Yeah – It’s a Resolution Post. Sorry.

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New Year, New Me! Let the memes begin! As Christmas wound down, we began to see all those memes either proclaiming inspirational quotes about the year to come – or jokes about how quickly you’ll break your resolution. To me, the idea of resolution is a double edged sword. After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life, your health, or just expanding your horizons. However, the downside being you either set yourself up for failure, or just don’t apply yourself and wind up making the same promises next year – and possibly, start a cycle of guilt year over year.

I try not to make resolutions. I try to pick up new hobbies, make goals, or eat healthier all year. But there is something cathartic about starting over along with the year; especially after the overindulgence that is the holiday season. The winter months can be devastating for a lot of people, myself included at times. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and can have a very drastic impact on people’s lives. (If you suspect someone you care about suffers from this, I highly recommend reaching out. Take them for coffee, a walk through a path, or out skating on an outdoor rink. Outside activities are often best, as our bodies need the extra Vitamin D to help regulate our moods. Take advantage of the limited sun we get here in Canada during the winter). Resolutions are in some way meant to help ease our trudge through January, February, and March. They get us through the dark times, so we can relax, kick back, and enjoy the warmer weather, proud of ourselves for “being good” all winter.

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So while I would love to sit here and ramble about the psychology of resolutions and weigh their pros and cons, quite frankly, I think it would be hypocritical to sit here and denounce them, when I myself have a plan for January. But – in my defence, the key word here is “plan”. It’s not a resolution for the entire year, but rather, some specific goals I have for the month of January. Maybe I’ll try to start new goals each month; or most likely, I’ll just aim to do a little better all the time. Either way, rather than trying to sit here and say “NEW ME!”, I’m trying to think of it as “Me just less lazy”.

Goal #1 – “Somewhat” Sober January

Going completely alcohol-free is, admittedly, difficult for me. Not in a “OMG I NEED MY BOOZE” type of way, but more in a realistic way. I firmly believe in not depriving yourself, and so the idea of being out for dinner and not having a glass of wine, or trying a new beer just doesn’t seem fair on myself. What I am promising myself is to do the following as a comprise: 1) No drinking at home. 2) If I am out or we are hosting guests, observe a strict 1 drink limit.

The reason I want to do this is three-fold. I wanted to refresh my body after having a lot of alcohol over the holiday season. The second reason is I am curious to see how much weight I can lose within a month if I really cut back on alcohol, especially beer. The third reason will be explained later.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

I am pretty good at working out at least 4 times a week, but I’d love to try and do a month where I workout at least 5 times a week. For a lot of people this is an easier goal to manage – twice on the weekends, and just three times during the week. One disadvantage I have is that I get up early on weekdays, and I have no appetite for getting up earlier to work out. Also, because I tend to workout at night more often, I like giving my body a full 24 hours rest. Combine that with a busy social life at night, and I sometimes have weeks where it’s tough to get 4 workouts in. But maybe I need to ditch that “excuse” and drag myself out of bed at 5am instead of 6am to squeeze in a run, quick HIIT session, or even just riding the indoor bike. Again, this is highly motivated by curiosity to see if the combination of dropping booze, and ramping up the exercise is enough to kickstart even more weight loss. It also ties into Goal #4….

Goal #3 – Practice More Mindfulness Exercises

This is something I have really begun to neglect over the past year or so, and it’s starting to show. My negative thoughts run away, and sometimes I have a hard time calming myself down. Once a week I’d like to try a new exercise, and see how it works for me, and then try to practice it a few more times. By the end of month, that means I’ll have five new exercises in my toolbox for fixing my anxiety.

It also means if I am setting aside time to do these exercises, it’s less time on social media, idling flipping by photos and memes. I can then spend the time to do more journal writing, and relax more.

Goal #4 – Stop taking Anti-Depressants

January 2017 will mark two years since beginning Pristiq. I feel I am ready to come off the drugs and attempt to deal with my anxiety through therapy, mindfulness, and other at-home exercises. This goal scares me the most. I am so worried about the side effects of withdrawal, and how my body is going to behave. This is also one of the primary motivators behind avoiding alcohol as much as possible. I figure my body will be going through enough changes without me adding alcohol to the mix. Same with the exercise – I am hoping the positive effects of working out will help balance the chemicals in my brain.

But I am really unsure if I will even go for Goal #4. My fear of coming off these drugs is just that real. All I know is prepare for more blog articles if I do start to come off the drugs, as I am likely going to be needing a lot of support, reassurance, and have A LOT on my mind.

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Keep Me Honest

Okay, so I am lame and am going to use a #hashtag to track any social media posts I make about my attempt to have a ridiculously healthy and productive January. So, follow my #JanGoals! Also look for my equally “basic” Instagram posts to match the blog.

As of right now, I plan to blog a lot during January. Not only is Bell Let’s Talk coming up on January 25th, but I plan to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable for completing, or attempting these goals. I want to document my ups and downs with all of them. I am hoping that by doing this, I will motivate myself to keep improving, and maybe we can start a conversation where we support each other through the twists and turns of starting new habits, or breaking old ones.

So look, love them or hate them, you can’t argue against trying to better yourself through a resolution. I guess the thing I want myself, and others, to remember is – it’s not about changing me entirely. I don’t need to start from scratch. I am good person, who tries hard, and attempts to do my best. It’s more so that there’s smaller things I can do better, to make a larger impact on my life.

And PS – for the record, I didn’t start this until January 2nd, so don’t go too mad at yourself if you’ve already “broken” your resolution.

Stay tuned a little later for a recap of my first week attempting my goals!

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2016 Concert Rankings! Part Two!

This is it, the moment you’ve all been patiently waiting for! The creme de la creme of this year’s live bands! The Top 25 Live Bands of 2016!!!!

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25) The Naked & Famous – April 1st (Mod Club) & November 8th (Danforth Music Hall)

Seeing this band wasn’t a straight forward venture this year! For the show at the Mod Club, we only caught the last twenty minutes or so. Sean & I went to dinner with Val & John beforehand, and things went long. We figured since it was a Friday night concert it would start late – and boy were we wrong! TNAF were off stage by about 10:30. So lesson learned; get to Friday night Mod Club shows early!! The second time I saw TNAF, well, was Election Night in the US, and I think you can imagine how distracting that was. All of that being said – they put on a helluva show. I absolutely adore Alisa Xayalith’s voice and wish I had her singing chops. And she nailed it live – both nights. They’re a high energy band and it really comes across onstage as well.

