Remembering minor hockey in Lakefield in the 1960s
by Ralph Beavis
Oh boy, I was one of the lucky kids who had the chance to play hockey in Lakefield in the ’60s. Hats off to all the volunteers who organized Lakefield Minor Hockey and to the ones who ran the teams.
Kit Carson always said that any kid who wanted to play hockey in Lakefield would have the chance, which I believe still holds true today.
You see, in the ’60s there were a lot of kids around, which are now known as the baby boomers. In our neighborhood alone (7th line of Smith, Slaters Corners), I can think of nine families who had kids playing in the minor hockey system.
This not only helped for car pooling, but also gave us great road hockey games which of course were our favorite pastime, along with watching Ed Sullivan and Bonanza on Sunday nights on our T.V that only got two stations.
Believe it or not, it sure was exciting when the temperature outside started to drop because you knew that the natural ice in the Lakefield arena, along with the ponds, would soon be ready to skate on. Winter would soon be arriving with its heavy snowfalls and cold weather.
Our parents were our means of transportation to the arena and surrounding towns in our league (we would meet at the arena or town hall).
The cars back then did not really warm up much until you got to the arena, only to be frozen again after the game or practice. Once inside the arena you would find that the only difference between the outside and the inside temperature was that we were out of the wind.
The arena itself was made of lots of wood and cement and had large wire mesh around both ends of the ice pad, and it became a bit of a practice to spit through for us kids. There was a small booth that sold piping hot chocolate and my favorite sponge toffee which I think was around 15 cents.
There was a balcony above the main entrance (great place to shoot the ball or wrestle) and a small balcony at the other end where the manual clock hung with its second hand and large numbers.
The score was kept by kids (if they wanted to) up there where they would hang the score cards under the home or visitor teams. During the important games there would be a goal judge who stood in a small wire cage behind the goal.
Our local police chief Garnett Samos would often stand behind the net with his big cigar in his mouth.
Of course our big rivalry back then was the Bancroft Jets. It seemed that every year we would have a playoff round with them which really was our Stanley Cup series. We played against most of the same guys from Bantam up to Jr. D.
Most of the time their coach was Hugh Laundry and ours was Kit Carson. Our fans would travel to Bancroft to support their local kids, watch an exciting hockey game, and watch the stuff that would go on in the crowd, where it was not uncommon to see a good old fight.
Being in a goaltender, I not only saw what was going on, but more importantly heard the comments that were yelled across the ice surface.
The old arenas had stands on both sides (Bancroft fans on one and Lakefield on the other) which made for a lot of loud bravery. There wasn’t any wire mesh down the sides of the arena (fans had to watch carefully or they could easily get hit with a puck) and not much barrier behind the players bench and the penalty box.
Things would really get going in the third period, with the tension building on and off the ice. There would be standing room only which meant that when a fight started in the crowd, with shoving and pushing, some fans always ended up on the ice.
Another common place for a fight to start would be at the end of the game when the players were leaving the ice and the fans were all hanging around chirping at the players. Crazy as it sounds, the fans had to all leave through one door! Because of all this, we quite often got a police escort out of the arena and to the town limits.
The playoffs with Bancroft were always very competitive which always provided great entertainment for us all.
Our equipment as a player back then fit into a small bag (many used old army bags and when you had your skates sharpened you would have to rub them on the lip of the wooden step before stepping on the ice, or you could hardly skate.
Speaking of skates, my memory of them was mostly cold feet, and this was even more so when I started playing goal. Somehow, the volunteers would round up enough used equipment for the goalies to wear, which I might add lacked somewhat in the protection department. That did not seem to matter too much to me, as I was just happy to be playing, and after all my heroes playing Jr. D or in the NHL did not even wear masks!
Speaking of heroes, the Jr. D’s were just that to us. Again with transportation from our parents in those cold cars, we would be at their games, where our friends would be. After all, there really wasn’t anything good to watch on our two channel snowy T.V.
Natural ice as I remember took a lot of work. Players would volunteer from each home team after their game or practice and scrape the ice with the big steel shovels, that we would skate together with, around and around and then shovel the snow out the back door.
Flooding was done mostly for games only and at the end of the day. The flood machine consisted of a barrel on wheels full of hot water, with a steel pipe full of holes and towels attached. This would be pulled around the arena (usually by the local rink rat). I must admit, I think that we all felt like rink rats, judging by the amount of time we spent there.
Winter would eventually start to subside, the sun would get warmer and the ice would get softer and softer during the day, and would even at times shorten our season. All the arenas in our league (small towns around us like Keene) would experience the same problem. We were not alone.
After the season was over, the volunteers’ work would not end. There was our awards night to organize which would be full of our minor hockey kids where coaches would award to players trophies for most dedicated, most improved and most valuable. For me this time of year, I would head down to Joe’s Barber Shop to have my increasingly long hair (thanks to the Beatles) cut to a brush cut for the summer.
Again volunteers were back to work in the summer organizing the bottle drive, where again the Minor Hockey players would meet on a Saturday and collect bottles door to door or have parents drive us around to search the ditches along the roads to collect pop and stubby beer bottles.
Volunteers also organized us kids selling tickets in front of the local merchants on a Saturday. IGA or the beer/liquor store were always the best spots!
Our volunteers also had the job of getting sponsors from the local merchants, which were a key element for team sweaters etc. As you can see this was a team effort for everyone, which also built a stronger hockey team and appreciation for the game.
Summer seemed to go by quickly and before we knew it, the leaves were turning, our road hockey sticks were worn down like toothpicks, and our dream of getting on the ice was growing nearer once again.
Thanks Lakefield Minor Hockey and thank you Mom and Dad!
Copyright 2010 Lakefield Herald Ltd.
Return to The Herald Home Page