Category Archives: 1210

12.10 Winter Sports

Making the Cold Weather Cool

By Kim Dunbar

Worcester is known for its “wicked cold wintahs.” While icy roads and snowstorms don’t appeal to everyone, winter is a sports lover’s paradise.  For skiers and snowboarders, snow is synonymous with hitting the slopes, and frigid weather is also sweet for skaters, both hockey and figure. Take a look at what Worcester winters have to offer ~ but don’t take our word for it, check out what some of the area’s best athletes enjoy most ~and you might spend sub-zero temps playing, and not just walking, in a winter wonderland.

snowb-copyThe Snowboarder

Jonathan Cheever is a professional when it comes to the halfpipe and the drain pipes.  In between six hours of daily training with the U.S. Snowboarding team, the Massachusetts native puts his plumbing license to good use.  The extra cash helps Cheever fund his professional snowboarder status.

“Plumbing is a family trade,” said Cheever. His father’s business, Mark Cheever Plumbing, is one of his sponsors.

The deep talent pool that is American snowboarding makes sponsorships hard to find for the sport’s athletes.  It also makes it hard to be named an Olympian.  Cheever knows; he narrowly missed out on the trip to Vancouver last year.

“The US has such a stacked team,” he said. “Even if you are ranked top ten in the world, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can go to the Olympics.” cheever-snowboard11-copy

For Cheever, who is currently ranked eighth in the world among Boardercross riders, the Olympic podium is the ultimate goal, and a pretty lofty one for the 25-year-old who was a late bloomer to the sport.  Cheever never skied until his family took a trip to Nashoba Valley when he was 8. The snowy sport took a backseat to hockey and baseball and then in 1997, an 11-year-old Cheever was introduced to snowboarding.

“I fell in love with the sport,” he said.

Cheever began competing just three weeks after he first laid eyes on a board, ultimately earning a spot on the US National team in 2005.

“Most guys on the team have more experience than me,” he said.  “My goal is to take it day by day and to just keep progressing.”

Cheever is entering what he calls a rebound year, as he’s rehabbing an ankle he broke last February. But he’s been down this path before and owns a laundry list of broken bones: left shoulder (twice), left wrist (three times), right wrist (once), ankle (three times), ribs (four or five), and a few concussions.

But Cheever gets back up every time because he wants to be the best in his sport. “I have what it takes to be a winner,” he said.

Cheever’s journey continues next month, as he’s been invited to compete in the Winter X games for the fifth time. Depending on how he does, it might get him recognized outside small mountain towns.

“There aren’t a lot of groupies in snowboarding,” he laughed.  “I guess I should have chosen surfing.”

To follow Cheever, visit www.teamcheever.net.

Pictured: Jonathan Cheever

The Hockey Player

Cory Quirk’s favorite part about winter is playing hockey on the pond, though he’s not very fond of the cold.
quirk-hockey-12-copy

“It’s in my blood,” insisted the Worcester Sharks winger, whose father played the game, including a stint with a junior league in Quebec.  Quirk’s younger brother Ryan also plays hockey, this year for Worcester State University.

“He kind of pushed me toward hockey but I fell in love with it,” said Quirk, who has been skating since age four.

Twenty years later, Quirk, now 24, has had a successful career at UMass Amherst and is in his second season with the Sharks. “It’s great being close to home,” said Quirk, who has spent most of his hockey days in Massachusetts.  “I can get a nice meal and my mom can do my laundry,” he joked.

While hockey is alive in Massachusetts, Quirk thinks the 2010 Winter Olympics opened a lot of eyes across the country to the excitement of the sport. “People realized hockey is fun to watch and not just about fighting,” he said.  “Kids can see it’s a great sport to play.”quirk-hockey-1-copy2

He’s hoping the “Olympic Effect” will spill over into this Sharks season.  Quirk said the team will attempt to repeat as Atlantic Division champions and go deeper into the playoffs.  “We’re a hard working group of guys and when you come to a game you won’t be cheated out of a good skate,” he guaranteed.  “We’re going to be competitive all year.”

The forward is one of 16 returning players from last year’s team and he’s carrying over a few lessons learned as a rookie. “This year everything is a little more familiar,” said Quirk, who worked out with a trainer in the offseason.  “I know the system and how to prepare.”

