the beekeeper’s skates

Update: Butch Bouchard’s own testimony on when he first skated is fairly straightforward. I think. It’s in Dick Irvin Jr.’s oral history of the Canadiens, The Habs (1991). It goes like this:

I started skating in high school. I never had a pair of skates until I was sixteen. I always borrowed skates or rented skates. In those days you could rent a pair of skates for a night for five cents and play a game of hockey. Otherwise I would play in the park and I would be the goalie, without skates.

Although: do those first two sentences necessarily refer to the same event? They could. Or, also, “in high school” might refer to the first day he showed up, in which case he would have been, what, fourteen? Then, two years later, he got his skates. There does seem to be, in his description, a gap of time between the starting of the skating and the having of the skates. Which, incidentally, went like this:

I went to a school called Le Plateau and I borrowed thirty-five dollars from my brother, Marcel. He was older than me and he was working. For the thirty-five dollars I bought skates, a pair of pads, a pair of pants, shoulder pads, and gloves. All that for thirty-five dollars in those days.

The bottom line would have to be that the speed of Bouchard’s journey to Forum ice remains remarkable. As he told Dick Irvin the younger:

I played for our team at Le Plateau and the second year I was there Arthur Therrien came to me and asked if I could play junior for him with the Verdun team. So I played one year junior and two years senior.

After my second year in senior hockey I was with the Canadiens. So I made the NHL just four years after I had my first pair of skates.