A magician, broken Bears, and Bill

A week in hockey …

1. Bill glides

A mid-week skate, not many people on the ice. A few figure skaters, as always, doing their thing.

Including Bill.

Bill is not young. But he’s out there often, twirling gently, doing smooth pivots, skating backward, now forward. Effortless.

As we watch Army drive the Zamboni around the rink (do those Ice guys ever get a day off?) I get talking to Bill who tells me he’s 85 years old. He’s been skating for 75 years. Suddenly me taking up this crazy ice-based sport in my 40s doesn’t seem as ridiculous (OK, still pretty ridiculous).

Bill says he’s skated at 30 or 40 rinks around Victoria during his time. These days he just figures (pun intended) that it’s a good way to keep a creaky body moving and he’s totally right. He moves well.

The Melbourne Glaciarium, where Bill started out.

I asked Bill where he first skated and his reply is immediate. “The Glaciarium … across the river from Flinders Street Station.” (I checked. Yes, he’s right. It looks like it would have been awesome. Another of those breathtakingly gorgeous Marvellous Melbourne buildings that got bulldozed.)

He also told me about the time they put three barges side-by-side on the Yarra and built an outdoor ice rink on top. Of course, Australian heat was a problem and the ice got loose around the edges.

“Anybody fall in?” I asked.

“Yep. Me,” Bill chuckled.

The Zamboni chugged off the rink, Army sweeping the excess snow off the surface and closing the garage door. We skated. Last I saw Bill, he was giving gentle tips to a family clinging desperately to the side wall. Showing them the sideways push.


2. A Sunday with the Bears

Great win to the Melbourne Ice on Sunday, following Saturday’s beating up of the Mustangs, with a thriller against the Sydney Bears. Even with Lliam out (crook), the Ice managed to prevail, coming back from 0-2 down at the end of the first period to steal a 3-2 win with two whole seconds on the clock. I kid you not.

Jason Baclig with some dazzling stick work found a gap that wasn’t there between the goalie’s right shoulder and the goal frame, from side-on. Zetterbergesque.

The Bears were disgusted. As the Ice players celebrated, the Bears threw sticks and gloves with venom into their bench (not where players were sitting). An ugly loss.

My favourite moment? Waiting for hot chips in the cafe and realising the third period had started. It looked awesome so I cranked up the iPhone video. From the Icehouse cafe, the view of the game is like this (and note the guy getting boarded 5 seconds in).

3. Just one more reason to love the Wings

Will discovered a kid called Tomas Jurco a year or so ago. We oohed and aahed and gasped at his moves. Will sagged a little when he realised this kid was one day older than him.

But amen, Wings. The NHL national talent draft happened over the weekend and guess who the Wings grabbed with their first selection, in early Round Two? Yep. The Magician.

How good? We can now unashamedly barrack for the freakiest skillset in the game, already talked about in the same breath as Datsyuk for circus-trick stick-handling. Welcome to Detroit, Tomas. Learn the words to “Don’t Stop Believin'”.

Can’t wait to see you in the winged wheel in two or three years, once you’ve bulked up and done your time at Grand Rapids.

4. And me?

Last class of Intro on Wednesday night, which means we play an actual game – the absolute. undisputed highlight of the first time around in Intro. It will be interesting to see how far I’ve come by repeating, the problem being a lot of my fellow skaters are also Repeaters, so they’ve got better too.

Jurco won’t lose sleep about my stick-handling, Bill’s skating skills are safe. But I plan to have fun.


  1. […] onto public ice in a morning session. There were three people skating: me, and two guys. One is Bill,  Icehouse’s resident “legendary old dude”. The other is some guy in hockey skates, also feeling his way. I practice going around one of the […]

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