Uh oh, I thought. Oh God, thought I.
There I was, rugged up, sitting next to my sister and her daughter, who had come along to see what all these icy shenanigans are about – and were freezing because it hadn’t occurred to them that at “The Icehouse”, sitting next to an ice rink, they might want to wear a few layers. But I digress…
We’re in the grandstand overlooking the home of the Melbourne Ice, the Henke Rink, and Will’s Intermediate class skates onto the smooth white surface as the Zamboni Ice Cat garage door closes.
As the skaters hang laps, warming up, Army and Lliam go into a huddle and then send the class down to one end of the ice and explain the first drill. But I spot immediately that it’s not a drill and feel my throat drying up.
Because, one by one, the skaters unmistakably start to go through the Assessment Routine, as performed (not very well) by me in Week Nine of Intro, first time around. Skate to the grandstand edge of the blue line. Stop facing the stand (left skate forward). Skate to the red line. Stop (right foot forward). Crossovers around the centre face-off circle, then stop facing the stand (left foot forward). Skate backward to the orange cone near the far goal and pivot, backward to forward, then curl around another cone in a tight left hander and stop near the stand (right foot forward). All while watched carefully by the coaches.
One of my Intro classmates, Frank, who had also arrived early, gave me a glance. I nodded grimly. Yep, only Week Eight but there it was. Judgment Day.
Of course, it goes without saying that I hadn’t been on the ice even once since last Wednesday’s class when I resolved I needed to practice hard. Had my kids’ film festival at ACMI (see Juxtaposed), intense scuba theory for a Deep, Nitrox and Wreck dive course I’m enduring, and general Life Stuff. No chance to even hang laps in a General Session, as I had totally planned to do. Hadn’t even been running, played footy or made it to the gym so I was feeling particularly creaky.
And now it was assessment.
I won’t bore you with it. It strangely went okay. I didn’t make any colossal errors, even if nobody watching would have mistaken me for an Ice team member in training. I skated forward. I stopped (snow plough, not a hockey stop, but whatever. I stopped.) I didn’t crash during the crossovers. I went backwards and pivoted (at the exact moment another student fell at the other end of the ice. I am nothing if not street smart, although I suspect Army spotted my sneaky early pivot, dammnit). My family crew, now watching from the warmth of the bar above, all cheered at the end and I gave them my best “Steve Holt” salute. Lliam shook his head sadly.
I was mostly relaxed because I had already decided I was going up to Intermediate, whether I passed or not. I’d spoken to a guy in Intermediate the week before who fessed up that he’d done that. Been told he should repeat Intro but shrugged and signed for the more advanced course. He hadn’t died.
So that was my plan. Twice around in Intro would do. If I totally suck at Intermediate next term, to the point that I can record it as an Epic Fail, maybe that answers the question about whether I can be a hockey player?
When I got the Letter of Death at the end of the lesson, it read “Intermediate/Intro”, which means they think I’m borderline but I can decide which way to go. No vote needed. That’s close enough and so (thank you for your applause), I’m no longer an Intro standard hockey player, as of a couple of weeks from now.
I’ve even signed up for Intermediate on Wednesday nights (the 6.15 class, reunited – which rocks – with Will, who’s repeating!) and the same class on the Saturday, for extra ice time and concentrated training.
After assessment, we had a lot of fun. Supermans, some pivot drills and then lots of puck-handling and passing, which I was mostly all over, relief and happiness that assessment was done freeing up my skates.
All this and an awesome weekend of scuba diving at Queenscliff with my dive buddies Sam, Sabrina and Marie, and then the news that Nick Lidstrom finally announced he is not retiring, intending to anchor the Red Wings defence for his 20th year in the NHL. Life is good.