Bones can break.

"Hi everybody ..."

Here’s a Life Tip for free, from me to you: Don’t embark on a First Aid Level 2 course while training to become a hockey player.

As the final part of achieving my Stress & Rescue certificate in scuba (meaning I’m the guy you want in the water if you lose consciousness and need to be brought safely to the surface, and then dragged back to the boat/shore, while receiving mouth-to-mouth mid-swim … well, ok, let’s just say you want me ahead of that American bloke who, umm, ignored his wife drowning mid-dive off the Queensland coast that time) … Anyway, to qualify, I just spent two days at the St John’s training centre on Queen Street, learning CPR, bandages, and other basic first aid.

An ex-girlfriend did this course while we were together and I’d always found it hilarious that she spent a week or so afterwards secretly hoping somebody would grab their chest and keel over in front of us, so she could leap into action. Now I kind of get it. Turning up at hockey training last night, I had a First Aid kit in the car and a head full of swirling new medical knowledge. (“Hi Dr Nick!” … “Hi, everybody!”)

But I also had a whole new appreciation of how nasty and painful some of the potential hockey injuries could be. I’ve been pretty lucky so far (touch lots of wood). An almost-broken arm in Class One of pre-hockey skating lessons, a bruise here or there, but nothing major. Hockey is safer than it looks, huh? … Well, no. The worst part of the St John’s course was when we got to impact injuries (as against heat stroke, hearts, poisons, etc). Broken collar bones, snapped arms, bones protruding from the skin … we covered it all and I felt progressively more squeamish because just about every one of the nasty scenarios was directly applicable to something going horribly wrong on the ice.

I think, at last count, the casualty rate of Will’s and my classmates stands at three broken collar bones in the 17 weeks or so since we started this nutso hockey adventure. Arms thrown out in front can do it, or hitting the boards in an uncontrolled manner. It’s actually not that difficult. The ice is hard and bones can snap.

Stupidly, in full hockey kit, sitting on the bench and waiting for the Ice Cat zamboni to smooth down the ice for our lesson, I got talking to a couple of classmates last night about the St John’s course and, sure enough, one had a wife who is a nurse. And so the horror stories began. Of hockey injuries we’ve heard of, witnessed. Of other nasty collision/impact injuries. Of life gone wrong among apparently fit, healthy, if ageing, guys like us.

The 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 ended up needing stitches. That was in my first ever hockey lesson, and a horrified group of Intro players, about to attempt their first lesson after us, were scarred for life by him being helped off the ice by Lliam, blood everywhere. He proudly told me last night that five of that second group never came back.

About then, we headed onto the ice and I noticed that Jill was missing. She’s a tall, lean skater who landed badly on her chest during supermans two weeks ago. I’m not sure I’ve seen her since. (Supermans, where you throw yourself onto the ice, chest-armour first, must be a bastard for women … like guys landing balls-first. Thanks anyway.) And then another guy was on the bench, holding his knee, as I briefly returned to tighten my skates.

Cross-control puck-handling, Like a Boss.

The wear and tear, the impacts, the physicality of hockey was everywhere … or maybe it was just because I’d done the First Aid course and was more acutely aware of it than usual.

Despite all this, I somehow made it through the lesson alive, if a little frustrated. I’m tracking okay – trapping, controlling and passing the puck well – but feel my skating has flatlined a little. I’m doing fine, keeping up, but assessment is in two weeks and I don’t feel like my actual skating is improving at the moment. I need to get to some general skate sessions over the next fortnight, to just really work crossovers, outside and inside edges … one-foot balance. It’s still the most basic, grassroots stuff that lets us all down at this level and I want to try to get on top of it. I’m going to Intermediate next time around, no matter what. So I have to be up to it.

It’s going to mean ice time among the general population, without my full protective gear, pushing my limits, trying to improve. What could go wrong?

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