Riding Metro North.  With a Legend.

Castlegar-Ice-Arena

Wednesday.  5:07 am to Grand Central.

I lift my briefcase to store it on the overhead rack and I jam my Oxford into the steel girder under the seat. I look down to assess the damage.  A thin sheaf of leather dangles from the toe cap.  Expensive miss. Damn it!

I take my seat. I wiggle the toes on my right foot triggering a flashback. A tumble back, way back.

I was 14.

The ice rink. It was a Campbell Soup can without the label, rough cut vertically, flipped on its side and dropped on frozen dirt.  No insulation.

Fans, mostly parents, sat huddled on one of three wooden benches that circled the rink, standing to stomp their feet and slap their mitts to keep the blood moving. It was cold, always cold.

An oxidized chain link fence protected the fans from the pucks.  Players did not have face masks. It was skin to fence. No, better stated, face to fence. Cage matches before cages were a WWF sport.

A thin mist hovered over the ice. The ice was hard and fast.

The white letter branding of CCM Super Tacks lined the boots. The leather was sweat-soaked, re-dried and now freeze dried.  You jammed your foot in a cold plaster cast and pulled the laces snug.  You wiggled your toes to feel the cool steel of the toe cap.

His name was  Harry Smith. Coach. A starting defenseman on Canada’s World Champion Ice Hockey team in 1961.  The Trail Smoke Eaters.  Hockey. World Champion. Canada. Legend.

His wrists were galvanized pipes. A quick flick and the puck would explode. A heavy shot.

He could skate faster backwards than forwards, and faster in both directions than all of us.  He had quicker lateral movement than an all-pro NFL cornerback, and this on skates.

During practice, he would demonstrate – skating backwards and yelling at the same time.  Jimmy, the victim in this demonstration, is coming at Coach with the puck:

“Watch the chest.  Not the eyes.  Give him the inside (pointing his stick towards the boards) and then close the gap.  Pinch him!  And then FINISH.”

Jimmy’s stick is flying. He crumples to the ice. Coach spins away with a nifty cut to the inside cradling the puck.  “See, it’s not that hard.”

The train pulls into Grand Central.  I’m walking against the flow of the commuter foot traffic.  Ten abreast. Hundreds upon hundreds deep.

I move from the center to the right to find a gap along the train, and I bump into passengers exiting the train.

I cut straight across traffic to the left, bump into a suit, apologize, and hug the train on the other side.  More traffic here.

There’s no point in continuing so I step into the vestibule of the train and let the traffic pass.

And there he comes.

A puff of breath. 

Eyes locked on my chest.

And, Finishes.


Notes:

Comments

  1. I love your memories and your writing David. I always feel like I can understand a person from their past experiences. We never lose the memories that form our beliefs about life. This post is a definitely worth a counseling session ha. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i love this. it puts you right back on the ice, danger flying right at you, no helmet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You have a gift my friend, a real gift. Just sayin’….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. richardkanigan says:

    Yes, he was a great coach, kept all of us humble.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Not finished David, not even close. But great writing, as always. This old lady used to be a touch chick and play hockey with the guys in a rink you describe. On the other side of the pond. At 14. No helmet.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I love your writing and when you share your memories…

    “The white letter branding of CCM Super Tacks lined the boots. The leather was sweat-soaked, re-dried and now freeze dried. You jammed your foot in a cold plaster cast and pulled the laces snug. You wiggled your toes to feel the cool steel of the toe cap….” I don’t want to think about what it feels like to impact the ice or the face to fence….Hockey is big activity in North Dakota and Michigan, too…I have a friend, here, who plays on a league hockey team (one of those Michigan boys)

    “His name was Harry Smith. Coach. .. Legend….His wrists were galvanized pipes.” Sounds like he was a man you. your relatives & teammates, learned more than hockey from…

    Your description of cold, is seasonally appropriate. I think some of us, (at least state side) might all, be noticing the change to cold weather….here we had the first onslaught of frost. We have a way of grading the frost at my house, first is roof frost, then car frost, followed by ground frost and ground frost happens in different degrees, light to hard and killing…when the killing frost hits, I shutter….that means my beautiful nasturtiums are now slime.. .and the smell of garden death decay occurs…leading way to a time of natural fallow….today we had not only the light roof frost but light car frost too…Usually, we have a two week tease of roof frost before it moves down to car level…. some winters we rarely have to scrap, other winters it seems like a daily event….high today mid 60’s, the rains is to start on Tuesday…the weather always changes here around Halloween…..Hope your shoe can be repaired…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Christie. I’m reading your wonderful comment and paused at smell: “when the garden death decay occurs” – I can smell that. Thanks, as always, for your wonderful insights, kindness and passages.

      Like

  7. Love your keen memories David!

    Liked by 1 person

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