We’re at it again, hockey in Africa, and it’s with sadness and regret that I have to report that the other evening the girls, that is Mom and Liz and Hannah, beat the boys, that is Jon and myself, by a lone goal scored in a sort of overtime only because the girls had a FOURTH player also, Catherine, a Ugandan girl who is Liz’s dear friend and very handy when it comes to gaining this sort of man advantage over Jon and the Old Man.
But I will note that in these family games, I am always limited in the number of goals I’m allowed to score — usually the girls tell me it’s some number less than zero — which makes me something like (Leaf fans old enough will appreciate this) Tiger Williams.
Tiger’s six-year-old daughter Clancy told him once, during a scoring slump, “Daddy, you’re the best hockey player in the world except that you can’t score.”
This will change soon when we get more settled and have the big boys, the Ugandan men, over on some weekend to resume where we left off before we went to Canada.
Some of you know all about this, how I’m working these Ugandan hockey players hard and that I, in fact, will own and manage Team Uganda for the 2018 Olympics, which, as reported in the Spectator, you can read about here or here.
(But my memories of bringing hockey to unexpected places actually started some years ago in another fine tourist attraction, Yemen, which you can read about below in this excerpt from 99 Windows.)
Playing ball hockey in a Sana’a gym every other Thursday is among my fonder memories from the Arab world.
A handful of us were Canadian: an anthropologist from Alberta, a couple of teachers from the Maritimes, a teacher and his wife from Vancouver. My Royal Babe even went (willingly, I may add) in net when seven months pregnant. We were hockey pioneers in Yemen, gathering other friends who were Swiss, British, even a New Zealander and, yes, some Yemenis.
None knew Wayne Gretzky from Peter Puck, but everyone enjoyed it all.
In Yemen, I also acquired two NHL-size goal nets made by a welder, who, over their heavy red piping, put netting normally used to catch everything from snappers to sardines in the Gulf of Aden.
The scene of my anthropologist friend, Gabriel, and I carrying these homemade jobs through Old Sana’a, a centuries-old timewarped piece of earth, is a juxtaposed postcard experience that I’ll never forget.
Now the nets are here in Uganda, this time to be used by African hockey players who, if nothing else, might need some running shoes. And little Ibrahim? We eventually brought him and two of his siblings to visit Canada, including for a youth camp experience in Ontario’s Muskokas.
The blessing came first from their father, and eventually – after a last-gasp personal visit from Jean and I to the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dabi, thousands of kilometers from Yemen – from Canada’s Foreign Affairs.