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Wednesday , 21 October 2020

Hot Summer Hockey

Tales from the Timebox: May 5th, 2020

Hurray, hurray the first week of May.  Minor ball season SHOULD be starting this week. With no NHL hockey or MLB baseball on the telly or minor ball and soccer, I guess this year the landfills and greenhouses will be busier than ever. Everyone is working in their yards doing the social distancing thing.

Chapter six in the Tales From the Timebox we rewind back to the year 1993.  The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup over Wayne Gretzky and the L. A. Kings. It was the last time any Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup. My beloved Leaf’s with Dougie Gilmore, Wendal Clark and goalie Felix Potvin in the line up had a fantastic team that year. They had a terrific playoff run and went all the way to game seven of the semi finals losing out to Gretzky and company. The Leaf fans still talk about how Gretzky cut Gilmore with his stick and no referee or linesman saw it, but everyone else in the whole country had seen it! Then Gretzky, who should have been serving a five minute penalty, scored the winning goal for the Kings.

My son Jordan was in second year Atoms at the time. My wife Donna and I had just upgraded to a 1974 12 ft holiday trailer. Doesn’t sound like much of a big deal right now. But back then it really was. This trailer had a little washroom in the back. Good in case of emergencies in the middle of the night. No shower but it did have a kitchen stove, little fridge, a sink and storage. A table and couch that turned into beds and two bunks up top. Before that we had been camping in a old crappy tent trailer that had a lot of issues. I could write has a book of stories about it. But some things should be left untold and buried. It certainly was a real test of our marriage setting it up and taking it down.

Somewhere in one of the hockey arenas during that past winter we had seen flyers about a summer hockey school in Hardisty. Being that most of us dads were living their NHL hockey dreams through our sons, we of course thought that it would be a good idea to have the boys get ready for the next season. Especially since they would be moving up to peewees. Bob Matthews and I being two of them so called dads figured we should register. Badger Bob was working at Ecan at the time and did a lot of work around Hughenden which was only a few miles from Hardisty. His oldest son Nathan and Jordan were the same age 12 going on 13 and had been playing together since day one.

The biggest name at the hockey school was Shane Doan. He was yet to be drafted but was a very well known local kid who was playing for the Kamloops Blazers at the time. Two years later in 1995 he was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets 7th overall. He played his entire career of 21 years in Winnipeg and with the Phoenix Coyotes when the Jets were sold and moved. He was captain of the team for most of his career and a very strong player.

Gordie Mark another local hockey player was also there as an instructor. He was with the Cape Breton Oilers, the farm team to the Edmonton Oilers at the time. He did play a few years in the NHL with the Oilers, as well as a few other NHL teams. His brother Len was another one of the instructors. Len hadn’t made the NHL but did play for Kamloops. There was also Barry Long, who was at one time an Edmonton Oiler, in the old World Hockey Association before they merged with the NHL. He was also head coach of the Winnipeg Jets for a few years in the 80’s and at the time of the hockey school he was a NHL scout. There was a number of other Western Hockey League and Junior A players there as well helping out.

The boys would have a session in the morning and another one later in the afternoon. The sessions were split into groups of about twenty so it seemed to be a good ratio of coaches to players. It was very well organized especially for a small town like Hardisty.

It was going to be a boys trip only. My wife Donna loaded the trailer with all kinds of food, drinks and snacks and we headed out of town on a Sunday afternoon for the two hour trip south.  Hardisty had a great little campground on a small lake right close to the arena and the golf course. We got all set up that night for the Monday morning session.  The boys took the top bunks in the trailer and Badger Bob and I slept in the bottom. The boys goofing around and giggling. They complained about my snoring, finally falling asleep sometime after midnight.

First thing Monday morning the boys woke up and were hungry as heck. Boys at this age are getting their growth spurt and eating like crazy. These two seemed to be hungry about once every hour. Sitting up in the top bunks they looked like two baby birds chirping with their mouths open waiting for their mothers to bring them some chewed up worms. When I asked what they wanted for breakfast the answer was pancakes. Here’s where things get interesting. I figured Bob would know how to cook. Bob must have figured I would know how. Neither one of us had a clue. No problem. How hard can it be to make pancakes?  Donna had shown me where everything was and how to prepare it. I guess I didn’t listen very well as per usual. Before you knew it the trailer was full of smoke. Jordan chirps up, “Dad I think you’re supposed to put some cooking oil in the pan first.” The black burnt pancakes not looking very promising, Bob states, “Who want to go out for breakfast?”. A big huge “Yeah!!” and down from the top bunks jump the boys.

So off we go. For the rest of the week breakfast was on the credit card.

After our first hockey session, about a hour and half long, we headed to the golf course. The boys were not allowed to drive the carts unless they were 16 year old. No problem. Bob and I rented the carts and the boys would ride shot gun. That’s until we got up over the hill and out of sight of the clubhouse. Then the big switch happened. The boys being boys of course wanted to drive. And dads being dads of course would let them. We came very close to crashing into each other a number of times.  In fact there may be a few small trees on that course that didn’t survive that summer after getting a bit of a haircut.

Lunch and supper wasn’t a problem. Hot dogs and beans or burgers and Kraft Dinner. Somehow Jordan already knew how to make KD, his mom showed him. Bob and I managed to be able to handle making hot dogs.

After the afternoon hockey session it was beach time. The lake was small but the beach had some really nice sand and the water was nice and clean. Lots of nice girls there too. Must have came with their hockey playing brothers. Our boys were starting to mature and noticed a few things. They thought that was quite all right to make a few friends.

After our swim it was time for the campfire. Telling jokes, all under 14 years censored of course, laughing, burping and farting. It was all good.  Some of the stories Bob told us even got a little spooky. Then off to bed to do it all over again the next day. Our last day on Saturday the players were split two squads for semi competitive shinny game.

The next summer we came back again . Only this time we had invited a few more dads and boys. Jerry Kopeck, his son Brett brought his camper which was identical to ours. Ron Croteau who had lived a number of years in Hardisty before moving to Elk Point with his son Curtis. Bob and Nathan came back, as well as his younger son Benny. This time breakfast was the best. Call it Cowboy Jerry breakfast because he really knew how to cook. In fact he was a great cook and Ron knew what he was doing too. Breakfast was a full meal deal with bacon and eggs, hash browns, toast, pancakes… the works. Our other two meals were bigger and better too.

Of course we did the same things, hockey, golf, beach, and campfires. Inside the Hardisty Arena there’s team picture of the Hardisty Longhorns Senior team. They were League Champions and Ron Croteau was the team goalie when they won the cup. Ron of course joined us with the B&R Bullets when he moved to Elk Point. As small as Hardisty was, they even had a operating movie theater at the time. That summer  one night we all went watched the Flintstones movie that had just come out with John Goodman staring as Fred.

The following summer the moms wanted to come to join in the fun. Not quite the same as the boys only trips but still a ton of fun.  I remember setting up camp when we first arrived. In our firepit someone before us had left a pound of bacon for some reason. Maybe it had gone bad. Just threw it out not thinking what would happen when it started to rot. It was crawling with maggots. I got out the tiger torch that Donna hated. Not exactly boy scout style of lighting campfires.  I used it to start camp fires when the wood is wet or when it was just the boys. Funny though, she didn’t seem to mind it that day at all, when I quickly incinerated the gross creepy crawlers up into smoke.

K.A. Campbell quote of the week, “One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. DO IT NOW.” – Paul Coelho

About Doug Bassett