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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Friday, December 9, 2022
Wallbangers back on ice for season

Yes, sports fans, the irrepressible Wallbangers are well into their 35th season of early Sunday morning hockey.

The teams started playing in 1984 and Commissioner Bill Dickson ensures the founding principles endure.

It is intergenerational (grandfathers, sons, grandsons, Blue Team versus Red Team, with the teams being modified each week, dependent upon who shows up and, as importantly, who doesn’t show up.)

We have never had a referee, on the premise that they only enable players to act dumb.

Self-policing, and in the case of an offside or disputed goal, whichever team yells first and loudest gets the call. “The players know.” We will continue to take the high road.

Our founder Dave Wall, a.k.a. Captain Hook, was inducted into the NOTL Sports Wall of Fame earlier this year, and he seized the opportunity to remind us to “Never surrender. Fight them on the ice, fight them in the pubs, but never surrender.”

Several Wallbangers attended the Induction, and Dave spoke passionately about our town, our sports volunteers, and his life and family and friends.

Since then, Dave passed away, and we will attempt to perpetuate his legacy of love, fair play and sportsmanship.

While listening to Dave’s induction speech, I was reminded of Pinehurst founder Richard Tufts, who penned “The Creed of the Amateur.”

“An amateur is one who competes in a sport for the joy of playing, for the companionship it affords, for health-giving exercise, and for relaxation from more serious matters. As a part of this light-hearted approach to the game, he accepts cheerfully all adverse breaks, is considerate of his opponent, plays the game fairly and squarely in accordance with the rules, maintains self-control, and strives to do his best, not in order to win, but rather as a test of his own skill and ability.”

Sort of says it all, eh? Go Wallbangers.

As an aside, the Blue Team was treated to an impromptu fashion show just after Black Friday.

To remind us all of Christmas shopping, several Brooks Brothers shirts were modelled, followed by the very latest in striped boxer shorts. Reaction was mixed, as players were trying to get psyched for that morning’s contest.

Which brings us to the current state of Canada’s favourite game. Hockey culture is under serious pressure, as “what was accepted behaviour then is unacceptable now.”

Revelations and accusations are painful to hear and the path forward must be more aligned with our base Canadian values. 

We can talk all we want about Maple Leaf land. There can be no doubt that better times are ahead, and how reassuring it was to listen to the post Mike Babbler news conference, with GM Kyle Dubas repeatedly calling MLSE president Brendan Shanahan “Shanny.”

Incoming coach Sheldon Keefe then summarized his coaching strategy, “When we lose the puck, we wanna get it back.” (I am not making this up, folks. He said that, and the media talking heads all nodded, and rushed off to file their stories.)

Coach Keefe then went into more details, emphasizing more focus in the D zone, intensity, creativity and confidence, and more effort down low in the O zone. The Leafs will work on the PP and PK, and try to get a Shorty.

Sorry, I got carried away again. Wallbanger Blue Team and Red Team have both won three games, with one game undecided because of some confusion at the score clock. Was the score 10 – 9 or 9-10? Does anybody really care?

 Early in that game, the score was 5-1 for Red Team. Team captains Mark Shantz and Carl Glauser had a short meeting at the checkered red line. My captain Mark gently and tenderly asked me to change sweaters with Joe Doria, a much younger and more intense skater on the Red Team. He assured me this move had nothing to do with relative skill levels, so I agreed to the trade as long as the Red Team would throw in a bucket of pucks, and “the rights to Carl Brewer.”

Interesting, but that game ended up a one-goal win by Blue Team.

Let’s end this article with a comment on the Don Cherry situation. This was a big deal, apparently, and my thoughts on his espousal of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em hockey, violence and fighting are well known.

Migawd, is fighting really allowed in the national game of our wonderful, peaceful nation? In 2019?

I never met Don Cherry, so cannot comment. However, I have been with Ron McLean twice, and he is a humble, gracious, kind and very likable man. 

 All things being said, I respect the fact that Don and Ron developed a schtick over 30 years ago. They rode that schtick to great fame and fortune.

Just like Howard Cosell and the greatest, Muhammed Ali, Sonny and Cher, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, the Smothers Brothers, Payne Stewart in his sartorially effulgent plus fours, and the list goes on. Good on them all, eh? 

Just the other day I asked a few people at Valu-mart what they thought about the firing of Cherry. Their responses: I didn’t agree with him all time, but he was entertaining. He spoke his mind, and really supported our military and our veterans. He seemed a bit old school. Don Who?

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