Saturday, 14 September 2013


The Good Old Hockey Game

The sports sections of this morning’s newspapers were hockey, hockey, hockey. Never mind that the CFL is past mid-season, tomorrow is the main game slate of week two of the NFL and baseball is gearing up for another of its potentially legendary Octobers. NHL players have reported to their various training camps. Exhibition games are underway. The break from the Bruins – Blackhawks final last June until now has been shorter than most product and service warranties or probationary periods for new employees.

In Canada and especially across the Prairies, ‘Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.’ This is us, bundled up in a winter country.

There are problems with the state of the game. The ultra-violence at pro levels would astound even Alex and his droogs. It is an expensive sport to play and once the kids are outfitted the tyranny of time and distance for parents with players in local leagues reaches abstract sci-fi proportions. The hype over the men’s Olympic roster invitees playing a bit of ball hockey in their custom branded t-shirts in Calgary was patently absurd. The between periods panels on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada are smugly infuriating and impossible to sit through. Eight to 10 teams in the NHL should be quietly taken out back and shot. Lock and load. Empty the Glock’s clip. The Montreal Canadiens have not won it all since 1993 – and if you’re at all concerned about the Stanley Cup eventually making its way back to Canada, the Habs are the only franchise that matter.

Even as the annuals in the garden wither and the nights grow longer and chillier, there is good news. Bobby Orr’s autobiography is due next month. Here’s hoping it’s not a sermon but a glimpse into the psyche of the greatest player there ever was. I want to know what the game meant to him, what it was like for him to come down from some mythical higher league and be able to alter the tempo of a tilt at will, speed it up or slow it down.

Our own uptight and paranoid prime minister will also release a hockey book this fall. The good news is that’s coauthored by The Globe’s Roy MacGregor who co-wrote ‘Home Game’ with Ken Dryden. The other positive is that Stephen Harper’s book on the early history of hockey will likely be far more interesting than his inevitable political memoir. The Reform Party was a bit of an embarrassing drag.

Meanwhile, closer to home, my Sher-Wood P.M.P.s have been moved upstairs. My skates are over at United Cycle for sharpening. The outdoor ice is coming soon enough. And out there, despite 53 years of a mismanaged life and 35 years of heroic cigarette and beer intake, alone on the sheet I remain the amalgamation of the holy trinity of Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur. The. Greatest. Ever. I look down on the Rocket and Gordie Howe and sneer. Trouble is some other folk will turn up to play shinny. There will be an actual game with opposing, better players. Like composite sticks, fantasies and illusions can shatter so easily in the cold.


  1. Did not know Bobby Orr was writing an autobiography. Surprided to hear it, he is such a private guy.

    1. Beliveau didn't write My Life in Hockey until some 30 years after his retirement. Maybe these two guys took some time to reflect?