On June 10th, I will approach the start line of the 10th annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Back in October, I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post Blogs as part of World Mental Health Day detailing why it means so much to me to participate in the Ride, and highlighting my journey with health anxiety. All of that still remains true, but I feel my journey hasn’t quite taken the path I envisioned seven months ago.
Let me explain…
For TEALPOWER, the team on which I Ride, this year has been a success! We’ve made so many strides raising cervical cancer awareness.
On May 25th, we held our second annual event – “TEALPOWER Presents: Heart to HeART”. The night was centred around an art battle, where three different artists created paintings in real time. We raised $27,000 for cervical cancer research, with proceeds going to Team TEALPOWER’s 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer campaign, benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Those of us on the TEALPOWER committee knew Alison Salinas, TEALPOWER’S late Co-Founder in some shape or form. Most of the group knew her as their best friend, their sister, or the love of their life. We all want TEALPOWER to succeed because Alison believed in it, and we believed in her. It’s not often nowadays that you can get so many people to commit so fully to something. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our lives and push things aside. We held ourselves accountable on weekly calls, meetings, and set deadlines preparing for our fundraiser. A successful event would mean all of us would reach our Ride fundraising goals. TEALPOWER would grow, and new people would hear our message.
With this year’s Ride around the corner it’s been a time of reflection for me. Part of this winter hasn’t been what I wanted. I thought I got off to a good start with my “January Goals“. I wanted to be completely anxiety free. I thought I could lose about 15lbs in the span of three months, and get off my anti-depressants with very few withdrawal symptoms. I wanted to be “perfect”. Instead, the “perfect Tesla” I had in my head drove me downwards at times. I got down on myself when I wasn’t losing weight “fast enough”. I struggled a lot with my health anxiety this winter. I’ve probably diagnosed myself with about 10 different ailments since 2017 began. At times, it’s taken over my emotions and it’s been tough to re-focus my attention.
After last year’s Ride, I felt amazing. I was so deeply proud of myself, and my team. The entire weekend reminded me how important it is to believe in yourself. I soaked in every second. Living in the moment is the only way to truly keep my anxiety at bay. My hope was that I would carry that confidence all year, and feel like a million dollars leading into this year.
Instead, I beat myself up. I told myself I wasn’t training enough, that I wouldn’t be good enough. Even though it isn’t a race, I didn’t want to be the slowest one on the team because in my mind I would be dragging us down. And this is what I do. I tear myself down, expect the worst. Anxiety doesn’t let you have nice things. You don’t spend time, sitting back and really appreciating accomplishments. Instead, your mind will criticize, and nit pick. The smallest detail will become the biggest flaw. I’ll see a photo of myself in my helmet and think “I look terrible wearing that”.
I have two ways of looking at how my winter/spring went. I could regard it as a total failure, and go into the Ride feeling horrible. My mindset going in would drag me down, and inevitably I would become a self-fulling prophecy. Or, I can look at things differently. I could say to myself “you did a lot of positive things, and you continue to work on yourself”. I can remind myself how I’ve trained a lot more this year, specifically on my bike, and that no one cares how quickly or slowly I finish the Ride. We are a team, after all. By re-framing how I look back on the start of 2017, I can change how I will approach the moments before kick-off. Being nicer to myself, and forgiving myself will allow me to be the best Tesla for Team Tealpower that I can be.
Anxiety and mental illness shouldn’t get to take my big accomplishments away from me.
I am so thankful I have a wonderful group of Riders to call my teammates. They will give me hope, and lift my spirits – often without even realizing it. By completing this, I will once again tell myself that I am strong, worthy, and capable.
I can do this.
To donate to my 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer journey, please click here
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
It took more than a few tries, but I was finally able to secure tickets to one of the Tragically Hip’s shows at the ACC – Sunday August 14th. The seats are in the 300 level, and behind the stage. Usually I would never buy seats in either of those locations for a concert at the ACC (I am a total ticket snob with that place). But this is different. I am just thrilled to be in the building. But what sucks is the reason most of us will be there, to say goodbye.
