Growing up on the prairies, in the winter you go outside. As a kid not old enough to fathom the consequences of hopping on a snowmobile and squeezing the throttle all the way to the handle bar, you were confined to your own two feet. You could build a snowman, you could go tobogganing, or you could play the one and only outdoor game that is actually worth playing in the winter time.
Whether you played it with a tooth chipping frozen tennis-ball, or the bright orange plastic stinger that always left a welt, or you played with an actual honest to goodness puck, street hockey was always first choice. Part of the reason you decided to play even though it often meant some type of injury and possibly a little bit of frost-bite, was because it was just fun.
Lots of times you played with other kids from around the neighbourhood. You didn’t need to really know them, heck some of them didn’t even live on your block, when you heard the clack of sticks and someone shouting “CAR!” you knew there was a game to get in.
The rules were always the same, the street was playable, if you knocked it up into a snow bank you picked it out and kept playing. If you knocked it under one of the cars parked down the street someone laid on the ground and tripled the length of their arm with their hockey stick and fished it out, and you kept playing. The score reaching higher and higher as cheeks and earlobes grew redder and redder until finally mom flicked the house lights on and off.
Some people think that meant “come in for supper” or “time for bed, you have school tomorrow!”, but what it really meant was, SUDDEN DEATH!!!! Next Goal Wins. With chattering teeth and nearly numb fingers the game reached a new level of intensity and after a couple Howitzer slap-shots and a good choice on the goalie’s part to dodge rather than block the champs would be crowned… Until tomorrow.
Those frozen nights and friendships gave birth to big dreams. Long Live Street Hockey.