Posts Tagged ‘ice hockey stories’

The Spryzsaks… The Unique Hockey Family

September 30, 2015

You might expect to hear a story about a family of hockey players that made it to the show and for that reason they are worthy of mention.  One of them could have made it but for several different reasons it did not happen.  I mention them because among hockey families, they were truly unique.

Ice hockey, for the most part is one of the last bastions of whiteness in North America.  It requires money and dedication by parents to get kids to the rink, pay for clinics, teams and equipment.  The sport becomes your hobby even if you don’t play.  When you’re hauling children around to games and practices, there is very little else left for you to do except work or sleep.

I met John, the father when my son decided to take up the sport at the age of five.  John was one of the Sunday morning, beginner instructors that helped with the little mites.  When my son became proficient enough, he was put on a team.  In his first game, my son played against John’s son Tim.  John’s son looked like a chubby Asian child of Japanese or Korean lineage.  The boy looked nothing like his dad but every bit his mother’s son.  Tim was their youngest son’s name and if ever there was a kid perfect for the sport of ice hockey, it was this child.  He had legs like a running back and trying to catch him with the puck was like trying to catch a rabbit in your backyard.  Tim could stickhandle at the age of six, hit perfect passes on the tape and shoot a wrist shot.  Tim got bored with scoring and would just set up other players as a mite.  While other kids tottered around like old people at a senior’s dance, Tim breezed around the ice with ease.

John approached me years later and asked if I would like to coach with him.  John was notorious in that he said whatever came to mind.  If he thought you were an asshole, he wouldn’t hold back.  A woman once walked into the local pro shop and rubbed her elbow against John’s shoulder as he philosophized and loitered.  The woman knew John and coyly set herself up for a put down when she stated that “I have a question for you”.  John moved his body away from her, looked her in the face and said, “I have the answer…  If our species relied on the two of us getting together, we’d become extinct.”  The woman walked out embarrassed and miffed.  John went right on talking.

John Jr.  or just Junior, was a year older than Tim.  Everything that Junior was able to do, came through hard work.  Junior was an intelligent smart ass that wore his straight black hair down to the middle of his back.  He looked like Indian princess and was called such in a game in Toronto.  Right of the face off of the 1st period of a game, Junior crossed checked across the cage and sat for five minutes because he was teased about his long hair.  He later went to the locker room of a team from London, Ontario and invited each and every one of them to come out and fight him.  Junior told the border guard at Windsor that he was being kidnapped by the white man driving as a joke and nearly landed John in jail.  Junior dipped people’s water bottles in the commode when they were dicks.  As a midget of seventeen years of age, he came to the rink to watch me coach a bunch of mites early on a Sunday morning.  When I asked why he was there, he told me he had been up all night and decided to watch the little ones play.  It was heart warming to see this jaded young man who hated the world, show up to watch a random mite game and tell the little ones that they did well.  John grew to be my friend and some times I think I was his only friend.  His sons felt like my sons and we all had a connection through the love of the game.

A youth hockey organization was giving consideration to letting John be the head coach of their midget team but asked me if I would be his assistant and help rein him in when necessary.  I said I would.  The hockey director of the organization was the son of a general manager of an NHL franchise which had floundered for years.  Before I had a chance to tell John that I had talked the club into giving him a chance to coach, I saw him standing over two men on the board of directors that he had great disdain for.  As John walked up the bleachers to watch an informal pre-season scrimmage that Tim and Junior were a part of as well as my own son, John stared down the two men on the board that he disliked and then posed a rhetorical question- What the fuck are you looking at?  I tried to pull John away but he wasn’t budging.  He wanted to get his point across and so he did.

“Boards are for people like you two fucking pansies to provide a place for your kids to play.  Take a good look on the ice…  Who do you think the two fucking worst skaters are out there?  I’ll clue you both in….  Your son and your fucking son too.  Now who are the best?  That would be my sons and his son.  Now you went out and spent a butt load of money to have the son of the worst general manager in the history of the NHL to do for you what his dad has been doing for years which has been dick.  Speaking of dick, I’d like to take you two fairies out in the parking lot and smack you around until you cry but you being lawyers and all, I think I might wind up in jail, right?  I mean you wouldn’t want to be a man about this all and tell me to shut the fuck up and invite me to go out to the parking lot to settle this like men, right?  No that would take a nut sack which neither of you has  between you…  You don’t want me to coach here?  Fuck you and fuck you and fuck the son of Sam out there who will gladly take your dough.”

