Saturday, 15 June 2013

What happens on tour...

Hola amigos,

Welcome back to the wonderful world of Hagg. It's been a strange week of seriously hard graft at work followed by evenings of chilling out and self-reflection. All that has resulted in is me being more worn out than usual, but also coming across a few more weird and wonderful stories than normal. I hope you enjoy this edition of the blog and please feel free to comment or ask questions and share it with your friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances or even the man in the street.

Status update
I have just come back from a public skating session at Whitley Bay Ice Rink with friends or as we prefer to be called "cake lover anonymous". As bad as the rink is it was good fun because it qas quiet and I got to whizz about like a giddy teenager out for the night before his curfew time. Now, I played ice hockey for a couple years so you may think skating comes easy, but after taking a break whilst I settled in Newcastle it's not. I am now having to teach myself to confidently skate again. It is a bit like riding a bike because I instantly remembered how to go forwards and backwards, but unfortunately it's like riding a bike with no brakes because stopping is a different story. I can do it one way, but not the other so can sometimes look like an oil tanker trying to do a u-turn! It may be because my skates are blunt, but that's no excuse. Time to work hard to recapture some skills.

Elsewhere, what happens on stag stays on  stag they say and I am not one to break traditions, but I thought I should share that this week I made my way to Edinburgh with Michael to celebrate the impending nuptials of Justin and Leigh. Let's just say after some mild lubrication we danced Irish jigs, befriended one of the many netball and basketball teams that had descended on Edinburgh, threw some mega shapes in clubs whilst speaking Dutch and cheering on a moonlight marathon. A totally random, but utterly incredible night out that perhaps ended prematurely due to Edinburgh clubs' operating hours. Ultimately the night ended with a drunken stag walking into a conifer tree and falling into the bushes. To me that is most definitely mission accomplished. A great night and a good send off to Justin before he 'enjoys' stag do part deux in Canada before the wedding.
One key lesson I have learnt from the stag is that going out wearing sunglasses during the day and carrying that them into the night is one sure fire way to create some great pictures and make new friends! Try it, you'll see what I mean.

Haggy's Hols
I think by now I have probably bored your to tears of my summer holiday plans even if my own personal excitement has grown each week. To save you any further misery, jealous or just to stop you skipping on I thought I would mix it up this week and tell about another little adventure I have planned for the coming months.

After returning from the States we thought it might be worthwhile spending a couple of days in the big smoke, London, to take in the sights and maybe see a few friends if we are not too jetlagged. It will also prevent me from driving a good 6 hours after a long flight home. I hadn't given that much thought when booking the holiday, but road users of the UK thank Vic for her sanity in the matter because you will be safe from a sleeping Adam behind the wheel. Whilst in London we plan on redeeming a voucher we were given by Vic's parents last Christmas to take in the view from the top of the Shard. Being the tallest building in Europe it offers some excellent views across the capital so hopefully I will be able to get some good pictures to rival those I will no doubt pick up on my travels in just a matter of days!
Now to pray the great British weather doesn't disappoint and we have a clear days and so good views.

Food Glorious Food
One word...Cake!

This week I spent an impromptu Wednesday night baking cake with my fellow blogger Leigh. I think I have mentioned before that she is getting married very shortly and she has taken the bold step to make her own cake. I like this move because it gives her control over flavours and style and also something really personal to remember what is already set to be an unforgettable day. Well anyway, I was drafted in last minute via Facebook to assist in the mixing and baking of some very large cake based treats. It was a long, tiring and fun evening because everyone loves baking cakes don't they?! We baked a lot of cake in preparation of what promised to be an even tastier evening later in the week when Leigh and bridal party would trial the decoration process. My reward? A sneaky taste test of the wedding cake - win!
No recipes this week unfortunately as I have been sworn to secrecy about the flavour of the cake, but let me just say it was incredible and fuelled a group of us drooling over different cakes and sweets for the best part of this week until it was finally devoured. By devoured I mean a cake that is to feed a whole wedding part was eaten by 7 or 8 brave souls in less than a week. Yes, we are a bunch of sugar high fatties!

Run Haggy Run
Dancing counts
My training has taken a serious sidestep this week. I tend to do the majority of my training over the weekend because I am often too tired or hungry to exercise when I get in from work. Usually a couple of press-ups is all I manage and then I slide listlessly in an evening of TV and snoozing. This week I have been somewhat distracted by dancing and drinking in Scotland so didn't get much running done; drinking yes, running no.

You will have to forgive me for my lack of running update, but on the positive side for you the less training I do the more likely it is that I am not going to want to set a stunning time and therefore there are increased chances of me doing it in fancy dress. For a couple of weeks now I have toyed with the idea of running it in my hockey kit sans stakes, but fear the helmet will push the heat over the edge. It would be a good way to get noticed I suppose though and then all you loyal supports can cheer me on! Otherwise I am fully open to fancy dress suggestion, but they have to be out of the box, weird and wacky and ever so me! Get your thinking caps on and let me know if you come up with any ideas, but commenting at the end of the blog.

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard?
Did you know?
Did you know that the universe tastes like raspberries and smells like rum? No, seriously, research has proven that it does...honest! Don't believe me? Well you should! And it you don't read all about it here! Now say you're sorry for even questioning me! Apology accepted.
Now that I have shown you how right I was let me tell you that the universe also has an 'average' colour and well that colour is boring. Bit of a downer if you ask me considering we just found out the our other senses can be tantalized by the universe. It may have a snazzy name - Cosmic Latte - but let's be honest deep down we all know it is beige.

Musical treat
This week I was introduced to a new app by my good friend Leigh. The app is called 8 tracks and I hereby endorse it! Why? I will tell you why. 8 track works by you entering a word about your mood, the genre of music you want or the activity you are undertaking and selects a number of pre-made playlists that will perfectly accompany as you go about your day. Great no? What I have particularly incredible about this app is that it is opening my eyes to songs to a whole new side of music I thought I lost touch with when I stopped spending my day perusing the internet in amongst 'study' and got myself a job and by that I mean the underground artist or the artist about the blow. Seriously it has been a revelation and has got me enjoying some incredible mixes and discovering artists I can't believe I have never heard before. Go check it out at www.8tracks.com! Thanks Leigh.

Film fest
Ever since cancelling my Love Film account I have been on somewhat of a film binge. How you may ask? Let's just say I have my ways and my means. This week I have watched two blockbuster films from last year that fed an appetite for action: The Bourne Legacy and the remake of Total Recall.

First off the Bourne Legacy, the fourth in the series of Bourne films that have forever changed the spy genre of films; for the better if you ask me because it has forced James Bond to start writing story lines instead of poorly clich├ęd jokes. This was the first of the series without Matt Damon, which meant the now notorious Jason Bourne did not feature, but his character and the associated plots were given some very clear and obvious nods throughout. To me, this was not needed and somewhat detracted from what was another thoroughly enjoyable film that could have stood alone in the series. If anything it felt a bit forced at times because of it, but I guess it was always going to be difficult to extend the story after it was so perfectly closed off in the Bourne Ultimatum. All in all a good watch that perhaps tried too hard.
As mentioned Total Recall is a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger cult classic. Quite why this film was chosen to be remade I will never know because it isn't the deepest of story lines I have ever heard. Essentially, man dreams of becoming a spy, goes to have memory implanted only to find out he really is a sleeper spy, wakes up and goes on an action packed mission to find his identity and save the world. To be fair to the remake they managed to make the action scenes suspenseful and presented the plot and its ensuing twists in new way. I liked the subtle nods to the original through the appearance of characters such as the mutant woman with three bosoms and the woman Arnie disguised himself as at passport control. I did keep wondering when the storyline would start to mimic its predecessor and this kind of stopped me fully investing in the story, but I guess that's just my hang up. Overall it kept me entertained for the duration but I am glad I didn't rush out to the cinema to watch it.

