Wassup! By now, you’re probably basking in your Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals afterglow. I hope your shopping was a success! If you’re like me, though, you probably still have some work to do, presents-wise. Luckily, when it comes to kids, my good friends at Jakks Pacific toys have got it covered, for boys and girls of all ages. Here are some of their hottest toys for the holiday season!
If your kids are like my kids (slobs), then this truck is right up your alley. Recently named as a Walmart Top Rated By Kids toy for 2017, Mr. Dusty is a garbage truck/street sweeper/dump truck which makes cleaning up fun. Eat, sweep, dump, repeat. It has a motorized mouth, which can pick up small toys (ie. Legos), on both hardwood and carpeted floors. Even if your kids are tidy, they can still have fun with Mr. Dusty by putting random stuff on the floor and seeing if he can eat it up!
If you or your child is not a fan of potty humour or flatulence, then skip this one. If you are, then this game is the shiznit! The objective basically is to pull a monkey’s finger, and not make it fart. What’s not to like?
Big, blockbuster movies deserve big, blockbuster toys. Typical action figures are, what? 4″ or 5″ tall? BIG-FIGS come in at around 18″-20″. The detailing is really impressive, and some of the characters come with soft fabric capes and/or removable accessories.
Power Rippers are “a fusion of Vehicles, Battle Tops and Action Figures.” Basically, they’re collectable balls (each with their own names and skills) that open up, into vehicles. Using the rip cord, you can race, battle and do all kinds of cool stunts with them (no batteries required). I personally am easily amused, so I was entertained just pulling the cord, and watching them spin round and round.
For those not so easily amused, The Power Rippers 2 In 1 Competition Set will do the trick. It’s a track set and battle arena, and includes two loops, which can be configured in one long strip, or side by side, for racing. One neat thing is that it comes in a carrying case, which doubles as the arena and a base for the racing track, so cleaning up is easy. No Mr. Dusty required.
Note: While I was compensated for this post, the thoughts expressed are 100% mine.
Note: While I was compensated for this post by Imports Dragon, the opinions expressed are mine, as always.
Every year in our household, Santa Claus covers off the main presents, no problem, but he slacks off on the stockings. In fact, typically, he scrambles last minute to fill them, and pretty much just hopes that the kids won’t go ‘WTF’ when they empty them. This year will be different, though. My, err I mean, Santa’s good friends at Imports Dragon got it covered. As a distributor and manufacturer of numerous brands of toys, they offer a wide variety of products to satisfy kids of all ages. Available online, or in stores nationwide, here are some that I think make great stocking stuffers for my kids (and hopefully the children in your lives, too!):
Another cool collectible. Ooshies are tiny, squishy figurines of licensed characters, like DC, Marvel and Disney Princesses. They also double as pencil toppers, ensuring your child will have the most lit writing utensil in the whole school, fam.
I don’t know about you, but with the holiday season now upon us, I’m realizing that I need to step up my toy game. There’s just so many options out there. Shoot, even some stuff that I used to play with when I was a young boy is still around, but modernized! Take the Etch A Sketch, for example, and its many variations, like the Etch A Sketch Freestyle.
Ahh, the good old, venerable Etch A Sketch. Many an hour was spent back in the day by me, painstakingly twisting the knobs to move the black lines and create da Vinci-esque masterpieces……only for my little sister to come along later, give the toy a shake and erase my work.
Oh this? Yeah, this is just a lil something something that I doodled. Portrait of KJ and I. What? Well I was there when it happened anyway. Is that good enough?
Anyway, scarred childhood memories aside, the Etch a Sketch is definitely iconic, and a surefire Toy Hall OF Famer. So you can imagine my reaction when I find out that they have the Puff Daddy remix treatment! Or, more specifically, Spin Master acquired the brand last year and introduced a couple of cool new innovations on it.
First up is the Etch a Sketch Joystick. Basically, the two dials have been replaced with a joystick that swivels 360 degrees, which is perfect for younger kids. It’s way easier to make circles and loops and whatnot. You still just shake it to erase it, no mess. Not gonna lie, though, the whole joystick thing was a bit of a shock for an old school cat like yours truly. I may have busted out a “when I was your age, our Etch A Sketches just had knobs” story, to B and J. I may have also then went outside, grabbed my hose, and told the neighbourhood whippersnappers to get off of my lawn.
