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Showing posts with label hockey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hockey. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2011

MOUNT ROYAL excerpt: Hockey and homo-erotic masochism

The novel is in its final editorial stages. Scary. No more last second changes. Time for her to get up and walk the walk. C'mon, baby, do daddy proud!


Below is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Mount Royal.
Johnny, the protagonist, and close friend Slim are talking about the masochistic aspects of pre-1967 expansion era professional hockey, the horrific injuries suffered especially by goaltenders in order to earn what was then a meager living as the often semi-literate bonded serfs of the legitimized gangsters who controlled the game and the men who played it...

from the novel
MOUNT ROYAL
Excerpt title: Hockey and homo-erotic masochism

Legendary pro hockey goaltender Terry Sawchuk
When a brain-squeezer migraine rousts me around noon, Slim has a tall glass of cool water ready, along with four aspirins. I down it all and she trades me the empty glass for a cup of coffee.
After the beer tent boondoggle last night, Al went home and I returned to the Balmoral. A couple hours later Slim recognized my boots under a stall door in the men’s room. She said she’d called out my name and when I didn’t answer, climbed over. After dragging me back to my place, she’d held my forehead as I threw up then put us both to bed.
She's even returned this morning’s pager calls, letting me get some badly needed shut-eye by telling my clientele there's nothing around right now and I'll get back to them this afternoon, once inventory is re-stocked. I feel a bit guilty letting people go sick but what the fuck. They won't have to wait all that long and exercising one’s patience does build character. Her ministrations complete, Slim shows me an old yellowed paperback. Hockey Is A Battle: The Autobiography of Punch Imlach. Hennessy had bought it for my birthday at the Sally Ann on Saint-Antoine.
“You and your hockey hang up,” she says, studying the cover. “I was reading some of it while you were asleep. This Imlauck guy was a real jerk.”
“It’s pronounced Im-lack and of course he was a jerk,” I defend the legendary Maple Leafs coach. “He had to be. Players then could handle it. Not like the pansies today.”
“If they’re such pansies, why are you so fascinated by them?”
“I don’t love these new guys with their steroids and gay haircuts. What they do is interesting because of the whole S/M, B&D homoerotic element in contact sports but, really, I like the pre-expansion old timers. The guys who made shit money and played hockey cuz they couldn’t do anything else. Y’know, the sort of guys who looked enviously at a plumber or electrician, somebody with a real trade.”
“Okay, so one of those working class tragedies you’re always crying about.”
“I’m not always ‘crying’ about them.”
Slim closes the book and gives me her undivided attention. It’s patronizing but I can live with the way she does it. “All right, Johnny. Go ahead and tell me.”
I sit up and face her to better describe the thing. “Terry Sawchuk is a classic example. He was a brilliant goalie but had a wicked ulcer, like all goalies back then. Who wouldn’t? None of them wore a mask, mostly because it was considered effete. All they had on were some joke pads to protect against these maniacs firing frozen pucks at their heads. Sawchuk and the other goalies, they were always one shot away from death or disfigurement or being left a vegetable. So, him and a drinking buddy of his, a forward called Ronnie Stewart… or maybe he was a defenseman… Anyway, they both played for the New York Rangers at the time. In those days, players  made like eighteen dollars a week and sent most of the money back to their wives and seven kids or whatever. Basically, they were bums on skates. I mean, they lived in fucking roominghouses!”
“Just get on with the story.”
“Okay. So Sawchuk and this other guy, they didn’t want to waste their cash in a bar so they’d buy a bottle of some rotgut and get drunk out on the street. The two of them were boozing in Bryant Park. Y’know, on 34th, behind the Museum of Natural History.”
“Byrant Park’s behind  the main library.”
“Yeah  – one of those massive Gotham buildings. Anyway, they start to play-fight and roll around - but pretty hardcore. Remember, these are tough, semi-literate bonehead hockey players. Stewart accidentally boots Sawchuk in the guts while they’re grappling. That bursts his ulcer and smashes up his liver and long story short, it ends up killing Sawchuk. And he holds the record for the most career shutouts in NHL history. Nobody’s even close and the fucking guy died with nothing, a drunk in some park!”
Slim’s not moved. “They sound like clich├ęd losers.”
“Yeah… I guess… Dream comes true for small town hoser who gets used and abused by cigar chomping boss archetype. A few years later the player is tossed onto the scrap heap.”
“This obsession of yours, Johnny, it seems kind of regressive.”
“Yeah, I know. Listen, do you think continental European guys are lousy lays?”
She rubs her eyes, running out of patience. “What’s that got to do with Sawcheck and his friend?”
“It’s Saw-chuk – and it’s got nothing to do with him or Ronnie Stewart. It’s this anti-rock’n’roll theory Al and I were talking about last night at that stupid beer tent festival. Don’t you remember? I’ve told you about it before.”
“Yeah, I suppose…”
“Anyway,  the basic idea is that because continental European guys don’t get rock’n’roll and since Nazis were continental Euros and fascism is a Euro concept, that would naturally mean, y’know, they don’t get irony, which means they can’t really rock’n’roll, and that makes them useless lays because a rockin’ and a rollin’ is really just another word for fucking.”
Slim’s had about enough. “Johnny… please.”
“No, I mean it. Seriously, I’m asking what you think.”
Cheeks puffing out, she goes mock cross-eyed for a sec then forces herself to consider the notion. “Um, all right… uh… yeah, I’ve screwed some European guys while I’ve been over there, and some I met here...”
“I don’t mean UK guys, they’re not really European.”
“I dunno… as a group they’re not much different than guys anywhere. We’re talking straight hetero guys, right?”
“Yeah yeah, of course, strictly hetero.”
“Well, most strictly hetero men are pretty mediocre as it is. I mean, some of them are nice people  – or do you mean just their sexual technique?”
“No, not only technique. Anybody can learn that, more or less. I guess whether they get the whole kind of complex structure built around what’s basically attempted procreation. Y’know, the weird irony of there being so much devoted to it - your own energy, the world’s. But it’s not about having children. It’s about identity, libido, ego, fuck, who knows, lots of shit that has zero to do with procreating and in fact, that’s considered a negative result almost all the time.”
“Well, you’ll never wrap it all up in a one-liner. I guess that’s why sex and death are endless subjects and people never gets tired of them.”
I’m not too satisfied with this outcome. “Yeah… maybe…”
“Sorry to poke a hole in your hypothesis, darling.”
I put on a mad professor shtick with a cartoon German accent. “Ha! Zey laughed at me in Prague!”
 Slim smiles with something bordering on fondness. She runs her fingers through my hair. “It’s nice you woke up in such a good mood.” The phone rings. We both groan.


