The great outdoors
Saturday, November 22, 2003
You call this outdoor hockey? Forget all the promotional fanfare about tonight’s hockey game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. It is no closer to real outdoor hockey than a bicycle race is to the Indianapolis 500.
For those of us 39 and older, outdoor hockey is when:
– You stand at centre ice and pick teams. ‘Second captain, first pick.’ When Ted, the best player, shows up 15 minutes after the start, you negotiate to get him on your team by trading both Joe and Bob to make the game fairer. After arguing for 10 minutes you start over, choosing new sides. Because you got Ted, I get the next two picks.
– The puck is flipped over the boards and everybody goes over — still in skates — and digs through the snowbanks. When somebody finds the puck, they race back, throw it on ice and skate away on a two- or three-man (or more) advantage. An argument ensues about whether the goal into the open net counts. ‘Does too.’ ‘Does not.’
– Players grab wooden plywood scrapers to clean the ice. When most of the ice is cleared, but not all, everybody starts playing hockey, leaving mounds of snow still piled in the corners.
– The girls — damn them anyways — demand equal ice so they can figure skate. It starts with them wanting the whole ice because they were here first, comes down to half-and-half, and ends up being three-quarters for sticks and one quarter for ‘pixs.’ Within 15 minutes they’re gone anyway.
– A couple of players play with broken sticks or half blades because nobody has brought a spare and nobody is going to lend you their good Sherwood.
– There are three or four cracks in the ice — one wide enough to put your boot into it down to the dirt. But nobody ever twists an ankle.
– You play in -20, although the wind chill makes it closer to -30. But it’s not really that cold and a four-hour game isn’t really that long.
– You start a fire in the potbelly stove in the shack with pieces off the CPR snow fence. When you put your mitts on the stove to dry out — nobody owns hockey gloves — all you can smell is burned fuzz. (You tell your mom later you don’t have a clue to what happened to the mitts.)
Only one net
– The cardboard toes in your CCM skates are dented, but it doesn’t matter because your toes don’t come anywhere near the end of the skates which are hand-me-downs from dad; the ones he wore as a youngster. Besides, there are three kids playing in boots.
– A mother takes pity on the brave young players and brings steaming hot chocolate in a huge pot. For the longest while it’s too hot to drink, then all of a sudden it’s too cold. You spill half of it on the front of your parka. It wipes off easily.
– The only whistle ever heard is when a mom signals for her boy to come home for supper.
– There are no red-lines, no blue-lines. Only one end of the rink has a net and it doesn’t have netting. At the other end of the rink two rubber boots are used as goal posts and somebody keeps moving them closer and closer together when nobody is looking.
– The smallest kid has to be the No. 1 goalie.
– The game is decided by next goal wins, unless the other team scores, and then it’s one more.
– What do you mean “it’s too dark to see anymore?”
© Copyright 2003 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)