There Really Is A Joe Hockey

- November 16th, 2013

 

Unlike the rest of Toronto — the rest of the world, it seems — I’m sick and tired of the Rob Ford vomiturition. So I’m moving on to other things. For a few days, anyway. Here goes:

 

Move over, Gordie Howe. There’s a new Mr. Hockey in town.

 

Actually he’s not in town — he’s on the other side of the world. And he’s not so new  — the “new” Mr. Hockey’s been around almost as long as legendary No. 9 of the Detroit Red Wings has been called “Mr. Hockey.”

 

But, yes, there is a real Joe Hockey. Here’s what he looks like.

 

Joe_Hockey_Treasurer

 

Unfortunately, Joe Hockey’s sport is rugby.

 

That probably has something to do with the fact that Joe Hockey was born and raised in Australia. (Mr. Hockey plays Rugby Union rugby not Aussie Rules rugby, but no matter.)

 

In fact, Joe Hockey is currently Treasurer of Australia in the Liberal-National coalition government elected in September.

 

I’m sure Gordie Howe will be glad to know the other Mr. Hockey seems like a good guy, a regular guy, although he has been a professional politician for a couple of decades. He’s certainly been known to get his elbows up in the corners in a political fight and he’s got the scars to prove his grit on the rugby pitch.

 

hockey-rugby

Joe Hockey is, in fact, a loosehead prop. Really. That’s not a derogatory term like “wingnut.” A loosehead prop is in the front line of the rugby scrum, immediately to the left of the hooker. He’s usually one of the strongest players on the team because it’s his job to push back and disrupt the opposing players in front of him while withstanding the pressure of his own team mates pushing from behind, “propping up” the hooker and giving him a chance to win the ball. So if anyone ever calls you a loosehead prop, take it as a compliment. I think. If I’m wrong on any of this, I’m sure the rugby wingnuts and loosehead props out there will let me know.

 

But back to hockey. Joe Hockey, that is.

 

Joseph Benedict Hockey was born in 1965 in North Sydney, New South Wales, on the south-east coast of Australia, the part known as the Central Coast, south of the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

 

As you know, Australia is all about the coastline: Everything else is an enormous expanse of sheep and sun-baked nothingness that you Australians have given names like the Great Victoria Desert and the Great Sandy Desert — a bit of a redundancy, don’t you think, like saying “the Great Watery Sea?” — and the Simpson Desert and the Gibson Desert.

australia-government-map

 

Only joking, Australia. I know you have a big sacred rock somewhere out in the middle of all that nothingness and your national capital, Canberra, is 150 km inland, up in the mountains around Bimberi Peak and Mount Mugga Mugga near Lake Ginniderra and Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Burley Griffin. Everything else is “beyond the black stump,” of course.

 

And you do have kangaroos and wallabies — which is sort of like saying “hares and  rabbits” (which you apparently hate but can’t get rid of) — and platypussies and kookaburras sitting in old gum trees. And those nasty dingos. And enormous snakes. And venomous, two-kilo cane toads. And crocodiles and sharks, of course. Did I mention the killer jellyfish, the scorpions and the giant rats?

 

And you make some pretty good wines, as long as you like your reds heavy and overbearing — the ones I can afford to drink, anyway. And you’ve never made a white approaching the glorious heights of a good New Zealand Marlborough sauvignon blanc, at least not in my experience. You do, however, make a couple of half-decent beers, so it’s said. And you have as many ways of saying “drunk” as an Inuit has of saying “snow.”

aussiesheila

A supposedly typical Sheila above and a most untypical Sheila below — Sheila Scotter, founding editor of Vogue Australia.

Sheila-Scotter

All your women are apparently named Sheila — except the one named Alice Springs and the one named Barbie that you’re always pelting with shrimp. And all your men are sailors — they must be since they constantly call each other “mate.” And you’ve nicknamed about 20 entirely different things “blue” or “bluey,” which is a bit confusing and a bodgy dodge, if you ask me. Fair dinkum, mate.

australia-barbie

And you’re a bunch of rich bastards (“bastard” is a term of endearment in Australia, I’m told — but you try it out first and we’ll see how it goes). You’re the second richest bunch of bastards in the world, I hear, right after the Swiss. The average Australian is richer than the average American or Canadian by most measures — you’ve duxed the world, in fact. Bastards. And I mean that in the most endearing way. On the upside-down side (from my point of view here on the upright part of the world), your housing prices are astronomically high and everything in stores costs a lot more except for maybe wine and mutton. A six-pack of decent beer, for example, can cost anywhere between $15 and $25 (the Australian and Canadian dollar are almost at par). But you’ve still probably earned the right to call yourselves “The Lucky Country.” Bastards.

