Somewhere in Canada or the United States or hell even in Europe there’s some kid who is learning to play hockey. They’re skating and deke-ing all over the ice without a care. Pucks are going in the net while the kid is flying up the ice and not breaking a sweat. They aren’t even thinking about where it is all going to lead to.
Meanwhile, back in my part of the world – every time I step on that 200 x 85 I’m thinking about every stride. Okay. Maybe not every stride but it’s pretty damn close. Some people can love the game so much that they know the moment they step on the ice they are having fun.
There are other sports like that too. I tried kicking the soccer ball the other day. I won’t say that I’m going to make it to the Premier League or even make it to Major League Soccer – don’t get me started on that topic. However, the thing is sports are supposed to be fun. When you go out and play a sport you are supposed to be enjoying yourself. I think you are. For the most part, I’ve known people go play recreational sports and enjoy them but it may be because of the beer afterwards!
In a recent “game” of rookie hockey players, and veterans, most of what I remember of the game was me getting up off the ice or seeing the other players skate past me. To be fair, I have a couple of issues working against me. First, I can’t stop. I can however that means I either run into another player or the boards. On multiple occasions other people stopped me. In fact on one occasion an opposition player stopped me dead in my tracks. From what I understood, this was supposed to be a no-hitting game and I was completely blindsided on my way to the puck. I guess I should have watched where I was going. That was my second shift on the ice. Welcome to hockey dummy!
The rest of the game was a complete and utter failure. Legs like jelly. Body felt crushed. Mind was numb. He got me good. He never left his skates – it felt like it took minutes for me to get up before I could try to follow the puck back up ice. I had to hurry back to the bench because I couldn’t breathe. Damn nice hit dude.
So I get what a clean hit can do. Check that off my list.
But I can’t really skate either. Skating backwards and I fall face first onto my helmet. It’s a damn good thing I had a helmet. My eggs would be scrambled.
After talking to one of the other rookies he said he had the greatest time playing in the game. Hell, I never saw the puck in the game except when I dumped it into the zone on after a face-off. When the game went to a shootout after regulation they put out some of the rookies to take penalties except this rookie was left staring at the ice when he wasn’t picked. Queue the days of pickup basketball. Last man standing. “We don’t want that kid – you take him!” Same in that game of hockey too. It seems fortunate I showed up.
I mean this was a for fun game where the rookies were supposed to experience things? I hadn’t seen the puck except to dump it in and you can’t give me a chance? I guess sometimes it’s stuff like that that sours your opinion about something. I know it really made me mad that night. Maybe not mad – I was trying to get over the insanity of the hitting to get worked up over the penalty. But damn give me a chance.
Part of my problem is I don’t really know where to be on the ice. Not that I don’t understand the positions, because trust me, I’ve studied and I’ve watched to the point that I get it. I know left wing, right wing, center, defense and goalie. I know all that. I’ve been through the breakout drills and I know I’ve watched the defenseman battling in front of the goalie to stop the play. I’ve done some of that. But at the same point I don’t want to let my team down. On the flip side, I can’t score, I can’t skate and I’m not beating anyone down the ice. So I’m not contributing there. It just makes me wonder. Where do I go?
I keep wondering if I’m really having fun but I keep going out there. I got a friend to take a video of me skating and I’ve watched it over and over. I thought about my mindset at the time. I felt like I was slipping but I don’t see that in the film. I see myself skating. Not just skating I see myself as an improved player from the one who would have slipped and fallen stepping through the Zamboni doors. A level up from the guy who felt like it was an achievement to skate in the “big end” during Learn To Skate. You can bet those days are gone.
But is it fun? I don’t know. It’s really hard to tell anymore. I spend so much time when I’m out there analyzing and over analyzing my performance that it almost becomes insane anymore. It’s hard to not be so damn analytical. It’s hard to stop telling myself that missing the puck in front of the net was a terrible mistake. I can’t stop that running commentary. I have a color commentator in my head all the time. It’s my voice and it’s always saying I’m doing something wrong. On top of all that there’s always the feeling that someone else is going to tell me I’m doing it wrong too.
It’s why I wonder if I wasn’t meant to coach sports rather than play them. As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen the writing on the wall. The same wall I run into every time I try to play. Score a goal. Yeah that’s a good joke. Stop a goal. Nah. So where do I go? I get the concepts. I know what I want to do. Everyone says “you broke so many barriers to get out there with these kids who have skated for longer than you have.” “As you get older your body takes longer to learn things.”
As an analytical person I get that. As a driven person I don’t accept it. I don’t accept the failure even though I curse myself for the falls, the mistakes and the errant steps. I know it’s a learning process but show me the test results. Yes I saw the video, but I’m not able to put it up against anyone and say “I can actually go out there and play in a league.” No one is beating down my door to ask me to play. Here I am once again, the last kid picked – or the kid not picked at all. I really wish someone would just pick me.