24) MisterWives – July 30th (Osheaga)

These guys make such infectious pop tunes!! And WOW, they blew me away. I would call them one of my surprises of Osheaga – alongside another artist you’ll see later on this list. So much energy! And Mandy Lee is a great frontwoman. I was so impressed, especially when they admitted they hadn’t played a live show in awhile. Usually, I would expect some rust and bumps – but nothing like that appeared here. I think the energy of the crowd really helped elevate their concert in order to give us all a great performance. So happy I was there early enough to see them! Would definitely check them out again.

23) BØRNS– July 31st (Osheaga)

BØRNS has literally stepped out of the 1970s and it’s awesome. He did an amazing cover of “Benny & The Jets” (naturally), along with a Zeppelin cover (again, naturally). While his hit “Electric Love” has been heavily overplayed – I highly recommend his album, or at least the title track “Dopamine” – which I’ve linked to. I have to say, his afternoon set filled with swagger was perfect for the summer and sun at Osheaga! As much as I hate to compare modern music festivals to the likes of Woodstock – his set gave you a little sense of what it might have been like back then.

22) Basia Bulat – June 5th (Field Trip)

I had seen Basia Bulat a couple of years ago as an opener, and she was excellent. She has a beautiful voice, and it was great to see her wooing over the crowd at Field Trip. She was captivating, and was the perfect soundtrack for a summer night.

21) Boy & Bear – June 4th (Field Trip)

These Aussies put on a great show in the summer sun. Their music is perfectly suited for an outdoor show, and a relaxing, chill afternoon. They sounded excellent, and didn’t disappoint. If you like a mix of folk and rock – these guys are for you.

20) Death Cab for Cutie – March 23rd (ACC) & July 30th (Osheaga)

March was my first time seeing this group and being a fan of their latest album I was pretty excited! I caught about half of their set at Osheaga as well. What I appreciate about them is they bring more energy and power to their songs live, than what you’d expect if you have just heard their albums. They were a great compliment to Metric in March, and like so many other openers on this list, set the tone for the night and got you excited for more.

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Daughter @ Massey Hall

19) Daughter – November 16th (Massey Hall) 

Elena Tonra not only has a beautiful name, she has one of the most beautiful voices, and hearing it at Massey Hall really put her talents on display. It’s a voice that is simultaneously haunting and wonderful. She will give you goosebumps. The band is also excellent, and hold their own. She has this adorable modesty on stage that draws you in, rather than push you away. I am so happy I was able to experience this band at probably one of the best venues in the world.

18) Aurora – July 31st (Osheaga)

This Norwegian singer was one of my “surprises” of the Osheaga weekend. I knew her song, “Under Stars” and was curious to hear her live. I wasn’t sure how her voice would be live, as her music is quite electronic. But like Elena Tonra, she has this gorgeous tone. Watching her, literally perform under the stars and trees at Osheaga was perfect. Side story not related to her as an artist – I had the weirdest moment during this show. A couple in front of my kept making out/groping each other, and eventually I moved in front of them so I could see a little better (they were taller than me). Suddenly, during one of the songs, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, and the guy from the couple was laughing away because he did the “made you look” trick. Ok. He tried it again, and eventually I had to move to the other side of the stage. I hate people sometimes.

17) Red Hot Chili Peppers – July 29th (Osheaga)

I had seen RHCP at the ACC back when I worked there as an usher, and I have to be honest – I was totally underwhelmed. The show lacked emotion, and I hate to use this phrase – but it lacked “heart”. However, Friday night at Osheaga I thought was way better. They seemed energetic (despite Anthony Kiedis’ recent illness earlier in the summer), and giving a full performance. Flea was entertaining as always. The one note I’d say is that I wasn’t a fan of Josh Klinghoffer’s backing vocals, however his guitar work was excellent. Great way to open the festival, and they ended up one of the highlights of the weekend.

16)  – July 31st (Osheaga)

You know Mo, and may not even realize it. She’s the voice behind Major Lazer’s hit “Lean On” (which she performed). She’s also a total badass and deserved a way better placement on the Osheaga lineup. She was an early performer, but so worth getting there early for. She has energy, pipes, and captures your attention. You can also dance your face off with her. The linked song is one of my favourites of hers. I was sad to miss her recent show in Toronto but I am sure she nailed it. So check out her music and discover that there is so much more to her than the overplayed single she’s known for now.

15) Phantogram – October 19th (Phoenix Concert Theatre)

Probably one of the shows I was most looking forward to seeing, and they lived up to my expectations. It was a visually engaging show – using a large screen to enhance their light show and transform The Phoenix from small club to arena. My only knock on the show, is I felt there were times when singer Sarah Barthel was relying on her vocal track too much. However, it didn’t fully detract from her actual talents. There was also an especially poignant moment where they paid tribute to Sarah’s sister who commited suicide, and inspired the song “Barking Dog“. The moment was enhanced by what I can only assume is home video footage of Sarah and her sister. Overall the duo put on a fantastic show (their new album is also one of the best of 2016).

14) July Talk – June 4th (Field Trip) & July 30th (Osheaga)

There was probably no other band that I saw this summer that had more hype about their live performances than July Talk. I had heard numerous stories about their intense performances that include anything from duct tape, slaps, and everything in between. And usually, when you hear so many crazy stories you inevitably end up disappointed when you actually DO see the band because your expectations are just set so high. However, July Talk brought it. Their sets at both Field Trip and Osheaga knocked it out of the park. The chemistry between Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis is second to none. They play off each other, and I love that Leah isn’t afraid to call out the crowd and modern day sexism declaring “It’s 2016 – keep your hands to your fucking self!” Their new album is also their best yet, with a mature sound that shows their progress as a band. And then you also can’t beat absolutely rocking out to “Summer Dress” during you know, the summer.

