One of my earliest sports memories is of attending fabled Maple Leaf Gardens as a 7 year old boy with my brother and my dad. The details are foggy-I believe the Washington Capitals won the game 3-1 and we were all awestruck with the majesty of Rod Langway’s moustache. Rick Vaive and his wrist shot was the marquee attraction but I’m clueless as to how he performed. C’mon, I was more immersed in the cotton candy by the first intermission. And I think my dad was dreaming of field hockey instead.
Although I still harbour a sweet tooth, I’ve now graduated to ice cream bars when I need a sugar rush while watching a hockey game at the ACC. I justify the fat content and caloric intake with advice from Roz on an episode of Night court: “There’s no calories in free or stolen food.”
It’s true that the majority of my fan base knows me from my days covering basketball at The Score but if you ask my childhood friends, they remember me as an avid hockey fan. Growing up in a small town, playing shinny was the sharpest sign of respite from dreary weather and lonely nights. And the hot chocolate alone was a worthwhile reward. Although I was never much of a player on skates, I could be described as a certified ankle burner. Hey, when you’re a kid you take any notoriety you can get if it’s beyond the basics(short, goofy, visible minority.)
Some memories for me that stand out:
I remember watching Brett Lindros, like a heat-seeking missile on skates, look for someone to drill at Kingston’s Memorial Centre, while a member of the Frontenacs. I went to school in grades 7 and 8 at Bath Public School whose principal was Dick Cherry. Mr.Cherry was a former Flyer and brother of the famous dapper Don who I once met and was convinced that he had been drugged since he was so sedate and eerily subdued from what I had seen on Coach’s Corner.
In woodworking class, I carved out Hextall in honour of the fiery tempered Flyers goaltender. Although I never scored a goal during road hockey on the mean streets of Kingston, I did do my fair share of leg chopping in honour of Hexy.
At a local auction, I once waited three hours to bid on the first ever issue of Hockey Digest, featuring Bobby Orr on the cover. I don’t recall ever reading the magazine or even following the publication. But I just knew this seemed to be something important to have to latch onto, the literary equivalent to my Koho hockey stick. Someone please tell me it’s worth something so I can dig through the cobwebs to locate it.
I haven’t played hockey in years for fear of making an absolute clown of myself and soiling the reputation of being a man who earns his living covering a sport he’s dreadful at. But one of these days I’ll conquer the fear and embarrass myself once again. Besides if I can show no visible fear of live television, appearing soon on your dial on Leafs TV discussing what should be a bruising buds team, then I think it’s suitable for my ankles to get another workout.