One of my earliest memories is falling off someone’s lap because a Habs goalie scored on himself during a final playoff game in overtime. I remember it not so much that I tumbled to the ground but that my dad said ‘SHIT’. I learned from an early age the acceptable teams you could cheer for if the Canucks didn’t ‘make it’. The Habs (Montreal Canadiens), were the cat’s meow–mostly because they never seemed to lose during the 70’s but it was also okay to cheer for The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, the Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers (never, ever Calgary). While we observed every Catholic ritual as a family, the real religion in our house was hockey. I grew up in a family of 10 men, as some of you who read this blog may know–9 brothers, my dad and as nature would only dictate, a slew of nephews.
My mother was wise to surmise that there was no point in trying to pull the crowd from the den for dinner when the playoffs were on and so she purchased little folding tray tables and we just ate in there. Of course there wasn’t room for everyone to eat on trays, so I think I was one of those on the floor cross-legged, but it was exciting nevertheless. I could barely stand the pressure of the playoffs, the hopes and dreams of my entire family seemed to lie in each dropped puck, faceoff, bad call, punch, hip check, and failed pass.
I used to hide behind my hands during overtime. It was too much for my five year-old nerves.
It wasn’t uncommon for a chanting to begin in our den of ‘fight, fight, fight‘ followed by a hammering up and then down stairs as everyone coalesced to see a helmetless jersey-ing of Tiger Williams by Lanny McDonald or a Bruins and Canadiens bench brawl and bench clearing. In those days, the police and the crowd got involved: http://youtu.be/EzYU49eJm30
When the game wasn’t televised, you would be able to find my youngest brother Alan, lying down, with headphones on larger than the size of his head, beside the speaker raptly listening to the play-by-play in the low light of the living room, where no one was allowed to go so my poor mother had at least one room to entertain in. I remember his look of consternation as penalties were announced, the underlying pitch of doom for the Canucks as once again they were winning, then…losing. It broke my heart. I wanted them to win so he could be happy. I still do.
The sound of a hockey game, and the requisite ‘hockey talk’ from players in between periods, is oddly comforting to me. Some folks are soothed by Christmas carols or baking or homemade lasagna, but not me–richocheting pucks on glass and whistle blowing with manly cheers brings back memories of my family, crouched forward in anticipation with the ever-fixed dream of the Canucks skating around the rink with the sparkly, coveted, sacred cup on their shoulders.
The faith, the fervour, the dream, remains as strong as ever in my family, and now equally in my nephews (and some nieces I am sure), and as each game in the playoffs progresses with a win, I’ll be watching–but looking through my fingers during overtime for that one goal that will make THE DREAM come true. Go Canucks Go!