Monday, May 23, 2011

Acid Hockey

[I did not spend my weekend writing. I thought the world might end, so I did the sorts of things one might do when faced with oblivion. I watched TV, played a couple of games of softball (the less said about them, the better), ate copious amounts of pizza... pretty much everything it said to do in Revelation, if I haven't misinterpreted it. And then, much to my chagrin, Saturday evening arrived and it did not bring The Apocalypse with it. I now needed something to fill this space. And, since my last two published pieces here were an unwarranted attack on a well-meaning young woman and a 'funny' religious polemic, I think I need to do something to restore the reputation I have among the weaker-minded of you as a writer of value. Thus, I've decided to once again tell you about my adventures playing hockey on drugs. Not only will it restore my rep, but it actually ties in with something current, the Stanley Cup playoffs!]

[If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, which they have a chance at doing, that will be a sure sign of the end of times...]



The other day, in connection with Canada Day greetings to our friends from The Great White North, I mentioned playing hockey. No big surprise there, I suppose. It’s near impossible to mention Canada without mentioning hockey, too. However, I also told you that I played it at 3am, while on acid. True story.

I grew up in Dorchester Lower Mills, a neighborhood of Boston. Ever since I was a little kid, the Boston Bruins owned the city during the winter. I was a big Celtics fan, but nobody else in my neighborhood was. Boston was a hockey town. Even when the Bruins were fighting to stay out of last place, they packed the old Boston Garden.

In my early youth, the biggest stars on the team were Johnny "The Chief" Bucyk and Teddy Green. Bucyk had Indian blood, thus the nickname. He was the scorer on the team, netting 25 or 30 goals a season. Green, though, was probably the most popular player. He was a defenseman. He was also the team’s "enforcer." Terrible Teddy would always be among the league leaders in penalty minutes. With the team constantly finishing in the cellar, watching Teddy Green whale the bejeezus out of someone was the big draw.

The fortunes of the Bruins changed pretty much overnight with the addition of one Robert G. Orr to the team.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another athlete as revered as Bobby Orr is in Boston. Bobby Orr achieved (and continues to hold) a sort-of civic sainthood.

Orr, so far as can be divined, never did anything to even remotely tarnish his legendary status. He started his career with the Bruins and he became part of the business community of the city after his retirement. While he played, he was utterly electric. He truly revolutionized his sport. Nobody had ever seen a defenseman with such amazing offensive skills. His end-to-end rushes are still amazing to watch some 40 years after the fact. He was doing stuff nobody had ever seen before and his opponents hadn't a clue on how to stop him. And he was truly loved. There are still grown men around the city of Boston who will tear up when discussing the travesty of Orr finishing his career as a Chicago Blackhawk rather than as a Bruin.

Anyway, after Orr joined the team (along with other great players like Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Fred Stanfield, John "Pie" McKenzie, Wayne Cashman, and Derek Sanderson, who was probably the biggest hero in our neighborhood because he appeared to be as much of an unrepentant addict as anybody had ever seen on a major league team) they became the "Big Bad Bruins". They were a perennial NHL powerhouse, two-time Stanley Cup champions, and local gods. They fought, swaggered, drank hard (except for Orr, it seemed), and ignited a hockey frenzy in Boston. Whereas before the town had been a hockey town, it was now an insane hockey town. Every kid between the ages of 2 and 20 owned skates. Municipally-owned ice rinks were booked 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. TWO expansion teams (The AHL Boston Braves; and the upstart World Hockey Association's New England Whalers, who raided the Bruins for much of their roster) came to life, giving those who couldn't get in to see the Bruins another place to spend those hockey dollars burning a hole in their pockets. And both of them did brisk business, too.

We were like any other group of white kids in Boston. We strapped on the skates and played hockey. When it was cold enough, we skated on the Neponset River. The river was free, so that was our first choice. When the river wasn't frozen, and we could afford it, we booked ice time at one of the rinks. This was almost always done in conjunction with kids from some other neighborhood nearby. We'd pool money, rent the rink, and have at it neighborhood versus neighborhood.

The difference between our neighborhood and the other neighborhoods was that we were usually completely blasted on some substance or other when we hit the ice.

(The other guys might have been, too. I didn't take any surveys.)

Here's the thing: All of the rinks, as I said, were booked solid. The reasonable ice times were taken mostly by organized leagues - school teams, pee-wees, and such. When a ragtag group of neighborhood kids like us (that is, a street gang) wanted to rent ice, the only times left were in the wee hours of the morning. So, when we got the ice, we skated at 1am, 2am, or 3am, and were thankful, too.

