In many ways it’s not a record any hockey player wants to break. Being the all-time games played leader in the Ontario Hockey League just means that you got stuck in junior. You’re good enough to stick around, but not good enough to get out.
That’s that negative way of looking at it anyway. The truth is that it’s a testament to dedication, determination and, yes, skill that should be recognized.
So congratulations goes out to Belleville’s Cory Tanaka who played his 329th career game today, mostly with the Bulls (and he did it in style, helping Belleville defeat Brampton 3-2 to open up a six-point lead on the Battalion n the race for top spot in the East).
The junior hockey star that never makes the bigs has a special place in Canadian culture. People look at them with a mix of envy and pity. How hard it must be to realize that you were so close, never to have made the final step.
Yet, to be a major player on a junior team – and you don’t stick around for five years playing nearly every game unless you are a contributor – that’s something too. You become part of the fabric of a community in a way that few of us do and although you could eventually become like that character in Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days, talking the ear off of someone you barely knew as a teenager while downing one too many beers, that doesn’t mean that it all didn’t matter.
Who knows what hockey is yet in Tanaka’s future (although Bulls fans hope it includes a second M-Cup run). It will probably involve the East Coast League, Europe or the CIS. But we do know what its history is. And it’s been pretty good. He’ll be an answer to a really tough trivia question. There are worse things to be.