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The Weather Network
Jun. 15, 2019 | Saturday
Local News
Wallbangers players shocked to see spectators in stands
Even the mice were surprised when two enthusiastic spectators showed up at Meridian Arena in Virgil at 7 a.m. last Sunday to watch the Wallbangers game. (Supplied)

After a leisurely and somewhat phlegmatic warmup prior to their weekly Wallbangers match, the word passed along the benches that there were rabid, cheering fans in the second row across the Meridian Arena.

This caused a bit of excitement, because the 400 or so seats had been completely empty since just before Christmas. That not very memorable morning, the girlfriend of one of the Red Team defencemen had been driving home from her overnight nursing shift at the Greater Niagara General Hospital and decided to verify the whereabouts of her beau. Suspicious type, eh? She was reassured, he was a bit upset, and their fairly loving relationship has lasted through Valentine’s Day and now St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll see where this goes.

Oh yes, back to last Sunday’s game. Forgive me, my thoughts tend to wander.

Only seventeen players had shown up. By 6:40 a.m., it was clear there had been a communications breakdown, and one goaltender was M.I.A. This happens about once per year, and the quality of the game is diminished, as one team has to shoot and hit a goalpost or the crossbar to count a goal. This is much more difficult than it sounds, because the skaters are moving at a fast speed while shooting the little round black puck. Remember now, “fast speed” is a relative term.

However, a telephone call was made to Freddie Andres, who lives only a five minute drive away. Happily, he had only been between the posts 11 times so far that week, so he did his best imitation of a firefighter, pulled some cloths on, grabbed his bag, drove to the rink and walked in smiling at five to seven. “Hi guys, thanks for calling.” This is an extraordinary man, who simply loves to play hockey.

The game raged on, four aside, and it was quickly apparent the three younger players on Red Team were skating circles around the relative oldsters on Blue Team. Even when the score got to 7 – 1, Blue Team’s decision makers were too delusionary and filled with false pride to admit that a trade might even up the teams.

At that point, yer humble scribe made a unilateral decision. I skated over to teenager Josh Frena on the Red Team bench. He plays organized hockey during the week with the NOTL Wolves. Not only does he have a fairly complete skill set, but he also has good hockey sense and compete. “If you and I trade sweaters, this game will be much closer and more fun,” I said. He replied, “What’s a sweater?”

Geez, I patiently explained, “You kids and some newbie adult fans call it a jersey. But Roch Carrier wrote the iconic Canadian Book The Hockey Sweater, not The Hockey Jersey. It’s a sweater, darn it.”

Josh and I struggled to get our helmets off to allow us to swap sweaters. The game went on, in a much more balanced fashion. The final score was something like 10 -9, but there was some confusion and a bit of discussion. Finally, we remembered that the actual score is somewhat irrelevant in Wallbangers hockey. The game had been great fun, nobody had been injured, and still without a referee, very few angry words had been exchanged. Referees often enable players to behave badly.

Back now to the spectators, who were kindly enthusiastic. They had watched the entire game, even with no hot chocolate. For some reason, the Meridian Arena Snack Bar doesn’t open until 8:00a.m. Turns out they were Maureen Shantz, an enthusiastic and talented sailor whose husband Dave had been featured in a recent Wallbanger hockey article in The Lake Report, and her 7-year-old grandson Foster Gallant. Young Foster had come along with her to watch Gramps and his Uncle Mark play their best for Blue Team.

Foster is a fine young minor hockey player, and when asked if he had learned anything watching Wallbangers hockey, he pondered a moment, then diplomatically replied, “I have seen better hockey.”

This boy will do O.K. in life, as he navigates the trails and roads that are often winding and full of potholes.

The final Wallbangers game of this 28th season will be on Sunday, March 31 at 7:00 a.m. Face Off at 7:06 a.m., a bit early, to leave a few minutes for the trophy presentation after the game. The players will then enjoy happy banter in the Blue and Red Team dressing rooms. After showering together, the players will repair to Silk’s Country Kitchen for the traditional “Second Place Finisher Buys” breakfast.

There are still General Admission tickets available for this Spring highlight, at no cost. Call the Wallbangers Box Office at 905-401-3344, or try to find our non-existent website.

We are so fortunate to live in Canada in 2019.