We were hockey players.
We were the selected ones,
(the guys with equipment
or enough magazines to pass for shin guards).
We made the weekly trek
to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.

A rag-tag bunch of American boys
invading the sovereign game of hockey
at ungodly hours. The ice was ours
at a price that lawn mowing and paper routes
just didn’t seem to justify.
But, we were bitten by the bug.

Surely, in a Buffalo winter
there were numerous opportunities
to catch a game of shinny,
on whatever frozen pond or creek
was able to hold the mass of humanity
without too much stress on the ice.

But, we were hockey players. REAL hockey players,
and the allure to make a jaunt over the Peace Bridge
onto foreign soil (when homeland security was
a nasty dog with a bigger bark than its bite.)
was just too much to pass up.
We were international!

We were “Rocket” Richard,
we were Bobby Hull,
we were “Teeder” Kennedy.
We were searching for heroes in the sixties,
when heroes were much needed.
We were hockey players, as were our heroes.

But, we grew up. We got real jobs.
We lost the fire that possessed us.
We were burger flippers and broom pushers.
Stock boys, bus boys, valets and ball chasers.
But in our hearts, we were molded on Fort Erie’s
frozen classroom. Inside, we were hockey players.

And real heroes rose to meet our challenge.
They were in Southeast Asia putting
their lives on the line for our liberties.
They were people who took up the cause of humanity
at every turn. They were the fathers or mothers
who drove station wagons full of hockey players into Canada.

At 4 A.M., they saw us as hockey players.

2 thoughts on “FORT ERIE, 4 OF THE CLOCK, A.M.

  1. CROSS-BORDER GAME!What an ode to hockey!On the flip side of Lake Ontario, the game of hockey was well entrenched in our lives. I wrote about this a few years ago, from the viewpoint of a younger sister with brothers and friends who seemed to play hockey at any old time of day or night. (I posted a link on my blog to Ice: New Writing on Hockey which contains my essay on "Growing Up With Hockey" .) The 4 a.m. rings true to that love of the game. Hockey Night in Canada, now HNIC, was an institution. Even now one of the favourite events of the winter is a trip south to a Buffalo-Toronto game.I married a Montrealer! He grew up in Montreal during the Habs' glory days. Today, family gatherings are fun when the topic of hockey arises. Go team (Leafs, Sabres, Habs, Walt, Marie Elena)!

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