As you may know, hockey is Canada’s favorite pastime. Everything is all about hockey up here.
Kids are taught to skate on the ice when they’re walking as toddlers. They get their first hockey stick as 3 year olds. They learn about the fundamentals over the next 12 years of their lives.
Then, it’s off to juniors, playing in far away places such as Chilliwack, British Columbia; Barrie, Ontario; Swift Current, Saskatchewan and Drummondville, Quebec.
These kids, many of them not even old enough to drive, are sent away from home to play the game. They live and breath the sport 24/7. By the time they’re 17 or 18 years of age, the NHL comes calling. They’ll be drafted to play for a chance to drink out of hockey’s “holy grail”…the Stanley Cup.
Now, being an kid from Brooklyn, the last thing I ever would have learned about growing up was hockey. But it’s true! The sport is in my blood, even though I couldn’t skate five feet in front of me!
In 1973, a cartoon character named “Peter Puck” made his television debut on NBC’s “Game of the Week.” All season long, my two brothers and I learned all about the game of hockey.
The cartoon literally taught us the basics of the sport, from equipment, to penalties, to referee signals, to how pucks, skates and sticks were made. We also learned about the history of the sport. We knew there was a real live person named, Lord Stanley.
For many years, “Peter Puck” was a staple for us on how to play the game. Unfortunately, the sport was a luxury we couldn’t afford. No doubt, the three of us would have played the game if given the opportunity as children.
A few weeks ago, I was in a Canadian Tire store in Brockville, Ontario. My wife and I were in the hockey section of the store where, low and behold, there, along with all the NHL merchandise was a hockey jersey with the logo of “Peter Puck” on it!
My wife was in disbelief as I reverted back to my childhood years, looking at the icon that taught me and my brothers about hockey with sheer joy. I had to buy the jersey, as I didn’t know if I would see something like that ever again. But in Canada, Peter Puck is everywhere! (Remember? Hockey=Pastime)
For those of you in the United States who’ve never heard of “Peter Puck”, here’s a short film on the rubberized icon. If you’re old enough to remember like me, you’ll get a kick out of seeing him again.
Note:”Peter Puck” lives again as clips from the original cartoon are featured during the first intermission of Toronto Maple Leafs games broadcast on Leafs TV for a new generation of hockey fans. The clips are shown in their original form, but with outdated rules and references omitted.
NBC executives should take notice!