Buying Secrets from the Past: NHL Action Players

I spend a lot of time digging into my memories. I look at pictures of me as a boy – fishing on the dock, beside the Christmas Tree, with our dog Celeste – trying to access that momentous time. I have also tried to searched out childhood things like Checkerboard Ice Cream and Pantry cookies, both of which I cherished in those days and both of which have vanished.

Modern-Day Checkerboard Ice Cream but not my brand (Not the Gluten-free notation!)

It seems somehow possible that if I could just taste them again, I would rediscover a key note to my uncluttered mind, like the magic of holding the tin or the feeling of my bare legs against the kitchen linoleum. But I have not been able to find either.

Something I have found is the NHL Action Players Book from Loblaws grocery store.

Toronto Maple Leafs page of Loblaws NHL Action Players

I collected these stickers from the Loblaws grocery store, furiously opening strip after strip to fill the booklet, trading for missing stamps, finding out who had found the un-find-able ones. There were dozens of Larry Carriere and Walt McKechnie and so few of Guy Lambert and Don Awry. It was impossible to find those.

NHL Action Players available for purchase on Ebay.

And then Doug Crosby, a rich and somewhat simple boy in my class, bought the completed book from Edward Etchells for $50. The class bully Andy McAlpine mocked him. “You idiot! That’s not how it’s done!”

Class bully Andy McAlpine today.

I realize that the whole thing was about the experience of collecting things, but why not do it Doug Crosby’s way? Why go through all of the hassle of bartering for the rare stickers when you could just buy the whole thing in one shot? As much as Doug seemed to have missed the point, Andy totally misses it. It’s not about scamming the system but learning from the experiences of the thing, be that finding Don Awry or eating Checkerboard Ice Cream.

The Fear II: Maple Leaf Gardens

The second time that The Fear struck was on my birthday. I think my eleventh. My father gave me two tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs. A Leaf hockey game for me then was the ultimate experience. I took a friend as my father didn’t really like hockey and thought that I might be happier on my own. The seats were great – center-ice reds – and we were up on the visiting team early. And then it hit me again. It wasn’t as strong as the first time. I seemed almost to have control over it. I could rationalize it.

The Fear II: Maple Leaf Gardens

Why was I sitting here watching this nonsense? Who gave a damn who scored what and when? The whole thing was a farce designed to brainwash and control. Nobody cared about winning. It was the popcorn, furs and dinners, the money, being part of the scenery that people cared about. The blue leaf could just as well be a red wing. I especially hated the silence between play, the organ occasionally filling that with carnival tunes. Eventually, it passed, but the evening had been depressing. We had won, but I didn’t give a damn. I just wanted to go home and get into bed.

Mindful Gong for Leaf Goals

Instead of the damned blaring horn, spotlights and screaming, the Toronto Maple Leafs should focus on the import of the moment. Mindful Gong for Leaf GoalsA single note on a gong followed by the crowd rising in silence, a bow between teams and audience, after which they would resume play. That’s what makes a champion.

Leafs Fandom: Losing the Moment

It was to be magic, the stuff of dreams: a pair of seats ten rows behind the Capitals’ net for Game Seven, perfect for that overtime goal by Matthews, Marner or Nylander. Leafs Fandom: Losing the MomentAnd then not…and I was sent this damnable message: Leafs Fandom: Losing the Moment“Thanks for being a fan”? Fuck you. They’re my seats! Mine. I owned them on this night, just like the Leafs owned…ugh.

Bobby Nystrom Figurine Smashed in Malice

I’ve never liked Bobby Nystrom. Brash and conceited, he’s the New York Islander I remembered for almost taking out Borje Salming’s eye in 1978. Bobby Nystrom Figurine Smashed in MaliceAnd so it was with a mix of revulsion and childish glee that I received his figurine at Barclay’s Center on Bobby Nystrom Night. I knew I would destroy it as soon as I had it. Bobby Nystrom Figurine Smashed in MaliceBut what started out as a joke – it was Lorne Henning and not Nystrom who was responsible for Salming’s injury – turned into a glimpse of a personal abyss, in the creation of seedy ISIS-ish video.Bobby Nystrom Figurine Smashed in MaliceIn my mind, it was fine and funny, something I had to do, but as an act it wasn’t. It was awful really, just wrecking something for a reason that didn’t exist. Bobby Nystrom Figurine Smashed in MaliceNot that I’m sad it’s gone.

The Real Problem with Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel started the summer by bringing the Stanley Cup to Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. The Real Problem with Phil KesselHe ended it with a biting tweet on being left off the USA team, which lost all of their games at the World Cup of Hockey. The Real Problem with Phil KesselCoach Tortorella – and some players – took offense. They said that Kessel shouldn’t express an opinion, no matter how relevant, because it had an edge. The Real Problem with Phil KesselThey have a problem with Kessel simply because he’s his own person, because he says what he thinks. Which says a lot more about them.

Soshkinov’s Goal: A Beautiful Thing

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded away the majority of veteran players over the past season  to begin anew.

On Monday, February 29, four young players had their NHL debuts: Connor Carrick (21), Kasperi Kapanen (19), William Nylander (19), Nikita Soshkinov (22). Soshkinov was the first of the rookies to score, two days later, on March 2 against the Washington Capitals. Soshkinov's Goal: A Beautiful ThingSoshkinov's Goal: A Beautiful Thing

It was a beautiful thing.

Soshkinov's Goal: A Beautiful ThingAnd so it begins anew.