McGregor Says: Hockey never really gets old

Columnist Jim McGregor share some fond and not so pleasant memories of hockey – in his day.

By Jim McGregor/Special to the Langley Times

We turned downtown Langley into Hockeyville a few weekends ago – it was a great chance to show to Prairies, Ontario, and the Maritimes what a beautiful place Langley can be in January.

The sun shone for three days and the bright, crisp weather brought out the crowds to celebrate hockey.

It was nice to see all the kids decked out in team jerseys and families downtown participating in the many skills and games.

We don’t see that a lot any more.

It was quite a production.

Thursday morning large red semi-trailer trucks pulled into town, where the streets had been blocked off and the crews began unloading the temporary rinks and the skills sets.

Up went the big stage with sound system and lighting.

The only things missing were the Big Top tent and the elephants. The hockey circus had come to town.

It brought back memories of a much simpler time.

The phone call would come on Saturday morning to tell you where everyone was gathering. Back in the day, Langley didn’t have many outdoor paved areas to play in so it was usually a school yard or a quiet cul-de-sac at some kid’s place.

We’d show up with a couple of orange balls or tennis balls, taped up hockey sticks, and a couple of ratty banged up nets that had seen better days.

We’d choose sides and the game was on. Padding was optional and it was often just gloves and shin pads – and the goalies usually had some sort of mask.

The game would go on for hours and the teams would change as some kids had to go home for chores or paper routes or music lessons and you hoped that your stick held together because there were no spares.

You tolerated little brothers, because they were sent to chase the ball and retrieve it from under cars or dig it out of the bramble bushes so we could keep playing.

We would go home with welts on our bodies from slap shots, torn jeans, and skinned knees.

Some days we would get a call from one of the farm boys.

The hay was out of the loft and that was a great place to play ball hockey.

The ‘rink’ would be marked with bales and the floor of the loft would be swept clean and any loose boards nailed down. Then, the game was on.

Barn hockey was a bit different.

No clean fresh air or sunshine, and after a while we had stirred up quite a bit of dust.

But it was fast and fun, and if you didn’t keep your head up, one of those husky farm boys would set you on your rear and you’d be digging straw out of your jeans and your mouth.

But whether it was you snapping the orange ball over the goalie’s shoulder in the hay loft, playing on a big shiny rink at Hockeyville, or watching the Canucks beat their old goalie on TV, hockey never gets old.

At least that’s what McGregor says.

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