Category Archives: High School

When Exams Were Over

There was a December when I was in high school, probably 1978 or 1979 when I was in grade 9 or 10, that I remember well.   I’m not sure if it was abnormally cold and snowy early that year, or whether I’m just so old that I was around back when winter actually came to Ontario before Christmas.   Either way, my memory of that year is studying for high school Christmas exams prior to the Christmas holiday break.  And on the last weekend before my exams ended, I can remember my dad flooding the rink in the backyard.  I couldn’t wait to be done and to get out on to that rink.

In his customary MacGyver-like style, he had rigged up a way to spray water from an unattended hose at just the right water-mist consistency that it landed and froze into ice without burning a whole in the snow.  He had used an old chair (probably one he had purchased at an auction sale as he was fond of doing and one that was likely about 3rd last in the queue to be fixed up) and wound the hose through the rungs so that it held itself in place.   He would go outside every twenty minutes or so and move the chair so that it sprayed a different part of the rink.  The outcome was always a thing of beauty and I have a several photos of it in my flikr stream found on the home page of this blog.

Anyway, in that particular December, my last exam was a morning exam because I can remember coming right home afterwards.  It was a bright clear December day.   I always put my skates on in the kitchen (sitting on another old, rescued and restored chair near the back door) and would then crawl carefully down the stairs outside the back door.  This day was no different.

Exams done.  Two weeks off.  Freedom on ice.

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Heavy Hits

I saw an old classmate and teammate from my high school years yesterday – Ross Cowie at Bud McDougall’s funeral.  A great stay-at-home defenceman, we played on the St. Pete’s high school team together many moon ago.  Ross took one of the hardest hits I ever saw, during an OFSSA semi-final game in North Bay in  early March 1981.  It was early in the game and he attempted to take the puck behind our net from one side and then out and up the other side.

Unfortunately, his head was down as he came out around the other side and one of our opponent’s forwards zoomed in with his bomb doors open.  Poor old Rosco got knocked right into the next county I think.  It was an old school concussion where we just sat him on the end of the bench until game was over.  It was a long cold night for him I’m sure.  The hit also served to get his older brother Brad, our best player, all fired up and off his game.  We were down 5-1 by end of the first and really never contended.  I’ll write more about that game later in the season.

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The Father David Bauer Tournament

The St. Pete’s High School team that I played on competed in the Father David Bauer tournament for a couple of years in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  In fact, the 1979 tournament was the inaugural event.  I was in grade 10 for that first tournament and played exactly two shifts in a total of five games in the tournament.   While I would have preferred to have played more, I was just happy to be on the team and it made me hungrier for the next year’s event.

Both year’s tournaments were a ball of fun.  A hockey team of high school boys staying at a Toronto hotel (the Holiday right next to Yorkdale Mall, just down the 401 from Pine Point Arena) over a Thursday to Sunday long weekend is a tough event for the participants not to enjoy.  I have so many funny memories from those two year’s events.  There was the swims in the pool where the boys were trying to get enough arc off the diving board to see if they could get a hand on the huge hanging flower garden that was suspended over the pool.  Not sure what they would have done had the got a hold of it.  Yikes.

There were the pillow fights where we actually donned our helmets because getting the hell thrashed out of you by a pillow repeatedly really can give you a headache.  There were the rather benign hazing rituals like wedgies and so forth at the hands of the team veterans, although in one case I remember someone (who shall be nameless here to protect the innocent) getting a pillow case taped over his head and put on to the elevator and sent to the lobby (and every floor in between) in his drawers.

There were the grand buffet dinners at the Eaton’s in the mall – not a whole lot of eating discipline going on there for this group of growing lads.  There was the shouts from the balcony at the boys from Ottawa as they left for home defeated , whose sticks had gone missing and who were might pissed because of it, where we thanked them for the firewood we had at our team bonfire the previous night.

I remember having a really great tournament the second year, where my 3rd-line mates (Dan McDougall and Pete Sullivan) and I chipped in far more goals than were expected of us.

We lost soundly in the finals of the 1980 tournament to Henry Carr who would also beat us later that year in the OFSSA semi-finals.

bauer

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Hockey and British History

I’ve written previously that my high school hockey coach was a man named Dave Bowen from Peterborough.  A fabulous coach.  A student of the game and someone who just dripped passion for it, he really made it fun for me and was one of those people who, looking back, pushed me to be more than I thought I was capable of.   One of my fellow high school players, Dan McDougall, who was a pretty fair hockey player and played for a lot of different coaches in his younger years says Bowen was hands-down the best he ever had.

Anyway, “Mr. Bowen” as he was known to us back in high school, was also a history teacher and from my perspective, really, really good at that as well.   It wasn’t about facts, dates, places.  No, he wanted us to think.  His signature phrase became “so what?” when one of us would toss out something as simple as a fact, a date or a place.  I ate it up.   I’ve always loved history and that is in part a tribute to the way he taught it.

Anyway, this all serves as background to one of the great one-liners I recall from my high school hockey / history days.  We were at an after-school practice one day at the Kinsmen arena.   I don’t know what the setup was but at one point, talk moved to that day’s history lesson in “Mr. Bowen’s” class and it had something to do with some element of history involving the British.   I seem to recall it had something to do with the British coming down hard on someone, with the requisite amount of physical violence that often shapes history.