 

But enough with the earbashing and ratbagging.

 

Let’s get back to hockey. Joe Hockey, that is.

 

 

So Joe Hockey, the youngest of four children, was born in North Sydney in the mid-’60s to an immigrant shopkeeper father and an Australian-born fashion-model mother.

 

His father, Richard Hockey, ran a corner delicatessen, which he opened a few years after arriving in Australia in 1948. Before that, Richard had served in the British Army at the tail end of World War II and before that he was born in Bethlehem. What? Born in Bethlehem? Yep, perhaps not in a manger, not in a stable, but definitely in the little town of Bethlehem in 1927 in what was then known as the British Mandate of/for/in Palestine.

 

The family name was not then Hockey, of course. What, you’re disappointed? You thought maybe the family name went back thousands of years to the ancient Hockey clan of Babylon?

 

Nope, back in 1927 when Richard, son of Joseph (really), was born in the little town of Bethlehem, the family was named Hokeidonian and they were Christian Armenians.

 

“My grandfather, Joseph Hokeidonian,” Joe Hockey said a few ago, “was sent by the Catholic Church in Jerusalem to go to Palestine as a spy.”

 

That would be as a spy against the Ottoman Turks during World War I, service which cost grandfather Joseph an eye but earned him the gratitude of the British, who took over Palestine from the Turks in 1918 and made Joseph the deputy town clerk of Beersheba for a while.

 

Anyway, Bethlehem-born Richard Hokeidonian served, in his turn, in the British Army in the last days of World War II and for a while thereafter (without losing any body parts) and then headed for his new life with a delicatessen, a fashion-model wife and four kids in Australia.

 

joe-hockey-with-dad-Richard-Hockey

Joe Hockey with his dad, Richard Hockey.

 

If this story was set in the Ewe-Ess-of-Eh, for example, (and happened 100 years earlier) a bull-necked immigration official at Ellis Island would probably have sputtered his chowder over the name Hokeidonian and said, “I can’t pronounce that! You’re in America now, bub — you will henceforth be known as Dick Hockey. Here’s your paperwork. Next!”

 

But Richard Hokeidonian went to Australian instead, at the general invitation of Labour PM Joseph Benedict Chifley (after whom Joe Hockey is partly named) who was pushing large-scale post-war immigration to populate his vast, underpopulated country.

 

And nobody official cared what Richard Hokeidonian’s name was as long as he was willing to work hard and make Australians the second-richest (on average) bunch of bastards in the world. Nobody cared except Richard Hokeidonian, that is. He wanted to fit in and give his children a fighting chance in sun-blasted Australian society, so he changed the Hokeidonian name to the easier-for-an-Aussie-to-handle “Hockey.”

 

(If the family name had been Rugbenian, Joe Hockey would probably have ended up being christened “Joe Rugby.” Such are the vagaries of life.)

 

The Hockey name is not, sadly,  a tribute to “real” hockey. It refers to that strange game played with leprechaun sticks on grass which we in Canada refer to (with an appropriately dismissive sneer) as “field hockey.” Unfortunately, millions more people play field hockey than play real hockey in Australia, so Joe Hockey was named after the leprechaun-stick game, not the sport of King Clancys.

 

Ashleigh-Nielsen

Ashleigh Nelson, above, and Anna Flanagan, below, of the Australian national women’s (field) hockey team, the Hockeyroos.

Australian-hockey-anna-flanagan

 

 

Australians call real hockey “ice” hockey — which is about as redundant (to a Canadian) as calling a desert “the Great Sandy Desert.” But Australians like to repeat things. Mugga Mugga. Woop Woop.

Australians do, in fact, play “real” hockey — in their thousands, if not their millions. And they’ve been playing it for more than a century.

