I remember feeling somewhat perplexed and insulted when this older ice hockey goalie over at Skyrink asked me why my goalie pads and catch gloves were all torn up and dirty looking.
“Oh, I use these pads and gloves for roller hockey”
“Well, your pretty good kid, I saw some of the saves you made, you ever think about playing ice hockey instead?”
“Ah no, I think roller hockey’s it for me”.
“Well, you know there’s no future for you in roller hockey, if you ever want to get anywhere you need to be playing ice hockey”.
I just said nothing as he skated back onto the ice and returned to the crystal clean confines of his crease. Looking at his perfect un-torn jersey along with his un-blemished, and un-ripped Cooper goalie pads.
And me, well, I got back on the ice and skated to the other goal, I laughed to myself when I looked at my crease, it was as brown as a pig sty and looked like someone just took a shit in it. And that’s because the grime and dirt from Avenue F which was still on my goalie pads and gloves was being slowly cleansed by the cold ice below me every time I made a pad save on one knee.
What the hell does this guy know about Avenue F and especially roller hockey? Who’s he to tell me what’s better for me? Screw ice hockey, I’m a roller hockey goalie and one of the best around. And when I play at Avenue F everyone knows my name. Screw you and your college jersey and clean pads, you don’t know nothing!
That was probably around 1973 and I had to be no older than sixteen at the time.
You see although we all played roller at Avenue F, sometimes Steve McNally would rent out the ice on a Saturday night over at Skyrink on 33rd street in Manhattan at these strange times like one or three in the morning. And that’s because those were the only times the ice was available, most other times either the Rangers were using it or pretty young figure skaters were. Maybe training for the Olympics or just doing what their parents wanted them to do.
And us, well, for us this whole ice hockey thing was one big joke, just a way to have some fun and laughs together and not take the game so seriously as we did at Avenue F.
Now, usually the night began on the corner of Church Avenue and East Fifth Street by Royal’s with the likes of Willie Ratka, Jimmy Webster, Hank Holloway, Drew Thomas and the rest of the boys. Piling in the back of my 73 Buick Century or my cousin Pete’s 69 Pontiac with hockey sticks out the side windows and smelly equipment in the trunk. Headed towards the Brooklyn Battery tunnel with the "Cars" playing on my 8-track, just looking to have a total ball playing ice hockey over at Skyrink.
Yes, ice hockey was a blast, and thats because we never ever took it seriously you know. Never.
But then Sunday morning came and it was back to business, yes very serious business, because we had a roller hockey league game down at Avenue F. And the coach doesn’t want to hear about being out all night or the fact that you slept for just two hours. No, you have a game at Avenue F and you better be prepared.
Because the hockey we played on McDonald was "professional" hockey in our eyes. and always played on “quad skates” and asphalt rather than two silver blades and cold clean ice.
Lets see…we had our own 1980 Olympics when the Americans beat the Russians at Avenue F back in 1975. And that happened when my cousin Pete’s Terrace Rangers took down the mighty 67th Pct. Blues in the playoffs. With a rag-tag team of no more than seven players on their bench they defeated the Blues with their roster of twenty players and endless amount of talent. Yes, Robert Brennan the goalie for the Rangers playing the best games of his life, stopping everything and anything the Blues shot at him.
“Do you believe in Miracles?”
Well, that line was probably uttered down at Avenue F, five years before the Americans beat the Russians in Lake Placid.
And no, never once was there a pro scout watching us or a chance for a college scholarship.
No thats for wimpy college kids, and we were already in the "pros"
And Avenue F was our own Madison Square Garden too. Oh, lets see, we had orange seats in the form of old plastic milk crates, green seats being the park benches, and blue seats on the subway train that used to roar above our heads.
So there mister fancy ice hockey goalie, we already played at Madison Square Garden. Where did you play? Some unknown college arena?
And the Stanley Cup you ask?
Well yes, we had our own version of the Stanley Cup; except it was called the “Kenna Cup” and yes I raised it high above my head too back in the spring of 1975. Always feeling kind of bad that we won the championship against my cousin Pete and Robert’s Rangers. Seeing Pete in my house and Robert on the block kind of kept me from fully celebrating you know. Feeling kind of bad that I beat my two best friends.
And friendships you ask?
Well I made more friends down at Avenue F than you could imagine, and many of us still keep in touch with one another after all these years.
And guys like Bill Webster, Fred Allen, Louie DeBiasi, and Jerry Cartolano?
I know your fancy college doesn’t have guys like that around; no these were guys who just did it because they wanted to and not because it was their job.
And we had hockey dinners with Bill Chadwick over at the Farragot Mannor, skate dance parties on Friday nights, and dozens of hockey players and sanitation men chanting my name after I made a great save against the "dreaded" Blues.
“Ronnie!, Ronnie!, Ronnie!”
Oh yes, it was such sweet music to my ears and never once did my mother see me play hockey.
So skate back into your crease mister clean pants ice hockey goalie, and don’t ever tell me what’s good for me and my game called “Roller Hockey”.
Because after you fade into obscurity on your ice skates, I’ll still be living in my world of roller hockey where everyone knows my name.
And "Blissful" as ever, on my eight little wheels.