Category Archives: memories

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

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

High Points

I’ve had a million moments of joy playing hockey.   My memories in this emotional horn of plenty range from my earliest days of having a stick in my hand until present day.  My dad claims it started even before that when I was three weeks old.  He said that on a particular Saturday night, my mom was out and I was being fussy enough that he couldn’t settle me down in my room.  He finally decided that if he couldn’t make me go to sleep there, there was no point in him missing the game so he took me to the basement rec room where Hockey Night in Canada beckoned and lo and behold, I settled right down.

From that point on, and every day since, there have been some pretty dandy hockey days.  As Badger Bob used to say every day: “it’s a great day for hockey.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Having said that, in one’s life, there are always moments that stand out, some for no particular reason, some for obvious reasons.  In my hockey life, here’s a few moments where I went to sleep at night a pretty happy camper.

  • watching (and coaching) as my son scored the winning goal in the championship game at the buzzer in the first overtime in his 3rd year of play.  We had a face-off just outside our zone, right in front of our bench, with 8 seconds left on the clock in the first overtime.  He poked the puck straight ahead off the draw went right between both defencemen and beat their goalie with a wrister as the buzzer went.   It doesn’t get better than that.  My dad was there to see it.  An awesome day.
  • in the dressing room after winning COSSA in grade 11.  We won the title at home in Peterborough. It was a 3 game round-robin and we had to win or tie the third game to advance. Our high school had been let out to watch the game and we were so excited that before the game our coach, Dave Bowen, kept saying “you have to play with your head, not your heart.  Keep the adrenalin in check”.  It was one of the rare times I experienced a game with the arena packed with fans.  It was one of the Kinsmen rinks that really didn’t have much in the way of seats for fans, just some benches on each side of the ice.  There was probably 500-1000 people there and when our line scored early, the roar was huge.  What a rush.  I think we tied the game but that was enough.  OFSAA was up next and I remember the pure adrenalin of having won COSSA and us screaming and chanting in the room afterwards.
  • the day my dad signed me up for hockey for the first time.  I can remember dancing around the kitchen so excited
  • every game where Darren Howe, our leader on the Grand River League Mutual Life team, chirped his own guys with one-liners that were the envy of every comedian the world over.  He was one funny dude
  • coming up just short in a one-day tournament in Norwood in which our St. Anne’s team was entered where we had played a team from Markham.  They were dressed up like an NHL team and had about 51 players.   I remember looking at them in the warm-up and being intimidated and thinking we were going to get eaten like kittens.  We didn’t.  We really played hard.  We were down 3-0 at one point but had hit goal posts, cross bars and were very frustrated.  We got one late in the second and then scored again with less than a buck to play to make it 3-2 and forced them to hang on.  We played awesome, probably way over our heads but man was it fun to claw our way back into it late.
  • Eating dinner at Yorkdale mall in grade 10 and 11 with my St. Pete’s teammates when we were staying at the Holiday Inn nearby while taking part in the Father David Bauer tournament in Rexdale.  They lost money on the buffet those days I’m pretty sure.
  • the bus ride home from Ottawa in high school after COSSA in grade 10 where we had advanced to OFSAA.  It was a Friday and there was a high school dance that night.  Wine women and song were the spoils ahead even though most of us were too young / timid to drink much, most of the women went to the older guys who were better players.  We could dream though and the tunes on the bus and at the dance made a good time better.
  • the day my son scored his first goal
  • the day I scored my first goal, at the same age (8) that my son was when he scored his
  • my first game back after a 6 week layoff in grade 11 after injuring my foot.  I scored a hat trick and we won.  I was a role player and not only missed playing while I was hurt but really didn’t want to lose my spot on the team.  It was wonderful.  I didn’t really have a remarkable game but things just fell into place that game and as the saying goes, they all count.  I went home very happy that night.
  • watching Paul De Marchi have a ridiculous game in net against Campbellford in a tournament in Keene in our mid teens as part of one of our St. Anne’s teams with Ed and Brian at the helm.  He was a great goalie who always played his best in key games.  This was the either the tournament championship or consolation final but we got absolutely outplayed the entire game.  We were a bit older and so if we had lost it wouldn’t have been as disappointing as if we had been 9 or 10 years old.  However, we somehow scored two early and won the game 3-2 but but he stopped so many shots, and made so many ridiculous saves that I remember us joking with him during stoppages in play that he needed to play a little harder.