While the “hard worker with a good accent” admits he doesn’t know how to dive, he’s certainly ready to jump in.

“I’m just going to give my all every night,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

The Sharks are celebrating their fifth year in Worcester this season. For tickets to see Quirk in action, visit www.sharksahl.com.

Pictured: Cory Quirk

ski-copyThe Skier

Ryan Logan is full of big air.  The 25-year-old Leominster native has been skiing since he could walk, grew up competing in the amateur and pro tour, and now spends his weekends teaching kids the secrets of being an extreme skier as the Director and Head Coach of the Wachusett Mountain Xtreme Team.

“I’m giving back to what Wachusett gave to me as a young athlete,” said Logan, who has been coaching on the Mountain for five years.  Since 2005, the Xtreme team has grown from16 to 65 skiers and snowboarders.

Logan’s story began at Wachusett was when he was two years old.  “My dad used to go skiing all the time,” he said. “I used to hide his stuff, like a glove or a boot, so he’d have to come home.  Eventually he decided he might as well get me my own gear and bring me with him.”

Logan was hooked and started competing in mobiles and aerials when he was nine. He experimented with different styles, but when he was a freshman at Leominster High, Logan moved to Mount Snow Academy in Vermont to amp up his training.

“That’s when I really started competing,” he said.

ryan-logan-rail-copyIn 2000, Logan started focusing on extreme skiing. He was invited to the first ever Winter X Games to show the judges the flips and spins they could expect from the skiers in the Big Air category.  From there, Logan dabbled in Olympic-style mobile skiing, earned a top five national ranking and a spot on the US Junior Olympic Team.

“You have to be athletic,” advised Logan on what it takes to be an extreme skier. “Skiing involves a lot of core strength in the abs and lower back.  I played football, ran track, and weight-trained.” He also suggested trampoline and water ramp training, where one can practice jumps, flips and landing without getting hurt.

While Logan makes sure to open every coaching session with stretching, an abs workout, and pushups, his most important advice is to have fun.

“I like to create a relaxed and fun environment,” he said. “If they’re not having fun there’s no reason they should be competing.”

Logan, who still skis with his father, thinks anyone interested in the sport should fulfill that dream. “Find what type of skiing fits your personality and try it,” he said. “It’s a great way to occupy time and make the monotony of winter go by faster.”

Pictured: Ryan Logan. Photo courtesy of Wachusett Mountain Ski Area

sk8-copyThe Figure Skaters

As a kid growing up in California, Curt Doten was into skateboarding and BMX biking.  But when he was introduced to figure skating at age 10, that all changed.

“I saw figure skating as another way I could go fast and do tricks in the air,” said the 29-year-old.ice-skater-curt_action-pic-copy

When Doten’s family relocated to Massachusetts in the 1990s, his love for the sport intensified ~ he went from being around very few rinks to having a plethora of skating options at the height of Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie fever.

“This was the place to be for figure skating,” said Doten, who began training at Colonial Figure Skating Club in Boxborough upon his east coast arrival. “There are so many rinks and quality coaches.”

Doten retired from competition when he was 18 to attend college, but has returned to the ice after a stint in the corporate world as a coach for both Colonial and for an organization in New Hampshire.  He’s also lacing up his skates for Colonial’s Theater on Ice team (see sidebar).  In between coaching and training with the Broadway Blades every Thursday, Doten hits the gym regularly.

“The routines require intricate, specific movements,” Doten said.  “There is a lot of training behind it.” Because of the nature of the sport, he doesn’t push weight or cover miles on a treadmill.  Instead, Doten focuses on balance and agility drills, abdominal workouts that include the upper body and most importantly, stretching.

“The more flexible you are, the less work it feels like for each movement,” he reasoned. ice-skater-curt_pulse-pic-copy

While Doten enjoys skating, he prefers coaching and the intense technical perspective that comes with it.

“There’s more analysis involved,” he said. “I’m getting older and I’ve had my time at the middle of the ice. I still get the joy of skating with the team, but it’s another kind of thrill standing and watching a student do well.”

