In 1976, my family moved from the east side of Detroit to St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Back in the mid-70s, St. Clair Shores was the original Hockeytown. Joe Louis Arena was still in the planning stages for a prime spot on the Detroit River. Back then, it seemed like every kid in the neighborhood was on at least two hockey teams. When I met some of the guys from our street, the first words out of their mouths were, “So what team do you play on?” My smartass answer was, “The Detroit Backyard Hockey League”. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally joined some friends for a pick-up game at the St. Clair Shores Civic Arena. A real ice rink, with boards!
I was hooked! If I shot and missed the net (which was likely), the puck bounced harmlessly off the boards and didn’t bury itself in a nearby snow pile. In Detroit, the closest outdoor rink was eight blocks away. On that pond, even if I scored a goal between the two boot goal posts, I still had to go snow-spelunking to find the puck. Getting to the rink was no picnic either. I remember negotiating snow-filled streets on my bike, with a stick slung over my shoulder, skates hanging around my neck and a pile of pucks in my pocket. Playing at an indoor rink certainly had its advantages! However, as time passed, I gave up my dream of becoming a suburban hockey player.
Then, many years later, I joined some friends for Friday night pick-up hockey at the Oak Park Ice Arena. We played from midnight until 2am (cheaper ice time). It was a blast, even though some of the guys were coming straight from the bar. This made for some interesting gameplay and short tempers. I also played in a couple of other leagues over the years. One, in particular, my wife called the Frankenstein Hockey League. She gave it that nickname because we all skated like we had green skin and bolts coming out of our necks. Or, maybe she was just talking about me. Either way, it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to getting back into it. First, I’ll have to sharpen up my skates and see if I still look like Boris Karloff on the ice. Then I’ll stop by and pick up my buddies, Dracula, and the Wolfman and see if we’ve still got it! I can hear my wife now, rolling her eyes and saying, “You never had it!” Nice one, dear.
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