I remember Bowen being in the dressing room at the time and at a point where someone need to step in and show the lesson had left its mark on us intellectually, young growing minds that we were, Rod McGillis, who was a bit of character, summed things up nicely by chirping  “man, those British guys were something else eh?!”  Indeed Roddy.  No “so what?” needed there.   I still laugh every time I think about the smile that crossed Bowen’s face when Roddy said it.

On a similar note, I remember Bill Wasson who like McGillis was a year older than I, chafing at the fact that he had lost marks on his history essay on “Henery VIII”.  Yes, in the age when spelling and grammar checkers were the grey matter attached to the hand attached to the pen writing the essay, Bill’s own eye had neglected to catch the spelling error (which he had at least spelled consistently throughout the essay) in the subject’s name.

I don’t think Wasson or McGillis were ever threats to win a Rhodes Scholarship but they were solid parts of “Mr. Bowen’s teams”.   Wasson was a hard-nosed defenceman who could score and was a leader.  He had character and when we were in big games, he wanted to win.  McGillis was a very talented player with a really heavy shot.  Funny as hell and a free-spirit in the room, he too was pretty serious about winning on the ice.  I hear his name from time to time via friends and family in Peterborough and he is still associated with the game.  He had several brothers who were also great players.

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How To Pick Players In A Play-off Hockey Pool

In 1981, the Habs played the Oilers in the first round of the play-off’s.  The fading dynasty from the 70’s against the dynasty to be of the mid-late 80’s.   I was in high school at the time and we had a hockey pool.   Gretzky was good, we all knew that but the Hab’s finished 3rd overall and the Oil 14th.   Gretz would probably only be able to pick up points in the first round.

And so, with that great moment in high school grey matter, my mates and I proceeded to leave Gretzky untouched in the first round of the pool.  I don’t know exactly when he was picked or who picked him but I do know we all passed on him in the first round of the pool.

I also remember telling my Dad about this bit of wisdom when I explained my picks to him.  He thought it was the funniest damn thing going that none of us took him first round.  No one was willing to pick him on the outside chance that Richard Sevigny wasn’t Ken Dryden, that Lafleur’s best days were in the 70’s and that maybe, just maybe, Gretzky, Messier, Coffee, etc. etc. might just pull an upset.  I argued convincingly, like an experienced quant that while he may have had a point, it was no way to bet.

And so, it is with great humour all these years later, that I recall my Dad’s guffaw’s of laughter listening to the first game of that Hab’s-Oilers series on the radio with me.  You see, the Leafs were playing the Islanders that year in the first round (which produced an even bigger shocker when the #1 Isles fell to #16 Leafs and Lanny McDonald’s goal in overtime of game 7 in that series) and so the Hab’s game was not on TV.   Making it funnier was that we were listening on a French radio station with lots of static.  Neither of us understood French but we understood very clearly how the game was proceeding because every third word was a French-accented “Gretz-keeeee”.  Gretz would chip in five helpers that night in a 6-3 Oil win.  They swept the Habs in three straight and I didn’t win the pool.

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The Brooklyn Islanders

I’ll admit it – I’m a former Islander fan who gave up on his team along time ago.  As a kid, and several years before they ran off four straight cup wins, I was a big fan of the Islanders.  In the years following those cups, when Pat Flatley was captain (a player I actually played against once in a high-school tournament in Toronto), and when the Sutters were still bumping and grinding, I stuck with them.

Starting in the 90’s though, they truly lost their way and like the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, seem forever destined to just wander around out in the wastelands.  [Note:  Apparently there were originally 12 tribes in Israel but two are present and accounted for – the other 10 are still missing].  About this time, I simply stopped following them.

With their announcement this week that they’d be moving to Brooklyn in 2015, the NY Islanders are soon to be a footnote in NHL history.  And so hats off to Trots and Boss, Potvin, Gilles, Bobby Nystrom, Butch with your ever so cool helmet, Ken Morrow with your OT goal that sank the Rangers in the deciding game 5 of that epic series with them when they had Superman Herb Brooks behind the Ranger bench, and of course Battlin’ Billy Smith (never shook hands after a series) in the cage, for the 4 Cups and good times you brought to the Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island.

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Training

I was never much of a fitness buff.  I’m still not.  Some people get enjoyment out of exercise on its own but not me.  As a kid, there was really no need to train for hockey because let’s face it, kids as a rule are pretty fit.

However, there was one summer where I did train.  It was between grade 10 and 11.  I had made the high school team the year before but had basically sat on the bench all year.  That wasn’t a problem because I was pretty happy to have just made the team.  However, I wasn’t too interested in doing it a second year.

I don’t remember how hard at it I went and suspect it wasn’t too hard.  However, I do remember running three or four times a week and lifting some weights all summer.   I don’t think it had any impact on my weight or strength but it did help my confidence.  By September, I was ready to play and not sit.

Hunger is a funny thing.   I believe it is one of the key ingredients for success at anything in life.  I still love that element of sport where the old gun goes head to head with the young gun, or the team of veterans faces down the team of upstarts.  There’s something to be said for experience and one can still be hungry as they age, but in general, the athlete or team that hasn’t won the prize is always hungrier and willing to pay just a little higher price than the ones they are competing against.

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