Category Archives: Friendships

Together on a Bus

I didn’t play on teams that did much travelling until I was in high school.  However, I remember those days well and it never fails to bring a smile, if not to my face, then at least within my mind, remembering the good times spent travelling with not just friends, but hockey-playing friends.

Peterborough to Ottawa for some beyond-the-city championship tourney (COSSA?), short trips to and from Fenelon Falls or Lindsay for the rare Saturday night game, Toronto for the Father David Bauer November tournament and the mother of all long nights, North Bay to Peterborough post-game on a cold late-winter night after a sad ending at OFSSA.

The music was Pink Floyd and Kim Mitchell and Geddy and his mates and all kinds of good stuff in between.  There were card games and naps, chirping each other, chirping the coaches, chirping about girls and on en route to the game, thoughts of big moments to come.  On the return trip, thoughts of plays made that felt good or, on the down side, mistakes made that left doubt, angst and frustration.

Sometimes old yellow school buses, sometimes fancier coaches, but the ride was the thing.  The bus ride to play hockey and the bus ride home.  Those were better than the good old days.

Ah, the boys from Humboldt and their bus ride.  God, I feel for every single one of them.  The driver of the truck.  The families, the neighbours, the kid’s teachers, the team they never got to play.  The ones who lived.

Like many who had a lump in their throat when they heard the news, and who had a hockey stick or two out in the garage, I put a stick at the front door.   It seems like such a silly thing to do in some ways.  It won’t make a difference.  It won’t really lessen the pain to their loved ones.

In the same week that innocent people were gassed by their own country’s leader, I am reminded of how much suffering there is in the world that seemingly rolls off us, as if it’s not really affecting other human beings like us.

For me, hockey has always helped give a little bit of meaning to life when the world gets a bit out of whack.  Or, I’d like to think it provides a little bit of healing balm to those in pain when the circumstances of their world are a little overwhelming.

This was a tough one.  The stick at the front door may not mean much, but showing you care in any way you can is better than having it roll off you.



Filed under Friendships, memories, Road Trips, teams

Lizard Liquor, Racoon Roadkill and The Great Pumpkin

Charles Schulz would have been proud if he’d been in Elmira today.  The creator of the Peanuts comic strip was an avid hockey fan.   However, as well as creating Charlie Brown and his merry band of carousing guy buddies, his colourful pooch Snoopy and some pretty saucy young dames, he also gave life to the unseen character known as the Great Pumpkin.

And so, had he been in Elmira today, he would have witnessed something almost as rare as a spotting of the Great Pumpkin itself, and that is the victory of the Golden Boot by the W’s Orange team (aka. Pumpkin).   It is well known lore in the W that Orange is a cursed colour to play for.   As Warmington said after the game, if you play for Orange, that should be worth about a 20 goal handicap before blades hit the ice.

But today was their day, from the jamming home of a goal on their first shift against my mates on White to their 3-0 record when all the games ended, today was a beautiful day to be Orange.

However, the W’s season finale isn’t really about winning.  (Ok, we all try pretty hard to win and White thinks it really should have won but that’s a topic for a different day).  No, the finale is more about enjoying all the good things that come from a bunch of like-minded blokes laughing and joking their way through a half a day each year to finish off a season.   During the regular season, you get maybe 15-20 minutes before and after each game to socialize (less if you’re me or Tim Ireland, more if you are the Sedin Twins, Jimmy David or Bernie).  On the day of the season ending tournament, you get to know people better.  Here’s a sampling of stuff I didn’t know when I woke up this morning:

– Warmington once picked up a road-killed racoon and threw it in the back of his Ford station wagon one winter night thinking he would give it to one of his buddies who traded coon pelts.  However, he promptly forgot about it, traded the Ford in one fine spring day before the thaw and heard later about the discovery coming as it did after some strange aromas needed to be investigated on the used car lot.

– Fulch’s Dad once decided the campground-sold firewood wasn’t for him and headed down the road into the bush, found a log to throw into the back of the wagon and drove back to the campground only to scare the beejeezus out of his travelling companion uncle when they discovered, much to the pain of his snake-fearing uncle that there was a snake’s nest in the log.  While “Snakes-in-a-Car” isn’t the snappy Hollywood title that “Snakes on a Plane” was, the fact that this was for real made it a better story

– someone’s hockey bag once had a nest of mice in it and they decided to leave their home while the owner and bag were en route to the rink in the car.  Again, this even less scary than Snakes-in-a-car but it has does have a charm of its own as hockey-bag stories go.  Upon hearing this someone commented “Where the hell does he keep his bag?”

