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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 22, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta Wilson after his encounter with the goal post. The injury hadn't been serious, some kind of muscle spasm he shook off fairly easily. The goalie appears small without his bulky pads, yet he's nearly 180 pounds of Grade A puckstopper. Darryl Sittler, scoring star of the Leafs, looks like a high school youngster. Dave Keon, team veteran of many years, talks to Dick about the Leafs' long losing streak. He makes the quiet analogy that kids crawl before they learn to walk, just as rookie players must learn to work hard, and it takes time for the compo- nent parts of a team to come together. I've seen accountants who looked and talked like Keon. Yet this is the man who sometimes won't talk to the press at all, he feels so savagely bad when Leafs lose. That's the perspective when I talk to Clennie. Like Keon, he feels slightly better over the Leafs' win but not turning any handsprings about it. The game is life and death to him, as well as bread and butter. Brian tells me about his wife, Barbara, being in hospital earlier in the season: "She comes first, life is pushed aside." was going to have a big operation for a pelvic abcess. I couldn't even think about hockey at the time. Now if I'd been in any ordinary line of work, I'd have been at my wife's side when she had that operation. All right, so what do I do? I stay at the Gardens and play hockey that night. Sure, I con- demn myself for it! She was on the operating table for three hours, she could've died! I think, what if it's all over for Barb? I'm on the ice playing a lousy game while that's happening. I mean, what really are the priorities of life? What bugged me was that it would never enter my mind to go to the coach and say, 'Hey, my wife's on the operating table, I want to go to the And Kelly would have said go ahead, I know he would." "But you didn't do "No, I played hockey." "Why didn't "I don't know, maybe it's because I'm conditioned, a conditioned hock- ey player. I didn't even think to ask." Barbara says of that operation: "It would have been nice to have Brian there. I mean, I was really sick... But hockey comes first, life is pushed aside." "Do you want him to retire and get another kind of "I want Brian to do what he wants to do. I guess that means playing hockey. I'd rather he had a 9 to 5 job, but again, that's up to him. Of course hockey was exciting at first, being married to someone so well-known, but now it's a drag." She no longer goes to hockey games. She and Brian live lives so different and separate that Barb's interests, painting and modern dance, are alien to him. "Brian isn't interested in my painting or dancing, I can tell. But we do have a good relationship..." Brian is as obsessive about his wife's operation as he is about the losing Leafs. "After it was over, I talked to Andra Kelly [the coach's She told me about having an emer- gency appendix operation a few years ago. Red had to rush her to the hospital, find someone to look after the kids, go play hockey himself, then come back and see her. The same thing as Barb went through and I went through. And who in hell, for the rest of his life, would be so spellbound by a game as There's a kind of agony in all this I didn't quite expect. Of course hockey players are human beings like every- one else. I knew that, but the sports pages rarely mention such things, and to the treble-voiced kids, pain and suffering happen to their mothers and dads, not to their heroes' wives. What it amounts to is: men playing a chil- dren's game, but forced to be adults in their private lives, forced to look at themselves squarely as human beings, prone to human as well as athletic errors. In 1952 at age 6, Brian Glennie was a boy playing a boy's game with Marl- boros of the little Toronto Hockey League. The stocky kid with the deter- mined look had the same coach many kids have, his father. Alex Glennie went to the rink with him sometimes, cheering Brian on from the sidelines. "Even in those days, I was generally a little better than most says Glennie. But that was before he start- ed playing with the big boys, like Bob- by Orr, Gordie Howe, Robert Marvin Hull and the quicksilver Russians. In high school he went in for basketball, football, gymnastics, joining the Marl- boro junior A hockey team in 1964. By that time Glennie was a heavily built defenceman, who could some- times score a few goals for you but a little slow for the NHL according to pro scouts. Brian made up that defi- ciency by being in the right place at the right time, and in 1967 his Marl- boros won the Memorial Cup and were junior