Starting off this post, I have to apologize to my friend Mich, who shared with me some of her blogging wisdom when I began this project. I’m sorry for letting you down, Mich. My last post, I realize, was in violation of a cardinal rule: don’t apologize for not blogging enough. However, I think I can semi-justify my actions. I wasn’t really apologizing for not blogging enough as I was writing an awfully short and uninteresting post to eek by on my post-a-week commitment to myself. I cheated a little, fellow post-a-weekers, and for that I am sorry.
But enough of this boring apology mumbo-jumbo! No reviews this week, just some observations of a season gone by.
Before this winter season ever began, I decided that this would be the year I would play hockey for the first time. Being a young, Canadian adult who had never played hockey never bothered me for a long time. Actually it never bothered me any of the time. I was not a terribly sporty child as a… child. I think I had played one too many games with the kid who took the game way too seriously and was so interested in every sport that his enthusiasm, for me, translated into “if you’re not this interested in sports then why bother?” And so I didn’t really. I had coordination, and I was never the worst player out there, but I was never the best.
This also meant that I never went out of my way to play sports as a child. I think I played baseball up until I was 12, at which point I realized I didn’t enjoy it all that much and quit. And getting a little more on topic, I learned to skate as a child, but never terribly well. I could go forward and I could tactfully slow down with some decent turns before stopping… with the help of some well placed boards.
As I got older it started occurring to me that although my teenaged metabolism seemed to have kept me in decent shape considering my level of activity, there was a pretty good chance that it wouldn’t stay that way. I started biking, and playing squash for a few years. Eventually I threw out my back playing squash, though. Apparently twisting and bending at the same time is one of the worst things you can do to your back, and unfortunately that basically describes the sport of squash. My back is better now, but not perfect, and I’m not eager to become re-injured. I think squash will stay on the back burner a little while longer.
Fast forward to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Oh Canada’s and eh’s abound. The Red and White spirit was omnipresent, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Every day of the olympics I made sure to find a friend or two to watch any event. I actually made friends with my neighbours across the hall this way. And the hockey games had some of the best excitement in sports watching I’d ever experienced. I’ll never forget driving back to Montreal from a skiing weekend in Mont Tremblant, listening to the first period on the radio. We arrived at our destination just as the first period was ending. We got to see the next two periods and the epic Crosby overtime goal on the TV. What a rush!
It was either the patriotic spirit laid on thick for the olympics, or the super-exciting hockey games, or the always running Canada-is-hockey *insert product here* ads, or maybe a mix of all of these. But somewhere along that olympic ride, I caught the bug and realized that hockey was pretty cool, and I wanted a piece.
That winter I made a few trips to the rink, and it made me realize just how much work I needed to do on my skating (but it looks so easy on TV!). Unfortunately, by the time the games ended, winter was coming to a close. I realized I’d need to do some off-season training if I was going to play some half-decent hockey this year.
I brushed off my rollerblades (or fruit-boots as a former roommate liked to call them), and headed to a nearby ice rink-turned-roller rink almost every morning for two months of the summer. When I started I could only go forwards, and with much pain from my lazy muscles. By the end of those two months, with the help of some instructional youtube videos, I could go forwards, cross over, go backwards, cross over backwards, and switch from back to front and vice-versa. Some friends were skeptical that this training would carry over to skates. Their points were valid, but I stuck with it. Rollerblading and skating are pretty similar. The amount of force you need to put in to keep moving is different, and the kinds of turns you can make are different, but the basics are the same. When this winter season came around there was definitely a learning curve that went along with moving from wheels and pavement to blades and ice, but the training helped a lot. The only thing I was really missing from my roller-training was stopping.
Yes the dreaded hockey stop. Everyone says that it’s just like stopping on skis, and they’re right. But only if you know how to do it already. Until you get the feel for it, it’s nothing like stopping on skis. Skis are on snow! They don’t get stuck in a rut of ice like skates do! And until you get the confidence and muscle memory to give a good push with the inside of your blade, you’re either making a quick turn or connecting the ice to your face.
It took many weeks of work, but I got it eventually. I was also attending some adult beginner’s hockey clinics which were very helpful for someone who had never stick handled on ice before. Road hockey is way different from ice hockey. Think of how unbalanced you feel on skates sometimes, and then try to imagine reaching away from you with a stick. It takes some getting used to.
I think I can safely say now that I’m in the upper echelon of beginners now. I can skate, I can pass, and I can carry the puck for a little while. I’ve come a long way from not being able to stop and not having owned a pair of skates since I was 10 years old.
And now just as I feel like I’m hitting my stride, the season is ending. It seems like a shame, but there are summer leagues out there, even for beginners like me, and I think I’ll be trying one out. I have to say that I much prefer the simplicity of shinny. Not having a huge bag of equipment to lug around is a big plus in my books. But I’m going to give league play a try. I haven’t played in any real league sport since I was a kid, so I’m interested to see if I’ll still enjoy it.
To finish off, here’s a short list of some memories from my first hockey season:
-the sound of skates scraping the ice
-the sound of a puck hitting your stick when you receive a pass
-coming off the ice for a breather, watching steam drift away from face into the cold
-playing in my t-shirt only a few weeks ago during a nice February warm-spell
-watching the falling snow lit by the rink’s lights – it looked like a snow globe or one of those images you might have seen of the deep sea where there is only dark mixed with little motes of dust
This winter season has been one of my most memorable , and that’s been in no small part because of taking up hockey. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and is definitely something I’m going to keep up for years to come.
Thanks for a great season, Hockey!