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The Weather Network
Jun. 15, 2019 | Saturday
Local News
Wallbangers season ends with good fun and high spirits
Team captain Mark Shantz holds the prototype Dickson Cup (a.k.a. the D-cup) aloft, surrounded by his players. (Ross Robinson/Special)

Sportsmanship, competition, nice goals and inexplicable gaffs marked the final game of the 28th season of Wallbangers old timer hockey at Meridian Arena.

Very early last Sunday morning, bedroom lights lit up in NOTL, St. Catharines, Welland and Fort Erie as players stumbled out of bed, psyched for the big game. According to Commissioner Bill Dickson, the season series was tied at 8 wins for Blue team, 8 wins for Red team, with 2 games tied or still under protest.

It was a story book drive to the rink, reminding me of my early days in Kirkland Lake and Winnipeg, with evergreen tree branches heavy laden with fluffy white snow. The sun was rising in the eastern sky, over the still slumbering vineyards. As my Dad often said on canoe trips in Algonquin Park, “Sunrises are so beautiful. Why did God make them so darned early?” The players trickled in to dressing rooms number 1 and 3. Several players choose to put their equipment on with the other team, which makes it harder to get a “real hate on.”

After an unorganized, somewhat rag tag warm up, it was time for the annual Losers Buy Breakfast Final Game,

Just before the Face-Off, there were appropriate ceremonies. At 7:05 a.m., a flag party marched onto the ice, from the 809 Newark Air Cadet Squadron. These sharply uniformed young people added a sense of je ne sais quoi to the morning, as they performed a short military routine. Richard Wall, son of Wallbanger Co-Founder Dave Wall, dropped the ceremonial puck between Blue Team captain Mark Shantz and Red Team captain Carl Glauser. Roger Doucet, the magnificent tenor voice du Forum de Montreal, passed away several years ago, so a player lip synched O’ Canada.

Michael Frena, a rookie Wallbangers forward, used his audiovisual talents to present a fairly emotional pre-game routine. He later set up Ricky Watson who set up Joe Doria for a beauty of a goal.

In an attempt to even up the teams, an inter-league loan had been worked out between the Wallbangers and the NOTL Hot Tub Oldtimers league. The ever smiling B.I. Litke, a Top Five forward, was loaned to Blue Team for the final game. A rental player to be sure, but he fulfilled his role as a power forward and 210 foot player. B.I. is a really good hockey player.

The game was fast, so to speak, right from the opening face-off (not puck drop, face-off.) Both teams scored near the mid-point of the game, and with ten minutes left in the contest, Blue team defenceman Mike Bruce took a seeing eye pass from yer humble scribbler and one-timed a seeing eye shot right along the ice past Red team netminder Rob Vanderperk. Another beauty, eh? This was good pay back, because during the opening ceremonies, Mike had helped out by holding down the mat where the Air Cadets were performing. It would have been dangerous if the mat had slipped out from under the flag party.

There are several enthusiastic sailors playing Wallbangers hockey. They love each other and share a special bond, but at the same time, compete fiercely within the rules. In this game, Ken “Svenny” Greer took advantage of a rare and egregious error by defenceman Marcel Lounsbury, creating a breakaway from the blue line in. He dazzled us all with a move called the talcum cloth wipe. I guess every sport has its own largo. I have no idea what this means.

With time running out because we had to finish three minutes early to leave time for the trophy presentation, the pace increased. Red team got several pucks on the net, and banged away, but Blue goalie Boomer Manuel was unbeatable.

Two goals in the final minute were both of the lucky variety, with one deflecting in off a player’s skate. The other goal was an attempted pass that bounced in off someone’s butt cheek.

The traditional “Losing Team Buys Breakfast” at Silk’s Country Kitchen is apparently no more. As players were leaving and saying goodbye until the Wallbanger Golf Tournament on April 13, someone asked if the winning team still enjoyed free food. A member of the other team remarked, “No, that tradition is over, now that breakfast has gone up from $7.00 to $12.00.” Fair enough.

Please allow me now to drift to another important subject. Sportsmanship, fair play, and the love of the game. I was appalled a few weeks ago, while reading a local weekly paper, to see a picture of several hockey players, perhaps 12 or 13 years old. The accompanying headline read, “Aussies lose to Niagara.” What was someone thinking? The young Australians were on a trip of a lifetime, and had probably only just begun playing hockey. Perhaps the headline could have read, “Aussie hockey players compete hard with Niagara.” Why is it that some Canadians have to trumpet our perceived superiority in a sport that very few nations play?

If a Canadian youth rugby or cricket team travelled to Australia, and tried their best during the exhibition game, the Aussies would not run up the score. And, I suggest the headline next to the picture would read “Canadians enjoy rugby game in Queensland.”

A wise sportsman taught us that if there are eight runners in a race, there can be eight winners. Only one runner can finish first, but if everyone tried their best within the rules, they are all winners. This is not just true in sports. How about academics, politics, you name it.

Back in my rowing days, Coach Bruce Erskine would never ask us how we finished. He always asked us how we tried.

Forgive me for pontificating, but let’s get over the Win Win Win mantra, and encourage everyone to Try Try Try and have Fun Fun Fun.

Thanks for reading. I got carried away.

To summarize our Wallbangers Hockey Final Game, I asked Red Team captain to create a rhyme.

He thought, he pondered, he mused, he ruminated, he castigated (oh, great word…)

“My team wears red, Mark’s team wears blue. One team scored three, The other team scored two.”

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

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