Category Archives: injuries

A Man and his Son, A Man and his Father, and Me

I skated today for the first time in 9 weeks on this cold bright January morning.  I headed off to Vic park early, knowing the rink would be mostly mine, which is for the best as i know I’m in no shape to actually skate with others around me yet.  I took my stick and couple of pucks and felt a tiny surge of excitement to see how I felt.   There was a young man on the ice already, with his son, a boy of 5 or 6.  I skated at one end of the massive sheet, they at the other.  At one point my puck danced away and the boy was only too happy to dart over and pass it back to me.   I grinned and gave him a hearty thank you and he flashed a big smile and skated away in a burst.  There were days not so long ago where my son and daughters skated alongside with me here when they were his age.  And I remember being that small once and skating with my own father at the open air rinks in Peterborough – Bonnerworth, the Trent canal, Hillside street park.  Good memories all.

I was in my element again and it felt good.  A clean sheet of ice is the most creative thing I’ve ever known.  Turn left, turn right, quick steps to full speed, glide, turn, stick handle or let the puck do the work.  In my later years, I’ve never played the game in a way where my movements are planned.  It’s one of the beautiful parts of playing for fun, of shinny.  It’s movement guided by some primal, instinctive compass, long since obsolete now that we don’t have to outrun woolly mammoths and such.   Bobby Orr has suggested more than once that we are systemically removing the creativity of generation after generation of hockey players in favour of structure and systems.  I couldn’t agree more.

Handling the puck was magical.  My hands were fine and little strength was needed for the simple maneuvers I tried.  The burden of an injured shoulder hasn’t stolen that gem.  I was able to pass the puck off the frozen boards back to myself, and able to fire the puck smoothly along the ice at the net.  Ah, the clank of the puck hitting a pipe net at an open air rink.  A different type of pipe organ, but beautiful music indeed.

Sadly, it didn’t take long for the instinctive side of me to get overruled by my mind flashing a mental “careful” sign as I approached anything beyond the slowest speed I know.  The thinking part of the brain telling the rest of me this was premature and foolish.  A fall on to my gimpy wing would be a very bad thing.   This will be the part of playing I will miss the most if my shoulder always requires an element of caution from this point forward if at some point I am able to play again.  I may not be young anymore, but the rink is the only place in my life where I have done anything with any measure of abandon.  I was never a physical player, being not strong enough for that game, but I rarely backed away from going to the puck, or taking it to the net regardless of the opponent, and I was always happy to try the impossible pass, or slide through the slightest of lanes between players

In all, I skated only 10 minutes.  The weight of the puck on the stick for just that length of time began to play a different kind of music in my shoulder very quickly.  Pain on the end of the clavicle as it pushed up unrestricted into the muscle on the top of the shoulder. I picked up my puck and head back to the car, hopped in and started to remove my skates.  As I did so, a man about the same age as the one with the young son already on the rink walked by with an older man by his side who was obviously his father.  Skates on sticks over shoulders, toques on heads, they headed to the sheet I had just left.

I have been the young boy, and I have been the young father.  Shoulder be damned, I will be the old man in skates and toque yet.

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Filed under dads, injuries, memories, rinks, shinny, Sounds, Uncategorized

Forrest Gump and Injured Reserve

Well, it’s been almost two and half years since I went all Forrest Gump and took my hands off the keyboard and simply stopped writing rinktales.  And today…well, it marks the day I am back.  Quite sadly for me, it’s not the way I had had hoped to return.   You see, I never intended to simply stop writing and never return.  It wasn’t like I had run out of stories.  A hockey player never runs out of stories.  Using a hockey metaphor, I just ran out of tape, got a bit winded, the skates got a bit dull.  The plan was to sit out a few shifts to let the ringing noises subside and then get back out there.  However, one month turned into two, then a year turned into two and a second season turned into a third.  I was playing a lot, and there was a new story every shift.  This hockey player’s life was good.  It was a first world life in the truest sense but hey, I was born in the first world.

Then, one Saturday night this past November in a tournament game, my right shoulder somehow ended up in a blind date with the boards behind the opposing net (I’ve don’t believe I’ve ever met the boards behind my own net) and she was a nasty one that.   It’s been a few weeks and while that’s a wee drop in the bucket of time, and all those who care tell me I’m too impatient and things will be back to normal if I just let time take its course, things feel a little bleak currently, a little like this time might be different than all the relatively minor injuries I’ve suffered in the past.  The reality is that my shoulder no longer feels like a shoulder, nor does it look like one.

