The Hockey Stick

Thomas Reddy By Thomas Reddy, 7th Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

Growing up in New York in the 1970s with a father who was a gung-ho, crazy NYPD narcotics cop, a boy found solace in playing street hockey. How one lucky hockey shot changed a boy's life.

The Hockey Stick

The Islanders did what few teams have ever done in any sport. They won 4 Stanley Cups in a row and became known as "The Dynasty." It's 30 years later, and I can still name every player on the team from all 4 years. I attended the Championship parades and went to a fair share of games at The Nassau Coliseum those years. That's how much they impacted children's lives back then, especially mine. Those guys were Gods to us. The Islanders were founded in 1972 and almost instantly became the team to beat in the league. Al Arbour, Mike Bossy, Clark Gilles, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bill Torrey and Bryan Trottier. They were all inducted to the NHL Hall of Fame and all were part of the 4 Championships won.

Canadians weren't the only kids playing hockey

During those winning years, the game to play was hockey. Mind you, ice rinks were seasonal, didn't matter anyway, we roller skated back in the day, not ice skated. No ice meant we played street hockey. And we had plenty of streets in New York, but we also had obstacles unlike any ice rink.

Urban Obstacles and The Birth of "The Do Over" Rule

We had cars, they were a constant headache, and always came down the street just when we are about to score a goal and all you would hear was "CAR!!!" and that was the universal word for "Freeze." If you didn't, that was a gray area unto itself, there was the usual pushing and shoving with the back 'n forth chant of "I did, you didn't; I did, you didn't" until someone who probably grew up to be a judge in life screamed "DO OVER.!!" By far the most overused two words in sports history for kids. Didn't matter what sport. In street football, football hit an electrical or telephone wire overhead, Do Over. In Stick-ball a ball ricochets off a car mirror, That's a Do Over. In Basketball, ball bounces off a crack, overgrown by weeds, on the court and skips out of bounds, that was a Do Over. If we only could apply "The Do Over" to adult life, how sweet it would be. Didn't get a Christmas bonus, Do Over! Pulled over for speeding, Do Over!!

Growing up a cop's kid

My father in the late 1970s was a Narcotics Detective Sergeant for the New York City Police Department. His job was to buy drugs and lock up drug dealers. My Dad was the boss of a Brooklyn North Narcotics Drug Task Force and he had a crew of under-covers who were the craziest, most ill-willed men I can ever remember meeting. Mostly guys who served multiple tours in Vietnam and returned "a few cards short of a full deck." Those were the guys that were most attracted to life as a Narc. They didn't mind growing their hair long, looking scraggly with the beard and long sideburns. They didn't mind wearing roach clips and miniature cocaine spoons around their necks adorned in 14K gold. This was the role they were playing and they were Academy Award winning actors. As mean as they looked on the outside, it was an exact mirror into their souls. These were some really bad ass cops. And my Dad was the ringleader.

The Drive

One Sunday, early on a spring morning, my Dad grabs me and my younger brother Jimmy and throws us in the back of the wood paneled, Chevy station wagon. I did mean "throw us," he had little regard for children or their feelings. But we truly appreciated being his offspring as he at least aimed for the softer part of the back seat. So, we drive all the way out on Long island, destination unknown to us. Mind you, my Dad listened to his AM radio and we knew better than interrupting him to ask where we were headed or what we were doing all the way out here in the middle of farm country on Long Island. About 90 minutes later, we pull into this Oldsmobile dealership and it is packed with people. To a kid, there must have been at least 1 million people there. Well, you know, as an adult probably closer to a 150 people, but the million number played better with the other kids in the neighborhood when we got home to recount our adventure. Put me on the stand today, and I'll still swear it was a million people.

The Realization

Being dwarfed by the crowd, I see something familiar. Is that a New York Islanders jersey? I look around and realize a lot of people are wearing Islander's hats and jerseys and chanting Islanders. What the hell is going on? I grab my brother by the arm and we start weaving thru the crowd, My father screamed to get back but we ignored him and pressed on. Finally the crowd parts as if Moses was parting The Red Sea and I see it, the orange, blue and white colors of my pride and joy, my team, the New York Islanders. And two really BIG guys on roller skates are wearing those jerseys with their backs to us. Doesn't matter, I recognize them immediately from their numbers. Holy $%#&, It's my two favorite players, Center Bryan Trottier and Right Wing Mike Bossy. OMFG!!! NO WAY!!!
Fuggetaboutit, I go nuts. Then I realize, they are shooting the puck hard at someone and it's #31.

Wait a minute, #31 is...Holy $%#&, It's Billy Smith, the Islander's Goalie. My head on a swivel, I quickly scan the area looking for the rest of the team. No sign of anyone else. I look up and it's my Dad, apparently he caught up or threw a few people to the ground. Either way, he was standing behind me and my brother and he was smiling ear to ear looking at me and my brother. Truly, one of the few times I can look back on my childhood and recall him smiling at us...so sad. Jimmy and I look at him in amazement, unable to talk, but he knows what we are thinking. What are they doing here and more importantly why are we here?

My Dad says, we won a raffle at that year's Islander game and were each allowed one shot to try and score on Billy Smith with Trottier and Bossy as our wing men. OMG, I just died and went to hockey heaven. No one from the neighborhood is gonna believe this when I tell them. Unfortunately this was the days before people carried cameras everywhere.

Not a Chance!

There were a lot of kids apparently who also won chances to shoot because we waited a long time. It was a brutal wait, time stood still. I didn't have "my stick" so what chance would I have. So quietly Jimmy and I watched. We watched the kids with names beginning with "A" shoot first. Islander's Goalie Billy Smith stops the puck without effort, the Bs go, he swats the puck away like it's a fly in a wheelchair. The Cs and all the way up to the Ps shoot their shot; Failure!!! Not one kid scored on Billy Smith, to his utter delight. He always had a bad reputation in hockey, that day I found out why, he was a mean bastard. One kid got too close to the goal crease and Smith checked him to the pavement. A really Mean Bastard. The man with the bullhorn says, James and Thomas Reddy! Step up to the Blue line. Our turn.....GULP!!!

Bossy to Trottier To Reddy....SCORE!!!!!!
My Brother goes first and Smith stops his shot with his eyes shut deflating any hope of my success. My turn. With Bossy to my right and Trottier to my left, I come down the center passing between both players, Bossy slides the puck to me, a perfect pass right on the end of the blade, I shoot directly for the gap between his legs. It was a beauty, sailing about 18 inches off the ground and probably the hardest wrist shot I ever hit. Damn I got a chance. Just as it was about to sail beautifully between his legs, he slides his legs together and CLUNK, I miss. Damn!! But... it rebounds right back on to my stick, I flick my wrist again and the puck goes airborne, surprising Smith that I took the rebound and instantly sent it back at him, no one did that, and it goes over his stick hand into the top of the net. GOAL!!! Damn, That went in I'm thinking. The crowd erupts. I look at the referee and he hesitates and then signals, GOAL!! HOLY $#%&!!!! I DID IT!! Almost passing out from the excitement, Billy Smith kicking the goal post and his eyes fixed on the puck in the net, the day was complete.

What a day!

What a day!! Better than the day when I got to second base with Sally Potter. Well, maybe not, but it was close, I tell ya that. They rewarded my effort with a signed hockey stick from Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier, Goalie Billy Smith wouldn't sign it. Putz! I took that stick and showed everyone in the neighborhood, it was my proof of my story and couldn't be refuted. I mounted the hockey stick on my bedroom wall with their autograph visible when i looked up from my bed. For weeks, I would dust it and wipe it down. Every morning when I got up, I would look at it first. When I got home from school, I would check to make sure nothing happened to it. It was my prized possession.

Legend is born

Now, I was a legend where I lived. Little kids asked for my autographs and my friends bought me egg creams at the soda shop. People pointed and whispered as I walked by. This was an event. Even the soda shopkeeper, "Old man Gus" would give me free candy, and he was the cheapest guy in town. It was so cool. Of course, I was now the first person picked when we chose sides for our street hockey games because everyone now knew me as "The kid who scored on Billy Smith."

Kids will be Kids

About 6 months later, While playing a game of street hockey, my stick becomes a casualty of war. It breaks in half. Running home I find my Dad sitting in the kitchen cleaning his gun and tell him what happened to my stick, He says, "So"? I say in my nicest voice and pleading "Dad, I need a new stick." He says "Ask Santa for one," that was months away, Deflated I lower my head and retreat knowing I am out of luck. He says, "You have one hanging on the wall in your bedroom, use that one." Really? "But, “Dad, that's the stick I used to score the goal on Billy Smith." His answer as he takes a rag down the barrel of the gun, "So." Man of little words.

After a few days of watching everyone play but me, I went and got the stick telling myself I would be careful. All kids lie, especially to themselves. Some regrets never go away.

I loved that stick, I loved that time in my life. I loved The New York islanders. I never liked my Dad and he never liked me but I hate Billy Smith # 31, and always will.

Tags

Billy Smith, Brian Trottier, Growing Up In New York In The 1970S, Mike Bossy, New York Islanders, Non-Fiction, Short Story, Street Hockey

Meet the author

author avatar Thomas Reddy
Thomas is a freelance writer for various websites. A professional football bettor and poker player. Consultant/trainer for automotive dealerships throughout the United States. Has lived

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Comments

author avatar Steve Kinsman
7th Jul 2014 (#)

Great story - a lot of fun to read. Still got that stick?

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author avatar Thomas Reddy
8th Jul 2014 (#)

I don't, one of the regrets of life

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