Research Note: Playing hockey against priests in Griffintown

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

As I noted in yesterday’s post on Frank Hanley, we really do live in a different era today.  In one of the chapters of The House of the Irish, I talk about hockey in Griffintown in the 1950s and 60s.  I interviewed Gordie Bernier, an old Griffintowner, a few summers ago about his life and growing up in Griff and his thoughts on it today.  The previous weekend, he was playing in an old-timers hockey tournament in Pointe-Claire, so clearly it was a major part of his life.  I can relate.

Bernier recalled playing with the Christian Brothers who ran the School for Boys in Griff and who liked to play hockey against the young men:

Keep your head up. But the league we had, we were only young…I was only, I think 17 or so, and we were playing against men, so some of the guys were older. It was a good experience….You keep your head up [laughs]. We used to go there, I think 8 in the morning to the rink on Basin, I lived other on Duke, we used to walk with our skates on, by the time we get over there if there was snow, give us the shovels, we had to clear off all the snow, and we’d play from 8 in the morning ‘til closing time, 10 at night. We were still there, play hockey all day at the weekend. Walk back, your ankles [were all swollen and sore].

Don Pidgeon, a man who has done more than anyone to create the memory of Griff as an Irish neighbourhood, also remembers playing the Brothers, and smashing one over the boards of the outdoor rink on Basin Street Park in Griffintown, with a hip check.

The Brothers, obviously, played hard, and they played to win.  And the lads of Griffintown were not about to give any quarter, as David O’Neill recalls, the Brothers were

great athletes, and a lot of them liked the rough stuff just as much as the boys, and the older boys used to try to establish themselves among their own friends, and there were a few of the priests who used to give and take as good, or better. That generated the respect from the local community towards the priests, and a lot of people respected the priests for their ability to give and take without any complaining. No punishment, except that you got decked back when you weren’t looking.

Certainly, then, this was a different era, when decking a priest, or getting hit back as hard, if not harder, was a means by which the young men and priests earned each others respect, and that of their friends and colleagues, and the wider community.

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