Like many a Canadian youth, I loved hockey. And like many unfortunate Canadian youths, I wasn’t very good when it came to playing it. Weak ankles and the coordination of an aged water buffalo found me relegated to defense, where I would invariably also mess up. The gods smiled upon me, however: in a career where I hardly ever scored, I somehow managed two goals in my last game. And they even went in the right net.
My grandfather was always a gruff type who had little time for small talk or children. To say we had nothing in common seemed to be true across the board, with one exception: hockey. Grandad rarely ever missed a televised game and that was entirely possible back in the days when there were only a handful of channels and teams.
Every Saturday from 8PM to midnight, he and I were incognito because Hockey Night in Canada ruled the television. It was a genuine pleasure watching him getting involved in the action by talking back to the screen (which taught me a few new and interesting swear words, too). He would also take the time during commercials and intermission to talk about different periods in his life. Initially, these anecdotes only revolved around hockey, but he gradually revealed aspects of growing up, working, and even dating that I never would have expected to hear.
Nothing topped his love of the game, however. That said, he only attended a handful of hockey games in his life. Grandpa was content to sit in the basement enjoying his beer and sardines (which somehow went along well together) while the CBC’s various commentators told who had the puck and who had just gotten a ten minute misconduct penalty.
Grandad and me never did share the same sort of unforced openness that I have with my parents, but I’m grateful for the way that hockey opened him up to me. Thanks CBC.