Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Hockey Experience

When I first moved to Canada (at age 35), I wanted to immerse myself in Canadian culture. Clearly, getting involved in hockey would be a great starting point. The week I moved to Canada, I signed up for a women’s recreational hockey league. This may not sound remarkable, but I had never played hockey before, and had only been skating a few times.

During our first game, I struggled a great deal, but still had fun. I wondered how obvious it was to everyone that I hadn’t played before until the break after the first period when the ref skated over to our bench and said to me with a smile, “First time out on the ice, eh?”

I continued to struggle but improved for the first few games of the season until I decided it was time to have my skates sharpened. I knew it would take a bit of time to adjust to the sharper skates, but I never imagined how much I would regret getting the skates sharpened without testing them out before a game.

With my newly sharpened skates, I went out to warm up with my team and noticed the skates slipping a bit. I figured I would just have to adjust. Soon the game started, and during the first period, I lost my balance and fell right at center ice. As a beginner, I had fallen many times before and gotten right back up. This time was different. I attempted to stand up, and as I was partway up, I went crashing back to the ice. The game continued around me. I tried again to get up, but as before, fell right back down. I was so embarrassed. My teammates skated by and asked if I was okay, but they weren’t about to stop in the middle of the game, already short by one skater, to help me up. Finally, I got up and made it to the bench. I was laughing about the incident because I knew I wasn’t very good at skating.

Later, in the next period, the same thing happened again, but this time right in front of the other team’s bench. Was this more embarrassing than floundering around on center ice? Probably. After a couple attempts, again, I finally got up and made my way to the bench. This time I wasn’t laughing.

In the third period, the same thing happened again, but this time when I fell, I took an opponent and a referee down with me. My muscles were so tired from my previous falls and attempts to get up that I had even more trouble getting up. On one attempt to rise, my leg slid out from under me and pulled a muscle in my thigh. When I finally did get up, I limped off the ice. This time I was crying.

My coach and teammates insisted there was something wrong with my skates. I thought they were just being nice and trying to make me feel better by blaming my embarrassing episode on something other than my poor skills. However, I did take my skates in before the next game (to a different sharpening facility) and learned, much to my surprise, that my skates HAD been sharpened incorrectly. The person who sharpened them forgot to put a hollow in the bottom of the blade. Essentially, a skate blade has two edges of less than 90 degrees. My skates did not have that.

I had the skates resharpened and never had the same problem again! The good news is that I went back out on the ice for the next game even though my embarrassment tempted me to give up hockey for good. It’s only been a couple of months since this happened, but playing hockey is my favorite hobby and something I look forward to each week. I am still the worst player on my team, but I think I have more fun than anyone.

Here is a picture of me in my typical game form. Thanks to my friend Tony for capturing this special moment on camera.

No comments: