ACES

By Rob Patry

 

There is something magical about being a Canadian in January on a cold wintry day and attending a hockey game. Perhaps it’s in our DNA or part of our collective spirit, but it meshes into our very core. There are sounds, sights, and smells that immediately trigger responses in the brain to say yes, I am at a hockey game. I was fortunate enough to attend my first St. Stephen ACES game last Thursday night, and it brought back a flood of memories buried so deep in my being; I thought they had long been forgotten. Let me point out to you that the ACES for those who don’t know are the local Junior A Hockey Club in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League. They took on the Dieppe Commandos. The game was at the Garcelon Civic Centre. Although I’ve attended multiple events there, this was my first game and my first viewing of the ice. ICE. Is there a more Canadian image than arena ice? Ice has a smell, skates have a smell, and hockey equipment has a smell. All accentuated by the chilled air of the arena, the rink becomes the seminal symbol of every Canadian boy’s early existence. The sound of skates sliding across the ice sticks smacking pucks that whoosh across the frozen surface. A rubbery, fresh and exciting scent that can never be duplicated yet lives in the subconscious of every Canadian. 

Then, the first spotting of that iconic beast of the rink, the marvel of hockey ice rink engineering, The Zamboni. The brainchild of California native Frank J. Zamboni, it is the Golden State’s greatest gift to Canada. In its simplest of terms, it is an ice resurfacer. To a young Canadian boy, however, it is the difference between a pair of dull black boots, and shiny, freshly polished ones. It creates a glistening almost new-like ice that highlights its colors, lines and emblems etched on its surface.

Filled with whistles, air horns, and a gabbing, nattering din, the entire arena is alive with people focusing on team favorites, statistics, and exchanges of trivia, memories, and sports pontificating. There is a palpable sense of life at a hockey game. More than any other organized sport either professional or amateur, it is at the apex of physical games, which evoke such strong emotions and rip nostalgic dreams directly from our youth. 

Hockey games are a sport, now elevated to a trip down the ever-elongating paths, which connect us with a time gone by. Even the smell of hotdogs, beers, and deep fried onion rings is intoxicating in this monument built to male glory days of the past, present and future. We as Canadians are not easily defined, because, like laid back chameleons, we analyze our present surroundings and adapt to changing the color of our skin.  Hockey, however, expresses everything we are as people in three short twenty-minute periods. Tough, spirit filled, resilient, competitive, focused and driven. Yes, that pretty much sums us up. 

The ACES lost. It would have been nice had they won, but it didn’t matter to me. I reconnected with a part of my Canadian youth. And that’s an ace in my pocket.