Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Stamplax Mann Cup Blog, Post 1: The long and winding road from Peterborough to Victoria

Gorgeous Shuswap Lake as we cruised by on Friday, en route to Victoria for Game 1 of the Mann Cup. We got on the ferry to Victoria at 3 pm. (Photo: Stephen Stamp)
By Stephen Stamp

It's been quite a week since the Peterborough Lakers clinched the Major Series Lacrosse championship with a thrilling 6-5 win over the Six Nations Chiefs in Game 7 last Monday night. I'm going to share with you some of my travels and travails en route to the Mann Cup in Victoria, plus of course what's going on at the Mann itself.

Plans changed a bit when I found out Monday that I wouldn't be able to fly out to Victoria with the winning team on Wednesday. Because of the cost of tickets and other variables, there simply wasn't a ticket available for me to fly out to represent and report for the league. It was a bit of a quandary.

Driving home from the game in Six Nations with my girlfriend (Kerry) and my sister (Jane) we had time to stew about the situation and consider alternatives. Buying tickets for Kerry (my girlfriend) and I wasn't an option because the price had risen to over a thousand dollars. First, a brief history of my relationship with Kerry so that you'll understand how important it was for us to get out to Victoria this week.

We became friends almost two decades ago when we were both rowing in Victoria and we eventually dated for a while. After going our separate ways, we kept in touch over the years (thanks, Facebook), so when I was heading to the coast for the 2013 Mann Cup I messaged her. We met up and things just naturally rekindled. To make a long story short, after talking on the phone daily for months and Kerry coming to visit me in Peterborough the next February, we agreed that she would move from Victoria to the Boro and we would live together.

Kerry became a lacrosse fan watching the '13 Mann and getting to know the Chiefs players, with whom we ate breakfast every morning. Being a Victoria girl, she's also naturally a Shamrocks fan. And now a Lakers fan.

Moving to Peterborough also meant leaving her daughter behind. Now, Kerry's daughter is 24 but it's still tough for a mother to move across the country from her offspring. So as we drove back from Six Nations in my sister's truck, there really wasn't an option to not go west. Kerry needed to see her daughter. We just had to figure out how to make it happen.

I was still somewhat euphoric from calling play by play for the exciting MSL final game, but also bummed about the travel situation and wasn't coming up with any viable ideas. Then Jane spoke up from the back seat, where she was stretched out resting her injured knee. “How long would it take you to drive out?” she asked.

Kerry and I looked at each other, remembering the last time we drove across the country. It happened one year ago, when she was moving to Peterborough. Faced with tight timeline to get her here in her car, we came up with a plan. I flew out the day after Game 6 of the MSL finals (for the record, I'm neutral in any game, but I wouldn't have minded the Lakers wrapping up the series in that one because I hated not being able to call Game 7, which I wasn't even able to watch properly because of spotty internet at the McDonalds in Golden, B.C., but that's a whole other story).

We had dinner with Kerry's family, slept at the apartment she was sharing with her daughter and hit the road early the next morning. We had to get back in time for the Mann Cup in Six Nations and we did it, driving long hours, sleeping in the car to minimize down time and eating from a cooler as we went. We made it through the trip without annoying each other at all, a remarkable fact given just how much time we spent in extremely close quarters, and a great predictor of how we would get along living together. It's the best thing ever.

Back to last Monday night. Kerry and I got home from Six Nations about 2 am and finalized arrangements for the trip. Yes, we decided, we could make it work. We needed to leave as early as possible Tuesday to achieve our goal of hitting the 2 pm ferry from Vancouver to Victoria on Friday. We had things to do before we left. I got up at about 6 to write stories for IL Indoor and this site, then we ran the errands we needed to accomplish before leaving.

Departure time wound up being around 2 pm. We headed north (we have to travel through Canada because Kerry is a UK citizen—born in Northern Ireland—and doesn't have the necessary documents to leave the country yet, so it's a bit longer of a trip than if we cut through the US) and started enjoying our time together immediately.

Then, calamity! We stopped after a few hours and I looked for my backpack to get out my phone charger. The charger is important, but more the bag's more important occupant is my laptop. Unfortunately, a brief but frantic search of the car and then a call to my sister confirmed that the backpack was sitting on a chair at her house (where we have been living—another long story) ready to be packed into the car.

Thank god we left the day before the Lakers flew out. A quick call to Peterborough captain Scott Self and real disaster was averted. Jane took the bag over to Scott's house and he brought it on the plane for me, saving my bacon and establishing him as perhaps the best guy ever.

The drama wasn't done for the day. As we neared Wawa, the transmission fluid overheat light on the car's dashboard came on. I know it's the transmission fluid overheat light because Kerry looked it up. Apparently the light coming on means the transaxle fluid is too hot, which usually happens when you are towing something on a hot day. What it meant in practice was that the car struggled up the hills leading to Wawa, which is foreboding when you know you have to drive through the Rockies in a few days.

We made it to Wawa, though, and parked in the parking lot of the big goose visitor centre. You know the goose; its the famous one from all kinds of Canadian films. We love that goose and planned to incorporate it into Kerry's music video.

That's right, we have another agenda on this trip. We're shooting a video for Kerry's song Dreaming, which was a Vancouver Island Music Awards nominee for best roots single and which is a fantastic song. You can listen to it at this link. It's going to be a home movie style video mostly following this trip. I'll post a link to it when it goes up on YouTube, since once you listen to the song you'll want to see the video.

The best part of the car trouble was that we had to sleep in because we needed to see someone about it in the morning, which meant waiting till 9 o'clock. So we got up about 8, filmed Kerry singing under the Goose, had breakfast and then checked at a local car shop. I had tried calling my mechanic back in Peterborough (also a great guy, Jesse of J& M Automotive) and eventually got hold of him at 9. Eventually, we drove to Thunder Bay where we visited a Mister Transmission, got the word that things should be okay and topped up the car's coolant, and we were on our way again.

From there it was a lot of driving and listening to music and just calling folks east and west to prepare for arrival. Wednesday night just short of Winnipeg, Thursday night in a rather chilly Canmore, Friday morning hitting the road early (4 am alarm after getting in post midnight) and we were into the Rockies.

A beautiful day of driving led to the BC Ferries; we didn't quite make the 2 pm sailing—it was full when we arrived at the terminal just after 1:30, but the 3 pm sailing gave me time to get to the arena for Game 1, where I found out that Scott Self had left my backpack at the team hotel. No problem, it's close by and I had time to get there and back in plenty of time to chat with various lacrosse friends and get settled into the press box.

It was standing room only in the Lakers penalty box late in Game 2.
(Photo: Stephen Stamp)
Unfortunately, I couldn't get on the Q Centre's WiFi with either my computer or phone. Grrrrr. That's another big part of why you haven't seen much coverage so far in this Mann Cup, but that is changing now. I swear that the coming posts will be much more about lacrosse and much less about driving across the country to watch lacrosse. But I hope you've enjoyed reading about the travels that took place for me (and Kerry) to get to Victoria, just like I hope you'll enjoy reading about the Mann Cup as it plays out.

Things are getting interesting two games into the series. Victoria downed a sluggish Peterborough team 8-6 in the opener. The Lakers bounced back to trounce the Shamrocks 14-7 in a Game 2 that grew increasingly nasty, leading to very full penalty boxes and the promise of more bad blood to come. Read all about it in this space in the coming days. Almost all lacrosse to come, I promise.