– Ref Rich indicated that ref’ing some college girl games enabled him to learn that not all girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice.  While Rich doesn’t get intimidated by anyone in the W and is quite happy to laugh off any of us who get wound up at him for his calls / non-calls during the season, I think I heard his voice quiver a little as he described some of these college-girl games

– lastly, and I’m a bit biased in favour of Pat’s story-telling abilities, his story about a business trip to China was just as funny to me on the third telling as it was in the first.  (On the third go, we were sitting in Red’s dressing room eating their food and drinking their bevies after it had become clear they weren’t going to help us win by beating Orange in the final game).  In this particular yarn, which is too weird to be made up and proves that truth is stranger (and funnier) than fiction, Pat outlined how business on this particular trip seemed to get done during the big lunch and dinner feasts that had the eatees drowning in all kids of booze.  (In fact, I believe the Indonesian fellow who fell off his chair may have in fact actually drowned).   One morning after a particularly heavy feast the night before, one that Pat described by stating things were getting “pretty cloudy at the end”, they entered some chairman’s private dining room only to discover what appeared to be a five-gallon aquarium with a dead lizard on a stick, half in / half out of the aquarium, with all manner of fungus and seaweed and ginseng and other assorted life forms bubbling and growing.  “That’s ugly.” Pat suggested to his Canuck sidekick.  Ugly would have been fine had it not turned for the worse after lunch when the ladles came out and the hosts started pouring this unique brand of kool-aid into glasses for the businessmen to drink.  Makes a nice pull on on a cold beer after a game of hockey to chase down some smoke-cured sausage seem so civilized doesn’t it?

And so, another year is in the books.  The Golden Boot goes to Orange.  Here’s to Monday night’s symposium where we relive today one more time over chicken wings and just enough vegetables to make ourselves believe we’re eating healthy and staying in shape for next season.  And here’s to the second Monday in September when we open up those musty hockey bags and, after checking things first based on the what we learned from the tales above, throw on our gear to begin a new season.

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Filed under Food, Friendships, oldtimers, Quotes, Smells, tournaments, WOHL

A Hockey Friend Gone

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.



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Filed under Cars and Trucks, Friendships, High School

A Bit of Canadiana

There isn’t any Scottish lineage in this old bloke but when friends invited my better half and I to a Robbie Burns gig scheduled for tonight, I was all in.  It was at a local golf club and I guess one doesn’t eat haggis in jeans and a sweatshirt so we had to throw on our finest funeral blacks, being there no kilt in my closet.

It was a bit chilly so we decided to drop the ladies off at the front door of the clubhouse and then my buddy (who is a goalie) and I dumped the car off out back and decided to skip in the side door, scoot up the stairs through the curling rink lobby and head over to the clubhouse where the scotch awaited as gravy for the main entre.

As we passed through the curling rink lounge, sure enough there was a TV fired up with the Leaf game on showing the Leafs up early 2-0.  There was no one watching but it was a qintessential Canadian moment – cold outside on a January Saturday night, ice on the curling rink, hockey on the TV, and a bunch of old farts dressed in kilts drinking scotch and pouring it over haggis just so it could be swallowed.

It was a great night.  We learned a little history of the 78th Fraser Highlanders (although there was no record of them having a hockey team), saw some young ladies dance traditional Scottish dances (and with swords, which made it seem a little closer to a sport like hockey), and then we went home to a predictable result –  the Leafs had lost.  Tradition becomes habit I guess.

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Filed under Friendships, Wives and Girlfriends

The Black Scots

One year in high school, our coach arranged a couple of exhibition games in Toronto.  One of them was against the Sir John A. MacDonald Collegiate Black Scots.  It was during their spirit week and they invited us into their school for a winter barbecue I think although I cannot remember if it was before or after the game.

I don’t remember the score or even if we won or lost.  I do remember that a couple of years later when I went on to University, with one of my buddies from that team, we met up with a couple of guys from that very team who were in the same program as us.  Ironically, one of them was nicknamed “Blacker”, as funny a cat I’ve ever met.

Hockey has been a wonderful source of such friendships in my life.   It’s become a common refrain for my kids to ask me “hockey or work?” when I bump into someone in public who is obviously an old acquaintance and they are wondering from what part of my life this person comes from.  More often than not, the answer is “hockey”.


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Filed under Friendships, High School