I waited until John calmed down a moment and then broke the news to him.  “You were the head coach of the midget team for a full twenty minutes before you verbally accosted the two men who agreed to give you the job.”

John for the first time ever that I can remember, did not say a word.  I went on to tell him how I sold the board on how well you would work with older kids.  John thanked me and walked out.  If you ever met John, Junior or Tim, you would agree that the three of them love the sport, play the sport and really understand the sport and keep hockey from being too predictable.  If you ever have an hour of your life to donate, we can have a beer with them.  You would not be disappointed.


Goalies… Say No More

September 9, 2015

I don’t know much about soccer or water polo but I do know more than the average Joseph when it comes to ice hockey. With that said, I’m not sure how strange goalies are in other sports that require goalies but in ice hockey they are all a bit different.

Some of it is just unique quirkiness and others are just plain strange individuals. Strange like body parts in the subzero freezer in their mom’s basement.

I almost always play defense and so I never take the beating some guys relish when they’re camped out in front of the net. Bruised kidneys, pissing blood and slashes all over the back side of their bodies. That sort of thing was never for me. One day, I was forced to play center and camped out in front of the net. The goalie from the opposing team took his stick and speared me between two ribs. The pain took my breath away. I promised the goalie I would get him back before the game was over. It took thought and creativity to hurt a goalie that is dressed like a bomb diffuser. The thought came to me- wait until the play goes towards our end and the referees are following the play out of the zone. I lagged back behind the net and waited until the goalie was far enough out away from the crease for me to swing my stick like a baseball bat against his exposed calves. I hit the goalie so hard that I nearly broke my stick. The goalie looked like he was levitating in the air. He landed flat on his back. I skated to center ice and stood by the referee. The goalie charged across the ice to attack me. I asked the referee if there was a delayed penalty called and maybe that was the reason why the goalie was skating over to center ice. The referee was perplexed. I bent down as if trying to catch my breath and held the blade of my stick like a bayonet to stop the charging goalie. The goalie was thrown out of the game. The other team lost. They were mad at me and the referees. I told them all that they should have been angry at their goalie.

Doc is a goalie of about fifty years of age that is a psychiatrist that deals with mental patients at a prison. He dresses across from another goalie who by the name of Tom who is a homicide detective. Tom feigns vomiting before every game. I think he gags until he drools and then thinks of something sick like eating out a morbidly obese woman who crapped in his mouth while tongue bathing the plump beauty who smelled of seafood gone bad and skunk. I know that would make me want to hurl and so with Tom’s mind, he made himself gag and drool over a garbage can a la Glenn Hall circa 1960. Tom and Doc would exchange stories of strange of dismembered bodies, severe beatings, incest, rapes, stabbings, and shootings and so on without so much as a wince.

“So I’m taking the elevator up to an apartment and some schmoe is got a huge brown plastic bag on a dolly. He’s picking his nose and staring at the digital display. It smelled like spoiled milk in the elevator and I see blood dripping from this huge bag. I ask the guy what was in the bag and he casually tells me that it was his old lady. She died after he became displeased with her choice of words and tone of voice. This stroke was just going to take her to the dumpster and then cook up a little pasta. I told him that we would need to take a little peek in the bag. Sure enough, her skull was crushed like a rotten pumpkin. Eyes coming out of the sockets, brains dripping out. The smell of her decomposing was displeasing him so he thought he might drag her out to the dumpster.”

Now Jerry had a receding hairline and made his own jewelry that he sold at Metal concerts when he wasn’t playing goalie. He gave himself the name “Punisher”. He played guitar in a band that was polished but never played out. He wore a New Jersey Devils jersey with the name Satan on the back with the numbers 666. He made a spider web like device out of rope between his legs and under his arms so on a breakaway, he would drop his stick, raise his arms and spread his legs and challenge the shooter to find a gap. Refs said it was illegal but none of them could find anything about it in the rules so they let him wear his stupid creation. Jerry had a smoking hot black girlfriend who supported him so that he could concentrate on his hockey career. His band mate was also a goalie with died black hair, a guitarist too that was covered in tattoos. He would say something and then start speaking Greek. He took a lot of drugs and drank a lot of heavy booze, claimed he was a black belt in some sort of martial arts and had a Greek folk band with his wife who supported him and got them gigs. She played the accordion and he played an instrument that was a Greek guitar called a Bizooki. I’m sure it’s spelled differently in Cyrillic.   They made a bondage video to one of their Metal tunes where by a fit hockey player among us, was beat with a crop by a hot bodied woman wearing an old time goalie mask like Jason. The fit man spun on a wheel in a circle wearing nothing but a jock and his hockey gloves. The video and song was supposedly big in Japan. The name of their band? Hexx-tal. Only a goalie would come up with that name.

