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Authors: Roy Macgregor

Wayne Gretzky's Ghost

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Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him
Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People
The Dog and I: Confessions of a Best Friend
The Weekender: A Cottage Journal
Escape: In Search of the Natural Soul of Canada
A Loonie for Luck
A Life in the Bush
The Road Home: Images of the Ottawa Valley
The Home Team: Fathers, Sons & Hockey
The Seven A.M. Practice: Stories of Family Life
Quantity Time: Words of Comfort for Imperfect Parents
Road Games: A Year in the Life of the NHL
Chief: The Fearless Vision of Billy Diamond
Home Game: Hockey and Life in Canada
(with Ken Dryden)

Canoe Lake
The Last Season
The Screech Owls Series (for young readers)
Forever: The Annual Hockey Classic
(for young readers)


© 2011

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Published in 2011 by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited.

Random House Canada and colophon are registered trademarks.

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MacGregor, Roy, 1948–

Wayne Gretzky's ghost : and other tales from a lifetime in hockey /
Roy MacGregor.

eISBN: 978-0-307-37605-3

1. Hockey players—Canada—Biography. 2. Hockey—Canada.
3. Sportswriters—Canada—Biography. 4. MacGregor, Roy, 1948– . I. Title.

GV848.5.A1M297 2011   796.962′092271   C2011-901975-2

Cover image: © ANDY CLARK/Reuters/Corbis


For my older brother Jim, in appreciation of his hand-me-down skates, his table-top game, a million first-one-to-ten shinny matches and his own great passion for the national game.


y mother, bless her heart, kept things that otherwise would have been tossed years ago. My grade twelve report card, for example—where the principal has written, in red pen, “Going! Going! ____ !!” along the bottom of a long list of marks in the thirties and forties, leaving me to fill in the blank he thoughtfully provided—“gone!!”—the following term when I flunked every subject but English and phys-ed. I keep that report as a lesson that comebacks are possible in life, as well as in hockey.

She also kept a red Empire scrapbook. It is little more than a cheap manila folder with the price—fifteen cents—still pencilled on the cover. The first page opens on me, eight years old, smiling out from a newspaper photograph that was taken on a day when our little northern town put on a special display for one of the Toronto dailies to show that life goes on in summer cottage country in the winter as well. Below that picture is a clipping from the weekly
Huntsville Forester:
“Goals by MacGregor Gives Auxiliary Tie With Hay & Co. 2–2.” The story begins:

The Legion Auxiliary's Roy MacGregor turned two spectacular solo rushes into a 2–2 tie with Hay & Co. Saturday morning.

A highlight of a Huntsville Hockey League Squirt playoff game, MacGregor's goals marked the second time Auxiliary had battled from behind a one-goal deficit.

Young defenseman Michael Allemano was especially good for the Hookmen, breaking up many Auxiliary rushes. Both of the Hay & Company goals by Brent Munroe and John Newell, were scored on power plays.

It is important to know here that this is squirt hockey, age seven and eight, that the full name of the team is the Legion
Auxiliary, and that the game was played on only one-half of the ice, a line of boards being temporarily erected so two games could go on at once. But no matter. This is what small-town hockey was all about in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. So what if there were no “spectacular solo rushes.” I remember both goals vividly, one on a scramble, one on a slow shot the length of the ice that the goaltender fanned on. But the local paper knew what it was doing. Creating local heroes. And the day the paper came out there were grown-ups on Main Street who had noticed. An old relative even stopped me and said I'd soon be in the NHL. Damn right I would.

Today the glue has dried and some of the clippings fall out when the fifty-five-year-old scrapbook is opened. “Pee Wee's Cut Down Orillia,” “Pee Wee's Batter Burks Falls.” The day we won the prestigious Wardell & Company trophy, the story began: “Anglo Canadian's one-two punch of Harry Snowden and Roy MacGregor continued to spark the Hidemen at the Arena on Tuesday night …”

This was pure glory. The teams had nicknames—the Hidemen meant you were sponsored by the local tannery, the Hookmen meant the local lumberyard—and the tiny goal scorers were transformed magically in the local paper into

I see on one page of the scrapbook where I have practised writing
my autograph. I see with the grace of time how totally absurd the notion was that I would one day be signing programs and team jerseys thrust at me by adoring fans. But I smile at the small-town myth for the harmless, happy days it gave me and God knows how many thousands of others. Hockey, for many of us, was the first time—and often the only time—we felt we truly mattered.

Dreams fade, but there is no reason for fun to follow. I may have peaked at age twelve or so, but so be it. I kept playing long after it was obvious there would be no BeeHive Corn Syrup picture of me in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform. I played house league every year, on Huntsville all-star teams several seasons and one winter played juvenile hockey for another town, which involved driving yourself to and from games around the District of Muskoka. Not much of a “career” in competitive hockey, but enough to instill in me a love of this game that is as strong today as it was the first time I looped a ridiculously vain “R” in that red scrapbook.

I do, however, have one great regret in hockey, and that is that, like so many other average players, I stopped playing once there was no more competitive hockey available. For almost a dozen years I never played, only to be drawn back to the game in the late 1970s by the rise of recreational hockey. And once back, I returned with a vengeance, playing several times a week, coaching minor hockey for a dozen years in three different centres and even coaching one of our daughters, Christine, and our son, Gordon. My greatest achievement in the game today is to be on the same ice as Gord and his pals each Monday evening for an hour, where for a brief fantasy hour no one points out the obvious thirty-five-year-gap between the players still sticking fast to wooden sticks and the players with the two-hundred-dollar composite sticks. In part, that is because there is no one there to point out anything—no fan ever showing up to watch a game far better seen from the bench than from the stands.

BOOK: Wayne Gretzky's Ghost
3.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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