We thought Dallas was a big city. Not compared to Houston. We found out that Houston is now the fourth largest city in the United States. It is very, very sprawled out. And you drive for miles to get anywhere. This driving compares to that in Los Angeles. Lots of highways and lots of traffic. You sure have to manage your time to allow for driving any distance. We stayed in the northwest part of the city on Monday and on Tuesday drove into the downtown where the arena was. Team public relations people Ryan and Courtney had arranged for us to help out with their food drive for the Houston Food Bank. We were going to take the food collected at a recent Aeros game along with four players in the RV to drop it off at the Food Bank. We were of course happy to know that one of Dan’s best friends, Curtis Murphy would be one of the four players. Also along were Eric Reitz, Ryan Stokes, and Chris Ovington. We loaded up the food at the rink and drove to the Food Bank. Everyone helped unload it at the other end and we got to have a tour of the Food Bank facilities. It was amazing what they do there to help feed so many people. They told us that they feed approximately 80,000 people per week and the entire stock of food in their building rotates through in one week. They had lots and lots of volunteers. There were even young men from a local detention centre helping who are there most days. They are all quite a group of dedicated individuals who work together as a team to help so many who are less fortunate. It was good to see. As I said previously, it was good to see Dan’s good friend Curtis Murphy. "Murph" as he is known played in Orlando with Dan for two years. They were teammates on the Orlando Solar Bear’s Turner Cup Champs. The Solar Bears were the last team to win the Turner Cup in the IHL before it folded and many teams joined with the AHL. They were also roommates and Murph has become a good friend of our entire family. We stayed out the front of his house that night and enjoyed visiting with his family Kelly, Chandler, Hayden, and of course almost three year old Reese. She loved to drive "the bus". While in Houston we also got to visit with Cam Stewart a local boy for us. Cam played all of his youth hockey in the Woolwich Minor Hockey System in our town of Elmira. He played pro for a few years till a series of concussions forced him from the game. He currently is a coach with the Houston Aeros. We had a great dinner that evening with Murph and Kelly and Stewie. It is always good when you are on the road to see good friends. It makes the trip shorter. The next day we made our way to a campground near the NASA Space Center. Jeremy, with the Aeros had arranged for Graham to speak that evening to a group of parents and minor hockey kids at a local rink. They were a very receptive group. While we were there we met Richard Allen and Barry Terrell. Richard is the President and CEO of the Visitors Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Barry is the owner of T-Bone Tom’s a local eatery at Kemah. Both gentlemen invited us to visit their establishments the next and we decided to take them up on their offers. NASA in Houston is the Mission Control base for all NASA flights into space. They were currently waiting on some good weather to have a Discovery launch within the next day or so. We met Richard and he advised us which things to see in the time we had there. The Center itself is quite interesting to see. The main area where you come in is very kid oriented and has a lot hands on displays. We saw a movie and then went through a section depicting the inside of the space station. Then it was off on a shuttle tour to the hub of NASA. It is a city unto itself. They are almost like a huge compound. They have named streets, stoplights, their own police and fire departments and over 10,000 workers.
We sat in the VIP room that overlooked the actual "mission control" area that looked after so many space flights. When we left NASA, we drove to Kemah to check out T-Bone Tom’s. Now, we have had a lot of different meals since we have left home and have eaten at many eateries. T-Bone Tom’s has a real local flavour to it and the food was amazing. We had the lunch special Southern Fried Chicken. This was fried chicken the way mama meant it to be. I don’t think I have ever had chicken that tasted so good. There were two huge (and I mean huge) pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and a hot fresh southern biscuit. There goes the diet – again. I couldn’t finish it all. My only experience with fried chicken has been Kentucky Fried Chicken. I would travel to T-Bone’s just for the fried chicken. If you are ever in the area, check it out. Barry was a gracious host and wouldn’t let us pay for lunch. We bought some t-shirts and will happily think of his place whenever we wear them. We left for the rink and made our way to our home for the night. The ramp at the arena down at the loading dock. It has been a usual spot for us at many arenas now, and it is usually a great spot. We can hook up the RV and then stay at the rink overnight after the game. We were leaving early in the morning for the next leg of the journey so it worked out great. The Areos battled for a win but the game ended in a scoreless tie and they lost in a shoot out. They are struggling right now, but hopefully can turn things around soon. At 5:00 AM we were up and out of the loading dock area and on our way to our next destination, Memphis Tennessee.
Graham's Game Report
Dec 7, 2006
Omaha Knights vs. Houston Aeros
It was a real treat to be able to catch an AHL game in a wonderful rink. The facility is major league all the way and houses the Houston Rockets of the NBA as well as the Aeros. It was a chance to catch up with Dan’s good friend and former Orlando teammate Curtis Murphy. I have never understood why no NHL team has ever given Murph a legitimate shot. All he’s done was win numerous defenseman of the year awards and many championships. This year’s version of the Aeros has really struggled to score goals and our visit was no exception. Sixty five minutes of hockey produced zero goals for either team despite many quality scoring chances and the Aeros finally succumbed in the shootout. It was also a chance to watch Dan’s former Plater teammate Joel Ward. He still works hard every shift and is a reliable defensive winger and penalty killer. It’s good to see him getting AHL experience and who knows where it might lead. NHL teams are always in need of strong defensive players especially when they have some size. Houston is also home to former NHLer and Elmira Sugar King Cam Stewart. Stewy’s career was cut short by injury and it’s good too see him back in the game as an assistant coach. We wish him all the best as he pursues a coaching career.