Hockey, Hurricanes, and the Changing Times

This entry is less about hockey and more about the way times seem to have changed as hurricanes passed through New England (and through my life)…

Part of what spurred this post was a neat full-page article contained in the local newspaper, “The Enterprise”.  I kinda like nostalgia, so the heading near the top of that page — “BLASTS from the past” — really got my attention.  And so did the sense that I’d recall of lot of those blasts as I scanned on down…

Now, despite what some might think, I actually missed the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635, the first on record to strike New England.  Ditto the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.

Evidently the idea of giving hurricanes human like names started shortly after, and I do vaguely remember 1954′s Hurricane Carol.  I’m guessing current Whitman, MA residents will have a hard time believing this, but my little hometown contained as much farmland as historic shoe factories when I was young.  So, the numerous uprooted and toppled trees left in Carol’s wake totally changed the landscape where my buddies, my collie dog and I so often roamed.  Unbelievably, that article says that 4000 homes, 3500 cars and 3000 boats were destroyed during that storm.

It seems funny to me, but I have few recollections of Hurricane Gloria, another powerful blast that hit in September of 1985.  I think part of the reason for that was that the college hockey team I was coaching back then wouldn’t have gotten underway until several weeks later.  In other words, Gloria didn’t affect my hockey (or my home), so she wasn’t all that memorable.

Oh, but then…  Ya, but then…  On August 19th of 1991, a guy named Bob came to call in Southeastern Massachusetts.  Oh, did he ever.  Hitting land in New Bedford, MA, Hurricane Bob tore through Cape Cod and up the coast, causing damages set at $1 billion.

Talk about power outages.  Much of Cape Cod was without electricity, including the rink where my largest hockey school of the summer was scheduled to begin on the following Monday.  Yikes!

For sure, the rink manager and I went back and forth several times per day.  And, while the fate of my hockey school may have been the biggest thing going on in my life right then, I had to appreciate that the manager’s woes were on an even grander scale.

Electricity is needed to run the compressors that ultimately freeze the ice.  And, minus that power, the ice begins to melt.  My sense is that it’s almost an exponential thing, in that the ice holds for awhile while the building is still cold, but things begin to deteriorate rapidly as more ice melts and the building warms.

So, the questions the manager and I constantly discussed over several days were:  1) how much of the ice has been lost, and2) how long will it take to re-establish the surface if the power comes back on.  Ugh.

Now, if you think that’s a nightmare, consider that I had to relay information to 70-ish hockey families who were eagerly awaiting the start of my school.  And I had to do that based on the information provided me by the rink.

Also consider that this was 1991, and about the only means of communication were “land line” telephones.  Talk about an equally daunting nightmare, as I worked my way down the long list of telephone numbers…  Why adults allow toddlers to answer phones is beyond me, but envision me sitting, twiddling my thumbs, and praying some little tyke is really gone to get mommy or daddy.  Also picture the number of busy signals and no answers I’d get as I worked through the list.  Best case scenario:  getting an answering machine that allowed me to recite a 15-second message and be done with it.  Not so good:  when a mom or dad wanted to talk for very long.

Okay, the plot thickens…  My hockey schools of that era were timed to the gnat’s behind — I mean, four groups of kids arrived at noon each day, they’d rotate through about seven unique stations, and they’d be gone at 5pm.  I’d spent weeks earlier in the summer refining that plan, so that every kid got his or her proper amount of time on the ice, a classroom, outdoor dryland training, etc.  The problem now, however, was that the plan I labored at for so long was designed for a 10-day program (or Monday through Friday for two weeks).  And it became evident by late Saturday before our scheduled start that the rink would not be functional by Monday.  Hmmmm…

So, besides all the phone calls, I had to spend much of the weekend totally revamping the camp schedule.  Why did the schedule need changing?  I’d guaranteed a certain amount of ice-time over the two weeks, so I had to redistribute what was planned for a 10-day program into what now appeared to be a 9-day one.  And, with the change in ice-time, every other part of my school also had to be altered.

Things weren’t getting any better, however.  For, all that done to accommodate a Tuesday start, it soon became apparent that power hadn’t yet been restored on Cape Cod, and we were now praying for things to begin on Wednesday.  Ya, you probably guessed it…  Back on the phones (my son helped me with that), and back to revamping the schedule for an 8-day camp design.  And, make no mistake about the challenge in doing the latter, because I’d often complete that work at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.

Could it getting any worse?  Yup…  Power finally arrived at the rink but the ice wouldn’t be ready immediately.  So, we were faced with yet another round of telephone calls, and I was back at the drawing board trying to give all my customers their money’s worth in just 7-days.  Man…

I believe that was it, though — a 7-day camp, beginning on Thursday of the first week and continuing through the next.  Phew.

Still, one great memory of that awful ordeal…  The mom of three boys who attended the camp for many years kept telling me, “Stop apologizing and stop worrying.  Everything will be fine!”  Can you imagine that?  Bless her.  (And in a way, she was blessed.  One of her boys went on to play for the Boston Bruins, another played professionally in Europe, and the other is a successful businessman.)

Of course, some young adults of today may not remember those times — especially the way we may have suffered trying to make so many telephone calls with at least some urgency.  Ya, how times have changed.

Okay, so enter “tropical storm” Irene.  Ha, I put that in quotes because that lady packed a punch as crippling to some folks as any hurricane I’ve seen.  Sure, Irene was seemingly selective, hardly bothering some pockets of real estate while hammering some others.  And, the power outages — at least from what I’ve heard — were as extensive as we get around these parts.

Oh, but the changing times…  I didn’t have any major hockey school planned prior to Irene’s arrival, but I did have a game scheduled with a team from Philadelphia to come north and play my AAA Bantams.  Playing the game wasn’t going to be a problem, since it would be completed a day before the storm was to hit our area.  The danger was in the Philly folks needing to travel back towards the south and through that storm in order to get home.

Technology helped solve some of my headaches concerning all that…  My team practiced at 8pm on the night before our scheduled exhibition, so I asked the manager of that far away team to call my cell phone and give me a final thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  Easy-peasy as one of my on-line friends often says — meaning that the Philly team decided to cancel, and I could share that with all of my players and their parents right there at the rink.

Further on the technology…  My teams have a website they can go to for any last minute announcements.  An email to a kzillion people can be sent in a matter of minutes.  And, should anyone not have power, all my team families and those who will attend my soon-to-begin Learn-to-skate/Learn-to-play program will have my cell phone number on speed dial.

Man, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the ease in communicating nowadays.  Hey, I love little kids, but I really did hate the eerie sounds of silence as I waited for them to go get mom or dad.  I hated the busy signals too.  And, although I could talk hockey all day and all night under most circumstances, I cringed a lot in those days when I faced another 43 calls while a dad wanted to discuss his son’s stickhandling woes.

All is good today, though, and all I have to say now is,  “Good night, Irene.”  ;)

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