13) Leon Bridges – July 31st (Osheaga)

Gentlemen, ladies – do you need an artist to woo the object of your desires with? Do you enjoy smooth, soulful blues and southern rock? Do you want to feel transported back to a time when Motown was king? If you answered yes to any of these – let me introduce you to Leon Bridges. This kid is exceptional. (Also, shout out to his backup vocalist who may also be the coolest woman I’ve ever seen onstage). Hearing his voice live was a real treat, and just a beautiful way to spend a summer evening. He also did an incredible cover of “Pony” which, again, if you need something to make out to – this cover might just seal any deal. What Sean & I love most about Bridges is that despite his youth, his voice is so mature and so beautiful. He honestly sounds like he just stepped out of the 1960s, and it’s actually so refreshing to hear someone recording this style of music today. I really hope we get to see him somewhere like Massey Hall one day.

12) Jack Garratt – July 29th (Osheaga) & October 15th (Phoenix) 

Sean bought Jack Garratt’s debut album “Phase” on a whim after hearing so many rave reviews about him. I caught him at Osheaga with friends, and was blown away. He plays all of the instruments, sings, and is adorably modest. He seemed absolutely shocked that so many people came out to watch his set. He had the same love for his fans at The Phoenix in Toronto. At The Phoenix especially, I really felt as though we were watching an artist on the verge of making it big. It reminded me a lot of when I saw Ed Sheeran open for Snow Patrol just a mere months before Ed Sheeran exploded into mainstream music. He is incredibly talented, and it’s exciting now to see where his career will take him next. If you want something new to listen to – and love something pop with a bit of a rock edge, give Jack Garratt a listen.

11) Metric – March 23rd (ACC)

I’ve seen Emily Haines perform before – and she is one of the best frontmen (frontpeople?) in music. She has this ethereal energy, and a surprisingly powerful live voice. She can delicately balance the softer tones of some songs, and ramp up the edge in others. Their shows are always visually entertaining, but it’s Emily Haines who controls the show. One of the best bands to come out of the city of Toronto.

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Metric, nailing it

10) Robyn – June 4th (Field Trip)

Another badass female, and what an incredible performance she put on! She was dancing up a storm, and her vocals never seemed tired or dragged down by her incredible moves. She was dancing from start to finish. If you aren’t familiar with her more recent music, which is more electronic and “experimental” than the hits you know her for from the 90s and frankly, I love her new work more than her old. So I loved the set. If you were expecting to just hear the hits, you would have been disappointed. However if you wanted to see an artist, fully embracing being on stage and giving it their all – you would have been like me and absolutely enthralled with her.

9) M83 – July 31st (Osheaga)

I never know what to expect from electronic acts, because I never know how engaging the actual show will be. Will it essentially just be someone singing along to a track? Will there be live instruments? Will the female vocalists also be playing? And M83 was so much more than I expected. It had incredible energy, power, and everyone nailed it. I still think about some of the guitar solos!! This was one of my favourite performances of the entire weekend. Also with “Midnight City” being one of my favourite songs it was amazing to hear that live. M83’s music deserves to be heard live, and loud.

8) The Tragically Hip – August 14th (ACC)

I’ve already written pretty extensively about The Hip this year, and I have to admit, it was difficult to decide where to place this concert in the context of the rest of the year. For pure emotional value, this was the best show of the year. However, I didn’t want to rank them based on that reaction. I wanted to base it on the performance, the setlist, everything. (And if somehow I ever was able to discuss this with Gord Downie, I feel he’d be insulted if I basically ranked them based on sadness or pity). As awesome as this show was, I do have to say I wish the setlist had contained fewer new songs, and that we’d gotten to hear more songs from their earlier work. However, hearing “Gift Shop” and “Grace, Too” live is such an amazing experience. The energy that this bands pours into each show – and the love they have for their fans is so incredible. And they are just a damn good band, and Gord Downie’s voice will never be duplicated. I am so thankful we got to see them this year, and I truly hope that by some miracle we’ll get to see them again.

7) St. Lucia – February 15th (Phoenix)

Another show earlier in the year that managed to stay near the top as one of the best. I often say to Sean that one reason I know it was an incredible concert is by how badly I wanted to be onstage with them. St. Lucia came out to one of my favourite opening songs of the year, and basically put on a clinic for the entire night of how to put on a badass, high energy, no holds barred show. Their infectious synth-rock makes it nearly impossible to have a boring time while watching or listening to them. Plus, they dance around, engage the crowd, and basically take you on an adventure during their shows. MAN, I love them!

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6) Muse – January 16th (ACC)

It’s always tough to be the first concert of the year – you can so easily end up forgotten. Having seen Muse before, though, I knew this would be a hard show to forget. They are one of the best arena rock bands out there, and always put on an incredible show. Everything from their performance as a band, to visual aids, and even DRONES. Sean & Justin also found their inner kids and chased around giant balloons that eventually popped and dropped confetti everywhere. This was an overall fantastic night with friends, belting out some of Muse’s biggest hits together and eventually having a streamer fight. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of this band, you have to see them live. I guarantee it will be one of the best concert experiences you have.

5) Noel Gallagher‘s High Flying Birds – July 10th (Echo Beach)

Ah yes, The Chief came back to town. Again, someone whose music I have admired since I was a kid. He’s crass, he doesn’t give a flying **** that you want to hear Oasis songs. He hates most of those songs now anyways. His new materials, though, is fantastic and still great rock music. It was also special getting to watch him perform outdoors, because it meant listening to “Champagne Supernova” while a beautiful red sunset exploded around us. One of the great rock legends, and yes he knows it. At least despite all the ego he still puts on a fantastic show and knows how to entertain a crowd.

4) Mumford & Sons – June 13th (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre)

One of the best live bands on the planet, hands down. I saw M&S just a day after completing the RTCC, and so I was still riding an incredible high from completing that event. I am actually amazed I had the energy to be at the concert. Mumford, are just so passionate and captivating. I dare you not to dance, stomp, clap, and sing along with them at a live show. This being my third time seeing M&S, I have to say this was the best of the three. This band is so much more than some banjos. They are a bonafide rock band and will blow you away in concert.

