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Silver Tooth by David Beavan


ice hockey

We arrived on a boat from England in 1956.  I was eight years old.  Almost from the minute we landed I started skating.  A frozen pond, an outside rink, an inside rink, a frozen river, I didn’t care.  If it had ice I was skating.  By the time I was twelve I was pretty good.  I was very fast in a straight line, I could cut either way, and stop on a dime. Then one day someone asked me which team I played for. That’s when I decided to take my prowess to the hockey rink.  I just assumed that if I could skate, hockey would be easy. I thought I would be a star.


Two Saturdays later I showed up at the local rink to strut my stuff.  There were probably a hundred twelve year olds there to find out which team they would be on.  We all went around in a big circle like horses at an auction.  But as they say on Sesame Street “one of these things is not like the other.”  All of the other boys were in full hockey gear…shin pads, hockey pants, elbow pads, shoulder pads, gloves and helmets and of course carrying a stick.  I was wearing my dad’s curling sweater.  It was warm and comfortable, a heavy cable knit, a nice cream colour, and the whole back was a picture of a curler.  It didn’t bother me that it hung down below my knees like a dress.  I thought it was pretty impressive, and besides I didn’t own any hockey equipment.  


I was flying around the ice passing everyone and I guess the coaches didn’t question my attire because I was the third pick!  When all the teams were picked, we were given schedules.  My first game was the following Saturday.  By Saturday morning I had a full set of equipment and I was off to the rink.  Here is where it gets tricky.  My dad was a real estate salesman and Saturday was his busy day.  My mum didn’t drive.  So that left an hour long bus ride in full equipment.  I guess to some of the passengers I looked out of place.  But if the bus crashed, I was prepared.


After some brief introductions and some hot tips from our coach Mr. Jolly we went for a warm up skate.  Two things were apparent to me right away.  It was not as easy to skate with all the equipment as with my dad’s curling sweater.  And it was bloody cold.  Mr. Jolly had already made up the lines and based on my impressive skating ability I was playing right wing on the first line.  Right from the opening faceoff I think our coach realized he had made a grave error in picking me third overall. I flew up and down the wing like Ron Ellis of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Oh, I looked very impressive.  And then it happened. Someone passed the puck to me.  Now you have to realize until that Saturday I had not played hockey of any kind, not even road hockey with a tennis ball.  I swatted at the puck as it went by and then I swatted at it again when it bounced off the boards.  My own teammates were laughing at me.  The coach was not laughing.  My stay on the first line was brief.  By the time the buzzer went to end the two minute shift I had been demoted to the fourth line.


The rest of the season went much the same.  I took nearly an hour to get to the rink on the bus, felt shunned by the rest of the team because I was hopeless, skated up and down the wing like a super star until the puck came my way and then tried desperately to do something with it.       


I was happy when the season finished, and I could take my no goals and no assists record home.  I decided that my hockey career was over.


Over the summer my days were spent at the golf course.  Even though I was only thirteen I spent all day every day at the course.  I lived for golf.  There was a large hockey school there and quite often I would find myself having lunch with two or three players from the National Hockey League.  They asked me if I played hockey and I said yes but didn’t elaborate.    I didn’t even think of hockey until one night a bunch of my friends started playing road hockey on the street right in front of our house.  I joined in and to my surprise I enjoyed it.  Stick handling and shooting were much easier when I was walking or running instead of skating.  By the end of the summer I felt very comfortable with a stick in my hand and couldn’t wait for hockey to start.  That season was so much more enjoyable than the previous one.  I even scored a few goals.


I started to really enjoy the game and wanted to play more.  One of my road hockey buddies asked me if I had heard of the “China Mission.”  It was a group of buildings on the main road about a half hour’s walk from my house.  Inside they trained men to go to China on missions to spread the gospel.  I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I was more interested in what else they had there.  If you looked through the windows you could see pool tables and ping pong tables.  Outside they had a couple of tennis courts and a handball court.  But what really got my interest was a full-size ice rink with two hockey nets!  Apparently when the trainees weren’t using it the local kids were allowed on.  They never played at night so a dozen of us started trekking down there every night.  There were no lights, but the moon gave us sufficient light.  By mid-winter I was playing every night and my game was improving.


There is an old hockey expression “keep your head up.” In other words, don’t look down at the puck or someone will flatten you.  Well on a Tuesday night in January 1962 I learned a painful lesson.  We didn’t have goalies so if you got a breakaway you naturally scored.  I was chasing a loose puck and had my head down.  I thought I was about thirty feet from the net when I looked up.  The next thing I remember was lying just past the net in a pool of blood.  I hadn’t been thirty feet from the net I was right at the net. I crashed face first into the spot where the post meets the cross bar, knocked out two thirds of a front tooth and fell to the ice.


The worst part of the whole ordeal was the walk home.  I had to keep my mouth closed because of the exposed nerve so I swallowed a lot of blood.  Of course when I came through the door my mother freaked.  It happened sixty two years ago so I honestly can’t remember what happened then.  By the next time I went to school I had a plastic cap over the tooth to protect it for a week before a permanent one could be affixed.  In those days the whole class had to stand for the national anthem, and this is where it got interesting.  Halfway through the anthem I sneezed.  The plastic cap shot out of my mouth like a bullet and hit Heather Zealey in the back of the neck!  She screamed. The teacher yelled at me.  It took me ten minutes crawling around the floor before I found the cap.  Then I had to beg the teacher to let me go to the washroom and clean it before I could jam it back on my one third of a tooth.


Two weeks later the plastic cap was gone and in its place was a shiny new stainless steel one.  Although it was stainless steel the cap shone so brightly it looked like silver.  It didn’t take long until everyone was referring to the “silver tooth.”  As I got older no matter what the setting I was always referred as the guy with the “silver tooth.”  I became used to hearing it and as a matter of fact I became used to having it.  The plan was to replace it with a porcelain crown when I turned eighteen.  For some reason that never happened.  I went through high school, off to university, spent three years as a golf professional, eight years in the banking industry and then started what became a thirty year career in sales.  All through those years I still was the guy with the “silver tooth.’  It never bothered me.  It had become part of me.  The only time it affected me was if someone took my picture and used a flash.  The flash bounced off my “silver tooth” and in the picture my face was merely a flash of light.


 I think I was in my fifties when my dentist retired.  Our new dentist took one look at my “silver tooth” and said, “what do we have here?”


And that was the end of my “silver tooth.”  To tell the truth I still miss it.


 

www.memoirist.org
Author David Beavan

     

David is now retired and has taken up some new pursuits, writing included. As a new writer, this is a fabulous piece and a joy to read. We hope to read more soon.

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A well written great story and I remember the tooth. After awhile I must say that I didn't notice it much.

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