World Junior Series

            This was the best sustained hockey I’ve ever seen. I cannot remember seeing four better consecutive hockey games than the last four games of this tournament. So, what a shame it had to end the way it did. And, no, I don’t mean because Canada lost; the Americans were full measure for their victory. What I mean is that it ended with that Gary Bettman abomination: the ridiculous shootout.

             To decide a championship, after eighty minutes of spine-tingling, end-to-end, edge-of-your-seat, hard-hitting but relatively clean hockey, with a single component of a skills competition is beyond stupidity. The shootout is simply not a part of the game of hockey. And don’t give me that poppycock that it’s the same as a breakaway, because it’s decidedly not. A player on a breakaway is being hotly pursued and has to execute high-speed, split-second decisions and moves, while largely guessing or ignoring what the goalie is going to do. In the shootout, he can take his good old time, assess the goalie’s position and probable thought processes, and then adjust his strategy accordingly. He likely has time to consider what he’s going to do after the game.

             The shootout is like a boxing match being decided by seeing which fighter can make a speed bag oscillate faster.

             Bettman’s legacy will be his engineering of previously unimagined wealth for the owners. But his legacy should also include two of the worst blights the game of hockey has ever endured: the shootout; and that other equally idiotic, cure-for-which-there’s-no-known-disease, the goalie trapezoid. At least the IIHF had the good sense to not adopt this latter travesty.

 More On Honest Ed’s

            It’s difficult to decide what Toronto’s iconic department store Honest Ed’s most memorable feature was. It was certainly the world’s best known, and probably first ever, bargain emporium. After all, it’s hard to beat ten-dollar TV sets and five-dollar overcoats; and these weren’t just one-item-come-ons; there were always a good number of such items available to the early birds. Then there were the hundreds of free turkeys every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perhaps it was the audacious slogans and puns, such as “Honest Ed’s a freak; he has bargains coming out of his ears.” Or, “Don’t faint at our prices, there’s no place to lie down.”  This latter one was true; every cubic inch of the store, other than the narrow aisles, was filled with merchandise of all descriptions. I’m sure for some people it was the exterior of the massive corner building, which was completely covered with garish neon signs, including many of the aforementioned corny slogans and puns. But, as fascinated as I always was with the store itself, it was my friendship with its owner, Ed Mirvish, which was uppermost in my mind last week when the store closed its doors for good.

          Ed and I took the Dale Carnegie Course together in the summer of 1957. We hit it off while chatting at the first break of the first session and remained friends until his death fifty years later. Every Tuesday, for the next twelve weeks, Ed picked me up at my boarding house on his way to class and dropped me off on his way home. (An important aside here; those comfortable rides in Ed’s air-conditioned Cadillac fostered my enduring appreciation for the brand.)

             My father died in the winter of 1960 and I needed $250 (about $2,200 in today’s dollars) for air fare to PEI in order to make it home in time for his funeral. Ed lent me the money, interest-free and with no documentation. His only conditions were that I pay it back when I could, and that I not tell anybody about it. I paid it back when I could, and I doubt he would mind its mention here.

             The last time I saw Ed was not long before he died, at a function honouring him with a life-time achievement award for entrepreneurship. Of course, Ed was going to have to make an acceptance speech. When he spotted me, he came right over, shook my hand and said, “Lyman, I want to be sure I have it right. It’s stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard, and shut up to be appreciated, right?” I assured him he had it right; and, in typical Ed fashion, that’s exactly what he did.