I grew up in a housing project affectionately known as “the Jungle.” My cash flow was usually very light since I never really got allowance and it never really bothered me. I had everything I needed, not everything I wanted. I always seemed to have the necessities as my mother called them and that was more than most kids in “the Jungle” had.
I was generally a happy kid; I was quite content playing road hockey outside after school and on weekends. We spent hours and hours developing the skills needed for our weekly neighborhood road hockey games. With little money it meant that hockey sticks were scarce. If I broke my stick then chances were I was not getting a new one anytime soon. I was going to have to put one of those replacement plastic blades on the shaft of my broken stick.
All the kids used the plastic blades anyway. You could heat them up and put on the biggest banana curve. You could always tell when a custom curve job was in progress because the smell of the bubbling melting plastic would stink up our apartment for hours.
Just like cooking fish had a smell, the smell of the 'cooking' plastic just before it was submerged in a sink of cold water to lock the desired curve also had a strong awful stench. Many oven mitts were ruined after the plastic got too soft and it would stick to the mitt after my custom curve was applied.
Next game, the curve would be redone if I had a played bad. It always had to be the blades fault so back to the stove for another afternoon of that burning plastic smell. Some guys would grind the blade down to a lethal sharp point at the tip of the blade. They were the ones that always seemed to shoot from everywhere and could rarely hit the net.
When a blade got real cold, it would crack when slashed by another players stick. A crack meant a quick repair and another trip to the stove, melting the plastic and smoothing the crack together with a butter knife. This generally was only a temporary repair and meant another Superblade would have to be purchased in the near future.
I remember two brands of blades were the most popular; you could buy them at the Canadian Tire store. Cooper made the Superblade; it was white and sold for a little more than a buck.
The best blade though, was a Mylec or Mytec, I do not remember the actual name but I do remember Phil Esposito who was one of the best players in the NHL in the early seventies was the blades pitchman.
The reason this blade was better was it came with two little screws that held the blade more securely on the shaft. The color was an off-white. It was my favorite blade and it sold for about two bucks or double the Superblade.
The same company came out with the orange hockey ball that did not bounce, perfect for road hockey. The only problem was the ball was very hard when it got cold and it would leave a large nasty welt on any body part that it struck.
Tennis balls developed better eye hand coordination since they were always bouncing. Problem was they got dirty and grey and seemed to get smaller when they lost the fuzz. They became very hard to see when late afternoon darkness set in.
Looking back, we probably used both balls equally but I preferred the orange hockey ball.
The combination of cold days, super banana curves and orange hockey balls made for many painful afternoons. I remember many times getting stung in the face as I would do my Borje Salming imitation sliding in the hard packed snow to block a shot.
Most my welts and bruises I sustained on my legs and thighs.
Road hockey was great fun and great exercise. We spent hours in the fresh cold air and would play well into the early evening when our only light would be a single street light. Many times games ended when the ball got lost or we just could not see the ball anymore.
We always tried to have two goalies and tried to have two real mesh steel tube nets. Most times though the goals were made of winter boots, or a dirty chunk of ice that we banged of a parked cars wheel well.
I never really did develop a 'booming' slap shot.
I was always afraid of breaking my stick, so I forever would become the playmaker. I always looked to pass and to this day even in my adult years, I still favour a perfect pass to set up a goal rather than scoring a goal myself.
I guess old habits never die even though after forty plus years I can now easily afford a new stick whenever I need one.
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