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The Weather Network
Jun. 15, 2019 | Saturday
Local News
Wallbangers game features singing of Happy Birthday
After last Sunday’s Wallbangers Game, players from both team sang an unusual version of “Happy Birthday” to their buddy Dave Shantz. (Ross Robinson/Special)

Shortly after the Wallbanger Blue and Red teams had returned to their dressing rooms at Meridian Arena early last Sunday, Red Team Captain Carl Glauser and his teammates burst into Blue’s dressing room.

We wondered, “What are they whining about this week?”

Then, they broke into an off key, boisterous version of Happy Birthday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the day stalwart Blue Team d-man Dave Shantz’s arrived in this world. Partly undressed players from both teams sang lustily, while Dave grinned from ear to ear, entering his eighth decade.

It was a bit awkward, because the player who was supposed to bring the birthday cake, paper plates, plastic forks and candles had forgotten them in his trunk. And, due to the strict rules of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Parks and Recreation Department, there was no cheap bottle of champagne to pop. Despite these downers, all the players congratulated Dave, before showering. Then, the short drive to Silk’s Country Kitchen for the traditional hearty and noisy breakfast.

The on-ice highlight of the day was how several Blue Team players went the extra mile to get Shantz a goal on his birthday. During the third period, several stretch passes had failed to click, even though Dave did his best to stretch a bit extra. You couldn’t make this stuff up, but with just over a minute left in the third period, Dave was in the dirty zone in front of the Red Team net, elbows up and battling for a rebound or deflection. Finally, the puck skirted toward him, and he batted it the last 10 inches into the net. His birthday goal either tied or won the game.

It had been a close game, with never more than a goal separating the teams. Commissioner/Scorekeeper/Right Winger Bill Dickson seemed to lose track of the score a few times, so the final score might not have been the final score. Continuing a Wallbangers tradition, nobody seemed to really care about the actual score. No one had been injured, no angry words had been exchanged, and due to a total lack of stripe shirted referees, the penalty box (what a quaint tradition, eh?) had been empty all game.

Shantz’s sporting career has seen him do very well in several sports. Sailing and leading the junior sailing program in NOTL, curling, darts, tennis and now pickleball have kept him in stellar physical condition.

He plays clean but tough, obeying former Leaf Coach Red Kelly’s dictum, “Arrive at the net in ill humour, and with your elbows higher than the other players.” Dave is a perennial Top Four defenceman, and occasionally a solid Top Six forward.

This impressive accomplishment is made easier because Wallbangers teams generally only have four defencemen and six forwards.

This might be a convenient time to limn another Wallbangers hockey tradition. Many years ago, when hockey players wore sweaters, not jerseys, Dave Shantz and his buddy Wes Glauser were the team captains.

As they matured, winter vacations in the sun and on the Caribbean took them away for several weeks during the hockey season, so they asked their sons Mark and Carl to assume the leadership positions. They ensure enough players show up each Sunday at 6:30 a.m., and only rarely are we short a goalie.

Before most games, they meet at centre ice to negotiate a trade or two, in an attempt to produce close and fair games.

The final Wallbangers game of this, the 28th season, will be at 7 a.m. on Sunday, March 31. It is an absolute certainty that a lot of tickets will be available for free, so if you want to see some good, easy to follow slow motion hockey, bring a blanket and pick your seat. A new championship trophy will be presented to the winning team. If the game ends in a tie, the Captains will figure out a fair way to decide who wins. The Zamboni will be waiting to flood the ice for Frank McIntyre’s game, so a quick decision will have to be made.

The on-ice celebration will have to be brief, with the trophy being skated around the rink, held aloft by each winning player. Come to think of it, every player will be a winner, after trying their best every game.

Breakfast at Silk’s Country Kitchen tastes better on Championship Game Sunday, and highlights and lowlights of the past Wallbangers games will be exaggerated.

The older we get, the faster we were…

We are so fortunate to live in Canada. In 2019.