This is about a boy who loved to play hockey.
He played in rinks, sure, when he could, even outdoor rinks, but more so just on the road, hour after hour, with or without his buddies, often until dark, calling the play-by-play, shooting, scoring, winning with the crowd going wild, of course, at least until someone would yell out the door that it was bath time.
It was always the Montreal Canadiens, his heroes, those kings on ice, who, every spring would go off to war to later return with The Cup – Lafleur and Robinson and Dryden – the boy collected their cards, one by one, and valued them like a pirate’s treasure.
It was the Bruins, those Big and Very Bad Bruins who often stood in the way of more winning and glory, so it was beat the Bruins and, more often than not, also win The Cup. (It was always just ‘The Cup’ — nobody who truly loved the Cup would ever have to call it by its full name.)
The boy kept playing hockey when he could, so much that years later he had the unusual opportunity to play in Africa, where he spent some time building a ball hockey pad.
It took years just to move the soil – it was all on a large hill behind his house – but it happened because they came, Africans with arms large and strong like iron, along with others with arms, well, not so much, with pick-axes and wheelbarrows, month after month before the bulldozers were finally brought in.
Hey Old Boy, what are you doing? This is what the boy was sometimes asked. No, I don’t think you can do that Old Boy, someone else might say. But the Old Boy – he had long acknowledged he would always be a boy and this wasn’t the worst thing in the world – just wanted to play hockey.
So he finished the job with some amount of love and care and then they came – boys, girls, men, women, everyone, all to play. Monkeys watched from the surrounding trees while these players from Canada and Uganda and the United States and wherever, really , came and played at the Old Boy’s African home every weekend.
There was nothing like it.
Except for one thing, that is when the Old Boy played with his son. The little boy especially liked to put on roller blades and fly around that pad, calling the play-by-play, shooting, scoring, doing all this ’till dark, winning with the crowd going wild, of course, at least until someone would yell out the door that it was his bath time.
For the Young Boy it was always the Montreal Canadiens, his heroes, who weren’t winning The Cup as an annual routine anymore, but who were still these sort of kings on ice — Subban, Markov, Price – so much that the Young Boy starting collecting their cards and valuing them like pirate’s treasure.
The other evening, back in Canada in time for playoff hockey, this Old Boy and his son watched the big game between the Canadiens and the Bruins; streamed it through a projector to get it big onto the living room wall.
And with every goal, the two hugged and yelled and danced, which is also what they did when the final whistle ended the game.
And, no, there really was nothing in the world like it.
So what’s with the shock of Milan Lucic’s threatening comments in the post-game handshake line?
While any parent wants to their kid to learn decent manners, even if and when the kid is mad as hell, Lucic’s remark that next year he’ll *&^%$ kill you and you and maybe you too is simply sandlot swagger that some players will always bring to the game.
Even the politically correct handwringers will never be able to castrate such boys who are simply being boys.
That doesn’t mean such remarks are any example to follow. (Unlike this video that shows among the most worthy hockey handshakes ever.)
It just means that nobody should be surprised. There’s a reason some hockey teams are very big and bad and this is why beating them up in another way is all the sweeter.
For reasons much less than beating his team out of the NHL playoffs, a bully who used to skate Saturday mornings in the same public rink that I did as a boy, told me more or less the same thing one day – “I’m going to %!#$%&! kill you.”
A buddy of mine who genuinely liked to fight much more than I ever did offered to step into my place at the scheduled moment, and I wasn’t going to stand in his way.
So my buddy beat the $#@!% out of said bully – so much that my buddy ended up breaking his hand – it was in a cast for weeks — on the bully’s face and on the hard pavement underneath his face. (In those years, a fight like this would always draw an energetic and good-sized crowd that formed in a circle around the combatants, in this case in the parking lot across the road from the arena.)
Said bully later got his own buddies together and while I was innocently riding my bike down the street on another day, they knocked me off and proceeded to beat the S$%^& out of me. So, from their perspective, it all worked out after all.
Of course, getting beaten, or even beaten up, is not the sort of event that you hope and daydream will happen to you. But, really, there are worse things in life.
One of them is to never have to face a bully. How else, after all, would you ever know that thrill of beating him in a different way?