Dad had plenty of ‘great ideas,’ but Montreal hockey mask getaway takes the cake

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Artwork by Drew Shannon

As I lay down on the floor, the stifling mixture weighed on my face. Struggling to breathe, I imagined an abandoned soul buried alive in a Poe tale.

I had my dad, Casey, to thank.

His project had been revealed a few days earlier; one early June morning in the 1970s. As we were having breakfast in our bungalow in Toronto, Dad lowered the newspaper and announced with a smile, “I have something to tell you. I had a great idea!

Oh oh, I thought, waiting. My discomfort was forgivable. My dad always had an idea. Dad was a dreamer: a card holder, Phileas Foggian member of the Nation of Imagination. No plan was too fanciful; no overly absurd scheme; no outlandish offer. And like most dreamers, few ideas turned out as expected.

Like the time dad walked into the house proudly declaring he had purchased the aptly named “Dream Home” at the National Home Show. It was the centerpiece of the annual design show in Toronto; accessible to all at the end of the show for one dollar.

The problem? This is yours; as if.

Once you’ve paid to tear it down, transport it, buy land to put it in place, hire contractors to rebuild it, place it on the market for months, and finally sell it, however, the Dream Home costs more than $100. a dollar. Much more.

But caveat emptor be damned. Pessimism had never been part of Dad’s playbook.

As an immigrant, dad tried to ignore racism and it separated us for years

My father is a man I never knew, so I hold on to what I have left

In fact, that morning, my anxiety was misplaced. “You need a new mask,” Dad said between sips of coffee. “I spoke to the people of Plante. We’re going to Montreal to get one.

By my reaction, he knew he had succeeded. I had just completed another season as a college hockey goaltender. The “Plante people” were guys who had met the popularizer of the goalie mask, Jacques Plante. Plante had started wearing a mask at a time when such self-preservation was considered cowardly. Years later, Plante had established a custom mask business in Montreal.

My dad knew I had taken a punch in the mouth the season before while wearing a flimsy mask. Luckily my teeth were intact; however, the inner lining of my mouth was shredded like cheese through a grater. Several stitches were needed to repair the damage; extremely painful as it is performed on the fly by the team doctor in the locker room, without anesthesia.

The following Friday evening we checked into the Mount Royal Hotel on Peel Street in Montreal. Dad had arranged for the mask makers to come to the hotel and create the fiberglass mold. Later, the printing will be perfected in a suburban workshop.

On Saturday morning, two muscular men in their thirties in black biker t-shirts appeared at our door. One of them was dragging a sports bag big enough to carry a body. “Hello Casey? We are the masked men,” they announced with a laugh and entered.

After the introductions, they unzipped the bag to display a bucket, a fiberglass/epoxy resin bag, gauze, petroleum jelly, a roll of polyethylene plastic, a long tube straw and a nylon stocking. While one of the guys was collecting water from the bathroom, his buddy covered the carpet with the plastic. Handing me the nylon, he said, “Put this on.

I hesitated: “Where?

“Pretend to rob a bank,” he replied with a smile, as if remembering happier times.

Soon my sheepish self was lying on the plastic sheet at the foot of the bed; shirt with the nylon pulled over my head. Then it started: Vaseline, gauze, wet epoxy mix, more gauze, more mix, all covering my face. They worked as if they were performing restorative plastic surgery. Once finished, the mixture would need time to harden. It would then be removed to become the cast of my new mask. In the meantime, I needed to breathe: hence the long straw inserted into my mouth.

As the layers of compound were applied, they began to feel suffocated. But I focused on breathing.

Someone knocked at the door. “Maid, cleaning lady.” Before anyone could answer, the door opened.

“We’re busy,” dad blurted out. “Please come back later.”

The surprised maid apologized and left. After several more uncomfortable minutes, there was another loud bang.

“What is happening here?” shouted one of Montreal’s best as he burst into the room with his partner, both with guns drawn.

Consider the scene: a man lying on the floor of a hotel room breathing through a straw with a plaster mask over his face; two men who look like Bond villains hover menacingly. Our whistleblower housekeeper had concluded that the mafia had chosen her hotel to torment a snitch.

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” bellowed my stunned dad. “He’s a goalkeeper,” as if that justified torture. compound on my face, making it look like a Phantom of the Opera.

Dad’s frantic explanation made everyone laugh, except me of course. After a rushed retrieval of the mold, officers walked away with a “you won’t believe it” anecdote for the police station.

A few weeks later, the mask arrived in the mail. My father smiled when I took it out of the box and examined it from every angle, like a child inspecting a butterfly in a jar. The mask was smooth and rounded from the bridge of the nose to the forehead, with a hawk-like crest below the eye holes to below the chin.

I wore it for several seasons. The design flaw was found to be the same as other fiberglass masks of the time. The eye holes were vulnerable, as evidenced by tiny scars on my forehead. On top of that, it never fits properly. We blamed the maid.

Every June, I think of our masked getaway for Father’s Day. Dad died last year at the age of 93. But shortly before he died, he called me to discuss an opportunity he was looking for with an entrepreneur in China he had met on the Internet.

“You’re kidding, aren’t you?” I asked.

“It is an excellent idea !”

David Elenbaas lives in Toronto.

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