Staring down the crapness

Nicko on the bow of the HMAS Canberra, 20 metres down.

Nicko on the bow of the HMAS Canberra, not working on his skating. Pic: Sam Tanner

The observant blog reader may have noticed that the picture attached to this post is not of me or anybody else playing hockey. In fact, it’s me, sitting on the bow (that’s the pointy bit at the front for the less-nautical) of the HMAS Canberra, roughly 20 metres below the surface in the waters off Ocean Grove.

I’d been planning to dive the Canberra for a while. My then-girlfriend and I had sat on the beach at Ocean Grove on the day the Canberra was scuttled, both wishing we had surfboards to attack the small but inviting waves, eating pizza while sitting on a road curb to show how glamorous our relationship was and then watching the Canberra disappear with a pathetically small puff of smoke in what turned out to be a very non-dramatic goodbye. At the time, I didn’t realise how symbolic this was for us, watching a once mighty vessel sink slowly to a watery grave.

So, last weekend, I finally did it. Went with diving buddies Sam, Sabrina and Marie through the Heads on a Dive Victoria boat and descended to the Canberra, which is fast becoming an artificial reef as the marine life moves in on the decaying wreck. We had a couple of great dives, including sneaking into the bridge to have photos taken, and so Sabrina could sit in the captain’s chair. I tried a DeCaprio a la Titanic, arms spread, at the bow. I never worry about sharks when I’m diving but I did find myself envisaging, as we mucked around, a couple of great whites just out of visibility, shaking their heads at these clowns playing on a warship, deep enough that the sun was struggling to light the scene. “You think they’re worth eating?” one shark says to the other.

Anyway, what does this have to do with nickdoeshockey? Not much except that the obvious point is I wasn’t skating. And that cost me dearly once I returned to Melbourne.

This week was all about my first lesson of hockey school (as against pre-hockey-school skating-school, which is what I have been enduring up until now). But I also went skating on Tuesday with Will and one of the magician crowd, David McLeod, and a mate of his.  This turned out to be a bad mistake. David and his mate have been skating since last October, except that David had a nasty fall and broke his wrist, keeping him off the ice for the best part of a month and a half. By comparison, Will started skating in November and has been working hard on his skating ever since.

And these guys were skating rings around us, literally in my case as I wobbled along the ice and they sped past like The Flash. They were hockey-stopping and doing crossovers and basically looking like they’d been born on skates.

And I couldn’t help but feel deflated at how crap I continue to be. Yes, I can skate now without falling over mostly and I can snow-plough stop more often than not, but I remain barely adequate and still at risk of falling most of the time. I know I’ve only been on skates for a whole four weeks, with maybe two sessions a week so, realistically, I’m going pretty well.

But I’m ready to be Less Crap now. Ready to actually start to feel good on skates. I want to step it up.

Last night’s first class was actually not too bad. It’s a good crew of people – 30-odd in the class, including quite a few women and with less testosterone among most of the guys.The funniest moment (in a macabre way) was during Red Rover tag at the end, when one newbie skated far too fast, remembered he didn’t know how to stop and slammed hard into the wall at the end of the rink, splitting open his chin. Blood pouring, he was helped from the ice … as the 8 pm class of Lesson One rookies watched in horror while waiting to take to the ice. I said to him in the locker-room after, as he clutched a tissue to the bleeding skin: “You do realise you just killed the potential careers of 30 hockey players right there?”

Melanie, another of the magic crowd, is in the class, which is awesome; except that she, too, skated happily off in better shape than I in the first drill, having proclaimed to be a hack. (She redeemed herself by inviting Will and I out for dinner to celebrate Chinese New Year.) I was mostly able to keep up with the most basic skating drills and was snow-ploughing okay as others hit the ice to the left and right.

But I remain so far from being a decent skater. This week was the one where I could become discouraged and wonder how badly I want this, and tuck the skates away in a cupboard. I know this moment: from running, when you hit that mid-training wall, and the gym, where you can’t seem to lift any more weight, even though you know you can, and from surfing. God, I know it in surfing.

It’s all why I’m glad I spent so much money on the hockey equipment and have told everyone about it, and made other artificial hurdles so that quitting would be humiliating and sad. Instead, I need to commit to pushing myself harder and falling more, until I don’t.

Roll on more practice. Roll on next week’s lesson. Roll on that moment where I suddenly realise I’m at a new level on my skates. It will happen. Just got more pain between here and there.

(Postscript: I’ve sadly informed my scuba mates that I’m unavailable for more diving shenanigans in the immediate future, until I master this thing.

See: that’s commitment. Right there.

And now off to Castlemaine for a weekend of chooks, dogs, creativity and maybe a mountain bike ride through the bush …)


  1. chins up…you know this is part where, in the movie of your life (bidding war won by Hallmark Movie of The Week …. as i said to the Weinsteins – you snooze, you lose….) the training montage starts, music swells ….unfortunately given Hallmark’s budget and needing to snare the only audience in the world interested in ice hockey I hear Loverboy cued up right now …..and one chorus later, voila you’re 63 minutes of one bad accident, a come from behind victory, a slow motion winning goal, crowd goes mad etc away from winning the girl, the trophy and a tear in the eye of your old, curmudgeonly, grizzled coach with a limp (from the glory days)
    So, get Working for the Weekend on your ipod and get cracking….


  1. […] these moves; ever be able to skate well enough to play. Basically, it’s a re-run of the post “Staring Down The Crapness” (Feb 3) where you watch others in Beginner Class skate like they were touched by the skating Gods […]

  2. […] nurse’s husband actually made a cameo in this blog, as the guy who careered into the boards and KOed himself, also nastily cutting his chin so that he […]

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