You had to take a physical when you immigrated to Canada in the mid 1960s and so it was that only hours after setting foot here Helena King was telling her husband Sam she was pregnant.
Helena was shocked. Sam was too. The two had just arrived, two children in tow, from Edinburgh. Sam has said more once that had they known another child was on the way they would given up on this wild adventure and stayed in the old country.
And what of the child?
“I tell people,” says former Maple Leaf Derek King, “that I was made in Scotland but born in Hamilton.”
One of two assistants to Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, King helped run the team’s first outdoor practice at Ivor Wynne Thursday as the team prepared for Saturday’s AHL Outdoor Classic against the Hamilton Bulldogs. Puck drop is 1 p.m.
King was skating a Danny McManus spiral from the chain link fence he used to hop for Tiger-Cat games. The Cats were often competitive in those days but they lacked speed among the security guards so King and his friends from the East End routinely got in for free.
The Tiger-Cats fortunes have long been dismal but there has been no news of leaner security forces so we can assume local kids are getting their CFL fix pretty well the same way King did.
King will be among the Leafs alumni playing the Montreal Canadiens oldtimers Friday night and then take his place behind the bench Saturday.
He is a Hamilton guy. His dad commuted to Oakville and spent 35 years working at Ford. Helena worked at the old Robinson’s Department store on Queenston Road.
“This reminds me of being a kid and playing at the Parkdale rink,” King said as he leaned against the boards at Ivor Wynne. “The parents would come out and shovel the snow off so the kids could resume the game.”
His is the immigrant’s story. Parents worked hard. Hockey kept King off the streets and gave him a wildly lucrative living.
He spent most of his career with the New York Islanders but King would play 161 games with the Maple Leafs and record 47 goals and 98 points in the late 1990s. For good measure, he scored the last Leafs’ goal at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Like pretty well every Hamiltonian including me, King knows there is little point trying to convince Torontonians who have only seen Hamilton from the Skyway Bridge that the city is home to glorious nature and livable neighborhoods.
It will always be home for the Kings. Helena was taken by cancer when she was in her early fifties. With Derek in Toronto after years in Scottsdale, only the QEW separates Sam from his grandkids.
“You remember where you come from when you’re from Hamilton,” said Derek King “and you appreciate what you have.”