When the band announced Gord Downie’s terminal cancer I was stunned. So many thoughts ran through my mind. Aside from the usual cries of “He’s still so young!” I am most saddened that it’s his brain that is suffering from the cancer. It seems so cruel. Downie’s brain has given us so much creativity and beauty over the years. His lyrics, his poetry, his on-stage antics sprouting from that part of our mind that promotes spontaneity. I can’t help but feel so sad thinking about how all of those things have been impacted by the disease.
But rather than focusing on the sad, I wanted to write about how much good Gord Downie and his fellow bandmates have given me over the years.
At first, I hated the Hip. I remember watching the music video for “Ahead By A Century” on the CHUM FM Top 30 Countdown that would air on CITY-TV on the weekends. I would watch the show weekly with my mom. That song came on, and at first I couldn’t stand it. “What is up with the lead singer’s voice???” But slowly, the more I saw that video and head that song, I started to love it. It was the guitar hook that first won me over. Then I started listening to the lyrics, and soon, I was fully on board with Downie’s vocals. And the video itself is so beautiful. Click the link and watch it again if you haven’t seen it recently. It might actually be one of my favourite music videos. It certainly is one that has always stuck out in my mind. Watching it, it actually takes me right back to those moments on the couch in my parents’ living room. I was so young, still had so much to experience. I was just starting to figure out what type of music I liked. In fact, that same Top 30 show is when I first discovered Oasis (another band I hated at first, then grew to adore). I don’t remember when I bought “Trouble at the Henhouse”, but all I know is the edges on my copy are all worn out. I would read the lyrics, trying to figure out their meaning. I still to this day can’t always figure them out. In the end, “Gift Shop” became my favourite song from that album, and one of my favourite songs in general. I really hope to hear it live on the 14th.
Flash forward a few years, and young Tesla is at a BBQ, chatting with some young boys. Being all of 14, I of course want to impress them and make them think I am the coolest chick they’ve ever met. So when they all start talking about how much they love The Tragically Hip I think to myself “I’M IN!!!” I like to think I can impress them with my knowledge, even bragging about owning their first album to make myself seem more “legit”. By this time “Phantom Power” had been released, and I was obsessed with that album. I loved it. As a die-hard hockey fan, “Fireworks” quickly became a high rotation song for me. Sadly, I didn’t get a boyfriend out of the encounter.
As I grew older, The Hip were always one of my “staple” artists – bands that I grew up with who were always going to be there, producing new music. “In Violet Light” went a little over my head at the time it was released, and I still haven’t listened to that album much. But “World Container” brought me right back to peak fandom and I still think it’s one of their best albums. But one thing always eluded me – seeing them live. I remember watching their ’99 Woodstock performance they had, just utterly devastated that I wasn’t allowed to attend the festival. When I moved to Toronto something always kept me from going to their shows, or I just assumed “I’ll go on the next tour”. I thought of The Hip as an eternal group – they’d always be touring, and they will always put out new music. They’d become Canada’s version of The Stones, or Bon Jovi. You’ll always get a chance to see them.
I finally got to see The Hip live in November of 2007. I had just started working at The Air Canada Centre as an usher, and they were performing as part of RIM’s Christmas Party at the ACC. Van Halen were to headline, and The Hip were openers. I was so excited. I even squealed and laughed with delight when I could hear them striking those opening chords to “Ahead By A Century” during soundcheck. Oddly enough, I was working the 300 level that night. I wasn’t sure if it would be a “true” performance, given that it was essentially a corporate event, but I have to say, Gord Downie & Co still gave it their all. It meant the world to me to finally see the infamous “microphone” rant in person.
