Lisbon’s 1955 Hockey Program
Winter can be long in the Sheyenne Valley of southeastern North Dakota. And with the length of the season came mountains of snow and weeks of biting cold.
No “revelations” so far.
This type of weather, although uncomfortable at times, was not a deterrent to the hockey players of Lisbon. This group of stalwart lads could not be swayed by the challenges of the annual “frosty” season.
They laughed “HA” at the cold.
They scoffed “HA” at the snow.
There was only one thing that could, and sometimes did, impede the nightly combat on the ice.
That one thing was…”lack of a beer”. Rather, “lack of a beer can”!
You see back in the mid-50’s we kids didn’t really have any hockey gear. Heck, I think I knew only one boy in all of Lisbon that had actual hockey skates back then. Many of us played hockey in our overshoes with “sticks” we nailed together from wooden laths.
Oh yes, the beer “can”.
You see, we also didn’t own a puck!
However, being the inventive geniuses we considered ourselves and the ripe ages of 8 –12, we found that a good steel Hamm’s beer can, pounded, vertically, to the thickness of about three-quarters of an inch, made a darn good puck. Hey, we were going to play the game on frozen water, why not use a make-shift puck from the “Land of Sky Blue Waters”. And believe me there was plenty of “raw material” to work with behind Tobe’s Bar (now the Cattleman’s) on main street.
As soon as the ice on the Sheyenne River was thick enough, it was “game on”.
Eight to ten of us middle schoolers would meet on the river between the north bridge and the dam. We each brought a shovel.
After some time and effort cleaning a rink of snow, we made a goal outline out of tree branches, chose sides and dropped the “can” er…puck.
I’m quite sure our laughter and shouting could be heard the length of main street. Some times our games were so animated, people driving on the dam-road would pull off onto a piece of land on the north side of the river and watch the “goings-on”. A few of the adults that stopped to view our frozen competitions would even contribute to our “puck” raw material pile before heading back downtown.
We didn’t really keep score.
There was no need, because every goal was disputed by the “other” team so no one could really agree on who actually won…anyhow.
When we got tired OR…if someone took a power shot on goal that went array and the puck ended up flying out of our rink and over the dam…the game was over. We would then move off the rink to a spot closer to the shoreline, gather some dead would near the banks and have a bonfire.
As we warmed up, we’d talk, argue over the game, reflect on some really good shots and laugh.
We would always laugh.
When the fire died down we would douse it with snow to put it out before saying “see ya tomorrow” to our friends and walk on home.
Stepping inside the door to my house, Mom always said…every time…”your cheeks look like they are frozen”. They were. But, I didn’t notice. I was busy telling Mom and Dad what a great time I had as I “unbundled” from my “winter-proofing” layers of clothes.
You could always tell the “hockey players” at the Lisbon grade school.
They were the ones that sported permanent “rosy cheeks” all winter.