It has been a long year for die-hard Leaf and Ice-Dog fans. As we go from a strike to a new season, our hearts are lifted and then it hits us. It is hard to stay positive when the only hockey talk is about how to get out of the basement in the standings. Even us Docs feel the blues about it. Thank goodness for April. Not only is it Cancer Awareness month, but it heralds the onset of a truly unique Canadian experience: "The Hockey Tournament!" Come April, teams of all ages, all denominations, men and women travel far and near to participate in this phenomenon. For mature hockey players, it is the culmination of a season spent attempting to turn back the clock, and ward off the aging genies that constantly tug away at our bodies.
April is also the time when many Mississauga doctors trade in their prescription pads and stethoscopes for shoulder pads and sticks to practice what they preach. Not one but two teams of graying warriors headed off to the Docs On Ice 24th Annual Charity Hockey Tournament in Windsor this year to defend their respective divisional titles. Mississauga was on the doc-hockey radar screen, as teams from all over the province set their gun-sights on upsetting the medics from Mississauga. From Trillium south, came Dr. Dennis Izukawa's Mississauga Titans. And from the Valley, re-emerged my own Mississauga Tomahawks. We went forth with the blessing of that great Hockey Hall of Fame Member Mr. Johnny Bower who could inspire us with wondrous stories of how the Leafs once battled for the Stanley Cup. We also decided to hedge our bets by calling on Vicki Sunohara from the Canadian Gold Medal Women's Team for advice. We figured the ladies seem to have their act together and know what they are doing, and besides, they have big shiny Olympic gold medals to prove it. As we boarded the bus to leave, I realized that the tears in the eyes of onlookers were not sentimental. Instead, they were worried of how the city may cope with these many docs in Windsor. Not a good weekend to get sick, I suppose.
And so it came to be. The road trip to Windsor began. A busload of middle aged doc-jocks exchanged stories and anecdotes. We even had our own version of Punch Imlach in the likes of Dr. Fred Thibodeau. For a short fleeting moment, the immense stresses of medicine were traded for the immense stress of skating hard, shooting hard, and learning to take "time outs" from "young'yyun refs," half of whom I swear that I delivered into this world. The annual Docs On Ice Hockey Tournament is in its 24th year, raising much needed money for charities around the province. This year, almost 600 hockey-playing doctors converged on the Windsor side of Detroit. The real winner turned out to be the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which goal is to grant wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses to enrich their hope, strength and joy. Over $30,000.00 was raised in that regard. The charity goals of this annual event were at one time supported by the major pharmaceuticals. In my view, it is a mistaken belief born of tunnel vision that charity, doctors and hockey don't improve the bottom line, but a refreshing wake-up call to doctors of what alliances with drug companies is really about.
The banquet was keynoted by Jim Ralph whose witty humor reminded us that Easter Miracles are better directed towards kids' wishes than the Leafs playoff chances. A presentation by NASA astronaut-doctor, Dr. Scott Butchersky, who is also a part-time goalie, revealed why Canada's contribution is limited to a space arm. It turns out that we refuse to give them the leg, until they annex a hockey rink onto the space station. As the tournament drew to a close, it appeared that the Mississauga Dynasty has endured another challenge. The Mississauga Titans took the Kujtan Division in an undefeated 4 game sweep, while the Mississauga Tomahawks swept through the Depew Division in a similar 4 game sweep. The trophies are just a tad smaller than the Stanley Cup, but if you squint your eyes, the difference disappears. When you make an allowance for all the dressing room cell phones, pagers, pills, lotions, and stench-soaked equipment, doc hockey is just like any other; only the profanities are more eloquent. I hope that you too had a chance to experience a similar Canadian ritual to herald the onset of spring! I am delighted to see how many worthy charities receive support form this Canadian pastime. The docs really appreciate all the telegrams, talk of a victory parade, key to the city and such, but we really need to get back to work. Go Lady Sharks, Go!
● Docs on Ice. Official website.
● Docs On Ice 2008: Please Support the Cause by Dr. Peter W. Kujtan. Includes related links to articles and video. Doc on Ice Annual Hockey Charity Tournament 2008, Docs on Ice 2009, Docs on Ice 2010.
● DOCS On Ice Hockey 2008 by Scott A. Sumner, Thunder Bay Business. "Over 500 doctors in 40 teams from across Ontario will visit Thunder Bay for Docs on Ice 2008, which will be held on April 3rd - 5th, 2008 at 6 arenas across the city ... proceeds from the tournament will support two local charities - P.R.O. Kids Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre- Pediatrics Unit."
● Hockey Lockout Lifted - Docs On Ice 2005.