The “Dream Team”
Sport has its way of building people and weaving itself into character, and Lorn (Lawrence) Turriff, a forward for the Little Metis Hockey Club Team from 1931-1949, was no exception to this rule. For as long as he lived, till the age of 99, Lorn both embraced hockey, and shared the enjoyment skating on ice can bring to the eager youth in Metis Beach.
But how did the dream team get it’s start? It’s early morning and the weekly “ritual” of rink flooding must be done. Buckets, filled to the brim with water, are carried by Lorn and his two brothers, Ivan and Owen, to the rink which Lorn and some of his compatriots had built near their backyard, a little past the trees. Half-frozen hoses are turned on and spurt water on the ice, which, come the weekend, will be covered in steel blade scratches and a few red drops from wounded noses. It was helpful the Turriff family had access to running water; they had been well-off, owning hotels and having access to the associated food supply. Through clouds of warm breath, the three brothers watched the sun begin to rise, calling them back inside. It was time to get ready for school. Bundled up and sweaty from the morning’s work, they headed to class eager to skate the new ice that would be waiting for them in the afternoon.
The Little Metis Hockey Club hockey team of Metis Beach was affectionately nicknamed the “Dream Team” by Lorn himself. And characterized by their style of play, some of the players were given nicknames themselves. Owen Turriff, described as “Tough Guy”, was always brawling and once bit a contender’s thumb in an effort to escape a pinning. Arthur Simm they called “Scrap-Out”, he’d go in the corner, scrap, and surely come out with the puck. Goalie, Kenny Smith may have been “Prayin’ Kenny”, and “Specs” was given to glasses-wearing Lorn who, during play, wore a makeshift guard constructed of leather and metal to keep them fastened. Specs was the scorer.
After school, shoveling the snow off the rink for the friendly tournament to come, colourful knitted hats and mitts began to gather round the rink’s edge. The shovelers are thankful for the wooden shelter Lorn had built at the side. It kept the wind from blowing in heaps of snow from storms and the piles they had shoveled before the weekend. Friends and familiar faces rally, pulling on laces and forgetting about maths. “Whoohoo!”, the ice was cleared at last. Invoking laughter and competition, the “bigger boys” came to practice, the ladies came to chat, and the children came to watch. Lacking any form of helmets, the players warm up skating around the rink with their sticks and pucks, letting the smaller ones have a try or finding them pinecones or rocks to push.
Kids slide in on their school shoes from the corners as girls, giggling and blushing as they were “figure-eighting”, alight on the ice stage before they must make room for the game of the night.
On any day, but not as likely on Sundays, Lorn and others of the neighbourhood would gather by his rink. Being thrifty and good at recycling, it could be imagined it was constructed using old planks of wood from torn-down buildings and old barns or offered scraps brought from the Rousseau brothers. The Rousseaus enjoyed playing also, and their family owned the town’s “boiserie”. The rink wouldn’t have been very busy on Sundays, because the Sabbath was observed and not deemed a day of leisure. Card playing and hockey, along with other games and fun activities, were frowned on, but some, of course, would hide their gear outside and sneak to the rink anyhow. Perhaps the “scallywags” who had gotten away with this had also been the ones to skip school and make their way from hitting the books to hitting pucks. Lorn was one of these well-mannered “rascals”, and his friends knew that when they called him to come play, he’d always rush to join. It made him feel quite important. And the game was important to him.
Till the end, Lorn loved hockey, he’d watch the telly and cheer at the goals of his favourite Pens – the Pittsburgh Penguins; the Habs, as the Montreal Canadiens were known, was not his ‘adopted’ home team. Later Lorn would have become quite fond of Sydney Crosby, loving his gentlemanly spirit of play, perhaps seeing a bit of himself in the young Pens player. Lorn would speak fondly of his times spent on his “dream team” and, still chuckling, he once told of winning 27-2 in a game against Matane. Matane’s athletes had gotten so fired up at the loss that they chased the Little Metis teammates out the door all the way to the train — they hadn’t even had the time to change and had to run through the snow in their skates!
Little Metis also played against Price and, less frequently, Rimouski. To Price, they’d arrive by horse and sleigh; going to Matane and Rimouski meant going by train. The teams were part of the Lower St. Lawrence Amateur Hockey League. Not many written records or prizes were kept in this time, but the memories, framed by rosy cheeks and roaring laughter, certainly stayed. Lorn gave everything he could to keep hockey lively in Metis, even once purchasing a sock-knitting machine to make stockings for all his teammates. “Hockey,” he’d say, “it used to tickle my seat.”
It’s late now and the sky begins to resemble the moody bruises from the wrestles for pucks and blue tongues from those who took the dare to lick a frozen goalpost. Calves and ankles start to tire as lights, strung up around the rink, keep the fun late into supper time – it was Lorn’s idea to hook them to the family’s generator. Snacking on soggy “Village Biscuits”, from the bottom of the Turriff’s barrel shipments in Spring, their stomachs craved the smell of what seemed to be cooking next door. Final shots were slapped, borrowed skates were given back, and the clatter of hockey sticks being thrown into a pile echoed in the pitch black. Footsteps begin shuffling off the ice and crunching through the snow leaving the rink quiet, with a stray mitten or two, awaiting the boys’ return tomorrow.
By Melissa Adelia Landry, based on recollections of Wendy Turriff
Lorn Turriff and wife Winnie Campbell (Courtesy Turriff family)
Calling all hockey lovers! Other hockey players from the Lower Saint Lawrence area may not have made the big leagues, but we’d love to hear their stories or post their photos. E-mail Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas or material to share.
“This was the hockey rink. There were four towns in the hockey league. I had made many friends that were on the Metis Beach team. We travelled to the other three towns, all French towns. They would scream in French and we could scream in English. The changing room had another one of those potbellied stoves that kept us warm. My Dad was pretty strict and didn’t like me going to the out-of-town games, so I had to take a big Army walkie talkie and keep in contact with him.” – Dawn MacDonald