Choon of the week
In 2011 J.Cole released his debut album The Sideline Story. The album went on to be one of the biggest and best of the year and shot this natural storyteller to fame. Well the time has come for J. Cole to release his sophmore album Born Sinner. Unfortunately the album was leaked online, but it has given us a brief insight into what should be another great album. Check out this tune for a sampler - Crooked Smile ft TLC

It doesn't stop there friends. This week thanks to 8tracks I came across so underground artist putting out some epic tracks. In particular I have enjoyed listening to Gilbere Forte and one particularly dark and twisted track called Fall For Nothing. It has definitely fed my appetite to get underneath the commercial skin of the music industry and go and find some genuine artistes plying their trade out there and waiting for that one big break. Anyway enjoy the track, it's awesome!

And just because here is another J.Cole track featuring Miguel which has literally been stuck in my head all week and keeps on getting better. Power Trip! Be warned it has boobies in the video briefly so don't go watching at work unless you either want the sack or have very liberal bosses or you're your own boss!

Last I apologise for this week's blog being late this one has been a busy one and I am sure you will find out next week. For now thanks for reading!

Love and that,
Haggy

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Go GB Go!

Hi friends,

Status Update
Outside of what I am about to tell you about it has been a quiet week in my general life. Work continues to plod on and I have been pre-occupied with planning holidays and helping coach the North East Dekstars whilst some of the Team GB guys and gals are off gallivanting in Canada. What has made me smile is the response to my shroud of mystery last week and the plans I was hatching. You are still not going to get any clues but keep guessing because it makes me laugh. Special shout out goes to my Mum who now thinks I am some kind of secret agent on the side. I think if that was the case I wouldn't be able to write my blog because I am just a bit too rubbish at keep secrets, let alone national secrets!  

Keep guessing though! One day you may find out.

Haggy's Hols
Helicopter Tour
This week I booked the final piece of the Las Vegas puzzle - a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon. It doesn't come cheap, but it is a once in a lifetime kind of experience that I couldn't let pass by. After all Las Vegas is a town renowned for decadence, luxury and generally going big or going home! 
The flight will take us over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before heading on to the Grand Canyon itself where we will land in the base of the Canyon and sip down some champagne, gaze in awe at the stunning surroundings and capture some images of the vast landmark. For me it is going to be one of the highlights of the entire journey and I already can't wait. 

Getting OCD
I am approaching the business end of my preparations for my Summer holiday. It really has come around quickly and we are now less than 4 weeks away from boarding that first flight to LA! As you know I have taken on the role of travel agent for myself, booking hotels, flights and excursions myself and saving on the cost of getting someone else to do it for me. I say cost because although it has reduced the financial cost the whole process has taken a toll on my stress levels and I most certainly and ready for some R&R now. If I had any hair I reckon I would have lost it by now too.
After the Celine Dion double ticket purchase fiasco of a couple of months ago (see earlier blogs) I have decided I need to get serious and check I have booked everything for the right dates and it all ties together. There is only one way to do this - get OCD with it! I have laid out each day and figured out what I need to print off for each day of the trip, be it vouchers, addresses or just general area guides. OTT? Me? Never! This trip is quickly becoming a real labour of love because of the amount of effort I have had to put in, but I am looking forward to it even more because of that.

Food Glorious Food
BBQ
The sun has been shining and that can only mean one thing - Summer is coming and with that BBQs!!! I had my first one of the summer this week. The weather was nice enough to light a fire, put on some tunes and dance around a bit. Leigh had made home-made burgers for us to eat on some pretzel rolls. We also ate sweet potato chips and sausages topped with some Jack Daniels sauce.
It was delish!

Desert Island Dinners
During the BBQ Justin raised a good talking point. If you were trapped on a desert island and could only ever eat 3 courses for the rest of your life what would it be. At the time I tried to think all kinds of logical and thought something like a Paella would be good because it contains rice, seafood and meat so would satisfy you whatever your mood. On reflection though I think it may as well be something I really could not live without. 

So here are my choices:
Starter: Crispy duck pancakes
Main: A rare steak with blue cheese and some chilli sweet potato fries (Mum's Fish Pie pushes it close though)
Dessert: Lemon Meringue Pie

That meal is some way from the Bran Flakes I am currently snacking on! Hmmm cardboardy!

What's your desert island dinner? Do you agree with me or think you can beat that? I would love to know so  get at me by commenting or sending me a tweet @adzhagg 

Hagg's Hockey Corner
Go GB!
This week we waved a fond farewell to the men and women selected to play for Team GB in the World Ball Hockey Championships in Newfoundland, Canada. Whatever the results we know they will do us proud by working hard every shift and giving it everything they have got to impress on the world stage.

Because of the time difference I have had the chance to watch all the GB games so far on a live stream that the tournament organisers have got going. Join me in watching the games by clicking this link live.streamit.ca/?player=106

So far the men have played 2 games with very different outcomes. First game up was the Cayman Islands who were an outfit who had some great speed and skill on the break. This showed early on in particular as the Caymans ran out to and early 3-0 lead scoring 3 goals on 5 shots. It would prove to be a mountain that could not be climbed.

GB looked a little bit flat in the game. Whether it was getting used to the rink, the pressure of the ocassion or something else I cannot be sure, but they struggled to shake that off until the third period when they looked settled. Unfortunately it was a case of too little too late and the infamous Randy Cannon was not to be beaten. Final score 4-1 Cayman Islands

Fortunes were very different against the next opponents, Armenia. The Armenians were a very different outfit and seemed more focussed on their size and strength than their speed. This played well into GB's hands who were not afraid to forecheck and grind out a result. They did not have to grind though as their passing game was more complete and they controlled play for long periods of time and looked much more threatening going forward, shooting more regularly and most importantly moving the goalie around the crease. All in all it was a much more complete performance and a good step forward in the tournament. Final score 6-1 GB.

The women played tonight against one of the strong favourites and hometown heroes Canada. From the start Canada came out fast and playing a very free-flowing form of hockey, but our ladies equipped themselves well throughout. Unfortunately it was not meant to be and despite the outstanding efforts of the whole team, especially the goalie Rachel Jackson, the game ended 17-0. I am looking forward to seeing the women play against some other teams because they showed some glimpses of what they could achieve. 
In amongst all this Team GB have done a great job for international relations and have quickly become fan favourites. I think the home fans (like me) emailing the commentator have helped, but he has taken a shine to our team and in particular a certain Johnny Tulip. Identified as being the player with the best name in the tournament by the commentator, Kris Abbott, Johnny has become a bit of a local celebrity since then. Adopting the new nickname 'The Delicate One' he has taken to his role as media darling and has been conducting interviews ever since. Check out the Johnny Tulip Fan Page on Facebook or find them on Twitter @jtulipfanclub. Also look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9Oli63dt1M&feature=youtu.be

All in all so far it has been a great tournament and it will be interesting to see which teams settle in to their stride early on and which are the real dark horses. Personally I am hoping GB do both! Good luck out there guys and gals you are doing all your friends and family proud. Enjoy it and keep shooting!

