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Son of a Critch

The first thing I remember is drowning.

My mother had taken me swimming at what Newfoundlanders call “the beach.” This is not what the average person would imagine when they picture a beach. There is no golden sand. Emerald water does not dance along the shoreline. Bronzed and toned bodies do not lounge on beach blankets, hiding flirtatious glances under designer sunglasses.

This is not what the Beach Boys sang about. This is more like a beach in the “Allied troop carriers landed on the beaches of Normandy despite the poor weather conditions” sense. In fact, most of my childhood memories seem like black-and-white war footage. The sky is always grey. There’s a lot of shaking and someone is always yelling, “Move! Move! Move!”

When you’re walking on a Newfoundland beach you have to keep an eye out for any large rocks you might accidentally step on. It’s difficult because the large rocks are usually hidden under thousands of smaller, sharper rocks. If you’re lucky you can avoid them by hopping from broken beer bottles to broken pop bottles, tacking left and right around the dozens of pale white bodies lying back to sunbathe and rub their bleeding feet. A Newfoundland sunbather is a sight to behold. It’s best to use protective eyewear. Directly looking at a Newfoundland sunbather can result in snow blindness. I myself am so pale that my skin takes on an almost translucent appearance. It’s known that Newfoundlanders have big hearts. We know this because on the beach you can actually see them beating through our pale skin. Imagine a jellyfish that has somehow swallowed a large fish and chips.

Keep in mind that these people have chosen to swim in the North Atlantic. This is the water the Titanic sunk in. Remember the scene in the movie where Rose is floating on the door and Jack, his hair streaked with icicles, slips below the frigid water into the darkness? Same water. Consider that these are the same beaches that blue whales wash up onto as they die. This is where the largest creatures on earth decide to commit suicide. And yet wave after wave of doughy, cadaverous swimmers playfully dive in and say, “Water’s not so bad today! I can feel my legs!”

Now back to drowning. It actually wasn’t the cold water that almost got me. Nor was it the powerful Labrador current that drags icebergs down from the Arctic. No, it was something much more dangerous. It was that all-consuming, ever-present Newfoundland danger: conversation.
I was three years old and in awe of the sights and sounds. Up until this point, I had led a fairly sheltered life. I grew up about five kilometres from anything. My father was a newsman at VOCM radio in St. John’s. He tried valiantly to fill small-town news with big-city excitement. A typical Mike Critch news report would go:

Late last night, early this morning, a moose was struck on the Trans-Canada Highway. The sex of the moose has not yet been released. Two men were killed, one seriously. Mike Critch for the VOCM news service.

We lived next to the radio station, which was next to a four-lane highway that led into the Trans-Canada. My early childhood was like the first level of the video game Frogger. And there were no other children for miles. The closest thing to other kids for me to play with were the used car salesmen in their plaid suits at the lots down the road.

Halloween was a lonely time. I was a sad sight walking along the Trans-Canada in my plastic C-3PO costume from Woolco. Not that you’d know I even wore a costume under the snowsuit I had to wear to protect me from the snowdrifts along the highway.

Little Me: Trick or Treat.

Used Car Salesman: Hey, Mark, what are you supposed to be? A robot in a snowsuit?

Little Me: Something like that.

Used Car Salesman: You’re a weird kid. Look, I don’t got no candy. How about a pack of Halls and a handful of Rothman’s?

Little Me: Sounds good.

I once thought for a moment that I’d seen another child, but he turned out to be a midget wrestler who went by the name “Little Beaver.” He’d come to the station to promote a wrestling match. He had a Mohawk, wore a three-piece suit, and smoked a cigar that was almost as big as he was. I thought, “That is the toughest kid I have ever seen.” But now, here among the rocks of the beach, there were more kids than I’d ever seen before. Half of them seemed tough enough to last a round or two with Little Beaver, but even still, I was drawn to them. My mother, on the other hand, was drawn into a conversation. That was not hard to do. My father worked at a radio station. My mother was a radio station. She was a news-gathering machine who could spit out gossip at a machine-gun pace. To engage my mother in conversation was to face a barrage of gossip-loaded ammunition.

Stranger: How are you today, ma’am?

Mom: OhI’mGood. Yes,HowAreYouNow,MyDear? MyGodIHeard AllAboutYourMother. Shockin’Isn’tIt? You’reMarjorieChafe’sSon, Aren’tYa? Yes,MyGod. AndHerFullUpWithTheCancer. OfCourse SheSmokedAllHerLifeButSoDidYourFather. HardToSayIfItWasHer SmokeOrHisSmokeGotHerBut,Sure,YouSmokeTooSoCouldHave BeenYou,IS’pose. DiedOfAHatTrick. First,Second,AndThirdHand Smoke. MyGod,SomeShockin’.

Stranger: Do you want fries with that?

