It was all once so important, so vital, an integral part of the rythms of so many lives.
Hockey Night in Canada was once truly that – a national gathering, first around the radio and then around the T.V.
It was part of many a Saturday night ritual. A was spcial oocasion for those who dressed in business suits and fur coats, and for those in far away places such as the up north or out on the prairies who planned their evenings around hockey broadcasts.
For the Canadiens and Leafs to play anywhere but at home on a Saturday was unheard of. Sunday night meant games in New York, Boston, Detroit or perhaps a “late game” (8:30 Eastern start) from the cavernous and venerable Chicago Stadium. And, those Sunday night games were carried by “CBC Radio and its affiliated stations from coast to coast” right after “Cross-Country Check-up”, and it was not just any announcer by Foster Hewitt (with Fred Scambatti) mand Danny Gallivan (with Dan Kelly and Red Fisher).
And were the same games – only six teams (and even in the early days of a 12 team league) – everyone know everyone else. It was a rivalry dya most every day.
It was appointment viewing and listening before anyone knew what the term meant.
Then, gradually it started to change until one day one looked up and noticed that it was all gone. The rink, the players, and the crowds were still they. They still called it NHL hockey. But is it a quite different product.
These days, my home in New Jersey includes a special place. To most the downstairs is a basement. In our home, we call it “The Shrine”.
Its centre-piece is comprised of two red chairs from the old Montreal Forum. There’s a vintage Eagle Toys Table Hockey game (circa, 1969). There are also old game programs, videos of games from the 1960’s and 70’s , and a pretty good sized hockey library (way too big says my wife). It is my comfort zone at home.
Among the books in that hockey library is a photo-book the Hockey Hall of Fame. As engrossing as the pictures is the name of the book – “The Spirit of the Game” – and its inscription: “For everyone who cares about the game”.
That book title and inscription is what inspires us, and is , in fact, the essence of “Journeys into Hockey”.
Formally, “Journeys into Hockey” is a multi-media platform dedicated to “hockey’s offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten”. Were it a book, it would fit right in on the shelf of my basement’s hockey library.
Informally and practically-speaking , “Journeys into Hockey” is about the spirit (soul) of hockey – past and present. It’s a soul and passion to be found at many places – not just NHL arenas.
In creating this site, we come from a place, hockey speaking, before there were free agents, Sun Belt franchises and multi-millionaire dollar players.
We recall a place and time where players seemingly would have played for the love it (They almost did because their salaries were embarrassingly modest), a small number of teams gave hockey a sense of familiarity with your team and others, and building that were often described as intimate.
Many of us still watch some NHL hockey – though not nearly the way we used to. But that’s not to say that we’ve lost our love for hockey and its traditions. We now see the hockey universe as bigger and more diverse. It could mean a retro look back at the past or a present day offbeat story such as the Pond Hockey World Championships or Hockey Night in Dixie.
As we take our Journeys into Hockey, one cannot help but appreciate how great game is hockey, and just what it has meant to Canadian society (and to many hockey fans in the U.S. as well).
Many who achieve success in life like to exclaim that they, “stand on the shoulders of those who came before them”. In Journeys into Hockey we recognize those who built the game and its culture.
So, yes, we are partial to some of the ghosts of the 1960’s – Orr, Beliveau, Bower, Richard, and Mikita (who have been guests), as well as the great voice sof the day – the likes of Danny Gallivan, Dick Irvin, Dan Kelly, Gene Hart, Win Elliot and Brian McFarlane. But we submit that these players and voices stand that test of time.
The Forum, Gardens, Olympia and Old Garden may be no more. But their spirit and the spirit of those who went there or held those places dear remains strong at this site.
They, their stories and their spirit are worth remembering.