Isn’t everyday ‘hockey day’ here?

It’s getting a little too easy to be taken in by the romanticist’s view of ice hockey in Canada at this time of year.
It’s something CBC’s “Hockey Day in Canada” has been known for in its past two broadcasts: strip down the role of big money and fame, or the disappointing losses on international ice, and hockey is just a grassroots game played by the young at heart—embraced by its community.
I’ve heard varying opinions on how last Saturday was received here. Not the event itself, mind you. I’m pretty sure everyone was happy with how the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association pulled up its socks to put this thing together last week.
But, for the most part, not too many were pleased with the local coverage that actually was broadcast nationwide. To them I say, so what? In the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.
You see my personal favourite moment at the jamboree was near the end of the afternoon. The stands weren’t as full as they had been in the morning, the Fort Frances Highlanders were long gone, and the cameras no longer were focused on the games on the ice.
A handful of Atom and Tom Thumb players sat by the glass to cheer on their Bantam counterparts. Meanwhile, six rows up, cameras were getting set to film a live bit where a local player would ask Don Cherry a question on “Coach’s Corner.”
The crowding of other kids caught their eye for a moment, but ultimately didn’t peel them away from their seats. Instead, they began talking about who scored how many goals during their respective scrimmages (even though goals weren’t “officially” counted) and how they were enjoying some of the new equipment they got for Christmas.
Then their attention turned to the ice.
“Who does your big brother play for?” one asked.
“I’m not sure,” responded his friend.
“Well, what number is he?”
“I think 11.”
“Go number 11!”
They eventually got behind Holmlund Maple Leafs’ forward David Pierce, referring to him as “Sundin” throughout the scrimmage (since he wore the captain’s ‘C’ to go with his Toronto blue). Some of it probably rubbed off as Pierce scored two nice goals on individual rushes against the Odd-fellows.
At the time, I didn’t know the town had only received a minute of air time or that the “live” question segment fell through due to technical difficulties.
I guess I was caught up in enjoying these kids enjoying the game. And that said it all for me on whether hockey—and the love of sport—is alive in this community.
“It’s the one unifying thing that’s the same across Canada,” CBC correspondent Allen Abel told me afterwards on why he loves reporting on small towns. “East or west, north or south, any Canadian can walk into a rink and feel exactly at home.”
It’s probably the line he should have used on-air instead of that awful Simpsons joke, because it’s a valid point on how Canadians feel about this sport. It’s something which doesn’t need to be enhanced by a camera crew.
• • •
Fort Frances native A.J. Tucker was named player-of-the-month for December in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey Association. The 17 year-old rookie right-winger notched six goals and 11 assists in five games last month for the Sturgeon Falls Lynx.
The Lynx went 4-1 during that span.
• • •
Melissa Whitmell, who originally had planned to run at the Arthritis Society’s “Joints in Motion” half-marathon in Florida this past weekend, had to pull out two weeks before due to some medical concerns.
It was nothing too serious, but said she didn’t want to risk anything so decided not to go.
All of the funds she raised have been given to the Society and she plans on running next year.

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