My mother had noticed someone she thought might look like someone she thought she knew, and that was enough for her to risk the death-defying journey over the jagged rocks in search of information. I was left to follow the siren call of the ocean and the children being tossed on the waves like seagulls waiting out a storm.

I started to walk directly into the water. The cold didn’t affect me. I was a husky child with a good layer of heat-protective blubber around me. I was made for this. The water came up to my knees and I walked on. It came up to my navel and forward I marched. Then I felt the strangest sensation. The rocks beneath my feet had given way to sand. It felt glorious. Smooth, soft, and grainy. It reminded me of the few moments of barefoot wonder I’d experienced standing in the cat’s litter box before my mother told me to “GetOutOfThatNowBeforeISkinsYa! ForGodSakes,B’y,TheCat’sArseWasInThat!”

I looked over at the children, watching them frolic, and wondered, “How can I be a part of that?” Surely they would notice me and ask me to play with them, like kids did on Sesame Street? We’d sing some song about “the letter C” or something. Maybe they’d like some Halls or some Rothman’s? All I had to do was wait.

I remember looking up at a cliff and seeing the Newfoundland flag. Not the red, blue, and gold flag designed by the famous artist Christopher Pratt. No, I mean the true Newfoundland flag: a plastic grocery bag caught in a tree. Then my gaze shifted to two kids, a boy and girl floating by in a tire. They sat on it, their feet dangling into the water through the centre. It looked like everything that childhood should be. I continued on. The water came up to my neck. The children on the tire laughed together as they spun lazily. I stepped closer, hypnotized by their joy.
The water slipped over my head. I didn’t realize that the ground was on a slope. I’d never been in deep water before and assumed I could just keep walking.

I’d never thought about breathing until that moment. I remember thinking, “Oh, right. I have to breathe.” Try as I might, I couldn’t get my head above the water. I looked back to shore and could just barely make out the image of my mother interrogating a couple about their exact lineage. Nobody knew I was there. I kept going.

With every step I took, I could feel a great weight pressing down inside me. I was walking farther but going deeper. I looked up, confused. I caught sight of the tire children. They were floating above me, still laughing. I reached for a pink Minnie Mouse sandal on the surface, just over my head. With the strength of a panicked child, I pulled her foot toward me with all my might. Next, I latched on to the Six Million Dollar Man sneaker of the boy. “He kept his sneakers on,” I thought. “He doesn’t even know there’s sand here. I should tell him to take them off and feel it squish between his toes. That’ll be a good ice-breaker.”

I pulled them down. I could feel the panic leave my body and transfer into theirs. I grabbed their tire, sending them splashing into the cold water. Exhausted, I lay on the improvised float like a walrus on a rock and sunned myself. It was nice to have friends my own age.

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The Fundies

The Fundies

The Essential Hockey Guide from On the Bench
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Hey boys, welcome to the first-ever written eppie. If you’re reading this book, you probably already know Olly and Jacob, but in case you missed a few details about our greasy hockey careers and how we started, let’s get you up to speed.
First, what are the fundies? Plain and simple, fundies are the fundamentals. The basics of everything and anything hockey. You didn’t even know you needed the fundies until we broke the Internet and introduced them to you. With the game getting softer every year, our presence is needed more than anyone knows. If you want to be the best, you need to always move forward. We aren’t just reckless with our bodies—we feel no pain because there isn’t any room for pain in the fundies. That is why we are here: to teach you how hockey is supposed to be played.

A lot of people like to ask, “Why aren’t you in the league if you’re so good?” And we like to respond with something like, “Are you going to ask stupid questions all day?” It’s easy to see that we are far better than any player to enter the game. Each generation has a player that is unquestionably talented, such as Al MacInnis, the great lip sweater that is Lanny McDonald, and today’s stars like Brock Boeser and Connor McDavid. They still don’t have anything on us, though. Don’t believe us? Why are they all asking to be in an eppie and learn the fundies from us? Without a doubt, our advice and training could bring players like Lanny out of retirement and make him even more successful than he was before. (Still waiting for that call, Lanny.) 

We don’t play in the show because it isn’t at the level it needs to be for us to have any sort of challenge. That is why we are training the entire NHL, one eppie at a time—to create some competition that would make it worth our while to play. So, yeah, we are the best, and you need the fundies!

1. Who We Are
Olly Postanin
Olly Postanin is the name, boys. I started my life in Newmarket, Ontario. I guess you can say that is where a legend was made. My journey began like any other kid growing up in Canada—rippin’ rope at a young age. My formative years were spent playing hockey in Elliot Lake, learning to wheel on the mini skating rink my dad built on the deck in our backyard.
I spent countless hours perfecting my craft—shooting, skating, fighting, and . . . sitting on the bench. That’s right, boys, my dad benched me. A lot. I’m still not sure why. Maybe it was because I was dummying my older brother all day on the rink while he pretended he was Wayne Gretzky. Naturally, I took liberties on him with a lot of slashies, a few hits from behind, you know—normal brother stuff.

