The weather has turned bitterly cold in the community and the snow has started to accumulate over the past several days. It is the late fall and winter has come early. The sudden cold weather has driven everyone indoors. My younger brothers and I stay in and entertain ourselves as much as possible. There are not many activities for us to take part in. We don’t have a lot of toys and any odd abandoned objects in the house turn into play things.
It is a Saturday afternoon and my brothers and I are growing restless in the house. When the weather lets up, mom allows us to go outside. We are bundled up in warm clothes and we each have a new pair of winter boots with black rubber soles, blue cloth linings and shiny oversized metal zippers. Mom also gives us our recently crafted winter moose hide mitts and fur lined hats to keep us warm. As soon as we hit the road we each seek out our friends in the neighborhood. Joseph runs off across our vast yard to an adjacent block to play with our cousin Bruce. Paul wanders down in the other direction to meet another cousin, Travis, who lives nearby.
I have my own plans as well and head for a nearby house just a small block away. It is the first cold snap of the year and I am wondering what is planned for our day of play. When I arrive at my cousin Hemy Kataquapit s house, his son Thomas greets me at the door. Thomas and I are the same age and have known each other since we both can remember. My visit to his house is a regular one and he comes to the entrance with jacket in hand and quickly puts on his boots. Outside we are at a loss as to what to do. Our bicycles, which we use to patrol the community and meet others our age, have been put away for the winter. Even if we could haul them out, the icy roads would make it impossible to ride.
After some thought we settle on a game of hockey. This will be the first one of the season. We ponder on where our opening game will take place and settle on playing in front of Thomas’s house, where the street is quieter with less traffic. It is also a central location from which we can attract more players.
When we arrive for the first puck drop, the play area is already filled with about 20 players. Everyone throws their stick into a pile in the middle of the icy road. A volunteer kneels down with his eyes covered by another player above him and begins dividing the multi-coloured, multi taped, short and long handled sticks. In a matter of minutes the first and only face off of the evening takes place. Two top players take centre ice and Thomas, the owner of the only rubber puck amongst us, takes the role of referee for the face off.
The game is a chaotic mess of swinging sticks, running boys and heavy boots. There is no planned out game play. Players sometimes fight for the puck from their own fellow team members. The two nets are actually piled mounds of snow to mark the posts. Any goal that flies over two feet is contested in this game. It doesn’t seem to matter who is playing for who. The only time we know who is on which side is when the game stops because of a goal and all the players respectively return to their own net. To start a new round, the losing side brings the puck out from their end and calls the game to begin again.
No one seems to be keeping score during our play. We do not even notice the dimming light of the early evening. A small porch light from Thomas’s house illuminates half our play area. As twilight diminishes and night sets in, it gets harder for us to follow the bouncing puck amongst the long shadows of running legs and hockey sticks. We continue on, not wanting to stop. Sometimes we battle for a puck that has become a ghost and we swing at it with no results. There is laughter, shouts of joy and the turmoil of life in our little remote community is put on hold as we focus on running around after this puck. Our only real goal is a little uncomplicated happiness.