While the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a long, dark shadow on everyone’s lives, one unexpected bright spot has been the weekly ‘Hockey Time Machine’ broadcasts featuring a host of former players, coaches, announcers, referees, trainers and team executives
The episodes are produced by long-time hockey researcher and author, Paul Patskou, and photographer Lora Evans and began when the pandemic forced everyone back inside their homes.
“Prior to the pandemic, we hosted an alumni luncheon the first Monday of every month with players from the 50s to the 70s,” said Patskou.
“Everybody looked forward to getting together. I would do a video presentation on one of the alumni, and we would have a special guest. The last one we did was in March 2020, with Dave Dryden and that was right after the Zamboni driver had to play goal and beat the Leafs, Dryden had performed a similar role in 1962, It was a great session. Then COVID came along and we weren’t able to get together after that. But we wanted to keep the group in contact because we’ve been losing some of the older guys lately. We started meeting on Zoom, just among our luncheon group and then one thing led to another and we started expanding it.”
The sessions became so popular that they soon outgrew their Zoom license, which limited them to 100 attendees. “We recently moved to StreamYard, which has worked out well,” says Patskou. “It allows unlimited numbers to watch and we were able to add vintage videos as well.”
Themes and topics are decided by Paul and a panel that includes Suzanne Primeau (granddaughter of “Gentleman Joe Primeau’), Dan Lancione, Wayne Gillespie and Bill Williams. Editor and frequent guest host Glenn Dreyfuss adds a professional touch to the final product.
Themes have included “Captains,” with Rick Vaive, Yvan Cournoyer and Scott Mellanby, “Hockey Night in Canada,” with Brian McFarlane, Dick Irvin, Bob Cole, Don Cherry, Ralph Mellanby and Scotty Bowman, “The 1994 Rangers,” with Mike Keenan, Nick Kypreos and Glenn Healy, “Indigenous Hockey” with Fred Sasakamoose, Reggie Leach, Ted Nolan and Theo Fleury and “The Summit Series” with Paul Henderson, Yvan Cournoyer, and Rod Seiling.
“Don Cherry is huge up here in Canada and Ralph Mellanby, who hired Don for Hockey Night in Canada, arranged the appearance. Stan Fischler has also been a great guest,” said Patskou.
“When you first approach some of the older guys, they say they don’t know the technology and would rather not do it,” said Patskou. But when Lora Evans and others help get them on, you can’t get them off. They love it. Dick Irvin, at first said no but then his daughter got him on, same thing with Bob Cole. Scotty Bowman and Brian McFarlane were first on as guests and now they’re regular audience members. They love to hear the old stories.
The first 90-minutes of each episode is structured with the host asking the guests about their careers or the topic of the night. The session then reverts to Zoom so the audience can interact with the guests and each other.
The audience is a mix of fans, former players, and other people in the hockey industry and is a tribute to Paul’s network of people he’s interacted with through the years.
But the real treat is for the fans who for the most part would not have the opportunity to hear the likes of Scotty Bowman, Brian McFarlane or Yvan Cournoyer tell their stories for 90 minutes. The format allows for an up close and personal view of the guests and makes you feel like you’re in an exclusive kind of club that allows you to rub elbows with some of your hockey heroes.
New episodes are steamed live on Thursday nights at 7pm on the Hockey Time Machine Youtube channel as well as the Hockey Time Machine Facebook page.
George Grimm is the author of two books about the New York Rangers: We Did Everything but Win, and Guardians of the Goal.