Road hockey: Saint-Henri, Montreal, spring 1990
Doing my Terry Sawchuk impersonation

photo: Dee Lafontaine

Friday, December 23, 2011

Insane Men We Have Known + Loved

Christmas can be a special time, particularly for fathers and sons who share a deep affection for Canada's national game, hockey...


"What do you want?"
"I called to see how you're doing."
"What do you care how I'm doing? When you were living here you never came around so now you're calling from spic land to see how I'm doing?"
"Look, Dad, I didn't call to-"
"I bought you your first car, you know."
"Yeah, I know. It was a 1968 Fiat shitbox with a rotten floor you got off some secretary for fifty bucks."
"So what? I bought it for you."
"Okay, I guess I forgot to thank you. Thanks."
"And you remember the AMC Ambassador? I gave you that car."
"You'd blown the engine and it was almost scrap. Me and Gus and Sam fixed it and it drove for like three months."
"So what? I gave it to you."
"Okay, thanks for that too."
"Y'know, you're lucky I made you play hockey."
"Yeah whatever. I don't need to hear all this again."
"It's the only reason you're not a TOTAL faggot."
"Just out of curiosity. I mean, I don't really care anymore but why DID you tell people I was a faggot?"
"Because you WERE a faggot! And if you didn't play hockey, you would have been a real lube-assed cocksucking whore of a faggot!"
"Okay, thanks for that too."
"You could have been good. Really good. Not great but good enough. Not like Chris Chelios maybe, but look at those faggots Nick Mastroyannis or Chris Ioannou. They weren't any better than you! They weren't any tougher than you but they stuck with it and played in the pros for over 10 years each and made a lot of money and made their people proud. They retired at thirty-five, thirty-six years old with no worries and they support their parents."
"Yeah yeah."
"Yeah yeah? Nick Mastroyannis was all fucking mouth! You remember you cleaned his clock when you were playing for Wexford? Remember that?! After you had him on the ice, out cold, I fucking spit in his old man's face - that Macedonian cocksucker! You kicked the shit out of him and HE went onto the fucking pros and made millions and you became a fucking drug addict! You were good but you weren't smart. You were drafted in the 4th round in the Ontario Major Juniors, for fucksake! Remember?!"
"Yeah yeah, I remember."
"You remember... You stupid faggot - do you know how many boys your age would have given everything for that chance? If you'd played Major Junior for three years -LIKE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO - you'd have been drafted by the pros for sure. And THAT was when the league was expanding like crazy and they needed good hardnosed players. Hockey is a game of-"
"-intimidation. Yeah, I know. Do we have to-"
"You don't know anything, you moron. You would have been drafted in the first 5 or 6 rounds - FOR SURE! You could have played for one of those new teams then- Anaheim or Colorado or Dallas, brought our game to the American south."
"Oh, Christ... not this again."
"Don't give me your bullshit! I gave you the OPPORTUNITY. I toughened you up. You could have had respect and money and people would have looked up to you. Instead you listened to your stupid mother."
"Leave her out of this."
"She kept you soft, like a fucking girl, like a fucking faggot. All of you, Sam, Gus, Marco - you were all tougher than so many of these faggots who made it to the pros. Any of you could have been good solid players. Okay, not big fancy stars but something better. You could have been the fucking BACKBONE every team needs to win! You could have been the foot soldiers every coach needs to win!"
"Yeah, okay. I've heard all this shit a million times."
"Too bad it didn't get through your thick skull, you stupid asshole. I gave you the best years of my life, waking up in the middle of the night to drive you to fucking Midland or Bancroft in the snow to play good teams so you could compete against the best, become the best. Now what are you doing? Living down there with a bunch of spics and some whore and doing drugs. I hope you're having a great time."
"I am, me and my whore and my drugs, we're living it up. I've never felt better. So are you going to go into the Bayview Lodge or what? Mum can't handle you anymore in the condo. Anyway, she's gonna be in the hospital over Christmas and you're too fucked up to be there by yourself."
"What do you care what I do? Your stupid brother's been pushing me to get out of here, trying to get me into fucking diapers. I'll go when I want to go and don't worry about your mother. She's fine. She's not that sick."
"She's dying, you idiot."
"Dying. Yeah, she's been dying for 15 years. She's outlive us all."
"For fucksakes... Okay, I gotta go."
"Yeah. You always have to go. Thanks for calling."
"Go into the fucking home, will ya? Just do that for her, at least that."
"You handle your women and I'll handle mine, okay? Go fuck your whore and your faggots and do your drugs. Don't worry about me."
"Merry Christmas."
"Yeah, you too."