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A personal tale: Getting back into hockey

October 3, 2011

This is hopefully the first installment, a belated installment, in my series about jumping back into the sport I love. Over the month of September, I have been doggedly preparing to dive back into hockey, and these last two Sundays, I finally inched that much closer.

But first, some preliminary background. I’ve been skating all my life, since I was two and half, in a pair of baby Bauer Chargers. I don’t even remember that, but I do remember that pink Jofa helmet I think I’ve mentioned before. I took to ponds, took to my local rink. Skating came to me naturally. Alas, the costs and time commitments of playing hockey itself eluded my family, but there was also the fact I was more interested in soccer and baseball at that stage, finding it more accessible, more up my alley.

Growing up though, I spent nearly two hours each and every afternoon blazing around my long, flat driveway on rollerblades. That is where my speed, my crossovers, my balance, were truly cultivated. There are many important differences between ice skating and rollerblading, and I will delve into these later. Needless to say, it was a formative experience. Come middle school, I joined a roller hockey league at my local sports center. I was the lone girl. That didn’t faze me too much though. For three years I played in that rough and tumble league, mostly filled with ice hockey outcasts or those who indeed played ice hockey, but were looking for yet more practice.

Fast-forward to my high school’s inaugural girls’ ice hockey team. It happened my sophomore year. Finally with the means and some more talent, I registered. My parents were able to fork over the big bucks for all the equipment then, too. Things had changed. $250 worth of gear later, and I was set. I had the Bauers I’d gotten from an uncle two years prior, and the rest of the gear I needed, I got.

Our hockey team was in its infancy. There were just a smattering of teams in the region with girls’ teams, but the venues we played in were nothing short of spectacular. We played in UMass Boston’s rink, at Northeastern, at BU. We of course practiced locally, often in undesirable 5am slots before school. But that was alright–we were at least playing, paving the way for future girls in our town. I know that today, seven years on, the team is big and it is strong. I’d like to think we had something to do with that. The talent-level was mixed, the competition rarely balanced. I did that for another year, before the obligations of school and the college application process forced me to opt on out.

Fast-forward to now. At the age of 24, I want to hop in again. And so, I signed up for a women’s rec league. Bought the equipment, and started doing public skates. Got these Vapor x.3.0’s pictured here, and I’ve been spending hours at the rink ever since. The skates fit well, and are nicer than anything I’ve ever had. I’ve been working mostly on my backward skating and hockey stops, both of which are weak points. I can crossover well, and skate like the dickens. But it’s the stopping that kills me. Rather strange, isn’t it? Relying on family and videos on YouTube has helped forward my progress somewhat.

Learning the ins and the outs of edge-work seems to be at the heart of matters. Being disciplined with one’s postured and knees is also critical. But in the end, it’s practice, and more practice. I am slowly but surely getting there.

Next up: two women’s games/scrimmages down, and one men’s pick-up game down.

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