I was never a good hockey player, but I loved hockey. I was lucky enough to get to play a couple years of organized hockey. Although some of the kids and their older siblings were mean to me, because I was no good, I have some fun memories. But it is funny how your memories are. Sometimes we remember the bad times easier than the good times. My parents never went to my games. Just the way it was. My Dad was a good hockey player in his young days; also a jigger and a guitar player. I think really that I was a disappointment for my Dad in my athletic ability. Although he never overtly said anything about it, so I may be wrong. He never made me feel bad about hockey. In any case I remember one time that my shoes were stolen at the rink. It made me feel bad, and to make matters worse the coach's older son, told me I wasn't suppose to play because I was no good. His family were good hockey players.
As a young guy (in the late 1970's) I did help with hockey and other sports (like baseball) in the Reserve. I drove kids to the games for my cousin who was coach. I also helped coach kids in hockey. It was there that I really saw how the kids like hockey in the Reserve. It makes me think about my boys and how hockey was a great time for them and especially for me. Minor hockey is a good thing (and other sports) for kids. It is fun.
I have some good memories of watching Hockey Night in Canada with my Dad and my brothers. One of my brothers was a real Montreal fan while we were Toronto fans. We were pretty lucky kids because our parents got us one of those hockey games that you play on a table. Where you pull levers to control little hockey men on a table game. It was really fun and we got to play lots and have little tournaments with our cousins coming over to play. We played hockey down the bank at our place on the river ice. In the summer time we played ball hockey at different yards. We would go over to "Morrisseau-ville" (a family who lived down the river from us) to play hockey with those guys. And a bit away was "Down the river", to play hockey with our cousins. Up the road to play with the Spences. Lot of kids did that on both the north side of the river and the south side of the river. The Winnipeg River separates our Reserve into two parts (north and south).
The not so fun thing about hockey is playing in other towns. The rival towns of hockey. Normally it is the way things are, but with Indians there is always the race issue. Some parent, or coach of the other team will make it known that we are Indians. Usually it would be racist taunts or just out right cruelty.
I was watching my nephew, Junior Daniels play hockey last week. Junior is a pretty good hockey player. He plays high school hockey now. In their play-offs they have to go out of the city to play in an outskirts town of Lorette. Mostly french background town. Anyway when Junior was touching the puck, parents (yes parents) would start making the woo-woo-woo-woo sound. You know, the old Hollywood Indian image. The White parents of Juniors went up to his Dad and said do you hear that? My cousin stands off to the far end of the rink normally and doesn't interact with opposing fans. He was not surprised at the taunts. His son has played with and against other kids of colour. The kids of colour get it from the fans and other players. There is this one kid on an opposing team, who's name is Mustafa. The coach at the time (last year) told the kids on his team to get that "terrorist". Man, what a coach.
Yesterday I was visiting my cousin in the Reserve and he coaches the pee-wee hockey team. They are in the play-offs. They played in this little town. At the end of the game, which was won by the home town that they played, they shook hands. At the hand shaking the coach of the town team said to my cousin, "you're a bunch of savages". My Cousin said he got mad but held it in, and said to him, "what did you say?". The coach repeated it again, "you're a bunch of savages". I laughed because this what the kids went through when I was helping coach and coaching over 30 years ago. I got scared at some of the games, because it seemed like the parents and coaches were going to go wild on us. I thought it was worse then, but nope the trend continues.The kids would it get it real bad. Even if they were in the penalty box the time keepers would say all sorts of rude and racist things to them. The poor goalie would be a target every time. One time the goalie skated to the bench to tell me he was not a savage. Then he went back to the goal.
It is too bad a good thing for kids is spoiled by ignorance, intolerance and just plain hate. Oh well, that is the way of life.