Since then, I’ve only seen The Tragically Hip perform one other time – live for free at Yonge/Dundas Square (another corporate event, this time for Rogers and the NHL). So I’ve yet to experience a “real” Hip concert. No limitations, no restrictions, just whatever they want to play. However – I am happy to say I’ve seen Gord Downie play with The Sadies at Field Trip a couple of years ago (great performance, and they released a great album together); and Downie even came out during Broken Social Scene’s set to sing “Texaco Bitches” with Kevin Drew. It was one of the highlights of the festival.
Another one of the more personal memories I have of The Hip is from one of the Kraft Celebration Tours. One the bus, we’d often hop onto the crew bus where they usually had an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. We’d gather together at the back of the bus and sing classic songs like “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “The Weight”, and yes, “Wheat Kings”. As I’ve already written about, those tours were special. Whenever I hear that song, it immediately brings me back to that moment on the bus, where I was looking around at everyone, having the time of my life and thinking “I am so lucky and can’t believe this is happening”.
So Sunday the 14th means a lot. I still can’t believe that this could be it, the last time many of us will experience this band live. It’s shocking, saddening, and terrifying all at the same time. There’s such an important lesson in all of this, one we so often hear but fail to heed. You have to take your opportunities when you can get them. If your favourite band is in town, but you’re unsure if you want to see them on this tour – go to the concert. If there’s an old friend you haven’t seen for awhile – contact them. Visit your family, take time for friends, and remind everyone you care about that they matter to you. I know how busy our lives are these days, and I know how difficult it can be to balance different social calendars and expectations. Finding that “sweet spot” of “me-time”, working, and socializing can be really difficult. But, just try. All you can do is your best. There may be times you have to turn down you usual group of friends, to see a grandparent. One night you might have to work overtime, but maybe make a note to re-schedule a coffee date instead of a dinner date. Just take advantage when you can.
To close this one, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite lyrics, to one of my favourite songs:
We’re forced to bed But we’re free to dream All us humans extras All us hearded beings And after a glimpse Over the top The rest of the world Becomes a gift shop
*** Post-concert thoughts, and musings:
Watching Gord Sunday night, something struck me. I’m so scared that one day I’ll be given a terminal diagnosis. That I will slowly and sadly have to say goodbye to everyone, and watch my life disappear. But Sunday taught me that there’s something beautiful about getting to say goodbye on your terms. Gord is doing that. Watching him belt out songs our country loves, dance, kiss bandmates, and wave to the crowd with love in his eyes, was amazing. He is getting to pay tribute to all those who have given him so much. It was inspiring.
I didn’t find Sunday sombre. I found it beautiful. I nearly forgot for two and a half hours that Gord is dying (save for those ten minutes he spent waving, blowing kisses, and bowing to nearly every single person in that arena). I got to sing along, cheer, and feel deep emotions. That isn’t something you don’t often get all in one concert. The Tragically Hip have given us something rare. There are endless articles right now about how they are so deeply woven into the fabric of this country. I won’t do this here. But all I do know is, I am so thankful I was able to witness that show on Sunday. That was something special. So thank you Gord for helping to remind me about living in the present, being mindful, and putting your whole heart into what drives you.
“You can’t be fond of living in the past
‘Cause if you are then there’s no way that you’re going to last”
In the days leading up to The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, I have been a mixed bag of emotions. I am sad, anxious, scared, excited, and everything in between. My adrenaline was kicking in as early as Monday as I started to fret and worry about what I needed to pack. My anxiety was off and running (or shall I say pedaling? …. I’ll just see myself out…). “Do I have a sleeping bag? Why did I think that was provided? Where are the flashlights? Should I start asking around now for a spare sleeping bag if we don’t have one? When will I have time to buy one if no one can let me borrow one? Have I trained enough? How much should I train this week? What if I injure myself? What if I slow my team down? What if they don’t like me? What if I am not ready for this? What if I do the Ride, and then find out at my physical next month that I have cancer? Is this some sort of sign that I am destined to get bad news right after I do this event? Am I going to become one of those tragic stories immediately following the Ride? Should I wait to sign up for 2017 in case I get sick?”
