Sunday, February 24, 2013

Flashback: Driveway Hockey in Grand Island,NY

Taking a few shots, for old time's sake, in my driveway this past Thursday. It wasn't the same without the likes of Graham Pagano and a big garage door to shoot on. 

We really don't get much snow in Kansas City.  In my sixteen years of living here, I can't remember a bigger single snowfall than the foot of white stuff we got this past Thursday.  We shoveled the driveway as a family.

As I stood in the newly cleared driveway, a combination of feeling a little sweaty, yet cold, coupled with the sight of our shoveled driveway lined with a short wall of snow, catapulted me to the 1980's growing up in Grand Island, NY. I experienced a vivid flashback.

I would play driveway hockey with several of my buddies during the winters in Grand Island. After school, several friends would meet over at my house and we'd play until dark in my long driveway. It's no exaggeration to say we played 4-5 days a week for close to two hours every time.  We used street hockey sticks which had a wooden shaft from an old ice hockey stick, with a replaceable Cooper or Mylec (brand) hard plastic blade.  Over time the blade would wear down super thin and we'd have to replace it (for about $3).  Sometimes we'd use one of those blades until it was about an inch thick. The  ball would constantly bounce right over the blade. When you took a shot with a thin blade, the ball would often sky over the net wildly. We usually used a dead tennis ball, sometimes an orange hockey ball. The ball would be rock hard in the freezing temperatures. It killed to get a Graham Pagano slap shot to the leg with those frozen balls.  On one end of my driveway, the side that faced the road, to make a goal we would usually put a couple milk crates with a hockey stick on top for the cross bar.  We had a portable metal goal for the other end, placed up against the garage door.  To protect the heavy garage door surface, my dad would make me line plywood boards so not as many shots would crush up against the actual door. Man did we pound the crud out of that door! Along one side of the driveway there was a line of hedge bushes that would usually keep the ball in play.  My dad would sometimes look out and see us hacking at a ball that got caught in a bush and yell- "A buck a bush"!  Pretty funny.  Dad was surprisingly tolerant of how much hockey we played out there and how many wicked slap shots we put on that garage door.  My mother said he would grumble when he heard the shots up against the door, but he never said too much to me about it.  I figure he was happy we were out there getting exercise and not off somewhere else getting in to trouble.

We would usually play two on two, three on two was also a popular set up, with the team defending the big goal against the garage door getting a goalie.  We really only needed three players. In such cases, one person would play goalie, the other two would play against each other and take it back past a certain line, sort of like one on one basketball is played.  We all took turns in goal.  I had a hodge podge of equipment.  For a blocker (stick hand) we'd use a regular hockey glove, but it dated from the 1960's, the palms were rotted out and it smelled like roadkill.  For the catching hand we'd use a regular baseball glove, until Bob Lourdel picked up an old, super heavy, goalie glove (we nicknamed "Cloutier") at a garage sale.  For pads we had an actual pair of hard plastic Mylec pads that wore out quickly sliding on the cement surface.  To keep a plastic coating on the pads, I cut up one of those red plastic sheet sleds.  The pads were constantly being repaired.  For the longest time we had a broken goalie stick that I garbage picked from a  Rochester American game. Eventually Mylec made a goalie stick blade, and we used that until it wore down to the size of a regular player stick.  For a mask we had a white Mylec goalie mask.  Every time I got hit in the face, I would take a sharpie and put a scar on it like the old Boston Bruin goalie, Gerry Cheevers, in the early 70's.  I painted it a few times also. We all wore it, so it was loaded with spit and sweat.  It never smelled very good, that's for sure.

While we played, one of us, usually me, would do the play by play using the voice of the local Buffalo Sabres radio man, Rick Jeanneret.  Jeanneret, who still does most of the Buffalo broadcasts, was famous for his overly dramatic calls and his use of creative sayings to describe play.  "He scooooooores",  "He can't get it out....", "Here they go...." (when describing the start of a fight).  I would use them all as we played.  Just great, great, times.  We didn't know how great those times were until they were gone.  Isn't that the case with all such fun things in our childhood?

So, this past Thursday, as I stood in the driveway and had my flashback, I asked my youngest son to run down stairs and grab my old hockey stick (one from the last time I played, over 15 years ago).  He brought it up, I plucked a plastic ball from our ball bin in the garage, and I started to stick handle a bit and rip a few shots. Those old memories flooded back. Do you ever wish you could go back in time, just for a day or a few hours, and relive some of those moments?

I posted the above picture on Facebook and several of the guys who used to play in my driveway commented and shared various funny memories about our games.  Those games in my driveway happened over 25 years ago, and standing in my shoveled driveway with my hockey stick this past Thursday made it feel like yesterday.

This post is dedicated to the friends who played games on the Felich driveway in the 1980's, and the equipment that supported their epic games.

Players: Tony Felich, Graham Pagano, Nathan Currey, Tom Kane, Scott Kane, Scott White, Robert Tranter, Cliff Hageman, Carl Pazimickas, Bob Lourdel, Erik Nowakowski, Jeff Haines, and many others known only to the hedge row that kept the ball in, most of the time. 


Vintage 1980's Mylec Goalie pads

OLD school Jim Craig Mylec goalie mask (the first we had for driveway hockey)

"New", improved Mylec goalie mask 
Plastic Cooper blade


Woody Woodward said...

Thanks for sharing those great remembrances back when. I thought the snowman that Shari made was pretty cool. I ask AJ if he and the bro’s did it and he said, “No, it was mom and Willa.” I can just see my Cheri out making a snowman, that would be a day of remembrance for me to tell my grandkids.

Christian Lindner said...

Super cool write up. We had a bunch of games in Buffalo on the streets of Woodley Ave, Bame Ave, Burke Drive and the parking lot of St. Al's. I actually found this link in hopes to get a Mylec goalie mask for a pickup game we intend to play while Im in net w/ an old baseball mit and shin pads I was able to score on Craigslist. Neat to see other streets of WNY had the same memories using Mylec products!

Rogue Engineer said...

Greg Utz (currently living in Indinapolis) - Thanks for the flash back! I grew up in Cheektowaga and had the same goalie gear. Only reason Dad got me a mask was to protect the newly installed braces on my teeth. Mylec plastic pads for Christmas was the best ever.