My dad wanted me to be the next Polka King, the next Beer Barrel Polka genius. The closest I ever got was the whole Beer part.
The point is, I was never allowed to play team sports. I had to practice the accordion. While other kids were running around, raiding gardens, playing hide and seek and breaking stuff; I was in the music room in the basement playing Dipsy-Doo, Merrily Merrily, and the heavy breathing sound an accordion can make.
My dad pushed me to practice and I tried. I wasn’t accordion material. I wanted to skate, play hockey like all the other kids in school. So, I asked my dad if I could play Pee Wee. He told me to pass out a whole bunch of his Accordion School promo cards. It was a whole stack, like a foot thick. I walked around the corner and threw the Olaf Sveen School of music promotional cards into the hole that would become the courthouse, a place I would come to know well. I finally made it back to the music school and dad had gone to Army and Navy and bought me hockey equipment. I felt bad, in fact, every time I was in court for being caught with a bong, or illegal possession; I wanted to dig through the floor and find the promo cards I’d tossed out so many years earlier.
So, I had the hockey gear. I cleared some snow out in the back yard and sprayed the space with the water hose and made a back yard rink. As an eleven year old I thought it was one mile square. Looking back it was about twenty feet by twenty feet. I’d go out there after school and practice my slap shot, wrist shot, skating on my ankles or picking up screws and bolts from my helmet after my skates went out from underneath me and I smashed my head on the ice.
Once in a while my mom would come out on the ice and try turn a pickup neighborhood hockey game into something called ‘Broomball.’
Eventually, I tried out for a hockey team, a Pee Wee B team. They were playing their first game of the year, an exhibition game against a tipple-A hockey team. I get into the dressing room and figure I’ll be a fourth line grinder, or a sub. The coach looks at me and says; “you’re in goal.”
I guess the original goalie was sick, or afraid, or too terrified to go in between the pipes. I was stoked, or in shock or too stupid to say no. I strap on the pads and skate out onto the ice. I remember all the people standing around the hockey rink and trying to figure out who the goalie was behind the cage I was wearing. I got between the pipes and my team started blasting shots at me. The pucks were going off my arm, shoulders, mask, and I was so focused with zero clue of what I was doing that I never noticed the welts the pucks were leaving on me.
Anyway, the game starts. It’s seven nothing. The other team was skating circles around us. I was target practice. I remember the other team was skating behind the net and I would turn around and watch them and think, damn can they skate. We lost thirteen nothing. And the thing is; while puck after puck was going in all’s I could think was; “Dad, I wish I was practicing accordion.”
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