It all happened in my bedroom …
The year ? Somewhere between 1969 and 1971.
My father , David Henry Keene , was a manager for Maislin Transport in Montreal , Quebec. Several of the retired and then current members of the Montreal Canadien Hockey Club would do public relation work for the company and routinely , some of the players would end up at my kitchen table for dinner.
Dickie Moore and Elmer Lach are names that I recall while others are too distant for my memory. My Father passed away in 1976 so I was never able to ask him the other names as I became older and as for my Mom , she was not a big hockey fan and the names became blurred.
One Sunday after dinner was served , everyone was sent to the living room by my Mom . She then served coffee, tea and dessert to her guests who accepted them graciously. It does not take a brain surgeon to understand that in the adult world , the evening may be fun yet for a five year old boy , boredom soon turns into behavior that is not deemed acceptable by his parents. Before I could say ‘ Stanley Cup ‘ – there I was , sitting in my room and staring at the cracks in the ceiling.
” No watching Walt Disney on television sitting on my Dad’s lap tonight ….” I thought. ” No being carried to bed half asleep in my Mom’ s arms …”
I am sure that I tossed something against the wall in anger and my hamster hid in fear as I approached his cage muttering the words of babes . ” No fair ! It ‘ s no fair …! ”
Suddenly , there was a knock on the door …” Oh no ! Am I in trouble now …”
Refusing to allow any form of punishment into my space , I started to look around for something to push in front of the door and in turn , stop the horror that was to befall me. I was inches from adding a one foot high green snake as a buffer between myself and a certain ‘ red bum ‘ when the door began opening. Right there I knew – sleeping on my back was no longer an option …
” Hello ….? ”
The voice was not my Mom or Dad ‘ s. It was the voice of one of those hockey players that came over and placed a barrier between myself and Donald Duck.
” May I come in …? ”
” Sure , if you want a lickin’ ” I said under my breath.
The player entered as I withdrew to my bed, sitting with arms folded. He sat down beside me and for a few minutes , nothing was said. Finally , the player placed his hand on my shoulder and in a very non – threatening way started to speak .
” Lousy to be a kid eh ? ” He said with a kind voice.
Those six words transformed a solid 100 foot concrete wall into a 12 inch fence. All my anger and the resistance it sewed was removed by a sentence that took less than a minute to utter.
He started to ask me about my life , what I loved , what I hated and about hockey. He must have noticed the Canadiens ‘ posters on my walls along with autographs on pieces of paper that my Dad had obtained over the years. He picked up one of the papers that was displayed above all others and appeared as excited as I was when the paper was given to me a few months earlier. It was a paper with Maurice Richard ‘ s signature on it and his enthusiasm sealed the deal. He was now my buddy and I held nothing back from that point on.
We spent the next hour or so talking about hockey, wrestling on the floor and shooting a tiny plastic puck at one another with the equally tiny plastic hockey sticks that were a Christmas present to me from my parents. It was a night that had started so terrible yet transformed into one of the greatest memories of my lifetime.
As I have aged , the memory has become fonder. Here was a guy , a kid himself , on the verge of an NHL career and instead of sitting with his hockey elders and learning from them – he spent time with a young boy who was just plain bored.
His name ?
Richard Lionel Martin.
Or as he told me that night in my room … please , call me Rick …
Richard Lionel Martin 1951 – 2011