A more appropriate title may be, another year and hopefully a goal. I don’t mean my vision board goals, which I never even put together in 2015. The kind of goal I am working toward is achieved on the ice.
Though life hasn’t slowed down and I am behind with all my normal to-dos, I have spent the year with a feeling that I need more. That something was missing. (Perhaps the curse of ditching the vision board.) Not coming up with any good ideas, I decided instead to try out hockey.
The idea first formed this summer but came to fruition while I was working off some of the forced hockey parent volunteer time in the concession stand. (Stay away from the slushies. Anything that can stain your skin can’t be great for your stomach!) During my shift, another hockey mom working with me mentioned she has been playing hockey for the past three years. She had fallen for the game watching her son through the years and decided to give it a try herself. She found it one of the hardest and most thrilling things she has taken on – both physically and mentally challenging. That aroused my interest. She also assured me that there were all levels of play including the most basic beginner teams. The association does a formal assessment to place you anywhere from AAA to C3. C3 being a lower division than the lowest found in the kids league. That is where her team is ranked, and in fact she just got her first goal ever this year.
I started thinking that maybe I would try the summer clinics offered to women who wanted to play and then join a team next season. That night I went to the WHAM (Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota) website and saw there was an upcoming assessment. Being impulsive and impatient is my nature, and with summer clinics so far out I decided why not just jump in feet first? I was sure I could figure it out. I had watched enough games. So with confidence, I registered myself even though I have never been on hockey skates. (It couldn’t be that different from being on figure skates?) The season was half over so I would be unlikely to get picked up by a team but I knew getting assessed would commit me to the following year and get me focused on a training plan. The next morning, to the dismay of my horrified son, I started trying on his old equipment and I was all set.
I was able to get three practices in at a local rink before the assessment. I used the time to try to learn to stop and skate backwards. I quickly found out that stopping in hockey skates is a totally different world from figure skates. I somewhat figured out stopping on one side, or more like turning myself into a half circle to slow me down. As for going backwards, I moved in that direction a little bit. I brushed it off that I would probably be offense at first anyway. I even started wondering if I possibly could make C2 level if I could score like I do in my son’s shooting room. I was having so much fun daydreaming, feeling proud and laughing at myself that I amused myself out of realizing how bad I was. You would think it would have been apparent to me with the comparison of the six year olds darting around the rink.
Then came assessment day. Recent college players down to … well down to me … gathered at Augsburg Ice Arena to show off our skills. The first half hour was skating, passing and shooting drills. All of which I failed miserably. The puck is much easier to shoot in the basement when both it and I are standing still versus crossing paths on the ice. And for the skating and stopping drills, they did not go well forwards or backwards. I was becoming concerned since the last half an hour was a scrimmage.
That is where I shined. Not in my skills, but in sweat and smiles. It was so fun pretending to play. I didn’t really do anything but chase the puck around during my shifts and watch the good players actually move the puck and play. I also learned it is very difficult seeing out of that cage, which was a good excuse when I completely missed a puck right by me. But even as bad as I was, it was fun to hear the other skaters on my bench cheer me on. I also loved how each two minutes on the ice had me dying for my next two minutes on the bench to catch my breath. It was exhilarating.
That night ranking came out. My name was registered as a C3 player. Seeing my name on the list felt like I won an award. Granted everyone made the list and I was the lowest ranking possible. Still, I told all my family the good news and emailed my hockey mom/player friend that I did it and would take clinics in the summer so I could be on a team the following winter. Next thing I know, I get an email back asking me to join her team. They were short players lately at games since the whole team has overbooked lives like mine. If I was willing to dedicate myself to showing up and practicing as much as I could, they would take me on so I would be ready next season as they try to advance to C2 play. I registered as a USA hockey member and signed on!
Thus far I have had one practice and one game. At the practice I didn’t embarrass myself too badly. Though one of the coaches took me aside and tried to teach me crossovers. Which basically is a more efficient way of skating, but first he has his work cut out for him just teaching me to trust lifting one skate up and trusting the other to glide on its edge. I prefer both skates firmly planted on the ice and even better a stick in my hand for extra balance support.
The first game went well in the fact that we won. Another plus, was that I have watched enough games to understand offsides and icing so I didn’t get the whistle blown on us.
My plan though was to get one goal or at least one assist. It would be my thank you to the team for taking a chance on me. I skated as fast as I could and often I would hear the coach yell to me “that is your puck!” meaning it was up to me to do something. I would have my eyes on it and a deep desire to take it and skate up to the opponents’ net. My biggest motivation was seeing the other team’s player also approaching and knowing if I didn’t at least hit it away from her I would have to skate all the way back across the ice again.Well, the closest I got to a break away was falling across the ice on my face trying to reach for the puck. No fairytale ending here. Three days later I am still sore and I have a bruise on my chin. But I can’t wait to get out there again.
I have never played a team sport and am excited to learn about being part of a team. Even the locker room is foreign to me but I like listening to everyone’s chatter and then the silence as the coaches came in for a pregame strategy. (Not that I could follow or carry out the moves they marked up the board with.) I still feel like a kid hoping to fit in and become one of them soon. So far, all the players have been encouraging and forgiving. Plus having the coaches pull me aside on tips and mistakes, even yell at me on the ice, is what makes me feel most included. They actually think I can maybe contribute.
It is a totally new feeling to be so new to something. As my teammate said, “It is not often as adults we have an opportunity to start the learning curve so low.” Physically and mentally there is so much to learn. It is draining and thrilling to push myself in a direction I have never tried. It has also made me realize how good these 12 and 13 year old boys are. It makes me truly appreciate the strength, skill and grace they have. It may tone down my yelling “move your skates” and “get that puck” as they race down the ice.
Wish me luck in the playoffs! If I have nothing else to offer the team, I am competitive and hopefully that drive will help make up for my lack of skill and talent. I am hoping to report back that I finished my first season with one goal.