…The whole team was somewhat bemused at what had just been announced and we all looked at McDink at about the same time. The coach smiled and left.  I can’t be certain but I think the blood and colour suddenly left McDink for his face was as pale and as ashen as Lazareth must have been before he was raised from the dead.  There also seemed to be a half smile, or perhaps a side mouthed smirk, that came and went from his countenance as if he was thinking:  “Did I hear that right? Is this really happening to me?”  

In an instant, as if sensing that all eyes were on him, McDink’s bravado returned.

“No problem, no probleemo.  I’ll show that idiot who’s boss here and who can really play this game.  I’ll stop him in his tracks, that’s what I’ll do. Give me those damn pads cause I got a lot of work and preparation to do.  I’ll see you girls next week.” And then he was gone.

The word on the street? In the schoolyard? At home, everywhere? McDink’s going to play goal, against the Royals, next Saturday afternoon.

Everyone will be there. And all week McDink played the part, obnoxiously so.  He was the conceited braggart, a hero in his own mind.  The go to guy, the perfect foil, delusional to the Royal’s all star player.  His attitude was sickeningly objectionable.  Even the Nuns noticed.  He walked with a swagger and cussed and cursed anyone and everyone who he felt was not demonstrating the respect that he deemed he deserved.  Even when he got the strap he smirked as if to say.

“Lay it on Sister. Give me your best shot.”

Finally, the time had arrived. The Royals were already on the ice, warming up. The fans from their school were hootin and a hollerin to no end. Their star was there, totally non descript, almost shy-like as he avoided any spotlight.  He acknowledged his fans as he flicked a few shots at his own goalie but never demonstrating that nuclear missile of a shot of his.  

We came out to loud cheers and hoorays from our fans, but boos and verbal abuse from the Royal’s fans.  Skating around our end in coherency and symmetry and awaiting our star attraction – our goalie. There was some delay for it seemed to take forever before McDink showed up at the transition point between the door and the surface of the ice. He was almost unrecognizable with all of the equipment on.  Not unlike the Pillsbury Dough-Boy, or the Michelin Man.  Like a tortoise’s shell if he ever fell we would never be able to get him up or right him.  Luckily that never occurred.  Yet he had to be cajoled by the coach to get on with it and get out there to our net. 

A short warm-up commenced with McDink in net. Not too bad but then again our hardest shooter’s shot resembled a wet noodle in comparison to the Royal’s star.  He did look the part though. I got to hand it to him as he had an air of confidence and self assurance, cockiness.  Between the warm-up drills he would stand there, leaning back against the net with one arm outstretched across the goal’s crossbar and netting.  As if to say to the Royals – “Fuck off!”


Uber Idiot

…McDink as we called him should have been one of those guys who went to Trade School. Somehow he managed to avoid it.  He was, in the vernacular of elementary juveniles, a real dink: rude, obnoxious, a braggart, bull shitter type of guy.  A bully as well, and none too smart about it.  In later years he hand painted his beater of a car a flat black – with oil based paint using a roller and a brush. He thought it was soo cool. He said he wanted his ride to reflect his personality – dark.  Yes dark and stupid.  Stupid, just like old Willie McGillivray who sawed off the top of his 56 Ford because he always wanted to have and to drive a convertible, to impress the ladies as he said.  Unbeknownst to Willie, by cutting off the top half of his car, which was designed as a sedan, he mistakenly undermined the integrity of the upper frame and it collapsed in on itself. The other unintended consequence for Willie were those dark and stormy days and nights in the late summer months where a torrent of rain would come down hard on his unprotected ride flooding through the floorboards, water cascading outward as he drove down the boulevard.  Willie did not have a garage at his house.  At least Willie was a good guy, if somewhat of a simpleton, with a simple mind.   He was a bit older than the rest of us as he also repeatedly repeated some of the lower grades in school. Willie was another lad who ended up in Trade School.  We all liked Willie and had a good laugh at his expense with his automotive skill and innovation.  We hated McDink.

McDink was not at all like Willie. Yes, he was also a simpleton like Willie with a simple mind but was too dumb and simple to realize just what a dink he was. He bullied the younger kids, hit them for no reason whatsoever and tried to impress the older lads and gals with his tales of bravado and misdirected hubris.  He was an uber idiot.

McDink, like all of us, played hockey. He wasn’t that bad but for his bravado and exaggerations, he was useless. He was also super critical of your play if he thought it wasn’t up to par or up to his standards.  In that way he was delusional about his own ability yet relentless in his criticisms of others, especially those lads that he knew he could bully almost to the point of tears.   He did have a way with words but not in a good way. It was in one of those one sided discussions that he had with some of us lads that got him into a position that he couldn’t back out of.

“You useless piece of shit” he cursed at our goalie as our team left the ice for the dressing room after another humiliating defeat against the team with the leviathan who masqueraded as a hockey player. The final score: 22-1!

