Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hockey, Haircuts, and the Smithsonian

(photo courtesy of the Anti-Zim at

“Didn’t I see that in the Smithsonian?” Chris “Donut Boy” Howell joked with Capitals’ teammate, Andrew “Zach” Zacharakis, about the old green Cooper helmet Zach used to wear.

I wasn’t planning to share that tidbit from last Thursday’s locker room conversation because the AMHL’s connection to the organization whose leader says is “…committed to enlarging our shared understanding of the mosaic that is our national identity by providing authoritative experiences that connect us to our history and our heritage as Americans and to promoting innovation, research and discovery in science…” seemed remote.

Nor was Howell’s comment at the forefront of my mind on Saturday morning, as my wife and I dined at our favorite local establishment, Dunkin’ Donuts. I enjoyed my traditional treat as I read the Boston Globe, another New England institution. There wasn’t much in the way of hockey in the sports section, but Dan Shaughnessy’s piece on the Denver Broncos was—like the Chocolate Frosted I devoured—delightful.

We lingered for almost an hour and then drove to As You Like It Salon. We were 15 minutes early, so my wife—who would get her hair cut and then highlighted by the best in the business—and I sat in the lobby. On the table before me, I saw a glut of glamour magazines, which I assumed contained pictures of all the latest hair styles, and a magazine that I figured was more geared toward the scientific crowd and out of place here. Smithsonian’s October 2006 cover didn’t mention anything about “A Dog Named Wiley,” but the story on page 18 grabbed me by the collar because it reminded me of AMHL veteran Kevin “Wiley” Riley.

This personal essay, which so far was not so much about the aforementioned Wiley but rather Quammen’s evolution as a writer and his move to Bozeman, Montana in 1984, compelled me to continue because, well, I’m a writer and as you’ll learn in AMHL Glory, the Rocky Mountains are dear, if not near, to me.

“My life here is quiet. In winters…” the paragraph at the bottom of page 20 began.

I know it. He’s going to say something about hockey.

“In winters I ski, shovel and play hockey with a town-league team composed of wonderful men I wouldn’t otherwise know—a roofing contractor, a gun dealer, and insurance adjuster, a software designer and others.”

As that sentence hit home with me, Quammen went on to talk about his dog—the center of the story—and how Wiley had attended his master’s annual hockey team party.

I won’t share any more of Quammen’s masterpiece, except to say that the author, his dog, and hockey are all integral components of his life in Montana. Same with me except that I don’t have a dog. But, I do live vicariously though others.

So, after my haircut and while my wife was undergoing her highlight treatment, I exited As You Like It to see Bueller and Petey, the golden retrievers at Legends, the sporting goods institution across the road.

Legends, the Boston Globe, Dunkin’ Donuts, my AMHL friends, Zach’s helmet…and now the Smithsonian: they’re all weaved into the mosaic that is my life. Just like my haircut (performed with a number four clipper on the bottom and sides and then scissors on the top to create a short and spiky blend), that’s the way I like it.
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