GDB LXXVII: DOWN DAYS IN THE BIG D

Robin Brownlee
April 02 2010 10:16AM

Aside from buying fake Rolex watches in Time Square or strolling along the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, there was a time not so long ago when a trip to Texas was the most anticipated NHL stop for this member of the travelling circus that is the Edmonton Oilers.

The Dallas Stars were good -- good enough to win a Stanley Cup under Ken Hitchcock in 1999. The Oilers were good -- good enough, barely, to sneak into the playoffs year after year and somehow give Hitch and his team enough hell to keep it interesting, despite being overmatched. Like when Todd Marchant danced past Grant Ledyard and...

Reunion Arena was always packed, even if it smelled like garbage with those big Smithrite bins cooking in the sun near the big doors by the visitors dressing room. The stands were full of Texas dames with big hair and store-bought boobs, big-money oil guys and kids in Mike Modano jerseys. The ice was easily the worst in the NHL, more often the texture of a Slurpee than something fit to play hockey on.

The night life, especially in the area known as Dallas Alley, was ridiculous. There was no shortage of places to go and have a beer or 10 to wash down a Texas T-bone big enough to feed a family of four. Short-sleeved shirts in January. You could walk down to Dealey Plaza near the Texas Book Depository and stand on the exact spot where John Kennedy took a bullet -- as we sometimes did on the stagger back from The Bone or the alley to the Reunion Hyatt.

And, of course, given all the time we spent in the Lone Star State between regular season games and playoff series for the better part of a decade, Big D was a second home. The waitresses in the hotel restaurant knew the players, coaches and reporters by name. No lie.

These days, like today when the 30th-place Oilers face the also-ran Stars at the hideous Americans Airlines Center, not so much. The rink doesn't stink anymore, but the teams do.

Down days in Bid D, to be sure.

MEMORY LANE

If I told you today's game holds a lot of intrigue for me, I'd be lying. I'm not concerned in the least with which line Charles Linglet makes his NHL debut on. I'm not stirred by whether Ethan Moreau and Patrick O'Sullivan are healthy scratches, although they should be. I haven't looked up the line combinations for either team. Statistics and streaks? Not here. Not today.

I'm happy sitting at home with my wife and sons Sam and Michael contemplating yard work instead of dissecting what the Oilers and Stars have turned into since a trip to Dallas was a helluva lot of fun and what happened on the ice mattered. So, some snippets from better days...

  • The Hyatt Reunion was NEVER not under construction. They just kept adding gaudy glass towers to it without ever tearing down the original crappy part. The lobby bar was always hopping. Store-bought cans every where. It was an automatic two-hour detour right before the elevators and one that made for fun at deadline more than once.
  • I always marvelled at how Modano could be the best skater in the NHL while doing it on the worst ice you've ever seen. The only thing nearly as remarkable was his prowess with the ladies, in his days as a single man, of course. Modano was legend.
  • It's morbid, but you can still buy replica editions of the Dallas Morning News documenting Kennedy's assassination in Dealey Plaza. Street guys wearing sandwich board ads sell them. I bought one in 1998.
  • I laughed out loud when I saw tough guy Garret Burnett rolling like big leaguer in a Hummer dressed in 26-inch DUBS at the AAC. Burnett never did play a game for the Stars -- he saw action in 10 games with the AHL Iowa Stars in 2005-06 and was in Dallas to rehab an injury this day, I think, -- but he sure rolled like a millionaire.
  • As an aside, the parking lot for Dallas players was a Fantasy Garage and the epitome of excess over the years. Big American iron on big shoes -- the obligatory tricked out Escalades, Hummers etc etc. Then, there was Billy Guerin's sweet Mercedes. Thank-you, Mr. Hicks, and Jason Arnott's chopper, painted in team colours.

