The first time I ever set foot in a church was for a meeting of all the kids who had been invited to try out for the KC Peewee All Star team. I was 12 years old. Had it not been for something hockey related, no one would have ever gotten my heathen ass into a church. If, somehow, someone contrived to get me into a house of the lord, it would have turned out something like this
But hockey? All Star team? Tournaments? Okay, but let’s not make this a habit, ’cause I’m gonna have a reputation to uphold, coach.
Hockey is, and always has been, as close to religion as I get. It got into me early, and there’s no getting it out. No exorcist would even bother trying to get between me and a beer and a screen when Canada is playing for world supremacy.
I laugh when I think of people praying to God. But I believe that I can influence the outcome of a hockey game if I tap into a force being generated by millions of Canadians, all of them drinking beer, who understand, and believe. I’ve felt that electricity surge through my body when are playing for all the pucks. And I like it. A lot.
In 72, in 76, I was still a wee kid, and the religion of it all was deep inside me. I wanted nothing more, o less, from life than to play for Canada and conquer the world. We played hockey all year ’round. In the summers, we’d play road hockey. If it was raining, or the other kids wanted to do something else, me and Gair would take shots in his basement, all day, all night. In the winters, we’d stay on the outdoor ice until we couldn’t feel our feet.
Me were poor. My old man couldn’t always afford equipment. So I’d go to Zellers and steal what I needed. Skates, sticks, shin pads, shoulder pads, everything. When I’d break a stick playing shinny, I’d take my skates off, run to Zellers , steal another stick and run back to the rink.
In 87, I got to watch the greatest hockey games ever played. I trembled and wept when the Gods wearing 99 and 66 performed their cardiac-inducing, spell-binding magic and cast the infidel Soviets into the Sea of the Accursed, where gargoyles and pigs breed with their wretched Russian mothers. Crush the dirty fucking commies, and bring them back so we can do it again, and again, and again until they understand that when they come to our rink to play hockey, they’d better enter on their knees.
By 87 my hopes of wearing the Maple Leaf, the dream lost in the crush of reality. All I could do was cheer our guys on. And I cheered until I was horse, of course, of course. And that was the last time the Soviets posed a clear and present danger.
I never got to play real, live Russians, if Russians were real and live, which I doubted when I was a kid because they seemed to be fabricated in some frozen factory deep in the bowels of the Kremlin, where they made all sorts of evil, lifeless things.
I got to play Swedes once, when I was in my last year of bantam. We tied. I was ashamed. Genuinely ashamed. I wanted to kill my teammates. Swedes? Fuck off.
But I got to play Mairkans. A lot. Before their best were any threat to our best, the Mairkans had the nerve to actually compete with us in minor hockey And beat us. Some times. Minnesota was already churning out great hokey players, and obviously continues to do so. And oh my fucking God, did they ever make a spectacle of themselves.
The first Mairkan bantam tournament I played in was in International Falls. I can still remember the drive to International Falls because when we got to Atikokan we could pick up a radio signal from Minnesota. And they were broadcasting the tournament. Broadcasting a tournament being played by 13 and 14 year olds. Wow! Just wow! They take this seriously.
We had a lousy team, and got our asses kicked. But the nest year, w were back, with a gret team. A team that would win all the pucks. And their cheerleaders – cheerleaders! in hockey?! – would flock to us.
We lost the first game. That night, I got LOADED for the first time in my life. I had to be carried out of the high school dance by a State Trooper. I’d like to think I was still cognizant enough to have deliberately puked all over the cop who carried me out of the gym, but that’s improbable.Every year, I watched the Minnesota State High School Hockey Championships. On TV. On TV! Holy fuck, did I envy the Yankee kids for the way they were revered. The St Paul Civic Centre was SOLD OUT for every game. Eighteen thousand people paying money to watch kids play hockey. Why doesn’t this happen in Canada? It just wasn’t right.
So, it comes as no surprise that the Mairkans have replaced the Russians as our greatest foes in hockey. And oh, how I hate them. I hate them so much that I am not going to cost this until the puck has dropped. Why? Silly fools, because the NSA is monitoring everything every Canadian who has ever played hockey is posting today. And I’m not going to let the fuckers intercept this and pas it along to the Mairkan coach. I don’t want to see the Mairkans, down by two goals, with less than five minutes to play, call a time out and gather ’round their bench, where Daniel Bylsma will show them what I’ve written about them having no business playing hockey, thus spurring then on to tie the game.
But even if they do that, today the Mairkans will be cast into the Sea of the Accursed, where gargoyles and pigs have their way with their alleged Yankee fathers, because hockey is still, and forever shall be CANADA’S GAME.
Okay, it’s safe.
GO CANADA, GO!