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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

At 4:00 p.m. 16 of us gathered at Air France Terminal #1 and checked our bags. We were very fortunate as we were the last plane allowed to leave for Paris that day. The air traffic controllers in France were going on strike and no other planes were allowed to leave that day.

Well any way we boarded a very crowded flight and made the 7:30 minute flight across the Atlantic to Charles Degaulle Airport.  After landing we did our best to hustle across the airport and make our connecting flight. It took us almost 1 hour to change terminals, but we made it and found another very crowded plane. We found out that the previous 2 flights to Düsseldorf had been canceled and everyone was on our flight with us. It really didn’t matter very much, we were all very tired and the flight was only 55 minutes.

When we arrived at the airport we met Mike Tilly, Mike Fitterer and Manny the ref.  Wayne Meyer and the Irish boys also showed up a few minutes later and we all headed for the bus.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The trip from the airport to the Hotel took about 40 minutes and after check in most people headed for bed for a much-needed nap. Others went to the hotel restaurant and had a delicious lunch and some good German beer.

At 8:30 p.m. the bus pulled up and we headed out for our first game against the Düsseldorf Fire Department. Düsseldorf jumped out to a quick 1-goal lead but we came quickly back and the first period ended 6-2. The second period went back and forth and ended with us up 11 -4.  After three very long periods we won 16 -6.

After the game we had a great party. Before going home some of the guys found the hurling stones that they had seen being used before our game and decided to have a little tournament of their own. It is a lot harder than is looks to throw those things as J.P. and Teddy will tell you.

On the way home we stopped at a gas station for beer and most of the guys fell in love with the female attendant who would not open the door and would only sell to them through the ATM like window she used to keep her safe.

When we got back to the hotel we learned that the fun was not over yet. 8 of the guys had left their room keys with the front desk, which was now closed and locked. This meant that they could not get into their rooms until tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. So, some of them slept on the floor in others rooms, but most went to the party room and spent the night there.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our game today against the Duisburg Fire Department did not start until 1:00 p.m., which gave everyone some much needed time to sleep. The bus pulled up at noon and we made the short trip in about 25 minutes.

Tilly and the firemen met us at the Stadium and showed us to our locker rooms, which were outside in trailers, but they had toilets and showers so everyone was pretty happy.

Luckily for us most of the Duisburg’s better players had to work today so we had a pretty easy time of it. The first period ended with us up 6-2. Mike Fitterer started in Goal the 2nd period and that seemed to be the motivation the Duisburg team needed. The second period ended 6-6. However, the 3rd period was all us.  We won 13 -6.  The game was played in the professional stadium, a great facility, which everyone liked.

We were back to the hotel by 3:30 p.m. We were heading back out at 5:30 p.m. to go to the Düsseldorf Metro Stars game, which started at 7:30 p.m.  The Metro Stars have a nice new building and it was a fun game, however they lost 3-4.  We got back home around 11:00 p.m. and the old men went to bed, the young men did not.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The boys did not get in very early last night and I didn’t expect to see everyone for our 7 a.m. departure, but they were all there. It wasn’t even a very quiet ride there as they all recounted their stories of a great night out. From the stories I heard some of them didn’t get back until after 4:00 a.m.

We arrived in Düsseldorf by 8:00 a.m. and were shown to our cabin by Mark and Benedict our hosts. Game got off to a rough start with them scoring a goal in the first 10 seconds, but we than settled down and ended the period down 0-2. The second period was not much better and ended 0-4. However in the third period we got a little life and made it respectable losing 2-4.

After the game they had beer and liverkaisser sandwiched for us and I overheard Tom Rilling say; “this is the best thing I have ever eaten in my life”.  We were back on the bus by 11:00 a.m. and back in bed by noon. Yet, some guys were ready to forgo the sleep and venture out to see Moers; I was not one of them.

