A couple of weeks ago I introduced my two youngest kids to hockey, taking in a Topeka Pilots game on a Saturday evening. It’s been quite a while since I have attended a live hockey game, going back to the Topeka Tarantulas. When I realized that they had never been to a hockey game before, I had to take them.
When I was growing up in Wichita, I would play hockey with the neighborhood guys. Of course, we didn’t skate. We played during the winter when the ice and snow would be packed on the residential streets of our neighborhood in Park City, just north of Wichita. We’d chisel a line in the ice and color it blue our goals, (sorry mom, I’m sure you always wondered why we went through so much blue food coloring).
We used real hockey sticks and pucks that we acquired while attending Wichita Wind games at the Kansas Coliseum. When a stick would crack or break, the players would lift them up for people to take as they were leaving the ice. Super glue and duck-tape fixed them up for our purposes. Our collection of equipment grew when one of our guys got a job as a part-time attendant in the locker room. No, he didn’t steal the stuff, they gave him items that were being thrown away. We got pretty good at fixing old hockey equipment.
One of my good friends dreamed of being the next Andy Moog, a Wind goalkeeper who went on to play for the Edmonton Oilers. My friend was all about being the goalie. I remember that he would buy foam from TG&Y, (yeah, no Wal-Marts back then), and fashion them into leg pads. He would also make his own facemasks out of cardboard and foam and I have to admit, some of the designs he put on those masks were incredible. He was quite the artist. A goalie stick, a chest protector and a ball glove and he was ready for action and I’ll tell you what, if he wasn’t on your team, you were probably going to lose. He was pretty good. At least by our standards.
Summer didn’t stop us from playing. We just moved the game down to a local church where they had a huge field and we turned it into field hockey with a tennis ball. There’s nothing like winding up for a slap shot only to get more ground than ball. I can still hear the cracking of the stick as it was destroyed. Not super glue and duck-tape this time!
Playing rag-tag hockey with my friends are some of the best memories of my childhood that I have. I was glad that my kids not only wanted to go, but enjoyed it so much that they want to go back. There’s just something about being at a live hockey game. If you haven’t checked out the Pilots yet, you need to go and start making your own memories!
– Rob Mooney, Metro Voice Sports writer