The third and final installment of the story about a trip to the league finals, through the eyes of one (albeit confused) player
By Fred Sommer
At the conclusion of the rec hockey tournament in Toronto and after breakfast the next morning, we headed downtown to pay homage to our heroes at the hallowed Hockey Hall of Fame. There, the wonderful history of the game we love is captured in an endless collection of memorabilia. The edifice that encloses those artifacts was once a bank, which is a great place to secure the treasures of the past. The trophy room, which features a beautiful stained-glass dome, resembles a house of worship; appropriate enough since we gazed in awe at the likenesses of the players we idolized while growing up.
“Toe Blake, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, those were the greats” et al would have their career accomplishments displayed for all to view and think back to their own memories of them. And of course, hockey’s hockey’s Holy Grail—the Stanley Cup—is proudly on display and available for all to share a photograph with. Only the names of the players whose prayers have been answered in the affirmative are forever immortalized on this most cherished chalice of hockey history.
After the Hall of Fame we made for Wayne Gretzky’s, to have lunch at the restaurant owned by “The Great One.” This establishment is located at none other than 99 Blue Jays Way, and is a mini Hall of Fame in its own right, celebrating the life and career of hockey’s greatest player. The collection of sticks, pucks and sweaters utilized while Gretzky achieved his milestones and set his records were as awe-inspiring as the Hockey Hall of Fame itself.
One final stop at the SkyDome was made after the Blue Jays had lost to the Diamondbacks. We visited the bar that overlooks the field and stared up at the retractable roof. As it inched its way toward its final, closed position, it was symbolic of the end of our trip. It was time to head to the airport for our trip home.
Our flight was delayed but once we got off the ground we would again experience an uneventful flight. For the second time in three days I would be seated next to John McDermott. John owned and still used a pair of hockey gloves that he received as a Christmas gift back in 1961 (see photo above). Perhaps one day, we will be able to view them upon a return trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the beautiful city of Toronto…
Upon landing, I called home to alert my family of my safe arrival. To my surprise I got the answering machine. Uh-oh, it’s 10:00pm on a Sunday night and my kids have school the next day. Where on earth were they? I called my neighbor and he verified no one was home and the garage was empty. I called my brother-in-law. Answering machine. I called my parents; no word. So now I’m having horrible thoughts of where my family may be and what might have happened.
Finally, my cell phone rang and it was my wife. They were at my niece’s play, which also explains why I got my brother-in-law’s answering machine. My preoccupation with our trip to Toronto had completely wiped away any trace of memory of their attendance at the play. I was now able to relax.
We then said our goodbyes at the airport parking lot, and Gary Lehrman and I got on the road to complete the last leg of our trip. I was soon greeted by my wife and my dog; my kids were already fast asleep. I hugged my wife, then unloaded my luggage and my now-fully ripe hockey bag. Then I bade Gary farewell.
It should also be mentioned that my dog, which regularly sniffs other dogs’ poop, took one whiff of my still-closed hockey bag and skulked away, tail between his legs.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the five members of the Fire Ants who could not join us on that trip to our rec hockey tournament. Their contributions to the team during the season made that trip possible for the rest of us. Their talents on the ice and friendship off of it were sorely missed. They are Peter DiFabio, Anthony Donato, Bob Hochman, Rubin Kuszel and Ken McGee and should be, as we are, the Toronto Twelve, proud to be Fire Ants.
Fred Sommer has since moved on to assume the role of captain of the Ants, an offshoot of his Fire Ants team.