It was also during this time that I scooped my first pair of cowboy boots. A lot of people ask me why I wear the boots, and it’s pretty simple: they are the best footwear for running because they are so aerodynamic. They’re built for speed, which makes me pretty much unstoppable.

When it was time to start playing organized hockey at the age of four, I was already an absolute weapon. Not only was I the only player in Timbits Hockey that could raise the puck and go top corns on the tendy (making him look like a complete pylon), I was also the only four-year-old kid to get spenny’d for fighting. You may be thinking, “Who fights in Timbits Hockey?” Well, the kid I dropped the mitts with was chirping me for wearing a Jofa bucket. He taunted me with “That’s a dad helmet,” so naturally I did what any beauty would do —I dropped my finger pillows and tossed a few hammers at his dome. I lost that fight but learned an important lesson: hitting the scoresheet was the most important part in hockey—besides the flow, obviously.

Because of my prowess on the ice, I was scouted at an early age for the Bangladesh Pro League. It was a hard decision to make: stay and play minor-league hockey or crush it overseas. So, like any smart ten-year-old would do, I packed my duffle and all my mini sticks and hit the road (and the sea—Bangladesh is a trek).

After seven seasons playing pro in Bangladesh, I proudly led the league in PIMs and least amount of ice time played. You’re probably wondering how I lasted so long and accomplished so much in the league. Keep reading and you’ll learn some important secrets that led to my record-setting career.

Jacob Ardown
I have played puck for as long as I can remember, setting unbreakable records, easily marking me a legend. On top of that, I am also likely the humblest player in the game. Even if it seems like I’m cocky, I’m not. I just know how great I am. There’s a big difference. I have been called the purest of beauties. It should be easy to see why, but if you weren’t able to pick it up, I’ll break it down for you.

First thing to point out is the style, boys. Rockin’ the deadly lettuce on my dome, blazin’ in the wind while I burn hoof. And, of course, the nasty beard. Facial hair is super crucial to your game-play, boys; that’s why I chose to go with the “handle chops.” My favourite colour is plaid, so naturally it’s the only vest I wear. And the Velcro wheels are built for speed.

As for the game-play, boys, I’m not sure where to start. I made it to the Virgin Islands Elite Hockey League because I’m such a well-rounded player. I tore up the league with the Virgin Islands Coconut Cutters for seven years. I was initially brought in because of my greasy snapper, but the league had no idea what they were getting when I signed my big conny.

Early in my career with the Coconut Cutters, I set a record that still has not been beat and likely never will be: most stick infractions in one period, boys. I set it high, racking up 13 infractions in the first period before the coach kicked me out of the game. I hadn’t been scoring much at the time, trying to get into the routine of my new team. So, like any natural athlete, I found a way to flood the scoresheet.

Some people have called me a “goal-scorer’s goal-scorer,” and some have said I’m more of a “family man defenceman” just doing what it takes for the team. I see myself more as a natural goal-scoring, stay-at-home defenceman, offensive-threatening enforcer. So, basically, the most well-rounded player out there, to put it into layman’s terms.

It was during the Bangladesh Pro and Virgin Islands Elite Annual Cross-League Match-Up where Olly and I first met. With a fresh sheet between us, the stare-down began, bench to bench. When we finally hit the ice on the same shift, we knew some kind of magic was about to happen. It was showtime for the two best players on the ice, and the score needed to be settled immediately. Olly could see I was a killer D-man, and when he flicked the biscuit into the corner and charged full speed expecting to nail me, I dropped a low hippie, sending him head-over-wheels into the glass. The crowd erupted—and not even ten seconds into the shift, the finger pillows were off.

Both of us knew we could each have had at least six points that night, and everyone in the stands believed it, too. But scrapping was the only way to settle this score. We went toe-to-toe, exchanging shots to the booger bag. Fists were flying, buckets popped off, and the crowd went crazy. After no less than 72 punches each, the zebras finally broke it up. The first go-around ended in a tie, so we knew we had unfinished business. After serving our time in the sin bin, we got on the ice for round two. The result was about the same as round one, though. At the end of the game, after 14 fights and 14 ties, we discovered we’d each met our match, and there was mutual respect between a couple of legends. Some people say those 14 fights and 212 punches will go down in history as racking up the longest scoresheet ever recorded.

Now that you know a little bit more about me and Olly, and understand why you should be taking our advice, let’s spread some mayonnaise on a few fundies. Buckle up, boys: the pages are about to get greased.

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Trudeau on Trudeau

Trudeau on Trudeau

The Deep Thoughts of Canada's 23rd Prime Minister
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Shoelaces Are Hard

Shoelaces Are Hard

And Other Thoughtful Scribbles
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