He ground off the pick on tiny black figure skates so I'd have a pair that fit me. He put them on me when I was three years old. He pulled me out of the snowbanks and taught me to play the game. He built a rink for us, four blocks away. He brought us there in the evenings and showed me how to flood a rink. He let me paint the lines. He let me try playing goalie, right wing, centre, defence. He never forced me to play any one of them. He coached me, but never, ever played favourites. He refereed me, and called me for at least one penalty nearly every time. He told me to always have fun. He meant it. He let us make a space in the basement so I could shoot. He bought me my first goal to shoot on. He bought me a combo shield so I could look cool. He wasn't hard on me when it was impossible to wear without fogging outdoors. He rubbed my toes when they froze to numb, and stood quietly, comfortably by as I cried while they thawed. He never blew up at me for occasionally breaking a window on the garage. Eventually, he taught me how to replace a window. He taught me how to repair equipment. He taught me how to sharpen skates. He taught me all those things that make the most from what you have and keep the game playing long after others would have quit. He came to so, so many games, whether the bitter cold had yet to leave the morning, or the sun had begun to beat down and wet the ice.
He taught me defence. He showed me all the little things that make so much of a difference in hockey. When I decided to become a centre, he taught me to win faceoffs. He enjoyed that I learned to do complicated stickhandling plays. He enjoyed it even more that I was good at faceoffs, checked with my hip rather than my elbows and fists, took care of my man in front of the net, would make the pass much sooner than shoot, made the players around me better, and had fun, always.
He showed me what you could do with a community of people. He and a core of friends built a league for us. He rented equipment for people who couldn't afford it out of our basement. He sharpened skates for $1, even long after getting skates sharpened for $1 was unheard of. He kept records of the league. When I asked him about the records recently, he sent them to me as you would pictures of your family. I don't know if I'll ever understand how he managed to be a father and coach to us, an engineer to others, and a rock for this incredible organization.
He let me play other sports with the change of the seasons. He never questioned why I didn't pursue the game after high school. He didn't need to. He taught me that there were more things to life than playing sports. He would never let me play hockey and get bad grades.
I still get good grades. I still play hockey. I still do all the little things. I still win faceoffs. I still remember what I can do with a community of people. I can still sharpen skates for $1. I can write. And with all that I have, and all that I remember, I thank you, Dad, because you're in all of it.
One last thing: there's no way I hooked and tripped half as frequently as you called me for it. I think you might have been blind.