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Re: [CCTHF] Table Hockey Video: ISO Your Short Story or Photos

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  • Robert Meer
    Greg, I am so very sorry I didn t get to this sooner. Here are comments and stories. I didn t start out as an avid hockey fan, but living in Montreal, it
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 19, 2011
    Greg, I am so very sorry I didn't get to this sooner.  Here are comments and stories.

    I didn't start out as an avid hockey fan, but living in Montreal, it osmoses into your very being.  I remember meeting Rocket Richard in 1963 at my synagogue's Father and Son banquet, and at that point, I started reading the paper, listening on the radio, and collecting the Sherriff's Tea hockey coins made of a plastic circle with an inset photo.

    I grew up close with three male cousins (there were many others but these were my age, two, and three years younger).  In their basement where we spent most of our time, was an old Eagle game with the spinning players and a marble.  We played it but after a while it wasn't very interesting as a game.  In 1965, I received my first table hockey game as a birthday present.  It was the Eagle "Hockey Night in Canada" game, which featured the goal lights, green-tinted wraparound glass, and the backboard with the fans in the stands, along with the scoreboard.  I played that game for over eight years and thought I was really good.  None of my other friends really played table hockey, although we played shinney in the snow covered streets, or in the rink next to school.  So I played mostly with the youngest of the three cousins when we got older.  One day, their board got ruined, so I asked if I could take the metal men.  I went home and painted the white uniforms on them so I could vary the traditional red Montreal vs. blue Maple Leafs.

    I discovered that, after expansion in 1967, that the Eagle factory was down by the docks and you could go there to buy parts and accessories.  I picked up a set of expansion teams, in the plastic case that is hard to find intact.  For the next few years, I created shortened schedules so I could play a season with whomever came over to play, and then playoffs after that.  I won most games so I had to randomly pick the team I would be to keep things fair(er).  Later, I bought two more six-team sets and began painting my white uniforms, all of which I still have.

    In 1973, I found out about a table hockey tournament on the Loyola University campus.  My playing partner cousin, Ron, and I went.  This was the first time I had ever seen the Coleco 5380, and we both got clobbered during the 10-game round robin. The next week, we bought ourselves that game and played mostly on that.  The following year, we went again, accompanied by a non-playing cousin and my girlfriend.  I had no expectations this time, but I smashed my way through the preliminaries, including a 10-0 win over a rookie player that was the worst beating recorded that day.  My cousin Ron was doing well also and we both advanced.  Ron had a friend who had a twin brother and they also played, although I had never played them.  As an  aside, during one of my playoff games, I was playing a guy from Chicago and tied him late.  We went to overtime and I scored.  I jumped up and went around to shake his hand but he wouldn't take it.  Apparently, it was not a sudden-death overtime, and despite my faux-pas, I still won.  So now the semis are taking place - me versus Ron's friend, and Ron versus the friend's brother.  Sadly, Ron lost but I won, so I would now be facing his friend's brother (Michael).  They had been wearing identical T-shirts which read "You might beat one of us but you can't beat both".  It was effective as they also plowed through the competition.  Anyway, we fought our way to the third game of the best of three.  I took a one-goal lead into the third period and then somehow collapsed.  I was very disappointed, but surprised at having come so far in one year.  I don't know if they ever held another one there, but going into my last year at McGill, I didn't have the same time to play, and I had taken an apartment, leaving the games at home.  My girlfriend was getting quite bored and upset with our "date" since I kept winning.  I felt bad about making her suffer so much being there with nothing to do, so I asked my other cousin to take her home.  I sure as hell wasn't going to miss a chance at glory!

    So in 1978, I met Ajit Sarma when we were both trainees at IBM.  As he puts it, he was always beating his friend and figured he was hot stuff.  The first time I came over to his place, I cleaned his clock.  We have been close friends ever since, with thousands of games and Stanley Cup series under our belts.  Although Ron and I used to discuss improvements to the Eagle game, such as creating another set of stands for the other side of the Eagle game for a truer stadium feel, it was with Ajit that the discussions became more intense and broader in scope, finally leading to results.

    We talked about rules, and the limitations of the Coleco board, among other things.  We came up with various rules regarding the dead spot behind the goal, eventually settling on the 5-second rule for clearing and the permission to move the puck when it could not be reached.  We talked about wraparound glass to keep the puck in play and I eventually found the right thickness of plexi (Lexan).  I cut it six inches high and cut the length so that you could fit the edges together and tape them in place.  Then we decided that putting the edges at center ice interfered with the standard puck -dropper as well as the players' ability to move the puck and slide it along the boards, so we moved the edges to behind the net.  Ajit came up with the idea of putting Velcro behind the net to better secure the glass, and avid the use of tape which might peel off the paint.  Finally, we had a cleanly working system. 

