I happened to fork over $21 for my entrance to a tourney in the Whap’ over the last weekend and witnessed just how violent the sport of hockey can be. As one team from Kangiqsujuaq (formerly Wakeham Bay) questioned the referee’s decision, the dispute turned nasty. First, the lights were busted and complete disdain for public property was displayed. The insults to the referee turned quickly to “uttering death threats” (according to legalese) and the mad thrashing of hockey sticks (which I presume cost a lot of money these days) resulted in toothpicks all over the ice. Finally, the police intervened and quelled the hockey team, which was led by no other than the mayor of that remote town, which was spurred on by his own ranting and raving (with, I presume, connotations of “Do you know who I am!”). The referee coolly disqualified them from the tournament and the violence resumed back to minor tripping and hooking offences. Later, that evening, the crowd cheered as news that the disgruntled and disgraced hockey team flew back north with their tails between their legs.
Sadly, the women’s team from Chisasibi forfeited in the second period of the last game and hopefully, they will gain their strength back once in home territory. Yes, hockey is the sport that many wish they could do the way Bobby Orr did it and, yes, I am related to him, having met him in his home town of Parry Sound back in the 60s, so don’t ask me any more. I’ve been asked that question for most of my life and I presume that my siblings have endured the pressures of the proximity to the most famous Orr (next to me, of course) in recent history.
Now, how could I, who has played only one game of hockey in three decades, become a fan of the sport (which I hear tell, was invented by the Mohawks). I came to the game because of the chance I have to cheer or boo in public for your team of choice. I remember going to tourneys in the south where the spectators would spit on the players (of the other team) as they swooped by, unbeknownst to the referee, who had to keep his keen eye on the players, rather than the spectators. I don’t do that, as it is unhygienic.
Not that long ago when I was young, the first guys able to grab the first pair of skates that matched from an old cardboard box were the lucky ones. I ended up with a pair that (I swear) had 18-inch blades, which I later found out many decades later, turned out to be speed skates. I found them to be handy puck stoppers, as I was assigned the dubious role of the goalie. I am still called Shutout Sonny, not from blocking the many shots on goal, but from being shut out from the game and confined to the snow banks that often overflowed the plywood planked sides of the outdoor rink. Many times, after a game at 40 below, we would all grimace and show our bravery, as the blood slowly coursed back into our frozen toes and feet. I swear that some boys did cry, but that was because they were borderline toe-breaking-off cold!
I slowly graduated to the defense position, like my famous cousin, and actually had a pair of skates that fit me, until one day, another player, who had oodles of talent, borrowed my skates. He never returned them to me and now, as I publicly cry out, you owe me, J.R from F.G.! I could have been a contender by now! I never played the fast-paced sport again, much to the dismay of my cousin, who, I am sure, would have been proud to have me on his Bruins team. However, the more I think of it, I consider myself lucky, that I still have all my teeth.