And so, when it comes to hockey, writing about it may be the next best thing to playing for the forseeable future.  And by forseeable future, I really mean the words “holy shit, you may be done eh?” keep rattling around inside my helmetless head.

A week or so after I got hurt, I watched Ryane Clowe get honoured pre-game in San Jose like he was same aging superstar from years gone by.  Crap I thought, when did he stop playing and why?  Last I heard, he was one of the Sharks up and comers.  As I followed the scene on the tele, they described how he had succumbed to concussion symptoms over past couple of seasons and was done.  They described his feelings of despair and mental battle with the notion that he was done.  Really done.

I won’t try to compare myself to Clowe, for whom hockey was his means of making a living.  However, I do know this –  I have loved playing the game every bit as much as anyone who ever played and not playing is a like having the juiciest morsel of life withheld for all eternity.  Hopefully my shoulder heals and I can lace up again at some point, even in a diminished capacity.  However, there’s no guarantees and until then, perhaps rinktales will be my means to stay close to the game and all the good things it has given me thus far.

Stay tuned, and while I’d like to say “stay safe”, that is one dumb-ass suggestion to give anyone who has ever strapped sharpened steel on to the bottom of their feet in order to enjoy high speed sport on frozen water.   Instead, I’ll just suggest that if you are still playing, enjoy the hell out of it ‘cuz as Tom Cochrane said in his wonderful hockey ballad Big League, “Ah, never can tell what might come down, never can tell how much you got, just don’t know, no you never can tell.”


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Playing Hurt

Bergeron and Toews – two stars hurt in the same game that threw game 5 momentum in different directions last night.  It was killing Toews to have to sit.  At one point it appeared he pleaded with the coaching “Gimme one shift” but he didn’t play in the third.  Watching Bergeron coast around for three 15 second shifts and then gut out the pain when he got to the bench was telling.  He’s big time hurt.  What a disappointment it must be to make  it this far, playing so well, only to go out for the final couple of games with everything on the line.

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Filed under Great Players, injuries, Stanley

Ohhhaaaahhhhmmmpppphhhh !@#$

Excluding any readers who are goalies, did you ever take a puck right in the candies?  Umph – pain first, fear second.

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Getting Old

After playing hockey all day Saturday, and then having wonderfully lazy Sunday recovering, I woke up this morning unable to move my left arm.  Not heart-attach-unable-to-move-my-arm but closer to torn-rotator-cuff sore.   I’d prefer to tell people I hurt it playing hockey but alas, I think I hurt it sleeping.

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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

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

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

Leaving Flin Flon

Bobby Clarke was once asked about his slash on Kharlamov during the ’72 series.  His reply:  “If I hadn’t learned to lay on a two-hander once in awhile, I’d never have left Flin Flon.”

If you google maps Flin Flon, you’ll notice it’s a fair distance from anywhere except what appears to be good fishing.   Motivation perhaps?

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Filed under injuries, Quotes

Concussion Treatments Then and Now

Lots in the press lately about concussions and the scourge they are in the game today.  I couldn’t agree more.  Having said that, I doubt there is any way to eliminate them from the game short of removing contact and fighting.  Even then there would be the odd accident as there is in my old timer league where it isn’t unusual to have two guys simply bang into each other, often from the same team.

However, knowing all the good things guys like Syd the kid are receiving in terms of state of the art treatment today, here’s a little story about how a head shot got taken care of back in the day.  I was back in Peterborough recently spending time with my Dad and Mom and my Dad told me a story of when he played on a team many moon ago for Hiawatha, a tiny village just south of Peterborough on the shores of Rice Lake.   (This was probably the 1950’s roughly).

His team had a game one night against Norwood, another small town 20 miles east of Peterborough, and their goalie and my Dad’s buddy, a man named Don Fitzgerald, took a puck square on the forehead right between the eyes.  Keep in mind, in this era, no one wore helmets, not even goalies.  Not only did the front part of Don’s melon take a blow but according to my Dad, he proceeded to fall like a tall, straight jackpine right over backwards on to the back of his head and then lay there out cold.

Naturally, the boys were worried for Don and so they got him off the ice and proceeded to drive him to Keene (another tiny village between Norwood and Hiawatha) to Doc Ford’s house. By the time they got there, Don was no longer out cold but more than a little groggy according to my Dad.

Doc Ford, a man who apparently went 300+ pounds on day of fasting, gave Don a full, late-night medical once-over and declared him fit as a fiddle and good to go home…with a nice cold beer offered up for medicinal purposes.

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Filed under goalies, injuries, memories