9:15 p.m. we all climbed back onto the bus to head to Dinslaken for game #4. Mike Tilly was not playing with us tonight, but Goetz Stiffell had joined us from England and better yet he could speak German. We arrived at the rink and the Ice Disco, that precedes our game each year, was in full swing. By the time we took the ice the fog from the fog machine was still pretty heavy on the ice.  Remo was not playing for his team tonight and was working as a referee along with Manny.

The game got off to a very rocky start and we were down 2-5 at the end of the first period. We headed for the locker room for the intermission and learned that J.P had pulled a groin muscle and would not be playing any more tonight.  The second period went a little better and ended 5-7. Everyone elected not to have an ice cut and continue playing, so we did. The final period was all Blueline and we won the game 8-7. After the game Remo gave every player on our team a portable clock with the Paperdevils logo on it. It was a very nice gesture and appreciated almost as much as the case of beer they had given us earlier.

After a shower we were off to the rink restaurant and shared some drinks with our new friends, I even saw Mike Vience eating Steak Tartar? We left the rink at 1:45 and were home by 2:30 a.m.  I told everyone we would be departing at 6:45 a.m. They all groaned and decided to go out and forego sleep.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When I got downstairs they were all there; maybe not bright eyed, but they were there. We got started for the rink a little late, 7:00 a.m. and didn’t arrive until 7:40 a.m. They only had ice from 8:00 – 9:30 and were anxious to get started. Henry our goalie got fully dressed and realized he forgot to put his pants on, so he was a little late coming to the ice. Fortunately the other team had two goalies and one of them jumped in for us.

It was another rough first period and they jumped out to a 0-2 lead in the first 3 minutes.

However, we fought back and the period ended 4-3 in our favor.

The second period began and than the lights in the building went out which forced a 15 minute delay until maintenance could get them back on. All in All it was a great game, which we won in the last minute with a great goal from Teddy, assisted by Donnie Lewis.

The final score was 8-7.

After the game they had plenty of beer for us and we spent some nice time together. We were back on the bus by 11:00 a.m and in the hotel by noon.

We were supposed to leave at 4:30 for our next game, but we were delayed; yet we made the trip to Dinslaken in 28 minutes. We were without Wayne Myers who went to the hospital this morning to have water withdrawn from his knee, but came home on crutches. Once again they had the ice disco in full blast when we arrived and once again the ice was full of fog at the start of the game. We gave up two goals in the first 4 minutes, but came back and tied it up 2-2, but ended the first trailing 2-5. The second period we played all right but still trailed 5-7 and ended up losing 7-12. They gave us 2 cases of beer, so everyone hung out in the locker room for a while before heading to the restaurant for the post game party. When we got to the Restaurant we met our Bus Driver from last year Carsten who had come to visit us; it was great to see him again. We headed home at 10 p.m. and most guys went to Don’s room to watch the Jet game.

Monday January 18, 2010

Today at 10 a.m. we were playing our 7th game in 4 days. Everyone had really looked tired last night, so I wasn’t expecting much today. The Krefeld Penguins had beaten us every time in the past 5 years, so I woke up realistic, but hopeful about our chances. When I got downstairs for Breakfast I learned that 5 of our teammates would not be winning the Iron Man award and were still in bed. The 5 of them had gone out last night and not gotten home till 6:30 a.m.

The ride to Krefeld was a short one and we made it there in less than 30 minutes. Our host and good friend Robert Beckman was there to meet us and showed us to our locker room to get dressed. In Krefeld we played in the old professional stadium that was very impressive to those who were here for there first time. The veterans who were seeing it for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th were just happy to be playing again.

The game started out pretty well and was a 0-0 game for the first 10 minutes, but by the end of the 1st period we were down 0-5.  The Krefeld Team was just to fast for us and we were all very tired. The game ended  5-12 and I don’t think we would have scored any goals if not for the kindness of the Krefeld team.