“You couldn’t stop squat” McDink continued, pestering our goaltender. “My sister has bigger balls than you will ever have”

“I can believe that.” I heard someone say. “Have you seen his sister?”

Laughter all round. McDink wasn’t laughing. His tirade went on.

“You looked and acted like the scrawny weasel you really are out there, you piece of crap”

The goalie was ticked.

“Cut it out” I heard someone say. “You couldn’t do any better against that team…against that player.”

“I didn’t see you try to stop him when you were out there” another quipped.

“Him,” McDink announced. “I’m not afraid of that poor excuse of a hockey player.” He is an uncoordinated luddite. He can hardly skate; his shot sucks and his brains are in his ass. I’d be more afraid of a whiffle ball than that slap shot of his. I could stop anything that he could throw, shoot at me.”

Our coach heard everything and he came out rather suddenly.

“Bruce (McDink). You’ll be in goal next game.”

“No problem coach. Looking forward to it.”  Bruce seemed to proffer hesitantly.

“By the way.” Our coach added. “We have a make up game to play so we’ll be playing the Royals here again next week…”

God Save the Queen

…With a smirk and a grunt he turned; his body presenting an oblique aspect to our end of the ice. Without any forward movement whatsoever, he raised his stick.  Down it came, like a bolt of lightning, hitting that puck square on, followed a few seconds later by a thunderous whack: a whack, a crack, a whack that reverberated throughout the arena.  I believe they heard it in the canteen, the washrooms, in the dressing rooms, down the street.  Sparks flew. Year’s later people who witnessed this event could tell you exactly where they were, what they were doing, what they were thinking, at this precise moment in time.

The puck seemed to rise ever so slowly off of his stick, as if in a state of inanimate shock.  Slowly at first, then ever so rapidly, picking up speed as if driven along a physics worthy trajectory: not unlike a cannon shot or a sling shot projectile that is driven faster and faster, ballistically speaking, to what seemed to us to be faster than the speed of light!  We all stood there watching in shock and awe. That puck whizzed by us all in a whistling high pitched squeal sort of way. Up and up and up it went, no soared, in what seemed to be a black blurry mass of hard, coarse rubber.  High above the ice, past the blue line, above the goalie and then, as if programmed by some royal decree, found its mark and imbedded itself squarely into the glassed in portrait of the Queen, about 20 feet above the surface of the ice. The portrait’s glass covering shattered into a thousand pieces of shard like projectiles. Everyone ducked, or covered themselves as best they could, especially our goalie, who was right below the melee.  Suddenly there was dead silence.  The picture of the Queen hung precariously then tilted to one side, a slight pause, tilting to the other side before falling down to the ground and lodging itself with a glass shattering clang into the concrete floor between the protected fencing of the ice surface and the wall of the arena. “God Save the Queen” for she was not amused!

Suddenly all hell broke loose.  An uncomfortable silence was broken. One stick, then two, then a mass of hockey sticks slapping the ice and boards in joyous approval, amusement and delight at what had just occurred.  We all screamed in admiration, jumped up and down as best we could with all that gear on and laughed our collective asses off for none of us had any sympathy or empathy for our distant monarch.   Some of the parents had a slight smirk, slight grin on their faces but for the most part they were not amused at this show of national affliction or affection. Some of them, my dad being one, had a good laugh while they were having a smoke at the far end of the arena. The perp meanwhile just stood there, at centre ice, enjoying the adulation, the admiration, the attention he was receiving for his skill and effort. I thought I heard him say to his world: “I always wanted to do that”

I did wonder though how his dad would react when he got home…

The Hulk

…A few years later we got a real indoor, artificial rink to play on: Central Park Arena. It was huge with real dressing rooms, a canteen, washrooms, a canteen, showers, viewing areas for the parents and a canteen. Did I mention a canteen?  It even had a Zamboni or ice cleaning machine. Above the west end area of the rink was another viewing area and offices, glassed in, and just below that on the wall was the requisite large portrait of the Queen with the appropriate crossed national and provincial flags adorning the image, which was looking down on us with that side glanced smile of hers: a monarchial Mona Lisa. Yet it seemed as if she was mocking us in some imperial fashion.  Not quite cricket this hockey.  We kids hated that image. So much so that we used to fire spit balls with pea shooters at a similar portrait while in class at school. Monarchists we were not, although we were not quite sure what a monarchist was.

It was during a rare afternoon game that the most interesting thing occurred. I can remember the incident as if it happened yesterday and not some 55 years ago.  The game was going on as per normal.  We were playing against the team with that giant anomaly of a player.  The game was close. They were up about 20-1 I think. The game was almost over. I was out on the ice, a defenseman, not a great position to play against this team, especially if the Hulk was on the ice. Sure enough, in this instance he was. We were somewhat down, a tad depressed, forlorn. I think he sensed it for just then in his usual fashion, taking the puck from behind his own net, he began his trek down the ice toward us and our poor depressed, timid looking goalie.  What could we do?

