Like most Canadian towns, the small one in New Brunswick where I lived in the '40s always had a hockey team of some sort. These teams were not always paragons of skill, to be sure, but they all seemed possessed of the competitive zeal that so far the English language has failed to designate, but that the French call �lan.
Elan probably is about right, too, because the town had a mixed population of French and English Canadians, and so did the hockey teams. And, anyway, it had to be the Gallic spirit, or something like it, that furnished the desire to play hockey in open-air rinks when the temperature was in the subzero region and the wind bit to the very marrow.
Our team was called the Imperials, and for my friends and me it was purely and simply the embodiment of truth and courage, strength and rectitude. We saw the games as nothing less than microcosmic struggles of good against evil.
This image was diminished not at all when one year, in the late '40s, the sportsmen who sponsored the team decided to strengthen it with imports from Ontario. Four of these players were brought in, and I remember them all—particularly Eddie Turner. Eddie was a Canadian Indian and the greatest hockey player I had ever seen.
But while Eddie was the principal object of our affection, we also had a lot left over for his teammates, and this we demonstrated whenever the Imperials played the team from Perth, N.B., 25 miles away. There was bitter rivalry between the teams, and you always counted on a rough game. We looked forward to these games with great relish.
One occasion was a midweek evening contest when I was 12 or 13. Now, midweek games were problems for me, because my parents did not like to have me out on school nights. Therefore my usual tactic was to precede the games with a week-long campaign of best behavior, chores above and beyond the call, and hints. Usually it worked. But this time my father was having none of it. On the night of the game he refused my final plea after dinner and left for a meeting uptown. I sulked away to my room.
For the next hour I stewed and paced and brooded and watched the time get closer to the 8 o'clock opening face-off. A battle raged within me, and for a long time there was no decision. Finally, a few minutes before 8, the devil sneaked me past my mother and out the door.
I was barely a block from our house when a pair of headlights flashed into our street ahead of me. Intuitively I knew it was my father, and in a moment he was sternly peering out at me. Meekly I started toward the car.
Then a wave of irrationality struck. I straightened and began to stride—no, march—to the car, with trumpets blaring and drums rolling. I tore the door open and fairly shouted, "Well, whadda you want?"
My father apparently did not believe his ears. He looked straight at me and said nothing. I repeated my question with a slight quiver. Then he said, "O.K., my boy, if you want to go to the game I'll drive you. But we'll decide later who's still the boss."