I remember when I first gingerly put my skate blade down on the ice with the other men and women at the Rev for hockey. My mind was racing millions of miles an hour trying to keep up with everyone around me trying not to get hit by an errant puck and at the same time doing my best to stay upright. It was a huge challenge for me being the new kid. I felt just like I did when I was younger moving from school to school and trying to fit in. I knew a couple of people by name but I didn’t know anyone enough to feel comfortable.
When the hockey started I wasn’t prepared. The skating was more than I prepared myself for. To say I was out of shape would be an understatement. Fifteen minutes into an hour’s worth of hockey I was drenched head to toe. Who knew that hockey equipment weighed this much? Pick up a pair of elbow pads and they feel so light. Those shin guards don’t seem to weigh anything. But after I throw everything on including skates and get out there – couch potato and all – it’s kicking my butt. Sweat dripping from my helmet you skate red line to red line chasing down a puck. My throat is screaming for water. My legs are screaming for forgiveness. My head is telling me to quit. However, my heart is telling me I’ve waited way too long to play this game to give up now.
Jump ahead two months and I feel like that rookie that’s been accepted with the seasoned vet. I’ve found some good friends and know there are nice people out on the ice. I’m not afraid to skate out on the ice as much, though that first step through the rink doors always gives me a bit of hesitation even now – though I never try to show anyone that. Getting through an hour of hockey doesn’t leave me begging for a rest anymore. Yes, I have to take some water now and then, but I can manage my legs and throat better. Sure I sweat, but not like I did. I fight my expectations every week and you fight my belief in myself – but that comes and goes. “Not everyone get to skate” I keep reminding myself, “this is what I’ve always wanted to do.” I just wish I could improve more than what I do.
Then on one of those hockey days I meet a new guy. Played roller hockey just like me. Wide eyed and a little bushy-tailed he jumps on the ice with a little hesitation. But I give him knowledge that no one else gave me before I took to the frozen rink. “Don’t be intimidated, don’t let yourself bring yourself down, enjoy it, use your stick to get up, don’t be afraid to fall, laugh off a fall, and bring water.” I see flashes of hockey brilliance in the new guy and I see him get it. I realize it wasn’t too long ago I were that new guy. I was the guy that fell every time that I tried to skate – to be fair, I do my share of falling. I just want to pass along what I can to help however I can. I know how hard it is to step onto the ice and feel like I’m outmatched or overwhelmed. I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. I may not be the most talented person to learn from but hopefully whatever I have been through can help someone else to focus on their game not their concerns.