3) Radiohead – July 31st (Osheaga)

What.a.night. I mean, we were lucky enough to hear some truly classic songs live and in the flesh. “Let Down” is one of my all-time favourite songs, and to hear Thom Yorke sing it gave me chills. AND THEY PLAYED CREEP. They didn’t even perform that at Lollapalooza!!! Yes, you can make the case that this is why Radiohead is a frustrating band to see live. You have to listen to their newer, less accessible music before you get to hear the hits, and even then, they may not even play the ones you want to hear. I don’t have a huge issue with how they organize their live shows, because in the end you get to watch some incredible talents. And it’s worth the wait when you get to sing along to “Karma Police“. A generational band that I am so happy I was able to check off my “concert bucket list”.

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2) Sam Roberts – December 17th (Corona Theatre)

Oh Sam. I’ve said it a thousand times, but I could never get sick of watching this band perform live. Now, throw in that I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform in Montreal twice and I feel really spoiled. His hometown shows are simply the best. He was only SLIGHTLY edged out of the top spot by the next band. The setlist on this night was heavy on the new tunes – but that isn’t a complaint from me. I am really enjoying his latest album Terraform, and his previous record Lo-Fantasy is his best. Also, anytime I get to dance my face off to “Fixed To Ruin” is a great night. Even if you haven’t listened to Sam Roberts since the early 2000s, you must check him out live. I promise you a fantastic night of rock, energy, and passion.

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1) Arkells – November 5th (Massey Hall)

If you had asked me at the start of the year who would finish number 1 on this list – I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been Arkells. But we witnessed something special at Massey Hall. Sean & I knew these guys would be good – we saw them at Osheaga last year, and have friends who love this band. But I didn’t expect to be truly blown away. There are literally zero complaints from this concert. Everything was exceptional – the setlist, the horn section, the backing vocalists, the crowd at Massey Hall, and the band themselves. Their opener, “Drake’s Dad” ended up being the best opening song of the year too. Completely set the tone for the night, and got everyone to their feet. My personal favourite song of the night was “Whistleblower” – which started as an acoustic rendition until BANG, the whole band re-joins in! I forget who said it of our group; but we had a moment after leaving the show where I was discussing how the hell I was going to rank the bands this year and we started talking about The Tragically Hip. Someone made the excellent point that as we witnessed one band give perhaps their final bow, that night at Massey Hall we watched the next great Canadian band. You forget how many hits these guys have written, and they are still early in their careers. These guys will be remembered as the next Tragically Hip, Guess Who, The Band, etc. I feel so lucky to have seen them on one of their best nights. I hope it only continues to get better for them.

Thanks everyone!! Have a Merry Christmas and wonderful 2017! Can’t wait to see what shows end up on this list next year. 

If you’re interested – here are the previous years’ lists:

2014 – Part One

2014 – Part Two

2014 – Part Three

2015 – Part One

2015 – Part Two

 

2016 Concert Rankings! Part One!

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to break down my year in live music, and attempt to rank them as best as I possibly can. This year was yet another busy one!

Let’s get right to it! Here is Part One!! (Psssttt… don’t know who the bands are? Click the link to hear a tune!)

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44) Future – July 30th, 2016 (Osheaga)

This was so bad on so many levels. First off – he was late. Second, we all had the false hope he would bring Drake onstage. He didn’t. Third – related to him being late, we were stuck with a couple of “DJs” attempting to keep the crowd entertained. We got some repetitive beats and a few “WOO” and “ARE YOU READY?” shouts. Yeah. We were ready twenty minutes ago! Finally, when Future came out – it was a huge let down. He didn’t rap much, mumbled through most of the set, and considering he kept saying “Are you ready Canada?” we were also partially convinced that he had no idea what city he was in. We should have went to see Lana Del Ray close out the main stage instead.

43) Gramatik – July 31st (Osheaga)

Okay – before I express my boredom, I do have to say, I hadn’t PLANNED to see this group at Osheaga. They were a last minute replacement for Disclosure who didn’t make it to their set on time from Lollapalooza. So, a bit unfair of me to harshly criticize them, when they had to quickly step in and fill some shoes. However, Sean & I both found their set repetitive. There were large portions of their set that just felt like the same song over and over. It was disappointing. But, I readily admit they are not really my cup of tea to begin with – so they did have an uphill battle.

42) Wolf Parade – July 29th (Osheaga)

I went to check these guys out due to curiosity. I had heard Arcade Fire cover their song “I’ll Believe in Anything” in Montreal a couple of years ago, so figured I’d give them a listen. I didn’t walk away a fan, but I can see why they have a loyal following. They have a great sound, and they’re from Montreal – but it just didn’t leave any sort of memorable impression on me.

41) Half Moon Run – July 29th (Osheaga)

This is probably the most shocking entry for me. I had high expectations for these guys after seeing them perform at Field Trip a couple of years ago. I mean, they were one of the last bands up on a Friday night – and playing at home! But something about their set didn’t click for me. I found it slow. I found it, dare I say it, a bit boring. Their new album is fantastic, but it didn’t resonate for me in that setting. Perhaps I would have enjoyed them more at their recent show at Massey Hall.

40) Dragonette – July 29th (Osheaga)

I had no idea this band were behind “Hello” and a few other dancey hits (like the one linked with Gallantis). I enjoyed hearing the hits, but the rest of their time onstage didn’t grab my attention. Same with some other criticisms I have for dance/electronic bands, I often find some of the subtleties of their songs get lost in outdoor shows. After awhile, it all sounds the same.

39) Banners – July 29th (Osheaga)

Banners was the first act I saw at Osheaga – and they were good! It’s hard to place these guys, because I liked their sound, and it’s always tough to be the first act of the day. While I wasn’t blown away, they are on my list of “bands to eventually check out and listen to more”.

38) The Lumineers – July 29th (Osheaga)

Okay – full disclosure. I went into hearing their set expecting to be as equally blown away as I was last year with The Avett Brothers. And I shouldn’t have done that, because I was left disappointed. The Lumineers were good, but they weren’t that good. Again, like Half Moon Run, I found the set dragged, and again I really only enjoyed hearing their hit songs. Other than that, I wasn’t left walking away thinking “man, I need to get some more of their music”. It felt quite average, and I guess after last year I was expecting a lot more “oomph” from the last few closing main stage acts.

