Category Archives: High School

Talking Hockey Over Cherry Cheesecake

My wife and I got together with some old high school friends last night for dinner in Courtice, just east of the ‘Shwa.   Great to see everyone again and to talk hockey with some old school buddies.  We talked about our St. Pete’s high’s recent OFSSA hockey win and reminisced about days gone by when we played together on that very team back in the day.

There was also talk of some of the rough rinks east of Peterborough where the fans can get a bit spirited – Tweed was a town that seemed to bring agreement that had tough fans.  One story told was how the fans would bring this big air horn right down beside the visitors bench and blast that sucker into the bench all game long.

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Filed under Fans, High School

St. Pete’s Wins OFSSA

Congrats to St. Pete’s High in Peterborough  who won the OFSSA hockey championship this past week.   Head coach Ed Sullivan’s is a former St. Pete’s player and is a brother to Pete whose line I played on in my four years on the team in the early 80’s.  Assistant coach Steve Stanlick was also a team and classmate of mine from those days as well.  This was the school’s first OFSSA championship and is a wonderful accomplishment.

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Filed under Championships, High School

OFSSA Champions (Not)

32 years ago today, the 1980-81 St. Petes’s team, of which I was a part, headed off to OFSSA in North Bay on a yellow school bus.  It was a solid team sporting a 38-3-2 won lost record and was the second seed in the eight team tournament.  We had played and beaten the first seed Monarch Park lion’s earlier in the season and were coming to the tournament pretty healthy.

Brad Cowie was our best player, and the best player I have every played on any team with.  He was so good.  We had lost in the OFSSA semi’s in the previous year and while we had lost a fair number of really good grade 13 players, this year’s team was still a really good team.

We won our first contest against London Saunders on Thursday afternoon at 2:15 PM.  We had a really good game and I think the score was 4-2 or something close to that.   That win put us in the semi’s on Friday night.  Our likely opponent was to be the East York Goliaths, a big physical team that we had lost to in the annual Snofest Tournament finals in Peterborough in January.  I am not one of those players who cares not who he plays.  I remember getting a beat-down from playing these guys a couple of months before and was not looking forward to playing them.  Monarch Park, the higher seed didn’t bother me a bit.

And so, without much to do in North Bay for the next 24+ hours, we did what any group of disciplined teenage hockey-playing boys would do, we lost our mental focus quickly.  I remember spending a good chunk of Thursday aft and evening playing pool in a snooker hall across the street from the sleepy, summertime motel we were staying in.  Our coaches went back to the rink to scout and by early evening came back to the hotel to share the miraculous news – East York had been put out of the gold medal chase with a loss to a rag-tag team from the Soo whose hot goalie had stood on his head.   We were pumped and feeling all the more like it might be our year.

With that news, we got just a little further ahead of ourselves.  Again, it’s now only Thursday night and we still have almost a full day before our Friday night semi game.  Let the card games begin.  Some school groupies showed up in a car and brought up the girlfriend of one of the boys and focus slipped a little further.

By Thursday afternoon, our goalie Bernie Crowley (no relation but the nuns at the school used to think we looked alike enough to be brothers) had lost enough money in a card game to the McDougall brothers that he didn’t have enough dough to cover his Friday night hotel room fee.  Not a good omen at all and more than a bit of distraction.

Things got worse and since I’ve written the details of how the actual game unfolded in this post, I won’t repeat it here.  I remember the ride home post-game.  We would have happily stayed in North Bay overnight but our coaches herded us on to the old yellow school bus for the four hour ride back to Peterborough.  I remember it being one freakin’ cold ride.  I swear the bus had either no heat or the coaches told the bus driver to leave it turned off as punishment.  We got in to Peterborough really late, feeling really defeated.  Our parents were there to pick us up in the middle of the night at St. Pete’s and our little dream of winning Ontario was done.

