Somebody asked me what my favorite Christmas gift was. Easy call: Coleco NHL table hockey. My friends and I played that for hour upon hour.
But my favorite Christmas was 1970. No doubt. I was nine, almost 10.
I grew up in Reserve Township, on Mt. Troy Rd., just above Troy Hill. On Troy Hill there’s a little store called Victoria’s Dairy. Yep, it’s still there. Back then, Victoria’s was the only local merchant that sold hockey cards. (Just one brand then: Topps.) Not many, and only occasionally. You had to be on the lookout.
In 1970, I went to Victoria’s the day the hockey cards were supposed to get there. They were ALL GONE. The lady working said she had sold them all, but had ordered another box that would arrive next week.
So, I showed up next week. She had SOLD THAT BOX, TOO.
I didn’t cry, but pretty close. OK, maybe I did cry. I loved hockey. I loved hockey cards. It was almost Christmas. I was distraught. Not even one pack left?
Then Christmas came. There were a couple of similar-sized packages under the tree. I opened them: TWO BOXES OF TOPPS HOCKEY CARDS.
Turns out my mom got to Victoria’s before I did.
I had to buy a few more packs later, but I got the whole set. Still have it. Gilbert Perreault and Brad Park were rookies. Andy Bathgate was the big get if you were a Penguins fan. Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull…AWESOME.
That Christmas, like so many, was made by Mrs. Peggy Ann Madden (1935-2006), who always came through. BEST. MOTHER. EVER.
Happy holidays, everyone.
To get my take on the Steelers' death rattle, read my column at timesonline.com.