Growing up years with hockey greats

The earth moves on its axis just like it should, and Christmas begins peeking out of shop windows and flaunting itself on people’s lawns

The earth moves on its axis just like it should, and Christmas begins peeking out of shop windows and flaunting itself on people’s lawns and in their living rooms, and, weirdly, I feel all sad.

The sad feeling began, like a little ache in my tummy, spreading quickly to my brain like some sort of unchecked virus.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It has nothing to do with Christmas.

I love Christmas, always have, always will. I do! I truly believe the editorial, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Seriously, I think each and every Christmas brings with it special moments, unique as snowflakes, that are too wonderful and too awesome to ever be forgotten.

No, the sadness was because of CBC radio, which I listen to faithfully, mostly because it has excellent news coverage and also because it seems to be the only radio station I can get without lots of annoying static.

Anyway, the other day CBC carried the sad news of the death of Jean Beliveau, the great Montreal Canadiens hockey player.

When I heard the news, for some reason, unbidden tears flooded my eyes, which I rubbed furiously away, being I was driving and all.

Of course, I didn’t know Jean personally, for one thing he was much older than me, plus he played for Montreal and my brothers and I, we always loved Toronto.

But, for me, Beliveau was part of the innocence and simplicity of a childhood that will exist forever in the blackboard of my mind, no matter how the years keep trying to erase the memories away.

Beliveau was the “he shoots, he scores,” announcer voice of my brother, perched at the other end of a hockey game where the tin red men of Montreal Canadiens faced off against the tin blue men of Toronto Maple Leafs.

My brother and I played and played on that hockey game, until the game was called because of church, but afterwards we usually picked up the game again, going into double overtime when the blue guys inevitably scored the winning goal.

My brother was a skinny kid, with a shock of dark hair, a kid whose smile always reached his eyes, especially when he had a hockey stick in his hand. My brother, and his hockey friends, some real, some imaginary, would play hockey all winter and then shoot imaginary pucks into the coal shed all summer.

During those long ago winters etched in black and white simplicity across the landscape of my childhood, I remember the original six and the Condor Comets being of equal importance.

Two of my brothers, wearing worn scarlet jerseys and Eaton catalogue shin pads secured with sealer rings played for the Condor Comets. In my mind, they were the best players in my entire world, which, for the most part, consisted of a main street, a church, a school and a hockey rink.

I did not compare them to anyone from the Original Six, like Beliveau because I think in my child’s mind, the NHL players were actually made of tin.

Being a kid without a mom around to soften the edges of my world wasn’t really so bad and I remember the days of my childhood with something akin to a warm kind of longing.

And, sometimes, when I sit in my living room, my fingers curled around a cup of coffee, with the lights down low, I swear I can see them all again.

My brothers, my dad and that old hockey game and once again, with the sounds of silence ringing in my ears, I hear my brother’s voice, loud and clear.

“He shoots, he scores!

And I smile and move on!