The Misunderstood Life of the Hockey Puck

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ultimate-leafs-fan-puck“He shoots he scores”.

Foster Hewitt would make those famous words synonymous with the game of hockey from his first broadcast into a telephone in 1923.

Many a street hockey game I was involved with in my early years would create a race to see who could scream those words first.

Bill Hewitt who would follow his famous dad in broadcasting, signed an autograph for me that very way and I remember looking at my dad in the hallway of the gardens and smiling as I read it.

My dad would often wonder why he could hear me a block or two away doing my own Hewitt version of our game, yet when a simple question like why no homework done or something of that nature, he could barely hear my answer from 2 feet away.

Mike Myers reminded us of those words in the movie Wayne’s World playing street hockey with his pal Garth.

But before we go any further, without one essential item there is no “He shoots he scores.”

A standard hockey puck is made of vulcanized rubber, is black, 1 inch thick, 3 inches in diameter and weighs 6 oz.

You may ask yourself, how can something so small make fans of all ages cry? Drive a goalie to break his stick over the net and sometimes cry? Cause a forward to do the exact same thing? How about the father who has to cover all the black marks on the basement wall or garage door? A dad who finds a stray puck beneath a broken window? A neighbour with a trampled flower garden or mysteriously broken window? How many detentions does a principal hand out for playing with a puck in the schoolyard?

Even the origin of the puck is obscure. It was first used in the game of hurling and brought to Canada by the Irish playing the game here, or so the story goes.

It wasn’t used in reference to a hockey game until 1867. In my world of thinking, this is the reason why we had confederation that year. To officially crown hockey as our national game we needed to become a country first.

The puck came in a number of variations over the years. Frozen cow dung, Indian rubber balls, Indian rubber balls sliced to stay on the playing surface, even the first pucks while square were made of wood. The first round puck wasn’t used in a real game till the 1880’s.

My dad bought me French fries and a drink once for scoring a winning playoff goal. A week later grounded me from shooting pucks because practicing the same shot I scored on in front of our house, I missed “roofing” one shot and it ended up through our glass front door. (It didn’t impress him that, that puck from the street to the front door must have travelled 30 feet).

Told that practice makes perfect, I wondered once again how it was the puck’s fault that by against a wall I didn’t think my dad meant just the school wall and not our basement walls. All those black marks and who’s going to see them anyway? Still he wanted to throw all the pucks away. Imagine that!

Of all places you’d think a puck would be welcome, would be a hockey rink!!! No siree.

When I was a kid going to a rink, if I wasn’t playing hockey, there was no greater accomplishment than scouring the rink for a puck shot over the boards. Furthermore, the ultimate bonus as finding a broken stick.

“NO PUCKS. HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT?”

It was a popular quote heard quite often at Leaside Arena. It came from the rink attendants but for some reason, it didn’t resonate with me too often. I thought they’d forget week to week. But they didn’t.

“These must belong to Michael.”

This was another phrase I was pretty familiar with every spring. Even a few of the neighbours would return stray pucks they’d find in their backyards. We had the only backyard rink in the winter so the evidence was pretty overwhelming against me. It was the very stern look they’d have on their faces that I could never figure out. Glaring at the pucks and me like they’d found landmines.

Dogs ran pretty free in those days. I’m pretty sure more than one dog left a version of a puck on those same neighbours property, yet nothing was said to the dogs or their owners.

The soft rubber puck came along and I thought it was a gift from the Gods. Certainly our principal Mr. Raymond wouldn’t see fit too make me write hundreds of lines (I will not shoot pucks in the schoolyard) with this safer version of the. Wrong again!

What’s with these pucks anyway?

Even the world of collecting has a lack of respect for the poor old puck. Players who achieve milestone goals, save the puck and have them mounted. These are marked properly and been handled by the right people, ending up in the players possession.

For decades teams have put the team logo on the puck. These are very collectable and can usually be authenticated by the crest change that coordinates with the team jersey.

Pucks are hard to photo match. Unlike a stick, sweater or piece of equipment that easily can be.

I’ve been offered many historical pucks over the years. The puck Bobby Orr scored and won the 1970 Stanley Cup with. That puck one time sold for $60,000. The Gretzky, points breaking puck sold for $50,000 but the HHOF called foul even though the timekeeper wrote a full story authenticating the puck. It’s still for sale.

I passed on both.

I have the puck from the last game at the Gardens scored by a Toronto Maple Leaf (Todd Warriner), however there is no written documentation or proof. The puck is a nice keepsake without the authentication.

The Sochi gold medal game had specially marked pucks for the game. They only had a dozen pucks at game time. Good for collectors because these pucks where marked, limited, good story and most important, Canada won. The pucks however aren’t worth a lot. I had one offered to me 3 days after the game. I suggested to the seller he frame the puck with his ticket to the game. If he wanted an additional touch, add a picture from the game. I also said to him he would thank me in 20 years.

I have numerous milestone pucks from players but they come direct from the player and are mounted and marked.

The most famous puck of our time (with utmost respect to Sid and the 2010 gold medal goal) is the Paul Henderson 1972 Summit Series winning goal puck. The pucks whereabouts, still remain a mystery but its thought that Pat Stapleton has it. Value? It’s subjective but could be priceless.

Learning to shoot a puck is a given if you want to play hockey. The tennis ball helps but it’s a ball. Indian rubber balls bounce forever if you miss the net. A orange hockey ball while good for ball hockey doesn’t improve your shot. The rubber puck helps but on windy days it’s like a Frisbee.

I once broke a finger using my hand as a stick and a rolled up sock as a puck. That didn’t help my shot.

So while the puck has been the subject of its own show, Peter Puck, been tracked with laser lights to follow its movement on the ice, been coloured to follow better on the ice and even slow motion replay was as a result to get a better look at the puck entering or not entering the net. If that wasn’t enough, puck cams have been installed in the nets to follow the disc.

So while the puck still stays basically the same as it was, some 100 years ago, in this ever-changing world we live in, as Rodney Dangerfield once said…. “I STILL GET NO RESPECT”