Quite the week. Not only did I have to psychologically recover from the news that I had to repeat Hockey Intro, but the Red Wings lost 10-3 the next day – an off-the-wall terrible loss – and my even greater love, Richmond, was totally robbed against last year’s AFL runner-up, St Kilda. Sport, huh? Hang in there, Tigers.
For a change of headspace, Will, his mate, Jay, and I went to see comedian Jason Byrne, and promptly all got dragged up on stage; me to skip rope, Will and Jay to climb, with Byrne, into women’s underwear. As you do.
Undaunted, I battled on, trying to show Melbourne and Victoria to Tarn, a Thai exchange student, including kangaroos at Anglesea golf course, koalas at an increasingly-less secret spot out the back of Kennett River, the myriad of awesome birds living along the Great Ocean Road, and a whole different kind of wildlife at Chadstone shopping centre.
Of course, I think she loved Chadstone the most, which says a lot about today’s youth, but as long as she is enjoying herself, who cares? Will was claiming to have never been to Chadstone, which I think is now the biggest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere or something like that (might not be … what? I was going to research it?) so he tagged along and 15 minutes later, we’d seen enough. A sea of consumers, endless formula shops, so many checked shirts. I was impressed that Will took a kind of Bear Grylls approach to the adventure, which culminated in him trying to Facebook status update: “Lost in Chadstone food court: better drink my own piss”. Laughing, we ran back into the open air and freedom.
Because we’d had a brainwave and, like all good brainwaves, it was expensive. A musical drive to Hawthorn (Will crafting his ultimate pre-and-post-Zombie Apocalypse playlist), some even more musical cursing that the Glenferrie Road Fiesta was blocking all traffic, but then success! We made it to Bladeworx, a skater shop, and spent a shitload of cash on two full sets of inline kit. I got some second-hand blades that were allegedly $750 new, but I picked up for under $300. They seem awesome and Bill, the guy who helped us out, seemed straight-up. He even threatened to go look for my novels … so that’s 70 cents after tax I might get back, if he follows through. Win-win!
So now we’re out in the middle of my Fitzroy North street, on inlines, trying crossovers while watching for traffic, Mack, Tarn and Fly Dog idly wondering if we’ll die. Taking bets among themselves. And Will and I are realising hockey inline skates, as against traditional rollerblades (which is all I’d ever tried before, years ago …. Before The Incident*) don’t have a heel brake. In fact, hockey inlines don’t have any brakes. And you can’t snowplough like on the ice. So Will and I have no idea, at this stage, how to stop, apart from falling over, hitting a car or fence, or maybe slowly dropping our speed with some fancy toe-dragging. We need advice from Sam, my dive buddy, who is a big time inliner, or Hotcakes Gillespie, a northern skater, as previously mentioned.
Our theory is that once we work out stopping, we’ll be able to practice pivots, crossovers, backwards, all that tricky stuff, without having to drive across the city to the Icehouse every time. I’m always going to much prefer ice-time, I can tell that already, but this could be good once we get going.
So that was Sunday, and Monday was my birthday (thank you: I have no idea how I remain so handsome and attractive and physically vital at this age, either) so naturally, we took Tarn, Mack and my old schoolmate Stavros to Australia v Mexico at the Icehouse. (Tarn was keen, explained her dad used to play hockey. Of course, he did, there being so much ice in Bangkok. Turns out he studied in the US.)
The IIHF World Titles, Division 2, are on in Melbourne at the moment (Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, Belgium and Mexico are fighting it out for a place in Division 1 – North Korea pulled out late for financial reasons, or possibly because the soccer World Cup didn’t go so well for them last year). My birthday night corresponded with Australia’s first game, featuring our coach, Lliam Webster, of Melbourne Ice fame, so we perched in standing room down the unfashionable (away from the bar) end of the rink.
The game was a lot of fun – Australia won 11-1 and was a lot more physical than the poor Mexican team. Then again, they totally win when it comes to team names back home (Aztec Eagle Warriors, Priests, Totems, all sorts of cool names) and certainly have one of the coolest jerseys I’ve ever seen – I’m trying to work out how to buy one at the end of the tourney. Be awesome to wear to training.
Mexico reportedly has 18 ice rinks and 2200 registered players, including 1800 juniors. According to Wikipedia, the Mexican team’s biggest ever win was 48-0 over Armenia – that number again: 48 – on March 11, 2005, but that was never going to happen against Australia. The sombrero-types were worn down by the Aussies, 1-0 at the end of the first period becoming 5-0 by the end of the second and then goals raining in the third.
Lliam scored a couple of goals, Australia racked up a lot of penalty minutes including one guy getting thrown out of the game for a perceived head shot. If I was the coach, I’d be telling them to wind it back, just a notch, but what do I know?
More importantly, their skating made me want to weep. The international players are so light on their feet; backward crossovers are as easy as breathing, and the way they stop, in an instant, even while controlling the puck, took my breath away. Looks like I have some practice to do. A lot of practice. A lifetime.
(* The Incident: years ago, rollerblading along the Yarra with my oldest friend, Shonko. I gain far too much speed around a long right-hander at the Collingwood Children’s Farm. I go down, hard. All I hear is the collective “Oh GOD!” gasp/wince of an entire tour group crossing a bridge above as I splatter. I wait for the bruise to come out on my butt. I wait days. It finally emerges … at the front of my hip. Went right through. Nasty. Back then, I was so discouraged I gave up rollerblading. Now? I’m a hockey player. I need to go play hockey. Thank you, Brendan Witt.)