Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't Let Those Sunday Afternoons Get Away

If you're reading this and you're Canadian, and especially if you're from a small town, I may not have to explain much.

I'm not sure when my dad started playing hockey, but I imagine it was sometime around 1950. He tells us he used to stuff catalogues into his pants as leg protection. One photo we love shows this gorgeous, fit young man grinning cockily, completely oblivious to his missing front teeth (there might actually be a bit of pride there). He was always good: tough and fast. But he wasn't a goon. My dad took training to be a coach, and is well-respected in hockey circles for his skill and knowledge.

Throughout our childhoods, dad coached teams, instructed other coaches, evaluated exams, and ran hockey schools in Canada, the US, and Scotland. Walking into our local arena is like strolling into my childhood: the smell of rubber mats, French fries, and that instant hot-chocolate triggers so many memories. I hear the echoes of the cheers we used to shout for dad's team (Get back! Get back! Get back into the woods! 'Cause you haven't! You haven't! You haven't got the goods!) I would never have been described as a puck bunny; being the coach's daughter gave me special status. Needless to say, I never dated a hockey player. I sometimes wonder if dad didn't warn them all away. I heard a rumour once that he'd announced to his players, "If I ever hear any of you talking about my daughters the way you talk about ________, you're off the team". The warning was well-heeded.

When I was 4, my brother was born. When he was 5, my dad got him all outfitted for hockey. It was clear after one ice session that...well, let's just say, hockey wasn't in my brother's blood. He wanted to lie on the ice and roll the puck around like a wheel. His feet hurt and it was too loud and cold out there. I giggle about it now. Dad never pressured my brother the way a lot of parents seem to. When my brother got older and showed an interest in basketball, dad took him to see the Chicago Bulls play, and fostered this interest instead. When he became interested in music, dad got him a guitar.

Well, the next generation has arrived.

A few weeks ago, Dad took Jude into "town" and got him all geared up for hockey. While I don't hold many fantasies about spending my weekends in hockey arenas, Jude is just so darn cute in hockey equipment. That little jock strap! Oh my goodness.

7:00 a.m. Saturday mornings sees Daddy and Papa getting Jude ready to go.

My dad's familiar hands assisting with socks.

Young Warrior in training. I can't believe that's my skinny boy in there.

Up before the sun to play this national sport.

This picture makes me happy in so many unspeakable ways.

While I don't love the increasing competitiveness and body contact in children's hockey, or how it's becoming exclusive because of the expense, there is so much I love about this sport. Every time I hear Jane Siberry's "Hockey", I think of my dad and all those pure memories of hockey at its simplest:

Winter time and the frozen river, Sunday afternoon
They're playing hockey on the river

He'll have that scar on his chin forever; someday his girlfriend will say hey where...
And he might look out the window...or not
You skate as fast as you can 'til you hit the snowbank (that's how you stop)
and you get your sweater from the catalogue
You use your rubber boots for goal posts, ah...walkin' home

Don't let those Sunday afternoons
get away get away get away get away
breakaway breakaway breakaway breakaway.

This stick was signed by Jean Belliveau so don't f**king tell me where
to f**king go...
On sunday afternoon

Someone's dog just took the puck-he buried it it's in the snowbank...your turn

They rioted in the streets of Montreal when they benched Rocket Richard
It's true...

Don't let those Sunday afternoons
Get away get away get away get away
breakaway breakaway breakaway breakaway

The sun is fading on the frozen river, the wind is dying down
Someone else just got called for dinner

Hmm...Sunday afternoon


  1. I ADORE this post. I could write a post responding to this post! That last photo brought tears to my eyes for so many reasons...
    And the memories of the arena!~ remember, too, how proud we felt to be the coach's daughters? To see the respect those boys had for him? How they would freeze and turn at that sharp whistle of his?
    Thank you for reminding me of all those times and for this huge part of our beloved Dad.
    And the song! I love that song!
    I wish girls hockey had been something then. You never know, maybe one of us could have had that experience with Dad.
    I love that Jude has this special thing with his Poppa.
    My heart is full.

  2. Is Jude in IP? How exciting to launch him on a new adventure, with the skilled guidance of his legendary (Oh yes, he is!)Papa. Oh, I wish it were only weekends at the arena, but there's a whole lot of weeknights too, especially if Jude's sisters decide to play. But, it *is* a great time to get some knitting done.

    The kids' Grandpa often told stories of having the catalogue padding too. And no helmets of course. All terrifying stuff to this safety-freak of a mom. And I totally agree with you on the absurdity of having body contact in the game. Eldest Son is now in his first year where body checking is permitted. Ugh. On competition: It seems to be dependent on the coach's perspective. If a team is lucky, they'll have a coach with a healthy outlook who actually remembers that the "first goal is to have fun".

    Oh dear, I could go on and on about this topic...but I won't. Betcha knew you'd get a lengthy comment from me on this one ;-) BTW, our rink is getting set-up as we speak. Give it a few more weeks and we can have a hockey/skating play date.

    Much love...

  3. So nice! The historical significance of hockey is powerful..even for non-hockey followers (like me). Come Saturday night I feel I should be watching!
    I am sure it will be fun for all...especially the time to hang with daddy and papa.

  4. Good one, Steph.......
    I think it went like this:
    "If I ever hear any of you talking about my daughters in the way I hear you talking about other girls, I will put you through that wall so fast, you won't know what hit you."
    Yep, that set us all up for a very long, dateless high school career. I never dated a hockey player either but married a goalie :-)
    They're a different breed.

  5. yah!I married the hockey player.Gotta love hockey!that last photo says so much.also love the poem.So many memories.

  6. My first boyfriend was a hockey player. My Mom was a ref and my little bro played too. I was a figure skater.
    Love the ice.

  7. Fabulous! We spent 2 years in the northern midwest on Lake Superior.... those folks eat sleep and breathe hockey in the winter months. Hooray for your boy... may that padding keep him warm and safe :)

  8. Hellow!
    I love your site, It is a pleasure to visit.
    I have added your site to my site.
    Please link my site to your site.
    Thank you!

  9. ahhh, the instant hot chocolate! I used to down one of those AND a Mars bar in one go. Can also still remember the smell of the boys change room....ughhhh!!


This space is a creative outlet for a busy mama; I warmly embrace your comments and feedback, as well as questions/requests for details. I do check them daily and will respond where appropriate! Thank you for visiting the Knitty Gritty Homestead!