It can be seen on the faces of the six-year old youngsters. The will. The determination. The exertion. The happy faces.
Yes, that extreme joy, be it the smile on their faces or the wave to their parents — and in some cases — multiple family members.
Family members and friends who sit or stand in the assumed cold of a sardine-can rink like Soo Pee Wee Arena.
Soo Pee Wee Arena, a rink built decades ago via the sweat of volunteers who had a vision for the youth of their city.
An unassuming, yet well-kept arena on Northern Ave. in a northern Ontario town.
A rink where favourite native son Ron Francis donned the skates well before he played in the Ontario Hockey League with the Soo Greyhounds and well before he helped hoist Stanley Cup championship memories on the ice with the incomparable Mario Lemieux.
Yet, the Soo Pee Wee Hockey League is not set up with the sole purpose of developing the next Ron Francis. Rather, it continues to provide ice to countless Sault Ste. Marie youngsters and an aged, but clear view to their parents and family members.
When the old hockey writer visits a rink like the Soo Pee Wee Arena — as I often do — there is often a wave of nostalgia that hits.
As in who has played there before.
As in the number of times I have been there over the years.
And then I see the current crop of upcoming young hockey players, mere babes who not that long ago were in the arms of mom and dad.
Now they can skate. And shoot. And sometimes score.
Mostly, though, they have fun.
It is written all over their faces.
Happy faces that carry a bit of sweat. Happy sweat from Canada’s game.
There may not be another Ron Francis on the ice that holds this season’s edition of grassroots six year olds.
But so what.
Is the name of the game not fun?
Well, maybe not to all. But to some. Maybe even most.
The happy faces say it all.
PHOTO: Recent tyke division action at Soo Pee Wee Arena. (Photo by Allana Plaunt.)