An Amazing Hockey Story

Robert Terson

I’ve told the following true story to a number of friends who’ve demanded (okay, that’s a bit much, “strongly suggested” is probably more like it) I post it for everyone to read. There’s no great point to be made, no lesson to be learned, but it is, I think, a great story. I hope you enjoy it.

It was 1959; I was 15 years old, Bobby Hull was in his second season, and the “Pappy Line”—Litzenberger, Lindsay, and Sloan (three oldsters)—were reveling in their career-reviving glory. On a Saturday afternoon, my father surprised me with two tickets to a Montreal Canadians’ game, at the old Chicago Stadium; I was beyond thrilled. I was a Blackhawks fan, but these were the legendary Canadians of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Henri “The Pocket-Rocket” Richard, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, and Tom Johnson—all all-stars. Arguably, the most dominant sports team ever. I was in Awe of them.

We sat in the nose-bleed seats, high above the ice; these were the days when the Stadium was half-empty (or worse) and no one sat anywhere near us—except one very nice middle-age man, who sat down next to me and Dad. He wore a suit and tie—somewhat unusual in those days but not unheard of. I enjoyed his company, a lot, because it was obvious the man knew his hockey; we talked hockey throughout the entire game; however, he never introduced himself.

At one point in the game, I saw a play develop; I saw it develop before it happened—a vision, you might say. How I did, I’ll never know, but I did. Henri Richard was flying down the wing and I “saw” that if the Blackhawks’ defenseman wasn’t careful, Richard could poke-check the puck away from the Blackhawks’ forward and go in on a breakaway. I stood up and yelled to the defenseman, “Go back, go back!”—but all for naught: sure enough, Richard poke-checked the puck away, just as my vision had foresaw, and scored a goal on a breakaway.

I slumped down into my seat, not happy about the opposition’s goal. My displeasure only lasted a second or two, though, because…my father and our new found friend were staring at me like I was some kind of guru, sent down by the hockey gods to play a joke on them. I’ll admit, I felt pretty damn good about the whole thing, you know? How often does something like that happen? Once in a blue moon, as my late father used to say. It was almost spiritual. The conversation that took place at that point didn’t do any damage to my teenage ego, either.

“You saw that?” the man asked, incredulous.

“Yes, Sir.”

“How did you see that, son?”

“I don’t know, Sir, but I did.”

He shook his head in amazement, said, “Unbelievable!”

My father, too, voiced his utter amazement at what had just taken place. Who knows, he might have been thinking that he had a clairvoyant on his hands.

My pride knew no boundaries; I basked all week in the memory of what had happened, feeling rather full of myself.

A week later, I was watching the hockey game of the week on television—coincidently a Blackhawks’ game. To my utter astonishment, in between periods, they interviewed the man who had sat next to us the previous Saturday. I went yelling for my father—“Dad, Dad, come quick, you gotta see this, you’re not going to believe it!”—practically dragged him back to watch the interview with me.

It was Tommy Ivan, the General Manager of the Blackhawks.

I had received my praise from Caesar Himself; that’s High Cotton for a 15-year-old kid.


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