Pictured: Curt Doten. Photo courtesy of  Dr. Vera Gill

Klutzy isn’t usually a word you’d associate with figure skaters, but according to Devon Dillon, many are accident prone.  “I’m very klutzy off the ice,” joked the 25-year-old. “I’ve had many random off-ice injuries.”

ice-skater-devon_-action-s-copyLike when she was 15 and hamming it up after a practice session.  “I tripped on an edge and fell flat on my face,” she admitted good-naturedly.  “It was one of my most embarrassing moments.”

Luckily for Dillon, her skating career has been full of highlights, including a top finish at the 2006 New Hampshire games and a championship crown at the 2009 Adult Eastern Sectionals.  She was also one of the skaters who helped Colonial Figure Skating Club’s Theater on Ice team earn a silver medal at Nationals.

“I love skating so much,” said Dillon.  “I love the exercise and adrenaline rush.”

Dillon, who began competing at age 8, understands the dedication it takes to appear graceful on the ice.

ice-skater-devon_pulse-pic-copy“The pros make it look easier than it is,” she warned. Off-ice training is a major part of the sport and includes exercises in strength, muscle, speed, and stamina.  “Ballet is the key ~ it helps your grace, timing and body awareness,” she added.

While Dillon’s main focus has always been skating, she’s tried a few other sports, including field hockey.  “I’ve always wanted to dabble in ice hockey because of the boys,” she laughed.

For now, Dillon plans to stick to figure skating and coaching. “No matter how old I am or what’s going on, I’ll always be on the ice,” she said.

Pictured: Devon Dillon. Photo courtesy of  Dr. Vera Gill

The Newest Trend in Skating: Theater on Ice

Theater on Ice is the new rage.   That’s what Mary Wanamaker, artistic director and choreographer of the Colonial Figure Skating Club’s Theater on Ice (TOI) team, the Broadway Blades, thinks.  TOI, a division of figure skating that combines the grace of skating and the excitement of theater, has been in Europe for years but only in the US for the last decade.

toi-team-pic-copy“There are costumes, sets, and props,” said Wanamaker, a Paxton resident with an extensive theater background. “It’s a Broadway show on ice.”

Teams compete in two categories: a 2.5-minute technical routine (wearing all black), and a 6 minute and 15 second theatrical production with full costumes.  There are 30 skaters to a team ranging from ages 7- 46.

Wanamaker formed Broadway Blades last year at the request of two skaters. “They were graduating and I did it to keep them skating,” she said.  “Most skaters start dropping off at the college age because of money and because their bodies grow.”

Wanamaker added that when skaters realize that they aren’t going to make the Olympics, TOI gives them another option.

After one year, the Blades shocked the nation by taking silver at the 2010 Nationals, earning one of the three spots to represent the US at the 2011 Nation’s Cup, an international competition.  This immediate success has drawn interest across New England.

“Skaters are choosing our team over Boston because they know we’re good,” she said.

For more information on the Broadway Blades, visit www.colonialfsc.com/TOI.

Pictured: Colonial Figure Skating Club’s Theater on Ice (TOI) team, the Broadway Blades. Photo courtesy of  Dr. Vera Gill


For the Extreme-ly Sporty

If you’re looking to kick your winter up a few notches, check out our list of extreme sports ~ but bundle up and be careful, these aren’t for the faint of heart!

Ice Climbing
Reach new heights and scale a frozen formation (frozen waterfalls or ice-covered cliffs), using an ice axe and crampons.  Visit www.NEIce.com for your guide to ice climbing in the Northeast.

Snow Tubing
If you’re tired of plastic sleds, coast down the slopes in an inner tube. Or attach it to a snowmobile and hang on tight.  Visit most local ski resorts or bring your own tube (minus the snowmobile ~ that’s a big no-no) to the hill at Quinsigamond Community College.

Ice Yachting
Also known as ice sailing, this daredevil sport involves racing ice yachts made of a single-piece backbone and a runner-plank upon which it rests at right angles, forming a kite-shaped frame.  Check out the New England Ice Yacht association: www.neiya.us.

Kite Boarding
Winter sports just got even cooler thanks to the Kitewing, which can be used with and on a variety of different vehicles and surfaces. Strap this ultra-light, hand-held device to your snowboard or skis and you’ll thank us later. www.kitewing.com.

