The London Rangers Hockey Club is a big and ever changing family. New guys arrive, many leave and even some return. Despite this inevitable reality when living in a transient city, I can say we genuinely care for one another and despite all the vicious slashes, cheap shots and below the belt vitriol, there is a real sense of comradery amongst the guys.
When one of us gets married, he can choose to invite all other Rangers, much to his future spouse horror. Others do it quietly so the fellow team mates would not know about it – this way he is safe from the jokes and “well-meaning” advice from the other jaded marital warriors.
There have been memorable IHI/London Ranger weddings in the past – Rob Corkum’s in the Cotswolds a decade or so ago, or that of our former keeper and London Ranger HoFamer Tom Wills who married Katy a few years back in eastern Moravia. To this very day we dissect these events, reminisce stories and fibs and all share a laugh, usually at the grooms expense. Over time, these tales have come to represent more than just another guy getting hitched and most likely having to miss a few extra skates a season for marital duty… these stories have become part of London Rangers folklore.
Few guys have the nerve to subject themselves to so many years of abuse.
It was therefore very courageous of Rangers long standing member and one of our core guys, Scott Johnston to marry publically in front of the team, and marry the one person hockey players never agree with… a hockey referee.
So, most of us players attended with our wives and partners and did our part in congratulating the newlywed couple. This event however, was so significant that I felt I needed to make a social commentary.
Joy Tottman is our very own international hockey referee with a resume more accomplished in the sport than any member on the team. Purely out of love for her now husband and sheer pity for the rest of us hacks, she makes the effort every Tuesday night to come out and ref. Despite the continual verbal abuse and the on ice assistance we give her, Joy puts aside the moronic discourse and laughs as she beats our forecheck down the ice.
It is also true that in the past I have not seen eye to eye with (m)any referee and Joy is no exception.
Let me rephrase that – Joy was no exception.
I have behaved abominably toward the girlfriend of a close friend, referee or not, and that in itself is inexcusable. I treated her as I would have any other referee, possibly falling into a stereotype pitfall. No heat of combat really can stand as excuse for my intolerable on ice behaviour.
So first and foremost I wanted to apologize to Scotty for being disrespectful to his fiancée. I also want to thank him and Joy to include me in the wedding despite my indefensible behaviour. I made public apologies before and I relapsed again into shameful behaviour. But I pledge here that I will be good!
Now this wedding was a resounding success. Not only did we celebrate Joy and Scott’s great and happy occasion, but this wedding was a celebration of the sport we so love… game ticket style invitations, VIP passes for the guests, Stanley Cup style wedding cake, pucks, hockey themed table assignments, etc… it was a genuine stroke of genius.
We all loved it. And the food was excellent, drinks abundant, great music – all that a good hockey crowd wants. But above the game like atmosphere, more than anything, the wedding was so warm and heartfelt, sincere bonhomie prevalent. Such feeling I really only saw in memorable movies such as The Diner or The Hangover.
This leaves me with one last thought: If a guy like me who has been so boorish can be invited to Joy’s wedding, then surely we should invite former “disgraced” members back into our club. Hockey may be the best game, but it is not a perfect world (…except when Scooter scores splits the D and dekes the goalie for a doozy). People who are distanced or who have fallen out with the club should be welcomed back and embrace this big London Hockey family. If this wedding taught me anything, it is that if a no nonsense referee can welcome me to sit at her wedding dinner table and not in the penalty box for a night, we need to look past the trivial things like who’s wearing the stripes or jersey colour because our game is short and we should all be able to enjoy it together.