Here’s an artists’ rendition of a whippersnapper.
Next up is the Etch A Sketch Freestyle. This bad boy is even more modernized. On this drawing pad, you can use a stylus to doodle. It also has a black magic screen this time, and the lines you draw are multiple colors. As well, it comes with double sided stamps, so you can add in hearts, clouds, stars and circles. J’s the little artist in the house, so she really enjoys playing around on this one.
Like its fellow Etch A Sketches, you still just shake it, to erase it (B and J admittedly had trouble with this, initially. It’s a bit trickier than the traditional ones, but they did get the hang of it eventually). I did find the design of it to be cool. It’s very light, and slick-looking.
Finally (and this was new to me, anyway) is the Travel Etch A Sketch. It’s a smaller version of the classic edition, same magic screen and all. However, I just toss it in the back of my car, and it’s something for the kids to entertain themseleves with, when I’m driving them around. So basically, while they doodle, it gives me a few minutes off before they remember to ask “are we there yet?”. But hey, when you’re parent, you take what you can get, right?
As far as gifts for kids goes, you really can’t go wrong with any of these Etch A Sketches. Hopefully, you’re feelin’ sketchy this holiday season!
Disclaimer: While I received compensation for this post, the opinions expressed were, as always, 100% mine.
I’ve always considered myself a good driver. As a parent of three small kids, who’s frequently driving them around, I’m very safety conscious when I’m on the road.However…….I have the worst luck with cars! I got stories for days about my cars, people. It’s to the point now that I expect some sort of Final Destination-style random incident to occur, to any vehicle of mine. With that in mind, if you’re also unlucky on car front, here are some car tips, based on my unfortunate experiences.
TAKE YOUR RIDE IN FOR A TUNE UP, BEFORE GOING ON A HOT DATE
In terms of car tips, this is a non brainer. Years ago, when K and I were still just dating, I took her out to meet my friends for the first time. Big milestone, but the night went well. Earlier in the week, my car had started to drive a bit funny, but I didn’t bother taking it in to a mechanic. So of course, while coming home on the highway that night, the engine died. A tow truck driver had to give us a lift home, which is basically the equivalent of your parents driving you and your date to the prom #embarrassing.
IF YOUR KIDS ARE ACTING LIKE RAGING LUNATICS AS YOU PULL INTO A TIGHT PARKING SPOT, AND IT SOUNDS LIKE ONE OF THEM IS OPENING THE DOOR WHILE THE CAR IS IN MOTION, STOP YOUR VEHICLE COMPLETELY BEFORE YOU TURN AROUND TO LOOK AT THEM.
Pretty self explanatory, but I learned the hard, colliding way what happens if you don’t stop.
Dramatic re-enactment. This isn’t a picture of my car totaling another car.
IF YOUR CAR IS GOING TO SPONTANEOUSLY BURST INTO FLAMES ON A HIGHWAY, TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN DURING RUSH HOUR, SO THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE AREN’T INCONVENIENCED WHEN A SECTION OF THE HIGHWAY IS CLOSED OFF, TO CLEAR UP YOUR FIERY MESS.
Again, this is pretty self explanatory.
Not a dramatic re-enactment. This is all me.
DON’T GET IN AN ACCIDENT IN A DRIVE-THRU.
I’ve gotten rear ended pulling into a gas station. I was the front car in a multi-car collision, while stopped at a red light. An old neighbour badly damaged my car when it was parked on the street. She backed out of their driveway like they were Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious. However, the worst accident by far was when I was rear-ended in a drive-thru of a Burger King. Some teen’s brakes malfunctioned, so he smashed into me as I was waiting for my Whopper. While obviously annoying, the main reason why you don’t want this to happen is that, by the time you work things out with the other party…..your food is cold! Gross!
IN AN ACCIDENT? REMEMBER YOUR CAR SEAT.
