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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

- Page 55

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 22, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta out to be Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, or Bobby Orr. We all knew it could happen, for the myth is based on reality. The basics of hockey precede pres- ent-day machine-made players, drilled into excellence by endless practice and reiterated advice of coaches. It goes beyond artificial ice, back to the toddling types learning to skate on lakes and rivers and back yard ponds. You can still see them there, batting an old tin can or rock between two baskets that simulate a goaltender's net. I was one of them myself years ago, bundled up in windbreaker and scarf, wearing old-fashioned double- bladed skates, face raw with cold. I remember there was always one kid better than the rest, a kid who could take a lump of coal and stickhandle it through a whole crowd of other youngsters trying to stop him. And sometimes, when' the river ice was clear of snow, the game would occupy acres and acres of ice, occasionally even flowing out from the Trent River and onto the huge Bay of Quinte among the far-away fishing shanties, with slow clouds lifting ahead like giant goalies. You could race over miles and miles of ice with 20-foot strides on seven-league skates: you were the next thing to immortal and only 10 years old. Then stop and look down at the black ice, seeing this kid with a red nose, suddenly aware of the difference between body and watch- ing mind, himself observing himself... That brings me to Brian Clennie, which is about as big a switch as you can get. Clennie is a 200-pound, 28- year-old defenceman with the To- ronto Maple Leafs, blueline basher and hammer made of flesh. But not a star. I've seen Brian miss a bodycheck sometimes and look rather foolish. A few weeks ago he bounced a pass off the referee's skate; it was picked up by an opposing forward who scored easily. The Leafs lost again. They'd been losing endlessly at the time three weeks without a win. But around four years ago, when his team was also playing badly, it seemed to me Clennie pulled them out of the slump with his checking, almost sin- gle-handed but not quite. He stood up straight at the blueline, delivering clean classic checks, hip and shoulder whomping opposing players so hard they sustained damage to both rump and ego. Reminiscent to me of previ- ous Leaf body thumpers, like Bucko McDonald, Bingo Kampman and Red Homer (notice those lusty nick- bashers who hit so hard they sometimes broke their own or the other guy's suspenders. If they missed, spectators in the front row caught cold from the draft. Also reminiscent of myself, playing pickup hockey at age 17; a 180-pound stringbean, I'd try to hit like Red Horner and nearly always miss. I quit shortly after that from shame at my own ineptitude. Continued ;