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…