As a kid, my local hockey rink was at the heart of everything I did. Seldom did a day pass that I wasn't on the ice or sitting behind the glass. The players on the senior team were celebrities and the game brought everyone together. Today, hockey arenas mean as much - if not more - to their communities.
When I was a kid, like many of my friends I would race home after school so I could change and get outside to play. Our time was, for the most part, totally unstructured, unless you consider being told to "be home when the streetlights go on" as structure. There are many theories as to whether exposing our kids to this type of structure and (arguably) overscheduling is good for them.
This was a big week for hockey fans with the NHL season opener ringing in a brand new set of Stanley Cup hopes and dreams. But no sooner had the fun begun than Montreal Canadiens enforcer George Parros got into a fight that ended with him bashing his face straight into the ice and being carried off on a stretcher. Fortunately, Parros was in good enough shape to be discharged from hospital the next day. However, the concussion he suffered means he is out "indefinitely" (the Canadiens' word), and the whole question of whether the NHL should crack down on fighting has been raised afresh.
I'm Canadian. I like sports. I like hockey. I also happen to be Black. That's why it was such a point of pride to see P.K. Subban on the ice; the NHL was finally making good on its intention to court more non-white fans. Then I watched P.K.'s teammate, George Parros, get wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, and I wondered how many new fans thought they just saw a man die.
True story. Early one morning as my wife was signing-in at a corporate golf tournament, a charming and magnetic man sidled up to her and, with a playful twinkle in his eyes, he smiled mischievously and told her that he loved her. Turns out, that man was Walter Gretzky. This was just another notch in my long (and partially true) history with the Gretzky family.
That the CBC should celebrate Hockey Night in Canada's birthday, and not its own, is emblematic of the dire straits in which the broadcaster finds itself, having reached the end of the line in its quest to make a success of the hybrid, commercial/public service model it was saddled with at birth, like a club foot.