Hockey Night in Hart House
Like most young boys in Canada, I wanted to be a hockey player. But in the house where I grew up, with seven brothers and four sisters, wrestling boots were easier to come by than hockey skates.
I can't remember a time when I wasn't surrounded by wrestling.
I'd wake up and think nothing of giants and midgets wandering through the house.
It was one of those nights when my mom and dad went out and left my sisters, Ellie, 12, and Georgia, 11, in charge. They had instructions to make sure the "little ones" got to bed on time -- and I was annoyed, as usual, my sisters thought of me as one of the little ones. I was 10. As far as I was concerned, I didn't take orders from either one of them.
I was glued to the chair in front of the TV in the kitchen intently watching Hockey Night In Canada. At the end of the first period, I went upstairs for a game of table hockey with my younger brother, Ross, 7.
All of us Hart boys were quite competitive table hockey players. We even had our own fantasy table hockey league. We named the teams and the players and I chronicled the rosters and the scores with pencil in a spiral notebook that, by the way, I've never had the heart to throw out. I came across it not too long ago. As I carefully turned the disintegrating pages, the fierce rivalries noted so meticulously, though faded, came back to my mind in vivid detail.
Well, on that night, I beat Ross and he didn't take losing very well.
We got into a classic name-calling squabble, laughing and angry all at the same time.
Ellie and Georgia came to break up the tussle and ended up becoming part of the little ring-a-ding-dong dandy. Well, I wasn't having any of it. I quickly showed them who was boss and hurried back downstairs so I wouldn't miss the start of the second period.
I was watching the game and something told me it was too quiet upstairs. I figured they must be getting ready for another charge. I was thinking: Gee, it would be nice to have some ice cream. There was a whole bunch of it in the freezer, which was outside on the porch -- about 15 ft. away from me. I made my big move, slid over to the freezer in my socks, grabbed an ice-cream bar and turned to go back inside just in time to see Ellie, Georgia and Ross deadbolt the kitchen door. The girls laughed with glee, while Ross threw a triumphant fist in the air.
There were lots of doors and I sprinted over to the closest one. They scrambled there before me and -- click -- it was locked.
Another victory celebration inside.
I ran as fast as I could to the next door ... and the next ... and the next ... until finally there were no more doors to try. To them, it was a joke but what they weren't fully getting is it was 40 below and I was wearing only socks, jeans and a T-shirt.
I looked up at the house, studying all the windows for a way in when I noticed the door up on the top-floor balcony, outside my mother's office. I scaled a rickety scaffold and some splitting fascia, teeth chattering with my frozen socks sliding all over the place. It didn't even occur to me how dangerous it was because I was so satisfied at having found a way to outsmart Ellie, Georgia and Ross.
I snuck inside and hid under the desk in my mother's office for about 20 minutes, rubbing my numb feet. My sisters were feeling pretty proud of themselves but, after a while, their laughter turned to concern.
They opened the doors and called out to me -- but, of course, I didn't answer. Now I was the one laughing so hard that I thought I'd blow my cover. Strange thing was, even though I was laughing, I was still pretty angry. So, I did something that makes sense only to a 10-year-old boy: I made a running charge and jumped up onto a huge crystal chandelier, swinging down on Ellie and Georgia and Ross like Tarzan.
Ellie was wagging her finger in my face: "Just you wait until mom and dad get home and we tell them how bad you've been! You're in big trouble, Bret!"
It turned out my parents got back very late that night and, by then, I was buried under the blankets in my bed. Clear as day, I heard my sisters rat me out. I can still hear mom say: "Stu, what are you going to do?"
And with that, I heard my dad's heavy footsteps creak up the stairs. I made believe I was asleep but peeked out through squinted eyes. His big silhouette hovered as he pointed his finger at me: "Buster, don't let it happen again."
He turned and walked out. I could hear the girls protesting about why that's all I got, as he shuffled them off to bed.
When the house grew quiet and I was sure it was safe, I turned my blanket into a tent and switched on my flashlight so I could get another look at Bobby Orr on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
"Geez," I sighed, "all that to watch Hockey Night in Canada but it was sure worth it!"
Enjoy the playoffs.