Run Haggy Run
Team Saturday
For the past couple of Saturdays now I have been linking up with a couple of the guys from the North East Dekstars to run in the park and surrounding area. It is great for motivation and pace setting and that was particularly so this weekend.

Saturday morning was one of those Saturdays where you could easily pull the sheets back over your head and snooze the day away. I had been up late on Friday and it was cool and wet outside; not ideal running conditions. There is a bit of a feeling that we owe it to each other to turn up and support each other on our runs and it was this feeling of obligation that got me out of bed and into my kit. It did take some light cajoling  between each us (especially in the direction of an oversleeping Will) to get ourselves going but eventually we met up in the damp, said our hellos and set off with little more than a vague idea of where we wanted to run. We set a good pace and took in the parks and streets around Jesmond and Heaton on what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable run in which I felt loose and relaxed throughout.

Eventually I ended up running 7.5 miles in a tidy time of 1 hour. I was a good mid-length run and hopefully we will continue to build on this as the weeks progress so that eventually I will be ready for Great North Run come Spetember. I don't think I can do it alone!

Broken
Since my performance on Saturday I thought I would try and keep the momentum by going for another run on Monday. I was a bit pressed for time after work, but the sun was shining and I would only feel bad if I put it off for another day. I pulled on my old running shoes and set off on a tried and tested 3 mile loop of Jesmond Dene. It was a good run in the bright sunlight and I completed the 3 miles in 22 minutes easing off in the middle but running a front and back mile of 7 minutes per mile. Very pleased with that.

Anyway 10.5 miles in one of my first training weeks means I am fairly happy with my progress so far. My pace is developing and so is my stamina. On the other hand I woke up this morning in a world of pain and am clearly due a rest day after doing something fairly strenuous 3 days in a row (run, hockey, run). Weekend workouts are fun, but maybe I need to mix it up in the week a bit so that it is not so intense next time.

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard
Rafael Nadal
I am a big tennis fan and in fact it was this time last year that I was watching the best in the world compete at Roland Garros. Prior to that tournament Rafael Nadal had come out to complain about the blue clay being used by the Madrid Masters. He said it was not a good warm up to Roland Garros and if the clay was blue next year he would not be playing Madrid again. Now this was a fairly big move because he is the hometown favourite and carried a lot of weight in his words at the time. To me, it is all just a bit childish like those days where someone would take their ball home if they didn't get their own way. I mean everyone has to play on the court so it is a level playing field for everyone.

Well this year he is at it again. He has complained about the schedule at Roland Garros and how his opponents seem to be getting an extra few hours rest before they have to play him. Grow up you are pro athlete who trains for these type of tournaments and have gone through it before! It almost feels that he thinks he has some right to be treated differently, but after a long time out from the game through injury things are different.

In my eyes Nadal is no longer the champion he once was and just doesn't have the class of Djokovic, Federer and even Andy Murray. I think he should keep his complaints to himself and do what everyone else has done and let their game speak for itself. He clearly still has the ability on clay so I just don't get why he feels the need to assert some kind of dominance by speaking out in the manner he does.

Click here for the media report.

LoveFilm
I have had a LoveFilm account for a long, long time. At first it was great and I would receive DVDs at regular intervals and be able to watch new releases or films I had just never got around to seeing. It was great. However, this week I made a bold step and cancelled my account. I had been sat on my most recent rental for about 6 weeks and it was just becoming a waste of money form me. In the future I think I may explore the web-based Netflix, but not until later in the year when I can hook up whichever games console I end up getting to the internet and my TV rather than a tiny laptop screen. I am sure I can live without films by then and in all honesty I think I will be going to the cinema to watch the blockbusters instead anyway!

Music
This week's Haggy's hit of the week is Poetic Justice by Kendrick Lamar. Me likes.

And also just because I can Lonely Island - YOLO

See you next week!
Haggy


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The best laid plans of mice and men

Hi friends,

Welcome back. It's been an interesting week this week and I hope you enjoy hearing about goings on from my perspective. This week I have tried to put across my opinion on some fairly hard-hitting stuff, but also tried to keep it fun as always. It's pretty much a one off, but let me know what you think.

Status Update
Best laid plans
This week has been all about making plans that one day might come into fruition. Well maybe not making a plan, but trying to create an environment where when an opportunity for change presents itself I am ready to react so as not to let life pass me by. There are a couple of things I hope to be able to do over the next few weeks/months that will help me on various levels: financially, socially and at work. Doing this has involved a couple of extremely late night telephone calls. Quite why the calls had to take place at that hour eludes me though. I have also been knee deep in researching the housing market and looking critically at my own abilities.
Unfortunately at this time I need to remain very mysterious about what I have been up to, but all being well you will know about it in the coming weeks/months. I mean you can probably guess one of the changes  I am looking to make, but the other will likely come right out of the blue to most. I am mindful to not put all my eggs in one basket at this stage though because as they say the best laid plans oft go awry. All I can say is it is going to have to take a certain element of luck and timing to be able to achieve what I would like to happen.

Man flu
I don't quite know what has happened, but I have been flanked by a serious bout of man flu. On Friday morning I felt a bit groggy and I just put it down to sleep deprivation or even a mild dose of hayfever, but as the weekend approached I began to feel worse. I am like a walking medicine advert with a tickly cough, headaches and stuffy nose. Bank Holidays are meant to be spent enjoying yourself and making the most of an additional day off with friends and loved ones. Instead, I have spent it lying in bed switching between hours of restless sleep and eating my body weight in porridge (I count 3 mega bowls today alone). Knowing my luck I will wake up for work feeling fine and dandy, but this weekend has been a bit of write off unfortunately. Never mind!

Haggy's hols
The countdown to my summer holiday extravaganza is on. It is now less than 5 weeks until we climb aboard our Virgin Atlantic flight and set a course for L.A. It seems like like this week I have done a lot of finalising of activities for our stay. This week I have booked our Napa Valley bike tour and explored helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. It is all falling nicely into place and I am almost all spent up. Now it is the small matter of raiding my savings to find some gambling money!
Amongst some of my friends I am getting a bit of a reputation for being able to find a deal. I don't quite know why really though. I like to make sure I am getting value for money and so am registered to a couple of deal sites and not the ones like Groupon who do a good job of harassing you with rubbish deals. Instead I like those that actually give you stuff you want. TravelzooMoney Saving Expert and Secret Escapes are just a few of my top choices if you were interested. This week I came across a deal that could not be passed up on Travelzoo's U.S. version. Las Vegas is known for its buffet meals and I could not resist buying passes to the Cravings Buffet at The Mirage hotel for $39. I have since researched it more and I am very pleased with the purchase as the buffet is renowned for its sushi, dim sum and crabs legs. I plan on only eating one meal that day and eating until I am fit to burst and washing it all down with the promise of unlimited wine and beer. Excited does not sum it up!

