A few years ago at a family gathering, being good Canadian folks, the topic of hockey traditions came up. There were three generations present, the oldest talked about the days when kids used department store catalogs for shin pads and frozen horse manure – road apples – for pucks, and NHL players were far from millionaires. As a member of the middle generation, at one point I mentioned a great old trick fans used to show their disapproval of a bad call.
When I was a kid, men wore toe rubbers to protect their shoes from the winter elements. These slip-on sheaths protected the bottom, heel and toe from slushy road salt and provided some traction on ice.These have become scarce over the years. A bad call that went against the home team often resulted in a shower of these rubbers being chucked on the ice by disgruntled fans. This caused the game to be delayed and gave the fans a sense of retribution for what must have been a devious referee’s slight aimed at their team.
As I was describing the phenomenon a younger family member, in her late twenties, stared at me in utter disbelief. Excuse me, she said, but did you say that men threw rubbers onto the ice? That’s right I replied, dozens of them. The attendants would come and shovel them into garbage pails.
She asked where they got the rubbers. I explained that they brought them to the game. This was too weird for her to believe. She started to tease me thinking I was joking with her. I couldn’t understand why she found this to be so odd. She sat there, incredulous, and pondered the concept. Finally she could take it no more and brought up the subject again. She summed-up the situation: so when there was a bad call, men used to throw rubbers on the ice, right? Yep, that’s about it. In Detroit they used to throw octopi on the ice, rubbers were a lot less creative.
As the discussion moved on to other topics I could see she was still skeptical. This was when it dawned on me that for someone of her age, her generation, the term ‘rubbers’ had nothing whatsoever to do with overshoes, and everything to do with condoms! Which no doubt accounted for her aghast reaction upon learning that the rubbers that were thrown were not brand new, but were in fact used, the men took off old used rubbers and hurled them on the ice.
At this point we both realized we were talking at cross purposes, I described the rubber footwear and assured her men were not removing used condoms to fling on the ice in protest. With a sigh of relief, her confidence in the older generation was restored…I think!