Hockey, the New Sport
When I was a boy, during my formative years of adolescence I lived in the lonesome town of Sparks, Nevada. Now, today, Sparks is pretty much a suburb of Reno, but back in my day it was a trip on the freeway between the two towns. For those who have not been there, I’ll save you the visit: There wasn’t a heck of a lot to see.
There still isn’t.
And for a boy born in the rain and clouds of the Pacific Northwest, and had the greatest year of my life in the tropical rains of Hawaii, moving to this dry, desolate, culture-less empty town had to have been the work of some cruel trick on the part of my parents to torture me for something I had done. At least it seemed that way.
But there was one thing that kept me going, youthful imagination. With nothing to do, my friends and I created our own games, our own fun.
One year, during an especially cold winter, we discovered a new sport. Having played football, baseball, basketball, in the dead of winter a fourth major sport came to our attention: The sport of hockey. It was some tough years of the national hockey league, left in the wake of the uber-tough Philadelphia Flyers, and their so called “Broad Street Bullies”, the Goon Squad. And this sport that seemed to combine basketball, football, and boxing was the new thing. We got a hold of hockey sticks, used anything we could for a puck, and ran around in the lawn, the street, the driveway, smashed into one another and batted that puck around. But what we didn’t have was a rink. There wasn’t even one in town. The nearest one was a freeway drive away, in that other city, Reno. And being only about 12 years old, we weren’t going to make the drive.
But alas, one cold week that year the sport gods looked down upon us and turned the town of Sparks into an ice zone. It didn’t snow much there, but it did get cold each winter, and this winter was especially cold. One of us, the Nouveau Goon Squad, probably me, came up with a brilliant idea to transform our hockey into something more like real hockey. As my family had a double length driveway, it was the perfect size for a hockey rink. So, inspired kids that we were, we promptly went into the house and filled several buckets with cold water and threw them out onto the driveway. It took more buckets than we thought, but pretty soon the driveway was a solid sheet of ice.
And then the fun began!
Slipping and sliding around like nobody’s business, never mind the fact we didn’t have ice skates, we, the Nouveau Goon Squad smashed into one another and smashed the “puck” all over the place. We were the toughest twelve year-olds alive it seemed. Tough, tough we were.
My father was a disciplined man. Not cruel to me, not at all, but he had a tough growing up, and a few years as a sergeant in the United States Army fit him well, and taught him a discipline he would carry throughout his life. A discipline he tried to instill on me. Sometimes it worked, others, no so much so.
Driving home from work that long hard day must have been something my father wanted to get over with as soon, and safely as possible. The arctic cold kept traffic slow, with various wrecks and people who didn’t know how to drive in the snow, “and they wonder why…” he used to say. Adding to that, he drove a cherry condition 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. His pride and joy that he kept in pristine condition, and would ultimately put well over a quarter million miles on. I’m sure when he got into the neighborhood and rounded that last corner on our street he was probably breathing a big sigh of relief to be home at last.
As I saw Dad come around the corner my mental process changed. Changed from the great fun we were having, to something like, “There’s Dad…huh…I wonder…” and as hard as my mind tried to come up with a different answer to the equation, one plus one still came to two.
And then the fun stopped.
We kids moved well out of the way, and out of the street and into the driveway came my father and his cherry condition 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. He got a few feet up and varoooom! A hasty jump on the gas, a useless turn of the steering wheel, a quick 180 spin, and sliding into the yard went dad and the Camaro.
My father wasn’t a stupid man, and seeing us kids holding onto the hockey sticks, put one and one together himself, came up with two, and jumped out the door of the car. “Jesus H Christ! What the hell you think you’re doing’?!?!”
Me, the leader of the Nouveau Goon Squad, rapidly went from a tough talking bully, to a little wimp.
“You don’t know? You don’t know?? Well, what do you THINK you were doing?!?”
I could barely register a peep, “…uh…”
“Well, I’ll tell you. You weren’t thinking, we’re you? Huh?”
My whimper grew weaker, into a barely audible, “I guess not.”
My father looked over at my friends, my fellow Nouveau Goon Squad members, my mates, my comrades, “You boys should head home.”
And quick like that, they turned from hockey players into track athletes and were gone in the blink of an eye.
I followed my father inside, my head hung low, fearing the worst, the worst of the worst. But as I mentioned, my father was not a cruel man, just a disciplined man. He had unique methods of punishment, as justice. He took me into the garage, handed me a spade, and looked at me. “There will be no more hockey. And if you put half as much energy into chipping all that ice off as you did into playing on it, you should be able to get it all cleared before your mother gets home in an hour.”
Mom? Yikes! I forgot all about mom! Dad wasn’t cruel, but he sure knew how to tap into my fear. Needless to say, as I’m here to tell this tale today, it goes without saying the ice was all chipped off in time.