Food Glorious Food
With asparagus coming into season it has unofficially become asparagus week in my house. That means I am going to be dealing with green odd smelling wee all week yes, but it will only have been because I have chowed down on some seriously tasty Springtime meals. In particular I am looking forward to a Smoked Trout and Asparagus Nicoise. Nice and easy to make, but using my favourite type of fish I can only imagine this is going to rock my socks. I mean come on trout, eggs, potatoes and asparagus what could be better?! Find the recipe and such over on the BBC Good Food page here
I know I have told you about Epic Meal Time before, but I saw this week's episode and thought it was quite relevant to my blog. Last week I brought you my thoughts of next-gen consoles, this week I bring you a next-gen console made of cake. You know it makes sense!

Haggy's Hockey Corner
Ice, Ice, Baby
This week saw something very special happen in the hockey world of Adam Hagg - I got back on the ice! After a hiatus of over 3 years I have been persuaded to join up with some of my Ball Hockey crew and put our skills to the test on the ice. I had initially asked about when I first came to Newcastle, but was totally put off by training times and more so by Whitley Bay ice rink and its declining standards. Three years down the line something has been awoken inside me and I was yearning to get back on the cold stuff. Our goalie and a couple of other guys have been playing with the Nomads for a little while and have suggested it would be a good idea if we came down to make numbers up and have some fun. It didn't take much persuasion, just finding the funds and dusting off my kit, and as they say the rest is history.
Like I say it has been years since I have been on the ice so I was a little bit apprehensive if I would be able to skate let alone combine skating and stick handling. Not to mention that I have lost my jock strap so my sensitive areas felt incredibly exposed. The good news was it all came flooding back (and I didn't get hit in the nuts); I was soon gliding about the rink taking away passing lanes in defence, giving killer breakouts passes and generally enjoying myself. Apparently ice skating is more like riding a bike than they may out! Either that or skating since the age of 10 (or something like that) had drilled it into my subconscious. Anywho, I am really looking forward to getting back in to the swing of things and finding my form again. Hopefully in due course I can get registered with the Nomads and play some recreational games for them.

Whitley Bay continues to disappoint as an ice rink. How it is actually called an ice rink I will never know because the surface is more like a dusting of frost on a cold Winter's morning. Yeah, they have made improvements to the benches and you no longer have to leap the boards to get of the ice because doors have been installed, but the ice really lets the place down. Not only is the surface uneven, but along the left wing boards the ice just stops and you can see a pile of sawdust and concrete. All I have to say is I will be avoiding that wing to reduce and chance of potential injury! If there is anyone in the North East that has come into a wedge of money please invest in Whitley Bay or build a new ice rink, pretty please!
I hope that playing more ice will have a positive impact on my abilities in the Ball Hockey world too. Ball Hockey is too often a bit scrappy and I find that when the game settles into a real rhythm it is difficult to start a breakout or play a style of play that allows us to transition from defence to attack quickly. Ice hockey is all about being able to this with skill and confidence; there may be some who disagree with this though because they play different systems like the neutral zone trap bore-a-thon. Ice hockey training will make this kind of play second nature again and mean that I know when to force the pace and when not to. By the sounds of it my entire line from Ball Hockey are planning to play ice hockey in the coming season too so it will be more time together to work on plays and develop a psychic link with each other.I hope that by training on a larger rink will also boost my fitness and awareness for the kinds of rinks we play on in national tournaments.
My only potential concern about playing ice hockey is that I will once again fall in love with the pace and intensity of the sport and will fall into the trap my brother and other non-Ball Hockey players often throw my way and start to draw real comparisons between Ball Hockey and Ice Hockey. Doing so may have a serious impact on my enjoyment of Ball Hockey because it is a bit slower and as I say a bit more frenetic at times. I am very conscious that whilst both sports have similarities they are in actuality very different and I will try to remain mindful of this as I continue to play both. To any team mates reading this feel free to give me a kick if I start looking like I am not enjoying it. But, as Natasha Bedingfield once said, be gentle because I bruise easily!!!

Run Haggy Run
Back on the streets
With the Great North Run a few months away I don't quite need to start into full training mode just yet and so have been trying to remind myself about controlling my pace and breathing during runs this week. On Saturday morning I met up with 3 friends to enjoy a light jog through Jesmond Dene and Armstrong Park. The weather was great and it was nice to be out the house and getting the legs going. It was nowhere near full pace, but a great loosener that reminded me I am capable of running mid-range distances. We ended up doing about 5 miles with a nice hill sprint in the middle. It felt like I was in a genuine running club and it was great. I hope that the guys continue to want to do it because it would be great to make it a regular training session and hopefully we will all benefit from it by pushing each other that little bit more as the weeks go on.
This week I plan on upping my mileage a bit and getting out there or in the gym 3 or 4 times. I am not going to let this man flu ruin things for me! Hardcore!

Fundraising Page
In other news I have set up my fundraising page. I will be tweaking it over the weeks to come to make it jazzier and so on, but if you want to have a look at the page in its infancy head on over to www.justgiving.com/runhaggyrun for a sneaky peek. It even has a couple of pictures of me dressed as a lion and tiger for some previous runs.

Shout out to my brother
This week my brother ran the Manchester 10k race. I know a lot of other people did it too and well done to all those that completed it, but I just want to say a specific well done Patch! Coming back from a broken leg a couple of years ago was never going to be easy, but he has done it and continues to not look back. He trains hard and makes me feel guilty for my lack of commitment to training almost each and every day. He just ran a PB for 45.04 and raised money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis along the way. So congratulations to you brother you have done us all proud, especially Leah.
Keep on running Patch!

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard
Band of Brothers
A bank holiday weekend of man flu has not ruined my life. In fact it has done me a favour and all those hours indoors allowed me to rediscover some of the hidden gems of my DVD collection. In particular Band of Brothers.

The Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg produced 11 hour drama retells the lives and in some cases deaths of the U.S. 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and more specifically "Easy" company. Following the trials and tribulations of a group of soldiers it tells the tale of some of the company's greatest victories and focuses on the friendships forged during the times in the trenches. Rammed full of stars and incredible actors and priding itself on its historical accuracy it is not surprising that you get lost in the drama. From the start of episode one to the end of episode ten it is a gripping, emotionally enthralling and action packed programme. More than anything you never get the sense that the writers, directors or producers are trying to create an American propaganda film, instead it is a real depiction that honours all those that fought in World War II.
If you haven't seen it you should because quite literally you are missing out. It is cheap in pretty much any DVD shop or online retailer and an essential to any collection.

Fellow bloggers
After last week's post I got some very kind words of a Uni friend Kerry. It made me feel great to know that people actually read what I write and even enjoy it! Thanks Kerry! Anyway it got me thinking, what if I could create that same feeling for other bloggers that I know. So, I want to introduce you to some of the active bloggers I know and tell you a bit about what they do so you go and check them out and give them some encouraging feedback.