ROAD SHOW

  • Dallas TV guys Darryl Reaugh and Ralph Strangis are one of the best tandems on TV, but they barely speak to each other when the cameras aren't on. Word is, they don't get along. Total pros.
  • In our first trip into the AAC, one of the guys in charge of making the ice told me it was every bit as bad as at old Reunion. It cost, what, $300 million to build the new joint and they still couldn't get it right?
  • If you wanted meat in your mouth, Bob's Steakhouse was and is the place to go. You can get a 48-ounce porterhouse there. Jim Matheson, Rod Phillips and I once sat beside Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson and watched him tackle a chunk of beef bigger than Mike Ribeiro.
  • The sound booth at Reunion Arena was where everybody who smoked gathered between periods. It was no bigger than 10-by-20, but you'd have 30 people in there sucking cancer sticks between periods instead of making the trek outside. Cops, ushers, reporters, scouts, you name it. You'd come out of there stinking like hell.
  • Dallas GM Doug Armstrong had his own cheat area for smoking in a stairwell beside his box on the press level in the new AAC. It was handy as for us addicted souls until some do-gooder playing hall monitor f*cked it up for everybody by tattling. The fire department installed a smoke detector in the cheat area. After that, even Armstrong had to schlep to the parking lot for a face rocket.
  • Before one game at Reunion, it was 1999, I think, I was having a butt with the guys who run the sound in the booth and they asked me if there was a tune I wanted to hear. I said, "What the hell, give me some Crazy Train." They boys tossed it on as the Oilers came out for the pre-game warm-up. After that, those guys spun Crazy Train every time the Oilers took the ice for warm-up for about eight years, even after the Stars moved to the new rink. True story.
  • There's lots more of course, but, well, not today...

THE VITALS

As for today's game, OK fine, some items scalped from the game notes.

  • The Stars have at least one point in every game this year (1-0-2), and have not lost at home to the Oilers in regulation time in six games (Dec. 8, 2006).
  • Dallas has a 20-3-2 record on home ice against Edmonton since 1996-97.
  • The Stars are winless at home this season against the Oilers, and have not gone a full season without one win since 1992-93.
  • Brenden Morrow leads the Stars in points this season against Edmonton, with two goals and two assists in two games. He has 12 goals and 16 assists in 30 career games against the Oilers.
  • James Neal has three goals in three outings against the Oilers, including the game-winner in the last meeting on Jan. 22. Neal has 4-1-5 in seven career games.
  • Jamie Benn has two goals and three points in three games against Edmonton.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 OILERSORDEATH
April 02 2010, 10:32AM
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Throwing a kudos to the Kings for destroying Vancouver last night! It was a pleasure to watch Burrows whipmer off the ice from a shot by Stollie. There must be a God after all.

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#2 Tha Legion
April 02 2010, 10:33AM
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pay per view, awwwwwwwe

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#3 Muji 狗
April 02 2010, 10:39AM
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Go AVS Go!

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#4 VK63
April 02 2010, 10:53AM
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Good stuff Robin.

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#5 Mike
April 02 2010, 10:54AM
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Great stories Robin. I'm with you about no interest tonight. Instead I'm taking the kids to the Rush game. The Rush are undefeated at home I think. Will be nice to leave Rexall after a win for once. I'm 0-7 when watching the Oilers this year.

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#6 Jamie B.
April 02 2010, 11:02AM
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It's sad to think those first-round exits to the Stars would become good old days. They were fun though. Damn you, Tommy Salooooo! *shakes fist at the sky* Ah, memories.

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#7 RossCreekNation
April 02 2010, 11:06AM
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Sounds like Moreau whined his way into the lineup... Tencer's saying O'Sullivan & Nilsson scratched.

Great, GREAT stories, Robin!

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#8 Rusty Duggan
April 02 2010, 11:17AM
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I remember being in grade 10 and living in Ontario still when Marchant scored that big goal. I woke my mom up at one in the morning cheering so loud.

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#9 Pajamah
April 02 2010, 11:45AM
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I always thought it was Craig Ludwig that lost a tire on the Marchant winner

meh, my memories are so gin riddled it's amazing I remember my own name

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#10 Rob...
April 02 2010, 12:02PM
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Hey Robin, your last few articles read like Gumshoe novels, first person narrative style. I'm enjoying the descriptions of these buildings that I'll likely never see in my lifetime. Keep it up, please.

I'm also enjoying the ability to be pissed off every time the Leaf's win again. Regardless how badly the Oilers sucked this season, nothing was as painful for me as hoping the Leafs win games as the Oilers fans pushed for 30th spot.

