about a life that most of us want to
live. They sing about a lifestyle that most of us want to embrace.
Thanks for stopping by, guys. See you again in 2015.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Drunk teacher didn't follow the dress code
I have been
known to turn on Jerry Springer when nobody else is in the house.
Dating Brothers Who Cheat With Their Mother or something like that.
But even I
was shocked by this story out of Houston:
CBS, a newly-hired teacher was found intoxicated
and not wearing any pants inside an Oklahoma high school classroom on her first
day of work, said police.
was reporting for her first day on the job as all teachers were also returning
for their first day back in school from summer break.
I have worked with more than one person who couldn’t face the day without a
drink or two. And I have known a teacher or two who probably felt like drinking
every morning before facing their own class.
I have never known anyone to show up to work not wearing pants. Even President
Clinton wore his into the Oval Office, at least.
I said, I’m no prude. I even watch Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel
when nobody is around.
But no pants? That has to be against the school dress code.