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The Editor’s Desk: Hockey is in my veins

When I was a girl, hockey was for boys. That didn’t stop me from being a fan.
A long-cherished memento of my love for hockey, signed by my childhood hero, André Boudrias. Photo: Barbara Roden.

I’m Barbara, and I’m a hockey fan.

Oh, you might not know it to meet me. I rarely watch games these days, and don’t obsess over stats; but once upon a time hockey was my first love.

I came by this love honestly. My father was a referee (later head referee) for the B.C. Junior Hockey League for several years, and I spent many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon sitting in the bleachers in some small arena, watching the referee and linesmen as much as the players. I knew the hand signals for every penalty, and between periods would go to the referees’ dressing-room, where I would usually be given 50 cents to go get a hot chocolate and some popcorn from the concession. Wrigley’s Doublemint gum is also forever tied in to those days: Dad chewed it while on the ice to keep his mouth moistened, and every year he gets a couple of packs in his Christmas stocking from me as a tradition

When we moved back from Ottawa to Richmond in 1977 (Dad also refereed when we were in Ottawa), I helped Dad draw up schedules. I vividly recall one teenaged linesman from those years who approached Dad one day and asked if Dad thought he had what it took to be a linesman in the NHL. The answer was “Yes”; and thus Brad Lazarowich’s NHL career was born.

My brother and I traded hockey names, numbers, and stats with a precision and obsession that is, in hindsight, startling. We did not confine ourselves to the Canucks; but they were my first love, and my hero was number seven, André Boudrias.

I have on the desk in front of me a 45rpm novelty single called “Canucks We’re With You”, produced in 1975 to celebrate the Canucks winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the 1974/75 season. One side of the sleeve has been signed “To Barbara, best regards, André Boudrias” and “Barbara, all the best, Dennis Kearns #6”. It’s dated December 1975, and was almost certainly picked up by my father on a trip back to Vancouver.

In early 1976 my family drove from Ottawa to Montreal to watch the Canucks play the Canadiens. My father knew the Canucks’ head scout, and so it was that we were able to be rinkside to watch the pre-game skate, then go into the dressing-room to meet the Canucks. Needless to say, I got to meet Boudrias, and have a signed photo to prove it. (The Canucks won that game on February 12, 1976 by a 6–4 margin; the first time they ever beat the Canadiens.)

I would love to have played hockey; but I doubt they made hockey skates for girls in those days. What would have been the point? Boys played hockey; girls figure skated. I would also love to have been a play-by-play hockey commentator; but such an ambition, from a girl at that time, would have been laughable.

So I was very glad to see so many girls taking part in the “Learn to Play” clinic last weekend, and then line up to meet former Canucks Dave Babych and Kirk McLean and get autographs. I’m glad that there are women in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and that former players such as Cassie Campbell-Pascall have gone on to commentator roles on Hockey Night in Canada.

And I suspect that my love of hockey will never die.

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