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37) The National – June 4th (Field Trip)

I am sorry to all of my friends who LOOOOOVE The National. But I just can’t get into them. And seeing them live didn’t reallllly change my opinion either. I just find them a weeeee bit overrated, and that much of their music sounds the same. Which I know is a weak argument, because you can say that bands I am ranking higher on this list, but for me, they just don’t click. SORRY. DON’T SEND ME HATE MAIL.

36) Ra Ra Riot – June 5th (Field Trip)

I really enjoyed Ra Ra Riot, and have to admit I did find myself most curious about their music, out of all the new bands I saw this year that I hadn’t listened to before. Pretty great indie rock band, and I would definitely see them again.

35) Cypress Hill – July 29th (Osheaga)

I ran over to see Cypress Hill only so I could hear “Insane in the Brain” live. And it was just as awesome as you would expect it to be!

34) Hollerado – December 17th (Corona Theatre) 

These guys were an awesome opener for Sam Roberts and really brought the energy! Their show was a great mix of rock and punk and set the tone for the night. They even told a couple of lame jokes! Perfect way to set up a Saturday night of rock music.

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33) Haim – July 30th (Osheaga)

These chicks are just.so.cool. Their presence onstage is so infectious to watch, and their talent is undeniable. My biggest complaint? I need some new material ladies!! They also did a pretty kick ass cover of Prince and “I Would Die 4 U“.  I was really happy I hustled over to see them after quickly shoving some food down my throat!

32) Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires – June 5th (Field Trip)

Charles was a difficult one for me to position. I appreciated his talent, his band, and enjoyed the set. But it’s hard to rank him higher than some of the other bands I know and love. That being said – his talent is incredible. There was also something magical about listening to him as the storm clouds cleared over Fort York.

31) Santigold – June 4th (Field Trip)

This chick is pretty badass. I really liked her set! It’s sometimes difficult to rank the bands you enjoyed, had fun listening to, but didn’t rush out and buy more of their music. I always feel like putting someone like Santigold so low is an insult – but really, it’s just because I didn’t know her music better! I hope to listen to more of her music, and then hopefully get another chance to enjoy her talents live.

30) Grimes – July 31st (Osheaga)

Oh Grimes. This was an… interesting set. She admitted to the crowd she was fighting a stomach flu and an injured ankle – which helped explain to me why something felt “off” during her first couple of songs. I have to give her full credit for performing sick, if that was the case. I am in love with her latest album “Art Angels” so I had high hopes. Her set was good, it’s just hard to fully judge her when you know you’re not getting a full performance. This girl does have pipes, and can scream alongside any heavy metal band. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to see her when she’s not throwing up between songs!

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29) Lord Huron – July 7th (Danforth Music Hall)

I love these guys. They are my summer soundtrack for music that makes you feel like you’re out in the country, sitting by a fire, and looking up at the stars. I have to say, I enjoyed them outdoors at Field Trip a couple of years ago a liiiiiitle more, versus this time inside the DMH, and it’s for those aforementioned reasons. To me, this is a band you need to hear outside, as the sun goes down, cold drink in your hand, surrounded by friends. Not saying this was a bad concert by any stretch! And they did sound excellent on this July night – just a shame we couldn’t enjoy a summer night sky while listening to them!

28) Couer de Pirate – July 30th (Osheaga)

Believe it or not, my parents actually introduced me to this artist. She has a beautiful voice – both in French and English! Even though with some songs I have no idea what she is singing about, her voice still resonates. She captivated the crowd at the Scene de la Vallee on Saturday night, and she didn’t disappoint.

27) Jason Collett – March 9th (Mod Club) & June 5th (Field Trip)

I was lucky enough to see Jason Collett perform twice this year, and his new album “Song and Dance Man” is one of my favourites from this year. If you like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, or the type of sound that takes you back to classic rock in the 70s – please give Jason Collett a listen. I also enjoy a lot of his casual banter at his shows, and he is always very well dressed! Just a great showman, who also puts on a great rock concert. The most memorable thing for me, though, about seeing Jason this year was from Field Trip. I was sitting there, on the grass, sipping on a beer, listening to him perform a great set. Then suddenly – the clouds rolled in, and the heavens opened up. It absolutely poured with about half of Jason’s set still to go.

26) Silversun Pickups – July 29th (Osheaga)

Hard to top seeing a great rock band on a Friday night! I’ve seen them before, opening for Muse a whole bunch of years ago, and they lived up to the high expectation my faded memories had set. I love “Lazy Eye” and they did an outstanding job with it live. So much energy! Dare I say it, but they should have performed in the slot The Lumineers had and led us into the headliners.

 

— Okay kids!! That’s it for Part One!! This year’s top contenders were really difficult to rank, and I am still tinkering with the list!!! 

Tomorrow I will reveal the Top 25!

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12 Days of 2016

As a throwback to last year’s post, I have decided to make this an annual blog posting. 2016 was another year of learning, and growth. While I stumbled a little, and dealt with some old anxiety induced habits, I still feel as though I am on the path to getting better and better.

So, in no particular order, here are 12 days that made an impact on my life in 2016.

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Can you see the tears? I was bawling my eyes out!

12) January 1, 2016

Seems fitting to start at the beginning, no? This was a big day. It marked the official first full day (sun up, to sun down), that Sean and I began the adventure of living together! Yes, we made the awful decision to move during the holidays (I do not recommend it). As stressful as moving already is, for me it was extra stressful because due to my LEEP procedure in late 2015, I was unable to lift anything. Thankfully, we had so many wonderful friends help us out on moving day, New Years Eve, it made the day much smoother!

It’s been a wonderful year of living together. While Sean has had an exceptionally busy year work-wise, that even had him in living in Ottawa for a month, it’s been a seamless transition to cohabiting. Our home is cozy. We both love just sitting on our couches, binging TV shows, and having a glass of wine. The balcony in the summer was the perfect way to unwind on the weekends. I love being home, and I love that Sean is part of my home. I am so happy our relationship continues to thrive, and that even though I seem to constantly break our glassware, he doesn’t seem to mind coming home to me either.

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I took this selfie to celebrate my good news!

