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Mar. 5, 2021 | Friday
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Ross' Ravings: Wallbangers missing the camaraderie
Boots and coats wait idly as skaters enjoy the frozen creek. (Richard Harley)

Ross Robinson
Special to The Lake Report

During the global pandemic, Wallbanger hockey players have been sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Not dreaming about slick goals or brilliant saves, but about dressing room banter, hot showers and team breakfasts at Silk’s Country Kitchen.

Did Blue Team win or lose? It doesn’t really matter. It’s the guys and the fellowship. But, seeing the ponds and rivers so active with skaters young and old sort of hurts. Hockey is just so much fun, even for us aging pylons. 

Here in Niagara, we haven’t had a week of natural ice for over 20 years, so this is such a joy.

 And, now, with fun, comes more and more regulations and rules.

“City rinks open — No hockey” yelled a headline in The Standard and The Review last week. Now this is over regulation!  Who needs to live in a communist country to hear the word “No” too often?

No hockey on rinks in Canada? How about Oktoberfest in Munchen with no bier or bratwurst? How about the Indy 500 with no loud cars?  (Nothing over 55 decibels, eh?) How about skiing in the Swiss Alps near Murren and Wengen, but no yodelling or schussing? How about Algonquin Park with no canoe tripping?   

Or the world famous Calgary Stampede, the Greatest Outdoor Show in the World, with no calf roping or chuckwagon races? 

It was great to walk by Lansdowne Lake (aka One Mile Creek) in Chautauqua last weekend, scraped again by enthusiastic Curtis (“Hey, I just wanted to get a good skate in”) Collard, and to hear the sound of skate blades carving Mother Nature’s fairly smooth frozen ice. 

There was neighbour Diana Donnelly having fun in French and English with her children Aimee and Lennox. They didn’t want to go home for dinner, but after getting a promise to come back for more skating after eating and doing their homework, the kids took off their skates and wandered up Wilberforce Avenue. 

Could anything be more Canajan? Perhaps the maniacal laugh of the northern loon, as Robert Service limned over a century ago from a lonely Yukon lake. But, skating is different, sort of unique to us up here in Canada.

On the City of St. Catharines website, there were 19, count’em 19, “No’s” under City Rink Rules. No pucks or sticks, No tag, No skating backward, No carrying children, No erratic skating, No, I’m not making this stuff up. Have a look yourself.

Back now to Wallbangers hockey. Last week, in the Blue Team dressing room early. The requisite cheap verbal shots about perceived weight gain, a bit of unsolicited relationship counselling for a brow beaten husband, trying to help a teammate who had forgotten one shin pad.  

Then, I was on the ice, trying to control the front of the net in the deep slot. Too much pushing and shoving near the net, and cross-checks from my pal  Pete Vanderperk. Marcel Lounsbury, a clean player but a mean player, on his turf. Best to avoid these two tough defencemen.

Late in the game, Red Team power forward Terry Nord, a really good hockey player,  broke in on the left wing, and ripped a wrister  high.  Blue Team goalie Ward Simpson made a scintillating save, keeping the game tied. Vic Tee and Bill Dickson got into a nasty and loud scrum in a corner, but before it got serious they both became fatigued and agreed to let bygones be bygones.

Thank goodness, as it could have been embarrassing, with no referee to break up the combatants. Gotta love three generational hockey, trying hard but lovin’ it more.

With about three minutes left in another tight Wallbangers game, Blue captain Bill Dickson found me open for a stretch pass. I gathered it in going over the checkered red line, went around Redman Rick Sherk, and had a breakaway on Red goalie Ward. Just as I was going to make a great deke …

I heard the tinny loud and anxious sound of a snowplow hustling down our bumpy street. I looked at my watch. It was only 7:30.

I had been dreaming. 

Our COVID-19 world is challenging, eh?