A very Canadian nostalgia

If I ever doubt how different I am today from the shy, anxious kid I once was, I just have to look at one of the items I contributed to my TV, eh? Midseason Charity Auction benefitting Kids Help Phone.

I would have been 14 when I bought the 1984/85 Edmonton Oilers program at a game, and I’d have collected the autographs over the season. It was a thing we did, us junior high school girls: pick a favourite player (mine was Andy Moog), go to the public practices at West Edmonton Mall or buy nosebleed tickets, and after the game hang out at the players’ exit with our autograph books or programs.

My regret now is that I got Wayne Gretzky’s signature in my little green book, gilt-embossed with “Autographs” on its cover, camp friends’ farewells and teachers’ encouragements signed inside, instead of in the program – it would have been a bigger selling feature today. But back then, I just wanted as many as I could get, whether I had the program with me or not, whether it was a big-name player or not. Another one in that green book was rookie Steve Graves, who never did play much in the NHL and who I remember as one of my favourites because he was so nice, so touched to be asked to sign.

1984/85 was the season after the team won their first Stanley Cup, gloriously defeating their then-nemeses. I remember being almost glad they hadn’t won in 83/84 when they first made the final against the New York Islanders, because I thought my joy might be too much to handle.

Then, I could name every player on the roster, in order of their jersey numbers. Now, I can’t even name all the teams in the NHL.

Was my interest back then partly a way to bond with classmates? I’d changed schools countless times in elementary school, and from tempermant and necessity developed mostly solitary interests. Maybe. Or maybe I was just an average Canadian, excited by our fast-paced official winter sport. In fact I watched televised games alone more often than not, riveted to the action of the ice.

Then, I even knew what icing meant. Today, I’m neither a hockey fan nor a collector of anything. Granted, growing up with a team that won 5 Stanley Cups before I was 20 might have set the bar too high to sustain my interest, but really I stopped following hockey after a brief stint in university of working for the team store during games. I didn’t have a television, I was going to school full-time and working two part-time jobs, and hockey wasn’t a priority anymore.

As an adult I also moved at least every two years – averaging a lot more back then, breaking the streak now that I bought a place a couple of years ago. But the moves, especially the one to Mexico, when I sold or gave away many of my possessions, erased any residual collector instinct I might have had.

Still, I kept that Oilers program. It had been so important to 14-year-old me. I had a vague thought that I could only give it to someone who would cherish at much as I had, but because it now represents experiences rather than a collection of signatures, that seemed impossible. Until now: I’m happy to give it up for Kids Help Phone, in memory of the kid I once was, a kid who could have used someone to talk to during a time I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk to anyone, a time when hockey gave me more joy than I thought I could handle.

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