Month: January 2014

43 YEARS IN THE NHL FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Bobby Orr wrote a book called “MY STORY” which came out recently. It was on my list to Santa this year and she came through, the book was under the Christmas tree. Reading Bobby’s book, I was particularly interested in his humble beginnings, playing “shinny” hockey on a pond and playing just for the fun of it. We both came from the same era and I can relate to many of the stories he tells in the book.
Living in Rigaud, a small town west of Montreal, near the Ontario border, there wasn’t much of anything that was organized for kids. During the winter, we played hockey for fun, skating on outdoor rinks and ponds for entertainment.
I lived on “rue Ste-Madeleine”. The boys on the street all got together to build our own skating skating rink. The Cadieux family had a large lot across the street from my house. They would leave a window unlocked which opened into their basement so that we could pull out the hose to water the rink. It was kept inside to prevent it from freezing. We built our rink from scratch with snow and water. We made the perimeter by piling up snow, making it as square as possible and watering it. It was our “chef-d’oeuvre” our pride…It was ours. We would scrape it when it snowed; water it at night so that we could have good ice the next day. If there was a thaw, we would simply rebuild it. We skated after school and week-ends as long as the two lights installed at each end of the house would allow us to see or until we were called home or told to leave. Sometimes, we would practice our shots against the house which wasn’t much appreciated by the home owners.
It seemed like a big rink at the time but when I returned as an adult, the yard wasn’t as big as I imagined it; just like the hill I used to walk up to go to school which felt a whole lot bigger and steeper than it really is. (I guess I must have walked uphill both ways, in the snow, as the saying goes)
There was one set of goalie equipment which nobody wanted to wear. So I often volunteered to be the goalie. Not that we kept score but it was nice to have goalies. “You can’t live with them but can’t live without them” is one of my favorite sayings. I was infatuated by goalies as a young boy. At a very young age, I used to get up early I the morning, throw a ball against the door and use the stair posts leading upstairs for my net. I pretended to be Jacques Plante or my favorite goalie, Terry Sawchuck. My imaginary team won the Stanley Cup many times . . . and, of course, I was the hero each time.
Those were the days when hockey was played for fun. There was no pressure, there were no expectations. Pro hockey and the NHL were like something from outer space. We idolized the players and loved to watch the game on TV on Saturday nights, but it was certainly something that was out of reach for a young boy from Rigaud. We dreamed of playing in the NHL but it was never something that was real. Believe it or not, the first “live” NHL game that I attended in person, I actually played in it…
It was only when I moved to LaSalle, a suburb of Montreal, at 12 years old, that I played organized hockey and, as fate would have it, it was as a goalie.
My NHL story begins at a bus stop in LaSalle when my friend Roger Peloquin told me he was going to a Bantam tryout that night. I had no idea what a tryout was or what Bantam meant but I wanted to be a part of it. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had not been at that bus stop on that specific cold September morning.
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
PHIL MYRE