(ISN) – Looking back through an objective lens, it’s hard to fathom my family has so many connections to the hockey Hall of Fame. I grew up in Ville St. Laurent in the 1960s, a middle class Montreal suburb transitioning from farmland to asphalt suburbia. My sister’s best friend in first grade was Linda Geoffrion, daughter of Hall of Fame Canadiens winger Boom Boom, and it was not uncommon to see the Boomer’s shiny convertible parked outside our home when he dropped Linda off for a play date.
My father served in the Second World War with another Habs Hall of Famer, Ken Reardon. Dad helped him get the paperwork fast-tracked for Reardon’s medals by buying the Sargent at Arms a drink when he arranged for Reardon to speak at a Royal Montreal Regiment function.
One of the first jobs I had in high school was working in a Dairy Queen owned by Dickie Moore, a key wheel in the Montreal machine that won five cups in a row in the 1950s. I vaguely recall handing Dickie one of the first Mr. Freezes served in Montreal during the launch of that frozen Slurpee-like treat.
When I was 18 and preoccupied immersing myself in the weekend hippie lifestyle, I shared an apartment with a couple of friends on De Salaberry Boulevard in the same complex where Steve Shutt’s father lived. Although Steve lived in Toronto with his mother, he spent that summer with his dad and we hung out together, sharing more than a few laughs along the way. At that time, it seemed improbable to think that Steve would carve out a Hall of Fame career and hoist hockey’s Holy Grail four times in a row between 1976 and 1979. I do recall, however, his relentless dedication to training, no matter what we had gotten into or up to the night before. There was Steve every morning, pushing through endless laps in the pool outside our building in preparation for his first junior camp with the Toronto Marlboros as I dragged my ragged ass off to work in the projects department at Standard Structural Steel.
My youngest brother tried out for the same bantam rep team with Ray Bourque, another Hall of Famer who grew up within a few blocks of our home. My brother still regrets not making the team, but he relishes being able to say he was on the ice with Bourque.
My sister also went to the same high school as Larry Carriere, who works with the Canadiens. Carriere had a workmanlike career playing defense with the Buffalo, Atlanta, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Toronto.
Speaking of the Leafs, difficult to do these days without laughing out loud if you’re a Habs fan, Toronto defenseman Ian Turnbull grew up two blocks from me on the same street. Although Ian was a thousand days younger than me, he was four inches taller and a solid 30 pounds heavier, and took great pleasure in thumping on me from time to time. Turnbull still shares the record for goals by a defenceman with five in one game against the Detroit Red Wings in 1977. What makes that even more remarkable is that he did it on only five shots, roughly the same number he used to lay on me before I managed to high-tail it home.
My wife, who grew up in Burnaby, has her own unique connection to the game. When she was in the eleventh grade, she made Bruce Turris cry when she nailed him in the ‘nads with the ball playing indoor soccer during gym class. While I was working with the local paper in 2007, I got to interview Bruce’s son, Kyle, now a key player with the Ottawa Senators, shortly after he was drafted third overall. You would be in tough trying to meet a more down to earth, polite, humble 18-year-old than Kyle, which makes me glad I never brought up my wife whacking his dad