Tour De Fleece Day 16 (Stage 15)

Today was a challenge day, and since I didn’t do any spinning yesterday because I sometimes do have a life, I challenged myself to spin a full 4 ounces of fiber today.

Here is a picture of success!

ITW Zephyr on Polwarth. This is a fractal spin done on my Flatiron in double drive. The singles are very thin and when plied together will make a fingering weight yarn, or maybe sport weight if the Polwarth poofs a lot when I wash the skein.

Dancing With Lord Stanley

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The Captain kisses the Cup. (Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

As you know, in addition to being an avid knitter and spinner, I am also a sports fan and a self-described hockey nut. I love watching ice hockey, and I’m a big fan of the NHL. So big a fan, in fact, that my husband has started buying me Center Ice for my birthday every year so that I can totally pig out on hockey.

My very favorite hockey team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and since we now live in Pittsburgh, we are able to actually attend some games instead of just watching on television. The DH and I attended four games this past hockey season and saw the Pens win three time and lose only once, and that was in OT.

It was a rough season for the Penguins. Second year head coach Mike Johnston seemed to be in way over his head, and the boys didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves on the ice. They were inconsistent from one game to the next, losing more games than they should have given the level of talent on the team, and playing the most boring style of hockey imaginable.

Thankfully, after a couple of months, GM Jim Rutherford saw fit to fire Johnston and bring up Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to take over the duties as bench boss. He also realized the team needed more speed if they were to turn things around, and he made some brilliant trades to achieve this. Between the acquisitions last summer and before the trade deadline in February and players brought up from WBS, the team was revamped and went from being a slow, plodding, boring team to an offensive and defensive juggernaut driven by skill and speed.

When Sully took over the team, they were out of a playoff spot, but that soon changed. The Penguins moved up to a wildcard spot in the standings, then made a charge in the month of March that pushed them up into a solid second place in their division.

Playoff hockey started in April, and the Penguins had a tough row to hoe. In the first round they faced a strong, physical New York Rangers team; in the second, they went up against the winningest team during the regular season, the Washington Capitals; in the third round, they had to play against last year’s Stanley Cup Finals finalist, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Going into the first round, we were without our starting goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, and our back-up goalie, Matt Murray. The third goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, stepped up to the plate and won the first game of the series, but lost in the second game. Fortunately, Murray was able to return to the line-up, and except for a hiccup when he was pulled in the third period of a game and sat out the next game, he played brilliantly and joined an elite group of goalies who have won 15 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs as rookies.

Going into the final series, the Penguins were up against the Western Conference Champions, the San Jose Sharks. Not many people outside the Pittsburgh fan base were giving the Penguins much of a chance. In the past 10 years, the Western Conference has won most of the finals, and the sports pundits all seemed to think that the bigger, harder-hitting Sharks would overcome the skill and speed of the Penguins. But there’s a reason why the games are played. Reality painted a different picture. The speed and skill of the Penguins neutralized the Sharks’ attack, and the Penguins won the best-of-seven series in six games, holding the Sharks to just two shots in the third period of game five in San Jose. It’s hard to score if you cannot get the puck to the net, eh?

Had it not been for the stellar goaltending of the Sharks’ goalie, Martin Jones, the Penguins may well have swept the series and every game probably would have been a rout.

The Penguins faced and overcame a lot of adversity to make it to pinnacle of sport, and for us fans, it was amazing to watch this team go from being directionless to being single-mindedly focused on playing the best hockey they could play. The young players who were called up from WBS to become starters or to fill in temporarily for injured players fit in smoothly, and the newcomers quickly developed chemistry with veteran Penguins and with each other. Coach Sullivan was able to put four strong lines out on the ice knowing each line would play well in all three zones, and all three defensive pairings were reliable. Add the solid netminding of Fleury and Murray and you have the perfect recipe for winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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A moment to remember. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let’s do this again next year!

Rememberance

On the 17th of September, 1940, 19-year-old Thomas A. Snodgrass of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, traveled to nearby Pittsburgh and enlisted in the U S Army Air Corps as a private.

Following his training, he arrived at Nichols Field near Manila in the Philippine Islands on July 9, 1941, where he served as Chief Metallist with an Army Air Forces ground crew.

That is where Pfc Snodgrass was when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just hours after bombing Pearl Harbor. On August 13, 1942, his family was notified that their son was missing in action. On January 30, 1943, they learned he was being held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war. He had survived the Bataan Death March and was doing his best to survive the extremely harsh conditions of PW Camp #1 Cabanatuan, PI. His family received occasional cards from Pfc Snodgrass up until they received word from the U S government that their son had died on October 24, 1944, when the Japanese prison-ship on which he was being transported had been sunk in the South China Sea. He was 23 years old.

The prison-ship that took Pfc Snodgrass to his death was the Arisan Maru, a Japanese freighter that was a so-called hell ship used to transport POWs from camps on the Philippine Islands to camps in Japan. 1783 U S prisoners of war were crammed into the hold of the Arisan Maru, which had no markings on it to indicate it was transporting POWs.

As the Arisan Maru was sailing along with a convoy of Japanese destroyers, it was torpedoed by the USS Shark, a submarine that was subsequently lost with all hands. After the Arisan Maru was hit, the Japanese crew locked the hatches to the hold, cut the rope ladders, and abandoned ship leaving the prisoners to their fate. The POWs managed to get the hatches open, and most if not all of them escaped from the hold. But then the ship broke apart and sank, leaving the men stranded in the water. Many tried to swim to the Japanese destroyers, which had picked up the Japanese crew, but the destroyers were moving away from the wreckage, and the Japanese crew on board the destroyers were beating off any POWs who got close.

Only 8 of the POWs survived, and of those, only 5 escaped the Japanese and made it to China.

The sinking of the Arisan Maru is the worst maritime disasters in U S history. To give you an idea of the scope of loss of life, more people died when the Arisan Maru went down than in the sinking of the Titanic.

On this Memorial Day, please pause to remember people like my mother’s cousin, Tommy Snodgrass, and the suffering he endured and the sacrifice he made in military service to his country. Let’s remember people like my father’s brother John, who died when the B-17 he was piloting was shot down over France. There is nothing glorious in war, just death and destruction. Remembering those who lost their lives in war and honoring their sacrifice is perhaps the best way to remember that war is a horrible thing to be avoided at almost any cost.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin's memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin’s memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

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A young man’s life ended far too soon.