Not even in the Greys

First on radio, then on TV’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” play-by-play announcer Foster Hewitt gave audiences a sense of being right in front of the action.

Monday night I was driving. I was on the edge of the range of the radio station broadcasting the Leafs-Bruins Stanley Cup playoff game. It was late in the third period. The signal faded momentarily just as play-by-play announcer Joe Bowen’s voice rose in intensity describing an up-ice pass from Mitch Marner to Patrick Marleau. And just before the radio signal dropped out completely I heard Bowen shout out his patented exclamation:

“Holy Mackinaw! What an enormous goal!” With that goal, the Leafs won the game, 4-2.

As safe as … a game of hockey

In a hundred years of hockey in Canada, kids and skates and pucks belong together.

It didn’t matter how early on a Saturday, he still came with me. Even if he’d worked half the night getting his last newspaper column of the week finished at the Globe and Mail, and even if we played the first game of the day at 6 a.m., my dad was always there. He helped me tie my skates, made sure my Butch Goring helmet was in place, and sent me onto the ice to play house-league hockey. I felt secure too, seeing him at the end of the outdoor arena, through the chain-link fence, cheering us on.

“Go, Agincourt, go,” I heard him shout between puffs on his cigarette.

Having a parent take me to the rink felt supremely comforting. And, as I remember, we had a couple of coaches – volunteers – who made sure we had sticks, pucks and jerseys. It was always reassuring to have those familiar people there for us. A virtual security blanket.

Lions and tigers and bears

Exercise equipment – good or evil?

After he’d competed a strength test, and a flexibility test, and a reflex test on my injured shoulder, a few weeks ago, my doctor gave me the news. He’d seen an X-ray and an ultrasound that indicated I’d slightly torn something in my rotator-cuff. That sounded bad enough. Then, he handed me a referral form and told me to go to an office on the lower level of the health centre.

“Go get some physiotherapy,” he told me.

I opened the door and entered a front office with a TV blaring 24-hour news, racks of magazines and someone to book my appointments. That was all well and good. But beyond the front office was a world I’ve never really understood, rarely entered, and often feared.

Where he knows your name

Ahmad Shah Golan shortly after he stumbled into his surprise birthday party.

One day about three of four years ago, a car rolled up in front of the local convenience store downtown. The car had a sticker on the bumper that said, “I’m a trout sticker.” The proprietor of the convenience store and his son who are both avid fishermen spotted the sticker and had to know.

“Are you a trout fisherman?” the youngster asked.

Well, that, as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Text versus talk

I fear this anecdote I’m about to tell you may be all too familiar. On a fairly regular basis, my wife and I are asked by one of our daughters, or their husbands, to drive a grandchild to school, to buy a jug of milk on the way home, or to borrow a tool or something. Most of these requests come to us on our phones, but they’re usually preceded by that characteristic “ping” in our pockets, signalling a text.

“Can you pick up the kids?” the request reads in a bubble on the screen.

Whether my answer is “Yes” or “No,” I generally grab the phone – often my land-line – and call to find out if everything is all right, if there’s an emergency or not. For me it’s instinctive. My reaction is and has always been that I can gather more information by listening to a voice face-to-face, than if I wait for the bubble with the three dots (illuminating in sequence like a Mustang car turn signal) to give me an answer.

Candidates for currency

It brought a smile to my face. It made me prouder than I’ve felt about being a Canadian in a while. Although, I think we all might have felt better about the entire episode, had Ottawa considered making such a decision years ago. But there it was, the image of a Viola Desmond on the $10 bill. And when I saw her story in the news, I thought the comment from the Governor of the Bank of Canada was entirely appropriate.

“It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman,” Stephen Poloz told reporters last Friday.

Run with distinction

It took a little while, but I found out what the overseas area code for the United Kingdom was. Then – this was 1980 – I asked for directory assistance in London. I naively inquired about a residential phone number. To my astonishment, they had his number. I carefully composed myself, dialled, and fully expected either an assistant or someone running interference to answer. The phone rang a few times. Then, a man answered.

“Hello,” the voice said in an Oxfordian accent.

“Hello,” I said, not believing someone had actually picked up the phone. “Ah, would Dr. Bannister be there?”


Phoney spring

Ice fishing is only part of the attraction.

None of my family members – as much as they love me – wanted to consider what I was saying this week was possible. Certainly, my friends won’t believe me either. But I was up in a part of Ontario the weather forecasters call Huronia. It’s that stretch of the Georgian Bay shoreline that runs from about Victoria Harbour to Penetanguishene. Actually, it was along the Midland, Ont., waterfront. And when I got there to visit a friend, last Saturday, I looked at the bay in front of his home and said we had to walk.

“It’s my chance to walk on water,” I told him in fun.

Youth versus Bullets

Tank Man, 19-year-old Wang Weilin faces Chines tanks on Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Wikipedia.

It’s an image that endures. It’s not old enough for us to call it historical yet. It only goes back about 30 years. But the frames of video taken by an amateur videographer show a man in a white shirt, dark pants, facing a column of military tanks. It was June 4, 1989. It was the final day of the student-organized, non-violence demonstration at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, just before China’s People’s Liberation Army gunned down hundreds of civilians for protesting government corruption and lack of free speech.

“Tank Man,” they called him. But the Sunday Express newspaper in Britain later claimed the man was Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student, who’d joined the weeks-long protest, despite the threat of annihilation.

Savour the Salchow

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue deliver golden magic, slow and easy. Kevin Light – CBC Sports

Every family practises one ritual or another. One of ours comes each Saturday morning. After my wife and I have consumed the weekend newspaper and a few cups of coffee, I take orders from my daughter and son-in-law for their coffee, hot chocolate or decaf preferences. But before I buy the beverages, I hit our local bakery for chocolate donuts. For me? Well, only if after I bring them to the grandkids there are any left. Generally, I have to get our youngest not to wolf them down. And I’m often heard saying:

“Whoa, buddy! Nobody’s going to take your donut away from you. Slow down and enjoy it.”