As a man who was raised in the country in an old farmhouse with tons of siblings, playing organized sports just wasn’t a possibility. We lived in a tiny farming town and our house was next to the railroad. They called it “Wilkinson Station”. I went to school until grade 8 and from there I worked on the trains. We didn’t have a lot of extras, we had one car for the whole family and lived in a home with no running water. Every night my Mom would make us walk out to the lake behind our house to swim and get cleaned up before bed. In the warmer months that lake was our bathtub. In the winter the lake was our hockey rink. I have so many amazing memories of my brothers and I skating on that pond in the middle of nowhere.
When I grew up and got married, I moved away from home and into town. I always knew that when I had kids I wanted the same bonds and memories for them. I have to admit that I was very old fashioned and felt that hockey was a boy’s sport. When my first three children were beautiful bouncing baby girls, I started to give up my dream of pond hockey with my boys. Finally, child number four was a bouncing baby boy. Don’t get me wrong I adored my girls! My boys would be the first to tell you that I was much harder on the them than I was my little beauties.
As my son got older one of the first things I taught him was to skate, after I taught him to walk and talk of course. There was an old rink in a field behind our house called Mumby’s pond. When he was old enough I’d come home from work, load him and the skates in the car and we’d head to the pond. There were always kids to skate with and I happily acted like one of them. I loved playing with my son, it made me feel young again and it took me back to my brothers and I skating at Wilkinson Station.
A few years later I had two more boys, three more girls and a neighbourhood full of kids. Throwing that many kids in the car to drive to Mumby’s pond just wasn’t going to work anymore. I realized it was time to build my own rink. I can say that next to marrying my wife and having kids, taking the time to build that rink for the neighbourhood was one of the most rewarding things I ever did. When my kids finally went to bed, I used to get the hose out and water the rink. It was the most peaceful place for me because it was where I did all my thinking. One step on the ice took me back to my childhood, staying on the pond too late with my brothers and hearing my Mom call us in for supper.
“When Hockey was Simple” for me, was the moments I was on the ice that I didn’t have to pay to use. It was the moments with my brothers in the dark when the pond was only lit by the stars and the flame of the oil lamp coming from that old farm house. It was the moments when I was skating with my own boys, with a view of my wife from the window that had the same glow as that old house at Wilkinson Station. I can’t think of one specific moment, it was more about a feeling. A feeling of doing something that you love for free with people that you love more than you can describe. I don’t think it gets much simpler than that.
- Written by Allyson Tufts