Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hockey Time (like "Hammer Time", you know?)

At this time, I wish to share with you my favourite joke:

Did you hear about the fire they had at the Calgary Golf and Country Club? Yeah, there were Flames all over the course!

Now I find that funny. I do. Just as funny as I find this:

I love my Flames. I do. I have been an avid supporter from a tender age. Much of it has to do with the fact that my Dad is a Flames fan. If you wanted to spend time with my daddy on a Saturday night, and I did, you did it in front of a hockey game. And if you wanted to talk, you did it during commercial breaks. Scratch that. If you wanted a chance of Dad hearing what you said, you did it during commercial breaks (or before he picked up his book during the intermissions). The way I remember it, Saturday evenings when I was – as Dad would put it – knee-high to a grasshopper represented that solid, predictable routine and structure the child-rearing books say kids want. Watch a little Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner Hour before the game came on. Then it was spaghetti and meat sauce in front of the television while we watched the first period of the game with Dad. (I know now that Mom found this meal to be horribly dull in light of her experienced culinary skills … but she shouldn’t. It was damn fine spaghetti and meat sauce! And come on – what more could a kid ask for, other than maybe a hot dog? … which I know, doesn’t challenge my mom’s talents either, but I think what a kid remember is if the food was good, not if it was complicated.) First intermission meant this guy:

Peter Puck, who I believe preceded Schoolhouse Rock as an entertaining but informational animation. Did I notice at the time that he was trying to teach me to play hockey? No. No I did not. But there I was, silent and watching, and Dad had to wait for a commercial if he wanted a chance at me hearing what he was saying.

The second period left my father in quiet as Mom bathed us kids. By time the second intermission came, my brother, sister and I were running around naked and dripping on the floors while Dad caught us in towels to dry us off. That is the way I remember it and if it is a false memory I do not wish to be advised.

This is where my memory falters. Did we watch the third period with Dad? Probably not. It was probably bed-time for us, or we would be at risk of dirtying the squeaky-clean bodies Mom put her elbow grease into. But to me, that was Saturday night. At least during hockey season. (I don’t think Saturday nights occurred outside hockey season when I was a child, did they?)

While most of my family were Flames fans, my sister went another way. The Oilers! Now, we’re not talking Oilers of today ladies and gentlemen. We are talking the Oilers of the 80’s. Messier, Kurri, Coffey … Grrrretzky! I will admit at this juncture that I now support the Oilers – if they are not playing the Flames – out of a sense of civic pride cultivated from the fact I’ve now lived in Edmonton longer than any other location in my life. But a fan of the Oilers does not make one an “Oilers fan”. A fan of a team will cheer if she happens to catch the game. A team’s fan will seek out the game and fly the team’s flag on her balcony. I think my balcony speaks for itself.

In the 80s, no such waffling would be tolerated. My high school would always have a “Battle of Alberta” day, which occurred during the Cup playoffs if the Oilers (often number one) met the Flames (often number four) in the first round. You came to school in Flames’ colours (a lovely yellow and red) or Oilers’ colours (hideous orange and blue). If you wished to get beat up, you came in the colours of a different team. One year we had an exchange student from Australia, who was bombarded with direction on what colours she must wear on Battle of Alberta day. Not wanting to alienate any of her friends, she showed up in a black and white striped shirt – as a Ref! (Both camps found that acceptable.)

My first year of University, I was attacked in university residence where I lived when the Oilers swept the Flames in the first round. It was every Flames fan for him/herself when the Oilers fans produced brooms at the buzzer – we Flames fans scattered from the television room like cockroaches with the lights switched on! I managed to make it to my residence room and lock the door behind me before I suffered more than a few scrapes and bruises. Other Flames fans didn’t make it to their rooms. Ah, the 80’s, when the Battle of Alberta meant battles! I did so love it!

So one weekend, when I was a teen and my sister was home from U of A, my sister invited a couple of University friends over. They showed up while a Flames-Oilers game was on. I still remember these two guys, Oilers fans, standing in the doorway to our front room, taunting Dad as he sat in his La-Z-Boy recliner. My father said “Oh, yes that’s right. My daughter told me you’re Oilers fans. We have a section ready for you.” Then he stood up, opened the drapes, and revealed two lawn chairs set into the snow looking in through our patio doors. “Take your seats, boys.” Dad said matter-of-factly as he settled back into his cozy recliner and returned his attention to the television. Those two guys stood shell-shocked in the doorway, and looked to me for advice. I told him Dad was just kidding, sit on the couch. My father looked at me sternly and said “Debra Lynn! They’ve been told where they can sit.” And back to the tv went he (with just the tiniest of smiles -- in his eyes -- that perhaps only I could see). I thought my sister’s friends were going to wet themselves! Ha! (sorry sis, but those guys turned out to be jerks anyway!)

So, when I kid, it’s because I love. I am an ardent Flames fan. I am. Taught how to be one by another one. Dad was onto something when he wanted Mom to make her spaghetti and meat sauce on game nights. It made the games easier to watch.

So, until next year, ladies and gentlemen. Always until next year.

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