The playbook was mostly forgotten but nobody really cared. The coaches were mysteriously absent from the benches.
Some of the skills may have been lacking but again it did not really matter. The play raged up and down the ice at Civic Arena (the old one), and the game had more than a little entertainment.
At the end, the Blues went down to the Whites 7-3. “Which Blues?” you may ask. The Smithers Steelheads Blues, of course, and the Steelheads Whites in the alumni game last Saturday evening. The house was not packed but there was a decent crowd who came to see friends, relatives and old-timers don the Smithers duds one more time and do their best for their hometown fans.
That they certainly did. There was plenty of entertaining hockey and lots to cheer about.
While the end result may seem a bit lopsided, it was not really indicative of caliber of play put forth by both sides. In actuality, the Blues outplayed the Whites most of the game with plenty of great rushes down the ice only to be stopped by a last-minute poke check or a shot gone just a little off-shore.
Goalies at each end did more than a reasonable job when it is considered that one of them was in his 50s. There were some nice saves demonstrating remarkable flexibility for athletes who have probably not been practicing those skills for at least a couple of years now.
While playing on recreation leagues and such might keep one’s toes in the skates, it’s not quite the same as preparing for higher level games on a more regular basis. The risk of injury was there of course but all of the players on each side seemed like they had never left the ice.
The speed may have been a little slower and the precision of the passes may have been a bit off but it was hard to tell.
Playing with one’s former mates also had a nice touch on the game. There were very few penalties in the entire game and of course none of the rough stuff that hockey sometimes seems to engender. It was a good game of hockey.
In between periods, there was even more entertainment. Players from the Smithers Minor Hockey Association, which actually sponsored the game, put on a demonstration of some of the developing skills that we all love to watch in youngsters. The ice surface was split in two with special cushions and the young players went at it for a few minutes.
A highlight, if you want to call it that, was when one young fellow had a loose tooth bumped and with a little wiggling, managed to pull it right out to show Mom and Dad.
“Just like the old days,” said one observer. “He better watch out or someone might think he belongs on the Flyers from the Bobby Clarke days.”
Just a little reminiscent of the days when there were no mouth-guards, helmets or front teeth in most of the professional players!
The event was not just a demonstration of our national game from days gone by and years to come. Admission to the game was by a donation for the Salvation Army food bank, and a quick look at the beginning of the game showed that the locals continue to be generous.
While the game was a great way for some of these players to get back together for an evening of hockey, a couple of beers afterward and a chance to don one of those great Steelhead jerseys from the past, there were those questions, of course. Most commonly heard among the fans was “are they going to get back together again to play in the league?”
Most common answer was that while it would be nice, it probably was not going to happen. The majority of the players are at an age now when they have developing careers that require a bit more energy. In addition, many of these young men now have relationships and families that are more important than going off most weekends to play a few hockey games.
Hockey may be very important to them but in the long-term, not as important as job and family. Living where we do, those road trips take a lot of time and energy that might better be spent in the workplace or at home. We can only hope that we will see more of these games in the future, and another generation taking up the mantle of riding the bus on the road to the Coy Cup.