You can never have too many car tips, when it comes to kids’ safety. If you are in an accident, depending on the severity of it, you probably will need to get your car seat replaced. This is regardless of if your child was in it or not, at the time of the accident. Crash forces ain’t no joke. It’s definitely better to err on the side of caution, especially when considering your child’s safety. The good thing is, depending on your policy, your insurance company will reimburse you for the cost of a new car seat. I’m such a frequent customer with my insurer that they know me by name, and take my claims like a coffee order. (“Hey it’s me.” “Oh, hey Mike. Are you having your usual settlement today?” “You know it. And one car seat to go, please.”).
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
After my latest Final Destination moment sent me in the market for a new whip, I did a lot of research before making a purchase. It’s a huge investment, so you gotta try to be as informed as possible. As such, I found myself on Cars.com quite a bit. There’s tons of information there, to help make the buying process easier. Of particular interest is car seat safety checks, for different makes and models. Cars.com had the information that I was looking for, more so than any other site I looked at.
After taking things like practicality, roominess for kids in the back, and driveability during harsh Canadian winters into consideration, here is my final answer:
Psych! I actually ended up with a Hyundai Sonata.
Stay save on the roads, y’all. Happy travels!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Cars.com, but the opinions are mine, as always.
Had the pleasure of checking out a pulmonary fibrosis charity event with my son recently. Let’s backtrack a sec, however, before we get to that.
Incurable disease are the two of the scariest words in the English language. In a perfect world, if you are diagnosed with anything, there would always be an encouraging prognosis for it. We don’t live in a perfect world, though.
I guess that’s why Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) resonated with me, when I first found out about it. PF is a rare and fatal lung disease. Per the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (CPFF) website, if you have PF, your lung tissue become scarred and thicken. Over time, it spreads, and the lungs lose their ability to function properly, depriving your body of the oxygen it needs. In Canada, approximately 30000 people are affected with this disease; deaths from it are projected at 5000 per year.
I heard about PF from an unlikely source – NBA player (and fellow Canadian) Nik Stauskas. Nik’s grandmother passed away after a long a battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, and he’s been involved with raising awareness for the disease. One of the ways that he did this was by partnering with the CPFF to host the Kiss IPF Goodbye Charity Basketball Event recently . I heard Nik promoting it on a local sports radio station, and decided that B and I should check it out.
Now, truth be told, B was supposed to have a meet and greet with Nik before the event started, including some court time. B was obviously pumped for this, and wanted to show off some of his moves in front of an NBA player. Unfortunately, due to the joys of Toronto traffic, we were late in arriving, and missed out on this opportunity #dadfail. Fortunately, Nik did still give us a few minutes of his time, which redeemed me a bit, in B’s eyes.
B with Sauce Castillo himself.
Now, truth be further told, my real intentions were to treat the event as a learning experience for B. Being charitable and generous are important traits to instil in a child, and I figured this was a cool way to show B examples of this, while supporting a great cause.
The event itself was a lot of fun. The game featured a mixture of mainly local celebrities, and people who paid to play. They all put on an entertaining show. B got super into it, and was impressed with the hops on a couple of the players (as was I). The Toronto Raptors Dance Pak were even there, to hype up the crowd! The game went to overtime, too, believe it or not, as the participants really stepped up the competitive level late in the proceedings.
In the end, I think a good amount of money was raised for the pulmonary fibrosis charity. I know a lot more awareness was raised. On a personal level, I think B’s eyes were opened from the experience, which was a positive takeaway from attending.
Hopefully, the organizers were happy with the results. Hopefully, the momentum can keep building towards finding a cure for PF one day.
For more information, please visit http://cpff.ca.
(Note: The city of Lansing, Michigan hooked me up with accommodations and tickets to a Lansing Lugnuts baseball game, in exchange for me writing about my experience in the city. The opinions given are my own, unbiased thoughts. Enjoy!)
Now, I’ve mentioned before on here that my family are pretty big Toronto Blue Jays fans. The last couple of seasons, we’ve even done road trips, to watch them play in Cleveland and Philadelphia. This year, since the Jays aren’t having such a great season, I decided to do something a bit different. We packed our bags and made the trek to Lansing, Michigan, to check out some Lansing Lugnuts baseball!
