Guest Post No 22: Stephen Laroche

Stephen Laroche is the editor of Beckett Hockey, which he admits had been his dream job since he was a teenager. His 2014 book, Changing The Game: A History Of NHL Expansion is available in book stores.

For the few that actually look back on their high school years as being the greatest time of their lives, try having been the socially awkward and chubby kid with poor coordination in a small Ontario town who loved hockey and had no talent whatsoever once a stick was placed in their hands.

Back in the spring of 1992, I was a 15-year-old kid who was obsessively collecting and trading hockey cards as if they were penny stocks and obsessively researching the game’s history. I desperately wanted the NHL’s 75thAnniversary book and at 50 bucks, that just wasn’t happening. I had to be content ripping open packs and staying up late into the night listening to oldies on a nation-wide network, discovering some great music along the way.

One of those tracks that seemed to be in heavy rotation as I stayed up into the wee morning hours was called “Say You Love Me”, and for some strange reason, it resonated with me – even if I knew nothing about the people performing it. While it seemed as if it would alternate between the horn-infused Shirley Eikhard version or the well-loved Fleetwood Mac edition, something clicked as I went through a pile of 45s given to me by my grandmother on a hot late-May evening when I probably should have been studying for an exam.

As I looked over a depressing stack of wax that had such rummage sale gems as Sister Janet Mead’s “The Lord’s Prayer” and Paul Mauriat’s “Love Is Blue”, I spied a Warner Bros. label which had “Michael Robertson” scrawled on it. Thinking that my uncle’s discarded seven-inch single might have some promise, I put it down on a rickety portable record player and Christine McVie’s piano intro and Mick Fleetwood’s opening salvo instantly did something few songs could at that point – made me feel that everything might be okay.

In 1992, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t the coolest band to listen to – at least among most of the people I knew. They were viewed as rock dinosaurs who were past their prime and the classic lineup that spawned five huge-selling albums had imploded five years earlier. It had been two years since their disappointing Behind The Mask album and the years of excessive living had caught up with some of them. Stevie Nicks was in a zombie-like state thanks to a doctor that put her on Klonopin and Fleetwood had pissed off some of the others with his first autobiography. Most of my peers were listening to hair metal, obnoxious dance music or the big classic rock bands – although a few were savvy enough to catch on to this new “alternative” thing.

It was around this time that I also started talking with someone who would become my best friend (and eventually introduce me to my wife 15 years later). Each day after school, I would awkwardly try to have a conversation with Melissa, who was much more worldly than I, and we got along famously once the discussion turned to music. We’re still friends to this day, and she remains a vinyl junkie.

Within a few weeks, I was given an opportunity to be a summer itern at a local radio station and managed to dig a copy of Rumours and listened to it in the afternoons under the guise of “doing research” while avoiding hearing Achy Breaky Heart and Boot Scootin’ Boogie back-to-back for the third time of the day. It was a mashed-up format that clumsily threw together inoffensive rock with country and sitting in that control room, I chose to read about hockey history and put on the album instead of trying to find something productive to do – not that anyone was really willing to make the effort to take me under their wing, anyway.

The years that followed saw me take a different path than a career in radio and I finally got to see that classic Fleetwood Mac lineup perform the song last year when they performed for a predominantly old and relatively inactive audience at the Air Canada Centre. Most of the crowd seemed too tired to relive their youth, but for me, it was the perfect culmination of years of fandom. Having listened to the song hundreds – if not thousands of times, seeing Christine McVie finally perform it made me feel that everything – both good and bad – that I had endured might all have been worth it in those moments.

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