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Hello Old Friend

Summertime has been very good to me. It has been unusually warm hot here on the British Columbia north coast. Cloudless skies, overwhelming heat, sun-kissed girls - this is what summer is always like for much of the rest of the North America. Often here we have had summers in the past where 20 degrees is a hot day and clouds - often carrying more unwanted rain - never leave.

Yes, it has been a good summer. The hot sunshine has made it much easier to get through these long, hockeyless days. I've enjoyed days upon days at the cabin on the lake. 18 hours of sunlight every day encouraged me to hit many hiking trails. Cloudless peaks urged me through the sweltering heat to the top. The views were amazing and every trip was, in a word, unforgettable.

But this morning I hit my favorite daily running trail and I was greeted by an old friend.

The hot weather has disappeared, probably for good. The clouds are back, and so is the relentless rain. After several weeks of hot and dry days, the change in weather is almost welcome. While many in town bemoan the end of summer, I found it strangely comforting.

To my surprise the change in weather fast forwarded us into autumn almost over night. Many of the leaves have changed colours seemingly instantly. The trail was littered with fallen yellow foliage, even the odd red one already.

Fall is nearly here. Hello old friend.

Fall excites me, because soon enough, in this part of the world, winter quickly follows. Here, autumn and the early parts of winter often means teeth chattering rain more so than snow, but I don't care. Hockey season will warm my heart if not my finger tips. Hello old friend.

I took the trail down that ends up by the local hockey rink. The ice has been in for a good week now, and the local hockey school is on. I stepped in for just a moment. The smell of the ice. The chilly feel of the rink. The sight of coaches and kids and the memories Hockeyville. The sounds of the pucks and sticks hitting the boards, and of course the skates cutting into the ice. Hello dear old friend.

Then I saw it. A poster on the door happily delayed my exit. New to the rink this year - drop in adult shinny. Nothing competitive, no contact. Just sticks and pucks. Old guys playing a child's game, and loving every minute of it. Hockey at it's best.

I raced home and tore apart my storage area, digging out my old hockey equipment. Stinky pads. Dulled skates. Tattered sticks. The I saw it - my favorite stick from years ago, almost forgotten all these years later. An old white Titan stick with bold red lettering and Wayne Gretzky's painted-on autograph. It was well used from youthful days gone by, on the ice and the streets. But it was still usable. Not that I would dare do that. This was the stick every kid of my generation wanted. Make that needed.

I held up the cherished but battered, old relic. Picking at the loose strings from the tape I remembered old games, old memories, old teammates. I bent over and tested the ol' piece of lumber as if I was lining up for a face-off.

It was my way of saying, "Hello old friend."


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