The last few should really stick out to you. Only someone with a pretty good anxiety disorder can start to have disastrous thoughts like that. I’ve been doing a decent job of managing my health anxiety as of late. I’ve had a few moments where I’ve thought “UH OH. SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG.” But I’ve usually talked it out, or solved the problem, and been able to move on with my life. I haven’t Googled any symptoms for at least a month (a VERY long time for me). However, lately, it’s started to creep in. My follow-up colposcopy is coming up in July, and I am terrified that things have gotten worse on my cervix, or that I still have abnormal cells and will need another round of scraping, lasering, and all the rest of it. I’ve been thinking of running another half marathon. However I worry that if I am stuck with another laser treatment it may mean I won’t have enough time to train for the race. But again, this is my anxiety getting ahead of itself. For all I know the tests will come back clear, and I’ll be free to plan my training. But until then, the thoughts continue until I can do something to distract myself.
Those fears aside, I also felt a number of different emotions around all the support I am receiving. It was so inspiring having so many people donate their money to the cause. Money is tight for everyone these days, and I know that feeling of wanting to donate to someone’s cause and thinking “I really can’t afford this” or “I already donated to someone else’s event, so I wish I could donate to this one.” I’ve been there. We all have. So I was very touched that so many people thought to themselves “this is the one I want to support”.
I also know that nowadays, there’s even more awareness about just how much of your money actually makes a difference. I know people who only donate to smaller charities, or local ones. And there is by no means anything wrong with that. So I was also equally happy that so many believed in this cause, and supporting Princess Margaret. I am also happy people didn’t seem to get too annoyed with my postings, fundraising, etc. I don’t like to ask for money, or even ask for help, so it hasn’t been easy for me to be so vocal about fundraising. I am so happy that so many helped me achieve my goal and didn’t just shut me out.
Above all, it was the incredibly kind words that people said to me either when they donated, or after I thanked them. People called me brave, strong, told me what an amazing thing I was doing, and one person even told me “there needs to be more people like you”. Wow. I’ve never felt so empowered, yet humbled, all at the same time. Who am I to be called these things? I’m just saddling up on my bike. To me, the real heroes are the ones doing the scientific research, the ones fighting the good fight every day to beat cancer. I’m not getting chemo. I have my health (as much as I fear it). I feel I am just doing the best I can to help end this disease. I felt like saying, “don’t say these things to me. I don’t deserve them!!” But there again is my anxiety and depression trying to tell me what my self worth should be. I can already hear so many of you getting ready to type “Tesla! You ARE those things because very few people wouldn’t do this challenge!!!” Don’t worry. I think once I cross the Finish Line I will truly believe all of those words.
Tying in to that, perhaps the greatest thing I’ve gained in the lead up the Ride is some of my confidence. I feel so incredibly strong when I am on my bike. There’s also an incredible freedom. The city is suddenly my playground. I don’t have my license, so I imagine what I am feeling is what most 16 year old kids experience when they get to finally drive a car. But I have a sense that this is different. Riding a bike is all because of me. My legs get me there. It’s much the same as running. A car didn’t take me 21 km, I did. I’ve found that since getting back on my bike, my body issues have slowly started to fade. Climbing up hills, riding alongside cars, (don’t worry mom, I am being careful on the roads), discovering new parts of my neighbourhood, all of that reminds me to be thankful and be proud. And it gives me a sense of empowerment! I don’t need the TTC! I don’t need a car! I can do it myself!
