BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Being raised by both parents and growing up in the Motor City in the 60‘s, life just seemed easier, less worries and there were always plenty of sports franchises for the average sports fan to follow.
Football fans got to watch the wayward Detroit Lions, inventing new ways to lose football games-some things never change. We all felt the healing power for a city recovering from turmoil watching the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium and watching one of the coolest star of National Basketball Association and the Detroit Pistons, who later would became mayor of the city-Dave Bing.
Everybody would have there favorite team and yeah sometime they would win but most of the time there were loses to be analyzed.
Living in the shadow of a historical red-brick building known all around town as the Olympia, then later would come the iconic Joe Lewis Arena. You know, watching the Detroit Red Wings and the National Hockey League would just seemed natural.
Growing up to be able to see hockey legends like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsey, Alex Delvecchio and all the rest of the players that proudly wore red and white of the winged-wheel jersey but the ironic part – never knew it!
Before the invention of cable television, before dedicated special networks and before the age of the multi-media complex known as the internet there was just regular antenna television.
The channel dial went from 2-13 and if your television set was sophisticated and your set also provided Ultra High Frequency channels, well my friends, you were considered the upper crust of a blue collar neighborhood .
Living in suburban Detroit and among the good folks there, we were all privileged to be able to watch the glorious programs being broadcasted by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation or just commonly referred to and with affection as the CBC.
Just across the Ambassador Bridge and the rippling water of the Detroit River, as the Great Lake ships and freighters slowly drifted pass the city of Windsor, Ontario they would also pass the studios of CKLW Channel 9.
When the sun finally went down in the west and it was Saturday night. A young boy and the many neighbors who were hockey fans, could hardly wait for the hands on the clock to read 8 o’clock.
The sound of the theme music would fill the air and introduce Hockey Night in Canada and then the pictures would work there way into the homes across the providences and territories of Canada and the city of Detroit.
Now please remember before 1967-68 hockey season, when the first round of expansion teams made it’s way through the NHL, there were only six teams and oh yeah, there was no color television, in fact Hockey Night in Canada did not broadcast a game in color until 1967, so there was just black and white television sets with back and white images from the famous Maple Leaf Gardens.
It was a pleasurable vice, for a boy living in America watching Canadian television, it was so risqué.
Learning all about the products from the Imperial Oil Company and the services provided by the good and dedicated dealers of Esso, the many beers brewed by the Labatt’s Brewery and also by the Molson Brewery and all the things a person could purchase at Eaton Department Store and at the Canadian Tire.
The great description of the game unfolding on the ice being described by the baritone voice of Bob Cole sitting above the hockey arena in something known as the gondola in Maple Leaf Garden.
Perched high above the ice, he would describe the marvelous skill, the speed and the amazing accuracy of a shot from Dave Keon that went whistling by the goalie, the unexpected power of Frank Mahovlich and the acrobatic style and saves in the crease made by Maple Leaf’s goalie Terry Sawchuk.
As the years past, Cole would continue to describe to the viewers watching, the beauty of the crushing check in the corner by Leaf’s defenseman Borje Salming, the scoring of the prettiest goal he has ever witnessed scored by Doug Gilmore and his description of the grit and tenacity of Darryl Sittler, well it just made you want get up from your seat and go outside, find some ice, strap on a pair of hockey ice skates, grab a stick and learn how to play the game.
When the Detroit Red Wings played against the Toronto Maple Leafs or the rare occasion when the Maple Leafs were away from the Garden on Saturday night. The rule of blackout seemed to suddenly appear and the law would be followed by the CBC .
Hockey Night in Canada would broadcast from Montreal, Quebec and instead watching a game from the Garden, the game would originated from the Montreal Forum and those dreaded Montreal Canadians would invade the homes of Detroit.
A chance to see, the Canadians skate across the television screen, you became mesmerize by the Canadians’ magical power woven in those red and blue sweaters and the voice of Dick Irvin Jr. and Harry Neal describing just how unflappable and unstoppable those Canadians were, as they were able to do everything right on the ice.
Watching Henri Richard skate so fast that the television camera would have trouble keeping up with the “Pocket Rocket”, the way Guy Lafleur approached the game, he always showed respect to the game and when Ken Dryden played between the pipes it just seemed like the Canadians would never lose.
These two teams, introduce to a boy living in the suburb of Detroit, in the decade of the 60’s, to a game that would provide entertainment and provide a lot of NHL history being made right before his eyes from a grainy black and white television picture.
A simpler life, great memories – you bet!
Any Hockey Night in Florida, well it is taking it’s sweet time for a middle-aged man living in the sunshine state, in getting use too but one thing that isn’t changed-is that the game is still great.
Living were the blue sky reign, the comfortable temperature in winter combined with the sunshine washing over the state of Florida, a person can appreciate that, instead of a blustery, frosty and snowy winter nights in Detroit and in Windsor.
In the city of Tampa, the NHL plays in a place that is called, the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This is the building that the Tampa Bay Lightning call home and this team is trying to make there own brand of memories. There is one thing that they do posses, a Stanley Cup banner that hangs proudly from the rafters, winning the best prize in hockey in 2003-04 season.
This upcoming 2014-15 NHL hockey season, the Lightning will get another chance to make some kind of NHL history inside the home of the Lightning.
Lightning’s coach Jon Cooper and former Red Wing’s team captain and now General Manager of the Lightning, Steve Yzerman will move forward toward the new season and forget about the disastrous Stanley Cup Playoff series against Montreal.
Tampa Bay losing to those darn Canadians, an once again those Montreal players were able to show the world that there is still some kind of magical powers in those uniforms.
For now, the memories of a young boy that is now a middle-aged man, there is no chance to go back in time, only the ability to reminisce about the simpler times of black and white television, six great hockey teams and Canadian television.
Instead for a middle-aged man there is the making of new memories, living in the great state of Florida, the city of Tampa and the Tampa Bay Lightning-that’s not too bad either!
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.