After some time in the mines in Elliot Lake Dad got a promotion. This was in the early sixties. $600.00 a month, good money back then, he says when he describes it. Good money but it was underground. As he pondered the offer he got a phone call from a good friend of his, a burly Finn who had left Elliot Lake recently, traveling east on the Trans Canada to Sudbury where they were laying pipe for natural gas. There and all over Northern Ontario. A brand new company and a ton of opportunity. He would start at $400.00 a month and he’d work so much that my mom wouldn’t see him (they were newly married) for a couple of years except when he stumbled in and out of bed, exhausted, to sleep and then off to do it again. He took the job. He knew what he was getting into but it wasn't underground and the possibilities were endless.
Of course it worked out for my old man. He stuck it out and rose through the ranks and had a terrific career there, almost thirty five years in a job he enjoyed. At his retirement party they stood and cheered for him. That's the type of man my father is.
In his first decade with the company he played hockey for the Sudbury team. There were big offices in Thunder Bay and Timmins and North Bay and the Soo and Kingston and they probably had a club from the Muskokas as well. Dad’s team played in a senior league of sorts in Sudbury, the hockey would have been terrific, all of these guys were players back in the day. These guys grew up before the days of TV so Dad and his peers were all the type of guys that today’s young men could only hope to emulate. Dad played hockey and ball and he boxed a little. He played guitar and he could fix a motor and build a camp and do electrical and plumbing and pretty well whatever you wanted to ask him to do. He finished our basement and some years later he put in a sauna. He could fish and he could hunt and he could do pretty much anything.
Anyways these guys could play is the point and while the league was one thing it was the tournaments that the real games began, all of these guys from around Northern and Eastern Ontario who could play and it was for bragging rights and so it was pretty serious stuff. One of my earliest memories is being at a rink watching my Dad play hockey. Its foggy but that's the way it is up north. Hockey hockey hockey permeates everything.
In December I’ll be the same age as Dad was when he hung them up. I hope to emulate his brothers, one who played into his sixties, another into his seventies (my uncle could absolutely play in our league, I swear to God, he is in phenomenal shape and an amazing player, he can skate like few I have every seen.) Anyways I laced them up this afternoon for the first time since the beginning of August. Our summer season was, lets say, a complete disaster. More details another day. Lets just say we went ofer.
So the last time good old Capsule won a game was in March sometime.
Zero and sixteen since then.
So we skate out and we have eight guys and there’s a club we’ve never seen before and like everybody we play they’re big and they’re fast and they’re young, the fuckers. And one of their guys comes over before the game and he says yeah we’re new and we figure we’re a high seed in the division above this one.
Did I mention we have eight guys?
And this is, with one exception, the guys who went oh and sixteen. We’re missing our best two centers, including a guy who averaged a goal a game last year. We’re missing two big guys who swing between forward and D as needed. Both are players. These guys, except one of the centres, don't play in the summer.
First shift they cut through us like nothing, we’re running around and before we know it we’re down one.
And they keep coming. So we hunker down and ride it out and then we begin to push back and we get a chance or two and then we tie it up but its just a flash of hope, it certianly can't last.
They’re big and they come with speed out of their end and we just hang back, we’re already sagging. My fucking legs last two shifts and then its hang back and pick off plays, that’s all I’ve got. But thing is they come hard through the neutral zone but we stack it up and chip it back out and soon their D begin to jump in, they have two guys who can really wheel, pushing to beat our tired legs and put us out of our misery.
One of them whirls out of the zone and chips it past the defenceman and rushes into our end full speed. I’m coming back hard and he has a step on me and I just take him out, I have no choice and so he slides into the boards hard and I’m right behind him, full out. Luckily he breaks my fall.
And that was the last we heard from him for the rest of the game. Not a peep.
Of course I was in the box. I have a new stick and like all of the ones that came before its not so good with the goals but pretty good at laying on the wood and getting me into the box.
The lads picked me up, all four minutes of it, not even a sniff and as the game wore on we held on and held on and I sat beside a terrific new player who joined us this summer, a guy who has never won in Capsule colours. He’s a big forward who is hard on the puck and has good hands and he's a great addition. Just chip it out, chip it out, we’ll try and catch a break, we tell each other.
Next shift he strips a Dman and goes in alone and gets stoned and we sag a little, that may have been it.
Instead we work them over down low next shift and pop it out front and suddenly we’re up.
Next shift the new guy beats a guy into a corner and I beat everyone else to the slot and I get the shot I want but the keeper stretches out that leg and beats me. Some things never change.
And soon after we lose a guy, ejected for his third penalty. Seven guys left, one for each minute left in the game.
And we hang on, they come in waves and they nearly all break at our blueline. The goalie comes out and they throw it all at us and here we are, dead beat, a guy in the box again and yet every battle for the puck is ours. With about twenty seconds left one of our defencemen has two guys in the corner and he's the guy who comes out with the puck.
And we win.
I think its going to be a good year. Unfortunately I don't think I'm going to be able to get out of bed tomorrow.
This is it for camp, this is it for some kids. Some of the guys we know are going to be sent back to Springfield and some guys may be gone for good.
Its been an interesting camp. Brule got the push that was expected and he’s got it made. Jacques was considered a good bet for a job but there is no doubt that he’s exceeded all expectations. He’s starting the year with Horcoff and Hemsky.
I kid you fucking not.
And it seems that Stone has it made as well. Big guy and a good camp.
So its Horcoff, Hemsky, Jacques, Penner, Comrie, O’Sullivan, Cogliano, Gagner, Stortini, Brule, Stone, Moreau
That leaves Pisani, Nilsson, Pouliot, Reddox, Brennan, MacIntyre, Schremp
Am I missing anyone?
I can’t see them sending Pisani out. Remember this club has few vets and a problem on the PK. I think its Fernando’s swan song though.
I’m sentimental. Here’s hoping Fernando has a terrific year and retires an Oiler. The first of any consequence to do so.
Schemp is getting sent out.
MacIntyre is not good enough to play a regular shift.
So its either Brennan or Reddox if Pouliot is out. Brennan was my darkhorse but a guy pushing thirty who has sixty games or so on his resume doesn’t strike me as a reasonable choice, especially with Jacques and Stone out there.