Thursday, November 27, 2008

Calling Larry Mavety a 'great hockey man' is stranger than fiction

Larry Mavety: Great general manager or greatest general manager?

His Royal Mavesty now has more players from his 2005 draft playing for the Brantford Golden Eagles Junior B team than for the Kingston Frontenacs, the team he works for, at least nominally. Daryl Borden, who was the first goalie taken that year, has signed to play with his hometown Junior B club, where his new teammates include Matt Reis, Mavety's fifth-round selection.

This is being written apologetically as possible. For starters, it is running over the same old ground. As well, one has to be balanced and owner Doug Springer's declaration that "Larry Mavety is a great hockey man," and that the Frontenacs are looking to the future should get the full consideration that it deserves.

Come on, people. Springer said they were looking to the future. No one should have needed any more convincing to slug back the Killer Kool-Aid (Save The Fronts' phrase, not mine) and just forget the past 10 seasons. It is just nitpicking to point out that, if it takes three years to properly get the measure of a draft, Kingston made five picks from the second through the fifth rounds that year. None of them are playing major junior hockey.

Please don't be a smartass by saying, "Well, how many are playing for the Frontenacs?" The answer to that is also none.
Editor's note: This probably would have gone by uncommented upon, were it not for that fact that Borden is displacing an 18-year-old goalie named Thomas Shelley.

Thomas Shelley, no word of a lie, might have saved my life one day.

December 2004 it was. A stranger in a strange town, the sports editor at the local paper decided that rather than go to the office he would walk the two blocks from his apartment over a computer store to cover a high school hockey game. Ostensibly, it was to get an early story for the next day's paper, but really, four months into a new job in a town where he didn't know anyone outside of the other people at the paper and local coaches, he just was not quite ready to face the world that day.

Standing for a hour in a nearly empty arena on a Wednesday afternoon, watching high school boys glide around on skates, that symphony of blades cutting the ice that Canadians hear in their sleep, letting loose that primordial roar when they scored, well, that was a way to ease back into life piecemeal.

High school hockey, in most of Ontario, basically comes down to who goes to your school. The game, Waterford vs. Holy Trinity was a mismatch. Trinity was the county's spanking-new Catholic high school in town that had opened within the past five years, and whose success in sports was much resented among the town's old guard. Families who prized education and status as much as their faith sent their daughters and sons to Trinity. They had a lot more boys with competitive hockey experience to choose from. Waterford was smaller and rural, full of boys who played hockey more for fun.

Most of Trinity's skaters wore gloves and hockey socks that corresponded with the local rep teams -- it was almost a game to count them up, the St. Louis blue and gold (Delhi), the Leafs' triple white stripes (Simcoe) or the pre-Ovechkin Washington Capitals blue and black (Port Dover).

Waterford had fewer players, probably not enough for three forward lines and two defence pairs and seemed to move with a little less zip. He might not have been there that day, but one of their star football and rugby players was on the team, and the assessment of him was, "He hits like a ton of bricks ... skates like one, too."

In goal, was this Grade 9, barely standing above the crossbar, clearly way past his team in talent. It should have been a blowout, but Trinity was slow to get into it, giving Waterford an opening to score on a completely random play. After that, it got ridiculous. The rest of the afternoon was Thomas Shelley standing up to a unrelenting tsunami of vulcanized rubber. He played every minute of this ridiculous game like it was the third period, tie game, Game 7 of Earthlings vs. the Klingons. He stoned Trinity's swiftest players on breakaways. The high, hard shots that he couldn't catch, he would juggle for just an extra beat, almost like he was teasing the forwards going to the net before they went careening past empty-handed.

There was no Penny Lane in Almost Famous to snatch the pen away from the stooge who was dutifully keeping his own shots-on-goal tally at rinkside, so he could stand back and listen and watch with his eyes. Starting the second (and final) period, down a goal, Trinity took 16 unanswered shots. The question became how much longer Shelley could keep this up? With about three minutes left, Trinity finally got one, not a cheapie, but a good goal, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. Final shots on goal, according to the stooge's tally: 49-9. The second total might have been a bit generous.

Shelley, of course, wished he could have had that one back, but a tie game seemed more symbolic. The Waterford coaches laughed the laugh of someone who had got away from something: "There's no I in team, but there is a T and it stands for Thomas," one of them said.

It was just a high school game in a small town. Hockey-wise, it was not evidence of anything other than a 14-year-old having a very good game. It was also proof that life was not all black. Thanks, Tom.


GoGades said...

As critical of the blog as I was the other day... *that kind of post* is why I keep coming back.

Nice work, Sager.

Pattington said...

GoGades hit the nail on the head. This, my good friend Neate, is money writing. Bon job.