ATC Hockey

At some point, some controllers got together to play hockey. Controllers are generally competetive—it’s part of the nature of the Type A personality associated with most controllers. Naturally there was a bet involved, and alcohol as well. Eventually, a rolling tournament involving controllers from a dozen centers—U.S. & Canadian— evolved. Some background on its development can be seen at website, and a couple of good stories can be seen at my friend, Phil Gies’ pageATC Hockey at his website.

In 1975, the tournament was held in Aurora. I made arrangements with my wife and a coworker to camp out in Aurora (we lived 25 miles away in those days) for the duration to minimize my exposure to possible DUI difficulties. The event was a blast. Meeting the Canadians was especially good for me since I was sort of a pseudo-Canadian by marriage and proud of it. I got a little more insight into the Canadian psyche than I ever could have with her or my in-laws.

The difference between the Canadian skaters and the American skaters was dramatic. I’ve been to Canada in winter. You can not pass a lake, pond, ditch, or any other body of water more than 50 feet square without seeing at least two kids on it with sticks and skates. With the possible exception of Maine, Minnesota, and da UP, I can't imagine that sight anywhere in the U.S., and it shows in the hockey.

The weakest Canadian skater had fluidity, stamina, and a deep understanding of the game that was just not developed in even the best American skater. The only Americans I saw who were even close to that level were ex-pat Canadians. Not surprisingly, the tournament brackets were structured so as to minimize the ice time with cross border teams playing each other. The game was played with no checking, no doubt to minimize potential injuries, but it didn’t take much watching to see that “no check” in one bracket had an entirely different meaning than it did in the other. I’m glad the Canadians dialed it down when they played the American teams. Nevertheless, the event was less about who was the best than it was controller camaraderie, drinking, carousing, competing, drinking, and carousing.

From the remove of 35 years I’m glad I attended and at the same time a little embarrassed about some of the things we did. You may get an idea from Phil’s stories of what I mean. Let’s just say the locals didn’t deserve us.

As much fun as I had, and despite swearing I’d be in Gander for the next tournament, I never so much as went to another scrimmage. It wasn’t as good as a spectator sport as it must have been for the guys who played. But for those who did, no obstacle was too significant to overcome to make it to the tournament—in the ’90s it was even held in Helsinki, Finland. Even with the loss of the FAM trips after 9/11 the tournament continues—a testament to the interest in the game for the participants.

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Last updated: 21 December 2009