11) July 7, 2016

This was a pretty ordinary day by most standards – I started off the day at work, then left early for an appointment. Except this was an important appointment. It was THE appointment where my cervix was given the all-clear!! As documented, I’d had some issues with abnormal cells in 2015, and it culminated in getting a LEEP procedure done. I was really worried that perhaps the treatment hadn’t worked, and that all of the cells weren’t collected. Or worse, that perhaps things had just kept progressing, and that now they would find cancer. But despite my catastrophic thinking – I was given the green light! Officially – I had to wait until the last round of pap smears came back, and the HPV test. But a few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail confirming that my pap was normal, the HPV test was negative, and I was considered officially discharged from the Women’s Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital. It was an incredible relief.

10) April 14, 2016

I learned something important on this day – that few things in life are better than spending a day by the ocean, and then heading out to watch your favourite hockey team host a Playoff game! I’ve been cheering for my beloved Panthers since I was 9. But up until this day I had never been to a game in person. It was everything I had hoped it would be!! While the Panthers lost Game 1 (they’d go on to win Game 2); the experience was unforgettable. I finally was able to meet some longtime internet friends as well, icing on top of the cake. What a great week, and can’t wait to go back again hopefully!!

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9) October 14, 2016

This was a “down” day for me. On the surface – I should have been really excited. It was the night of Boobyball – an incredible fundraising event for breast cancer. But I was dreading it. It was a “themed” event, which meant my OCD/anxiety was convincing me that every piece of clothing that I did own, which loosely fit the event’s jungle theme, wasn’t good enough. I went shopping but found nothing. And so my thought cycle began. I didn’t think I’d fit in. I felt as though I’d be caught out as an impostor, and that I didn’t belong there. I didn’t feel pretty enough to be going. I felt like a loser trying to fit in with the cool kids. I thought long and hard about cancelling. The weather was also terrible. It seemed as though it just wasn’t meant to be. But, I put on my best outfit, got my hair to look just right, and dragged myself out the door.

When I got to Val & John’s place, I realized that Val was feeling the same – and it was oddly comforting to know I wasn’t alone. And in the end – it was a fantastic night. I realized once I got there, that I could fit in, and that none of my fears really mattered. I had a blast. And I am so thankful I didn’t let my anxiety get the best of me. I could have easily stayed home, and fell into a deeper hole. Instead, I went against my thoughts and had so much fun.

8) January 25, 2016

What a powerful evening. TEALPOWER Presents: From Broadway With Love – an evening of song in memory of the incredible Alison Salinas. It wasn’t just a fundraiser, or a celebration of life. It was a lot more than that, and it’s hard to put it all into words. It made you realize the impact one life can leave behind. One person can change the world. It reminded me to live in the moment, to live fully, and to love fully. It was so beautiful to see so many people paying tribute to one person. It also raised an incredible amount of money for cancer research. I am so proud to have volunteered,and play a very very very tiny role in this night. I won’t forget the voices I heard. I will carry this night with me always.

7) May 29, 2016

The annual BFF vacation! This time, MC and I visited Washington DC, and although it was sweltering hot, it was yet another great memory to add to our vault. I am so thankful for the times I get to spend with my BFF, especially just the two of us, and I am so happy we’ve been lucky enough to travel together for the last few years. Our next trip is coming up in February, so get ready Mexico – WE’RE COMING BACK!

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6) January 30, 2016

In a similar vein as above, this one is about friendship. Sarah hosted a bunch of us ladies over to her place for wine, snacks, and good laughs. I think it shows that often the simplest plans can have the best memories. It was a great way to spend a cold, wintery night, and it turned out to be one of the few nights our whole group of girlfriends could all get together. (Or mostly all of us). Friendships like these, and my BFF, are what I am often most thankful for – and what make me happiest in life. I hope in 2017 we get to take more chances like this, and spend more nights laughing, sharing memories, and helping each other out.

5) December 4, 2016 

This one is just pure sentiment. I love Christmas. I actually  have dreams where I have panic attacks because I’ve missed watching my favourite Christmas specials. I love decorating for Christmas and making the house feel EXTRA cozy. So imagine my excitement when Sean and I FINALLY took our tree out of the box. (Yes, we have an artificial tree. The Christmas purist/environmental nut in me died a little when we bought it). To me; this is one of those times when the “little” moments mean the most. Sean & I ended up having a very nice day together. We went skating in the morning, then we watched football and decorated the tree. We even cranked some Christmas tunes. Now, our house is possibly the most adorable apartment in the history of all apartments (but I might be biased). And it’s extra special because it’s the first of hopefully many to come.

4) January 4, 2016 

Moving into a new neighbourhood had one big advantage – there is a Goodlife gym right across the street. I am not usually a “gym” person, but I was determined to get back into shape, and re-teach myself how to use weights. While I still have some goals to achieve, I can honestly sit here and say I am 100000x happier with my body today than I was when I signed up for the gym. I now crush circuit workouts, know how to use the TRX bands, feel confident again with weights, and am quite possibly stronger than I have been in years. I love going to the gym and seeing what new boundary I can push. I also love being at the gym because it gives me a great excuse to unplug from my phone. This Goodlife has terrible reception, so I can’t even be on social media even if I wanted to. So it’s fantastic – I can check out from the noise of social media, work, etc and just focus on working up a great sweat and pumping some energetic tunes. Can I also come out and admit I LOVE spin class? It feels great to be getting my body in shape, and using my energy for good instead of wasting it on anxiety.

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Summer night at BMO Field; oddly enough against Seattle…

3) November 30, 2016 

There were a lot of big sporting moments this year, and in regards to Toronto FC especially, I went back and forth over which day I wanted to include – home opener, this game, or the MLS Cup. In the end, I’ve decided to include the Eastern Final Leg #2 match against the Impact. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’d ever experienced at BMO Field. It was electric. Not to mention – they also won in exciting fashion. Even though it was a cold, rainy night – I was working up a sweat and peeling off layers because I was jumping and screaming so much. I can honestly say it was one of the best sports moments I’ve ever witnessed. Sadly, they went on to lose the MLS Cup; and that night too was incredible despite the loss; but I am going to choose to focus on the positive instead! It always feels good to beat the Impact anyways!!! (Sorry Sean…)

2) April 26, 2016

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to loved ones, and we said goodbye to Granny on this day. My mom’s side of the family is very close – we’re a small group, and we look out for each other. What’s also amazing for me is that there are a lot of females on that side of the family, so I’ve always had strong female role models to look up to. Granny was one of them. However, there is always comfort in how families come together in difficult times, and this was no exception. In the end, we put together a celebration she would have been proud of, at her favourite restaurant no less. Her memory will live on in all of us, as we’ll never get tired of telling our favourite Olga stories.

