When Hockey Was Simple: Pat's Story

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was August 16, 1977, a perfect day for road hockey with my neighbourhood buds.  Back then, every day was a perfect day for road hockey.  It was really hot out so we all decided to go in for a water break.  We called “time”, made sure we were all agreed on the score and decided to meet back outside in 10 minutes.  When I walked inside, the tv was on and I heard, “Elvis Presley has died”. I loved Elvis, I loved his music and was pretty sure I could imitate his dance moves pretty well.  I stood in shock for a minute, feeling so bummed out that one of my favourite singers had died.  I don’t remember crying but I remember that some of my neighbours’ parents were crying. It was all anyone seemed to be talking about.  I remember feeling like I didn’t know what to do. I stood there letting the news sink in for what felt like hours. Not long after, without being aware of how I got there, I was back on the road playing hockey.  All of us talked about our parents crying, we talked about Elvis’s music and we talked a lot about him dying on the toilet – that was a hot topic.  All the while our road hockey game kept going.  Quite simply, we played through it.

Years later I lost my friend and teammate to a heart condition.  Once again, I walked around in circles not knowing how to process what had just happened. Obviously, this was a much greater loss for me so I felt I needed to do something significant to help with my grief.  So, once again, I played through it. Our teammates planned a tournament in my friend’s honour. We got patches made to put on our jerseys and stickers for our helmets. It’s sad to say I now have more patches on jerseys than I ever thought I would, but sadly, that’s life. 

A few years after my Dad passed away, my brother’s family decided to do a fundraiser in his honour.  We held a road hockey tournament and had people put teams in to raise money for a local charity. I remember looking around at everyone laughing while they were playing the game they loved and trying to grieve in the best way they knew how. It then occurred to me, they too were playing through it.

Some of the most important conversations I’ve had with friends and teammates have been in the dressing room. People who were in the middle of a messy divorce, guys that lost their jobs, or worse, were losing their battle with an illness. We would talk while putting our equipment on. The harder the conversation, the longer it took to get dressed. We didn’t have to look each other in the eye, we didn’t have to keep talking if we didn’t want to – it was a safe place to try and feel better. Then when everything was said that needed to be said, we’d lace up our skates, hop on the ice and we’d play through it.  So, if you ask me “When Hockey was Simple”, I would say that hockey was and will always be what got me through. A simple conversation, in a stinky dressing room, teammates at your side and the call of the ice ahead of you is, in my opinion, the best therapy there is.


Written by Allyson Tufts