While we didn’t know it that night, our coach Dave Bowen announced within a few weeks he would be leaving the high school and hanging up his coaching blades for awhile.  It was a real disappointment for me as he was the best coach I ever had and I had two years to go in  high school.   In the following season, we won the city championship for a 5th straight year but didn’t advance out of COSSA.  In my final year, the string of city championships ended at 5 as Kenner Collegiate took the crown.

ofssa 1981

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Filed under Great Players, High School, Losing, Missed Chances, Road Trips, teams

OFSSA – The First Time

33 years ago today, my St. Pete’s team headed off to OFSSA in Toronto.  I was a grade 10 and played very little that year.  We had a core of very strong older players where our best five on the ice were as good as the same best five from any team in the tournament.  However, we didn’t have the depths with something like ten grade 10 players.

Still, it was a pretty cool atmosphere to be a part of, with me never having really played at a level higher than house league.  We beat the Fort Frances Muskies in our Thursday game to advance to the semi’s on Friday night.

Our Friday night game was to be played at St. Mike’s arena, a little bit of a hockey shrine in its own right.  We played the Henry Carr Crusaders whose 51-3-3 record on the season was impressive no matter how you looked at.  The sported some high profile players – Pat Flatley, the future NHL’er and captain of the New York Islanders and Paul Higgins who would have a short career with the Leafs as an enforcer.

We were no slouch though and sported a 38-5-2 record.  Henry Carr had beat us in the finals of the David Bauer tournament in the prior November.  I didn’t play a single shift in the first game but played a couple of shifts in the Friday night game and remember being crazy nervous.  It was an NHL moment to me.  As the third period opened, we scored an early goal to make it a 5-3 game and at that point, it was one of those “you never know?” moments.

It didn’t last.  They scored a cheap one on us shortly thereafter and it was all down hill from there.

ofssa 1980

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Filed under High School, Play-offs, tournaments

The Bad Wheel Giveth Life to the Voice Within

When you lose an edge, you gain a dreadful feeling that lurks inside you, that little presence that tells you not to turn too hard, too fast, too sharp.  Don’t wheel too quickly when the play breaks the other way, don’t spin quite as tight to lose a defender down low.  For if you do, your wheel may be trusty or it may not.  If it fails you though, the results won’t be pretty.

When I was a kid in high school and needed a sharpen on an off-ice day, I’d drag my skates out of my hockey bag and throw in my gym bag before going to bed at night and head down to Spokes ‘n Pedals during my lunch period at school to get ’em done up.  A buck a sharpen, and later, when it became the goto place for good sharpens, it was a buck and a bit I think.

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Filed under High School, skates

The One That Got Away

The one that got away is a metaphor for many things in our world today.  I really like to fish and have had a few good ones literally get away on me.  My son caught a big bass one night when he was only 8 or 9 only to have it get away beside the boat because we did not have our net with us.  It’s been the subject of much trash talk on every fishing trip since because without a picture (we have none), the truth of the story is difficult to confirm and gets more so with the passing of each year.

Then there is the one that got away in a courtship sense.   As Jake Owen’s song by the same title laments, “Every summer that rolls around, I’m looking over my shoulder, wishing I could see her face, wishing I could hold her.”  Well, I know you’re probably wondering how I’m going to tie this pile of country music drivel into a hockey story, but trust me on this one, the fish you couldn’t land and the love that got away are not to be out done by the game that got away, the check you didn’t quite pick up or the goal that wasn’t.

I’ve had a few of these.  Nice life if these are my biggest laments but nonetheless, it is sometimes fun and a bit tortuous to look back and wonder what might have been.  At OFSSA in my grade 11 year, we fell behind 5-1 at the end of the first in the semi-finals on a Friday night game in North Bay.  The game was effectively over at that point.  The final score 8-3 proves that.  However, we were kids and didn’t know it at the time.  We went to the dressing room shell shocked and our coach pumped us up saying there was lots of hockey left.  We believed.

We scored the next one and made it 5-2 and shortly after that, I had a chance to make it 5-3.  The puck came to me at the edge of the crease with the empty cage and I shoveled a gimmee backhander in.  Somehow, their tender dove and got a glove on it.  I can still see it, feel it.  I went to the bench so frustrated.  I heard this coach’s words over the prior two years saying that in a big game “you have to score on these chances” and I didn’t.  We actually did make it 5-3 a bit later and the comeback was alive but they scored again shortly thereafter to make it 6-3 and that was that.

