of the hockey dads gather at the back of the grandstand when
they watch their sons play. They lean on the metal rail and
many of them maintain a running commentary as the game unfolds.
They give each other high-fives when their team scores and holler
in unison when they think the referee has made yet another bad
doesn't join them. He sits in the stands with his partner.
She's slim, blonde and sexy, and she likes to sit with the
other six members of her family who consistently come to the
rink to watch. She draws attention, and Larry likes to stay
a big man who has a gentle touch with kids. The 10-year-olds
who are on the ice adore him. He counsels teenagers who have
mastered the art of picking a lock or skulking out of a store
with pockets full.
knows hockey. When he plays shinny the puck follows him --
he can do things his buddies can only dream about. A few years
ago he was called up to the NHL for a cup of coffee. The rivalry
and bitterness of this championship series of 10-year-old
players rivals the intensity of those few games he played
in the arenas of North America's greatest hockey towns.
hockey can be passionate, but this series has gone beyond
the norm. The kids want to win, but the parents are more focused
on what's happening in the stands than on the game that's
unfolding in front of them.
started in the regular season. Parents with the Mohawks have
a tradition of coming to the rink with their shakers, Javex
bottles full of pennies that create a cacophony of sound when
you shake them. When the first playoff game started the parents
of the Cree (Yes, there are still many hockey people who think
these native names are a positive reinforcement for a battered
culture) had their revenge. One of the mothers showed up with
a drum and played the rhythm of a war chant from the beginning
to the end of the game. Non-stop.
the shakers and the drum create enough noise to put even the
most calm and rational hockey parent on edge. This is the
final game of the series -- the tension rises with every beat
of the drum. The game is in the second period with the score
tied when the strain takes its toll. Larry's partner decides
she can't take any more drumbeats. She's had enough.
moves two rows down and reaches over to the mother who's been
banging the drum. She stumbles and falls into the man sitting
next to the drummer. He pushes her back and she falls. The
pressure of the moment and Larry's need to protect his partner
drive him to leap into action.
kids, he's mild and calm, but he's worked as a bodyguard for
the famous who need protection when they come to the big city.
He stands 6-3 and knows how to inflict damage.
swoops in and lifts her to the aisle where she's away from
everyone else. Then he turns and moves towards the man who
shoved his partner.
drum is silent and the shakers are on the ground. Very few
of the parents notice the players jumping on the Cree's leading
scorer, knocking him to the ice. The Mohawks have scored a
goal to put them one up.
grabs the man's coat with one hand and shoves the palm of
his other hand into the man's face. Larry moves so quickly
and ferociously that it's clear he can be dangerous, but before
he can do any damage he hears the celebration on the ice.
The noise is like a magnet and everyone turns their attention
back to the game.
lets the man go and drops his hand to his side. Insults are
hurled, but the moment of violence has passed. Larry and his
partner walk up the stairs to their place on the cold, hard
game continues and the parents go back to their cheering,
but there are no more shakers and the drum stays silent. There
are no more goals. The Mohawks win their second city championship.
parents from both teams came to the rink to soak up the atmosphere
of a championship game. They wanted a victory and some of
them got it, but when the kids wandered out of their dressing
room there were just as many comments about the drums, the
shakers and Larry's tussle as there were about the win. The
behaviour of the adults had come within a heartbeat of stealing
the joy from their kids' victory celebration.