Sep 282010

Half Dressed

Canadian hockey player Danny Belisle from South Porcupine, Ontario played only a few games in the NHL although he played ten in the minors and went on to enjoy a successful NHL coaching career.  He told me the following story about getting ready for his fifth game as a rookie.

Brian, this took place in 1960 when I was playing for Vancouver in the Western Hockey League, a team owned by the New York Rangers. I was called up to the Rangers on Christmas Day and my first game was against the Montreal Canadiens. On their roster at that time was Jacques Plante, Boom‑Boom Geoffrion, Rocket Richard, Pocket Rocket, Dickie Moore and Jean Beliveau. They had a first place team and were headed for a fifth straight Stanley Cup. We had a sixth place team and were headed for the dumpster.”

Anyhow, I was fortunate enough to get a goal in my first game and I went on to play in another three games. Now I had played in four games and had two goals. Before the fifth game I was in the dressing room putting on my gear, and I must admit I was feeling pretty good about myself, pleased that I’d scored a couple of goals, and that I wasn’t on the ice for any of the goals scored against us, which was quite important in those days. So I was putting on my equipment (actually, it was Red Sullivan’s equipment because we were about the same size and he was injured). Camille Henry and Dean Prentice were also hurt and not playing. I had most of the equipment on when Alf Pike, the Rangers’ coach, came in the room and says to me, “Hey kid, take the stuff off, I think Camille Henry is ready to go.” I was disappointed but still, it was no big deal. I shrugged and began taking my equipment off. I’ve got it pretty well off when Alf Pike comes back in. This is like five to seven minutes later, and he says to me, “Hey kid, put your gear back on. We’re not sure Camille Henry can play after all.” So I’m all happy again, right? And I start putting my equipment back on, even though I’m beginning to wonder if I’m getting jerked around a little bit. But you didn’t dare say anything in those days, not as a rookie. Believe me. About ten minutes later, Pike comes back in again and he’s heading for me. I have most of my gear back on when he says, “Hey kid, we’re still not sure about Henry. I want you to get half dressed.”

Half dressed? At this point I guess I told myself that this had gone on long enough. I felt a bit foolish getting dressed and then undressed and dressed again. So I put the bottom part of my equipment on my jock, my shin pads and my hockey pants. Then, instead of lacing up my skates, I put my shoes on and then my shirt and tie. The other guys kept looking over at me and suddenly they began to laugh. I was standing there half-dressed, like I’d been told. The dressing room was in hysterics. Guys like Bathgate and Fontinato were making jokes about my wardrobe. I wish I could remember all their quips. And just then, sure enough, Alf Pike came trotting back in. He stood and gawked at me. Before he could say anything I said, “Hey, I’m half dressed like you told me.” He says, “Yeah, well take everything off. Camille Henry is ready to play.” I didn’t know it then, but I’d played my last game in the National Hockey League. I was sent back to the minors the following day.

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