This time of year is always the hardest time on me, because it marks the sad anniversary of my father's passing. A few years back, I wrote a blog on nostalgia, and got some huge reviews of it. So on with another blog on the golden years of hockey, in honour of my father.
I remember the Canada Cup in 1976. One of my favorite players was Daryl Sittler, who was the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Daryl went on to score the winning goal for team Canada in the9 championship game against the Czechs. At the time, I wrote for the school newspaper. Of course, I wrote in the sports department. The story on the Canada Cup was my first story for the paper. I remember bringing it home so that my father could read it, so he would be proud of me.
Hockey always brought us together. I remember how disappointed we were when we could not watch the last half of 1972 Canada Russia series, known as the “super series”. We missed it because I was at school and Dad was at work. I remember going home after game eight. which was the last game of the series. When Dad came home, I did the play-by-play of the game winning goal by Paul Henderson, which gave Canada the series. I really could not do Foster Hewit justice, but my father did not care.
I remember listening to Danny Gallivan, even though he was the Montréal Canadiens play-by-play man. I used to love mimicking his play-by-play style. My father used to get mad at this, because he was a huge Maple Leafs fan. According to him, it was against the Constitution to like anything about the Montréal Canadiens. One of my favourite hockey sayings - or should I say hockey calls - was the call of Danny's Gullivan's of “Savard's spinarama”. That was for us old farts, who used to watch hockey on the radio. Ha ha.
My dad loves the old Leafs players, for example Dave Keon, George Armstrong, and Johnny Bower. An interesting fact about Johnny Bower that my father told me is that nobody ever really knew how old he was, and he liked it that way. I remember the last time (I was 35 back then) that the Maple Leafs won the Cup back in 1967. It was especially gratifying to us, because the Maple Leafs beat their rivals, the Montréal Canadiens in six games. The supposed experts picked the Canadians to win the Cup in five games.
In the golden years of hockey, my dad used to tell me men were men. The fighters would fight face-to-face. Granted, there were incidents of players trying to injure other players; but that would normally be a mutual thing -- there would be none of these hits from behind to cause injury. If players wanted to get even, they would do the old-fashioned way: by duking it out. Yes, there was violence, but it was a different kind of violence. The players actually respected each other. No, it was not a perfect world, but most of these players went home with a clear conscience, unlike some of the players today
The goalies were the bravest ones -- or maybe the craziest. My dad often wondered how they would stop shots without the mask, leaving their delicate features unprotected. One of our most favourite goalies was the ageless wonder, Johnny Bower, who I did not know had started out with the New York Rangers. We had a lot of mixed feelings when the Maple Leafs acquired the ex Montréal Canadien Jacques Plante. Again, with the Canadien issues. We did not want to break protocol by liking anything involving the Montréal Canadiens. It was harder for Dad than for me, because I never really saw him in a Montréal Canadiens sweater.
I will always treasure my time with my dad, and be very thankful for the sport of hockey that brought us so much closer together.
Before I sign off, I thought I would give you a peek into part of my personal life that I don't usually let people in on. I wanted to show you this to try help people understand me better. This little segue is the introduction to a book that I would someday like to write.
Have you ever heard of the saying “simple minds, simple pleasures”. That saying means something to me. You see, when I was young, I never heard a word, or said a word for the first 4 to 6 years of my life. Basically, I was born deaf, and the doctors never expected me to hear.
As a result, I never did well in school. My math, English, and yes especially my grammar, suffered hugely. I turned to hockey, so I could find something that I was good at. An escape from the world, you might say. I actually found something that I was good at, where nobody pointed their fingers at me. Hockey is my simple pleasure.
The game of hockey taught me that there is more to life than being accepted, and that with hard work, even a person with a learning disability can be successful and live a normal life. That is the reason I am opening myself up now -- for the benefit of others like me. This is for the people who were told they would never amount to anything. That is total nonsense. You can. That is why this game of hockey became so much more than a game to me; it's my life.
Until next time -
Love Ya Dad
Happy Father's Day -