  • Josh aka The Warrior is a man who loves his music. He writes a blog about his musical escapades and uses big words too! In all seriousness it is a good read and may just open your eyes to a whole new world of music. Check his blog out at http://eurghiamthewarrior.wordpress.com/
  • Leigh is a fellow foodie. Cooking up a storm on a regular basis Leigh is an amazing cook whose blog is full of tips, techniques and most of all pictures! Being Canadian she is also prone to making amazing treats like S'Mores or even Oreo stuffed cookies (I am being serious)! Check her blog out at http://onthebrightsideoftheroad.blogspot.co.uk/
  • James aka Leafy is my fellow North East Dekstar player and due to represent Team GB in the Ball Hockey World Championships next week. He has been blogging in the run up to the worlds and has promised to continue to blog throughout. Read all about it and encourage him as he goes at http://thegeordiegeek.wordpress.com/
  •  Paul Lynch takes very cool pictures and is far more dedicated to blogging than most people I know because he blogs every single day. Each day is accompanied by a new picture and well worth a look for some great pictures of the North East. Check him out at http://lynchography.blogspot.co.uk/


Political Rant
This week Drummer Lee Rigby was tragically murdered in Woolwich. First and foremost my thoughts are with his friends and family at this time. It cannot be easy for them to have dealt with the news and even more so with it being reported in the news everyday since.

I don't quite understand how a cruel, murderous act suddenly became a reason to scapegoat a peaceful religious community and encourage the kind of short-sighted thinking that has given rise to the BNP and EDL. I have several Muslim friends (wow that sounds very patronising of me) and to see them feel the need to defend their religion on social media just strikes me as wrong. Why have people been so quick to judge an entire community because of the actions of a few?

I think the media have a lot to answer for too. Yes they report the news, but they choose which stories get the headlines and the nature of this story justifies it, but you don't hear other religions being ostracised in the media when a believer commits a heinous act do you. I seem to recall the Anders Brevik fall out was more about mental stability than his far right associations let alone an entire movement. The media sensationalise everything and yes they do this to sell papers, but they have a certain amount of responsibility because they shape so much of people's political beliefs. I think at times this is often seems to be forgotten.

Here in the UK people are happy to emigrate to warmer climes in their later years or go in search of work in foreign countries, but are increasingly intolerant of people coming to the UK to look for work and contribute to society. It seems like it is a case of do as I say not as I do at times. Immigration is often seen by many as the root cause of many social problems we face in modern society. To me, it is not. Yes, we need to be mindful of levels of immigration and closely manage it so as not to create problems of overcrowding or unemployment and this in itself is a political and statistical tightrope at times, but it does not mean that we should just shut the gates to the world. Too often people are quick to judge everyone by the acts of one individual and make knee-jerk actions that can have a lasting impact on the communities we live in. I actually think the reaction here would be to find and imprison the offenders, but also increase education and awareness in our communities so that people would know that these extremists act independently of the wider Muslim community. I strongly believe that we should be encourage tolerance and community cohesion at this time rather than fuelling divisive rhetoric. This may be naive of me, but I don't think I am alone in this thought if only our voices were the ones being heard rather than those of the BNP and the EDL and to a lesser extent UKIP and conversely those of extremist religious groups. Instead let's start a clear and visible dialogue between those capable of tolerance, caring for others and understanding. The less we hear of and ill-informed and downright idiotic videos like the one below the better.

I know I have just acted hypocritically in writing this, but I am worried about the way society is headed and it seems that division is the word of the moment rather than cohesion. If you decide that you disagree with my point of view that is up to you, but at no stage does it ever become tolerable to use violence, aggression or words of hate to make a point.

Rant over.

Fake Psy at Cannes
On a lighter note I was told about a funny story this week. Now I am sure you all know the YouTube sensation by the name of Psy and his modern day crowd pleasers Gangnam Style and Gentleman. If you don't crawl out from under your rock because this guy has become a global superstar overnight!

It is his global celebrity that amazes me about this story because whilst Psy was in Shanghai performing his infamous tracks an impersonator by the name of Denis Carre was living the highlife purely because he bore some resemblance to the 'musician'. Appearing on the red carpet, crashing parties and talking to the media fake Psy really had everyone going. That was until the real Psy picked up on it and made a joke of it on Twitter. Fair play to Denis Carre because it is an audacious stunt that worked, but more fool anyone who believed it because the resemblance is not all that; he just wears the same clothes! Read the full story here
If this guy can get away with it I may start trying to crash parties dressed as Matt Dawson!

Music
And finally...it's music time. This week is a nod to towards the musicians of yesteryear as Bruno Mars serves up a track filled with old school style and a catchy hook. It got me through a long journey to Aberdeen over Christmas and is a guaranteed sing-along track from now on. Enjoy Bruno Mars - Treasure.


See you next week friends, love.
Haggy

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Totally addicted


Hello!

This blog comes direct to you from Sanlucar la Mayor near Sevilla in the southern Spain. Rather than putting off writing this week's edition of The World Of Hagg until I return to the UK I thought I would use some downtime to write up this week's news.

Status Update
As my summer vacation to the USA approaches and the impending excitement of gambling in Las Vegas mounts I am reminded just how careful I need to be otherwise I may come back totally broke! In advance of my trip I have been tipped off about a rewards scheme called M-Life.

M-Life is essentially a free scheme where you earn points by gambling that can be redeemed for experiences at a number of participating hotels on the Vegas strip. If you are so inclined you can buy reward points to be reclaimed at a later date, but for all those who just want to save a bit of money there is an online game where you can earn rewards. The game itself is linked through a Facebook app, so super handy, and takes very little effort; just press a button, watch the colours spin and hope for a big win!

So, for the past couple of weeks I have been spending my free time clicking 'BET' and watching as my money shoots up only to be gone a few spins later whilst my reward points mount. I can already reclaim some free drinks, but if I keep going I can get enough points for free meals, tickets to shows and if someone was truly dedicated they could get enough points to pick the music they play during the world-famous Bellagio fountain music.

With only 6 weeks to go I am going to be devoting a large part of my evenings and free time to racking up the reward points and getting some extremely cool free stuff to help make some memories that will last a lifetime. If you are going to Vegas or even if you think that one day you would like to go my advice to you is sign up to M-Life now. Not only is it fun, but when you finally visit you could save a tonne of money. My only concern is that my addiction turns very real when I touchdown in Vegas and start betting actual money.

Haggy's Hols
Megabus
After spending endless amounts of hard-earned money on travelling up and down the country to Stansted Airport on previous holidays I thought I would give public transport a go. Somewhat nervously and with a great deal of trepidation I pre-booked megabus tickets to London to catch a train at the other end.

My previous experiences of megabus would be well described as cramped and uncomfortable. Some may even say the Ryanair of the road (the same colours help the comparison too). The buses are too often old, stinky and loud so to arrive at the newly designated bus stop in Newcastle and be greeted by a double decker bus was a huge relief. I found myself a table and settled in for the long haul. I sat down to overhear some random conversations about conspiracy theories but there is only so much one man can take and in went the earphones!
The journey itself was smooth and quiet so I had a bit of time (6 hours) to pass sleeping and listening to music. All told the bus/train worked well and if flight times are reasonable it may well be something I do again. Time will tell, but for now my wallet can breathe a sigh of relief as I don't need to make this journey again for a couple of months!

The Mushrooms
It seems that each time I visit Seville I discover something new and I am yet to venture into the truly touristy destinations of the Catedral de Sevilla or the Real Alcazar. There is just so much to see and so much to do! One day I will have done it all and may be able to create some kind of tour guide for beginners, but I wouldn't inflict the world with that, after all my blog will suffice!

