The engaging smell of fresh popcorn spun around the old Edmonton Gardens, the city’s distinguished hockey shrine, back on that Sunday in 1968. Barely 10 years old, I had been to the Gardens to watch the Edmonton Oil Kings play and that, itself, was a big deal.
This, however, was bigger.
It was the championship day for Minor Hockey Week. My team, the Lynwood Mite A’s, were playing.
Coached by Tom Jackson and Pete Chomyk, guys like Robbie Horn, Pat Johnson, Doug Hoffman, Guy Blais, Richard Geurin and many more were skating, shooting, passing and making great saves on the ice.
I sat right behind our bench.
And I still see the excitement in the players’ eyes … the excitement in their voices … the extra squeeze from the coaches when they patted the guys on the back.
The score? Don’t remember.
Did we win? Sorry.
All I recall is the journey. The fun. And getting to play in the Gardens — which, really, wasn’t so much about playing in the iconic arena.
Moreover, it was a life lesson we were taught: hard work, teamwork — lots of fun on the way — and focusing in on where we want to go, puts us in a position to be successful.
The only number I am going to reference is … 57.
That’s how many years Minor Hockey Week has been around. This year’s version comes out of dressing rooms Thursday night.
How many teams? Hundreds.
How many arenas? Lots.
How many pucks? Countless.
How many volunteers? Armies.
How many officials who donate their time to the tournament? Many.
How many fundamental grass-root core values? One.