…HE’S A SHALLOW BASTARD OR RING HIS FUCKIN’ BELL EDDIEEEEE!!!

One evening I found myself sitting at a Bruins game with MLA, his father Paul and Gordie Howe.

That’s right, Mr.Hockey.

Mr Hockey was with us, in our party of 4 if you will, same row side-by-side-by-side-by side right on the Red Line.

He was big, as in a strapping, corn-fed Canadian prairie guy with hands the size and thickness of catcher’s mitts and absolutely as strong as a pair of human hands could be.

My right hand disappeared entirely in his meaty paw as we were formally introduced. His hands should have been illegal.

His shoulders and upper torso not to mention the rest of him were power-packed too. The man was serious.

And then there was his face. A roadmap and a testament to a lifetime of playing hockey. Scars newer and older, some faded and some still with a hint of pink and puffiness to them and absolutely none of his God-given choppers.

Alright, maybe one or two in the way back but that’s it. Then there was his silvery mane, thinning and parted from the right side.

Mr. Hockey exuded the game on every possible level.

Paul A. was 5’5” on his best day but let me say, truth be told he was as tough as Gordie Howe.

Pinek’s or Pincus’ face — Pinek to his innermost sanctum — had a story all its own to tell.

To the public he was a hosiery salesman at H.G. & Sons in Boston.

By night he rescued European Jews in trouble behind the Iron Curtain.

I’m sure his after-hours work involved taking lives, as in killing, but I never directly questioned MLA about it.

The problem was that for a pair of smart enough, inquisitive and bold male teens who considered themselves “seasoned,” we could not for the life of us pin down Pinek (certainly out of fear but also because he was a closed-mouth sort of the highest order) nor could we extract blood out of the stone known as Celina or Cela, his equally formidable wife — in every way and more — as to what was really goin’ on.

MLA later confided in me that though his parents, Holocaust survivors both, loved each other very much their 57-year marriage might be best described as a 56-year argument.

A bit of an exaggeration to me, but I didn’t live under their roof.

Regardless, there was plenty to fill the pages and spill over into the margins.

For example, from 1969–1980 Pinek would take an annual 3-week vacation — by himself.

His wife Cela was left at home with their 2 sons, ages 19 & 13 at the beginning.

In today’s world and even then, after the mouths agape were closed and the raised eyebrows dropped, the questions would be asked.

Then: “Where is he?” “Is he alright?” “What’s he doing?” “Are you ok…and the boys?” “When will he be home?” “Oh yeah, how is he?”

Now: “That bastard…he’s a bastard! What’s he doing anyway?” How can he leave you alone for so long?” “Who’s he with?” “Is he having an affair?” “Multiple affairs?” “With whom? Who are they?”

And then maybe, “how are you and the boys getting along?”

Paul’s “vacation” took him to the Middle East well before we as young people, or even the educated adults who parented and mentored us, paid very much attention to this region.

Istanbul, Tehran, Beirut and the Black Sea border areas such as Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine — places we’d scarcely heard of.

He was not a wealthy man nor was he a member of “the working class.” But he was always busy, always working.

And this was work.

As Bruins announcers of the day may have said, “…and make no mistake [about it].”

Pinek was working behind the Iron Curtain. After all, a soldier of freedom was sometimes in daylight, sometimes in darkness but always in front.

My old man and Paul were friends and even my father would clam up when interrogated by yours truly about you-know-what.

So I was left to my own imaginative devices with respect to the details.

He showed up in a worn out barely functioning copter of some sort, stated his intentions in the native tongue, exchanged gunfire where necessary and got out of there with a couple or three lucky Jewish refugees.

And then he did it again and again and again, thousands of times over the years.

Now, do I know this to be true?

Not really. But I don’t think I’m too far off.

So Pinek knew from tough.

What’s more intriguing to me is how he and Mr. Hockey came to hangin’ around together. I mean they clearly weren’t like MLA and me, fast friends then and now.

Maybe Gordie was a spokesman for an H.G.& S. product or two.

Maybe it was something a bit more exciting.

Or not.

As the story goes, that night at some point two kids approached Howe in search of his autograph.

Pinek and Mr. Hockey were seated next to one another when Gordie Howe told his two wide-eyed fans to “fuck off.”

“Fuck off,” he said and clearly Pinek heard him. (I did not).

As Howe got up to move around and stretch his weary legs a bit, MLA’s father leaned over to his son and in that low and throaty voice offered, “he’s a shallow bastard.”

Very matter-of-factly.

MLA queried, “Dad what?”

“He’s a shallow bastard,” Pinek repeated.

Paul A. was in awe of nobody.

ANOTHER BRUINS TALE:

In the 1970’s following what seemed like an eternity of mediocrity the Boston Bruins, The Broons — The Big Bad Bruins were a swashbuckling and fearless brawling unit, the likes of which the Hub had never really seen.

They played hard and they played hard together. Team unity was at its peak.

That’s what winning can do for you and Stanley Cup Championships in ’70 & ’72 cemented this team’s legacy.

Orr, Espo and Cheesie viewed themselves no differently than they did Marcotte, Westfall or Dallas Smith.