Ice_Hockey_Australia_Logo

The sport’s governing body, Ice Hockey Australia, was formed in 1908 as the Australian Ice Hockey Federation, making it one of the oldest (ice) hockey national bodies in the world. And Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney all had artificial rinks before World War I.

There are now Olympic-size indoor rinks in most Australian metropoli and there’s even a semi-pro circuit, the Australian Ice Hockey League (there they go again with that redundancy), with eight teams representing all the major cities (Melbourne and Sydney each have two teams, actually).

Jeff-Marten-AIHL_MVP_2013

Jeff Martens of Maple Ridge, B.C., playing for the Newcastle North Stars, was the AIHL MVP for 2013.

ICE-V-STANGS-Aaron-image

Some players in the AIHL have had a cup of coffee in the NHL. A few have had more than a cup: Rob Zamuner ended his pro career playing part of the 2006 season for the Brisbane Blue Tongues (a team and a name which are, alas, no more) after playing about 800 games in 13 NHL seasons and another couple of seasons in Europe.

Since Australians monkey around with the rules for every sport with which they come in contact (see Aussie Rules football), they have, of course, also messed with hockey (sorry, ice hockey): An AIHL game consists of two 15-minutes periods and a 20-minute third period. Why? Who knows. It’s Australia, mate.

Then there’s another oddity based in Sydney called the Australian International Ice Hockey Cup which, for its 2014 round-robin schedule, will pit the Canadian Maples against the U.S.A. Eagles and the Central Coast Rhinos (Australian and European players). There were five teams in 2011 with two Australian entries and two Canadian teams — the Montreal Maples and the Toronto Moose — but that had dwindled down to two teams, the amalgamated Canadian Maples and U.S.A. Eagles, for 2013. (Canada won the cup, by the way, after losing to the Eagles in 2012 and 2011.) So three teams for 2014 is a revival of sorts.

2012-AIIHC-logos

(Actually I don’t know where the hell the Central Coast Rhinos really fit in. Sometimes they seem to be in the AIHL and sometimes they’re playing for the AIIHC. I guess if you’re a rhino you can horn in wherever you want. It’s Australia, mate.)

There’s also something called International Ice Hockey Australia — not to be confused with the aforementioned Australian International Ice Hockey Cup group — which will bring in two teams of North American pros (NHL, AHL, ECHL, etc.) for a series of exhibition games in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney next July (winter in Australia). The players on the tour are billed as “ice hockey superstars” but the Canadian team captain is Kyle Quincey of the Detroit Red Wings and the American team captain is Zenon Konopka of the Minnesota Wild. Quincey has won a Stanley Cup and Konopka is a tough guy who has a rabbit for a pet but we’ll see how many “superstars” show up. On the other hand, Keith Primeau is the head coach of the Canadian side, so who knows. It’s the second year for this gig, by the way.

An Australian even has a shot at playing in the NHL. That would be 19-year-old Nathan Walker, who  was invited to training camp by the Washington Capitals this year. He didn’t make the big team but is now playing for the Caps’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Apparently Washington wanted to sign him but couldn’t because he had played in Europe last year and is under 20 — something called the “Tomas Hyka Rule.”

Walker did, however, made hockey history of a sort last month by becoming the first Australian player to score a goal in the AHL in a 4-2 Hershey win over Norfolk. He also got into his first pro fight in that game, which is probably another Australian/AHL first. Historic, I tell ya.

Australia-1960-Olympic-team

The one and only Australian Olympic (ice) hockey team in action in 1960.

Speaking of historic, an Australian (ice) hockey team even competed in the Olympics — once, in 1960 at Squaw Valley. The Aussies came ninth in the nine-country competition that year and were outscored 83-10, by my count, in the six games they played.

An Australian hockey team had tried to enter the 1956 Winter Olympics (even offering to pay their own way) but Australian Olympic officials neglected to fill out the right forms and the team was disqualified from competition.

That’s the way it goes when you’re trying to play a nordic game in a mainly tropical (or desert-y) country.

But what about the other hockey — Australia’s Mr. Hockey?

 

Joe_Hockey_angry

 

As I mentioned before, Joe Hockey is the Treasurer of Australia — a pretty big deal.

