Category Archives: Driveway hockey

Nets In Spring

There’s few Canadian who don’t love the arrival of spring.  Even die hard winter fans love spring.  However, as much as I love it, I also love to see remnants of winter sticking around as the days get longer and the suns brings people and leaves out.

One of these remnants is the hockey net.  Sometimes it’s at the end of a driveway, evidence of a spring game that just ended, or is about to begin.  Sometimes it’s a net against a garage door, where a game may have been hard to come by so the player in the house had to settle for taking shots.  Sometimes it’s a twisted broken old net at the curb on garbage day, a sad sight if there ever was one.

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Filed under Driveway hockey, Nets

Scars

I stood groggily in front of the mirror this morning and for some reason noticed that line that runs perfectly horizontally across my nose about half way up.  Imperceptible except up close, it’s a memory carved into my beaker with an errant stick back on the driveway on Wolsely Street in Peterborough.

I remember getting clipped and cut and it was good enough to ugly me up for a few days.  Perfect placement really – below the eyes which would have been the ultimate serious injury and above the cakehole which might have cost me a few chicklets.

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Filed under Driveway hockey, injuries

Car!

As I drove down the street yesterday, I approached two boys and a girl playing ball hockey on the street a few houses down.  They had a net and one was playing goalie and the other two shooting.  I could read their lips as they called “Car!”   Ah, one of the great battle cries of hockey on the street in a quiet neighbourhood.

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Filed under Ball hockey, Cars and Trucks, Driveway hockey

The Wet Tennis Ball

Do you remember playing ball hockey way back in the day?  I mean way back, prior to the invention of the now ubiquitous orange ball hockey ball.   Back then, my memory tells me we most often used a tennis ball.  Real pucks were for ice, sponge pucks were no good on any surface and sponge balls bounced hopelessly everywhere.

There were several variations of tennis balls that served our purposes though.  There was the completely worn-down version that had no hair left on it.  This was ideal because it didn’t bounce much and because it was hairless, didn’t stick as much on pavement and concrete as its hairy brethern.

If you didn’t have one of those (and typically you only did if you played ball hockey since these were no good for tennis), you had to settle for a newer tennis ball and if it came with a fair amount of hair still on it, it meant for one of those sub-par hockey experiences.  You made do but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  It was also made worse if the parking lot or driveway you were playing in happened to be wet.  In that situation, the hairy tennis ball would get soaked and every so often, someone would have to yell time-out to step on the ball and squeeze the water out of it.  You could tell that was required when the ball was skittering along the ground and water would shoot up as it rotated.

If you happened to be playing net when the game involved a wet tennis ball, even worse.  It weighed more, and left big, wet, round muddy water marks on your coat, jersey, pants etc.  Take one in the candies and it was time for a goalie switch since the wet ball weighed a lot more and thus carried more pain pay-load than a dry version.  Many a garage door would bear the dirty, round ball marks of a hairy wet tennis ball if a kid took shots on his wet driveway.

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Filed under Ball hockey, Driveway hockey, equipment

Sponge Pucks

I don’t know what made me think about this but as I was out and about today, enjoying the feel of Christmas in the air, I suddenly had this image of a sponge puck bounce through my brain.  Remember those things?  Damndest device ever made.  They stuck brutally on concrete or asphalt driveways and parking lots so trying to use them in road games was an exercise in futility.  Using them to just take shots on a buddy (which is likely why there were invented since shooting a real puck at a friend without full goalie gear on was like using a hand grenade to get rid of a wasp’s nest – it would work, but felt like overkill) was only marginally better.

If you used a wrist shot, and could control the friction they generated against something other than ice, you could get off a decent shot.  Slapshots were like pushing on a string.  You really had to have a cannon to make it move with a slapshot.   Once airborne, the sponge puck became the ultimate flying weapon.  No one knew where it was going, how it would curve or drop or rise into the wind as if taking off from a carrier deck.  If by chance it was a the proverbial ground ball in the infield, things got even worse.  You pretty much had to wait until it stopped bouncing before playing it again.

However, I do remember playing full games with just such a beast on open air rinks on a winter afternoon.  It had it’s advantages there.  Without shin pads, a real puck usually resulted in a least a few stingers.  It moved better on ice and for the half-equipped goalies, you could lean into it without fear of hurting him.

The ultimate humour in the sponge puck was when it would inevitably get switched for a real one (ie. it got lost in a snowbank, the kid who owned it had to go home, someone was just plain tired of using it, etc.).  In such situations, etiquette (yes, it does exist in hockey) demanded that a warning be issued to the gang that a switch had been made.  However, someone would always forget or not hear the warning and fire off a pass or pull the trigger on a shot assuming they were still playing with blanks causing the rest to dive for cover knowing we had gone back to live ammo.  Ah good times.