The most amusing goalie I ever played with was also the most talented goalie I ever played with. He was a six foot five inch black man with a clef lip who made a living as a cab driver. When he would pick people up from the airport, he would turn away anyone that needed to use his trunk. The trunk housed his goalie gear that never aired out. It was water logged and smelled like cat urine in a humid greenhouse. Among bad smells, his shit was the most pungent of us all. Jim slept in his cab with his dog that stayed in the front seat at all times with him. Jim played on several teams and had a game every night. In exchange for playing, Jim would ask a team to buy him something he needed such as a half dozen goalie sticks, a new paint job for his helmet or a new catcher. Jim was in high demand. He was arrested at a game after fighting with an opposing team’s goalie and removing every article of gear on the way to the locker room down to his skates. At the door of the locker room, he let his cock and balls do the windmill for the wives and girlfriends that came to watch their men play a recreational game of ice hockey. That landed him in jail for the night.

I once played a men’s league game with this goalie. We had a summer league final game where only five skaters showed up and Jim. Jim wasn’t worried. He kept telling the guys to pass back to him so he could make a few moves and break it out to someone going back door. We won the game 6-4. Jim had an assist on every goal except one. The final goal was an empty net goal. I grabbed the puck in the neutral zone as six attackers chased me around. I fired a hard pass to Jim who was at the top of the left circle in our zone and he lofted a wrist shot over the heads of everyone and we watched it perfectly drop in front of the crease for an empty net goal by the goalie. I got the assist.

