THE REFEREE AND THE SCREAMER
by Terrence Rundle West Sideswiped again! What is it about conscience? You can be chugging happily along and wham! out of nowhere guilt pops up and grabs you by the throat. Wh
at’s with the mind that it dredges
up dark memories that send you reeling?
Memories you’ve spent a lifetime trying to supress. It doesn’t take
a grainy black and white photo in a store window, a tune unheard in decades, a long-forgotten smell
. One minute you’re snug and assured,
the next you’re mouldering in remorse with
whispers from the past scrolling through your head like a plot from a Stephen King novel.
I’ve had my share of
unwanted flashbacks to accidents almost caused, a fumbled Dear John letter, instructions ignored until too late.
They’re never pleasant. Th
is latest, though, is in a league of its own.
What’s troubling about it is that it’
s not just about me but about my
home town. That’s a lot of
and it’s all Mickey Turcotte’s fault. You see, he
died and I just found out about it.
It’s all rather
strange because Mickey Turcotte never came to dinner at our house, nor did he and I ever exchange words
although I had a lot to say about him back then. T
ruth be told, I haven’
t laid eyes on the man for 60 years. But since I got the news
been a Pathé newsreel playing on my conscience.
and I’m twelve years old. Mickey has
just set foot on the ice, sporting the jersey whose honour h
e’s come to defend. It’
s white with vertical black stripes and it hangs loosely over his dark pants. Above his heart is a crest that says it all
. He’s not tall, but something about the dark
brushcut and determined look suggests this man means business. Arms swinging he weaves through the hockey players down to the nets to check for possible holes. After the requisite O Canada, he blows on the whistle attached to his finger and points to centre ice. The game begins. The boos start the second the puck drops
. We hate him and we’
ve been waiting. For good reason; the man is cross-eyed, blind and out to torpedo our beloved Hearst Lumberkings. To add to his guilt,
from Kapuskasing, home of the hated Polar Bears,
the team we’re playing tonight
. The game starts. Mickey makes a call. We disapprove. Our screams are shrill, visceral, fans are on their feet, fists pumping the air. But
we’re not getting through. The man
is thick, the amused grin on his chin an impenetrable shield. The more he smiles the angrier we get. The memory of the scene swirling in my head is so vivid my heart pumps. Shame waffles through me for being swept along, understanding so little. The six decades separating me from the scene have taught me that few jobs on this planet are more thankless and intimidating than refereeing
I know, I tried it and almost needed a police escort out of Smooth Rock Falls one night in 1963.
I’ve learned that
we all have to make unpopular decisions and live by them. Which is what Mickey did and, looking back, probably in a masterful way. Game after game he withstood our abuse and dished out consistency in return. So why, 60 years after the fact, should my conscience be in turmoil over a scene that could have played out in hundreds of Canadian towns? The answer lies in what was revealed in
obituary. You see, ten years before we bombarded him with contempt he was in a Lancaster bomber on