Stanfield was the picture of selflessness and Hodge was a big goofball goal-scorer with a thunderous right shot who didn’t and couldn’t take himself too seriously.

Sanderson was Joe Namath on skates and Cashman would beat up his mother if it gave his boys an advantage.

Awrey and Doak were the quintessential defensive defensemen, and Bucyk — ”The Chief” moniker aptly (or inappropriately) bestowed upon him in celebration of his elder statesman de facto captain status but more so as a testament to the Native American blood coursing through his veins — was “The Spoked-B”.

Coach Harry Sinden was a savant.

But the one who provided that much needed jolt of electricity every time he stepped onto the ice — okay, Orr was electric in his sleep — was Johnny “Pie” McKenzie.

#19, Pie Face.

What a face. He looked like Howdy Doody on top of a miniature bronco-buster body.

He was probably 5’8” in his skates if that and scrappiness was his game. He liked to mix it up, throw down the gloves, his (lack of) size or the size of his opponent be damned.

He knew how to fight too; all the tricks of that trade were second-nature to him. So even if he lost, he won.

And the crowd would go wild. They adored him (as did I).

I was at the Garden when the Vancouver Canucks in their inaugural NHL season, featuring Rosaire “Rosy” Paiement came to town.

Paiement was a rare breed, a strong and savvy goal-scoring Centerman-Wing with a mean streak a mile wide, to which his 34 strikes and 152 PIM’s respectively in the ‘70-’71 season would attest.

He was a power forward a la Cam Neely, Clark Gillies, Tim Kerr (and yes, Gordie Howe) well ahead of his time, though his size was hardly imposing.

He was just plain tough.

On this February night, (02/25/71) in an 8–3 B’s victory, Paiement’s two most finely-honed skills would be on display.

We could ask Bobby Orr for corroboration if need be.

Orr and Paiement fought twice in this tilt and to see Orr fight any time was a rarity.

First of all, he was Orr.

He was above it.

But incidentally, he knew how to “throw ‘em” too.

The first tiff was just that, a spat, a dust-up in period one during which Orr threw his glove into Paiement’s face.

(Or was it into the linesman’s smoosh out of sheer frustration?)

In the third period Orr made good on his promise articulating something like this after the first period event: “Hey Rosy… I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ ass!!!”

The game itself became a bloodbath on ice possibly degenerating because no fewer than 4 Vancouver team records — 3 of which were of the dubious distinction genre — were set and still stand 45 years later.

I refer to the following:

1.) Most shots against Vancouver Goal-One Game — -60; 2.) Most shots against Vancouver Goal-One Period — -28 (Third Period); 3.) Most shots both teams-One Period 43 (Third Period); & last but hardly not least 4.) Fastest 3 Goals Against Vancouver-:20 — Bucyk @ 4:50; Eddie Westfall @ 5:02; & Teddy Green @ 5:10 (Third Period — Dunc Wilson in Goal).

So it is against this backdrop that the most unlikely happenstance unfolded featuring non-combatant Ed Westfall — with 19 PIM’s on his year-end stat-line and more widely acclaimed as a player so adept at doing all the little things beautifully like shadowing the opponent’s best scorer, taking faceoffs, backchecking, etc. that his teammates had voted him the hockey age-old honor of wearing the “A” on his sweater as an Alternate Captain — in a fight.

Eddie Westfall didn’t fight.

Simply not in his job description or pay grade.

You gotta know your role.

All the boys learn how to defend themselves; it’s in the hockey player’s handbook.

But Eddie just wasn’t a fighter.

Not only would 14 fights in an eighteen-year NHL career support this position but there is this:

The on-ice tete-a-tete being described presently didn’t even qualify as a fight.

That’s correct.

It is not included in any official listing of Westfall’s NHL pugilistic exploits; in fact, the record shows that he had no fights in the ‘70-’71 season.

Zero.

Be that as it may, as Westfall and his dance partner are pushing and shoving each other around the ice, the noise in the Old Barn on Causeway Street is pierced by a shrill high-pitched bellow.

Very peculiar-sounding actually, certainly enough to pique one’s interest, to prick up the ears if you will.

The braying belonged to Pie.

Pie Face. #19.

McKenzie.

With the game well in hand, a victory for the B’s, there was McKenzie standing on the boards in his skates with his inimitable impish Howdy Doody grin and twinkling, mischievous eyes screaming at the very top of his lungs, “ring his fuckin’ bell Eddieeee!!!

RING HIS FUCKIN’ BELL EDDIEEEE!!!”

A joke.

He was kidding, ribbing his more taciturn teammate, the keep-the-peace advocate Westfall.

The bench and beyond erupted in raucous laughter.

It was nothing short of hilarious.

What to make of all this, yet another night watching one of Boston’s professional sports teams in action?

Probably not much aside from the fact that both Mr. Hockey and Johnny McKenzie knew how to use the word “fuck” in a sentence.

But wait, Paul A. Pinek. Pincus.

Yup, it’s Pinek who should be everyone’s hero.

That’s what’s real.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in June 2016.]

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