hockey

If you could see all of Terry Sawchuk’s wounds at once, his face would look like this one that was reproduced with makeup. In reality, Terry’s wounds have healed over the years, and the scars are not nearly as visible as the makeup reproduction portrays. Nevertheless, Sawchuk’s 16 years of playing goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team in the years before the goalies wore safety equipment left their marks and took their toll on his body. Re-created here, by a professional make-up artist and a doctor, are some of the more than 400 stitches he had earned during 16 years in the National Hockey League. Terry Sawchuk’s face was bashed over and over, but not all at one time. The re-creation of his injuries was done to help show the extent of his injuries over a span of years. Sawchuk had sustained other injuries that were not shown here too…a slashed eyeball requiring three stitches, a 70% loss of function in his right arm because 60 bone chips were removed from his elbow, and a permanent “sway-back” that was caused by a continual bent-over posture during the games.

Many people were hurt playing sports in the years before safety equipment was used. For some of them, like Sawchuk, the equipment would not come in time to spare them from years of pain, and even disabilities. It was a sad reality of many sports that everyone loves. The first goalie’s mask was a metal fencing mask donned in February 1927 by Queen’s University netminder Elizabeth Graham, mainly to protect her teeth. In 1930, the first crude leather model of the mask, which was actually an American football “nose-guard” was worn by Clint Benedict to protect his broken nose. After recovering from the injury, he abandoned the mask, never wearing one again in his career. At the 1936 Winter Olympics, Teiji Honma wore a crude mask, similar to the one worn by baseball catchers. The mask was made of leather, and had a wire cage which protected the face, as well as Honma’s large circular glasses.

Finally, in 1959 goalies began wearing masks full-time. On November 1, 1959, in a game between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was struck in the face by a shot from Andy Bathgate. He had previously worn a face mask in practice, but coach Toe Blake refused to allow him to wear it in a game. He thought it might inhibit his vision. After being stitched up, Plante gave Blake an ultimatum. He refused to go back out onto the ice without the mask. Blake agreed, not wanting to forfeit the game, because NHL teams did not have back-up goalies at the time. Plante went on a long unbeaten streak wearing the mask. That ended when he was asked to remove it for a game. After that particular loss, Plante resumed donning the mask for the remainder of his career. Plante was ridiculed when he introduced the mask into the game. People questioned his dedication and bravery. In response, Plante made an analogy to a person skydiving without a parachute. Although Plante faced some teasing, the face-hugging fiberglass goalie’s mask soon became the standard. Since the invention of the fiberglass hockey mask, professional goalies no longer play without a mask. The last goalie to play without a mask was Andy Brown, who played his last NHL game in 1974. He would then go to the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA and play without a mask till his retirement in 1977. So much has been learned about playing without protective gear since those days, but for the people who played before all that information, it came at a heavy price.

My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens loves all things sports. He really needs a dedicated sports television. I would like to say that the man cave he now has is that dedicated sports television, but my sister, Alena tells me that he “takes control of whatever television he is at.” Mike’s favorite teams are the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos…smart man. Those are my favorite teams too. Mike also loves to watch NASCAR, golf, basketball, bowling, well…the list could go on forever. If it’s sports, he will watch it…or play it.

Mike loves to golf, and has golfed in Buffalo, Wyoming; Cheyenne, Wyoming; North Platte, Nebraska, and he has played in some of the nicest courses around the country when he has been on business trips. Mike’s business trips have afforded him a few other opportunities as well. He got to sit in a suite while watching the Dallas Stars play hockey, and was served catered “snacks”…which were amazing, from what I hear…and of course, the whole thing was free of charge, because they like to treat these guys well on the business trips. He has also gone to Avalanche hockey games.

While watching the games is great, Mike is a sportsman in his own right. He has bowled for years, and gone to many bowling tournaments over the years. They have also traveled for other sporting events, going to Las Vegas and Bristol, Tennessee for NASCAR, and of course, Denver for baseball and football. He played softball, in the position of short stop for many teams, but mostly for the Salt Creek Mudders. He played basketball on a City League for years. Mike’s love of all things sports has spilled over to his family, or maybe they just learned to love sports because there was nothing else on television. I doubt that was the case, because he isn’t a meanie, after all, they just got caught up in his enthusiasm, and learned about the sports too. Every year, the Stevens family has a horseshoe tournament during their annual family reunion at Boysen Reservoir. Mike is so good at horseshoes, that he is usually the champion of the tournament. He is so good that he used to get into tournaments in Midwest, Wyoming where he earned money for his ability.

Probably the biggest news for Mike this year, however, has been his new pickup. Mike has never has a new vehicle, and he has wanted a new pickup for years. This past year, that dream became a reality, when he got to buy a 2016 Ford F250 pickup. He is so excited about it, and his family couldn’t be happier for him. Getting a brand new vehicle is a very big deal. His daughter, Michelle tells me that the picture of his pickup has be his phone’s screen saver since his got the pickup. It wasn’t a birthday present, but it was exciting anyway, and his family thinks it was a vehicle that was well deserved. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

CCI12272013_0009CCI12272013_0010aLately, my cousin, James Jay Spencer has been on my mind quite a bit. He passed away seven years ago today. Jim was a happy, smiley little boy, whose life ended far too soon, after he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. It had been some time since we had seen Jim, and I really do regret that, because my cousin, Jim was a great guy, and I loved him very much.

During the time of Jim’s illness, Uncle Bill naturally focused on the time he had left with Jim. They spent as much time together as they could. In the last few years of his life, Jim went to see his dad every day, something that pleased Uncle Bill very much. They would do lots of things together…or nothing but sit and talk. It didn’t really matter. They shared a number of interests, making them very good friends. Losing a child, no matter how old, is a devastating event in a parent’s life, and one that they never really get past. It is always there, just under the surface…a bittersweet memory that can be hard to talk about, and easy to cry over.

As a little boy, Jimmy loved to play in the vacant lot across the street from their house. The neighborhood kids played there in the summer, but in the winter, it became an ice skating rink. The kids who had skates skated, and the ones who didn’t like my cousin Jim, just took a running slide on the ice. Jim quickly grew to love the ice. One day when he was about 4 years old, he came running into the house, and when his dad asked if he had been skating, he said “No, I’ve been swiding on my boots!” Soon, his love of the ice turned into a love of hockey. At first, his team couldn’t seem to win a game, but Jim always said the same thing, “We’re gonna win this one, Dad.” As time went on, the team did win and Jim got to be a great hockey player, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t real tall. Then, he passed that love of hockey onto his son, Cody who was a great player too.

Uncle Bill and Jim shared more than a love of sports. They understood each other. Jim’s loss was devastating to Uncle Bill. His mind was already slipping, and the memories of the past were quickly CCI12272013_0009aCCI12272013_0012becoming all he had left…his children and his family history. And now, his youngest child was gone. He wrote the things he remembered of Jim’s life…the precious memories…the thoughts and feelings…all the accomplishments…all the things they had done. He set Jim’s place in the family history, and at the end of it all, he finished with the words that were the sweetest to his tired memory, “I called him Jimbo. He called me Daddio.”

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