See, the Lugnuts are a Class-A minor league baseball team who are affiliated with the Jays. Notable alumni include Carlos Beltran, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Superman himself Kevin Pillar. Most recently, two of the top prospects in Major League Baseball, Vladmir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, played there. Really, it’s a great opportunity to see some potential future stars on the come up. Throw in the fact that Lansing is only like a four or five hour drive from the Greater Toronto area, which is perfect for a weekend road trip, and attending a game should be a no-brainer, for any Blue Jays fan.
I’m used to watching ball games at the cavernous Rogers Centre, but the Lugnuts’ ballpark, Cooley Law School Stadium, is on a whole different level. Quirky is probably a good word for it. One of the seating options is the lawn aka the grass behind the outfield, for example. The home run fence also varied a lot in height, across the field. It reminded me of Tetris, where it’s like a few more pieces are needed, to make the walls complete. The quirkiest part, though, were the apartments in the outfield. For real, you can actually live in a baseball stadium!
We went on a Sunday, which was “Kids Day”. In terms of maximizing the fans’ experience, the Lugnuts do a top notch job. When we arrived, a table was set up near the entrance, which had a bunch of animals on it, like snakes and rabbits, that you could pet. Near that table was a face painting station, for the kids. Players were on the concourse signing autographs, as well. It happened to be Minions Day at our game, so Minions were wandering about, doing Minions things, and taking pictures with the fans.
While we didn’t make it in time to partake, if you arrive early enough, you’re allowed to go down on the field, and play catch. Kids were also able to run the bases, after the game. Behind left field was an awesome play area, too, which featured a couple of inflatable bouncy castles. Between every inning, something entertaining was always going on (word of advice -be sure to make friends with some of the staff there. The Lugnuts baseball team run a ton of in-game contests, so who knows, if you play your cards right, there is a chance to participate in one!.
In terms of pricing, the costs of the tickets ranged from $9 for the outfield lawn seats, to $15 for executive box seats. The food choices vary. Hot dogs, chicken tenders and fries for us, with more funky options throughout the concours. The the pricing is about average. All things considered, my whole family thoroughly enjoyed the game. The fact that the Lugnuts won was a bonus (a Blue Jays team that actually wins? Crazy talk!). It’s good value for your money, especially when considering the other stuff there, which engages fans and non-fans, of all ages. It’s the type of place that you could take your family and happen to watch a baseball game, while you’re there, if that makes sense.
Cooley Law School Stadium is located in downtown Lansing. There were a bunch of restaurants and pubs near the stadium, if you want to take in the night life after a game
Also downtown is Impression5 Science Center. Timing wise, we weren’t able to go, but it sounds like a ton of fun, and I think my kids would have loved this place.
We did make it out to the local zoo, Potter Park Zoo. Besides the nice variety of animals and displays, the best part about it was the size. You could walk through and see everything in a couple of hours, which when you’re chasing after two hyperactive kids while pushing a stroller, is just about right.
Lansing is also home to Michigan State University, which we checked out for a bit. Having never been to a “big-time” American university before, the campus is beautiful and impressive.
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Lansing at Eastwood. It’s one of the city’s newest hotels and definitely the most modern hotel that I’ve stayed in. Very clean, very friendly, patient staff, and a very tasty hot breakfast! It’s conveniently located, too.
There’s a lot more going on in Lansing than I haven’t even mentioned. Bottom line, if you like baseball and cool little cities, why not make the trip there and #GoNuts ?
As much as I enjoy hanging out with the family, I do also enjoy occasionally not hanging out with them, too. |Especially if Pringles ketchup chips randomly happen to be involved. However, with two small kids, a baby, and a pretty hectic lifestyle, this isn’t easy to do.
Which is fine, obviously. No complaints here. It just means that whatever non-family time I have needs to be taken advantage of, to the fullest.
Yesterday, for instance. A buddy and I had made plans a while ago to go to the Toronto Blue Jays – New York Yankees game. However, earlier this week, I saw this press release come across:
Holy random, Batman! Now, there’s a lot going in that release. Like, unexplainable, how did someone even come up with this combination of stuff, levels of randomness. Pringles ketchup chips were definitely making a….splash?