Here's the other thing: Drugs were not seen as anything weird or unusual in our neighborhood. By us, I mean. Our parents were your usual good folks who didn't condone their kids ingesting illegal substances. However, we thought absolutely nothing of it. So, in order to stay up through the games, we'd often take stuff that would wire us. Sometimes, some of the guys took black beauties, which were amphetamines. Other times, we would all do some street "mescaline", which wasn't really mescaline, but PCP (an animal tranquilizer) laced with speed. And, as noted, we sometimes played on acid.

As you might imagine, playing hockey on acid is a strange trip. Acid (LSD) was usually seen as an introspective sort of drug. It was something many folks took to explore their inner consciousness. The usual acid-taking setting might have been a comfortable pad with happening music and all-around good vibes. Other times, we took it before a concert. However, we were quite adaptable. Just because we'd be sliding around on ice, being bashed at by guys carrying big sticks, being slammed into the boards, and possibly getting a big hunk of hard rubber flying into our faces at 100-mph was no reason not to enjoy the colors, man.

Watching a slap shot come off of your teammate's stick while on acid was definitely something intriguing. As it flew towards the goal, you saw the trail it left in the air - or, you imagined you saw it, anyway. The lights reflecting off of the ice surface were dazzling and beautiful. And when you checked someone - or were checked BY someone - you wondered if you might have your substance pass right through theirs. The contact didn't hurt in the least and, in fact, just made you feel that much more alive.

We won, we lost, we didn't care.

If you've ever seen the movie Slap Shot, then you might have an idea of how our games went. Those of us sharing ice time (as well as windowpane) were more-or-less The Hanson Brothers, except there were 9 or 10 of us. I say this not because we played only for the fights, but because we were completely innocent of anything other than pure enjoyment of the moment. If that moment included a fight or two, so be it. In any case, the games certainly weren't artistic gems.

And that's about it. As many of those Bruins retired, the team got worse, and we grew up. I don't expect to ever again see as hockey-mad a time in Boston as the 1970's. And to expect such a time to coincide with a time when drug usage was at such a peak is asking for a huge longshot, so that's why I felt this snapshot of that time in my life might be worth viewing. Such a confluence of events is very unlikely to occur again, so the history is worth noting, I think.

(Disclaimer: Luckily enough, we suffered no casualties, either on the ice or in the drug war. None of us ever did drug-related time, nor did any of us die or become irreparably impaired mentally - unless I am and nobody is telling me. Your mileage, and that of others, may vary greatly. By no means would I dismiss the pain of those who weren't as lucky or as blessed.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Take that whatever way you wish.


Jeni said...

Although I like hockey well enough, I am not a close follower of the sport, not by any means. However, that being said, even I know and understand the love most any hockey fans held -probably still do -for Bobby Orr!

Nick Jarman said...

Hockey on acid sounds awesome but kinda scary. I have ice skated but never played hockey let alone doing either on acid but it sounds better then sitting around for 8 hours going "Yeah... Like... Ah... Wow..."

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Now it all makes sense. The guy at Fox back in the mid 90's to early 00's who decided it would be a good idea to have a trail follow the puck on the ice for television viewing purposes was just a kid you grew up playing hockey with! I always wondered who in hell might consider that a good idea, now its all clear.

I wish I'd been alive for the #4 days of glory. Literally our last cup was the year before I was born. In my generation its #77 leaving that makes us cry. No matter that he brought the cup back here from Colorado, it just wasn't the same. I'd really love if they could take it all the way this season. Its been a very long time coming and our scrappy boys really deserve it.

Hilary said...

In the 70s, I was a Montreal kid who was a huge Boston Bruins fan. I met most of them on several occasions when they played the Canadiens. I always thought there was something awfully cute about McKenzie and so I wore a #19 Bruins' shirt. My best friend loved Don Awry and wore #26. It feels like forever ago.. without the drugs.

Craig said...

Funny - I had exactly the same thought as Jenn. . .

And Mr. Orr was a beautiful hockey player, almost on a par with Gordie Howe (who, I believe, ended his playing days with the NE Whalers. . .)

Growing up in Michigan as your virtual contemporary, my growing-up years corresponded to a deep trough in local professional hockey fortunes. The Red Wings won their last Stanley Cup (before their recent run of excellence) the spring I was conceived. They were decent-ish into the 60s, but most of my personal memories of the Red Wings were the years of the Dead Things (as we called them around here).

