Sunday Bulletin Board: Sneaking into the hockey tournament: Those were the days!

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In memoriam . . . and: Gee, our old LaSalle ran great!

ZOO LOU of St. Paul writes: “The recent passing of longtime St. Paul Johnson boys’ hockey coach Lou Cotroneo brought back special memories of attending the high-school hockey tournament at the old St. Paul Auditorium in the early ’60s. How we managed to get into this wildly popular event is a highly improbable, if not downright miraculous, saga of good fortune and pure luck. And Lou was a big part of that saga.

“My dad, Joe, my brother Tom and I made our first foray to the tourney on Feb. 14, 1961, after reading in the St. Paul Dispatch that a few tickets remained for the semifinal games. Despite a lobby jammed with desperate fans, a friend was able to procure three precious tickets. The late Doug Woog, who I got to know some years later, was playing for South St. Paul that night — in one of a pair of the best games I ever saw.

“Bolstered by our ‘miracle’ the year before, we found ourselves once more in a jammed Auditorium lobby on Feb. 23, 1962. This time, however, there was no friend or tickets. Then a man gave us three red tickets from the consolation round, pointing out that they were the same color as the semifinal tickets and that we might have a good chance of getting in. With bated breath and pounding hearts, we went through the line. The elderly ticket-taker never even looked at the tickets. Not only that, but we found some empty seats.

“In 1963, just Tom and I went to the semifinals, and it again looked like our miracle run was over. The first game had started, and we were ready to leave when a man approached and said: ‘You boys look like hockey players. Here’s two tickets.’ Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

“Enter the coach. It was Feb. 21, 1964, and my dad came home and announced we were going to the tournament, thanks to good friend Lou Cotroneo, who was in his first year as head coach of the Governors. So there we were on the Fifth Street side of the Auditorium when the Johnson bus pulled up. Lou signaled us to come over and gave us each a few sticks.

“‘Keep your heads down,’ Lou said, ‘and blend in with the players.’

“It worked like a charm. After thanking him profusely, Lou, who was clearly tensed-up about the upcoming game with Minneapolis Patrick Henry (the Govs won 9-0), said: ‘Hey, Italians take care of each other. Now you are on your own! Good luck!’ And we were lucky, finding two empty seats (Tom and I took turns sitting on the aisle).

“I encountered Lou several times over the years, and I would always bring up that story. And he would always say he remembered and asked how my papa Joe was doing.

“One of my favorite movies is the 1946 classic ‘The Best Years of Our Lives.’ Well, there is no doubt about what the best years of my life were. Riposare in pace, Lou.”

Our theater of seasons

Welcome back, ARDEN HILLS SWEDE (f.k.a. MOUNDS VIEW SWEDE): “Dear Bulletin Board,

“I apologize for not submitting any photos lately. We have moved from Mounds View to Arden Hills, and downsizing from our five-bedroom home to a two-bedroom apartment took a lot of work and thought. In the process of moving, I lost the adapter that let me download my camera memory card into the computer, and then the memory card got full. A friend of mine found an adapter that would let me get back to downloading so I can continue sharing the beauty of our nature here in this area.

“These first three photos were all taken today, Sunday. The first one looks across Highway 51 just south of Country Road E. I love the varied colors and tree species in this photo.

“I took a walk behind the Anderson Center, not far from our home at New Perspective, to see the fall colors along the path through the woods there. I noticed this pine tree had captured a fall leaf so that it could be part of the fall color scenario, too.

“This scene caught my eye with the full range of tree colors in one photo.

“This fall leaf was the first one I spotted on September 26th, on a newly planted maple tree across from the front entryway from our New Perspective apartment.

“And the pond provided a nice mirror for the fall leaves farther to the east. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of living near the woods, and now they are closer than ever.

“Two of the other trees, I go by as I come to this new place.

“I really enjoyed all the nature near our home in Mounds View, but it doesn’t look like I’ve lost that by moving here.”

Not exactly what he had in mind

RUSTY of St. Paul reports: “Subject: Adventures in chain-sawing.

“My sister-in-law needed a dead tree dropped. I have a chain saw. I don’t have tons of experience running saws, but I’m not a total novice.

“The tree fell 90 degrees from the expected line of falling and took out a portion of the neighbor’s picket fence.

