This picture must be from the 1973-74 season in Beacon Hill, Ottawa’s East End. (either that or one year before or after). Tom Cruise (original name Maythorpe or something close to it – come on, give me a break! It’s been a long time!).
My father had put together a box for each of the four children in my family while he was dying. Each box contained what he considered to be great memories for him or us. In the box for me was this picture, the team I was playing for when I became a good checker, taking the best player in the league out for the season with a hip check.
It was while playing for this team that my father told me that he was extremely proud of me, for the one and only time in my life (even 3 college diplomas didn’t garner an “I’m proud of you, son” from him; no. it took an act of violence to achieve that lofty goal (my dad was an RCAF Hercules pilot)
Of course, at the time nobody knew that Tom was going to grow up to be a famous movie star, most likely earning a few hundred times what the combined wealth of all of the other players on the team amounts to in a single year!
It was on this team that I was the designated hitter (my first year on defense) and took out the league leader in points on the opposing team (he scored an average of over 5 goals per game prior to our match up). He was a big, fat (yes, i did just say “fat”) and slow skater – everyone was afraid of him for some reason, yet he couldn’t even lay a decent check! He was coming down the ice with the puck, i lined him up and gave him a perfect “Bobby Orr” type hip check. He did a complete flip in the air, came down hard on the ice and lost his wind, and didn’t play in our league again that season (his father was his team’s coach).
Tom was generally on my line, his father was one of the coaches (thus the yellow jersey – known as a “no hit” color for practices), and he joined in the melee that ensued after the fat kid was taken off of the ice on a stretcher.
I remember all of this clearly not because Tom Cruise was on my line, but because of the situation that followed. My coach (Tom’s father) wanted me to stay off of the ice for the rest of the game (the hit happened in the 2nd period, with us down by 3 – we ended up winning the game by 5 – without the fat kid, who played over 2/3rds of the game, their team was pretty much useless, and they went from 1st overall to not even making the playoffs. Our team went from last to 2nd overall after that game, and we made it to the semi-finals.
My father came down to the bench to see why I wasn’t going back on the ice with my line-mates. After the coach told him that he didn’t want to put me back out there to protect me from probable retaliation, my dad got rather mad (as an RCAF pilot, he had a certain, well, commanding nature about him at the time that most men deferred to) and insisted that I be played, that I had made a perfectly legal and picture-perfect hip check and shouldn’t be penalized by my own team. After a few minutes of not-so-nice banter, my dad won out and I rejoined the team – there were no fights, no retaliation of any kind – the opposing team pretty much left me alone, avoiding me instead of attacking me.
But, it is nice to know that back then, that small boy with the near-perfect hair (oh, just look at the picture!) who would grow up (well, a couple of inches, anyways) to be the face of the “Mission Impossible” franchise, a TV show that I was watching during those years, had my back.
(this is a true story)