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the allure of hockey


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We moved here in 1968. My oldest son was 5. A friend who was part of the local infant hockey program invited our participation. My son had seen hockey on TV and liked it. So, we started.

The hockey rink was in an old brick railroad building. No compressors, pumps, stands, piping. Just an ancient drafty building with pigeons in the rafters, shitting upon the unreliable sheet of ice below that existed because of frigid temperatures and no artificial help.

Hockey was fledgling, and our total number of players and parents were no more than fifty people.

The next year, the founder of our hockey group managed an agreement with some banks and the local high school to build an arena upon land ceded to the school. We were to build and maintain a rink. Manage it for 15 years, (until the mortgage was paid off), and then give the complex back to the school.

So, I plunge in. I had the task of getting 50 plus families to sign a mortgage. I thought it would be a case of me begging and cajoling my fellow parents into a pretty iffy proposition.

I was surprised. People were eager to help. I don't remember anyone refusing to indebt themselves.

So, we built the rink. That winter, and for a number of years after, it was the kid's social center. We provided family memberships for 25 dollars a year. That 25 bucks gave a family unlimited access to public skating, a spot on a hockey team, and figure skating lessons. Hockey players got jerseys and socks, goalie equipment if needed, and midget age players got hockey pants. Figure skaters were guaranteed at least one dance in the annual ice show.

Since then, we've sent hockey players to colleges, division 1 through 4. We've had kids go to the AHL and the NHL. I'm very proud of what we've done. A salient thing is the fact that so many people here now revolve their lives around hockey. On a Saturday morning, a drive around the community shows cars loading with hockey bags and sticks. The sports complex is full of the same kind of cargo.

It's what people do now.

I helped to change things, and I helped hockey.

When you get to be my age, that's a comforting thought.

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