Heck, in my hometown, which should have been hockey-mad (and has, since the 90s, become such, winning a couple of HS state championships), the big winter sport in my growing-up years was speedskating. They'd flood the football field every winter, and kids would go out with their speedskates and fly (probably at least partly a function of Terry McDermott's Olympic speedskating medal in '64).

I never really partook of, um, illegal substances. Much less played hockey under their influence. But hey - good luck t'yer Bruins (tho I gotta admit, there's a fair bit of sentiment around these parts for Stevie Y and the Lightning. . .) (Altho, seriously? hockey in Florida and California is just laughably out-of-place. Bruins-Canucks - now that would be a final. . .)

Anonymous said...

I always suspected you were a wee bit of a hoser.

And now I know tis true.



Clare Dunn said...

It's up, over the glass...AND INTO THE CROWD!!!!

Hockey roolz


IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

About the only comparable sport I have any experience with is full contact water-skiing. There's just not enough ice here.

Michelle H. said...

Go Bruins!

I'd say go Penguins, but I don't want to relieve what happened this year... and things aren't looking well for Sidney Crosby and his continual setbacks with his concussion.

Good to hear the Rpture hasn't taken you, although it did take a lot of people's money.

messymimi said...

Hockey around here, in south Louisiana, is a rare thing. We did have the Kingfish versus the Ice Gators at one time, and they seemed to skate only to fight. They once had 3 seconds left in a game, and began 3 fights before those seconds were up.

Maybe that's why the Kingfish are no more.

Buck said...

Hockey on acid? The mind reels (and it has great good reason to do so, but we won't go there).

I'll give ya the UCR "good luck" for your B's coz that's the polite thang to do. That said, I AM rooting for the Yzerbolts. I think it would just be too danged cool for school if The Captain got his name on The Cup in his first year as a GM.

re: Orr. He's loved every-freakin'-where, with zero exceptions.

Moannie said...

As I suspected, this post and most of the comments are written in a foreign language, but, in amongst all the 'in' stuff is our Jim; little vignettes of descriptive prose that melt in the mouth.

Love is...a Suldog story. XXX

Daryl said...

Hockey... the one sport ToonMan doesnt watch

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

The first two players I thought of were Larry McNabb and Howie Young. I wonder if any of their opponents ever had anything good to say about either of them? Acid Hockey would explain a lot.

Saz said...

well....thanks for the token photo of Sanderson...kept here a while....

more soon betterer..
luv u

saz xx

Cricket said...

Heh, heh. Glad to see you back... I had a feeling you might just need a retreat.

Anyways... back to the "heh, heh." Remember "red star?" Which, to my knowledge, involved mostly food color, D-con, and those little star pastas?

Ahhh, good times, my swell pal.

Pat - Arkansas said...

I'm glad, and more than a bit surprised, that you lived through all that. Sully, Sully, Sully!


Maggie May said...

Glad the World didn't come to an end. Not really ready for it yet!!!
Hockey. I had to play when I was around ten. Didn't like it at all! Bad at sport!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

notactuallygod said...

It's rare to see somebody openly nostalgic for their drug days. Refreshing really.
Ahhh, college

rommelfernandes said...

I liked your intro about the end of the world.

honeymoon packages in Goa

Shammickite said...

I just bought an unopened VHS tape of Slap Shot for $1 at a garage sale. I hope my VCR still works.

Ananda girl said...

I know nothing about hockey but fortunately, I have an... em, other tie in here. I can actually see this in my head. Is that wrong?

Mich said...

Ooo I love hockey! One of the only sports worth watching. Although this past season I did not watch all that much, as my team (the Devils) kind of sucked...


Stu said...


Shrinky said...

That preacher has a lot to answer for to all of us who maxed out our credit cards on his say so..

Hey, acid-sport is far less boring than the regular stuff, you might even convert me into watching here!

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Ah, memories of Orr and Sanderson. Did you know I actually saw both of them play before they joined the Bruins? We could tell even then how great they would be.
You also mentioned my former fave - Fred Standfield, #17 (drools slightly)!
Alas, I have gotten away from all sports in search of more peaceful pursuits, but do appreciate this wonderful walk down memory lane.
Do you think if one were truly enlightened, they might see the light trailing the puck without the acid? ;-)
Thanks for sharing.
Peace, Judi

Matt Conlon said...

Nice! Guy says he's quitting, and I happen to check back in, and I have 5 posts to catch up on! lol

Not a complaint, mind you.

I saw slapshot YEARS ago, and I have been meaning to re-watch it... I'll have to netflix that.