It is the 1950s and I am frigging freezing. We have cleared a good-sized skating rink on Baynes Lake near Fernie.
The shovelling is a good warm up, but I am too young to do much with the heavy snow and have been relegated to playing goalie.
I have hand-me-down skates from two older brothers, which are too big and even two pairs of heavy wool socks do not help my skating skill. I fall down a lot and wear no helmet. My head hurts. Finally, in frustration, I put on my rubber, winter boots, but they have only a felt insole and no liner. Big mistake. I am even colder now as two big brothers and local friends drill the puck at me.
Fast forward to the current year. My youngest hockey-playing grandson steps off the bench and onto the Capital News centre ice, and falls down. He has just turned five and has to play with kids 22 months older. When I tell him to step down sideways, he says, "But, papa, the step is just too big."
However, he is Mr. Enthusiasm and delights in scoring from a goal-mouth scramble or even a shootout at the end of his game. His skating skills are improving tremendously. He was player of the game once, which entitled him to a coupon, a certificate and a beat up Kelowna Rockets puck. His team also has a Christmas party with fun soccer. It is more than enough payment for him.
There are no team owners, no unions, no body checking and no concussions. It is hockey at its finest. Coaches are usually parents, and they sacrifice many hours, mostly on the weekends, to help the minor hockey boys and girls with their skills. The referees are often young hockey players learning how to manage a game.
Often it is very early morning games and practice as early as 6 a.m. My grandson wakes up at 5 a.m. and says "Let's go, dad. It's hockey this morning." There are three boys - nine , seven and five - playing hockey in his family. On some weekends there are six games.
It must be a challenge to organize Kelowna Minor Hockey - all unpaid and with little reward. Occasionally, the organization erupts in controversy usually centred around rep teams versus house teams and the selection process.
The rep teams have definite skill try outs and often wander around the province to play other teams. House teams play more locally. For my little grandson, it is often too much action in one weekend and he is wipe-out tired.
So, how did we get to the NHL mess with exorbitant salaries and ridiculous ticket prices? It seems like one word will do - greed.
Greed on the owners part. Greed on the players part and naive fans who pay steep prices. Would it not be nice if say, 10 per cent of players salary and 10 per cent of owner's profits were donated to minor hockey?
Then, minor hockey would not have to rely on Tim Horton's sales to pay for uniforms, safety equipment and good skates. Shame on all of them for being so greedy.
Then there is the rough stuff and the fighting resulting in numerous concussions, despite the rule changes. Is this what the young players have to look forward to - a short career with permanent injuries and a brain that does not work as they get older? It is still way past time for more NHL clean up and well enforced rule changes.
Are you looking for some real hockey this Christmas season? Then, go watch the little guys and gals play. It may be at CNC, Rutland or Memorial arenas or even Prospera Place. You may have to arrive early in the morning, but it will be worth it, especially the shootouts.
Back in the 1950s, I head home with my freezing feet. It is a walk of about two miles. WhenÂ I arrive my mother says we can rub my feet with cold snow or put them in the oven of the sawdust-burning stove. I look at her strangely andÂ I choose the oven.
Reg Volk writes monthly on politics and local decision making. He can be reached at