(WARNING: partial nudity is included in this post)
Got your attention? The bad news is it’s only me partially nude in the following photos. Sorry in advance that you had to endure this.
But at least respect the humiliation I am prepared to suffer in order to bring you, dear reader, everything hockey … in this case, what you wear onto the ice. Which is a big (fun) part of the game. And expensive.
The short story: hockey gear is awesome. Lots of fun to wear, protects me from untold injuries and makes me feel like a super-hero. At least until I start skating in a very non-superhero type way.
The long story … Well, you start off like this: Carrying the world’s biggest bag into the Icehouse. Luckily, just about all the hockey gear is surprisingly light.
Now, you strip …
And yes, the shorts were for modesty. In fact, you wear compression fitted boxer undies with an incorporated box. Trust me, you don’t need to see that. Next up, you lose the street shorts for padded hockey shorts, which look ridiculous anywhere but on the ice, yet make up for their looks in usefulness. These shorts save your hips and thighs endlessly with strategic padding. Even your coccyx.
Next up, knees and shins. If you’re in correct hockey stance, you’ll mostly fall forward, onto your knees (which is a good thing: the alternative is straight backward, whacking your head, among other less-protected body parts). Plus sticks and pucks are flying around mostly below the knees, so decent protection is a must.
And finally – sorry, ladies – the chest and shoulders are covered. This is for collisions with other players. I only just bought this gear; while I’ve been learning to skate, pre-sticks, I didn’t need it (apart from one nasty crash from an accidental collision, mentioned in the first blog). But now we’re moving into stick-work, there are going to be more frequent collisions – even before we start bodyslamming one another into the walls. So armour becomes important.
And now the elbows … this protection has saved me over and over as I’ve learned to skate by trying and failing. I’m a writer: can’t afford a broken arm. Amen, elbow guards.
Getting closer now … socks cover the knee and shin guards (to make you less slippery, as you try to regain your feet, apart from anything else) and the jersey (in this case: Medicine Hat Tigers home jersey – a Canadian team maybe two levels below NHL, where Red Wings’ Darren Helm and Chris Osgood came from, and which a couple of the Melbourne Ice players played against). And skates. They help immensely on ice. Trust me.
The gloves deserve a picture of their own. They’re awesome. Very Mad Max. I’ve had one sprained wrist, when I landed flat on my palm; otherwise, they’ve worked.
And finally, helmet and stick. Ready to rumble. (If you were actually about to go on the ice, it would probably be a good idea to wear a face mask on the helmet – still waiting for mine to arrive, after six weeks of being on order at the Icehouse. Sigh – and to tuck your skate tongues behind the shin guards … oh, and to tie the laces on your skates. It’s the simple things that can make a difference.
So, this all looks expensive, huh? Well, yeah, it is. You can do like Will and go to hockeymonkey.com, a US site where gear is SO much cheaper it would make you weep. But they won’t ship to Australia. Will had a friend in America receive his skates then mail them on. A few of my classmates, in the locker-room, have told me that UPS offers a diverted package service, so you can tell hockeymonkey to send kit to a US-based UPS depot and then UPS bring it to Melbourne.
All too hard. I went to the Icehouse pro shop and got pretty much everything there. For a start, I only wanted low to mid-range kit, while I got my eye in. I figure if I ever actually make it into a decent team, I’ll upgrade. Secondly, I wanted to try the stuff on, especially the skates – which were heat-moulded at the pro-shop to fit my foot. And thirdly, I like supporting the local hockey scene. It’s not like the Melbourne Ice team or the Icehouse is rolling in cash. (And, as signed-up hockey class members, we get a 10 per cent discount on all purchases.)
Once I’d worked out I was a leftie (see two blogs back), I got my stick at Bladeworks in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. It’s mostly an inline skating and skateboard shop but has a small ice hockey section. (The guy behind the counter even turned out to be in the 8 pm hockey class, which follows my 6.45 pm class. In solidarity, he gave me a discount.)
My stick is strictly a practice stick, made of wood, as against a high-end space-age real stick. It’s fine for what I need right now, especially given I can’t smash the puck the way a real player would hope to, and only cost about $80. Even better, the curve on the stick (because sticks can have specific curves, with different angles) is the preferred curve of none of other than my Red Wings hero, Hank Zetterberg:
So, all the above kit has cost upwards of a thousand bucks. Around that, anyway. I haven’t toted it up; just bought a piece here, a few bits there. The skates were $500-plus on their own – Will’s (one Bauer model below) cost only $US80 plus the whole shipping thing, on hockeymonkey. Sigh.
Most of the Wednesday class are in borrowed Icehouse kit (the entire 10 week course is less than $250, including all kit … bargain of the year) but it’s great to have your own gear – everything they say about the infamous hockey smell is true. You get waaay sweaty on the ice, and having to don rental gear already stunk up by somebody else doesn’t appeal to me at all. Then again, my house’s hallway is strewn with Will’s and my hockey gear being aired at least twice each week. Strangely, not many hot dates seem keen on hanging out at my place. Hmmm, related?
So that’s the gear. You too can look like an NHL star. Now all you have to do is learn to skate and swing a stick, while trying to avoid being KOed by the opposition. How hard could that be?