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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Ross’s Ramblings: Old-time hockey and NOTL’s wondrous musical moments
José Guerrero with 25 young Mexican musicians of the Silvestro Revueltas chamber orchestra at Grace United Church presented by Music Niagara. ROSS ROBINSON

Although I no longer watch hockey on the television, mainly because the players are too fast and too clever, the tragic news of a hockey player dying in England has been all over the news.

The images of Adam Johnson’s jugular vein being severed by a razor-sharp skate blade were obviously horrific and graphic. I still have not been able to watch.

And this week, police in Britain arrested a man on suspicion of manslaughter in Johnson’s death.

Hockey is a weird game and was a big part of my early life. Goodness, one game in North Bay in 1967 saw me take a record 37 minutes in penalties, as an unremarkable defenceman.

The last two minutes were for  “delaying the game,” which I thought was an unnecessary and cheap put down by the referee. Funny and true, but a bit mean.

I once took four stitches on my right eyelid, before the advent of face visors and cages. Even way back then, it was a dangerous game.

A Leaf game last weekend saw “a good effort by the fourth line and a couple of fights.” Don’t forget, this is 2023.

My good friend, the late Ralph Mellanby, often opined that every hockey fight was an attempt to concuss. He always called a spade a spade, not a horticultural instrument.

The new general manager of the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs wants the team to play with more “snot.” Back in my days up north, our coach asked us to play with “an edge” and “an attitude.” Are we digressing linguistically as a society?

Since the death of Johnson, I have asked several of my former Wallbanger and Hot Tub and Motts Old Caesars teammates if they have started to wear neck protection. Even at the speed they now play, their hollow-ground skates are dangerous. Their responses have been predictable.

“When I have something around my neck, I can’t see the puck as well, and it hurts my breathing.”

“It makes my skates feel heavier and slows me down. And, they don’t come in blue and white.”

“It’s itchy and the velcro is irritating. It gets lost in my smelly hockey bag.”

“The neck guards aren’t expensive and I have played for decades without getting my neck cut.”

Yes, for sure, and my childhood idol Rocket Richard played for many years without getting his Achilles tendon cut. When it happened, someone soon invented a velcro achilles tendon guard that was added to all Tackaberry skates within a month.

In the hockey-rich province of Quebec, neck guards have been mandatory for players of all ages for over a decade.  And by the way, their major junior league mandates facial protection and doesn’t allow fighting.

And in children’s hockey they have been obligatory for years.

Again, I love hockey when it is played properly. Just watch the World Juniors, or the Olympics, or Canadian and U.S. college hockey.

I  have long wondered why hockey is the only sport that publishes a PIM or penalties in minutes statistic. Games played, goals, assists and PIM. Can you imagine basketball noting points, assists and fouls? Or football listing yards rushing, passing and penalties incurred?

But enough ruminating about hockey, Canada’s winter national sport.

As I attempt to age gracefully and with curiosity, I have been searching out musical options in our community.

Frankly, it can be exhausting and just last weekend I marvelled at the talents of an Adele tribute at NOTL’s Old Court House.

The median age of the audience gobsmacked me. My attention to music was basically detoured after Petula Clark and Roberta Flack, so the musical talents of Adele opened up a whole new world for me.

The next day, Atis Bankas and Music Niagara presented the 25 young Mexicans from the Silvestre Revueltas  Chamber Orchestra at St. Mark’s Anglican Church and Grace United Church in our pretty town.

This was a perfect complement to Remembrance Day and we also were enlightened about the Last Post Fund, finally honouring the thousands of Indigenous Canadians who have given their lives for freedom.

Neighbours and friends, the good Lord makes many flavours of ice cream, and there are numerous entertainment and educational options for all of us. Please, please support the many artistic and cultural groups in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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