    We talked about the problem of the defencemen and how awkward it was to get them back quickly to play the puck.  AJ thought we could widen the holes for the defense rods, making them into slots.  After some trial (and error) we found the right length and direction to do the widening, which made playing the puck down low and behind the net easier and smoother.  Early on, we decided 5-minute games were better than three 5-minute periods or ten-minute games, and so stuck to that decision, which proved to be a common one among all leagues and game types.  We also favored face-off goals since having a puck dropper made face-offs fair no matter where the puck landed (as long as it was somewhere in the circle and not the same general area all the time).  All face-offs would be held there for goals and for pucks flying out.  We felt that face-offs anywhere else would be unfair, and frankly, we never considered face-offs elsewhere until we met people who would do that.  We implemented a freeze rule for pucks that the center couldn't reach.  Before that, on the Eagle and Coleco, I would use the goalie to move the puck out, and it seems as though both Ron, Ajit, and I played a "gentleman's" game of hockey:  We never shook the board (on purpose), never bent the rods to bend the board, gave each other the puck when it was dead behind the goal (before the current rules), and never hassled the goalie when he was moving the puck out of the goal area.  Meeting other payers required us to decide upon new "rules of engagement".

    In 2000, several things happened:  I discovered EBay and the fact that you could get games and players; and I made an effort to locate other TH players in the LA area.  After many buy and sell transactions over the next three years, I accumulated three great 5380s, and near complete sets of metal and solid white plastic men.  I hated the "Swiss Cheese" players that were so often cracked or broken.  Over the years, we had talked about the problem of board sag and how it ruined the game play.  One day, I said "enough" and took some 2x6 pieces of wood and built the first of two levellers.  I later referred to it as the Franken-leveller for its "beauty".  Later I learned about other methods (screws through a slat of wood, etc.) and Ajit came up with the beauty that is today's standard.  Mine was heavy and needed to be cut right.  Ajit used 1x4 which was lighter and easier to transport.  Yes, we also had to resort to putting pennies, dimes, or paper under some of the supports to make them higher, but the old games' performance was made as good as new.  In 2001 after meeting the first three of the 6 Southern Californians players we have met, I held a Coleco mini-tournament at my house.  It was great fun and won by Larry Thompson, a hobby shop owner and hockey enthusiast.  Although it was his only win, Larry is still an esteemed member of the SCTHA.  One of those three, Todd Kroeze, and his brother Jeff, told us about a rule he had.  He hated bank shot goals because they "weren't hockey".  Ajit and I came up with a comprehensive set of rules and conditions that disallowed the bank shot goal.  It has been a staple in all our tournaments, and is known as the Todd Kroeze rule.  Sadly, within two years, Todd was dead from a blood disease, but his legacy lives on.

    I continued my pleasure at painting teams despite the natural deterioration of eyesight that comes with age, and the loss of steadiness.  Actually, time is the main preventer, but in summer, with the family all out of town is when I start up and try to decide which teams
    to paint.  EBayers have not been particularly motivated to spend big money for my efforts, so I decided to paint for myself and Ajit and sell any spares.  I also dumped a load of metal men whose condition was poor and would lend itself to painting, so now I only have decent players that I would put "on the ice" and not worry about them scratching the boards. 

    Side note, although I won the Coleco Classic Cup once, it was not at Las Vegas, where I have been to the finals three times and lost all three:  Dan Lord, Lou Marinoff, and Ajit Sarma in a surprise upset. 

    Since I had no brothers or sisters, table hockey was only played weekends during the school year, and summers, especially after we all could drive.  Now, with age and the realization I probably won't be playing ice hockey again (thank God my local team won two league championships so I know what it is like to be a winner), table hockey is my "sport".  I won't get started on Stiga - I tried it and found it frustrating , but I know many people love it.  For me, the Coleco 5380 is the best design, symmetric and fair to righties or lefties (apart from the location of the center's rod).  Ajit has made other contributions and design mods to the board (his puck-dropper and the puck catcher under the board) but that must be his story to tell.

    I guess I got carried away and I don't know what parts you may want to use, but I have never seen any other painted metal men, so I could send photos of them.  I have attached one, but I haven't updated the photo for many years and the collection has grown.

    Rob Meer
    On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 8:16 PM, Sabre <sabre_in_virginia@...> wrote:

    I am am producing a video about table hockey. It will be set on a personal level. I would like from you:

    * some of your childhood photos of you playing table hockey
    * items in the background, i.e. period pieces (furniture, lamps, clothing, or even music you recall) from the 1950s, 1960s, etc, are encouraged

    * short emotive story
    -- playing TH with your dad, brother, sister, friends
    -- the game itself

    * TH "characters" you've met along the way

    From everyone's detailed submission, we will try to summarize capturing the essence in each story board. For example, I am sure many of us have an experience involving Christmas morning. So, Christmas morning would likely serve as the background to one story board. Your individual stories will help create the foreground.

    I know some of you posted stories here, e.g. Len, so you'd know the keywords to use doing a search of past messages posted so you don't have to write from scratch.

    Getting your items to me: you can either post here or contact me by email at sabre_in_virginia at yahoo dot com.

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