After getting a run of hockey skills classes under my belt I no longer feel like the newbie with the knock-knees. That’s not to say that my feet don’t bend in when I skate. I’m going to need some longer laces or better yet I’m going to need to pump up my skates. I’ve been fighting those skates since I put them on my feet more than month ago but they are an upgrade from the previous pair. I struggle to keep from getting incapacitating lace bite as I try to find that perfect spot where the laces are just snug enough without cramping me.
Everything else seems to work – so to speak. My pants that I love so much are starting to get loose, a product of wearing them in. My shin guards might be just a little bit too long, but then again, I’m in between the two sizes. My elbow pads fit okay, but if I tug on them just a little bit they come off, I guess I shouldn’t tug on them, huh? As for my shoulders – I feel like a giant with those on. My friend Jeremy called them my “hitting” pads. I don’t think I’m going to do any hitting in those. Last thing I want to do is to start something I can’t finish.
When hockey calls though, I have to answer. I have to throw on those pads and lace up those skates. Pull the blue XXL Lundqvist jersey over my head as it’s the biggest jersey I have that will fit over my equipment. Throw on my helmet and grab my CCM Speedburner. Am I ready? I hope so. I better be. Hockey is calling. Do you hear it? Because I do. I hear it loud and clear like a crisp stick to stick pass.
It’s the sound of stepping onto the freshly cut ice after I open the rink doors. The ice makes that crispy, crackly sound that can only replicated from pushing though on an edge. Weekend open hockey means that I’m probably going to be the least talented guy on the ice – although this is true at skills class as well. Open hockey means that I have a pretty good chance for failure. Open hockey means there’s a good chance I’m going to curse myself. Ah, this should be a good time.
What I lack in confidence I find in ambition. The fact that I get on the ice with “kids” half my age means I’m either brave or willing to be shown up – I can’t figure out which. Thankfully no one is keeping track of the times they blow by me or at least if they are they aren’t telling me. When I do find myself in my own zone trailing the puck I am advanced enough now to keep my head up and follow the play instead of skating around like a kid on his first day. After a few passes by the other team, I’m able to “read” the game enough to look for a block and my stick does just that. I lift an opponent’s stick here and get in the way of a pass there. I feel good playing defense. I feel comfortable playing defense. I get defense. Then my lungs and my lower back catch up to me.
I’m back to the bench to get my breath. I have to take some time to gather myself. I can’t skate up and down at the pace of these kids. Especially if I try to keep up with my team and the other team. Maybe one day I’ll be able to. It’s a tough demanding game. I felt good for one shift but 15 minutes into an hour and a half open hockey and I’m wondering why I got out here. I keep going because I can’t give up now. There’s no quit, even if it hurts I’ll take small shifts. Enough to get some conditioning. That’s the only way I’ll ever build it up. There’s only one way I’ll be a hockey player and that’s hard work.