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Filed under Driveway hockey, goalies, Pucks, shinny

When Old Hockey Nets Die

I’m not one of those handyman, McGyver types.  I hold my own when it comes to fixing busted clothes-dryers, replacing panes of broken glass and I’ll even change the oil on my own cars but I don’t build entire rec rooms, turn 4 cylinder engines into V-8’s with popular mechanics kits or wire the cottage in order to have ready-made ice in a fridge at cocktail hour.  Frankly, I’m either too lazy, not bright enough or just plain not interested in most cases.

However, when it comes to hockey, I’ve always had a bit of a strange streak in my genes when it comes to nets.  In our backyard rink at home several years ago, I deemed the standard Canadian Tire offerings just a little too bush league.  All but the mother-of-all-nets they sell just seemed to flimsy to suit me.  So…counter to my natural tendencies, I decided to build a better a bet hockey net and watch as the world beat a path to my backyard.

With my son in tow, (god bless little kids ‘cuz they get excited by dumb-ass ideas their dads cook up when they’re still too young to know any better), I headed off to home depot.  I went straight to the plumbing section, grabbed a bunch of sections of galvanized pipe, various elbows and with my tape measure, stood their ciphering for a few minutes before I headed for the checkout.

As I stood looking, one of the typical handyman guys that Home Depots hires to provide customer service to other like-minded gents, showed up and nodded approvingly at the raw materials in my cart that were obviously the beginnings of some leading edge plumbing project.

“Roughing in a downstairs bathroom?” he asked, sort of a mano-a-mano introduction.

“Nope, buildin’ a hockey net for the backyard rink” I replied.

What followed was a combination blank stare and contemptuous grunt.  He took a second look at the cart then at me and then walked away.

Knowing enough about the measure twice, cut once edict, I took one last run through my net specs that I had written before leaving home and satisfied, we had this thing nailed, we headed for the checkout.  A quick stop on the way home at a sports store allowed us to purchase the mesh and then off home we headed to assemble the home plumbing supplies into a net that would withstand the hardest slapshot any neighbourhook kid could take (and mine too, but no trouble there).

This net served many wonderful years in our backyard rink but as with all living things, it got old and weary and passed away this past spring, neglected in its later years by lack of physical exercise brought on by an absence of the backyard rink brought on by the addition of a dog to our family two years ago.

Sigh. I miss that rink and I miss that net in its glory days.  I read somewhere that Bryan Trottier, when growing up in the prairies, had a family dog that he taught to play goal.  At the end of the dog’s life, it was toothless like many an old hockey player.   Hmmmm.

The Net In Its Prime

The Net on Its Deathbed

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Filed under Driveway hockey, Nets, rinks

Time Warp

I was out walking the dog in the neighourhood this morning and came across two young boys playing hockey in their driveway.   I actually heard them before I saw them.  It was that distinct sound that occurs when a hockey stick hits a paved driveway as a tennis ball or one of those orange ball hockey balls is shot.   As beautiful a sound as there is.

As I got closer (they were playing across the street from where I was walking), I noticed the bigger and older of the two kids, probably 12’ish or so, was shooting on a younger boy who looked like a little brother.   One of them had a Leafs jersey on, (the older boy I think – God Bless the optimism and hope the young seem to possess) and the goalie had pads, a blocker and trapper etc.

Just after I had passed them and looked away, I heard one of them yell “He scoooorrrrreeesssss….number 4, Bobby Orr!” in a very animated sports announcer sort of way.  Bobby Orr?  When I was their age, Orr was already past his injury-shortened prime and we had moved on to being Guy Lafleur, Darryl Sittler and Mike Bossy wannabees.   And that was more than a few years ago.  It brought a smile to my face to think that this would have been like me yelling “He scooooooorrrrreeeessssss….number 7, Howie Morenz!”

I’m guessing these boys were talked to recently by a grandpa or a dad or an uncle, or, not to be sexist, perhaps a grandma or mother, about what a fabulous player Bobby Orr was many, many years ago.   Perhaps even the best ever as my Dad and father-in-law would argue.  Whatever the reason, it was a wonderful thing to hear on a day where I’ll be heading off shortly after noon to my son’s end of year tournament in St. Catherines.

Orr really was something wasn’t he?

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Filed under Driveway hockey, memories, NHL'ers