1) June 12, 2016

The Ride To Conquer Cancer – one of the best weekends of my life. June 12th was the day we rode across the finish line in Niagara Falls. It is hard to describe the wave of emotions that comes across you as you complete the Ride. For the first time, I cried as I crossed the line. I thought I would cry at my Half Marathon finish, but I didn’t. But after two grueling days, the sudden surge of pride, accomplishment, happiness, and exhaustion just overcame me. It was powerful. We crossed as a team, and hugged each other. My family was waiting for me – the first time they’d seen me cross a finish line. I was so proud of myself, and my fellow Team Tealpower members. We did an amazing thing to help so many lives, and we did it in memory of a beautiful person. I also did it as a show of support for everyone in my life who has been impacted by cancer – aunts, my grandfather, my mother, friends, co-workers, and even just people I’ve known in passing. It was also amazing for me to push my body like that – and come out strong on the other side. I will never forget that weekend, and always be so thankful I was able to participate. I can’t wait for 2017’s ride!

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My Tealpower teammates and I. This was taken on Day Two

So what’s next? Well, here’s what I hope to achieve and experience in 2017 (not a full list, of course):

-Become a faster knitter (I’d like for it to not take me three months to finish a scarf)

-Finally master push-ups

-Write more often (I actually have a bunch of half-written blog posts that need my attention)

-Run a new race

-Try a new recipe (or two, or three)

-Visit my family as often as possible

-Watch Season 4 of The Wire

What days impacted you this year? What are your hopes for 2017? I don’t believe in resolutions per se, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having new goals for the year. (I just encourage them to be realistic, and also to not be too angry with yourself if you break your “resolution” by January 2nd)

Merry Christmas everyone! Stay tuned for the annual year-end concert rankings!

Steve Bartman Doesn’t Need To Be Forgiven

Below is another article I wrote for the Huffington Post on Steve Bartman, and the Cubs finally winning a World Series: 

It finally happened. After waiting 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. Along the way, there were a number of excuses, reasons, jinxes, and curses that explained away why the Cubbies were taking so long to win again. The one that sticks out the most occurred in 2003, when a young man sitting in the outfield did what most people sitting around him did, and reached out for a foul ball. Of course I am talking about Steve Bartman.

If you don’t know the full story, just do a quick Google search. The “incident” even has its own Wikipedia page! But the basic take away is that Bartman became the scapegoat for the Cubs blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 6 of the NLCS and ultimately losing the game. He became the new billy goat (another Cubs jinx for you to Google).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love how sports how its own myths – and baseball in particular has a slew of them. It’s part of what makes sport great, and the storytelling so compelling. But this instance, with Bartman, is not one of those times. This man’s life was ruined. He was eventually escorted out of Wrigley Field, for his own safety. Think of the recent anger Blue Jays fans unleashed around the now infamous beer can throwing. Bartman was eventually vilified so much that he had to move, and change his life completely. No one really knows where he is now.

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And so he became part of Cubs legend. Documentaries were made about him, people parodied him, he became a symbol for bad fan interaction. He became mocked, and hated. His life was forever altered, and I often wonder how badly this affected his mental health and his general well being. Did he ever find happiness again? How much does he miss his old life? Does he resent that a mob mentality uprooted so much of what he knew? Is he angry?

As time wore on, many people began to acknowledge that maybe things went too far with Bartman. He even became forgotten in some ways, as new sports pariahs took his place. But it was still there. This lingering idea that Bartman needed to be “forgiven” by the Cubs, and that only a World Series title would achieve that.

So here we are, the Cubs are Champions. And now my social media feeds are filled with Bartman references. It’s all varying degrees of “He’s forgiven!”, “He should throw the first pitch next year!” or “Make him the parade marshall!” But really think about it. Steve Bartman doesn’t need forgiveness. He doesn’t need to have fans welcome him back, or make it OK for him to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs again. Steve Bartman wasn’t a player for the Chicago Cubs in 2003. Watch the clip of him reaching for the ball – he isn’t even the only one going for it! In fact, Bartman didn’t even end up with the actual ball! But he became an easy excuse.

The Cubs and their fans don’t owe Bartman forgiveness – they owe him his life back. They owe him a chance to be forgotten. The owe him peace, and privacy. If anyone should be doing forgiveness, it’s Bartman. He is owed an apology. Maybe to some, an apology is having him throw the first pitch, or be there at the parade. But in my mind, that just perpetuates the idea that he was part of the “curse” to begin with. It validates the idea that he did something wrong and requires some public display to “make it right”. And does having him throw out a first pitch really make up for the last 13 years of his life? Does that make it OK that he was run out of town?

For me, I think the best thing for Bartman is to just leave him alone. Don’t bring him out as some mascot for the team overcoming any sort of curses or jinxes. He deserves peace. It actually reminds me of a piece I recently read about Heather Donahue, the lead actress in the Blair Witch Project. She spoke about how the film altered her life, and how she deeply regretted using her real name for the film. This year, a new installment was released and when she heard it was being produced she was deeply upset that the iconic image of her crying face from the original movie was suddenly going to be back in the spotlight. It reminds me a lot of this. Bartman didn’t ask for the attention, and didn’t ask for his face to be etched in the minds of sports fans. But yet, here he is again, back in the spotlight and once again being used as some sort of symbol for the “curse” of the Cubs.

Wherever he is, I hope that Bartman is happy, fulfilled, and has found solitude. Maybe he even still cheers for the Cubs. I hope he was able to somehow enjoy watching the team he grew up cheering for win the World Series. But most importantly, I hope he is left out of the celebrations. Don’t forgive Bartman, but we should all forget about him. I really hope the city of Chicago does the same. Oh – and I realize that by even writing publicly about this, I am in some way perpetuating the story. So for that Steve, I am sorry.

