As told to: Dave BidiniAs a young Objibway growing up in Warroad, Minnesota, I used to watch films where Indians were depicted, and I’d sink into my seat after seeing them portrayed as drunks and thieves. As a result, I distanced myself from who I was, but because of hockey, it was hard to run away from my identity. While playing junior in Winnipeg, I went to places like Brandon, Swift Current, Flin Flon, and Estevan; places with terrible racism and prejudice.
“I’d cry on the bus because of the hurt.”
Players would taunt you and fans would get on you, but it was worse for me because I was an American playing in Canada. On road trips, I’d cry on the bus because of the hurt. I’d go into the bathroom and just breakdown. Even though my team-mates stood up for me, there were lots of times when I wanted to quit. After the Jets, I joined the US National team and ended up as an 18 year old playing for my country in Bucharest, Romania at the World Championships. The experience opened up a lot of doors for me, not only knowledge-wise, but in terms of confidence and self-esteem. I returned to Winnipeg, worked at Marvin’s Windows, and then, in the summer of 1970, I got my draft notice. I was 19, but the national team coach said, “Don’t worry. We’ve got a 40 game schedule in 1971. We’ll have you go in the army in summer, and play for us in the winter.” The program was so different from what I’d known in Winnipeg, where it was fighting and intimidation; very old school. In the USA, the players were more intelligent, and mature, and able to deal with pressure. We played the Russians and the Czechs and trained like Olympians. We stretched and ran and lifted weights and in 1972, we won a silver medal. I played the team that Canada played in the Summit Series and I later told Mickey Redmond and Marcel Dionne and Red Berenson that they were the best I’d ever seen. Mickey said, “Ah, that’s bullshit, Henry. They’re rookies. We’ll kill them.”
DAVE BIDINI is the co-creator of ‘Slapshot Diaries’ as well as a writer/musician/columnist from Toronto and the author of 12 books.
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