There are some who say that if you grew up in Canada, you have hockey in your blood. This may seem like an exaggeration to some, but for many Canadians, including myself, it is closer to the truth than some of us are probably willing to admit. Apparently, AB negative in the rarest blood type, but mine is ABLR: That’s AB Left Wing!
Growing up as I did in Montreal, a hockey town if there ever was one, I ate, slept, and breathed hockey as a kid. Although I never played the game professionally, I started playing organized hockey at the amateur level when I was eleven until around seventeen, informal pick-up hockey from seventeen to thirty-four, then organized old-timers hockey from thirty-five to around sixty! When I played organized hockey as a youth, there were only six teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) and no such thing as a draft (I’m not talking about a slight wind) and so at eleven-years-old I had to sign a document that essentially said that if I ever wanted to play professionally, I was now the property of the Montreal Canadiens! If I wanted to play for Canada’s only other team at the time, the Toronto Maple Leafs, my parents would have to move to Toronto. Of course, I would rather have been tarred and feathered, dragged by a rope over gravel, and then dropped on my head from the tallest building before I would ever think of putting on a Leafs hockey sweater! Just to be clear, any of my contemporaries living in Toronto would feel the same way, only vice-versa.
Ah, the good old days. As if playing on teams, in pick-up games, just fooling around on the many outdoor rinks in the neighborhood or watching our beloved “Habs” on the tube wasn’t enough, there was always the indoor hockey games pictured above. Why two pictures you might ask? If you look closely, you will see that the players of the game on the left are fixed in one place and can only twill around 360o, while the players of the game on the right can slide back and forth as well as pivot 360o. I grew up playing the game on the left, although the first one that my parents bought me as a birthday present was the one on the right. When I was twelve (1962), we moved to a suburb of Montreal and I quickly made friends with three guys: Steve, Edward (Butch), and Mike. Although I left Montreal in 1983, the three of them still live there and get together on a regular basis, and whenever I visit, we all get together and after about ten minutes, it is as though I never left. We were so close back in the day that I asked my dad, who was in the jewelry business, if he could get some kind of pendant made for each of us as a keepsake, with our names and birthdates. As far as I know, we all still have them!
It was Mike that had the hockey game with the stationary players, and the four of us would spend countless hours playing against each other. I am not quite sure which one of us came up with the idea of using a marble instead of the small, black plastic puck, but it sure added another level of excitement to the game, as the marble would often get projected, at a decent speed, off the game board and into the wall behind one of the players. No one seemed to care about this until Mike’s parents installed new wood paneling in the basement, and several months later, all four of us were reprimanded because there were all these small pockmarks in the new paneling!
Fast forward to September 2018. I had flown to Montreal to attend my 50th high school reunion! At some point over that weekend, Mike said he had a surprise for us, so we all met at his house and the surprise was that he had refurbished the old stationary hockey game! Can you say: Game on?
I mean, what else would four 67-year-olds do when there is a hockey game to play? Perhaps the last words are better left to Stompin’ Tom Connors and his homage to the game: “Good Old Hockey Game.”
Hello out there, we’re on the air
it’s hockey night tonight!
The tension grows,
The whistle blows,
And the puck goes down the ice.
The goalie jumps,
and the players bump,
and the fans all go insane.
At the good old hockey game!
The good old hockey game!
It’s the best game you can name!
And the best game you can name,
Is the good old hockey game!
Los Angeles 2022