Hockey Day in Canada

Vintage Leafs has been up and running for about 14 months now. During this time, I have rarely used it for anything more than photos. Photos of a team I have followed since the early 80's. I called it Vintage Leafs and decided I would use it to post photos of Leafs past. That was the only rule. The players could not be members of the current team. I realize a photo of Mats Sundin isn't really "vintage" in the true sense of the word, but this rule seemed more appropriate than picking a cut-off date.

Anyhow, after 14 months, I figure it is about time for an introductory post. My name is Harold Cook. I am 34yrs old and currently living just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. I am married; my wife and I have 2 daughters. Halle is 6 yrs old and Sydney is 4. My wife and I are also full time students - both studying nursing at Dalhousie University in Halifax. We also work at a nursing home. In my spare time, I also work as a freelance photographer. My work can be found at Harold Cook Photography and on Facebook or Flickr. Needless to say, we are busy. This blog, and the online presence of Maple Leafs fans in general, has served me well as a place to unwind and relax when time permits.

The collection of photos here have all been found online - on other sites. It seemed to me that there wasn't yet a website out there devoted solely to photos of Leafs gone by. I liked the idea of being able to easily find photos of players without having to sort through lots of other content. The sidebar on the right allows readers to quickly scroll through and find players of interest, then click on those they would like to see a collection of photos for. If ever a photographer were to find a photo of theirs on my site, I would immediately take it down if they voiced concerns. Again, these are all photos that were already out there in the public domain - but I would certainly understand the request if it were made.

Now, on to the real point of this entry:

Today is CBC's Hockey Day in Canada and I felt it would be a nice time to write a little bit about this game I love so much. I used to write a lot, but 3 years of nursing school has turned most of my writing time into essays about best practice wound care and excessive use of laxatives on the geriatric population. I digress.

It took me longer than most Canadian boys to get involved in hockey. It wasn't until my family moved into a suburban subdivision where the streets were always lined with boys playing the game that I truly fell in love with the sport. I was 9yrs old. Immediately, I began playing. It was winter when we first moved, but my new friends would start their games as soon as school let out. We would play til supper, then again after our meals until it was time to come in for homework and bedtimes. If the lakes were well frozen, we would walk there together, with skates slung over over sticks and sticks slung over our shoulders. The games would last forever. No one really kept score, but in your head, you knew if you were winning and you counted how many goals you slid between Bradley's boot and Matthew's backpack.

I wasn't very good. My skating was awkward and my stick-handling was non-existent. I would merely hobble around, swatting at the puck whenever it slipped into range. The road hockey games were different. There, I could run and I was fast. Still, there was something about gliding around the ice that felt right even though I was doing it so wrong. After the other boys would go home, I would stay behind and skate from one end of the lake to the other - slowly pushing a puck in front of me the whole way. The surrounding silence would just swallow you. Blades cutting into ice and the tick, tock of rubber puck on wooden stick. Wind would either push you from behind, making you feel faster than fast - or it would slap you right in the face, steal your breath and make you wonder why you decided to skate so far away from your boots.

The game made heroes and goats of us all on a minute-to-minute basis. On winter's Saturday nights, I was allowed to stay up and watch my heroes. I would lay on the sofa and my dad would sit in his easy chair and we would yell and scream at the screen while eating plain rippled chips and drinking pop. If the Leafs were losing, I would change my position on the sofa with the superstitious belief that my comfort level was somehow related to the performance of the team. Those teams were intent on seeing me suffer. As they fell further and further behind on any given Saturday night, I would move into increasingly more painful positions. If the Leafs scored, I would stay in that position until/unless things began going poorly for the Leafs again. To this day, I feel my technique was primarily responsible for the 1992 and 1993 World Series victories for the Toronto Blue Jays. Again, I digress as those successes never did carry over onto ice.

These innocent beginnings are similar to those of many fans across Canada. Today, we are able to share our love for this game in so many different ways and with so many different people. Leafs fans are an especially unique species. I wasn't born when they last won a Cup, but I am still proud of their tradition. Every year, my dad would buy a couple books about the team and give them to me on Christmas break. I would read each one like a bible. I never got to see a lot of my favorite players even play a game; they lived in the pages of those books.

This site, Vintage Leafs, is sort of a tribute to those books and my beginnings as a hockey fan. A Leafs fan. A lot of the players depicted are ghosts now. Many of them played only a handful of NHL games and are mostly forgotten. Hopefully, this site will help continue to remind us all of where this game has come from. It is a beautiful sport. It is a beautiful past. These are the blue and white ghosts that haunt us now.

I truly hope you enjoy "reading" Vintage Leafs as much as I enjoy bringing it to you.

Happy Hockey Day,


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