Wally Shawnigan is a hockey player's worst nightmare.
His vocal cords are coated with sandpaper.
His right eye is crunched up in a permanent squint and, when he gets angry, it twitches to a sadistic beat.
Twice as big and three times as tough as any foe, Shawnigan's reign of terror is legendary.
Well, at least in the folklore of the Toth family.
For you see, "I am Wally Shawnigan."
Or at least I used to be.
A product of imagination when I was twelve years old, Shawnigan put the fear of God into my little brother during our basement ball hockey games.
There were a lot of advantages to being the big brother. For one thing, I played the role of broadcast legend Danny Gallivan, which meant I got to determine who won and lost our basement battles.
My team never lost and whenever I got bored by all that success, I'd simply send old Wally over the boards.
"Time is ticking down at the Montreal Forum and here comes Wally Shawnigan skating out for a rare shift."
My little bro's eyes would pop wide open with anxiety. He knew what was about to happen because most of our games ended exactly the same way.
Wally's team wins.
Wally beats up little brother.
Wally eats ice cream and hogs the television.
Truth be told, you can blame television for Wally's existence. It was 1974 and on "Hockey Night in Canada,” the Philadelphia Flyers were brawling their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups. They were a team of monsters with magical monikers - Andre "Moose" Dupont; Bob "Hound Dog" Kelly; Don "Big Bird" Saleski; and the head honcho of the "Broad Street Bullies,” Dave "The Hammer" Schultz. When I wasn't reenacting the Flyers’ carnage in the basement or watching them throw punches on the tube, I'd scatter my hockey cards on the floor and reenact the Flyers’ epic battles against another tough team of the times, "The Big, Bad Bruins.” Suffice to say, all of that cardboard crunching from those hockey card tilts didn't do much when it came to preserving my collection and most of my bent and busted cards were tossed in the trash years ago.
These days, it's a much different story.
Hockey is a lot tamer than it was back in the wild days of the 70's and Wally Shawnigan has long been retired.
When I play basement hockey with my two little lads, I usually get stuck in net so they can fire tennis balls off my head.
My little brother?
He's not so little anymore and if Old Wally ever did resurface, I'm confident my brother would kick his butt.
But while today's fast-paced and highly skilled NHL doesn't have any room for goons, I have to admit that part of me misses Wally Shawnigan, those basement hockey games with my brother and hockey card contests that would go on for hours.
Special memories, for sure; even though they might be a tad painful for my little bro.
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