After the game the Krefeld team invited us into their locker room for beer and wurst which was great. We hung around till about 1:00 p.m. and than headed off for a tour of Krefleld Castle. The Castle was closed on Mondays’, but Robert had arranged for us to get a special guided tour. The Castle was pretty neat, and the weapons and armor they showed us more so. Next up was diner at a special steak restaurant. When we got there we were happy to see J.P., Tommy and Eric who had taken a cab from the hotel to met us at the restaurant; cab ride was 25 euros. Tilly was also there with his wife, Michaela and his 6 week old twins. Diner was very good and we were home by 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday January 19, 2010

Today was departure day for Rouen France. It is a very long 8-hour bus ride, but the scenery along the way is breath taking. The route follows pretty much the way the American GIs walked from the invasion beached to Berlin.  The route along A29 is especially pretty with its rolling hills. When we left Düsseldorf we left Goetz and Tilly and his twins standing on the curb-waving goodbye to us. It had been a great stay in Germany.

We stopped twice along the way and rolled into Rouen at 6:00 p.m. We had gotten a late start this morning. We had intended to depart at 9:00 a.m., but the bus had problems and we were not on the road until 10:15 a.m. When we arrived at the hotel Raphael Henry and 3 of his teammates were standing in the lobby waiting to greet us. They patiently waited downstairs for all of us to check in and than helped to arrange a diner reservation for 25 people at a local restaurant. We were joined and the Restaurant by David Lemaentais and the 3 Laurent’s, what a wonderful night it was. In typical French tradition diner took almost 4 hours, but the 17 bottles of wine we drank may have contributed to the length of the meal. After diner we went to a local bar and to our surprise found Reggie and the Irish boys inside singing; the Irish boys not Reggie were singing. It had been quite a long day and we made it home by 2:00 a.m.

Wednesday January 20, 2010

9:00 a.m. was departure time for the bus to the invasion beaches. Today Laurent Lannon, Laurent Damide and David joined us, they have made this trip with us every year and without their help we would never find the beaches.  The trip from Rouen to the beaches is about 2 hours 15 minutes. When we arrived in Colleville-Sur-Mer of Normandy the rain had finally stopped, but it was still quite cold, about 30 degrees and windy. The tour begins with the entrance to the museum where I am always amazed at how young all the faces of the solders were and how brace they must have been. When you leave the museum you walk out onto a promenade that overlooks the beaches. As you walk west you come to the cemetery and are saddened by the sea of white crosses and occasional Star of David you see. Each cross has the solders name and the date he was killed. After the cemetery we set off to find the long Guns of Longues, in French it is Le Battery de Longues. Here there are original German long Guns that were capable of firing up to 12 miles. It is really something to see, but quite difficult to find. After the guns we went down into the little village nearby for lunch, this is also where they built the British artificial Harbor call Armaches. After lunch it was back on the bus for the trip back to town. Everyone fell asleep and we were back by 6:00 p.m.

The bus dropped us off at the ice rink where we were scheduled to play the Gentlemen of Rouen at 8:00 p.m. The Gentlemen had organized a little reception for us before the game with hourdeours, wine and champagne; needless to say everyone liked it very much.

The game was scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m., but was a little delayed by the synchronized ice dancing team that was on the ice before us. However, I don’t think any of the younger fellows minded watching the pretty young ladies dance around.

The Gentle men scored first, but we came back and tied it at 2-2. The rest of the period was all them and they led at the end of the first period 2-5. The second period they went up 2-6 and than we came storming back to 5-6. It looked like we might pull it out, but they scored 2 goals in the last minute and the period ended 5-8.

Due to a scheduling problem that was all we would play and the game ended after 2 periods. They had arranged for us to keep the locker room overnight, which meant we wouldn’t have to lug our stuff back to our room. After the game they had arranged for all of us to go to the bar in front of our hotel for a few beers.

The night ended with David taking about 15 of us to a local falaphal place to eat at 2:00 a.m. When I left them they all looked pretty content and were contemplating where to go next, for me that was bed.

Thursday January 21, 2010

Early in the morning Uva our bus driver and Manny the ref checked out and headed back to Germany. Pete Giano and Melissa also left us and headed to Paris for their 5 day stay there. The rest of the group was on their own; some went to Paris, some walked around Rouen and others just slept.