“Time to buck it up for firewood. It lay on a slight slope, so I could tell the tree might roll to the south once I started bucking. I went over to the north side to start cutting. For an unknown reason, I had limbed all the limbs save one. For yet another unknown reason, I straddled the one limb I had left (a baseball bat-sized side branch) and started sawing the main trunk. As the cut went through, the trunk indeed rolled — luckily not so fast, but not in slow motion, either. The branch rolled with it. The urology gods must have been watching, as the branch ran up the inside of my thigh and avoided my boys.

“The saw operator is supposed to fill the gas and bar oil before each session. I checked the fuel and felt I had enough for the job. I ran out one-third of the way in. My gas can was a freebie from the boulevard. I figured out why it was left for free, as the no-spill valve is faulty. I spilled gas all over the machine as I filled it. The foil covering the opening of my plastic oil bottle was torn and folded back to where it impeded a clean flow. I couldn’t grab it with my fingertip to move it, so I used a stick. A half-inch of the stick broke off and fell into the oil bottle. I was certain I could tip the bottle enough to fill the reservoir but not have the stick fall into the machine. The stick fell into the machine.

“I had to drive home to get a needle driver to get the stick out. (A needle driver is a medical instrument used to sew up lacerations, which I did for 34 years of work in the emergency room. Ironically, I learned how to sew people who had lacerated their thighs using chain saws (!) when I did my ER rotation in central Maine. Using this instrument and aiming the light from my cellphone down into the oil, I eventually was able to clamp the stick and fish it out.

“While home, I figured I might as well pee (and make sure my boys were OK from the branch-rolling incident). I undid the waist strap buckle of the Kevlar chaps I was wearing to protect my legs (see above about lacerated thighs) and folded the top portion of them down and commenced. I did not hear the tinkle of urine hitting the water in the bowl, because it was hitting the inside of the chaps and running down them onto my long-johns.

“Now these were all wet, but at least my boys were fine.

“I reached around the back of the chaps to buckle them, but had trouble, so asked my wife for help. She had trouble, too, but finally got it.

“I got back to the site and couldn’t get the saw started. The saw is a hand-me-down from my brother. He told me it is a finicky starter, and he was correct. I tried several times, figured it was now flooded, so aborted the job until tomorrow.

“Please don’t tell my sister-in-law any of this, as she might hire out next time she needs a tree dropped. On second thought. . .”

Where we live

BILL OF THE RIVER LAKE reports: “Subject: Looking to the future.

“This might be a creative and realistic plan.

“I’m looking at a new design for a baseball cap and companion T-shirt.

“The emblems of our Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves and Gophers would be equally spaced around the cap and prominently on the front of the T-shirt.

“I’ll call this my ‘Wait Till Next Year’ wear.

“This might grab the attention of thousands of Minnesota sports fans.

“And, as always in Minnesota, there’s always room for HOPE!”

Our times . . . or: Hmmmmmmmm

THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wis.: “Subject: Least of three evils?

“I’ve recently read that only about 9 percent of plastic put out for recycling is, in the end, recycled. I suppose it’s still good for the economy, by the amount of equipment it requires and the people it employs.

“It does raise a question for me that complicates my Holiday Wokefulness: Is it better for the environment to buy a plastic tree that is 91 percent destined to end up in a landfill . . . or to destroying a real tree that is biodegradable?

“Hmmm, maybe there is a case for Festivus and the totally recyclable, yet not carbon-neutral, aluminum pole after all.”

What’s in a name?

THE RETIRED PEDAGOGUE of Arden Hills: “Subject: He won’t be stealing any signs — or Christmas.

“This was a headline in the ‘BRIEFLY’ section on Page C3 in Sports of Monday’s STrib: ‘Southern Cal fires Grinch as defensive coordinator.’”

Out of the mouths (etc.) of babes

JB’s WIFE has returned, after many moons unheard from: “Subject: May your buns never lie to you.

“Here’s a conversation between two of my grandsons, who were taking a bath together: the 4-year-old (let’s call him ‘A’) and the 7-year-old (let’s call him ‘B’):

“As the tub was filling with water, B yelled out: ‘A just pooped in the tub!’ Dad walked in, and sure enough, there were some little floaties hanging out in the water, with A propped up against the inside of the tub, squatting over the water, holding himself up, bracing to not fall into the poo water.

“Dad asked A why he’d pooped in the tub, and his answer was brilliant and honest at the same time: ‘Dad, my buns lied to me. They told me they were gonna toot . . . but then they pooped!’”

BAND NAME OF THE DAY: The Little Floaties

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