The Shadow Side of Sport

It’s NHL playoff time. The Winnipeg Jets, for whom we cheered when we lived there in the 90’s, have gotten a new lease on life and are making the Rest of Canada (outside the GTA) roar. Go, Jets, go!

My own hockey career started…and ended…at 7:00 p.m., Thursday, October 15, 1972.

I might have the details wrong, but I remember the phone call well: “First practice will be at 7:30 a.m., Sunday morning, at the main rink in Sturgeon Falls.” And that was that.

The problem wasn’t that Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, was a 40-minute drive from our home on the east end of North Bay, which would have meant hitting the road no later than 6:30 a.m. for a practice starting an hour later.

That would have been a hassle, to be sure, since my mother was in charge not only of my extracurriculars, but those of my two younger sisters and younger brother, too. (My dad, a busy physician, was entirely occupied driving himself around.)

In the high school years that followed, however, my mother drove me lots of places as I took piano lessons, played football and basketball, ran track, performed in three different school bands, competed with the math team and the “Reach for the Top” team, led the school Christian fellowship, and more. No, my mother could not have been more supportive, and was equally so for my siblings.

What instantly killed my nascent hockey career was not the long, early drive. It was the day of the week: Sunday morning. I didn’t even ask my parents about it. We all knew that Sundays were for church and family, and if playing minor hockey meant disrupting the whole family on a Sunday morning, then minor hockey would go.

I told the coach I wouldn’t be there and would be off the team.

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