For those readers who may recall how calm I always was on the bench in my years with the Chapleau Intermediate "A" Huskies, and Chapleau Midgets, you will know that I was totally relaxed while watching Game seven of the Stanley Cup finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Not likely! I am not a huge fan of the present National Hockey League, but once I decided to cheer for the Penguins, I was right into it, bringing back memories of games won and lost going back 60 years or so in the history of Chapleau hockey.
And the Penguins and the Red Wings did not disappoint. It was anybody's game right up to the final buzzer with Marc Andre Fleury making another fantastic save with less than six seconds left to give the Penguins the cup by a score of 2-1.
Between periods I ignored the pontificating of Don Cherry who is one the major reasons why I don't watch NHL hockey, and shook my head when league commissioner Gary Bettman had to make a comment about saving the (Pittsburgh) franchise while presenting the cup to Sidney Crosby, the Penguins captain. It was neither the time nor the place for Bettman to subtly raise the Phoenix Coyotes issue, as nobody really cared about it.
I could just as easily have been cheering for the Red Wings as Detroit holds fond memories for me in the years that I was a daily newspaper reporter and editor. But I chose Pittsburgh, more out of nostalgia than anything else, for it was there that I was introduced to the reality of the American Dream and met the best of the best in the American people.
As a kid I spent some summers in Pittsburgh with my Mom where we went to visit friends of my parents from World War II days. Iven and Arlene Nichol came to Canada after the war started and Iven was a flying instructor with my Dad as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. After the United States entered the war, Iven returned home and joined the US military. After the war, Mom wanted me to know their friends even though my Dad was killed on active service in the RCAF in 1943, and off we would go to spend time with Iven and Arlene and eventually their family of six girls as Iven climbed the corporate ladder. For a time Pittsburgh was like a second home to me, and then we followed them to Stamford, Connecticut, where Iven commuted to New York City as a senior executive. In the midst of Game seven of the Stanley Cup I had a rush of memories from more than 50 years ago, and am so thankful to my Mom and Iven and Arlene for letting me have a real taste of American life.
In 1968 I was at the Chatham Daily News as a reporter and editor, arriving shortly after the race riots that devastated parts of Detroit. But in 1968 the Detroit Tigers were in the World Series, and I was assigned to accompany the late Reyn Davis, one of my best friends ever and surely among the greatest sports writers of the 20th century, to games in Detroit. On our first trip to Detroit both of us were shocked at the damage done from the race riots -- we saw another side of life in the United States and itwas ugly indeed. Quite an experience for a kid from a village in Northern Ontario and for Reyn who was from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Reyn went on to the Winnipeg Free Press where he was named the best hockey writer in North America by the University of Missouri School of Journalism and is also a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
As you can see it was quite a night for me as I watched Game seven, full of nostalgia really, and not just about those hockey games won and lost. But if NHL games were as good as that one, I would really be getting excited again.
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