This time out we wandered up the main street and headed towards Metropol Parasol aka Incarnacion's Mushrooms. The Mushrooms Seville is a city full of tradition so to find huge modern structure is totally unexpected, but that is exactly what The Mushrooms is. Claiming to be the world's largest wooden structure it stands tall amongst traditional buildings and casts an impressive shadow on the surrounding area. The foundations of the building sit atop some old Roman ruins that are backlit by mood lighting that changes colour to create varying atmospheres below ground level. As contradictory as it sounds the marriage between old and new seems to work somehow. The building seems to fit effortlessly and without fuss into central Seville and brings a new modern edge to the place, creating a cooler and trendier vibe in the immediate area.
(fake as this may look this is genuinely my picture)

We paid a minimal fee (1.35euros) and took a lift to the viewing level. From here you get great views of the city and really get to explore the structure via a snaking and sloping pathway that meanders around the top of the building. I don't think I can really do it just by describing it, so I will let some pictures do the talking. My advice though is to definitely check it out if you are in Seville, as it is great for those on a budget and you can still pretend to be all kinds of cultural and brag to your friends about being so intellectual! I can't because I am not...



Just to make you jealous there is a really cool little cocktail place at the base where you can sup on a classic or watermelon mojito for 3euro. You didn't here me complaining!

Food Glorious Food
Any holiday to Spain demands that you must eat tapas. I mean it is like visiting coastal France and not eating moule frites, Germany and not eating Bratwurst, Italy and not eating Calzone or coming to Newcastle and not drinking Brown Ale - I mean straight up, no holds barred, wrong!

DIY Tapas
This week I have eaten some fabulous food as always, but instead of telling you about all my foodie goodness I thought I would use some culinary know how to recreate a dish I had and share it with you. Filled with flavours you wouldn't normally associate with Spain I was taken aback when I saw 'ternero a la mostaza' (veal in mustard sauce) on the menu, so of course had to try it! I was not disappointed. So without further ado ladies and gentlemen here is how to make your very own simply but delicious tapa.

Ingredients
Thin beef steak 
White Onion
Cream
Wholegrain mustard
Method
Finely slice the onion
Sautee in oil over a medium heating until the onion softens
Add the steak and brown on all sides
Stir in a heaped teaspoon of mustard
Drizzle over some cream
Warmth through
Enjoy with some crusty bread. 
Nom!

I Scream, You Scream...
One last thing. Whilst in Sevilla I came across a fantastic ice cream parlour called La Abuela (www.heladoslaabuela.com). This is no ordinary ice cream as whilst you can choose standard vanilla or strawberry goodness you can also sample some more abstract flavours. Ranging from Ferrero Rocher to lollipop and cheesecake to a Spanish classic tarta nata (cream cake). Personally I went for a combo of one scoop White Nutella and one scoop caramelised pine nut ice cream. Both rocked my socks, but the Nutella was particularly spectacular.

Hagg's Hockey Corner
Last week, as you know, the Ball Hockey season came to a climactic end. My Dekstars team came so close to taking home the national champions title, but we didn't and we move on but it still hurts and I am still kicking myself for not having the guts to take a penalty shot - never again! Anyway...having devoted a lot of time to Ball Hockey over the past couple of months I am taking a bit of a rest and a weekend away from the game. I will be back to it next week, but over this time off I have been able take stock of the season and have set myself some fairly hefty challenges for the coming year.

In the off-season I aim to keep fit and learn more about Ball Hockey seeing as I only started playing in October last year. However, my biggest personal target for the year is to attend Team GB trials and not totally embarrass myself and hopefully get a look in on the team. I feel I have played well in the Open tournaments and at nationals and have the potential to continue to develop in the sport, but you can never tell what a coach is looking for. Hopefully whatever it is I can bring it!

I cannot describe how jealous I am of my friends and team mates who made this year's squad and it is a mere matters of days before they fly out to Newfoundland, Canada. They have been training hard for months now, working on strategies and team fitness. Obviously not being a part of the squad I can't give you a great insight, but I know one man that can - James 'Leafy' Dixon. He has been blogging on his exploits and I wholeheartedly encourage you to read more about it here on this newly designed site - The Geordie Geek
For those of you who are interested I hear a rumour that some of the games may be televised at some point and if I can I will be finding a link and posting it so that you can find out more what Ball Hockey all about. Good luck to Team GB, we are all proud of you, give them hell!

Run Haggy Run
What's Run Haggy Run I hear you say?! A new element of the blog I cry! A little while ago I mentioned that I had been lucky enough to be given a ballot place in the Great North Run. I haven't exactly done much training to date, but not that the off-season of the Ball Hockey season is upon us I can start to focus a bit on running. To help me along with it and to keep you updated I thought I would add this section to my blog.

A couple of years back I set myself the challenge to run 5 half marathons in the course of a year. It was a year filled with training, injury setbacks and fancy dress, but ultimately very rewarding. I got the opportunity to run in some great cities and even managed to make the local news dressed in a skin-tight tiger onesie! I also set my personal best half marathon time of sub 1 hour 39 minutes in Dublin and got to celebrate with a Guiness...perfect!
I think I am still fit enough to run the distance, but I need to get out there on the streets and put the miles in. I know the Great North Run is not ideal for setting a personal best because of the amount of runners, but I would still like to achieve a modest time of perhaps 1 hour 45 minutes. One thing I know for sure if before actually doing the Great North Run itself I need to get myself some new running shoes. As much as I love my current pair of Asics I have run them into the ground and they know offer less cushioning than the retro Green Flash I wear out and about! I have found this out to my detriment after completing an easy 6 miler and bit more up tempo 3 miler over the weekend because I am now sporting a fetching in-step blister. Thanks for the sympathy in advance.
Before I run I will be asking for you all to donate to a charity very dear to me - the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Having lost someone close to me to Cystic Fibrosis I always run for the Trust because they put in some great work to raise awareness of the disease and undertake research to tackle it. Breathe easy for now because I haven't set up my fundraising page yet, but it will be coming so be warned!

For the time being though please keep yourself updated by following me on Twitter @adzhagg or using my super special hashtag #runhaggyrun

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard?!?
To me, HYHWHH is what my blog is all about, but for the past couple of weeks I feel it has lost its spark. Whilst the main body of my blog needs structure I think this part really benefits from being off the wall and random. It is a section designed to bring new things to your life, make you smile, inspire you or at least give you something to distract you from the day-to-day grind called life. So, with all this in mind I am going to stop doing set things each week and just share random parts of my life with you, much as before!

Technology
This week the bods at Microsoft launched their next step in attempted world domination: the Xbox One. I swear it is all one big rouse because I had only just updated the software on my console and then the dreaded Ring of Fire means I am now sans console and yearning for gaming related fun. So it has been with heightened interest that I have watched both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 be announced over the past couple of months.

To be honest with you both Xbox One and the PS4 have left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed and disappointed. They promise much in regards to developing new technology and syncing up our ever increasing technological lifestyles, but I just don't get what they want to be any more; are they a gaming platform or something else? Call me old fashioned, but I have a laptop to go on social networking sites, Sky to watch TV and I want my console to plat games with and I don't want to mess with that. Gone are the days when a console could sell itself by merely announcing exclusive rights to upcoming games and instead we are now heading into the murky waters of social networking and web browsing. My fear is that combining everything could result in a reduced gaming experience as designers are asked to be able to include ways to 'share' progress on Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty rather than develop some killer levels.