Ice Biking
Similar to warm weather cycling, ice biking can be done on road or trails with some simple modifications to equipment (studded or slightly deflated tires) and technique, depending on conditions.  Check out www.icebike.org for more information.

Ski Biking
Ski bikes, originally designed as a means of transport in the Alps, resemble a mountain bike but with skis instead of wheels. These bikes can be used for downhill as well as for BMX tricks. Visit www.ski-bike.org for more info.

For the Rest of Us

If you’re ready to melt those winter blues away and embrace the chilly outdoors, these places are equipped for winter warriors off all levels.

Ski, Snowboard, Tube

Ski Ward
1000 Main Street
Shrewsbury, MA
(508) 845-1797
www.skiward.com

Wachusett Mountain
499 Mountain Road
Princeton, MA
(978) 464-2300
www.wachusett.com

Worcester Ski Club
www.worcesterskiclub.org

Central Mass Ski & Snowboarding Group
www.skicmsg.com

Ice Hockey

New England Sports Center
121 Donald Lynch Boulevard
Marlborough, MA
(508) 229-2700  ‎
www.nes.com

Ice Skating

Charles J Buffone Arena
283 Lake Avenue
Worcester, MA 01604
(508) 799-0910

Colonial Figure Skating Club
34 Massachusetts Avenue
Boxborough, MA
(978) 263-3450
www.colonialfsc.com

Horgan Skating Arena
400 Oxford Street North
Auburn, MA
(508) 832-7201

Navin Skating Arena
451 Bolton Street
Marlborough, MA
(508) 624-5580

North Star Youth Forum Ice Skating Rink
15 Bridle Lane
Westboro, MA 01581
(508) 366-1562
www.nsyf.org

Wallace Civic Center Skating Rink
1000 John Fitch Hwy
Fitchburg, MA 01420
(978) 665-4936
www.wallaceciviccenter.com

12.10 Howie Mandel ~ Expect the Unexpected

By Jennifer Russo

ent-howie-mandel-copyYou may know him for his latex glove routine, his role in the movie Little Monsters,  his cartoon series “Bobby’s World,” as a judge on “America’s Got Talent,” as a host on “Deal or No Deal,” or his role as Dr. Wayne Fiscus on the 80s drama “St. Elsewhere.”  However you may have heard his name, you’ve heard it, because he’s been on the comedy circuit for around 30 years.  Many comedians who work for a while either become redundant or change so dramatically to appeal to new audiences that they lose their original charm, but Howie Mandel has remained an iconic figure…and none of it was expected.

“I don’t make plans,” Howie tells me.  “I’m not blazing a trail here.  Blame it on ADD, but I welcome distractions and I don’t think of the consequences before jumping into different things.  I just let them pull me in a direction and see what happens.”  He adds, “Planning will get you nothing, doing will get you everything.”

One of these unplanned things was his recently published book, “Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me,” which gives a humorous twist on his very serious OCD.  He said he didn’t set out to write a book about the topic, but the man he was working with convinced him that it was interesting and intriguing and people would want to read it.  Though he was embarrassed about it initially, he’s received positive feedback from people who’ve really enjoyed reading it; that feedback  has in turn made him feel really good about writing it.

About “Bobby’s World,” I asked him how it feels to have a show that after 9 years still plays in syndication in countries all over the world.  He says almost every episode is a reenactment of things his kids have done.  If not, it’s either happened to him or someone else he knows.  It’s all authentic, which is probably what has made it so endearing for all this time.

Though he’s career has been so diverse, Howie says stand-up comedy is closest to his heart.  He’s never more comfortable than when he’s on stage, and though he has after so many years established some signature comedy, he prefers the unexpected.  “I like that I can be improvisational and I like my shows interactive.  Any excuse to go off the mark, like something that happens in the audience or in the city I’m performing in, is welcome.  It’s those little differences in routines that make each night new and special for me.”

Be a part of the unexpected and see Howie when he comes to visit in Worcester at the Hanover Theatre on December 5th.

For information or to purchase tickets, check out
www.howiemandel.com/tour.html or
www.thehanovertheatre.org, or call 877-571-7469.