champions of Canada. The juniors are the coddled bluebloods of hockey, their league the seedbed and breeding ground of pro hockey. And when your team wins the Memorial Cup, it's a time wheri the back-slap- ping, fulsome praise and "You're looking great, kind of talk begins. Alexander Glennie, age 52, died of a heart attack the same year the Marl- boros nabbed the silver trinket that means junior supremacy of Canada. Brian was knocked out with grief and loss. He had always depended on his father for advice. When the older Glennie said, "Get an Brian went to the University of Toronto in meeting Barbara Holland from Oshawa, also on a phys- ical education course. After discussing plans with his mother Irene Glen- nie, a lawyer's secretary and Barb, Brian joined the national team at Winnipeg, which was preparing for the 1968 world amateur champion- ship. Canada was supposed to win the title. But surprise, the Finns beat them, they struggled to a win over the United States, then beat Czechos- lovakia and Sweden, reaching the final against Russia with the world title almost within their grasp. Hockey is a mental game, says Brian, "but mo- tivating yourself is easy when you play for your country. When the national anthem begins everybody is higher than a But kites come down: Canada lost 50 to Russia, finishing third in the final standings. Brian signed with the Leafs in May 1968, got married in 1969, and there are now two kids, Rebecca, 2, and Adam, 1. Injuries began to be a prob- lem after turning pro. He's had two shoulder operations, both legs and ankles in casts, ribs separated, nose broken a few times, and countless facial cuts requiring multiple stitches. In 1972 his right shoulder was dam- aged, and he had to be fitted with a special harness in order to play hock- ey. He couldn't lift his right arm above the shoulder. "Every time I was hit my arm would dislocate, then go back into place." That harness had to be worn till after Christmas, then, "I hit somebody along the boards, heard this tremendous snap, and went out like a light" Glennie woke up in hospital, leg and ankle both in a plaster cast. The doctors wanted to operate on his shoulder as well, since he was already in the hospital, but "I said whoa! Later I went back into the hospital and had the shoulder operated on. But I just couldn't take both the leg and shoul- der operations at the same time." Brian says about playing while in pain, "If it hurts like hell I'm not going to tell you anyway! You know I may think I'm dying, but I'm going to go back out Hearing that, I have to wonder whether such courage is heroic or just foolish? That year, 1972, also saw Glennie a member of Team Canada, a non-play- ing member but it was the big emotional experience of his life. "You know, it was unbelievable the lengths the Russians went to off the ice to bother our hockey club upset both players and wives. But when we came off the ice in Moscow at the end of the second period with the series it- self tied, but Canada behind 5-3 in the final game, the feeling in that dressing room was electric. Everybody knew there was no way the Russians were going to beat us! Why not? I don't know, but we The Rus- sians played for a tie when the score was 5-5, but then Paul Henderson scored his last-minute goal and all was bedlam. Afterwards Henderson said, "When I scored that final goal, I finally real- ized what democracy was all about." I quoted this statement to Brian. He said, "Eventually it did become de- mocracy versus communism." Well, I don't know: is that what playing the national anthem does? Now, after years with the Leafs, Brian Glennie is a veteran, wondering what it's all about: "My brain is rot- ting from disuse ever since I left uni- versity." Barbara is developing her own interests: "Her life can't just re- volve around mine, much as I'd like that." About his own play: "I've learn- ed nothing since I turned pro. Some- times I wonder why you can't place a video camera at one end of the rink to watch the way Bobby Orr comes in on the Orr is the great- est player I've ever seen. Does he go to the right or left in a stress situation, and how many Such confrontations that happen several times in a game; they are the real magic of hockey, one man meet- ing two defencemen at the blueline, then, miraculously, he's around or be- tween them. After the fact, nobody knows how it was done; most of the time pictures don't explain it. So ifs ballet, it's murder, it's the reason men play a boy's game despite pain and in spite of the money. And we who watch, and were never good enough to play ourselves, can admire the pure wizardry of the game at its best, ap- plaud madly and wonder at our own foolish joy.< weekend Magazine, Fee. 22, mi 5 ;