The Worst Christmas Gift EVER

The Gay Groom at age three on his backyard rink

Continuing with my “Christmas in the 70s” series, I look back gifts.  Not the gifts I wanted and received like my pogo stick, the soundtrack album to The Sound of Music or my Stretch Armstrong (or even the ones I really wanted but couldn’t mention like an Easy Bake Oven), but the one I received almost every Christmas and never ever wanted.

Hockey skates.

With visions of NHL hockey contracts dancing in his head, each winter my father would stand out back of our house in the freezing cold and flood our lawn with a garden hose to make my older brothers and me a backyard skating rink.

My dear old dad wanted your humble blogger to be a great hockey player.  He had me on ice-skates before I was two years old.  The logic being, I suppose, that the earlier I was on the ice then the better skater I would become.

Sadly, for him, this was not to be the case.

Unlike my older brothers, I hated hockey. I hated the cold. I hated the big heavy uniform.  I hated the big smelly bag you carried the hockey accouterments in.  And I especially hated how hockey skates hurt my feet.  I told my dad that skating for long periods hurt my chest (my asthma not yet being diagnosed) but any protestations I made were dismissed by my father with a shake of his head as he would put those damned skates on my feet at the kitchen table each evening and then have me skate in circles around that backyard ice rink.

“You just need more practice,” he would say as he shoved me out into the cold.

On Saturday nights, he would have me sit in front of our huge Zenith color television and watch “Hockey Night in Canada.”  The little Gay Groom did not like watching hockey anymore than I liked playing it.  The games seemed to go on forever and I never really cared who won or lost.  To pass the time as they skated up and down and up and down and up… I would critique the colors of their uniforms:  loved the purple and gold Kings, hated the brown, yellow and orange Canucks, and decided that the Whalers needed a splash of crimson.

I would wait patiently for the end of the game when the camera would move into the locker-room and someone would put a microphone in the face of a half-naked husky hockey player with a bare chests and long sweaty hair.

In those days your humble blogger really dug those Montreal Canadians with their French accents.  Actually, your humble blogger still does.

When I was seven, the time came for me to join the city boy’s hockey league, just as my brothers had, where I played on a team called the Cardinals.

“Shouldn’t cardinals be in red?” I asked my dad when I saw my green uniform for the first time.

“Stop worrying so much about color,” he said.

And I was hopeless on the ice.  I tripped.  I fell over.  I slid on my face.  And at times I simply gave up and lay on my back staring up at the lights on the ceiling as others skated around me.  The lights are pretty from down here, I thought.

“Get up!” my father yelled from the stands. “For Christ’s sake, skate!”

I didn’t feel like it.

After a few games, I was not put on the ice much and spent most of the game sitting on the bench with Tommy Young who was also a terrible skater (and who, incidentally, I would run into at a gay bar a few years later) and discuss important things like Tiger Beat magazine.  Warming the bench with Tommy was fine by me.

(I should mention at this point that many gay men are great athletes and, particularly, great hockey players… and the Gay Groom’s own rottenness at hockey should be in no way seen as stereotypical of all gay boys.  There are excellent gay hockey players out there – I am just not one of them.)

On the drive home from the neighborhood hockey rink after a Cardinal’s game my dad was always quiet.  He was never one to mask his disappointment well and would look shell shocked as he drove (rather like he did years later when I told him why my roommate and I had rented an apartment with only one bedroom).

“But he was on skates before he was two,” he would say quietly say to himself.

When we got home he would make me put my skates back on and skate circles around the backyard rink in the dark.

“You need more practice,” he said.

One night after he made me go out in the backyard to skate circles I waited until I saw him looking out the kitchen window at me.   Then I stretched out my arms wide at my sides and, in the best Dorothy Hamill imitation my lousy skating skills could muster, I started to do big flamboyant figure eights on the ice.  As my father’s eyes narrowed I even managed to throw in a few tiny little jumps without falling.  The final spin never materialized properly but I still finished with a defiant “TA DA!”

It worked.  He flew outside in a rage running over the ice in his stocking feet and pulling me by the shoulder, threw me through the back door.

My dad never made another backyard ice rink.

And as for your humble blogger’s first and only year playing hockey with The Cardinals?  Now the only reminder I have of that unhappy winter is my team photo.

TA DA!

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

Worst Hockey Player Ever?

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6 Comments

Filed under gay, gay blogging, gay Christmas, gay groom, gay hockey, gay men, gay men toronto, gay men underwear, gay men's hockey, gay sports, gay wedding, gaygroom, Xmas

6 responses to “The Worst Christmas Gift EVER

  1. Derekj01

    I would say from that picture, you sure didn’t look like you wanted to be playing hockey either. I guess your dad thought if you kept going out there you might just change your mind. Fortunately I didnt have to face that, as my balance on skates was never that good, so I never advanced to playing hockey or skating for that matter.

  2. Being forced to play hockey is also the story of my early life. In my case, I had the “thrill” of receiving a hockey stick for Christmas every year. Yippee!

  3. My parents spent a fortune every term on new sports kit for me – football boots, pads, cricket raquets, tennis clubs and even the regulation school bag (with logo) to carry them in. I knew it was such a waste, I didn’t so much as wear any of it.

    I’m fairly certain that I became friends with my father – or rather, he became friends with me – about three years before he died. I don’t really know if that was because he finally decided to like me or because he’d just given up! A parent with multiple children has choices and operates a time-share system, whereas a son only has one father. Mine, whether he meant to or not, imbued me with a sense of failure that took a LOT of working around.

    We humans are indeed peculiar creatures! A thick and crunchy shell on the outside and the filling is always gooey and complicated.

  4. Robert Power

    Oh my God! I had almost forgotten this part of my childhood until I read your blog. As Barbra sang – what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget. Hockey. It was horrible to play. And it wasn’t even fun to watch on TV, unlike swimming, diving or gymnastics (which are still my favourites for obvious reasons). And the experience was even worse for me, as our school had its own hockey arena (albeit a small one by NHL standards). All winter our phys. ed. period was hockey! Freezing cold, smelly hockey. And to add fuel to the fire – my father was one of Newfoundland’s best hockey players (he is now in the Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Fame). So the expectation was that I was going to be the apple that hadn’t fallen far from the tree. Fortunately, my father saw the writing on the wall early on and never demanded that I become anything other than who I was. My brother ended up carrying the torch, which worked out best for all concerned.

    I still love skating, but not playing hockey. In my mind, if men need to put on that much gear to work up a sweat, they lack creativity. I did come to appreciate and understand the game more when I spent a lot of time in Montreal and Quebec during the Habs/Nordiques conflict. And if one must watch something other than swimming, diving or gymnastics on TV, it is more exciting to watch than baseball (which is like watching guys standing around a parking lot) or football (a game played by guys with odd-shaped balls).

  5. Cb

    The real irony here is that now you rather enjoy the smell of that hockey bag. 😉

  6. Pingback: Not Another Year in Review Blog! | The Gay Groom

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