I admit I’m one of those wankers editor Mr. Rooney chided for not yet writing their Hockeyville story. Looks like some northern town that doesn’t even have an arena could beat us. We, on the other hand, have had an arena and a whole lot of hockey since 1900. If any little town deserves to be Hockeyville it’s Revelstoke – so here goes.
The Trans Canada through Revelstoke wasn’t completed until 1962 and in winter we were isolated and locked in. Back in the day before television, CD players or gameboys, we made our own fun and skating became a passion.
Hockey’s all about speed, cold and the ice. Our first arena, built on the banks of the river near the post office, burned down in 1912 and wasn’t replaced until 1924. Shinny hockey erupted in the streets or on countless backyard mini rinks made patiently with garden hoses by determined dads.
The Columbia River, undammed back then, often froze over. Families took to the ice, skating and chasing pucks near the Big Eddy bridge or out south on Montana slough. The big boys were off ski jumping, curling, or ski touring to the top of Mt Revelstoke, but hockey was all about the kids.
I’m pretty sure my dad, born and raised in Revelstoke, arrived with his skates on. Family myth has it our folks met and courted in that lovely old wood arena. We were the quintessential skating family. In my earliest memories I am two. Mom and Dad are holding hands gliding to music and us kidlets, in bulky homemade snowsuits, scrabble to catch up on double-bladed skates. Speed, cold and the ice.
\Dad grew up playing hockey. When he was sixteen he skated for the Revelstoke Falcons, learning discipline and how to be a team player, and gaining endurance, agility and strength that led to other sports, and a long healthy life.
On the back of a team photograph dad, battling with Alzheimer’s in his seventies, had written “1929 -30, Champions of Eagle Valley and the Triple Cities – Revelstoke, Box Canyon, Boulder, just our little old Falcon team who didn’t beat anybody but who want to remember that they once played on a hockey team.”
The Falcons travelled east by train to Albert Canyon and Box Canyon or west to Sicamous and Salmon Arm. Oh to be a fly on the wall. That photo was on one of the first labels used by the local Mount Begbie Brewery for their award-winning beer Kolsch.
Dad’s hockey skills led to speed skating. One of my treasured talismans is a solid gold medal he won at UBC with “BC Championship 1933, Varsity Men’s Relay, 1st, won by Murray Little,” hand engraved on the back. Speed, cold and the ice.
Both my brothers grew up playing hockey. My big brother went on to play with the UBC Thunderbirds. In the seventies he took his passion to New Zealand. Auckland had only one arena and hockey was practically unheard of, but my bro got the Kiwis fired up, going on to referee and coach.
The black sheep of the family, I get my fix of speed, cold and the ice flying downhill on skis in -20° weather on hard packed slopes. Not so much for kids that. They, like our fathers did, need hockey to keep them off the streets, out of trouble and team players.
Revelstoke’s old memory filled arena, damaged by a massive windstorm in 1955, was finally crushed by a snowfall in 1960. Rebuilt on its current site in 1963, our arena, nearly 50 now and in need of TLC, still echoes with the shivery sounds of kids whacking pucks.
At the age of 79, his mind scrambled by Alzheimers, Dad was unable to converse, drive, or zip up his own jacket, but, man, could he still skate. Smooth and nimble, he’d sail away from me, young once again, playing one more game of hockey or ice dancing one last time with his girl June.
Barb Little is a local freelance writer and dog walker