Along the way in this blog, I’ve talked about the people who have been so supportive at the Icehouse. Like our coaches, Lliam, Army and Michael. Jason, Shona and Tommy Powell have made cameos. Reading back, I make it sound like they’re everyday people … working as mild-mannered hockey coaches, or Icehouse staff, when they’re not being bike couriers (Lliam), graphic designers (Michael), rock stars (Mikey), proshop staff (Jason) and so on.
In fact, just about all of the Icehouse community are hockey stars in their own right. When not patiently watching hacks like me wobble around the ice (apart from when they decide to use such hacks for sledging practice – see last post), these people armour up, lace up skates, grab sticks and play hockey like you couldn’t believe. No matter how good-humoured and enthusiastic they are on non-match days, whenever I see them in action, I’m reminded of horses set free from a small paddock. Now they can show their stuff and you get a sense of why they’re so passionate about hockey.
Some are from Canada – which basically means, by Canadian law, they are world-class hockey players – or others have played there. When Will and I first turned up in our Medicine Hat Tigers jerseys, imported from Medicine Hat‘s incredulous front office after a series of emails, Lliam was stunned, because he had actually played against the Tigers while living over there.
On Saturday night, Will and I bundled up Bella, my niece, and headed to the Icehouse to watch Melbourne Ice take on the Adelaide Adrenalin, a team which Will pointed out has a huge AA on the players’ chests, which could be taken the wrong way – like the Ice are beating up on a bunch of recovering alcoholics.
I love taking people to the hockey for the first time. Like most people, Bella was keen but not wildly so; happy enough to join us but clearly not with massive expectations. Going along as a curiosity, I guess. And by the end was raving about hockey; how fast, how skillful, how bite-sized (in the Australian League, a game lasts only three x 15 minute periods, plus a shoot-out if required), how much fun in the crowd.
Will and I already know all this. I love going along. And suddenly there is Lliam, as a physically-imposing No. 2 for the Ice, moving between defence and attack, pushing an Adelaide guy over the bench into the Ice box (who me? says Lliam … see photographic evidence, left) and shooting the Ice’s first goal of the night with a bullet from the blue line. There’s Army, in No. 16, and Tommy, in No. 12, all over the place and mixing it up with the opposition, between passes and shots. And there’s Jason, in No. 57, one of the smallest guys on the ice but so fast and skillful. When Will first bought an Ice jersey, he asked for No. 57 on the back and went to the pro shop to pick it up. “Who’s your favourite player?” asked the guy behind the counter. “Jason Baclig,” Will said. The guy laughed. Yes, it was Jason, in his day job. Will blushed. They’re now good friends.
Jason and Army are both Import players, two of five on the Ice roster. An emerging cult favourite among the imports is Obi Aduba (mainly because his surname is fun to say, drawn out, whenever he does something good, which seems to be often) and forward Andrew Erzen has a strong fan base after mistakenly admitting to a couple of supporters that he once worked at Safeway, but don’t tell anyone. A group of fans behind the goal worked hard to get exactly the right fonts for their giant banner: “The Fresh Food Forward … Andrew ‘Safeway’ Erzen”
Of course, after the game, we simply had to take part in Pond Hockey, where wannabes like us take over Henke Rink and blaze away. It was fun, with Will’s old ice comrade Jack back from Italy, along with his mate, Tristan, and a few of our fellow hockey classmates on the ice. I skated around, lacking mojo – which was wildly frustrating after such a great class on the Wednesday. Maybe it’s just not a good idea to practice your skills straight after watching the pros effortlessly skate in tight curves with their bodies at a 30 degree angle to the ice, or racing backwards twice as fast I could hope to skate forwards? They’re very good. You have to see it for yourself.
I took a bunch of photos on Saturday (the Ice lost in a shoot-out but kicked the Adelaide Alcoholics the next night). Here’s a few of them. For the rest, click here.