It was seven a.m and my luggage was already on the sidewalk. I kept an eagle eye on it from my front window. My neighbour and his two dogs were always up early and I thought they might pee on it.
Not the dogs. My neighbour.
That may not be your experience in your neighbourhood, but it is mine. Compared to the snarly, grumpy old man living next door, I’m Pollyanna.
But the main thing is that I was off to another hockey tournament. This was something called the World Championships and I would be playing in the 60+ Division. It would take place in Windsor, Ontario.
Someone once told me that if they decided to give the world an enema, they’d make the injection in Windsor.
And once again I’d be playing with a group of military guys. I’ve finally figured out why recent governments have been pulling our armed forces out of the world’s hotspots.
It’s that there are an awful lot of hockey tournaments to be played back home in Canada.
Granted, these guys were all collecting pensions now and working on contracts. An F-35 fighter pilot would be driving the van, so I was confident we could safely navigate Highway 401 to Windsor.
There were other pluses as well. Dick was driving the van and he introduced me to the two other passengers. They were named Tom and Dave.
Dick. Tom. Dave. And me… another Dave. These were names I could handle.
When we first moved into the Ottawa neighbourhood called the Glebe I used to listen to my daughter Rachelle’s tales out of school. While I enjoyed the long and sometimes pointless stories, what most amused were the monikers with which these privileged kids were saddled.
“And Reuben kicked Rainbow Harmony and then Casimir poked Sunshine Harmony. Matteus didn’t like it so…”
“Jeezus Murphy, Rachelle,” I interrupted, “do you have a Susan in your class?”
Sitting in the van with Tom and Dick I felt at home again. All we were missing was Harry. He was probably in the other van.
Eight hours later we pulled into Caesar’s Hotel and as I pulled my hockey bag out of the van I glanced across the Detroit River.
It didn’t look so bad. In fact most of the tournament’s participants, hundreds of us from seventeen countries, had bought tickets for a Wednesday night hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Jeezus, Perras, you’re a bowlegged son-of-a-bitch. Did you leave your horse outside?”
I turned quickly in the elevator and met the grinning gaze of Greg Welton, a friend from my days in Lindsay, Ontario. In fact, we had played on the same Old-Timers’ team and that team was also playing in this tournament. If you can count on an old guy for a good-natured insult, you can also count on them for some timely advice. We were on our way to the Red Wing game.
“Make sure that you don’t get on a bus with a bunch of Russkies aboard,” he advised seriously. “There’s no telling how long they’ll be kept waiting at customs.”
Politically incorrect, to be sure, and absolutely correct as well. It’s a good thing we left two-and-a-half hours early to make the fifteen minute drive to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. The more than fifty buses were unloaded one-by-one at the customs terminal where passports were inspected and brusque questioning administered. The guards at the Berlin Wall in 1955 were probably a friendlier lot.
After sitting in a bus for an hour-and -half it was finally my turn. I didn’t dare shoo away the sniffer dog barely six inches away.
“Where are you going?” the official asked as he scanned my passport, no doubt checking to make sure that I hadn’t just arrived from Greece on my way out of Syria.
“Same place everyone else is going… to the Red Wings game,” I remarked smugly.
I didn’t really say that.
“Ever been arrested?” was his next question.
“Jeezus, you are one dim bulb,” I replied. “If I had been, I sure wouldn’t tell you.”
As you are probably thinking, I didn’t really say that either. I made my way past another half dozen guards at the door, making sure not to step on the toes of any of the sniffer dogs also congregated at the exit.
Before making it through to the arena entrance to be frisked before entering we had to wade through a phalanx of scalpers and ticket seekers. One man sat in a wheel chair with a homemade sign announcing that he was a Vietnam War vet who wanted a free ticket. He couldn’t have been more than thirty years old. I’m sixty this month and I was too young to fight in the Vietnam War.
Fortunately, the game was good. For two periods. As that period ended my teammate and roommate leaned over and asked, “Do you have money for a taxi back to Windsor? Imagine how long it’s going to take to load up the buses and get out of here.”
He was right . Three of us made our quickly across the border with a cabbie who had a passport. Canadian Customs held us up for exactly thirty five seconds. Yay Canada.
Windsor, I apologize. We’re going to have to find some other place to make that injection.