Pictured: Howie Mandel

12.10 Vanna – The Honest Hearts

By Jillian Locke

vanna-copyCapturing the essence of today’s post-hardcore/metalcore movement, Vanna, who enjoys a huge Massachusetts following, is forging into 2011 with a new label and a new EP, the first recording featuring former Seeker Destroyer vocalist Davey Muise, who couldn’t be happier with the change.

“This is the best decision I’ve ever made,” affirms Muise, who joined Vanna in the summer of 2009. “Seeker Destroyer toured with Vanna, and we were all really close friends. We did their CD release tour for A New Hope, and their singer quit right before the tour. They talked to me about it, and I went on tour with them. It was supposed to be for a week, and then they asked me to stay for the rest of the tour. Then they asked me to be in the band.”

More change was on the horizon for the group, featuring founding guitarists Nick Lambert and Evan Pharmakis, bassist Shawn Marquis, and drummer Chris Campbell. They decided it was time to make a move from their old label, Epitaph, to a smaller, more intimate label. They found the home they were looking for at Artery Recordings. “Our management group [Crimson Management] is family ~ they’re really close to us. We wanted our label to feel the same way, like a family. We really couldn’t be happier with our position and where we are. We wish Epitaph luck – they’re all really good guys.”

Signing with a new label gave the boys a chance not only to establish their presence, but to introduce the latest addition to the Vanna discography. And thus, on October 12th, The Honest Hearts EP was unleashed to hungry, anxious fans. “It’s my debut recording,” Muise explains. “We did the EP to get something out with me on it. It was a natural progression.” With three brand new tracks and two older fan and band favorites, Vanna’s latest effort is an ode to both their past and present.

The fans have embraced the changes just as much as the band, which is a huge testament in and of itself. “I love Vanna fans,” says Muise. “They’re the best, most loyal and faithful fans in the world. When I joined, kids stuck with it. They’ve been so behind us and so supportive.”

A recent sold-out performance this past February at The Palladium confirmed this support, and brought a life-long goal to fruition for Muise. “I spent my entire childhood going to shows there, and now, almost my entire adult career playing music has been there. It’s come full circle. We headlined there in February and played to 1,800 people. The downstairs was sold-out, so they opened up the balcony. That was just incredible to me. It’s still one of my favorite places to play.”

It’s been an incredibly positive year for Vanna, and 2011 seems to be shaping up to be no different. “We’re really coming into our own. We’re writing new stuff and will be entering the studio in February to record a new album. We’ve got international touring and lots of things coming up for us. We’re really excited.”

And all of this success seems to be directly linked to the way they live their life and view their band. “We’re five guys being really, truly honest with their music. This is us shooting from the heart with everything we do. This band is our life ~ this is all we have. This is all we care about.”

www.myspace.com/vanna

12.10 PulseFLICKS – Sunblocked

This Indie Darling Gives Major Studio Films a Run for Their Money

By Shelly Aucoin

Some days I wake up and everything’s normal. Things make sense. Birds chirp, people drive ~ simple is simple. Most days, though, I feel the earth tip off its axis. Nobody else seems to notice this. But nobody notices anything anymore.” ~Aloe

Four years in the making, Sunblocked, a  refreshing indie dramedy starring Shannon Carter, Alyssa Freedman, Nate Lopez, and Chris McGilvary,  takes the mundane events of everyday life and stands them on their heads.

Supported by a quirky cast of characters, our protagonist is a realist to the nth degree. Having been burned by love she seems hopelessly jaded towards the people and places surrounding her. Or is she?

Among the list of things she doesn’t understand: her name, military time, poor tipping, clapping, politics, time zones, twins, her seven year old brother, celebrity salaries and ~ most of all ~ romance.  pulseflix-image-1-copy

Aloe (Shannon Carter) struggles with the daily challenges of a crummy job, a crazy family and a broken heart with the help of her best friend Derek (Chris McGilvary). Things get even more complicated when new guy Frank (Nate Lopez) enters the picture and her life is turned upside down. Aloe must decide whether to take another chance on love or keep up the walls she’s worked so hard to build.

Writer/director Jessica Saccardo demonstrates a profound understanding of the inner workings of relationships as she takes us on a charming trip through the delights and frustrations of youth.