Don't get me wrong I will no doubt crumble to peer pressure and by one of these consoles when they are released, which will depend on who can give me the best gaming experience and hasn't totally lost its way in the ever confused market. If you are considering buying one please let me know which so it may steer my choice and I can compete against you in some kind of online death match at some stage!
Argh just show me games!!!

Grammatical correctness
In light of the recent SAT tests where children are tested on their ability to identify and use grammar I have become a bit self-critical of my own writing style. I know I use the exclamation mark far too much but I think it is because I am so excitable and I just want to put that across. However I do like that we are continuing to teach grammar in schools because too often I see spelling mistakes or the wrong use of a Don't get me wrong grammar has always been taught in schools I just find it slightly amusing that it has made it to the news recently. What I don't get it that instead of people seeing the English language changing and evolving we are being forced to learn archaic language. What next, Latin again? Thank God I missed that period of schooling!

Whilst we are on funny grammar things check out this video from the one and only Lonely Island - Semicolon; part of the YouTube Comedy week and their impending new album Wack Wednesday.

Crazy story
This week well known musician (even though recent records make this debatable) George Michael fell out of  a car doing 70mph on the M1 and walked off with a few cuts and bruises. Looking at the pictures of the aftermath I am sure a fair few people are cursing this latest stunt because it closed the M1 down whilst emergency services attended the scene. I am not quite sure what he is trying to prove by doing this, but all I know is I would sign him up to be a stunt man in the next Die Hard movie! Check out the the full story and the cracking headline "Scrape me up before you go slow" from The Sun here

Music
So I am not going to let you down and not give you some music, but I haven't heard much new stuff this week given that I have been in Spain where today's hits are yesterday's hits over here. I am however looking forward to the release of Drake's third studio album called 'Nothing Was The Same'. There is not a lot known about the album, but having heard "Started From The Bottom" I am hoping for more of the same.

See y'all later! Love.
Haggy

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Hockey nationals and more

Hi everyone,

Welcome back and thanks for taking the time to read. It is always a pleasure to write my blog, but this week it has been especially enjoyable because of the content. This is a BIG blog so be warned and don't go into reading it lightly, but equally make sure you read it. It is crammed full of stories and hopefully a gripping report on the biggest week in the UK Ball Hockey Calendar. Take your time to read it, comment and share with your friends.

Status Update
This week I am mostly tired and forgetful. It has been a busy week of work as we are undergoing an accreditation process so I have been putting in some longer hours to get stuff done whilst its quiet. Not only that, but as the NHL playoffs continue to enthral me I have been unable to get to sleep at an acceptable hour. I am definitely looking forward to some upcoming leave when I will be able to get some sleep and relax my tired and aching muscles.
This weekend hasn't exactly helped me catch up on sleep because the national hockey tournament dictated that I would have to wake up early on Sunday (3.45 am) to catch the team bus to Sheffield and then crawl back into bed a whole 23 hours later at 2.30am on Monday morning. Put it this way I have been on auto-pilot since then so you should count yourself lucky that I am managing to form a sentence let alone write an entire blog!
This week I also started a new fitness regime. I am going to be giving the workout that has been getting a lot of praise and recognition for its outcomes a try, Insanity. So far I have done the fitness test, but progression was rudely interrupted by hockey. I can, however, tell you that if the fitness test is anything to go by this is going to be some hardcore workout that will improve my cardio output and hopefully build my strength too. I am looking forward to giving it a shot and feeling the deep burn each time I turn on the DVD player. I am sure as weeks progress I will be reporting back, but the aim is to get fitter before I go to America so I can eat all the burgers I want without feeling guilty. Not that I would anyway!

Haggy's Hols
This week I finally got around to applying for my visa waiver so that my entry to USA would be smoother. I have to say that it had slipped my mind for a while and I was very happy to find that the process has been streamlined in comparison to other visa traditional processes. Ordinarily my understanding of visas is that you have to make a written application and then wait weeks whilst it is processed and your passport is updated. For this reason I was fearful that I may have left it a bit late and this would lead to impending panic stations, but reassured by recent travellers I logged on to a website to apply for my visa.
Well done to Homeland Security for creating such a simple process for applying for a visa. It removes a lot of complications for the customer and must allow them to complete all their necessary checks. The online application was simple and asked a few standard security questions, nothing too daunting though thankfully. I was also required to make a nominal credit card payment to complete the process. All in all though it was relatively painless and a mere 72 short hours later the visas were approved and we are cleared to travel! My advice don't leave it too late, but don't let concerns about complex visa processes put you off travel.

Let the countdown begin! There is still one stage left of our West Coast tour to tell you about - San Francisco. That can wait though because like they say good things come to those who wait. Before all that I have one final trip to make to Seville that I will tell you about next week and then real preparations will commence.

Food Glorious Food
Given that I am tired this week it was a nice coincidence that one of my favourite websites www.bbcgoodfood.com was running an article about how food can help you sleep better and reduce stress. Obviously I had a read of the article (found here) and it actually turns out that I do a lot of this stuff already. Maybe I just need to be strict and make myself go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you are having sleeping issues consider a change in your diet.

Based on what I read I would like to share with you the recipe for Zingy Chicken Stir-Fry because it looks tasty. It is literally a stir fry, but click here for the ingredients list.

Haggy's Hockey Corner
It has been the biggest hockey week of the year and I have a fair few stories to regale this week filled with real highs and some difficult times. I wouldn't say lows because they really aren't negative, but instead something that could have produced a slightly better outcome. Read on and I hope you catch my drift.

Comets collect the trophy with a final victory
Quick acknowledgement - the pictures of the Comets game and trophy come courtesy of Paul Lynch. Check out his 365 blog because he creates some stunning images.

After sealing the title as champions last week against Northumbria Sharks the North East Dekstars Comets were back in action this week. The team took to the court to face off against a fellow Dekstars team - the Supernovas. You would think that being a fellow Dekstars team and just a week out from the big national tournament this game may be a docile affair. It was not. Instead this game would turn out to be one of the hardest fought of the season and was interspersed with some aggressive play, sometimes overly so.
The game had been ticking over nicely for a while. It was feisty and committed, but being played in good spirits. That was until a jostle in the corner where two players gave as good as they got boiled over later on in the play. Whilst the Comet player James Dixon was running towards the boards he received a cross check to the back sending him head first towards the boards. This led to a lot of pushing and shoving between the teams and in all honesty a lot of people getting involved when they really didn't need to be involved. The referees did a good job of handling it and got the game going again relatively quickly. In my eyes it was totally unnecessary and could have caused serious injury to someone who is a very important piece of the Dekstars 1 national team and someone due to go and represent his country in a matter of weeks. That kind of thing does not belong in the game and hopefully the league look at it again, but if not the offending player should count himself lucky and learn from what happened in the aftermath.
Ultimately the Comets won 6-5 (I am not sure, but I may have the game winner) and completed the season undefeated. On reflection the incident gave the Comets the kick they needed to go on and win the game and it certainly made victory that little bit sweeter. The only blemish on the season was the draw last week and it would have perhaps been nice to have recorded a shutout at some point in the season. Beggars can't be choosers though! It was a great privilege to play alongside every single Comet and they are all superstars in my eyes contributing in many ways over the season. It is a shame that the team will probably be broken down and reformed in a draft style next season, but we can all be proud to be the first team to win the inaugural Northern Conference League. Thanks for the ride Comets, it's been an honour!

