Daily Hab-it: Sam Jam 8
By Arpon Basu
Published Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:22AM EDT
Sam Lazarus is someone who inspires me every day. If you were fortunate enough to know him, he would have inspired you as well.
The pristine goodness of Sam's heart was something I envied and learned a great deal from. It saddens me that more people did not get a chance to benefit from it as I did.
Sam died in 2004 at the age of 25 while working with children in Ghana when he caught a lethal strain of malaria, a tragedy that affected me in ways I could never begin to describe.
Among his many traits, Sam was as loyal a Canadiens fan as I ever knew. The team, in his eyes, could do no wrong. When they lost, there was a reasonable explanation. When they won, well, he had told you so.
Every year since his death, Sam's family has organized the Five-Hole Sam's Street Hockey Jamboree – an annual street hockey tournament that we affectionately call the Sam Jam.
Sam and his older brother Riel were the driving forces behind our weekly street hockey games in the parking lot behind Royal West Academy in Montreal West.
They would gather the nets, make the phone calls to wake all us lazyheads up and basically do everything necessary to make sure the game was on.
Sam was a goalie, and a formidable one at that. If you had your stick thrown towards Sam's net when the teams were divided up, you knew you had an excellent chance of winning.
His lone weakness was, well, the official name of the tournament should make it plain. But if it doesn't, Riel's words will in this excerpt from "The Legend of 5-Hole Sam."
"Born of the streets, and not of the ice, Sam's virtuosic abilities were entirely self-taught, if not unorthodox. The playful moniker of ‘Five-Hole' was handed to him early in his career, on account of his lone weakness in goal: a large, gaping cavity between his legs, where balls gently rolled, unimpeded, to the back of the net.
Despite this singular failing, Sam could stymie his foes with sheer determination. In order to save even the simplest of shots, he would often resort to the most dramatic means at his disposal. Arms a-flailing, legs akimbo, torso twisted in dubious contortions—these were the wily wares of Five-Hole Sam."
I am telling you this story today for a reason, and that is to ask for your help.
Over the first seven editions of the Sam Jam we have raised $133,000 to send 36 under-privileged children to the YMCA's Camp Kanawana, a wooded oasis in St-Sauveur-des-Monts that held a special place in Sam's heart, as it does in mine.
The kids have mainly come from Montreal, but last year five children who had just moved here from Haiti after the earthquake left them homeless were able to further integrate themselves into Canadian society by spending two weeks at camp. In any case, no matter where they come from, the kids are given an opportunity to simply be kids and breathe in some fresh country air.
This year's Sam Jam will be held Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the same spot we played our weekly street hockey game, on Easton Ave. just west of Westminster Ave. in Montreal West. The tournament will have six teams and games will take place all afternoon. I can assure you, the intensity is high and the games are competitive.
If you have some free time, I'd ask that you drop by. You can grab some lunch and buy yourself a styling t-shirt in the colour of your favourite team.
There's also a raffle with some great prizes, including Habs tickets, a signed Brian Gionta jersey, year-long YMCA memberships, restaurant meals and much more.
As an added bonus, you can laugh at me as I attempt to play in an eighth straight edition, my legs and hands not exactly what they were in the first one way back when.
But most of all, it is a fun afternoon, and I'd love it if you could be there.
For those who can't make it, but who still want to help out, you can make an online donation to the Sam Lazarus Fund by hitting this link. Every penny donated goes towards giving underprivileged kids two weeks of fun in the country.
And for those who will be there Saturday, please go easy on the mockery.