A few days from now, I will undergo a frightening transition from this life to another. Please don’t misunderstand. As far as I know, I’m not about to kick the bucket, cash in my chips, turn toes-up, shuffle off the coil, turn in my Bingo dabbers, or commit some other cozy euphemism. My impending metamorphosis will be metaphorical, not corporeal.
That doesn’t make it less daunting. In fact, at the ripe age of almost-75, I’m probably better prepared for the eventual Great Leap than for this paler version. Bottom line: for a few hours on Sunday evening, I will be transported from my normal sedentary state to that of a passionate hockey-playing oldtimer with the foreboding nickname of Hammer. It’s for a staged reading of a relatively new Canadian (of course) play.
Anyone who has ever met me knows my physique is less hammer than nail. A bent and rusty one, at that. No hockey team ever did – or would – pick me to go all elbows and flailing sticks into the corner, or to blast some opposing behemoth into the boards just for fun. In fact, I am a terminal wimp, more likely to be found in a library than an arena, wearing head protection just to execute a rhyming couplet.
At risk of being considered treasonous, I have never once worn skates while also carrying a hockey stick. I have never yelled, “Car!” to warn my teammates to clear the road. I don’t watch hockey, even at Cup time, and can barely distinguish between a power play and the offside rule. The only games I’ve attended were when I was obliged to take photos of a Junior “B” tournament for a small Ontario newspaper in the 1960s.
My mandate was to capture a dramatic tangle of arms and bodies that would miraculously include a black, airborne disc hurtling ominously toward the most-padded player at any given end of the rink.
I understand that every team designates a specific member as a sacrificial target for its opponents. I even know the names of two of them: Ken Dryden and Gump Worsley. How are their stats this year?
I also recall a promising lad named Gretzky, but I think his coaches considered him too slight, or too pretty, to play goal.
Given my indifference toward the Great Canadian Game, why would someone draft me for the role of Hammer? Did the director decide to cast against type for comic effect, or is there just a shortage of local men willing to read out loud?
Perhaps she sensed a crouching tiger lurking within my modest frame.
But despite my misgivings and obvious unsuitability, I’ll be out there come show time, ready to give it 110 per cent on every shift. Because, by golly, there is no “I” in team.