Dekstars 1 come a very close second
Sunday saw the entire Dekstars club take 3 teams to the season finale national tournament. I was honoured to be asked to captain the first team in the absence of our broken toed captain Becky Farren (get well soon Bec). It added a bit of additional pressure to the tournament, but it was a level of pressure I actually enjoy having and it drives me on to give more and really try to lead by example. That and it gives me the permission to be more vocal too!

The format of the tournament would be a group of sorts with the 3 other competing teams before a semi-final and a final. We would avoid the semi-final if we topped the group so there was added importance to winning  every game in the group stage. Forgive me for not remembering the ins and outs of games, but it was a long day!
First game was up against Shaw Millionaires. Shaw are a team we have historically had difficulty against because they are well drilled and play a hard game. This game followed tradition and to be honest I don't think the 4am start and a 3 hour coach trip had helped any of us as we were sluggish for the majority of the game. We clicked in flashes and just enough to start the day with a confidence building 2-0 victory.

Game two would be a different story against a team who were possibly the favourites just ahead of us Dekstars, Nottingham Wolves 1. A team filled with talent and pace and playing a forechecking style very similar to our own it would be a game decided by who could control the neutral zone the best. Unfortunately that accolade went to Wolves who dominated from start to end. We had a few good chances on goal, but the pace and precision of Wolves' passing saw us collapse deep in front of our net and encourage them to attack. It was only some sterling work in goal from Darren Elliott that kept the score to a respectable 1-0 loss.
Game three and the final game of the group was against a talented Wolves 2 team. It was do or die because a loss would very likely see our day end there and then and get dumped out of the nationals without showing anywhere near the performance that saw us capture the Southern Open tournament a matter of weeks ago. The game started out as a tactical affair on few clear cut chances, but a game that I think we had control of for long swathes. However, we would go behind thanks to a quick break that caught us napping and allowed  Wolves to sneak a goal in at the near post. Again, falling behind gave us the kick we needed to turn on our game and we went back down the other end and bagged an equaliser a couple of shifts later. As the game went on Coach Cree called us in and game us a ticking off and told us to up our game, we did. As the game drew on space did start to develop and a superb pass from Jonna Galloway found me on the left wing. I made my way up the wing unchallenged and I don't know what came over me, but I decide to take a slap shot from just inside the offensive zone. I don't think I have scored a slapshot since my first year of University ice hockey in 2005, but this one found itself nestling in the back of the net. That would be the game winner and we saw out a 2-1 victory to progress to the semi finals.
The semi-final would see us face off against that pesky Shaw Millionaires team filled with old team mates and good friends Katy and Jeff Holliday. Again the game was close and actually all turned on the penalty awarded to my line mate Justin Presseau. After taking a penalty the Millionaires would quickly convert a powerplay to take a 1-0 lead and see a usually calm Justin flip his lid and try and snap his stick coming out of the bench. I found this slightly funny as it was such a break from normality. Anyway, on the very next shift David 'JC' Hirst would convert a chance created by some hard board work from James Dixon. The momentum was truly with us and when Terry Simons scored on a semi spin-o-rama goal we took a lead that we would not relinquish. I would go on to add a goal that I will try to remain modest about, but am in fact very proud of. Picking up the ball on the halfway I chipped the ball over one defenders stick, volleyed it over the next and after settling the ball down snapped a shot into the top corner. The game was over by that point, but it still felt good to score a goal like that on the national stage. Final score 3-1 to Dekstars.

For some reason the video won't show, but here is a link - vs. Shaw video

Ahead of the final I sat and had a think about the Wolves breakout and how we could combat it. We had a few small chats beforehand. I am not going to say what about because there will come a time when we play them again, but put it this way I noticed one system they play. It seemed to work because the game was much more even than our first meeting earlier in the day. Chances were limited as both team nullified the others' attacks but both goaltender was called upon to make important saves. At one stage I hit the bar and would later be told by the opposing goalie that had it been on target it would have gone in because he was unsighted. That makes what happened next all the more unbearable. The game would end 0-0 and owing to time constraints would go straight to penalty shots. It takes a brave man to step forward and take a shot in this type of game and confidence is key. Even though I had a great day I was not confident as I tend to overthink one-on-one scenarios and end up missing, so looked and hoped for others to be braver than I. Luckily there were some brave enough to step forward: Arto Polus, Terry Simons and James Dixon. It was a tense affair as is to be expected, but luck was not on our side as we lost narrowly 2-1. Even though we lost I need to give a big shout out to our penalty takers. It takes guts and courage to do what you did so regardless of the result be proud in your mental fortitude and you will forever have my admiration.

Again here is another link to a video - Penalty video

After the final we all got together for a bit of a team talk as normal and the loss was still very raw for everyone. I could see in everyone's eyes that they had given much more than a physical effort but also an emotional effort. It was at that time that all you can do is congratulate the team for giving it their all and try to remind them of all the positives. There are a lot from a team who is still getting to used to using new line combinations, playing new systems and dealing with injuries and absences. I mean 2 trophies, a semi-final defeat to eventual champions and a tight penalty shot loss in a final is something to be very proud of. If any Dekstars 1 players are reading really do take great pride in what we have accomplished together this season. Next season we carry on upwards and build on each and every success we have earned this year. Well done you heroes!

Before I leave off from the nationals I want to give a shout out to the Dekstars 2 and 3 teams. Both teams gave excellent performances all day and hopefully learnt a lot about themselves and their team mates. From my perspective they played some excellent hockey and deserved to go deeper into the tournament than narrowly missing out at the group stage. I was lucky enough to bench coach Team 2 during their tournament and every player gave their all and impressed me in the passion and drive to achieve. There are elements of the team that Team 1 would do well to learn from and hopefully we can continue to give them something to aspire to and even one day usurp us! It was a great day for everyone involved in the club and a big thanks goes to Darren, Alison, Ali and Becky for organising the day and being so amazing!

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard?
Story of the week  - I am not usually a fan of celebrity because unfortunately too many people are given this status despite being talentless. I mean programs like Geordie Shore and The Valleys symbolise just how dire things have become. Today though I want to praise Angelina Jolie for using her status to raise awareness in world issues. She has worked on behalf of the UN previously but today she is raising awareness in breast cancer through her own tribulations and a double mastectomy. In what must be a difficult personal time she is creating a media focus and discussion around the topic. If it can increase screening then hopefully people can make informed decisions before they are forced to take action. For once someone acting as a proper role model - click here for full story

Quote of the week - This week is less so a quote but more of a comment I saw on Facebook. It doesn't need much introduction, but it really gets you thinking why the world's superpowers couldn't just agree to get along for once and instead make a real positive difference to future generations.

Song of the week - This week's song of the week goes to Naughty Boy with the new track LaLaLa featuring Sam Smith. It's a catchy track for sure but it is song of the week on the back of the innovative video. I am loving the South American Wizard of Oz references in the oddly endearing story of a runaway and the people he meets on his journey. Check it out, it's cool. Another video link fail sorry so please click here

Film of the week - I love a dystopia and tonight I saw a trailer for a film that may just feed my just satisfy that craving. The Purge starring Ethan Hawke is about a society where once a year all crime goes. An interesting concept indeed an if not worth going to the cinema to watch it is a definite addition to my rental list.

Thanks for persisting and I hope you enjoyed this week's bumper edition. See you next week!

Love
Haggy