My Night with Toula

November 9, 2010
Men and women play organized recreational ice hockey for different reasons, primarily because they love the game.  Secondly,  I believe it is like joining fraternal orders in the past.  The Moose, Masons, Elks and so on.  Men love women but occasionally need to fraternize with other men.  I suspect it is similar for women too. 
  For me, I would much rather play pick up/shinny/rat hockey than play on a team.  More often than not, a team will have over ten guys and at thirteen to fifteen guys, it is more sitting than playing.  The hurry-up-I- wanna-get-home attitude of many referees who refuse to blow icing or let just about anything short of decapitation take place so that they don’t have to blow their whistle, puts me more on edge than I need be.  Be all that as it may, invitations come up periodically to fill in for absent paid players and I usually answer the call.
            A team of police officers needed a fill in one night and so I opted to grab my gear and head over to the local rink after all the youth teams had skated, some time before midnight on a week night.  I can’t tell you if we won or lost.  Most games are pretty unremarkable for the most part unless one scores a hat trick, gets hurt or has a good fight.  None of the above occurred for me. 
            The cops held court at a particular bar after games and so I accompanied them for the proverbial “one”.  I surmised that men primarily join teams more for the fraternity than for calorie burning.  Buckets of beer flowed for over an hour.  The average was about a six pack per player.  At 150 calories per bottle, that is about 900 calories of liquid and that does not include the nachos with cheese, chili and sour cream.  I had a good time listening to tales of drunk driving, stopping strippers from a local strip club, wife beaters, bank robbers, speeders, thieves and so on.  These men day in and day out see the worst of the worst among us.  I mixed glasses of Merlot with Sangria so that each was not too bitter or too sweet.  After about an hour, one of each drink arrived at the table compliments of a smiling woman with a pool cue in her hand.  She smiled at me and lifted her eyebrows.  The cops all kidded me and I rolled with it.  Had the woman been beautiful, there would have been no kidding but I was being pursued by a woman twice my size.  I politely raised both glasses to her from across the room as a gesture of gratitude.  After almost two hours of the lively art of conversation, I decided it was time to leave before I couldn’t leave as I was nearly drunk at that point.  I may have been already drunk come to think of it.
            As I walked towards my car, a black Trans-Am circa 1984, rumbled towards me.  The tinted window dropped and inside was my plus sized suitor.  She asked if I wanted to go for a ride.  I giggled at the invitation.  More often than not, it is a man who sends a drink across a bar to a female that has caught his eye and times the departure of the female so that he can offer a ride or a phone number.  It was a week day and I was due at work in less than six hours but decided that going for a ride was going to be worth it.  There was a better than even chance that I was going to be calling in sick.
            We drove to another bar in a blue collar area of the city to have another drink or maybe two or three.  We played pool against a couple of men who were dead serious about their pool playing.  My date single handedly destroyed them without any help from me.  At stake was a round of drinks and we won.  On top of the several drinks that I had downed with the cops and several more at the second bar, I had downed well over two thousand calories of liquid and found that when I turned my head, my vision had a two second delay.  What I learned and retained about the woman prior to incoherence was that her name was Toula and that she was Greek, never married and in her thirties.  She played competitive pool regularly and had a nephew of high school age that played ice hockey.  What Toula learned about me was that I played ice hockey, coached ice hockey, owned a few ice hockey pro shops and played music
            Upon reaching my car, I had to divulge to Toula that I was unable to drive home.  Being a good Greek girl who was not married, Toula lived at home with her parents so going to her house was out of the question.  I told Toula that we should just go to my apartment.  Toula scanned my apartment to try and gather what I was about by studying my belongings.  She saw the poster of Marlon Brando from the 1950’s on a motorcycle, books about philosophy, every book written by Kurt Vonnegut and anthologies by H.L. Mencken, my couch, television and full sized acoustic bass in the dining room all by itself on a stand.  There stood my giant violin alone.  I do recall Toula asking me to play it.  I not only played it, I sang.  I did this for probably a few minutes and then I don’t remember anything else.
            I woke up some hours later and the sun felt as if it had been up for a good part of the day.  I had a good headache going and was dehydrated.  I didn’t move at first because it hurt my eyes to blink.  I used my peripheral vision to see if I had in fact brought back home the woman who had purchased me a drink.  She was lying on her side, facing me with the palm of her hand supporting her head.
            “Good morning, sleepy head…”
            I had no choice but to acknowledge her presence.  I was missing my shirt and could feel cool sheets against my legs but wasn’t sure if I was wearing anything at all.  I reached down by hand to confirm that I had at least underwear on and I did.  I must have had a confused look on my face about a few things from the night before and so Toula filled in the blanks.
            “Um let’s see…  You played the bass for me after you took off your shirt and pants.  I told you that you looked like Mogli from the Jungle Book and you sang, “I wanna be like you” until I helped you into bed,” said Toula.
            I could have excused myself and went to the washroom to examine myself for any hints of sexual activity upon my person during the two minute long morning urination but instead I posed a question with my eyes.   Did we consummate the evening?  How did it all work?  Was I any good?  Are you on birth control?
            “You wanna know if we did something now, don’t you?  Well it wouldn’t be fair to tell you at this point…  Why don’t you put on some clothes and we can get breakfast.”
            We talked about many different things and I realized that she was really a nice person who was funny and quite easy to talk to.  I suspected her size was an impediment to finding any sort of quality male and to me that was sad.  Toula was funny and intelligent and had her act together.  The only thing she lacked was a physique that would draw men to her.  We ate breakfast and I was returned to the place I had parked my car the night before.  I hugged Toula and told her I had a great night.  She didn’t ask for my number or to see me again.  She roared off in her Pontiac and I never saw her again… Until.
            After coaching a game one night, I left the locker room after the game and walked through the lobby where the parents were waiting for their boys to shower and go home.  I rarely stopped to talk to the parents because accessibility breeds unnecessary problems.  I really don’t care to hear what parents think and if you listen to one, others soon chime in. 
            One of the mothers of one of my players who was really quite attractive, stopped me to introduce me to her sister.  I was surprised and stunned to the point of not being able to speak.
            “My sister Toula wanted to meet you…”
            I shook Toula’s hand.  She winked and told me that it was very nice to have met me.  All I could say was it was very nice to have met her too.

One game on  last night and it was a beauty in Detroit.  An overtime win for Detroit over Phoenix that could have gone either way like last year’s playoffs.  Lidstrom has nine straight games of at least a point.  That sort of effort is what Detroit will need if they want to reclaim the cup.  That and Howard will have to come up big at key times.  Six goals against will not cut it.