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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Hockey, and My Grandfathers.

My Grandfathers always had a passion for hockey, although neither ever told me of playing, whether on the streets or in the rinks. (They never played organized hockey) In fact, very little tales of playing at all ever seemed to be told. They were always busy. Did these people not play? I'm sure they did, but times were different, as they continue to change today. Today my son asks for help playing defense, and uses that advice to play online with someone from far away, so the evolution continues. Still the relationship to hockey continues. (Special thanks to Waxy Gregoire for the pictures.)

We profess to be the most astute hockey fans in the world, but we always drop to a common denominator. This can be best illustrated through the line in the Sweater, by Roch Carriere. "We were 5 Maurice Richards against 5 other Maurice Richards" said with the narrator's heavy French accent. It seems all discussion of Canadian/Leaf players drops to this common denominator. Maurice Richard was a great Player, there is no doubt, and his style was one to be emulated, but not everyone can be Maurice Richard.

Maurice was a fiery soul who combined speed and a fearsome shot with an intimidating presence. Since his day, too many think that is the only way to play. Today, Austin Mathews fits the bill fairly well. Still, some criticism say he lacks the fire or the determination.

Mitch Marner is an one hundred and seventy pound NHLer who is a point a game player. Could he be more fiery? Well he probably couldn't pull it off. I'm ok with that, but my gawd, the critics.

Look to the other side and you get Zack Hyman, fiery check, speed check, but frankly can't put the puck in the net at the same rate. So scorn, scorn. But every team needs a Zack Hyman and Mitch Marner, because we can't play with 5 Maurice Richards.

Maurice Richard didn't play with Maurice Richards, he played with Elmer Lach, surprisingly pretty close to the same size as Mitch Marner, at 5'10 inches tall and 165 pounds. He also played with Toe Blake, who seems to have been the work horse. Meanwhile, Elmer's point totals were heavy in assists, as he was a pass first guy. So, see how that works?

But we remember "the Rocket" and with good reason, but we remember him not because of his common abilities, but because his skill set was so different. So why do we want 5 Maurice Richards, when we can't have 5 Maurice Richards?

Frankly I don't know. What I do know is that, my grandfather John Beausoleil was so engrossed by hockey and the Leafs, that around his house, the kids had to be quiet on Saturday nights, as the old radio, with scratches and static, would broadcast the voice of Foster Hewitt into the living room.

And although he was never seeing the feats of Maurice Richard, he knew what his feats were. But probably preferred Ted Kennedy, as he was a Leaf fan. (He probably would like Austin Mathews today if he still watched.) Here's an interesting sign of the times. The radio had a battery that had to be wound. So in order to listen to the game Saturday, they would have to drag it into town when they went for groceries.

A trip to Toronto would have been out of the question, but he did end up at the docks in Montreal once. He went by boat, he needed cigarettes so he called my uncle who was living there. I doubt they got anywhere near the Forum (the arena in Montreal).

What's interesting is how much this season probably compared to hockey season then. Ice was natural ice, the cold of the environment would be the only source, so the seasons then would only start around Christmas, like it did this year. And the end of the season would be coming up soon, as ice would only be available till mid-march I would think.

The game was also different, until 1911 they played 7 man hockey. They would lose the center back and go to six man hockey as they play today. It was until 1917 that goalies could fall to the ice, before that, all saves had to be made standing up. In1918 they added blue lines, making the three zones. It wasn't till 1929 that forward passing was allowed, which changed the game entirely. Before that, you couldn't make a forward pass, only a back pass, so think rugby type advancing the puck. This change completely changed the NHL game, I don't know the affect to street hockey. Penalties were three minutes long, and if you got a match penalty, there was no substitution. Which made sense, since the players played the whole game.

Did these rules get discussed by my grandfathers and his peers, or did they just enjoy the game as it was? I don't know with my Pepere Beausoleil, he died the year I was born, I wish I could ask him. I don't know if he ever got bogged down in the rules, or even if he ever seen live hockey at all...but if he did, it was in this rink below.

Did he go to this old barn? In the day, old barns were an apt description. I wonder if they had men's and women's out houses, or if this one served everyone? (on the right halfway down) Further, at this early date, in many cases, horses and wagons were still the means of conveyance, so road trips were incredibly long.

They did go to church on Sunday and to work Monday, and both of those times they would want to know what the Leaf's or Canadian's did the week before so they could join the conversation. For my grandfather Beausoleil, he listened to the game on the edge of his seat, living the moment, he would never visually see.

Penetang had an arena then. I don't think it was a great place to watch a game, it had a low ceilinged and all. In fact, it seems Penetang always had an arena, but I don't think any of his friends or himself ever played, even out door hockey.

He went to England in the First World War, didn't see any action in France though, as the war ended before he reached France. Sadly he died in 1972, and I was born in 1973. He probably was taken up in the hype surrounding the Canada vs Russia series.

But where did this love come from? We always feel like Hockey is a modern thing, but it's not, particularly not in the small towns of the day. This bunch played hockey for Penetang in 1910. PTC for Pastime Club, seems intimidating names like the Flames didn't exist then. I guess they could only afford one Logo.

And the 1922 group. At that time there was six players and a goalie. (Not the Stanley cup however.)

This group from the Penetang High School (1918) would have been his contemporaries, as he turned 18 and was off to war, did he play in the streets of Penetang with these boys? Hey we should get our own high school.

The Mammoth was at Poyntz and Main, or Penetang Road. Where the cenotaph and tennis courts are now.

This arena replaced the mammoth, until this fire, and the Penetang Memorial replaced it. It was where the Beer store is downtown.

The current arena, I hope we get one to replace it, or fix it, as long as we still have one. (See Penetang High School)

So I wonder, if my grandfather ever played on the streets of Penetang, or on the rinks, or if sticks and skates were beyond his means? He never played any organized hockey, and the radio and not TV was his first NHL broadcast. So did he discuss the goalies, wax poetical about the Rocket, or Toe Blake?

Although it is unknown if my Grandfather Beausoleil ever seen a game, my Grandfather Duval did. Through a couple of generations he saw hockey as he would often attend my games, as my parents worked shift work and some one would have to bring me. He never complained and would always be there to help. He insisted that we lock the doors to the car when we arrived, some people would smoke in the car he would say. I don't think he suspected my uncles, but now I am pretty sure I know who would smoke in his car, and what they were smoking.

I remember my Grandfather telling my English speaking uncle that he watched the Canadians, even if it was in French. Rondelle was the puck and "et le but" was when they scored, but if you needed to understand what the people were saying just be quiet and follow the puck. Well maybe not exactly but in essence.

Locally, we probably always had good hockey to see, back in the day, as the McNamara's, Bert Corbeau and so many other quality hockey players were all in the area at one point or another.

Did they ever see themselves in the Rouge, or et Blanc, or the blue and white did they see the colours at all? It's hard to understand what they saw in the game, without having contextual experience, but it did captivate them as all Canadians seem to have been captivated at one point or another.

I don't know if they ever played at all, it seems there was too much to do. My Grandfather did get taught how to box a bit by the priest. But we had no stories of what they played, only what jobs they had. Seems to be a few stories about the fights they were in though!

Then there is this, they passed this, which is the Angels at the entrance to Penetang, but in the distance is the ball field Beck put up for the town. Did they ever throw a baseball? Swing a bat? Phil "Babe" Marchildon did, and this field, as in the picture was probably available to all...My first World War research has the Battalion (116th ) that the men of Penetang were in

Aerial View of Sports field in WW1 France

being very successful in the baseball league in France.

So many questions, only a few answers.

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the past,

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