Why This Canadian Will Never Give Up Being a Florida Panthers Fan

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For Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Sean and I booked a last minute trip to sunny South Florida. I have been a Florida Panthers fan since I was about 9 years old. I started to cheer for the Panthers because, well, they have a cat as their logo (and I love cats). Pretty ridiculous right? Well about a year or so after I declared my allegiance to the young franchise, the Cats went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996. Despite being swept in 4 games by the Avalanche, I was hooked. I was obsessed with that team all year long, and seeing them get to the Finals was all I needed to know I had picked the right team.

But that was 1996. This is 20 years later, and Panthers fans have often found themselves questioning why they bother rooting for this franchise. Since becoming a team in 1993 they’ve only made the Playoffs five times. The only time they’ve advanced past the first round was in fact, the 1996 run. It’s been heartbreak ever since. Quite often, when they weren’t making the Playoffs, they were sitting at the bottom (or near the bottom) of the standings. You might think “well surely they must have been using those losing seasons to build up a great team via the Entry Draft!” Nope. The Panthers management in the 90’s and early 00’s often traded away those valuable picks. Or they’d get unlucky with their picks, and choose the “lemon” of that year. Sometimes they would draft some good players, but the problem was, no one seemed to want to stay in South Florida for the long term.

Management groups and different owners came and went. Florida has had 13 head coaches over their 23 year span. By comparison, the Tampa Bay Lightning have only had eight in their 24 year span. Hard to build a consistent formula when you’re constantly meeting a new face. GM’s have come and gone. With each new regime came new promises of revitalizing the franchise, and finally doing things right. Each time, fans would be let down and left rooting for a team flirting with last.

Florida Panthers fans have also had to put up with endless insults, scrutiny, and being treated as outsiders in their own arena. Fans of this franchise have rarely been treated seriously, because as outlined above, the team has been pretty terrible. Hard to defend a team like that. But we have. We’ve stuck with this team, as all loyal fans do. Being a fan of a bad team is not a fun experience. Add in that once the Panthers moved from the downtown Miami Arena, to the more suburban BB&T Center, their attendance began to struggle.

The attendance woes for the Panthers have long been a source of comedy for non-Cats fans. But stop and think about it. This is a team that has been AWFUL for a long time. Would you have spent your money to go see them play? Would you travel the 30+ minute drive from Miami to go to a game? How about buying merchandise? Or why would you want to be a season ticket holder, when you can buy tickets on StubHub for a mere fraction of what you shell out? Think about it from the context of the team you love now. If they were terrible for over ten years, how encouraged would you be to spend your hard earned money? If you were just discovering hockey, would you choose them as your team?

But there is a dedicated group of Panthers fans who have stuck by this team, who have put their money where their mouth is and have continued to support this team. If you ask me, these are some of the most loyal fans in the NHL. This fan base has the capacity to get bigger. (The Panthers used to regularly sell out Miami Arena, and their attendance rose last season). South Florida is known for being a bandwagon town (just ask the Heat and the Marlins), and it’s also unique because of all the SnowBirds who fly south, but never give up allegiance to their hometown teams (the Leafs, Habs, Rangers, Penguins all come to mind) to cheer for the Cats. How many other franchises have that to contend with? (Actually, I have a theory that Las Vegas, the newest franchise, will suffer this same SnowBird issue).

Panthers fans are rarely the “home crowd” in their own building. That’s tough to put up with, night after night. It’s draining. But these fans have done it. They’ve come up with ways to get louder. Cowbells became a popular way to help create atmosphere and support. (I proudly rang mine last Spring). Stanley C. Panther and Victor E. Rat (the team’s two mascots) pound on large drums to get chants going. And the fans themselves will start the chants. The two home playoff games I went to had as much energy and fan participation  I as a crowd at the Bell Centre (and the Panthers arena had only 2/3 of the crowd). It was a small crowd, but it was a mighty crowd.

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The other thing about this “small” Panthers crowd is that they’re all proudly sporting their team’s colours. As I looked around the BB&T Center, everyone was wearing something related to the Panthers – be it a jersey, a t-shirt, or even the giveaway shirts. It was mind blowing. I live in a city where the vast majority of the crowd sits in the arena in their business attire. I wasn’t used to this public display of fandom. It was incredible. It’s another mark of how proud these people are of their team – not only do they spend the money on tickets, they also work hard to spend money on the apparel.

The best part about this fan base though is their hospitality. Sean & I were welcomed with open arms to the tailgating, and everything. Yes, it did help that I have an established online relationship with some of these fans; but still. They didn’t need to offer up their parking passes, discount cards, plastic rats (for tossing on the ice of course!) or invite us along to watch parties. We quickly joked with them, shared stories, took photos, and got to know one another. It was a wonderful experience. Together we share in the highs and lows of the forever underdog franchise. It’s something special to be part of this group. How many other places around the league would have such a welcoming group? (I am genuinely asking…)

These fans don’t deserve to be mocked. I know I am guilty of often making fun of the Leafs fan base, and other northern market fans, but in all fairness – it’s because I’ve endured years and years of heckling from those parties. We’ve put up with so much over the years. It gets exhausting trying to convince people that your team can have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, and to have a great fan base. But guess what – the years of mocking, of being taunted in our own building, is really only serving to make us a stronger group. We believe in our team, and believe in each other as fans. I had the time of my life down South. It made the terrible years a distant memory. I’ve seen my team play in a Playoff hockey game. Not many people get to say that. And for me, the best part of all was that the team was only part of that experience – the fans really escalated the experience to the above and beyond. I always get asked if I’d rather be a Leafs fan so I could at least cheer for the home town team. But why would I do that, when I am already part of one of the most dedicated, passionate, and kind group of fans around?

This season, I really hope we can get to South Florida again. I can’t wait to ring my cowbell, throw some rats, and tailgate in the middle of winter. For the first time in a long while with this franchise, it truly does feel like the team itself has turned a corner and is on their way to becoming a regular contender for tops in the Division, and for making the playoffs more than once every ten years. But until the rest of the hockey world notices, I will keep trying to convince everyone that YES there are Florida Panthers fans, YES this franchise will succeed and not be a victim of relocation. I’ll keep deflecting the comments about empty seats, ticket promotions, and all the rest of it. Because I love this team, and I love these fans.

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