I suspect it’s true of any team sport but a bunch of guys in a hockey dressing room are always looking for ways to make the new guy feel comfortable…in an uncomfortable sort of way. The year was 1987 and I had moved to Kitchener two months prior. I was fresh out of school, had my first job and my first set of wheels – a 68 Mustang hardtop. It was a pretty sweet little car. Yellow with black striping, oversize wheels on the back, black interior, V8 engine. A very nice ride and I dare say it was nicer than anything I’ve ever driven since.
I hadn’t made many friends in town yet but someone at work had given me an invite to a Thursday night pickup hockey game. I’d made new friends all my life playing hockey so this felt pretty good. Thursday night rolled around and I showed up at the rink around 10:30 to get ready for the 11:00 start time. I was quietly putting on my gear in the room when one of the guys across the room says “I hope nobody here owns that Mustang out in the lot. I was just pulling my bag out of the trunk and a guy in an old pickup just backed right into the side of it and then drove away.”
Ok, so the pretty good feeling goes away real quick. I was stunned. Literally stunned. It must have showed pretty quick too because the guy who said it is looking around the room and about the time he spots my ashen face, I was blurting out some cry for help and he gets a big grin on his face. You know the look, the one that says “hey new guy, gotcha!”. Tom McKerra was his name. A character through and through. His brother Ron also played from time to time and I enjoyed playing both with and against both of them over many years of Thursday nights at Don McLaren arena. I’ll bet it’s been close to twenty years since I’ve seen either one of them but I’ll never forget Tom’s welcome of me, the new guy.