Category Archives: High School

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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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

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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Filed under High School, rinks

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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Filed under High School, injuries

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.


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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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Filed under coaches, High School, jokes