The return to hockey: Trials and tribulations
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01-30-2009, 04:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
The return to hockey: Trials and tribulations
First, I suppose an introduction is in order. I played hockey up until the age of 15 when I was younger. Mainly pond hockey, and a small local league. I was never anything special. I was always small, so I was quick enough to stay out of trouble and kept my eyes up. At 16, as a musician, I went on to bigger and more childish conquests that I'm sure many non-musically inclined high schoolers partook in.
That brings us to December 2008. One night I couldn't fall asleep, and for some reason I remembered my love for hockey. On a whim, I decided to start playing again. At 29 years old, I'll never be a professional. While my half nocturnal fantasies may have had guts and glory as the forerunning storyline, I wasn't harboring pipe dreams about it come morning.
This is more of a story than a suggestion as to how to get back into hockey. Some may take something from it and benefit their quest to return. Others may think it's rubbish.
My first order of business was finding nearby rinks. Fortunately, there are far more in my area now than there was thirteen years earlier. They had many open hockey times available, and I had a couple friends that were willing to go with me once I got my gear together.
Next was to find out if I could still skate. Confidence to the point of cockiness pretty much bit me in the butt with this one. Despite knowing the basics and physics of propelling myself on skates, I was terrible. It was very humbling to be "that guy" at the open skate. It didn't help that I was on 15 year-old Bauer Chargers (yes, I sharpened them before I went). I decided to postpone the open hockey until I got my feel back.
I set out to search for gear in the meantime. I had a great hockey stick that I used to use at my parents house, so I returned to their attic in search of it. Well, what once was great, is now scrap. Apparently, not only is the aluminum Easton two-piece antiquated now, but it'd been in their attic so long, the shaft cracked from the temperature changes.
As for safety equipment, I did what everyone else does: searched the internet. I had many different carts set up with my "build-a-pad" set on all the major sites, waiting to pull the trigger. In a final fleeting glint of sense, I went to a LHS. Best move I could've made. All of the sizes I had chosen were wrong. There is no way to compair trying things on. No matter how many measurement charts you look at, you won't get the feel for the gear. All this, and it only cost $10 more at the LHS.
I picked up a cheap CCM Vector from Sports Authority and was ready for my first Rat Ice. I told my two friends that I only had a black jersey, so wear dark so we can be on the same team. Big mistake. As we're changing in the locker room, I see them giggle as they both pull out white jerseys. I can't blame them, I'd have done the same thing. Now mind you, I would've been terrible no matter what kind of competition was on the ice. First skate in 13 years, mind you. However, this was the night after Christmas, and that means the kids are home from college. This hadn't occured to me, until I was being dominated by two kids from the first line of the local univeristy hockey team. After my first two shifts, the point was rather moot. It could've been anyone out there, and I still would've been dragging. I was gassed. I realized this would be harder than I thought. I also realized my 15 year-old blades would not cut it (no pun intended).
I did research, and being that I'm not going to be setting any records, I bought a pair of Salming F1s. Few know about these, but for the price ($150), I don't think there's a comparison. I did some more plain-jane skating on them to get used to them and break them in. The foot is very wide in them, but I settled in pretty quickly. My heal is very narrow, and I still don't get much movement back there.
Well, after that, I had the entire week off of work and started going to open hockey during the weekday. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night I went. I could see noticable improvements each day. And although I still wouldn't consider myself "good", I'm good enough to love it again. I can handle the puck with my eyes up, I'm not afraid of the point or the slot, I can get in the way of the other team well (I suppose I've been doing that since I got on the ice, so to speak), and I'm getting a good overall feel for it. Most of all, I've received great support from everyone I run into. Much like my summer hobby, open tracking motorcycles, everyone shares a love for the sport. As long as you're not a jerk, or completely ignorant and closed to suggestion, you'll be accepted. I look forward to progressing, and learning from all the knowledge that everyone has to offer, here and at the rink.l
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