EZ: Tell me how you started in the game of Street Hockey
Chris: Well, I grew up in Niagara Falls Canada , you wake up with hockey and then go to bed with the game. It became part of me. My father ( Robert Housser ) drove bus for the St Catharine Tee Pees during the 50's, they were Chicago Black Hawks Junior farm team and then in the 60' he drove the Niagara Fall Flyers, the Bruins farm team. I went on as many trips as I could starting when I was 4 years old, got the bug, as I got older helped as stick boy or just be a fan at a game with my dad. I met some great players over the years, some became friends to this day, but mostly inspired me and lit a fire to play. Some of the players Ron Schock, Bill Goldworthy, Fred Stanfield, Marcel Dionne, Gilles Marotte, Derek Sanderson, Doug Favell and Jim Bedard to name a few.
EZ: How did this all begin?
Chris: In 1972 a friend of mine Joe Murray got hold of the Hockey News and showed me an article about this place in Leominster, Massachusetts that was playing organized Street Hockey, with refs, scoreboard, in a special rink and also had a great team. Joe and I thought we had a good team too, so we got hold of Ray Leclerc who owned MYLEC, which then started a conversation about our team coming to Leominster and challenging their top team. Street Hockey got a big jump when Mr LeClerc created the No Bounce Orange Ball, before that it was a tennis ball and no one could really have a good game. His vision and development of rules and equipment launched the game as we see it today.
EZ: What was the result of you meeting Mr Leclerc
Chris: Well we started talking, and set up the first International Championships for Street Hockey, in June of 1972. Joe and I started putting a team together ( Niagara Falls Griffins) with guys we knew and then got some training from Ron Schock who was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, next raised some money to travel and we were on our way. Thankfully I got a lot of help, Ron and I worked at the Whirlpool Golf Course together and he helped us train and get ready for rink play. We arrived in Leominster with 10 players, I actually thought we had too many at the time. Goalie Joe Miller, on Defence Camillo Pettinato, Gilles Hurtubise, Bruce Murray and Pierre Sonier. Then up front was me, Dave Guitar, Joe Murray, Jim Cappa and John Barton. When we arrived at the rink, the place was packed with people, it was like "Field of Dreams" and the team we were going to play was big and sprinkled with ex junior and pro players. There was a point we thought "what are we doing here".
EZ: Did your team win?
Chris: We were a bit nervous at first, until the ball was dropped. We were going to play contact/checking in the defensive zone so that was a curve, we never played contact Street Hockey on the road. Dave Guitar scored from center rink, 7 seconds into the game and we never looked back. The first game was 9 to 1. The next day we played again and we really put on a show, winning 13 to 1. The contact did not bother us, we had some Ice Hockey experience, Bruce Murray and Pierre Sonier were half backs in football and did more hitting than the other team. The games were really exciting for us and the people of Leominster welcomed and treated us great. We were a small team and truly showed size did not matter but speed and passing did. This exchange started the International Tournament and our team travelling to Leominster over the next few years.
EZ: How did you end up in Leominster for the past 35 years.
Chris: Mr Leclerc had built the Dekhockey Center in Leominster in the spring of 1974, it was kind of magical for a new sport, we were exchanging ideas and he invited me to come and work for 10 weeks. I was attending school at Brock University in St Catherines and as soon as classes ended, I drove to Leominster, started training, refereeing, coaching a youth team and a adult club and of course playing all while working as an assistant Rink Manager.
Mr Leclerc changed managers a few times and I agreed to stay, help for the Fall 1974 season, eventually never left. I knew Leominster Dekhockey was built as a model for other communities to duplicate as a commercial business or for the recreation departments to launch Street Hockey programs. This concept and other ideas Mr Leclerc had, really captured me. With my passion for hockey I thought this would be a great adventure I did not realize how long it would last.
EZ: It is now 35 years later how do see the place today.
Chris: Well LDHC is still here, it certainly has served its purpose, it is imbedded in the community, kind of of an icon in the area. The local leagues still serve thousands or kids and adults. The US Nationals are played in Leominster each year. LDHC was built originally as model to inspire others to organize the game. The center has hosted to tens of thousands of players over the years. The place also has helped launch other communities and business's to try and duplicate the game and style of rinks. Overall it has been a great place to play and a huge value to the commmunity for all the kids and adults.
EZ: 1972 was the 1st Internationals and then you last played in Germany 2007 with Team USA can you tell me about some of the players you played with.
Chris: The list is very long, with many great players, we won plenty of championships together. Dave Guitar was a great winger, fast, fantastic shot, and could stick handle and pass through traffic. If you had Dave on your team your chances of winning doubled maybe tripled. Dave scored the 1st goal ever in the Internationals just 7 seconds into the game. Think of it this way, the Rams won the US Nationals in 1976 Dave scored the winning goal, in Overtime,. Then a month later won the Internationals against our old teammates, NF Orr's Healers in OT. We travelled to New Jersey in July and won the final 9-8 in OT and guess who scored...Dave. So the Rams got a great start with a true star.
This could take some time, but in goal the best goalie ever no doubt is Rick Breau, he still puts up great numbers and look he has won close to 80 tournaments with the Rams. No one will come close to his awards won, not counting how many times he stole a game and won it for his team. The best goalie I ever played against was Seahwawks Kevin Willis, he was awesome and hard to beat, played goal the opposite hand so it messed up shooters if they did not pay attention. Just look at the Seahawks National and Can Am wins and his name is MVG almost every time.
EZ: How about other players
Chris: On defence Bruce Murray was a great Ball Hockey and Street Hockey player, I played with and against him, blazing speed, pin point passer and tough. I do not know any player who liked to play against him. While on the subject of defence, Seahawks Dan Broderick is right there too, different kind of player though, same style as a Doug Harvey or in this age Rob Blake. Dan also ran his team, still does, so playing great and running your team has its problems.