“It’s nearly time,” Dad said. “Hurry up with those dishes, girls.”
My sister and I were in the kitchen trying to clear the table, the 1950’s type with metal legs and a Formica top. Eating in the living room was not tolerated and the dining room was used only for holidays and visitors. Mom did not consider Saturday night hockey as a special occasion.
What was special was our dinner. We were allowed store bought macaroni and cheese, the Canadian boxed favourite – Kraft dinner. This was served alongside boiled wieners. Back then no one wondered if the powdered cheese had food colouring in it or what offal the wieners were composed of. Ketchup and mustard completed our entrees.
The best of all was dessert. This was a brick of Neapolitan ice cream. It came boxed in a light cardboard wrapper and was slightly bigger than a pound of butter. Mom had to slice it carefully to treat a family. Dad always requested a smaller slice, telling Mom to give us girls a bit more.
Quickly washing the dishes, in our porcelain sink and drying by hand towel, we were ready for the game. The old wooden radio cabinet was three feet high and stood in the living room. It took time to get it going as the tubes in the back had to warm up first, then with great crackling sounds, it was on.
“Ladies and Gentlemen.” droned an announcer. “Welcome to hockey night in Canada. We will begin with the national anthem.”
We all stood to attention, as Dad insisted we show respect to our country, while the radio bleated out, “Oh, Canada.” And then the game was on! There were only three U.S. and two Canadian teams at that time. We liked it best when it was the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens.
Dad had learned to skate and play hockey on bumpy farm sloughs when growing up on a farm in Alberta. They did not fight on those icy fields. He loved the game. Occasionally, we were treated to his swearing – “God dammit!” – when a perceived easy shot was missed or the referee called a penalty.
“Jack, please, no swearing in front of the children,” Mom would gently chastise him.
I’d heard worse at school, but of course the parents didn’t know that.
It was the blue line, the centre line, the puck dropping, a player on the boards, stick handling and the penalty box. We heard it all on the radio but seeing the actual game was just visualization in our minds. And who could ever forget the familiar excited voice of Foster Hewitt crescending into, “He Shoots! He Scores!”
Yes, listening to CBC broadcasting the National hockey game, on a wintery Saturday night was the highlight of our week.