I had just come back from watching my 8 year old grandson play a game of hockey.We had been well entertained.The teams were evenly matched and the crowd cheered their players along.The areana was bright and cheery and after every game the ice cleaning machine came on the ice,scraped up the snow,spread a light layer of water on the surface which froze smoothly and quickly,the job all completed in about 5 minutes .Then the next game could begin.Above the long bench seats on the one side of the areana was a type of a long tube of a gas heater and people sat in warm comfort behind thick glass panes with netting up above to stop any puck from flying into the crowd.
The boys and girls playing the game,my how well they were protected.They wore hockey gloves,shin pads,shoulder pads,helmets with face protectors even mouth guards.I got to thinking of the changes in our national sport since the 1940’s when I was an 8 year old and playing the game.I never played on an organized team.It was just a make up game with a few friends.I learned to skate on a patch of ice on a farm field.We put our skates on out there sitting on the ground beside the ice.We had no safety equipment not even hockey gloves.Sometimes we would tie a pair of old socks on our shins as shin pads.At school sometimes we would play with a piece of frozen horse manure as our puck.Other times we used an old tin can.Then when someone would have a real puck we would use it.There were accidents in those days.The tin can flew up and hit you in the face.The puck would take a few teeth out and the boy would have a mark for life.It is good to see all the safety improvements.
Often we would have to clean the snow off the ice in the field before we could start our game.At school we would carry pails and pails of water pumped by hand from the well in the school yard to make an ice rink .I took piano lessons from my aunt in Atwood every Saturday in the winter.I could hardly wait to finish these lessons and get over to the church shed where they used to tie up the horses.Now with cars driven all winter the town built an indoor hockey rink for the children to play on.You could always find a pick up game of hockey going on there.Usually there were no adults just kids having fun and playing.There was no official referee.Everone who came was given a chance to play.You would appoint two captains,choose up teams and the captains ran the game.
Two miles from our farm was an area in the bush where marl had been dug up years earlier.Marl is a lime-rich mud sometimes called mudstone.,when fired it could be made into bricks or tile.Years earlier this marl was being loaded on rail cars and taken to Henfryn about 10 miles away to a brick yard.Some of the old brick yard was still there when I was a boy but the tracks had all been torn up along this old rail line.There was only a slight rise or mound through the fields to let you know that a rail line had been there.The marl beds would be 20 or 30 feet across and 40 rods long.The mud had been dug out to a depth of 3 feet.Water lay in this trench all summer and froze in the winter.After a thaw or mild spell it would freeze again sometimes leaving a glassy smooth ice surface which was perfect for our ice rink.We played many a game of hockey out in the fresh air on this great natural piece of ice. Such are my hockey memories of the 1940’s.
December 20, 2010