Hockey in Sillery a Few Years Ago

Hockey in Sillery a Few Years Ago

Submitted by Peter Stuart


I was laying on the couch this rainy Saturday afternoon, contemplating divine mysteries, seeking inspiration for something to write about, when I got to thinking about NHL hockey and how much it has changed since I was a young lad. 

I think this is all the more important to talk about publically since our fair city is on the verge of a major fit of hockey madness, if we are to believe the recent happenings concerning the planned construction of the new arena at the Expo Cité fairgrounds in the coming years. 

It will put hockey back front and centre in the public spotlight media-wise and will raise the visibility of our national sport at least 100% with all of the media hype on the radio, TV and internet, covering every aspect of every game, and every word, prognostication, accomplishment and misstep of every player, coach, manager, and even pundit who sees fit to participate in the Great Hockey Jamboree. 

This makes me think back to when I was 8 years old in 1972 and we’d just built our brand new arena in Sillery a couple of years earlier. It had a curved roof like a barn, and was even made of wood, just like a barn, and all the kids from the surrounding towns laughed at us and called our arena ‘La Grange’, quite literally, ‘The Barn’. We even had a flaming red farm tractor with an ice box attached to the back in place of a real Zamboni ice maker, because we obviously couldn’t afford a real Zamboni, which only added to our rustic appearance. The back part of the curved glass on either side of the nets was not even Plexiglas, but a kind of chicken wire, and our clock, which counted time and score, was sponsored by Kentucky Fried Chicken! All very rustic indeed for what was considered to be one of the most prosperous and affluent suburbs of Quebec City then and now. The parking lot wasn’t even paved in the first years and parents who brought their kids to the rink in the fall and spring had to contend with sizable potholes in the earthen/gravel yard, which doubled as a softball field in the summer. 

As I recall, the fees for signing up for minor hockey in Sillery in the 1970s were something like 10$, and my Dad bought all of us the least expensive equipment he could find, since he had three boys to put through minor hockey. So we got ‘Pro-Scor’ hockey sticks, and maybe if we were lucky, an occasional ‘Cooper’ or ‘Sher-Wood’ one, but never any of the fancier ‘Titan’, or ‘Canadien’ sticks with all the fancy emerging laminate, graphite and plastic technologies which were coming on stream at the time. Same goes for skates and other equipment. We got good quality helmets, but we got the clunky-looking Cooper SK300 ones that looked like mutant army helmets with holes in them. The only pro hockey player that ever wore one was called Craig Ramsay, and he played for Buffalo, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life identifying with that guy. I didn’t care how many goals he scored, he wore a helmet like mine! 

So basically, what I’m getting at is that minor hockey and NHL hockey, was still a pretty low-key affair back in the 1970s and early 80s. I remember Ken Dryden, the famous goalie for the Montréal Canadiens signing a 3 year contract for 150 000$! That was 150 000$ for 3 years! Not EACH year! We then fast forward to 2012 and the transformation which has taken place, and there is definitely cause for concern. My nephews now get to idolize Sydney Crosby, that is when he’s not out with a concussion. Crosby earns millions of dollars per season. Maybe he deserves it. But does Scott Gomez deserve 7 million a year to score 1 lousy goal? 

My same nephews grew up having their father, my brother, pay hundreds of dollars for their hockey equipment. Maybe my nephews helped out with money from their paper routes, I don’t know. But the fact remains was that the cost for registering these two nephews for hockey was much higher than when I was a young lad, and the same now goes for the professional game. 

Why should I, or any other working person for that matter, who earns a modest salary, be made to pay anywhere between 60$-100$ and more, even as high as 1000$ on the black market for hockey tickets to see guys skate around and take cheap shots at each other’s heads, and have a designated goon on each team tasked to take out the best player in the league by any means possible, legal, or otherwise? (See above reference to Mr. Crosby). 

No, the game has become thoroughly corrupted by money, power, property and prestige. There’s just too much money floating around the league to be able to keep the players, managers, coaches and owners on a level moral playing field. Who REALLY needs 7 million dollars per year to live on? Why should anybody, especially in this rough economy, be expected to pay such exorbitant ticket prices to see overpaid jocks skate around and chase a little piece of rubber? I used to enjoy hockey, both playing it and watching it, when I knew that both myself and those I was watching were in it for the pleasure of the game and not in it for some ego trip or to make themselves look good or to drive around town in a flashy car or have a big house. 

I don’t see much humility and godliness in NHL hockey, but instead, a lot of pride, greed, self-seeking and self-centredness. Not what hockey, and not what CANADA was ever all about. Let’s hope that when we finally get our new building done, it will house a team who prize honour and virtue above the external advantages of money and power. I can only think back to an old rustic ‘barn’ of a place, made with timbers, its inner sanctum partially surrounded with chicken wire, a flaming red agricultural implement humming around inside, and the face of a long-dead Colonel ‘hawking’ his affordable fried poultry up on the wall, to make me hearken back to a time when a ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ was not only all about Hockey, it was also all about Canada, and it was, especially, ‘in Canada’. 

Mr. Bettman, lend me your ears!

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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