Our game was at 8:00 p.m. this evening and the Old School Team had arranged to pick us up at the hotel at 7:00 p.m. There had been some uncertainty as to whether or not we would play tonight. There was a national strike planed for all of France and the municipal workers who ran the rink were suppose to strike, but did not.  The Old School team had sold 500 tickets for tonight’s game and when we arrived at the rink the place was jumping. A pre-game reception had been planned for us and we headed upstairs to enjoy some Beer, Champagne, and canopies. After a quick bite it was back downstairs for game time.

The game kicked off at 8:15 p.m. and they scored in the first two minutes, but we came right back and so it went. The first period with them ahead 2-3. As Henry Muller our 66-year-old goalie skated off the ice he received a standing ovation from the players and fans; I think it made his trip.

The second period was hard played, but ended with the score tied 3-3. Old school opened the 3rd period with a goal that just dribbled in behind Mike Fitterer and we trailed 3-4. It was not looking very promising for us until with 2 minutes late line 1, Scussi- JP and Donnie, knocked one in to tie the score. We headed into the 5 minute overtime pretty happen to just have the tie, but line two had another idea about it. With only 90 seconds gone in the O.T. Mike Vince took a pass from Eric Hayden and Tommy Rilling and rushed up the right side of the rink. Mike let go a slipper that beat the goalie 5 hole and it was over. All the players jumped onto the ice and mauled him. What a great way to finish the trip. It was one of the best games I have ever played in.

After the game Raphael Henry from the old school team came in and gave all the guys jerseys from the pro team hear in Rouen. It had been a great evening of hockey. After the game everyone went out and did not return until the wee hours. However, when ever I went to a Kebab stand I always found at least one blueliner there getting something to eat, ah kebabs.

Friday January 22, 2010

This morning we said good-bye to Wayne Myer and Donnie who were heading to Paris for the weekend. Paris was only a short 1 hour and 15 minute train ride, but the ticket is a bit expensive at 20 euro each way.

I had organized a trip for Versailles Palace, which was departing at 10:15 a.m. The ride to Versailles took about 2 hours, but we passed through a lot of pretty country. The Palace really is a huge place and the gardens behind it are quite a feat. After a while J.P. and Henry were complaining about being hungry, so we headed out  to find lunch. Unfortunately trying to find lunch in France after 2:00 p.m. is not easy, so we just returned to the hotel and were home by 5:30 p.m.

Saturday January 23, 2010

I was heading to Laurent’s house along with some others for lunch. Some others went back to Paris and others still slept late with the intention of going to the French Professional game this evening.

I had told everyone we were departing at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning and to pack before they went out Saturday night, and to my surprise they all did.

Sunday January 24, 2010

Wake up calls started at 3:30 a.m. By 3:50 a.m. I started to see them all come downstairs, most were very tired, some were drunk, but all were in great spirits. The bus arrived at 4:10 a.m. and we started loading up; by 4:40 a.m. we were on the road and arrived at Charles Degaulle at 6:28 a.m.

        It was time to say goodbye to our Irish boys, It was pretty sad to say goodbye, but they got back on the bus and we watched them head away. They were headed for Bove Airport on the other side of Paris. Scussi was also staying behind and going to Paris to discover a little history and maybe some info on a conspiracy?

Check in went without a hitch except for those who had over weight bags and got whacked with 100-euro charges, however, the worst was the 200 euros they charged Mike Fitterer for Wayne Myers bag.

As on all these flights everyone is spread all over the plane and when we land most people grab their bags and are gone. But this time was a little different. When the plane landed they called out mine and Henry’s name to come to the front of the plane where our group was met by immigration officials who speed us through the custom process. This was all thanks to our friend Gerry. We were all so excited about our V.I.P status that we all failed to recognize the handsom couple standing in front of us was JZ and Biance. Didn’t mean much to me either, but to some it might.

    This was a great trip and we all loved it. Everyone got along, the hockey was good and our Friends in Europe were Super,

Thanks again to everyone of you.