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What Do Homosexualist Hockey Players Want?
Toronto played host to a megaspactacular gay hockey tournament in October 1996. Just what kind of a man plays hockey and, you know, ...?
I did not manage to traverse the immense distance between my apartment and the venue at which the homosexualist hockey tournament has been taking place here in the province of Toronto. I did, however, traipse downtown into the darkness of the gay ghetto – my least favourite neighbourhood – last Friday [October 11, 1996] to attend the registration night at some pool hall or other. My quest was to meet each and every hockey-player type in attendance and poll them on who they are, where they're from, what they do for a living, and what the hell got them playing hockey.
I was only just permitted to take even this action. An unprecedented, nearly-week-long sequence of E-mails between me and the organizer raised the spectre of my swooping down on unsuspecting closeted hockey players, taking nude photographs of them, and mailing said photographs to their bosses back in Milwaukee or wherever, thus ruining their delicate closeted lives. This wildly overstated scenario, which could only happen in the city where Team Toronto wilfully suppressed the names of Gay Games IV medalists for "privacy," never came to pass, of course. All persons interviewed were briefed on my plans to write up the tournament here and on the LGB-Sports and Gay Hockey mailing lists. (Memo to sports organizers: Cooperate with the press. If you don't know how, don't make it up as you go along; find someone who does.)
So who are the people in our neighbourhood?
- Roger Le Blanc, of the University of Otago in Nouvelle-Zélande and a subscriber to the LGB-Sports list, is a burly Acadian who, like me, is from Moncton. I was not unflabbergasted. He dragged along his friend Rudy (who agreed with my assessment that he was likely the only Maori in the bar, making him all the more superspecial), in town for the contemporaneous running meet. I mistakenly assumed Roger and Rudy were, you know, together. Roger wore the most desirable garment in the city, a New Zealand Ice Hockey bomber jacket that not only had a nice cut and design but acceptable typography – far more fabulous than the Australian hockey T-shirts I've seen.
- Mr. Paul O'Kane, the organizer aforementioned, has one of the nicest names I ran across that night, though I must say it would look better with an umlaut: O'Käne. Looks exactly like a hockey player and seems amiable enough.
- "Air" Blair de Toronto, 31 ans, works at CIBC managing processing of retirement "products." A miniaturized doppelgänger of Anthony Edwards, Blair was actually playing for the Detroit team (a not-uncommon athletic miscegenation in this tourney) and hopes to organize a Toronto/London tournament someday.
- Dave, 28, a computer programmer by trade (C++, Oracle, VBASIC), lives, works, and plays in Toronto, and is one of the few employees of Sony Music Canada not to have been summarly fired by one of the Camilleri brothers (see Franks passim). Plays for some team in the Toronto league, but couldn't remember which one. (In fact, several interviewees could not remember which team they played for in the Toronto local league. Why is this?)
- Roger, all of 23, plays for the Woody's team here in Toronto and works as a signmaker. We kibbitzed for a while about vinyl-cutting plotters, electrostatic printers, and other sexy signmaking technologies (see my story on designing in grand scale in the November Publish).
- Brian, 37, a person living with unemployment, took the role of videographer for the tournament. When he trained his camera on me and a few people I'm about to mention, for the first time I actually froze. I am usually OK while being filmed. And this was an ordinary camcorder he was wielding, not some huge Betacam pseudophallus.
- Mr. Mark Stephenson, tournament coordinator, packs 35 years into his frame, plays for the California Blades even though he lives in Toronto, works for Revenue Canada, and was as frosty and detached as one would expect Toronto fags to be. He virtually ran away from me, a not-uncommon Toronto reaction. I wouldn't have minded so much if he hadn't been red-haired and not-entirely-unsexmachinelike. And yes, you can quote me on that, not that it'll do me any good.
- Mr. Tom Lovenjak, whose name sounds ever so nice if pronounced à l'originale, is "cocommissioner" of the Toronto homosexualist hockey league. ("Cocochanelmissioner, you mean," I said, to no effect.) Wields a cellphone on his belt. He's 32, does the same job as Mark at RevCan. Plays forward on the Bar 501 team usually, but counted himself as a Californian for the tournament. I asked him if there were any female players. No, he said, though last year there was one "and I was prepared to let her." That's very magnanimous of you, Tom. We look forward to your handling of the first black, straight, and/or deaf players in the league.
- Mr. Mark Leavey, fellow cocommissioner, did get the Cocochanelmissioner reference and came this close to copping to actually being Coco Chanel. The tall, guyish Mark, all of 28 years old, slaves away for the bank that isn't really a bank, AmEx Bank of Kanada, in internal audit. Plays for Woody's in town, Crews in the tourney, and for the AmEx house team, where his alternative sexualism may or may not be known but, in any event, is no problem. Perhaps most astonishingly, the AmEx team managed to secure ice time a 5:30 in the afternoon! This is comparable to paying a scalper five bucks for courtside seats at a Knicks/Bulls game, or, if the seat is out of sight and earshot of the notoriously voluble and soirée-destroying Spike Lee, $250.
- David Clarke, 32, spells his name the incorrect way but is charming nonetheless. Labours for an environmental company. Plays centre for the D.C. Nationals and is from the land of the 302 area code, Delaware.
- Hank of Toronto plays for Sneakers<slash>Mango in the local league but wasn't entirely sure who he was playing for in the tourney. Is a handyperson, âgé de 36 ans.
- Bob, a former coco______missioner, works the corporate-awards circuit, is 34, and is coach of the Sneakers<slash>Mango team. I decried "But aren't awards banquets interminable?" and he replied "Not if I do them." Free-flowing sandy hair of the sort one would like not merely to run his fingers through but actually to perm or braid into cornrows.
- Stephen, though from New Jersey, was incapable of naming three rock bands from New Jersey (e.g., Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Smithereens). Owns a salon, hence is an hairstyliste. Plays LW on an heterosexualist team at home.
- Shamir is only 32 (I am 31) but is already an interventional cardiologist. (And what am I?) We dished mercilessly about xenografts, angioplasty, Arthur Ashe-style quadruple bypasses, and other sexy topics in the land of aortas and pericardia. Plays for Crews during the tourney, Sneakers<slash>Mango otherwise, and is considered a hot number by at least one fellow aforementioned.
Now it gets interesting, kids. Our last contestant, Mark, originally from the Sault (for you Americans, that's Sault Ste. Marie in Northern Ontario, and it's pronounced "Sue"), now lives in this glorious metropolis and teaches visual arts and crafts. ("I'm a graphic-design queen," I countered tactically. He bought it.) Plays defence on the Woody's team here, is 36. His spousal equivalent, Scott, 42, is an hockey widow, a family therapist, and a former Olympian. "Oh?" I asked, more alert than I've been in months, "In what?" Diving, of course. It turns out that this is Mr. Scott Cranham, the Canadian mentioned in Greg Louganis's book Breaking the Surface (p. 72):
It was right after I'd told Scott Cranham that I was gay that I got called a Commie fag. I assumed he'd broken my confidence and I was mad at him for years, although I never asked him about it until I visited with him recently in Canada. Scott told me that the only other person he told was his girlfriend and that she didn't tell anyone. He also told me that the reason he ran away from me [in another incident] was that he couldn't accept the fact the he himself was gay. It terrified him when I first went to him to talk about being gay. It was the last thing he wanted to deal with. Scott's been out of the closet for years now, and he said it was okay to mention it in my book.
The two even correspond still. Scott was somewhat concerned that diving does not appear on the Gay Games V schedule. I told him of the apparent indifference of Gay Games V organizers to the concerns of people on this side of the pond, and he and I will be chatting more about this.