Repressed Hockey Memories: Playing With Myself

I suppose I was about 8 or 9 when I first caught the hockey bug. I was spending an inordinate amount of time with my neighbors, the Ermilio brothers, a particularly competitive duo.

We made games out of everything and it was only a matter of time  before we took it seriously.

We broke up the year into seasons that saw us playing street versions of sports such as baseball, rough touch football and soccer. Meticulous “stats” and standings were neatly kept in dime store notebooks. In a recent conversation with the older Ermillio, Rene’, he confessed: “Jim, I still have all of those stat books!”

Possibly buoyed by the Flyers 1980 Cup run, we decided to add hockey, to our repertoire. Unlike the sports that required nothing but balls, which everyone had *snicker* hockey presented the problem of actually requiring equipment.  As Christmas approached, this problem was solved diplomatically.

Each of the neighborhood kids involved were to buy their own stick(s) and some hockey balls. Additionally, each of us were required to buy one piece of community equipment (i.e. goals, goalie equipment, etc.). I really didn’t have the desire to be a goalie so I opted for one of the goals.

The goal was a lightweight Kiddie City purchase (dating myself here) that I left at the Ermillio’s for the majority of the time.  Street hockey was a blast. This was ” real” Street Hockey, where we played in the street and had to call out  ”CAR!”  whenever one approached and the goalies moved the goals to the side as we gave the stink eye to the driver as the car passed.

The five-inch curb was our boards and we learned to keep our shots down and be accurate as an errant slapshot could have had one of us chasing down a ball for blocks (thus the reason we eventually changed over to pucks).

Alas, like many fads, we got tired of it before too long and moved to the next big thing such as “making ice cream” with an overturned Big Wheel.

The net I bought returned home and took up residence in my driveway. While my friends left hockey behind, I still had the bug and was grateful that I chose to supply the net, as I could now do with it as I pleased.

A little about me. I had been an only child for most of my life at that point. At seven years of age, my sister Gina came to the scene, who I adored but she wasn’t much of a playmate. I was also blessed with a very vivid imagination that had me fighting for the Rebel Alliance against Darth Vader , with nothing but myself and a good sized stick, in the many woods surrounding my neighborhood. I learned to make the best of my time by myself and actually enjoyed it.

Along with a good imagination, I was also resourceful. My friends no longer wanted to play hockey, but I did. I had a stick, some balls and a hockey net. And here is what I did…

My driveway ran along the side of our house and emptied into a asphalted area in my backyard that led into a garage, which was never used to house a car.  So at one end of the asphalt was a garage and the other end, my house. I positioned the net in front of the stone wall of my house. A trash can became the goalie and I kid you not when I tell you that I duct taped a goalie stick and baseball glove to it, creating a sort of R2D2 makeshift goalie. There was no five-hole to speak of but there was some empty spots in the corners to shoot for.

The rules, as I made them up, were as follows; I would stand midway between the garage and house. As one team, I would shoot the ball at the garage, as it came back to me, I had to ” one time” it at the goal. If it missed I got one shot at a rebound before time was up. Whether I scored or not, the other “team” was up next. And so on and so on, until my mother’s egg timer signaled that the period or game was over.

Like with my friends, stats and records were kept. Entire seasons and playoffs were recorded in my backyard Spectrum. I’d have to say that the need to pick corners against Trash Goalie helped me be a sniper later in my street hockey career. Had I done what I had set out to do and make the NHL, when I finally retired a champion and was addressing the media at a press conference, one of the “people” that I would have thanked would be the Trash Goalie.

And I could only hope that Trash Goalie would stand in the back of the room, nodding knowingly like Mr Miyagi.