I received word today that a childhood friend and teammate passed away this past Thursday. His name was John Cowling. The news has saddened me terribly. Although I had not seen him in 20+ years, nor kept in touch with him, I know that he was a very good man. It is funny how there is always a strong connection with friends made very early in our lives.
We played together for several season on those house league St. Anne’s teams I have written other posts about. He was part of Ed and Brian’s teams. For several of those early church league years, we played on the same line, him on the left side, me on the right, David Allen up the middle. I remember John had those new Lange skates that were all the rage at the time.
John was one of the guys that was always there when, in our teen years, we’d spend a Saturday night playing shinny on the canal in the heart of a Peterborough winter, or as part of a pick-up ball hockey game on the tennis courts at Bonnerworth when we were home from around the province in our University years at Thanksgiving, Christmas or Reading Week.
One of the funniest memories I have of hockey in my teens is the last year we played for Ed and Brian. We must have been midget because one of the guys on the team had gotten his drivers license and had a beat-up old Triumph as his first set of wheels. Crazy cool car to a bunch of high school kids. Anyway, it was late in the winter, or perhaps even early spring and Ed had scheduled the end-of-season team party at his house for a Friday night. Ed’s house was about a short drive from John’s house. Problem was, John had also decided to throw a party at his house for that night. This was a scheduling problem of some complexity.
The team gathered at Ed’s place early in the evening but being teens, we were a bit more interested in the ladies on a Friday night than on being regaled by each other of the season that was behind us so John’s party beckoned. The thing was, John didn’t want to let the coaches down so he actually went to the team party while the party at his parents joint went on without him…and his parents weren’t home so this started to take on a real-life “Risky Business” feel to it.
Teenage boys can be pretty inventive though so the compromise was that as the party rolled at Ed’s, the Triumph-guy took a couple of guys out for a spin in his wheels about every half hour, and one of those guys was always John. They’d zip to John’s place and John would check in with the buddy he’d left in charge to ensure the place was still standing, and then satisfied all was well, they’d head back to the party at Ed’s. After a half a dozen trips, I think Ed and Brian figured this gig out but by then their party was winding down anyway and we all headed off to John’s bash to close the night out.
John, I will remember you as a friend and a hockey player and I will miss you.