THIS IS A HAPPY STORY. It’s the story of a lot of all‑American boys from Canada and a Jewish vegetable hustler from Washington and Kate Smith and Ed Van Impe’s jockstrap. This is a story of fire on ice and a lot of the people who struck a match along the way to help heat this town to hockey fever. But mostly this is the story of Ed Van Impe’s jockstrap.
That’s how hockey hungry the people who follow the Flyers in Philadelphia have become.
Frank Lewis is the trainer. He is also equipment manager, traveling pharmacist and official blade sharpener. Frank Lewis has been around hockey for a long time here. He used to be trainer for the Ramblers, who used to play at the Arena and were the forerunners of either professional hockey or the roller derby. Frank Lewis has come a long way to become trainer of one of the fastest rising teams in the National Hockey League.
It’s Sunday night, and down on the white glaze of the Spectrum, the Flyers are putting it to the Pittsburgh Penguins, while up in the stands, 14,620 people are yelling and screaming and jumping up and down. One of the calmer ones is Frank Lewis’s wife. When you live as much hockey as she does, you get to take certain things in stride.
It’s between the first and second periods when most of the people in the crowd have headed out to the refreshment stands to cool themselves off from the heat of a continuing flow of emotional orgasms. Helen Lewis sits back in her seat to enjoy 15 minutes of open air, interrupted only by the casual conversation of the well-appointed, middle-aged, maybe matronly lady next to her.
“Your husband sure must do a lot of housework for the Flyers,” the lady said, “keeping those uniforms so clean and everything.”
“I ought to give him some of my laundry,” Helen Lewis said. “The team’s got better equipment than we do at home. I haven’t even gotten around to buying an automatic dryer yet.”
“Well, my dear,” said the lady, “don’t look any further. I’ve got an old one in perfect condition that I was just about to get rid of. If you want it, it’s yours. I’ll send my car around to drop it off.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that,” Helen Lewis said. “Please let me pay you.”
“Well, there is one thing you could do for me.” “Sure, anything.”
“Well, your husband is very close to the players and he handles all their equipment, right?”
“Well, do you think he could get me a particular piece of equipment?”
“It might be a little hard, but I’ll ask him. Just what were you after?”
“Ed Van Impe’s jockstrap.”
Helen Lewis tried to keep a straight face. After the game she took her newfound friend down to the locker room area where she flagged down her husband, pulled him over to the side and told him the story. Frank Lewis didn’t bat an eye.
“Ask her if she wants the inner one or the outer one,” he said.
Helen Lewis carried out the orders. Her friend said she’d prefer the inner one.
“Wait here,” Frank Lewis said as he went into the dressing room. “Van Impe,” he yelled, “I need your jock.” “Why?” asked the Flyers captain.
“Don’t ask questions, just give me the damn thing.”
Van Impe threw the supporter over and Frank Lewis put it in a plain wrapper and brought it out to the well-appointed lady.
“Oh, thank you so much,” she said. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“Don’t thank me,” Frank Lewis said, “thank Van Impe. What a great guy. He’d give you the shirt off his back.” Read the rest of this entry »