The old Orillia rink, where I put on my first team sweater when I was about six years old, is suddenly an empty lot. So is my old high school but I’m not missing that.
I always looked for number 9 because it was the Rocket’s. Often in those first few years I’d get it. Survival of the quickest to the sweater heap. And maybe number 9 was more important to me than to the others.
A rink where Ricky Ley, who became a star defenceman in the NHL and WHA, started life as a goalie and was rarely scored upon because he simply laid down across the goal and no one could raise the puck over him.
Where much of my childhood and adolescent was centered around, and where the old guy who pulled the barrel of water on wheels around to flood it always had a cigarette in his mouth.
When I was a kid having my dad tie my laces, the rink was actually quite new, the same age as me, but it seemed old, with smells I smell to this day. Great smells. Cigars, sweaty sweaters. Distinct smells. It had only been a handful of years but it wasn’t new, not by a long shot.
The demolition company charged $97,000 to level the old barn, which I thought was cheap. It had become unsafe, the roof was the problem, and I guess it’s never good to sit in an arena watching a game and hoping the roof doesn’t fall on your head.
Developers had stayed away from $649,000 asking price because of the added cost of demolishing. But it was smack dab in the heart of Orillia where $96,000 tacked onto the land price shouldn’t be all that outlandish. I don’t know. Is it?
They turned the Montreal Forum into a cinema, coffee shop, liquor store and bank mall. Now I lose my second rink and it only cost $97,000.
It’s where my winters were spent. Where I went public skating. Where I took a puck in the mouth which broke two teeth, when I was sitting in the stands.
Where I was a smallish yet shifty right winger for Byers Bulldozers bantam and midget all-star teams, and where it was a badge of honor to get lots of concussions, long before we knew what a bummer a concussion could actually be.
Hey! I’m going to blame all my teenage and adult poor decisions on my concussions suffered at the old rink when I was kid! This is the best excuse I’ve ever come up with!