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#11 Hemmertime
April 02 2010, 12:07PM
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Loved the article. A stats filled GDB would be just depressing again. Nostalgia - the Marchant goal replaying in my head... ahhhh. And Grier's missing the net every breakaway.

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#12 mouthbreather
April 02 2010, 12:15PM
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wicked read RB! I was sitting in a hot tub watching Marchant score! Great Memories. Reality sucks though. Crazy Train! Love it!

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#13 Suntory Hanzo
April 02 2010, 12:37PM
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Great read, Robin. Next season you should make a point of doing one of these for each of the stadiums. Some of us have been to other stadiums in the league, but not to the extent and with the knowledge and nuggets you have about them.

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#14 HOFFFF
April 02 2010, 01:47PM
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Suntory Hanzo wrote:

Great read, Robin. Next season you should make a point of doing one of these for each of the stadiums. Some of us have been to other stadiums in the league, but not to the extent and with the knowledge and nuggets you have about them.

Absolutely. There is so much behind the scenes that can be very interesting as well as entertaining.

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#15 GSC
April 02 2010, 02:18PM
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This is why it's great to have Robin here, this is the kind of stuff that you just don't come across with other writers (no disrespect to Mr. Willis and the other folks here).

The behind the scenes stories are every bit as good - actually, are usually better - than what we see on the ice.

Keep the good stuff coming, RB.

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#16 sns2
April 02 2010, 02:20PM
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Obviously people are enjoying your writing more than the team at this point in time. I'm a very infrequent poster, but a multiple times per day reader, especially enjoying yourself and Gregor. Robin, you may have already written this, but why are you no longer writing for the Sun? The only local MSM writer that is in your league is Jim Matheson. It's been a number of years now and I sure would like to know what happened. If you're willing, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's curious. Thanks.

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#17 David S
April 02 2010, 02:22PM
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Rob... wrote:

Hey Robin, your last few articles read like Gumshoe novels, first person narrative style. I'm enjoying the descriptions of these buildings that I'll likely never see in my lifetime. Keep it up, please.

I'm also enjoying the ability to be pissed off every time the Leaf's win again. Regardless how badly the Oilers sucked this season, nothing was as painful for me as hoping the Leafs win games as the Oilers fans pushed for 30th spot.

Indeed. These "gumshoe diaries" are some of your best work Robin. I'd enjoy a regular segment along these lines, perhaps next year.

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#18 Eric Johnson
April 02 2010, 02:28PM
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That article was infinitely more interesting than the Oilers game will be this evening.

Ahhhh sweet sweet memories.

The thing I loved about Dallas was the amount of Morbidly obese people made me feel better about having some love handles.

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#19 jeanshorts
April 02 2010, 02:51PM
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Is it too early to pre-order "Cigarettes, Debauchery and Becoming A Cranky Old Man: The Robin Brownlee Story" on Amazon yet? These short blurbs are better than 3/4 of the stuff in the Scapinello book I just finished.

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#20 Tha Legion
April 02 2010, 04:37PM
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Stupid Moreau what a douche. Now that I filled my Oiler's quota check out my stand up routine (shameless plug) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnNnUrigm2A

NSFW

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#21 jeanshorts
April 02 2010, 05:13PM
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@Tha Legion

"Number 1: I will not hit you".

*glove tap*

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#22 Wanye
April 02 2010, 05:54PM
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Wonderful article Robin.

Heh heh Single Modano

SQUEE

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#23 Tha Legion
April 02 2010, 06:40PM
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@jeanshorts

I challenge you to a duel!

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#24 jeanshorts
April 02 2010, 06:57PM
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@Tha Legion

I meant that in a "nice job" way, but if you want to throw down my slapping hand is ready to go.

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#25 Lofty
April 02 2010, 07:05PM
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Nice giveaway Strud's, why do you have an A on your jersey.

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#26 Tha Legion
April 02 2010, 07:06PM
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@jeanshorts

I lost my dueling glove

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#28 common sense
April 02 2010, 07:43PM
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Ah, the good ole days. I boldly predict the Stars are history in Texas within 10 years. Hockey is no match for the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Mavs, the SMU Mustangs, the UT Longhorns.

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#29 srbuhr
April 02 2010, 07:48PM
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game feed?

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#30 Maggie the Monkey
April 02 2010, 07:57PM
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I'm so confused: is Dubnyk playing goal AND centre??

