Saturday, June 8, 2013

I Love Hockey!

When I was a little boy, our next door neighbor Leo Fetig was the goalie for the Amerks a semi-pro hockey team. Leo had three girls. I was the one he taught to skate. I remember Leo after the games with black eyes, bloody noses and his wife Ruth working on his "Charlie horses".

My lifelong pal Gary Como and I were kids who helped Al Purpur with the ice at the University of North Dakota during the Sioux games, we did it for free tickets. We saw some great WCHA Hockey. Gary and I saw the Russian National team play the Sioux on their first US tour. We saw Harvard play UND for the first time on UND home ice. Bill Cleary gave me his stick after the game. Bill and his brother went on to play for the Gold Medal team in the ’60 Olympics. I met Cleary years later in Boston when he was the coach at Harvard, I brought up the stick and he remembered the game and the dumb kid after the game. After that I saw any Harvard game I wanted plus tickets to the Bean Pot. There were some great ones. Gary and I would do our ice scraping and then sit on the scoreboard supports to watch the game, perfect for Junior High boys. I watched Stan Pashcke play for UND and we cried at the sad story of Terry Casey. Later in life I got to know Stan and his eyes lit up when I told him I played at Pashcke Gardens (the rink at Central Park) when I was a kid. The UND play by play guy, Doug Teigmeir would always say when Stan scored a goal, “There’s another light in Pashcke Gardens” I later worked with Doug at KNOX and engineered UND hockey games. The story is always how the coach of the 80' Olympic team was the last cut on the 60 team, Stan was the cut just before Herb Brooks.

With the encouragement of our coach, Bob Peters, we formed a Midget A team and a Jr team at Central Park one year and won both leagues. Plus we played double the games our peers played. Peters later coached UND, then started the program at Bemidji State and won championships in D-3, D-2 and D-1. He was a college goalie drafted by the Redwings, opted to stay in school and to make a career in coaching. My biggest regret is not taking his offer to train me as a goal tender. Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

I played club hockey in college and had some fun. Later, I had a guy working for me whose Mom was in the head office of the North Stars and she got a pair of green and white North Stars skates for me. The next year they became the Dallas Stars.

I feel madly in love with the NHL when I lived in Boston, the Orr-Esposito Bruins were fantastic, the rivalries of the Original 6 teams, the upstart Flyers and Islanders, the Summit Series were great moments. Some friends and I even went to a game at the Montreal Forum. Later as I climbed the ladder in broadcasting, I had tickets to the Bruins, 3rd row, North end to the right of the goal. The perfect seats for hockey because you can see the entire surface of the ice. I had a “Jesus Saves and Esposito Scores on the Rebound” bumper sticker too. I got to meet and know Milt Schmidt, all star player for the Bruins, hall of famer, coach, general manager of the B’s and then started the Cap’s franchise. Just a wonderful guy. Miss our lunches.

George Johns, a Transcona kid and I took Jim Quall, another Transcona mug to the Boston Garden to see the Bruins. Jim played for the St. Boniface Bruins in Jr. Hockey, it was such a great night for the three of us. For Jim to watch a game in a building he’s only seen on Hockey Night in Canada for his entire life was just amazing. he still talks about it!

I got to know Dallas Smith from Winnipeg who played for the Bruins, Don Awrey, Bobby Orr’s defensive partner became a friend.

When I met Jan she didn’t know hockey from a handbag, now she stands in front of the flat screen with me and watches.

Living in LA, I think the Kings are such a great team, but my Bruins are back in the final and playing the Black Hawks for the Cup, could it get any better than this? Original 6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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