Forest Hill is an established, wealthy area in the City of Toronto, a place where privileged Torontonians live and raise their children. They attend private schools, drive fancy cars and most have no clue as to what life is like growing up in a housing project.
Chaplin Crescent is a street that run’s right through the heart of Forest Hill and it is on this street my first indoor hockey rink was discovered.
Sunday evenings from October until April there was public skating at Forest Hill Arena on the small rink. Forest Hill Arena has two ice surfaces, a small surface used for skating and minor hockey and the larger rink that was used for hockey leagues and group ice rentals.
Every Sunday night, or almost every Sunday night, a group of guys from our church would go public skating. We knew some teenage girls from our church whom we liked would also be there. We would make complete idiots of ourselves by trying to out skate each other, playing tag and always getting in trouble with the rink guards.
The girls never were impressed by our weekly immature antics. I would leave the rink thinking they were the biggest stuck-up bitches in the whole world yet we eagerly would return the following Sunday and repeat the process all over again.
Pleasure skating never did anything for me since skating round in circles was really quite boring. I needed a hockey stick for my skating experience to be complete.
A phone call to the rink manager would be my big break towards playing indoor ice hockey. I remember renting the ice when I was twelve years old.
I tried to sound older on the phone when I asked for the rental rate. The small ice surface was about thirty dollars for an hour back then. I booked one hour during a Christmas school holiday early in the morning.
Now all I had to do was leave my name and phone number and show up with a deposit before the end of the week. Fine, I took the bus to the arena and gave the manager a ten dollar deposit.
It would now be my hour of ice to do what I wanted, to invite who I wanted, I was in charge.
On the way home on the bus I made a list in my head of who I thought would come and who the two goalies would be counting each name off on my fingers. I needed two goalies that was most important.
The big day finally arrived and everyone that was invited showed up, I had two goalies and about eighteen players, a few too many, I guess, for a small rink but I had to make sure I would get enough players to pay for the ice.
What if only five guys had come to play? The ice would have been six dollars a player. Better to be safe than sorry. The hour went by so fast and before I knew it the Zamboni was getting the ice cleaned for a neighborhood Jewish hockey group.
I knew if only we could challenge them we would kick their butts all over that little ice surface. No chance of that ever happening. Besides they only wanted to play with a soft sponge puck.
I am positive they had as much fun as we did.
It’s kind of funny how some things you never seem to forget, I still remember the phone number to Forest Hill Arena and I can remember most of the guys that showed up that morning although I have not seen any of them for well over forty years.
I would bet that morning they all showed up is such a distant memory to all of them. Most probably could not even find the Forest Hill Arena today without a map.
Oh well, it was start of my indoor ice hockey career, a career that would see me play in well over a hundred different arenas, a career that would see me lace up the skates well over a thousand times over the next four decades, a career of late nights, lots of coffee and sore backs. I would have to purchase a couple hundred hockey sticks and a half dozen pairs of skates not to mention my ice fees, skate sharpening and miles of hockey tape.
Thanks, to all those guys that showed up that winter morning; by the way, the phone number at Forest Hill Arena is 488-1800.