 

He seems to be a mix of jolly giant and cutthroat buccaneer.

 

In Australia, he’s more often known as Big Joe or Smokin’ Joe than Mr. Hockey.

 

He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a children’s charity.

 

He’s married to an investment banker and they have three children.

 

He’s an animal lover: He once stopped rush-hour traffic on Sydney’s busy Harbour Bridge to rescue a kitten he later named Bridge-it.

joe-hockey-tutu

In 2010, he donned a tutu and lip-synched ABBA’s Dancing Queen for a TV game show.

 

He’s a semi-practising Catholic (“I pop into church irregularly and say G’day to God”) but he also supports women’s abortion rights.

 

He has been called “the most popular man in federal (Australian) politics” and is often cited as a future prime minister.

 

But as Treasurer, he was also accused last week of reckless political brinksmanship for threatening to “stare down” the Labour opposition in a debt-ceiling battle that could end in a U.S.-style shutdown of the Australian government sometime in December.

 

And as Treasurer, it’s his call on whether major foreign investments — i.e. takeovers — in Australia are approved or rejected to protect national interests.

 

He’s currently on the hot seat over a $3.4-billion bid by U.S. food giant Archer Daniels Midland to buy Graincorp, Australia’s largest agri-business. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, coalition partner Warren Truss and many other members of the Liberal-National coalition government are opposed to the takeover but Joe Hockey has said he will not be “bullied” in making his decision, which is due over the weekend. next few weeks.

(Wow, imagine a federal cabinet minister not being given — and taking — his marching orders by/from an all-powerful PM. What a concept.

(By the way, Australia doesn’t really have a “Liberal” party as we know it in Canada. Australia’s got a right-centre coalition of  the Liberal Party and National Party — which have been forming coalition governments under varying names since before Gordie Howe was born — and a left-centre Labour Party which is basically the same as Canada’s NDP topped up by people who would be left-of-centre Liberals in Canada.)

 

In a similar case involving Canada, Joe Hockey last week backed the $450-million takeover of Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, Australia’s oldest dairy company, by Montreal-based Saputo Inc.

 

So there you have it: There is a real Joe Hockey, he lives in Australia and he’s a busy, important man.

 

Which may explain why Joe Hockey is snubbing me and — much more importantly — snubbing Gordie Howe.

Gordie-Howe

About 10 days ago, around the time I first learned a guy named Joe Hockey actually existed somewhere in the world, I sent the Treasurer of Australia an e-mail asking him if he had ever seen a real hockey game, either in Australia or Canada. And I asked him — just as a matter of Commonwealth fraternity and solidarity, from one Mr. Hockey to another — to pass on belated 85th birthday greetings to Gordie Howe.

 

A few days later I got a reply from Joe Hockey’s “media adviser” saying he didn’t know “if he’s done the ice hockey thing” but would try to get an answer from the horse’s mouth. And he mentioned that people from Canada are constantly trying to buy the rights to his boss’s website address — www.joehockey.com (“It’s not for sale!!”).

 

I’m sure Joe Hockey has been to (ice) hockey games in Australia. He’s a politician named Joe Hockey, after all — how is he not going to show up at AIHL games and wave to the crowd/voters? But I also know that Joe Hockey was part of an Australian parliamentary delegation that visited Canada and the U.S. in February and March 2000 — so I really was wondering if he got to see “real” (i.e. NHL) hockey during that trip.

 

And I really did want him to tip the hat to Gordie Howe, the “real” Mr. Hockey.

mr-hockey-new-logo

But I’m still waiting. Either the media adviser isn’t very good at his job or Joe Hockey is too big for his britches and considers piddling things like the fiscal shutdown of the Australian government and takeovers of his country’s biggest grain distributor to be somehow more important than answering my questions and giving a shout-out to Gordie Howe.

 

Joe-from-Australia may get back to us at some point, but it doesn’t really matter: This world is only big enough for one Mr. Hockey — and the real Mr. Hockey will always be Gordie Howe.

 

gordie-howe-09

 

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(There is a real Joe Canada too, by the way — but he’s American. The real Joe Canada is a retired judge living in Virginia. That’s another story for another time.)

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