Tabletop Hockey

Our parents got us a tabletop hockey game one X-mas, with the 2’ by 3’ hockey rink and the players maneuvered forward and back by metal rods that you twist to pass and shoot. Though other friends of ours had such sets, my brother and I were the only kids in our circle that built an entire imaginary world around this venue.

It started with each of us creating our own professional hockey teams. Mine was the Cooperstown Cats and I had named players, two “lines” actually, for each of the six positions represented by the plastic figures on the tabletop set. My “A-Line” center was “Steve Scimitar” and his “B-Line” comrade was “Sonny Star”. Each player had his own personality, athletic ability, style and personal history on and off the ice. My team’s coach was the legendary former hockey great “Kitty McBee” and the team was owned by “Manfred J. Sedgwicks”, a cigar-chomping old-school sport franchise owner who happened also to be a cat, thus the team name.

My brother had his counterpart team, the Petersburg Pipers, with its pantheon of bigger than life players as well. We actually created an entire league, two divisions of five teams each, each team with two lines of named players with all their varying abilities, peculiarities and so on. Since the Cats were in one division and the Pipers in the other, our two teams would invariably meet in the championship, a best-of-seven series. This league evolved over several real years, its season corresponding with the NHL hockey season.

I even made actual trophies for the winner. One year I glued a domino to the bottom of an inverted small bathroom Dixie cup, painting the domino silver and the cup a deep blue. I called it the “Silver Domino” trophy, aptly enough. The next year I glued a plastic Roman soldier to another Dixie cup, painted it bronze (what other color would a Roman soldier trophy be?) and dubbed it the “Bronze Roman”.

Though I was three years older than my brother and therefore generally more skilled at tabletop hockey, I do remember him squeaking out an amazing victory one year in the seventh game of a hard-fought series. There may have even been an injury to one of my main players that contributed to his unexpected triumph.

Not satisfied with just inventing and inhabiting our two teams, we proceeded to invent an entire league with two divisions of five teams each, one division including his team and the other with mine. Thus if both our teams had a stellar season (as they usually did…*g*) we would end up once again in the championship series. But the other teams were fully realized as well, with team names and city locations, “A” line and “B” line players, and personalities, egos, back-stories, scandals, you name it. Taking Russian myself, I had peopled my “Charleston Scarlets” team with Russian named players (predating the Detroit Red “Army” Wings of the 1990s).

I recall it was about a four or five year period, through my junior high and high school years that we played our table top hockey game down in the basement, usually in conjunction with winter time and the NHL season on “Hockey Night in Canada” on CBC channel 9 (Out of Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit). Contrasting to the more concrete, less creative world of school, this was a way one way for us to enjoy that inate fantasy spark that was still strong in us both, and pass the time on those long, cold, dark winter evenings in the upper Midwest.

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