I really wish I had scored.  If we could have got to 5-4, it would have been a different game.  It was OFSAA.  Bummer of a way to lose, to get blown out in the first period.  There have been other missed goals, other missed checks but none had the significance of that year.

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Filed under High School, Play-offs

Lindsay on a Saturday Night

In my last year of high school play, the high school in Lindsay had entered the Peterborough area league.  Instead of playing them after school during the week as we did other local schools, we would sometimes play on Saturday nights in Lindsay.  We’d take a school bus to the game as a team but on the way home, I would often just jump in the car with my parents who most often attended these games.  They were truly wonderful hockey parents and attended every game they possibly could.

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Filed under High School, Parents, Road Trips

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

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

Peterborough’s Snofest Tournament

Peterborough’s annual Snofest High School Hockey Tournament, which I think lives on, was traditionally held around the first week in January.  It was part of a winter-carnaval thing the city did and I remember they also had snowmobile races around the track in the fairgrounds outside the Memorial Centre, the High Cathedral of Hockey in Peterborough.  Anyway, it was a treat to play in the tourney because we were the host city and playing at the Mem Centre wasn’t something we got to do very often.  (The arena is still the home of the Pete’s and has one of the most unusual shapes of any arena I’ve ever played in with almost square corners).

I remember one year (I think I was in grade 11) when our St. Pete’s team made it to the semi-finals where we played East York Collegiate from Toronto.  They were a very good team, as were we, but I recall we were hurting a bit and they were a very big team.

Prior to the game, I remember having serious trouble doing up my skates because I had one of those nasty hip pointers, a bruise right on the bone that is so sore when you move the joint, you just don’t wanna move the joint.  Bending at the waist to do up one’s skates was pure torture.  Anyway, I also had the flu with a screaming sore throat and headache, which didn’t help matters.

Now, as one of the smaller guys who really didn’t like the heavy going when it got really rough, East York wasn’t my idea of a fun team to play against.  However, I was no chicken either and played in my share of rough spots over the years and wasn’t one who ever asked a coach to sit me out for any reason.  I always wanted to play.

On this day though, with a really sore hip and just feeling really tough in general, I remember asking coach Dave Bowen something about either reducing my ice time or scratching me from the lineup altogether.   I remember him very clearly telling me we were missing some guys and I had to play.  (Knowing this, perhaps I was a bit chicken and he was calling me on it).

Anyway, my stay of execution was not to be….and this term is fitting because very early in the game, (I cannot remember if it was my first shift or not), the puck came around the boards in our end to me on the right wing.   It was the perfect storm.  I was too sore and sick to handle any aspect of the play correctly.  I got there late, was flat-footed, had my head down (although having my head up wouldn’t have helped) and was about 70 pounds light.  Their guy saw all of the above and came in with bomb doors full open.  Angels sang, trumpets sounded.  He filled me in but good.

I can still feel the hit.  I can still hear the hit.  Really I can.  I’m not sure if I was concussed because I don’t think we checked such things very often back then and I had a good headache before the hit.  I went down hard though.  The play was stopped and I had to be helped off.   It’s really quite funny to me now – I remember getting to the bench, sitting down and just putting my head down slowly, not sure if it might just roll right off.  Gawd, I ached.  Down the bench, ol’ Mister Bowen looks down to me and says I needed to sit out the next shift.   I remember nodding.  That’s it.  Just a nod.

I played the rest of the game.  We lost 2-1.  I went home, layed down on the couch, took a lot of aspirin or tylenol or whatever my mom had in the house for pain and flu and just didn’t move.  It’s funny what you remember at times like this.  I remember my parents went to Saturday night mass and I was home alone, really, really glad not to be moving.

I wasn’t much better on Sunday and I did not go to school on Monday.  It was the first day of high school I had missed in three years.  I remember Mr. Bowen smiling on Tuesday when I attended his history class asking how I was and acknowledging, with what seemed to me to be genuine surprise, that I really must have been sick.

 

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Filed under coaches, High School, injuries, tournaments