Nonetheless, since it was happening before the game, near the Rogers Centre, and I was in the area anyway, I figured that it was worth checking out. After all, I’ve never been apart of a world record before….or experienced a Brett Lawrie hosted affair….or been able unleash my inner french fry and get dipped in ketchup….or even felt the urge to unleash my inner french fry. Anyway, a lot of my boxes were checked off, in terms of time being well spent, so off I went.
In all honesty, the event was an interesting spectacle, but it wasn’t quite like what I expected. I knew that coveralls would be provided on site, to keep your clothes clean. This was key, since I didn’t want to have to spend the afternoon at the ball game covered in ketchup stains. However, for some reason, I pictured the slide being like a playground style one, with steps and stuff. The fact that it was a flat, Slip N Slide one threw me off.
so did i do it?
Then, my experience with those slides was that you needed a running start, to get enough momentum to go the whole length. The thing is, the one at the event didn’t allow for much space. As such, I saw people taking a few steps and belly-flopping, ketchup spraying everywhere, and gliding a few feet before getting up and either walking the rest of the way, or belly-flopping again. Anyway, the end result was people were still getting really messy, underneath their coveralls, and all on their faces. It did look like everyone was happy about being drenched in the sticky sweet condiment, though, and there was a decent sized crowd of people willing to take the plunge.
I, unfortunately (fortunately?), chickened out. Keeping my threads looking fresh to death won out over being a record-breaking human french fry. Pringles did make sure to have free samples of the ketchup chips available, which I’ve tried before, and are pretty tasty. Oh Canada, indeed.I also got to chat with the host himself, Brett Lawrie.
Yes, I’m rocking my Lawrie jersey, by the way, because that seemed like a cool thing to do. Missing from that clip is a question my son B had for Brett. It was, when he was a little kid, what team did he want to play for when he was older (Brett’s answer: he didn’t have one, he just wanted to play baseball).
So all in all, I have no idea why that event went down like it did. It happened, and I went to it. Time well spent? I don’t know. It wasn’t a waste of time, though, that’s for sure.
When it comes to the BabyBjörn Carrier One, first impressions are everything, man.
For example, I remember the first time that I tried wasabi. Completely oblivious to what it was, my initial bite was a BIG forkful, which clearly was a BIG mistake. It also somehow ended up in my eye, which was painful as it sounds. I didn’t touch wasabi for years after that. To me, it was uncomfortable, and not a good look.
Now, to be honest, the same way that I felt about wasabi, was the same way that I felt about baby carriers. See, our first carrier was an old, used one, and I wasn’t a fan of it as soon as I put it on. It was uncomfortable, and not a good look. It turned me off of carriers for years…..
Until my good friends at BabyBjörn hooked me up with a Baby Carrier One!
After using this bad boy for a few weeks now, I can honestly say that the BabyBjörn Carrier One was a real game-changer for me.
For example, my back felt sore after a few minutes with my old carrier on. However, because the Baby Carrier One is ergonomic, I feel fine every time that I wear it. As well, I really like the soft, thick shoulder straps. The straps in my old one weren’t nearly as well designed, and dug into my arms. I should also say that it’s pretty easy to use. My old one required a lot of reaching behind me and stretching, to properly put it on. I’m just not that flexible anymore, dude, so I’m down for slipping the BabyBjörn Carrier One over my head, buckling up appropriately, and being good to go.
The wide head rest and seating seem to make for easy, comfy riding for KJ, as well. He appeared to be content (for a while) and well-supported when being lugged around in it.
I’m not just talking from an in-facing position, either. The Baby Carrier One is designed to carry your child inwards, outwards, or on your back, depending on their age. Speaking of that, it is surprising to see that it to safely handles newborns up to approximately three year olds! BabyBjörn ain’t lying when they say that’s it the only one that you need.
So, yeah, my experience using the Baby Carrier One has opened up such a whole new world, that I’m feeling like Peabo Bryson now (get it?). Bad Aladdin analogy aside, who knew that carriers could be so stylish, comfortable, and versatile? Definitely not I, that’s for sure.
Truth be told, my opinion is heavily skews positively. There is no comparison to my various carrier experiences. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Even NHL superstar Connor McDavid thinks this thing is dope!
