A boy can love many things – pizza, pulling his sister’s hair, climbing trees – but my boy loves few things more than putting on his hockey skates.
He’d wear them to bed if allowed and has already asked, wanting to follow, apparently, what Guy Lafleur did as a boy – he wore his skates to bed so he didn’t waste time in the morning getting onto the ice.
The next best option for my son is wearing his skates in front of the hockey game in the living room.
Can I, Dad?
I’ll keep the guards on.
So he did this last night, put on his skates, along with his Canadiens PJs and hockey stick in hand and, of course, helmet on his head.
Then he fell asleep on the couch in front of the wall – we stream the games through an LCD projector – before his beloved Canadiens fell to New York in overtime and his Old Man picked him up and got him into bed, but, to Jon’s disappointment, in his bare feet.
All three kids are up on their skating pegs and on the ice most summer weekends, public skating at the Dave Andreychuk arena in Hamilton which keeps its ice all summer.
Jon especially loves to fly down the ice, unlike while he’s in the living room, without a helmet. The girls are respectable skaters also, even Hannah — not many Ugandans do this sort of thing, of course — and even Mom just bought a new pair of skates to join us. All not bad for a family otherwise in Africa most of the year.
It’s not to be taken for granted, having summer ice. I wanted to get in some skating in Calgary, where Jon and I are heading for a visit before long – but not even the Olympic Oval has public skating this time of year.
“You know,” I said in an email to the City of Calgary rec department. “I’m from Hamilton and it has ice … Think about it.”
While the Canadiens are on the brink of elimination against the Rangers, their run this deep into the playoffs has been a highlight for plenty of people in this city, and beyond, not just my little boy.
The other day in a Dundas supermarket a clerk spontaneously broke into a story of the 1971 Canadiens-Black Hawks final.
Henri Richard, the Pocket Rocket, scored a key goal in a losing effort that turned the entire series around – at least in this gentleman’s view – and led to that year’s eventual Cup win for Montreal.
The clerk spoke so animatedly and suddenly, one wouldn’t fault me for turning around to see if he was, in fact, talking to someone else who he actually knew.
But he was talking to me, alright, because, after all, I had on my Canadiens cap.
“Go Habs!” said another stranger before I finished getting my sugar and chocolate chips.
Much has been made of the Dustin Tokarski story, an interesting one even if it isn’t quite matching Ken Dryden’s rookie playoff debut 43 years ago.
It looks like Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did indeed make the right move to call the kid up, a move that my son clearly also would have made.
Even several games before Carey Price was injured, Jon had a funny suspicion something might happen. And he dreaded the thought of Peter Budaj filling in if needed.
“Dad. Mom could do better in net that Budaj!”
Apparently I don’t even need to have my Canadiens cap on to get hockey comments from strangers.
“How’s the hockey going?” someone asked me at the Les Chater Y the other morning.
He was referring to this piece that he read in the Spectator, the one about bringing hockey to Africa.
“Well, it’s all shut down for now, until I get back in September,” I explained.
If the Canadiens bow out against New York this week, plenty of people will be mourning the loss. Just like a gaggle of Ugandans are mourning the loss of this strange and exciting game with sticks and a ball, at least for now.
Yes, Froese has gone back to his home, the place where the strange game comes from, and this ended their own hockey season in the process.