"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Aug 16, 2015

Ode to Peter Puck

Recent news stories are digging up old memories of WWII for my landlady, who is Mom’s age.  She lamented the fact that wars never seem to end, and my only comment was More women need to be in charge, to which she nodded. Let’s keep bloodshed on the playing fields where it belongs.

I love my Mets, but I just can’t sit through a baseball game. I’m an ice hockey fan; for the thrills, action and yes, violence. Didn’t know the first thing about it until Ex-man 1, a Boston fan through and through, dragged me to a Bruins game in 1974. Growing up in the Northeast, most of us at the very least strapped on a pair of skates and our skills varied.  But one regional commonality repulsed Beaver (not his real name) when we went to a rink in New Jersey:

“Don’t you guys know how to stop?”

Sure we do; that’s what the walls are for. The Beave and his brothers lived for the ice and practiced each day growing up in Belmont, Mass.  He tried to teach me to stop ‘properly’, but I could never master the sudden, sideways VsssshhhhhhhhT!!  Surely there was an in-between.

That’s when I started watching hockey player’s feet and realized how just how graceful these guys in padding rivaling Hannibal Lecter can be.  They race along at dizzying speeds after a puck which fits in your hand, streamlining their enormous bodies; hunched over; arms moving in time with their legs left, right, left, right.

The crowd screams along like football fans, protected from injury by Plexiglas. The Beave had been a goalie and as he shouted in my ear the play-by-plays I peeked through winter coats while everyone strained to get a better look at Bobby Orr…
GOAL!  Double arms-up! OMG, can you blame me?

Tensions mount, and the skater's gracefulness continues through the point that two of them throw down their gauntlets and raise their sticks in one fluid motion; then it’s just another brawl.   Both teams skate into the fray, swords clashing, until they get it out of their systems. But other than that the skating is beautiful: Sonja Henie crossed with the Incredible Hulk.

My most memorable game was between the Rangers and the Bruins; with Phil Esposito facing off against Bobby Orr.  Forty year later I can still see them poised, eyes focused down on the ice.  The guy with the striped jersey made us all wait an interminable amount of time before dropping the puck and getting out of the way. The game was afoot and I was ready.

Besides the Beave’s tips, I’d been watching Peter Puck during breaks in games on TV.  He was similar to the yellow Smiley face and as he got smacked around the cartoon rink he explained moves and penalties like icing.  Peter was riveting and very easy to follow, and I lamented his ultimate shot into crowd.

Whack, whack; Phil’s gotten away from the pack and is heading for the…

GOAL!  Double arms-up as I jumped up screaming, looking around and asking,

“Why isn’t anyone cheering?”

“You’re in Boston, idiot; what do you expect?”

Lucky I didn’t get smacked upside the head with something.

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