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.

Just how cold was it?

That Fort McMurray hilltop where we tried to beat the cold with our introductions, in November 1985.
That Fort McMurray hilltop where we tried to beat the cold with our introductions, in November 1985.

We had been sitting inside our TV crew van for about 15 or 20 minutes, waiting. We weren’t about to venture outside until things were ready for us. Meantime, my co-host – Lee Mackenzie – and I, rehearsed what we would say. We wanted to make sure, the moment our producer called for us to speak our lines in front of the camera, outside, that we could deliver the introduction to our TV show in one take (without any mistakes). Why? Well, our camera location was on a hill overlooking Fort McMurray, Alberta, in wintertime. The temperature outside our van that day was about –40. Eventually, all was ready and we dashed outside, took our spots, rolled the video and spoke our lines.

“Hi, I’m Lee Mackenzie,” she said.

“And I’m Ted Barris,” I said. “Welcome to ‘Monday Magazine’ from Fort McMurray…”