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Filed under dads, goalies, memories, Sons, tournaments

When You Can’t Remember Last Week

Ok, confession time.  This entry is being written almost a week late.  My iphone app tells me Red beat us 3-2 on the 4th, that Brian and Bart spared for us but beyond that, there are no other clues and I cannot remember a thing about the game.   I’m going to have to add a new field to the app to record what actually happened immediately post game for just such a situation in the future.

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Filed under memories, WOHL

Last Minute of Play in this Period

A couple of posts ago, I dug up a memory on Roger Doucet, the Habs Anthem singer.    On the same night this memory popped to the surface, we also dug up that famous nasally voice that used to announce the goals and penalties at Leaf games and of course, notify one and all thrice per game that the game had entered that uber-critical moment – the “last minute of play in this period”.   Not sure why it was important to announce that since every rink had a great big clock that people could figure out on their own.

However, the voice’s owner, Paul Morris, sounded these events out at the old cash box on Carlton Street in the big smoke for all of my boyhood years.  “Goal scored by number 27 Darryl Sittler.  Assists by number 7 Lanny McDonald and number 12 Errol Thompson“.   I can still clearly remember the sound of this voice.

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Filed under memories, NHL'ers

Hockey on Television

I remember really vaguely watching games on TV on Sunday afternoons when I was a kid.  As I’ve said before on this blog, this is going way back.  Old Detroit teams playing someone, maybe the Blues.  Stan Makita against Gary Unger.  Or maybe the New York Rangers with Eddie Giacomin in the cage for the Rangers playing the Bruins.  It’s so long ago, and the memory so foggy, it may not even be true.  Perhaps my old hockey memory deceives me?

Let’s face it, Sunday afternoon was a decidedly un-Canadian time to be watching hockey.  When it came to televised games, Hockey Night in Canada was where things were at with the Leafs or the Habs on tap on Saturday nights, and then the Leafs again on Wednesday nights.   Dave Hodge and Brian McFarlane were the first Leaf colour guys I can remember, wearing those powder-blue CBC blazers (“You stay classy Toronto”) and Dick Irvin and Danny Galivan in Montreal.

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Filed under memories, NHL'ers

Christmas Ice

One of the great things about the Christmas season is spending time with family and friends.  It’s a cliche, but it’s true.  Squeezing in a game or two of hockey with old buddies fits nicely into this category.

For those of us lucky enough to have kids who play the game as well, Christmas sometimes gives us a chance to don the blades and play with them.  I had that chance this past week with my son, who invited me out late one night for a game of shinny on an open-air neighbourhood rink with his buddies.

There were some other blokes playing as well on a rink that was too small to hold all of us so we split into two shifts of about four or five to each side.  There was even a goalie there with full equipment who had just finished taking it all off just as we got there, and seeing that a new game was forming, he threw it all back on and went back to the cage.  We had nets at both ends, and the ice was a mess after having been skated on all day but it didn’t stop us.

What a grand night.  I didn’t play long, perhaps a half hour.  I chirped the young bucks and chatted with some of the strangers who by the end of the game were like old friends.  Then I went home and flopped on the couch and fell asleep.  Life truly does not get any better than this.  What a blast.

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Filed under memories, rinks, shinny

Warm Rink, Cold Rink

I visited my dad this weekend and there is always some wonderful old hockey stories offered up during such visits.  This time was no exception.

He told me about the old Keene arena that had wooden boards and on winter nights where they had games that drew decent crowds, the inside of the arena would get warmer than was healthy for the ice which he thinks had either no ice plant or a weak one.  Anyway, on such nights they would open the windows to keep it cold inside to maintain the quality of the ice.

Can you actually picture this?  Being at a hockey game in a cold arena on a January night with the windows to the arena left open?   That’s cold baby!

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Filed under arenas, dads, memories

Birdseye Center

One of Canada’s most wonderful comic strips from days gone by was Birdseye Center.  Jimmy Frise of the Toronto Star was the man behind it.  It was brilliant.  You can learn more at this link and if you love the romance behind old-school, small town hockey, check out this cartoon of the fan being ejected from the rink who refused to give up on his vendetta against the ref.  Beautiful.

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Filed under jokes, memories, pranks, Refs

Really Old School – Barrie OMHA in the 40’s

Here’s a pic of my father-in-law in the 40’s on one of Barrie’s OMHA teams coached by Hap Emms

Barrie OHMA

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