I redeemed myself at Loughlin on the intramural hockey team. The Rangers were in a rabid playoff series against the Boston Bruins that spring, and their top enforcer, Derek Sanderson, became the new ‘someone I loved to hate’. Just like Von Erich, I became fascinated by this new rogue and eventually began channeling the Bruins’ Wild Child. Sure enough, I showed up at Loughlin on game day wearing Sanderson’s No. 16. Although everyone assured me I was a goner, all that came of it was my new nickname: Turk, after Sanderson himself. So, now you know. Actually, I wasn’t the only one enchanted by the Terrible Turk. Not many people realize that the New York Yankees’ All-Star shortstop was named after the Bruins’ center: Derek Sanderson Jeter.
John Yodels and I had gone permanently on the outs by then. Harold eventually turned on me and joined John to become my bitter rivals. Both of them realized during my Nazi episode that I wasn’t about to get bullied anymore. John was always the cunning type and probably saw how things would end up in a power struggle on Butler Street. I didn’t have that foresight, and was still thinking of them as the Wild Bunch, like the new Peckinpah movie. Only I wasn’t the gang leader anymore, and became a lone wolf for a while before building a new crew of my own.
As the Yodels began expanding their sphere of influence, taking their bully act to Douglass and Degraw Streets, I became more withdrawn and spent time riding my three-speed around the neighborhood. Eventually I began building my leg strength and endurance, unbeknownst to me, until my crossover into adolescence and the resulting testosterone rush began manifesting itself in unheralded episodes of brashness. I was backtalking all the neighborhood bullies to their consternation and soon making a new mark on the sports field. Things changed forever at the beginning of hockey season #3, when I ushered in our checking era by knocking Harold on his ass. He left the team shortly afterward and I became the new cock on the walk, so to speak. I kept the team going and remained the big fish in the little pond until the Strong Place All-Stars drifted along.
Anthony and Robert Wilkie were blond-haired, heavy-set twins living on Strong Place who were a lot like a pair of Baby Hueys. I found out later that they had played in a band with Ed Colander before turning their focus on sports. Around the time I had met them they had developed quite a reputation west of Court Street, so it was natural that our twains would meet. They saw us playing one afternoon and introduced themselves, asking if we would like to play against their team on Strong Place sometime. I readily obliged, setting the stage for a momentous home-and-home series.
During the first game it was pretty much Turk vs. the All-Stars, and I learned a hard lesson about the necessity of wearing groin protectors on the playing field. Lacking anyone worthy of passing the puck to, my entire strategy revolved around firing the puck up the court and using my speed to beat everyone to it. The Stars began adopting the tactic, and one of their best players, Peter Vega, let a wrist shot fly that caught me square in the groin. Bear in mind that we were still using ice hockey pucks instead of the plastic iceless pucks. That put an extended halt to the game until I somehow managed to skate it off. We got beat pretty bad, and invited them to Butler Street for a rematch.
That game was pretty much the last hurrah for the Blues. We threw everything at them but the kitchen sink, including a one-skated Harold Yodels, who couldn’t play on two skates anymore. We ended up winning 4-2, which included a controversial goal strenuously upheld by our referee, Anthony Scala, and lineman Richie Aceto. The Wilkies weren’t happy when they went back to Strong Place, but were elated weeks later when I told them the Blues had disbanded and I wanted to join the Stars.
We got pretty close during the one season I played on Strong Place. They say that twins look alike but often have different personalities, and this was the case here. Robert, who I got along with very well, was easy-going and playful. Anthony, who grew very resentful of me over time, was competitive and goal-oriented. While I was playing center, he and I and Peter Vega were unstoppable as linemates. I got bored with the monopoly game and decided to move back to defense, teaming up with Robert as the Maginot Line.
The games grew far too competitive for Strong Place to contain, so we moved the team to Columbia Park along the waterfront. It gave me a chance to open up, and the games grew extremely competitive as I was blazing up and down the court at breakneck speed skating rings around everyone and everything. Unfortunately, I had adopted the Bruin mentality, and I got chippier as the season wore on. Robert, who was a standout football player, liked to hit as well and we constantly schemed on catching our opponents in cross-blocks and sandwich jobs. At other times, it would turn into shooting matches between Anthony, Pete and I, who had the heaviest shots on the team.
(To be continued...)