Hockey with the Kids, A Birthday Story

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Boxing, Football, Hockey, Karate, Kick-Boxing, MMA, Tennis
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is a more personal post than I generally publish here, but it has an important message at the end relevant to what this day represents to me.

Last Wednesday, I played pick up ice hockey for the first time in over a year. It was embarrassing, but at the same time I swelled with pride. On Friday night, due to a change of plans, I was free to go again, and the experience was even more embarrassing, and likewise pride-inducing, because there were about 30 people playing, and only three of us were not kids that play ice hockey for college teams. All the college kids were in town for summer break, and rather than go out drinking on Friday night, they play pickup hockey . . . and drink during the game. Needless the say, I got my ass kicked.

Some History

The first time I was ever on ice skates was January 9, 2009. I hadn’t worked out in 2 years, and so I was the heaviest I’d ever been and had a poor endurance. Moreover, skating works the lower back in a way I’ve never experienced. Consequently, I had a great deal of trouble getting through my 30-minute “learn to skate” classes. I was out of breath within 10 minutes and in terrible pain within 20. By the time I was capable of handling the class, I was now in a 60-minute “learn to play hockey” class wearing full gear. The effect was magnified. What made all of these experiences more amusing was that my classes shared the ice with kids classes, many of whom were experienced skaters. Geez.

Lost Opportunities

Age 11

This was especially annoying to me. Since 1974, when the Washington Capitals came into existence, I had been a hockey fan. In 1979 (age 11, 6th grade), I learned that one of my friends (and his two brothers) played ice hockey. I wanted to play, but there’s was no way that was going to happen. My older brother, Russ, was two years older than I. He would always say he wanted to try this hobby or that hobby (e.g., Cub Scouts, tennis), and by the time I was old enough to participate, he (and my parents) inevitably had lost interest in the work it took to participate. I’d always be told, “I’m not going through that again!”

The only exceptions were middle-school football, which I was forced to play, and martial arts, in which I participated at my own expense of time and money and, despite predictions from the family, stuck with until I was 39. Playing football was miserable for me because I was on my brother’s team, and everyone was two years older (a virtual eternity at that age) than I, so I was always warming the bench (bored out of my mind). Although my brother never asked to play ice hockey — the request would almost certainly have been granted — the culture of my nuclear family always had me receiving a “no” answer. The fact that my one early-age hobby, “football,” was the source of frustration for me and had me complaining, constantly justified in my parent’s minds their unwillingness to allow me any organized hobbies. In fairness, my family wasn’t even close to “rich,” and hockey would have been an expensive hobby for me to start and not stick with. Everything my brother did, when put together, probably wouldn’t have been as expensive, or as much a pain in the ass, as me playing hockey for a week and quitting. Hindsight is usually 20-20.

Age 23

Several years later, when I was a season ticket holder for the Capitals, I was studying ninjitsu with a guy from Detroit. He had been playing hockey since he was a kid. He told me all about adult league hockey and tried to recruit me. I was working my first job as a professional and training in ninjitsu took a significant amount of free time, but ultimately I said no because I felt I was too old to start. I was 23.

Present Day

So, there I was, struggling to skate at age 40, constantly reminded of stupidly rejecting the idea of learning while I was a relatively-young 23. By the summer of 2009, now 41 years old, I was playing on my first C-league team, the Old Puckers. They were a brand new team in the Prince William Ice Center’s (“PWICE”) C-league. I played two seasons with them, and we literally went from worst to first in those two seasons.

Old-Puckers

Then the Snowpocalypse hit, and PWICE’s roof collapsed, and with it so did my new ice hockey career. For a large number of reasons, I didn’t play ice hockey again until last Wednedsay, and during that hiatus I had put on skates only once for a public skate session. The result was that I put on the extra weight, lost my endurance, and was worried that, being such a new player, I had lost my abilities on the ice.

Well, I wasn’t wrong about any of that (except that my lower back is surprisingly as strong as it was when I stopped playing), but one thing that my hockey experience taught me is that it’s never too late. Do I have a chance of being a Washington Capital one day? Of course not, but so what? The only thing that matters is that ice hockey is a ton of fun for me, and right here, right now, even though I turn 43 today, I’m playing ice hockey.

Fry-Seymour

“In your face Grim Reaper!”

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow PWIce on Twitter @pwice

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