Right now I’m chilling out and listening to some Joe Cocker, but mentally I‘m already on Sunday Night. Every Sunday night you can find me lacing my skates up good and tight, strapping on the pads, grabbing my stick, and hitting the ice for some beer league hockey. All week I look forward to the next game. It’s my addiction and my moment of Zen.
The experience starts early in the afternoon packing my gear. I start getting that feeling in my bones. It’s like a tingle growing stronger as I get closer to the arena.. But as soon as I hit the locker room door, the sensation changes. All of the excitement becomes like a cold beer drank on a porch in the summer. It’s back to the dirty jokes and bodily function humor that all men share. Nobody’s in charge in here. It’s like the parents left the junior highers in charge. The worst player on the team is just as dominant in the locker room as anybody else. This is our time to be ourselves or our immature alter egos. We get dressed, tell jokes, talk about the game on TV.
You get dressed and meander out to the glass and watch the Zamboni finish doing it’s final cycle around the ice. You talk to the guys on the other team you know. This is the last second of any friendly encounters you will have with them until the final horn blows. Soon the Zamboni doors will close and we can hit the ice.
Very little interaction with others is met out here during warm ups. You find your legs and balance, stretch out, practice your shot, stage your extra stick and water bottles. Mostly you just find that last piece of the puzzle you need to cross the line from Average Joe Shmukatelli into a hockey player. It’s inside you somewhere buried under all of the other things that puts you in your place during your everyday life. This is when you unearth it. It’s the most mental part of the night. It’s when you get really focused.Right before the horn sounds to mark the beginning of the period we divide ourselves out into lines. Some nights we’re short a few skaters and so the lines get somewhat inventive. Sometimes you have 3 guys rotating over 2 positions. It can make for a rough night. We make our lines out. And chose a 1st and 2nd line. Sometimes you dread this part when you realize that you and your center are gonna be doing ALL the skating and hard work for your line. You pray to Gordie or one of the Bobby’s that you get that special line.
The Special line is the line where maybe 8 sentences are spoken on the bench between shifts. The chemistry is just there. It’s like running on a three man ESP. I’ve played that line twice ever. You dread the BAD line. Somehow you’re supposed to carry the line offensively and defensively. By the end of the night you want to just sleep right there.But the game starts with a horn blow. The puck drops and you start moving your legs. don’t ever stop moving you’re legs. For as Confucius says “He who stands still is already out of the play“. Out here on the ice it’s all about puck movement. Theirs and yours. When they start moving the puck well, you have to master blanketing your man. When you start moving the puck, you have to turn on the jets and blow your guy away. You have to read and react in split seconds. Find the chemistry, make tape-to-tape passes, and set up for a one timer.
Everyone wants to put the puck in the back of the net. EVERYONE. Sometimes it’s just as good to give a tape to tape pass to your buddy that ends up with the puck in the back of their net. Watching another guy on your team feel that rush is great, but feeling that rush is like nothing else. I can’t help myself when I score. I always have to celebrate out loud., lifting my stick in the air like a conquering hero or a Mike Bossy. Either or. There’s nothing like hearing your team bang their sticks on the boards in front of your bench when you score. Nothing.
We finish the game and regardless of how you came out in the score, you know that this Rite of the Fraternal Order of the Beer League Society was worth it. You’ll do it again next week and the week after for as many years as you can still pump your legs and move your feet. It’s something that puts us apart from other people. We’ve felt the comforting chill of the ice, sacrificed our bodies, laughed, cheered, groaned, yelled, and skated for all we’re worth. On the ice I always feel like I’m living life to the fullest. And THAT is why I lace up the skates every week.