One day it hit me like a Floyd Mayweather punch… Wait, that’s terrible…those don’t hit anyone. Let’s start over. One day, it hit me. I can’t play hockey. I can’t play this unbelievably dynamic and exciting sport. This depressed me greatly. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. If Coach Gallant tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Kid, every one else is scratched, you are going in,” I could not. I couldn’t make it off the bench unless they rolled that red, national anthem carpet out for me.
I could not have this shame over me. I needed to learn how to play hockey. Words like “snipe,” “celly,” “top ched,” and “beauty” needed to be a part of my regular vocabulary. I needed that hockey stink in my car. I was embarrassed that I could not play. So, I decided to change that. I was going to learn to play hockey and be ready if the Panthers ever scratched everyone due to a shrimp-borne illness. Let’s go.
I tried them on, and he told me that they needed to be baked. He baked them in the oven for 15 minutes and put them on my feet so they would conform and fit better. I slid my feet into the warm boot, felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, paid for the skates, and walked out brimming with confidence and a wet spot on my pants. There was no doubt that I was going to do this.
Day 2 through 10 – Stare at skates.
Day 11 – First time at the rink. I arrived at the Wednesday night open skate with a pep in my step. I was going to be playing hockey by next week. I took my skates out of the box, laced them up, and took my first steps toward the ice. The attendants opened the doors to let people on to the ice. I took one step, and 1000 little kids shot passed me and jumped onto the ice. I was nearly trampled to death. It was like the Skating of the Bulls. Kids are dangerous enough already, but strap knives to their feet, and it’s a whole new level of danger. I picked myself up after the mob had passed over me and stared out the open door at the white sheet of ice. It was calling me. I carefully put my left foot on the ice and then the right. I was on the ice! I was skating! Then, reality hit me. I instantly fell backward onto my back. I learned the first lesson of skating the hard way: ice is slippery. I got myself up using the wall and left my dignity and confidence on the ice. I was off to a great start.
I eventually managed to skate a bit by holding the wall and making my way around the rink. The whole time, I was looking at these little kids with an unbelievable amount of jealousy. They were flying around the ice. Skating backwards and in circles, laughing at me the whole time. They would hockey stop in front of me and spray me with ice. To be honest, I wanted to trip all of them. Wipe the smiles off their faces. They were all skating like The Gretz and I was holding on to the wall like I was escaping from prison. This was going to be much more difficult than I thought.
Next Week… My Time at Hockeyfest
I anticipate this to be an ongoing series about learning to skate and play hockey. My hope is that this series will encourage others to try to skate and play this great game. If more people learn and play, it will undoubtedly grow the hockey market in South Florida and in turn help the Florida Panthers thrive. I’m always open to tips and suggestions. If you have any, feel free to leave them in the comments, or contact me on Twitter (@I_Skynet). If anyone wants to learn with me, I’m usually at the Ice Den in full pads practicing on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I eventually would like to start a team, so come out if you ever had the desire or just want to dust off the old skates. To chart my progress, I created a NHL 15 card with my hockey stats. As I acquire more skills, I will update the card. A word of note: I’m only a 99 checking because I don’t yet know how to stop. Wish me luck.