The best thing about working at Collegiate Sports Yorkdale was all my co-workers were a lot like myself, crazy about sports and around the same age. Well maybe they were not as extreme about hockey as I was but for the most part, sports was a big part of their daily lives.
The group was mostly established before I had started working at the store in August of '79 but I was determined to become part of the weekly hockey games I constantly would hear them talking about.
Bruce Doyle, as far as I could gather, was the leader, the captain. He seemed to be the guy the others followed. I realized that it would be up to Bruce if I was ever going to get a shot at playing in those weekly Saturday night games at Forest Hill Arena.
Bruce always seemed to be interested in me skating with his boys but I would have to wait for that honor, I would have to prove myself to show I was worthy.
I mean here we have these shinny hockey players that play once a week, in the winters and as far as I could gather never really played any organized hockey telling me, a guy that plays three or four times a week year round I would have to prove myself?
I would wipe the floor with all of them if I ever got the chance.
I was already playing with a pretty good group from my church on Saturdays at five in the morning. After playing, we all went for a quick breakfast then I was off to start work for nine o' clock at Collegiate. I always wondered how my church group would stack up against Bruce’s boys from Saturday night.
Finally, I put the challenge to Bruce.
I challenged him to a game at Forest Hill arena on a Sunday afternoon in about a month. To make it even more enticing the loosing team would have to pay for the ice rental. Bruce took the offer and we agreed that I would get the ice in about three weeks. My challenge now would be to try and convince enough of my Saturday morning group to play while also trying to get the better players to commit.
The following week I told them that WE had been challenged to a game, most of them agreed to play right away.
This game was on, it was going to be great.
The big day finally arrived and I got to the rink early as did most of my friends. Bruce and his team also arrived, a collection of guys I already knew from working at the store, and the rest were life time childhood buddies from their old neighborhood in the Briar Hill area.
We met on the ice and they all had these matching sweaters sporting the letters N.W.A.A on the fronts.
What the hell was N.W.A.A anyway?
The game was quick and rough and the hour went by real fast, the final score was 5-2 in favor of Bruce’s boys, but we had held our own. One of our players got smacked in the face with a high stick and got cut for stitches but all in all it was a good fast game.
I collected money from my team and we paid for the ice.
The next week at work Bruce just came out and invited me to start skating with his boys on Saturday nights. I guess I had proven myself the past Sunday during our game and now they wanted me to play with them. I had been accepted.
"Oh by the way what does N.W.A.A mean?"
I never really got a straight answer but as far as I could figure, Bruce had gone to get team sweaters made up a few years earlier and the store already had a set that were never paid for or picked up.
Bruce could have them real cheap if he did not mind the letters N.W.A.A crested on the front. So he took them, and that is how N.W.A.A was born.
The actual official meaning was “Never Won Anything Anywhere”
After I started to play I realized the boys with the exception of a few, really were not that good. Mostly guys that had grown up in the Briar Hill area of Toronto and we were all pretty well the same age. Bruce along with the Falcone brothers, Sammy, Scrapper, Paul Brown, Harry E and myself, were really the only players that had any hockey abilities.
The rest were quite happy just to display their very weak limited hockey skills on Saturday nights. Every Saturday during the hockey season for years to come we would all play at Forest Hill arena from midnight till two in the morning.
The majority of our games we would play another team made up of Italian thugs.
We would spend a third of our ice time fighting, brawling and arguing. At times the fighting would get pretty intense and I was scared on more than one occasion that someone was going to get seriously hurt.
After hockey we would change and then we all would head over to the Sky Ranch restaurant on Dufferin Street. Naturally we had our own reserved separate tables. The Sky Ranch was open twenty-four hours and we would all get an early breakfast before heading home around 4 AM to sleep.
As the years passed by the Italian guys started getting married they just stopped coming out because of the family pressure that hockey was violent and if they got hurt, how would they be able to support their wife and kids.
Give me a fuck'n break, but that is exactly what happened, they just stopped playing and most of them just got fat and lost most their hair. We always tried to replace those guys who quit but as we all entered our thirties, sadly the N.W.A.A hockey story came to an end. I lost contact with most the guys from N.W.A.A but I still do have my number ninety-nine red N.W.A.A. jersey.
I have it stored away and every now and then I will come across it and for a brief moment I relive those great times I had with Bruce’s boys that "Never Won Anything Anywhere."