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#31 David S
April 02 2010, 07:59PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Oilers getting dusted in Dallas? Never seen that before . . .

3-3. Hope springs eternal.

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#32 Skidplate
April 02 2010, 08:01PM
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And it's Moreau that ties it up. Who would of thunk?

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#33 Maggie the Monkey
April 02 2010, 08:03PM
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@Skidplate

He must want to play in Dallas next year.

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#34 Skidplate
April 02 2010, 08:05PM
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@Maggie the Monkey

you may be onto something

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#35 JackBauer
April 02 2010, 08:38PM
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Whats Brule's status? Why only 2 minutes of ice?

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#36 Heavyd
April 02 2010, 08:44PM
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@JackBauer

hurt his ankle, out for game.

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#37 Archaeologuy
April 02 2010, 09:20PM
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~Dubnyk will never pass through waivers next season~

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#38 Jodes
April 02 2010, 09:37PM
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I know this team's in 30th, but would it be too much to ask for them to compete for a solid 60 minutes?

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#39 Skidplate
April 02 2010, 09:55PM
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@Archaeologuy

Ya, I was wondering how some of the media are saying he won't. I think he will sail right through

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#40 Dan the Man
April 02 2010, 10:06PM
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Flames - Avs game was pretty entertaining even though the outcome really blows.

And speaking of blowing, I'm pretty sure Loubardious is planning on asking Kipper out after the game.

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#41 mowgli
April 02 2010, 10:33PM
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Lofty wrote:

Nice giveaway Strud's, why do you have an A on your jersey.

A is for A**hole

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#42 Mitch
April 03 2010, 07:54AM
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Robin after watching last nights game, the game cements home why we have to change the whole darn team, not just a couple pieces here and there.

Jason Strudwick god love him, but his foot speed is terbile he can no longer play defense in this leauge. The oilers so called checking line well were going to be forced to keep Horcoff unless we trade him for another bad player/contract, Moreau and Pisani should be gone.

Quinn is correct we lack skill, desire and size. Tambo should draft Hall, he brings the above mentioned to the table on a cosistent basis, Hall wants the puck and is a great goal scorer, another thing Quinn talks about is getting the puck back when you dont have it Hall is also very good at that.

The Oilers need some size and guys that go into the tough areas, funny O'sullivan and Nillson didnt play last night. Yes things are going to get worse before they get better. I will perdict that there's still 6 to 8 more changes coming.

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#43 Cap'n
April 03 2010, 10:29AM
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Robin, That was an enjoyable read. However I hope you have a legitimate hockey team to comment on this time next year. I would like to see all of the old guard gone and soon. At some point the coaches and management have to be able to build a new attitude in this organization. They can't go on trading problems forever. Do you have an insight into what is at the root of the apparent problem in the organization? Is there an 800 kg gorilla in the room that no one wants to acknowledge? If so, are you at liberty to discuss who or what is the issue?

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#44 Robin Brownlee
April 03 2010, 11:28AM
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Cap'n wrote:

Robin, That was an enjoyable read. However I hope you have a legitimate hockey team to comment on this time next year. I would like to see all of the old guard gone and soon. At some point the coaches and management have to be able to build a new attitude in this organization. They can't go on trading problems forever. Do you have an insight into what is at the root of the apparent problem in the organization? Is there an 800 kg gorilla in the room that no one wants to acknowledge? If so, are you at liberty to discuss who or what is the issue?

There's nothing I don't want to acknowledge as far as problems go, but it's a moving target when the team is this lacking for this long (four seasons).

Every year brings different issues -- level of talent, experience, coaching, leadership, etc etc. Is there a central, overriding issue these past couple of seasons? I think so. The veteran core is at the centre of this. I've written about it many times. That core includes Horcoff, so good luck changing that with his contract. Staios was another, and he's gone. That leaves Moreau and Souray, who aren't long for this organization if I'm reading things right.

Shaving that core down to Horcoff won't solve everything because this team needs other things to fall into place and needs to add some key pieces, but turning this team over to Whitney, Gagner, Penner etc it will be the biggest step forward.

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#45 roger
April 03 2010, 02:12PM
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thanks for the good read robin, please more of the same.

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