Disclaimer: I have no idea if NHL superstar Connor McDavid thinks this thing is dope. I have never met him, and this is a picture of me next to a lifelike image of him.
Ok, seriously, if you’re in the market for a carrier, do your research. I’m sure you’ll see that the Baby Carrier One is a premium product that’s worth your money. I’m also sure that your first impression of it will be better than my wasabi experience.
Don’t forget to check out BabyBjörn’s latest #dadstories campaign, by the way. I’m on board with any company that understands the evolving role of fatherhood, and promotes the power of “dads inspiring dads.”
Alright, giveaway time. Let’s hook one lucky reader up with a BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One. Enter below, for your chance to win!
DATES – Giveaway closes at 11:59PM on May 21, 2017.
ELIGIBILITY – Open to all residents of Canada, except for Quebec.
TO ENTER – Use the form below to complete the mandatory and optional entries, for your chance to win.
Yo, I’m talking about that common interest which helps you bond with them. It dawned on me recently that J and I don’t really have a thing. This realization made me feel kind of guilty, for real. Sure, we get along well and do lots of dope stuff together. However, unlike Amerie back in 2005, we don’t have one thing. B and I, for example, talk, watch or play basketball a lot. J and I don’t get down like that, though. With this in mind, when my good friends at Culinary Adventure Coinvited me out to one of their walking food tours, I jumped at the opportunity!
See, Culinary Adventure Co. is Canada’s largest culinary tourism and experience operator, offering a variety of neighbourhood food tours and other tasty adventures. J is curious by nature, and also loves to try new eats. A walking food tour would be right up her alley, right? We’d walk around a ‘hood in Toronto, learn some history and sample some scrumptious foods. Perhaps this would be start of our new thing: daddy-daughter foodies!
did we do the right thing?
Ok, let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed our particular walking food tour of the Riverside and Leslieville area in Toronto. Our guide, Ian, was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and filled us with all kinds of cool information about the neighbourhood.
Our tour group consisted of a bunch of hardcore foodies. I’ve never been around that many people who were so passionate about their dining. They were the type who would have choked on their baba ganoush if I had told them that I had Kraft Dinner for supper the other night. Even though I lacked their sophisticated palate, and even though I was the only one who had a child with them, everyone in the group was very friendly to J and I.
In terms of the food, I really liked everything that we had, but don’t take my word for it. I did make a point of listening in on the opinions of the group at each stop. Truth be told, I heard a lot of compliments from the hardcores about the tastes and presentations.
However, truth be told, I also had two unexpected issues come up with J.
The first was, while normally very open-minded, she picked that day to be a picky eater. Despite normally liking what was offered at the Middle Eastern restaurant we stopped at, she refused to try anything, because it looked “spicy”. Then, despite liking canned tuna, she refused to try the fresh tuna at the fish market, because it wasn’t canned. Despite loving bread, she refused to try the fresh bread at the bread factory, because it didn’t come in a plastic bag (curse you, Dempsters!).
The other issue was, while I was digging the hot knowledge that Ian was spittin’, J couldn’t have cared less. This was my bad, as I misjudged the age appropriateness a tad. As such, she spent the day entertaining herself, usually separate from the rest of the group.
While Ian told us about the historical significance of where we were standing, J wandered off to explore the area.
Here she is using Google Maps to play Pac-Man. Seriously.
At the bread factory, she wandered off into the kitchen, and was amazed with how big the mixer was.
Instead of eating at the Middle Eastern joint, she filled up on a mint lemonade.
This is the face of someone who was not impressed with seafood…..
But here is the face of someone who is happy with her doll-placing handiwork.
I can’t front. She seemed to be having such a blast, that I had to join her most of the time.
To summarize, I thought Culinary Adventure Co. put on an excellent experience. The one that we went on is a bit better suited for kids older than J (re: older than five-ish). Even if they aren’t that age, however, they’ll still be entertained. Regardless, any foodie definitely won’t be disappointed.
At the end of our tour, as we walked hand in hand to the car, I asked J if she had a good time. I expected her to say no, and that it was boring, and yucky or something. Instead she smiled, mouth smeared with blood orange/raspberry gelato, and said that she had “sooo much fun”. I had to smile too, because I also had a great time with her.
