An Over-due Letter

John in 2009

Thank you Scotty!
Thank you Scotty!

A Letter to the Best Coach Ever...

Dear Mr. Bowman (Scotty),

Words cannot provide the honour and best regards I have for you, Scotty. Congratulations to you for your new position with the Black Hawks! The playoffs were amazing to watch again this year (even though Detroit lost). I apologize for not writing to you before 2009. I have always admired your dedication and expertise towards hockey and was aware of your good nature through mutual friends; however, until my recent near-death experience I never understood how deep your good nature and regard for others is. What a wonderful down-to-earth person you are to have provided the emotional support for my wife and family during my illness. My wife had pictures, (primarily hockey) Wings and Oilers, (most from Scott Howson-now excelling with the Blue Jackets, you and the Wings organization) plastered all over my hospital room and when I came out of my coma it truly facilitated the surfacing of significant memories. Thank you and God Bless! If you require assistance please call me and allow me to assist you if at all possible (with the exception of back-checking).

I have always honoured the game, ever since I was 4 years of age (my father and neighbor had a backyard rink for us). I was blessed with growing up in what I consider the “hot bed” of hockey during the 20thcentury (before its recent globalization); that is, debatably, Ontario and Quebec, Canada (although other provinces would disagree). I played goal from Tyke (double A) through Tier II Junior for the Thornhill Thunderbirds, and loved every minute of it. Although I was not good enough to be drafted into the NHL; it was of little matter, we had some awesome years and went to the All-Ontario finals one year (we lost to the Oakville Rangers). I have never forgotten any of the memories; even with the unset of my comatose state; especially the time spent with Carl Brewer and Davie Keon Jr. (Davie was about my age) we played shinny at Double Rink in North Toronto/North York. Carl taught us how to stickhandle; although I was goalie I loved to play shinny outdoors/indoors (I wasn’t dumb enough to play goal outdoors). My mother came from Bracebridge, Ontario so my boyhood-idle became Roger Crozier (an acrobatic Wings sensation,that you probably knew). I credit Roger for the butterfly style although I may be wrong? That was the style I started to mimic. My older brother Dennis was a pretty good defenseman for McMaster Maroons (he was named Canadian University Defenseman of the Year just prior to the NHL expansion draft). He apparently went to a Red Wings training camp but decided to end his career when he was looking at a future in the minors. Being a little brother I became more of a Wings fan then Toronto fan due perhaps to Roger, my brother and, of course, Mr. Hockey; although it could be the fact that our team colors were red and white, or for that matter we lost on occasion to the Toronto Red Wings and Young Nationals (Nats) who also had red and white sweaters or Harold Ballard...

I will never forget when we beat Brantford 6 – 3 (i.e. Gretzky) to win the Fenelon Falls Annual (Bantam) Hockey Tournament one of many hockey tournaments we entered. I also learned (later) that the Brantford goalie made the NHL too. I was better than he was (at least in Bantam). That goalie is now a commentator for, I believe, Hockey Night in Canada (he is quite good at it). We were an awful good team; however, there were better... when we toured the States or lost to the Little Caesars (Detroit) and barely beat a team called the Beverly Flyers from the Boston area; what wonderful experiences to find out that their were better teams and we could continue to learn and be schooled, not to mention playing Ottawa East, Verdun Maple leafs and basically most any team from Quebec, etc.

I decided to end my struggling career when I saw another apparently un-drafted goalie playing for the University of N. Dakota shut out an excellent University of Minnesota Gopher team (it was, I believe, the 1982-83 season). I could never be as good as that goalie, it was clearly evident and this senior was significantly better than me and he wasn’t apparently drafted! I did ask someone his name; he was Eddie Balfour and he was unbelievable (another less effective goalie named Casey was between the pipes for U of Minnesota Gophers and he was not having a great game)…

It was time to pack-it in and work on my career with Kimberly-Clark. I ended up in Longlac, Ontario where I played in my spare time for the Longlac Nordiques (Senior C – resigned to hockey being a trivial pursuit while I worked for a living). Hockey was still fun! Then after marriage to my love, Kathleen and I (she and I thank you immensely for your communications and pictures) because of circumstances (i.e. the fact that she was not bilingual and could not teach in Longlac); escaped to Florida (I retired and didn’t bring my hockey equipment South- why would I?). Well I soon discovered a rink in Broward County (Sunrise Ice Center) so I had my parents ship my goalie equipment down and began to play Men’s house-league hockey; I was surprised it was quite competitive and fun again. We ended up eventually moving to Orlando (I finished grad-school and became a school psychologist predominantly diagnosing EMH students and administering IQ tests-excellent hockey play-makers have high IQs-Stevie Y, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Pavel Datsuyk etc., as you must have also); we had three daughters (like Stevie Y) and I resigned myself to retiring from hockey again. Little did I know that Orlando also had ice rinks and men’s hockey at 2 and later 3 locations. I soon found an excuse to play again and co-developed a pretty-good old-timers team called the Can-Ams made up of Canadians and Americans who were too slow for the NHL, well too slow for any professional level team for that matter (much too slow for you). We had a French Canadian goalie that was great (what else is new); although, I could hold my own he was in his early 20s and I being in my thirties with a “bum” knee; well I finally had an excuse to play out. I became a left-winger (a whole new meaning to the term Left wing lock) and/or defenseman for our men’s league team called the North Stars and tournament team called the Can-Ams… I could go on and on and I did go on and on until my coma; however, thanks to the amazing grace of God and my Scottish wife Kathleen (Campbell) Connor. When I came back I remember telling the surgeon I was 100% (I couldn’t sit up) and asking when could I skate again? Well I am out of retirement again and playing hockey (a wee bit slower and not back-checking as much (more or less like the anti-thesis of Draper); perhaps similar to an out-of-shape and out of winning-spirit former Red Wing’s Federov with more of a mid-section etc. However, I am having the time of my life playing at RDV twice a week (you had the Wings down for part of training camp in the same facility that we play in, our ice is great-and they keep it in year round-could it be any better?). I live about 4 miles from RDV, profess and complete psychological reviews at the college level.

I have had so many memorable moments I could not imagine any finer way to grow-up and now that I am 48, I can still play hockey and have fun doing it (all be it, poorly) and watch the Red Wings continue to win and the Black Hawks suddenly improve significantly...

We are planning an Over 50 Orlando team (as I write) and in dedication to you we will name our team after the Montreal Canadians "nick name." Do you know where I'm going with this? Well I know you know their nick-name; just add two letters in front of it (RE_ _ _ _) and you have our new and most appropriate name! Most all of us have had issues directly associated with our new name. They range from brain issues (myself and one other), knee issues (most common), back issues (fairly common), marriage issues (enough said)...

Congratulations! and thank you Scotty! Once again, let me know if I can be of help to you or your family…

Sincerely your friend,

John V. Connor

P.S. “come to think about it” every team could use your help even the Toronto St. Pats (oops, I mean Hapless something or others).

Your invisible yet indelable signature was on the Black Hawks Stanley Cup victory; ever so covert yet in my eyes ever so apparent...

“Keep your stick on the ice”

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connorj 7 years ago from Altamonte Springs Author

I hope Scotty finds this letter...

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