Both Saccardo and cinematographer Gregory Cook worked on the Worcester- based children’s show Catch the Science Bug. Their collaborative genius on Sunblocked takes them to the next level, proving once again that Worcester grows some of the most creative talent around. The film’s October 1 premier at AMC Loews in Harvard Square sold out less than two weeks after it was announced.

Although this is her first starring role, Shannon Carte’s no stranger to the big screen. She also worked on films including Surrogates, The Social Network, What’s Your Number and Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying. She even appeared in People and Entertainment Weekly alongside Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson for her role in Bride Wars. Shannon was most recently a guest on the” Matty in the Morning” show on KISS 108.

Sunblocked delivers clever sarcasm and acerbic wit through moving performances from a talented cast ~ a much needed reprieve from the big box failures of the year.

Check out the trailer on the official Sunblocked web page at:
www.myspace.com/sunblockedmovie,
get an additional sneak peak at:
www.ourfilmspace.com/video/sunblocked-teaser-trailer-1,
and see photos of the premiere at:
www.flickr.com/photos/charlessaulters/sets/72157624958928087/

Pictured:  Director and  Writer Jessica Saccardo Cook (left) and Lead Actress and Producer Shannon Carter (right). Photo by Joseph Cote.

12.10 Cirque du Soleil Brings Dralion to the DCU Center

By Jennifer Russo

I stare in wonder at Salvador Dali’s paintings, ahead of their time and beautifully imaginative. Dali pushed the limits of what is real, magnified the perception of what exists and turned it into a work of art so phenomenal that the eyes cannot believe what they see.  Take a Dali painting and make it dance. Put it to music. Turn it into a living, breathing, moving thing and you have a Cirque Du Soleil production.  It will provoke and defy the senses and push the brain to the brink of impossibility. ent-cirque-du-soleil-copy

Dralion, the newest Cirque show to come to the area, combines western and eastern ideas and transports them ~ and the audience ~ into a futuristic world tied to the natural and magical elements of earth, fire, air, and water.  According to Sean McKeown, the show’s Artistic Director, the Dralion itself is a creature that blends the oriental circus figures of dragon and lion (symbolic of the east and west). “Throughout history, the dragon and lion are often seen fighting each other. Here they are one playful beast, new and one with itself.  It personifies both cultures coming together. What makes Dralion unique is that it brings the idealistic thought of how people across cultures can come together in peace and happiness.  It shows the futuristic look of a world that deliberately shows the vision of eventual peace on Earth and how presently it is a real dream for now and tomorrow.”

Cirque du Soleil shows take about 2 years to create before they are cast and released onto the stage. Casting the right performers is essential to any show’s success.  Teams of people search through hundreds of online applications looking for talent; sometimes they have a specific skill in mind, sometimes they are looking for performers with more general abilities.

The part of Oceane the Water Goddess was given to dancer Tara Pandeya.  Born to a classical Bharatanatyam dancer mother, Tara spent much time around dance and later became interested in Central Asian dance performance.  She has performed for royalty in the Middle East and for U.S politicians including Hillary Clinton, receiving grants for choreography.  She says rehearsals for Dralion are rigorous, with two months of practice time in the studio followed by daily rehearsals onstage to get used to lighting, mist, props, and other performers’ acts. ent-ciruq-du-soleil-copy1

Tara describes her character Oceane as multi-faceted.   “She reveals different sides of herself, opening different layers to the audience and other characters as the show progresses.  She changes depending on who she shares a stage with, most apparent when dancing with Yao, the fire demon guide.   She is fierce with him, and has little tolerance.  With Azala (Air Goddess) and Gaya (Earth Goddess), she is more nurturing and soothing.”   Tara conveys this in her movements as “fierce and powerful as she is capable of destruction, or sensual and soft with movements mimicking gentle water.”

Though there are resident shows in various locations, Cirque still holds strong to the idea of being world travelers.  Sean tells me that it is important to “bring music and ideas and images to the people who can’t see them elsewhere and there will always be touring shows to reach those people.”

Dralion comes to the DCU Center in Worcester and gives you a chance to escape to a new world from December 16-19.

For tickets to see Dralion in Worcester, please visit
www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/dralion/tickets
or www.ticketmaster.com, or stop by any Ticketmaster location or the DCU box office.