Being daddy-daughter foodies ona walking food tour probably isn’t be the right thing for us. And you know what?
Maybe our thing is that we don’t have a thing. Yet. Hanging out and spending quality time together right now, doing whatever, is really all that matters.
disclaimer: while J and I’s walking tour was free courtesy of Culinary Adventure Co., all opinions expressed are my own.
I’ve mentioned before on this site that one of the best things about being a parent is sharing my interests with my kids. Take basketball, for example. It’s always been my favorite sport. B’s picked up on that vibe and become a huge hoops fiend, too. If he’s not playing ball, then he’s talking about it constantly. It’s that interest which led me to stumbling onto the Canadian Basketball League (CBL), a league that came before the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
The CBL is the brainchild of Butch Carter, the Toronto Raptors’ former head coach. It’s a fledgling, four team professional league in its first season, with all four teams located in the GTA. I discovered this while randomly looking at things to do one weekend recently. To my surprise, one of the teams is located in Hamilton. As such, I copped a couple of tickets, and B and I checked out a game: the Hamilton Basketball Club vs. the Scarborough Basketball Club.
You’re probably now wondering what the game was like. And to that I say it was…….professional. Lemme explain.
I think one of the keys to operating any sports league or team is to not come across as rinky dink, or lame. With that said, I think the CBL does a pretty good job with that. The league website looks pretty slick, for example. They also have their own online ticket buying site, as opposed to going through Ticketmaster, which I think is pretty clever (both them and the consumer save paying Ticketmaster fees). They even have a TV deal, as they show some games on Yes TV.
Hamilton plays it home games at Mohawk College, which has a decent sized facility, and a fair number of rafters. B did ask about buying snacks at the game, as we were driving there. Being familiar with the campus, I knew that there weren’t any concessions. However, that just meant we had to make a quick stop at Bulk Barn, to load up on goodies. When we got there, the attendants at the game didn’t care that we brought our own food and drinks. In a neat touch, we were given a free Hamilton Basketball Club rally towel as we walked in, too.
In terms of in-game presentation, I was pleasantly surprised. There was an announcer who did his best to hype the crowd up, and played music throughout the contest (similar to an NBA game). The players looked like real basketball players, for lack of a better term, which was good, because they were real basketball players. I read their bios, and they were all legit. From local stars, to former US high school standouts, to college grads looking for another chance, there were a lot of talented dudes, which made for some quality, entertaining basketball.
It really is an interesting niche to go after. Ballers who aren’t ready to give up their hoop dreams yet, and need a place to play, to take the next step up in their careers. They are paid for their services, too. Besides the Canadian elite Basketball League, there is another league in Canada. The National Basketball League, which is bigger, and has been around longer, and I think does the same type of thing. However, the CBL’s rosters seems to skew on the younger side, most likely by design.
One other interesting thing of note. B and I sat in the front row, so we could hear everything that was being said on the court. I don’t know if it was conscious effort by the players and coaches, but we only heard one use of profanity the whole game. The rest of time, there was a lot of “Shoot!” or “Dang it!”, stuff like that. When you’re with small kids, this is huge. I was happy that the atmosphere was so family-friendly.
Now, obviously, it’s not the same as going to an NBA game, or even a D-League game. To say the attendance was sparse would be putting it generously. It’s a shame, but I guess that goes with the growing pains of a new league that isn’t heavily promoted. Regardless, it was still fun. We went to a Hamilton Bulldogs (a junior hockey team who play out of the FirstOntario Centre, which is a borderline NHL-caliber arena) game a few weeks prior to the CBL game, and the products were similarly entertaining.
B was really into it, by the end, cheering the home team on (even though they ended up losing). It was also an eye-opening experience for him, as he didn’t realize that you could make a living playing basketball outside of the NBA or D-League.
When I say that the CBL is professional, I mean it as a compliment. The effort is obviously there, to make for an enjoyable fan experience, and it’s pretty good value, relative to other pro sports in the GTA. Hopefully, the current Canadian Elite Basketball League learned from them.