Suddenly he stopped and with the puck he skated back behind his own goal. No one dared go after him but to leave him alone with whatever murderous thoughts or misdeeds, pain, he must be construing in the small brain of his. He just stood there for what seemed like an eternity.  Suddenly he relaxed, sighed, as if a huge strain had suddenly come off of him. He took a deep breath and in that instance he began to move, slowly at first, then picking up speed while pushing the puck forward with the blade of his stick.  Faster and faster he went, weaving and leaving his opponents, our teammates, in his wake as if they were caught flatfooted in a cold mist of snow and ice.

As he approached his own blue line he looked up briefly as if to catch his breath and his bearing, adjusting his course ever so slightly to the right. No one could stop him, touch him or attempt to check him. He was just too fast and too agile and too big for our liking or ability to curtail him. He seemed to be able to swat us away as he skated by as if we were an annoying swarm of flies.  We just let him pass and opened up an unrestricted lane straight down to our end of the ice and our goalie. I would hazard to guess as to what was going through our goalie’s mind at this moment in time. He must be shitting his pants.

“Hey, what on earth are you guys doing?  Stop him for heaven’s sake” he seemed to curse to no one in particular with words to that effect.  No need to bother as there was nothing on this god given patch of ice that was going to curtail this monster.    

Just then he stopped, just shy of the red line at centre ice.  He stood straight up, his legs slightly apart and athwart the direction to our net.  The puck securely ensconced against the blade of his stick. He looked at his bench, his teammates, his coach, and his fans. Then at our bench, at us, our parents and our fans. What on earth was he doing? All of this took about a nano second in the fullness of time.  He must have sensed our confusion, disbelief, wonderment, impatience in exactly what he was up to.  He seemed to be saying to us telepathically:  “Watch this.”…

Man We Hated Those Guys!

…Kid’s equipment varied as well. We were all working class kids: lower middle class and some of us regrettably, came from poor families.  But the Catholic diocese, being the loving, benevolent and charitable organization that it was would never exclude some poor kid due to a lack of funds.  Everyone played.  Equipment was another matter.  There was no such thing as a CSA or UDL approved piece of kit.  Some of the kids had telephone books for knee pads or skates that were sometimes too big or too small with no ankle support.  No helmets, or neck guards, or mouth guards for that matter.  Skates being too big were the worse thing because no matter how hard you tried you could not control yourself on the ice in skates that may have been one, two or three sizes too big:   constantly falling on your ass.  Mother would invariably stuff rags or paper into the toe areas of the skates to make them fit or to stiffen them up.  This had the added benefit of keeping your feet warm.   Skates that were too small were torturous not only because was the threat of gangrene was all too real with circulation being cut off but your tootsies bloody well froze as well. Getting a puck on the toe of the too, too small skates was analogous to stubbing your big toe really, really hard.  It was torturously painful.

Surprisingly there were very few accidents to speak of.  Then again the majority of us still had our baby teeth.  Mouth guards didn’t really matter at that young age. Fighting and checking were also an integral part of the game, at all ages.  Being a young kid didn’t qualify as an excuse to avoid body contact.  What was comical was watching a squad of players skating on their ankles and sliding down the ice in controlled chaos.  In time we did improve and the dedicated ones became quite skilled at such a young age.

In every league at every level there were the stars. Those kids who had been playing hockey from the very minute that they surfaced from the womb.  Out they came with their hands clutching some imaginary stick: their smiling faces already aglow with a toothless grin. That slap on the ass was their calling card to wake up, take a short breath and get the hell out there on the ice.  Fathers were so proud. These kids were the stars for they scored the most goals, hogged the puck, played dirty, knew how to check at such a young age, could deek like a caged rat and shoot a puck faster than a speeding bullet. The rest of us just sat there in awe at their display of talent and skill.  Man we hated those kids.  Hate them maybe for all the talent that they had but we were not scared or intimidated by them. No, no, no.  They would just leave us flatfooted on the ice as they deeked past us in full flight and glory.  Their shots, as fast as they were, were not accurate enough to cause much damage or to scare us or the goalie. Their prowess lay in their ability to skate from one end of the rink to the other, deeking here and deeking there. Man those guys could deek everywhere: nudging, bowing, leaning to and fro. Smooth skaters, graceful and smart: calculating every move until the target, the goalie, was in sight.  They would deek right, deek left, deek the goalie out of his pants then tap the puck into the wide open net.  Cheering, arms raised, team mates aglow in congratulatory rapture while the goalie just lay there on the ice, bewildered, dumbfounded, gobsmacked in disbelief, and not quite sure exactly what had just occurred to him.   Some of these guys could and would score about 10 goals in a game.  Man we hated those guys…

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