Growing up, retired NHL player John Scott was also up to something at home. When he was 7, he got an air hockey table and started holding tournaments at his place, dominating his brothers, aunts, uncles and anyone else who wanted to play. Sometimes, the puck would go flying and broke a window, or picture frame, but the games went on. Other times, Scott and his brothers would find wooden branches and start a makeshift baseball game in their backyard. All of that was fun, but Scott’s favorite sports memories came on Christmas Day.
The Scott household has a holiday routine. They would open presents at home in the morning, and then head over to their grandmother’s house in Port Dalhousie, Ontario to spend the rest of the day. It was in there, in his grandma’s unfinished basement—“A concrete slab,” Scott calls it today—where legendary lacrosse and hockey games would take place.
Every Christmas, Scott, along with his brothers and cousins would arrive at the house and head immediately to the basement, where they would start digging through old storage boxes that aunts and uncles had left behind. Scott would find hockey cards, holiday ornaments, old Halloween costumes, a canoe that would all get inside and pretend to paddle. And the holy grail: a set of lacrosse sticks.
Most of the afternoon during Christmas would be spent in the basement, where Scott would set up two-on-two lacrosse games with his brothers and cousins. They could scrounge and find a couple of boxes that they could flip over and position as nets on opposing ends of the basement. Playing with a tennis ball and a three-pass rule, the games got pretty competitive. “I was always the younger one,” Scott said. “So I would always try my best but eventually lose.”
Lacrosse would get boring after awhile, and everyone would go upstairs and play hockey in the hallway. Soon, some of the uncles to arrived. Scott was a huge WWF fan, so any uncle he saw, he would start wrestling with. “We would go after them and try to tackle and pin them,” Scott said. “I think they loved it. I hope they loved it because we did it for years and years.” One time, Scott performed a powerbomb off the couch and ended up breaking his grandmother’s favorite rocking chair. “My grandmother didn’t really care but my parents were upset,” Scott said. “We had to get her a new chair.”
After dinner, Scott and the other kids would go back to the basement. This time, they would turn their favorite place to play into a hockey rink. Gloves, helmets and sticks were handed out, and it wasn’t just the kids anymore. The adults, after having a few drinks, and having been powerbombed a few times by the kids, would come and play four-on-four hockey games with a goalie.
Scott would use the same boxes as the lacrosse game to set up nets for the goalies. The kids would play against the adults. “The games got pretty rough,” Scott said. “There would be a fat lip once in awhile, nothing that you need to go to the hospital for. You cut your elbow open, you skin your knee, just typical stuff. You’re not breaking bones or something. You get those when you’re playing. It happens.”
One time, Scott’s brother split his lip open pretty good and needed stitches. “It was just boys being boys I guess,” Scott said. The kids almost never won. “The uncles, they were bigger and stronger,” Scott said. “I didn’t win that much at my grandmother’s house, it was a common theme.”
The Christmas Day traditions would continue until Scott was 15. Everyone got older, Scott’s grandmother passed away. The other day, Scott was looking at childhood photos and still misses those Christmas visits. “Sometimes you forget how good you had it,” Scott said.
With five daughters, Scott and his wife are already thinking about the sports traditions they want to have inside their own household when they grow up. Their basement is just as spacious as his grandmother’s, but less dangerous. “It’s carpeted so it’s good for the kids,” Scott said.
As the holidays approach, Scott can’t help but remember all of the craziness that went down at his grandmother’s. “It was nice to look back,” Scott said. “Those memories are tough to duplicate. People move away, you just don’t have that same kind of bond. It was a house full of love.”