And remember how I was talking about fixing my spiritual side? Being outside does wonders for that with me. I’ve always felt very strongly connected to nature. Living in a concrete jungle can often take that feeling away. And being stuck indoors all winter can really take its toll on me (this is one reason I try to keep running all winter long). But thankfully, Toronto is a surprisingly green city and you can easily escape the noise, and find tranquility. (Don’t believe me? Head into Sunnybrook Park, or the wetlands behind The Evergeen Brickworks, or down to The Beaches). Whether it’s a run or bike ride, getting to see those sides of the city, smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, meeting new animal friends, and seeing a beautiful sunset, that does wonders for reminding me of all the beauty that’s around us, and that just maybe, something else is out there beyond us.
So all this, all of those thoughts and feelings, will be with me as I hit the Starting Line Saturday morning. My legs will be shaking, butterflies in my stomach, I may be crying, and or might even be laughing (maybe both at the same time!). More than anything, I hope I will be a stronger person when I finish on the other side of the Golden Horseshoe.
After running my first 5km race several years ago, I found myself eager to conquer new athletic challenges. I went from 5km races to 10km. I ran a Half Marathon. I found myself setting new “PB’s” aka Personal Best times. I did things I didn’t think I could ever achieve.
Truth is, I always fancied myself a superstar athlete. But my severe lack of confidence didn’t allow me to seriously go after sports. I doubted myself every time I stepped onto a playing surface. Once at an indoor soccer tournament in 8th grade, I found myself nearly bawling my eyes out on the bench after feeling like I had failed my team. I really wanted to be good at something. Actually, scratch that, I wanted to be EPIC at something.
Flash forward to my 20s and I discover the beauty of running and earning my own medals. I am incredibly proud of what I have already achieved. It’s helped my self-esteem in so many different ways, and continues to do so. But now, I am setting my sights on my biggest challenge yet – the 2016 Ride To Conquer Cancer.
For background – the RTCC is a 200+km bike ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls, ridden over the course of two days. We camp overnight just outside of Hamilton, and afterwards, celebrate our accomplishment with an after party. The journey isn’t easy, and it’s why they call it an “epic” event.
I grew up with an avid cyclist – my father. He rides his bike as often as possible, and all year round if he can. I grew up in a small town, and a lot of people recognize my dad as “the guy on the bike”. It was an inspiration for me to stay in shape, and stay active. It was also fascinating as a kid to watch him fix his own bike; restore parts; basically run his own personal bike shop for himself. So in a way, I feel I’ll paying homage to him by doing this event and showing him that I did learn a thing or two from watching him over the years.
It’s also going to be awesome finishing such a great ride next door to my hometown. The route we’re taking ends in Niagara Falls – a hop skip and a jump from my hometown of Welland. I am hoping that many of my loved ones can be there to greet me at the finish line. It will likely be the first time my parents watch me cross a finish line, and there’s something deeply special about that to me. It will also be a great bit of encouragement to push through those times when I am sure my legs will feel like they want to give out, or my back is starting to cramp up, or hell, I am probably going to fall off my bike at some point! But knowing they will all be there to greet me, will help get me to the finish.
But the biggest reason of all, is definitely Alison Salinas. She was epic. I didn’t know her well, I only met her in person a couple of times. But I felt like I did. I read her blog. I was compelled by her story. I’ve written before about how she was an inspiration to me. She faced her cervical cancer battle with strength, grace, positivity, and embraced the time she had left. I got the sense she was always the type of person who lived in each and every moment even before she was struck with cancer. I feel like she didn’t waste a single minute on this planet. She spoke at last year’s RTCC (video below) and it was an inspiring speech. I cried the first time I watched it. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to face all of my personal battles with the same strength. She is at peace now, and it’s my turn to pick up where she left off and continue her efforts to spread awareness for cervical cancer, and to find ways to keep smiling.
The Ride was originally just my way to show support for her, and to hope that we’d be riding as teammates with our Norco bikes. Now, it’s so much more than that. I know that when I edge my bike towards the starting line, I will truly be epic.
I’d like to ask you to donate to my personal fundraising page (Updated for 2017!!) Your support means a lot, and it goes towards a cause truly making a difference. Thank you.