In my youth, Christmas vacation and the game of hockey were a shared experience. The thrill of no school and spending time at the local rink working on my game. The endless road hockey games.
One particular Christmas holiday remains so clear in my thought process, that it seems as though it only occurred yesterday. When I first started participating in House League Hockey, my skating skills were next to nothing. I was so bad, the coach had no hesitation assigning me to the position of goalkeeper. Prior to each game, I would say a little prayer hoping I would get the net right in front of the players gate. Otherwise, I would have to stumble down the length of the ice to the other net.
Then, one of those magical events usually associated with Christmas took place.
Over the Christmas vacation, our coach held a skating party at his farm. Most of my morning was spent falling and picking myself up. Late in the afternoon, my Christmas miracle came right out of the blue. All of a sudden, I was transformed from being Gump Worsley in net, to Bobby Hull on an end-to-end rush! From that moment on, the game of hockey escalated to a new dimension for me. Christmas vacation was no longer a time for kicking around the house. The rink became my home away from home. Pleasure skating and shinny occupied most of my day.
There were other aspects which contributed to making the Christmas break so special. The joy of being allowed to stay up and view the entire Maple Leaf mid-week game on TV. Buying a hockey magazine and dedicating hours to devouring every word. Hockey Pictorial. Hockey Illustrated. Hockey Digest. Do these great publication bring back memories or what?
On the big Day, Christmas, the hockey theme would continue. Thanks to Santa (Mom & Dad!) my inventory of hockey goodies increased substantially. My first hockey jacket. New gloves, sticks, and skates. The biggie was a new hockey book. For most of the second-half of the holiday, my eyes would be glued to the pages of the latest autobiography by Stan Fischler or Jim Hunt. Another favourite was Brian McFarlane and his wonderful detailing of hockey history.
To all the readers of this blog, thanks for taking the time to reflect on the rich history of our grand game.
Hockey and Christmas. It truly is the best season of all...