For Kieran Cole Girvan-Randall
Victoria, B.C. February 2010
With update December 2013
The West Coast of Canada and the Islands beyond, in the Salish Sea (f.k.a. the Straits of Georgia) are apparently unreliable venues for Nordic games. Ask any of the organizers of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver who are currently excreting bricks over the uncertainty of the Cypress venue as record winter temperatures continue to jeopardize the sites. Would that they were able to excrete ice pellets to refrigerate Cypress bowl instead of bricks!
This unlikely eventuality, ice cube excrement, would better guarantee the site for the Freestyle Skiing competition. That Ice Hockey, the quintessential Nordic team sport, thrives in the west coast climate in smaller centres like Port Alberni, Duncan, Nanaimo and Powell river is due more to the triumph of refrigeration, the vision, drive and entrepreneurship of the organizations that manage and promote the game and due of course to the abiding power of the myth of the manifest Canadian destiny to be leaders in this sporting activity. This myth, like all other sport myths, recruits a willing public to function as underwriters to the outrageously inflated salaries and unjustifiably magnified status of a few young men who go to the major leagues. The myth serves also to fuel the dreams of glory of many little boys and a few little girls. To humanize, broaden the base and make hockey accessible to everyman, everywoman, we must get it out of the stuffy refrigerated barn we call the rink and take it into the street.
Taking it to the Street
The annual Lexington Ave. Christmas Day road hockey game is already under way when we return from a mid-morning walk to Holly Dean Beach in the Gordon Head, Cadboro Bay area of Victoria, on a gloriously bright, sunny, green Christmas Day 2009. The call from the hockey playing neighbours “we need some players” is all he needs to run for the brand new hockey stick he has received from Santa a mere 2 hours before. At four years old nearing five, the desire for rapid movement has already been a compulsion for at least two years: movement, flat-out, leaning-hard-into-the-corner-going-round-the-furniture-in-the-living-room movement, madcap movement, wipeout, trip-over-something-and-end-up-crying movement. At first, a bit shy, he follows the flow of the game at a safe distance on the periphery, where the lawn meets the asphalt as the adult neighbours from the O’Leary and Carradine families do their best impersonations of Sid the Kid Crosby and goalies try out their Luongo moves…
We, the spectators, are seated high above the playing surface in the living room looking over Lexington Ave., in our own “Gondola” where the long defunct Foster Hewitt* is doing his play by play commentary: “Good evening Canada,” (pause),”Newfoundland,” (pause), “and Hockey Fans in the United States”. “It is clear and cold in Tronno tonight”, Foster begins. “With us in between periods” he continues, “is a special edition of the Hot Stove League convened by Ward Cornell*. “Tonight’s participants in the Hot Stove League are Howie Meeker, Darryl Sittler, Lanny MacDonald, Bobby Orr and for this one time only, God has released Peter Gzowski from his eternal obligations to produce a Morningside edition for the foreseeable afterlife and Pierre Trudeau has taken his leave without permission from God, in his inimitably unilateral ‘watch me’ kind of way. They are both joining the Hot Stove Panel in the intermission of Hockey Night in Canada to check out the talent in the Lexington Ave. Road Hockey League (LRHL).”
Pitchman for the advertising sponsors Murray Westgate*, complete with his obligatory mechanic’s uniform with oil stains on it, will again in his resonant if doleful voice, be the spokesperson for Esso Imperial Oil and its products and Tim Horton will provide the munchies if he can get a little time off from his defensive role for the Sky Hockey Leafs to cater for the game…
While I am otherwise engaged inventing grandiose scenarios for this little slice of Canadiana at Christmas, Little Red Hockey Hoodie pounces on the ball in his own end of the playing surface, scoots up the right wing and deposits the ball into the net behind a compliant goaltender scoring his first road hockey goal…
Mentors and Heroes
Now six weeks later, early February in Victoria, some cherry trees have been showing blooms for over a month, near the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal in Nanaimo, some Rhododendron bushes have been in bloom for at least a couple of weeks, and at Nanoose Bay’s Pacific Shores Nature Resort, Forsythia bushes have been wearing yellow since mid January. Given the Nordic disadvantage that our West Coast geography imposes, the chances that the little guy in the red hoodie will become another Jarome Iginla, that hybrid, hard-nosed, hustling hunk of hockey excellence, are highly unlikely. A Steve Nash, Simon Whitfield, Silken Laumann, Marnie McBean, Jeff Porter, Justin Morneau, Larry Walker, Rich Harden, Fergie Jenkins?… – Who knows?
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself “what a wonderful world”!
Louis Armstrong (“Satchmo”)
*Foster Hewitt, Ward Cornell and Murray Westgate were fixtures on the Saturday evening Hockey Night in Canada television and radio broadcasts on CBC in the nineteen fifties and sixties.
Post Scriptum: Victoria, B.C. 2013:
- Little Red Hockey Hoodienow eight years old and his seventy four year old grandfather recently exchanged notes on the their favourite basketball players of all time (all time being defined as 8 +74=82 years). Both were in complete agreement that in the big picture Michael Jordan tops them all and that in the little picture our guy, Terrell Evans of the University of Victoria Vikings fires up the local fan base with his energy and creativity.
- The Lexington Ave. road hockey game is in jeopardy this year since the neighbours who did the organizing have sold their house (bummer!). As a consequence, the long defunct extraterrestrial broadcast crew of Hockey Night in Canada, Foster Hewitt, Ward Cornell and Murray Westgate are scouring the country, searching desperately for a worthy neighbourhood for the Christmas day road hockey broadcast.
- And at Christmas 2013 it did not come to pass. Fini Canadiana Lexington Ave. style.
Kieran and his Family
Kieran’s Video Gallery