In a time when everything feels intense, scary and unpredictable we have decided to bring you a hockey series called, “When hockey was simple”. This will be a series of hockey stories from men and women who share a love of the game. There will be no lessons at the end of the story, no reflections on how to be better, they are simply stories to remind you of the joy of simpler times when the game and life wasn’t immersed in a global pandemic. I hope you enjoy Jimmy’s story of the backyard rink and a chipped tooth.
As a young kid I always loved hanging out with the guys in the neighbourhood. I had two older brothers and I was one of the youngest kids on the street. Anytime they would include me felt like a win, even if it meant living out the majority of my teen years with a chipped tooth. Everyone knows that if you are the low man on the scale you are going to be the kid voluntold to play net on the backyard rink. I used to throw on the pads happily because I wanted to be there to play. One day my brother shot the puck a bit too hard and got me right in the mouth. Of course, back then we weren’t wearing proper equipment so a mouth guard was not even a thought. I don’t remember a lot about that day. I just remember the puck came flying towards me and then I was on the ground with blood everywhere and Mom was really mad. My parents didn’t have a lot of money and a “dental plan” was a luxury they couldn’t afford. Mom took me to the dentist for what I would call a “band-aid” fix until they could afford to get it fixed properly (that day never came). For many years that followed, I ended up with a miscoloured tooth and a story that got bigger and better every time I told it.
When I think back to simpler times, my mind always goes back to that chipped tooth and many others memories on our family rink. I remember watching my father watering the ice at night and in the early morning. I remember thinking how smooth it looked and that I couldn’t wait to get home from school to play. There were no coaches, no fans and no parents. On a rare occasion Dad would put his skates on and join in. We all loved it when he played because he was so good. There were no set positions except that someone had to play net, again the reason for my chipped tooth. For me, that’s when hockey was simple. It was all for the love of just getting out there to play with no pressure! I will say that I have a much shinier smile now, but there isn’t much of a story in that. I prefer the chipped tooth and the memory that went along with it.
When I think about what hockey gave me in those years, the first thing that comes to mind is friendship. A lot of the kids we played with over the years are still my friends today. I think for many of us those silly games of shinny saved us. I hate to think what we would have been doing if we didn’t have the game and the friendships to get us through. The dressing room has been my best form of therapy over the years.
I miss the game, the boys and simpler times. We’ll get there again but until then, I’ll enjoy the memories – chipped tooth and all!
- Written by Allyson Tufts