Be the puck. Clear your mind. Be the puck.

Aimee meets Nicko

Ah, the glamour of hockey.

Last night’s session saw us trying to master the following skill: skate as fast as you could to the boards, spin and hit the wall with your arse, while the puck came screeching along the boards from Lliam’s stick behind the goals, like something out of Rollerball.

Now you’re planting your skate so that the puck ricochets off it, neatly stopping on the ice at the end of your stick, as you take off, passing to a teammate gliding past.

That was the theory anyway.

Of course, I got maybe one out of six attempts right, but the puck only clean-bowled me once, which I took as a minor victory.

Heady with this newfound skill, we even extended it to a more involved drill where one skater did the arse-to-wall-ricochet thing while another received the pass, they both skated hard down the rink, the puck-holder did a tight turn and passed to the original arse-waller* to have a shot.

I was okay at all this. But not great. I’d received a very bad email, from my day job perspective, literally as I was getting in my car to drive to the Icehouse and I found it, and some wider Life stuff going on, hard to shake out of my head while on the ice.

This is a very rare occurrence. In fact, one of the things I most love about hockey is that I tend to leave the rest of my brain at the gate as I step onto the ice.

From my very first skating lesson, where I thought I’d broken my arm about two minutes in, I learned to be in the moment while on the ice. And generally I am.

While skating, I feel all sorts of emotions; including exhilaration and excitement, but also frustration at not being better, anger when my skills let me down, determination, fear … the list goes on, but that’s the point.

I usually also end up laughing, and often because of Lliam and Army’s way of teaching. They’ll explain something to us and we’ll all stare, silently processing, taking it in.

And they’ll say: “We all good with that?”


“No questions?”

More silence.

“… OK … (under breath:) Good talk.”

We get “OK, good talk” a lot. And Lliam’s other favourite, when explaining why a puck bounces a certain way off the boards, or why your front foot needs to be just so during a tight turn – which is tough for him because skating is like breathing for these guys and they don’t think at all, they just auto-skill/muscle memory this stuff – so he often ends up shrugging and saying: “It’s … you know, science.”

Hockey player science. There’s a reality show waiting to happen.

So I’m always engaged and very alive when on the ice. In fact, off the top, I can only think of twice where I have caught myself staring into the middle distance, thinking of non-hockey matters.

So last night had a touch of that and my skating wasn’t great. I was a step slow, lacking the confidence, or at least the who-gives-a-shit?-have-a-crack attitude that can improve your skating, and I think it showed.

Happily, you can rely on your teammates. For the last five minutes or so, we played Russian roulette again (see last week’s blog) although, this time, Will and I were both in dark/red jerseys so we were on the same team and couldn’t be set up for a one-on-one Placefest, luckily for me.

In the first shift, five-on-five, I had my finest moment of the night. Skated to a loose puck on the boards, controlled it, kept my head among swarming opponents, spotted a teammate free and clear and passed it right in front of him, so he could skate onto it and cruise to goal … except that as I skated hard to provide emergency back-up, he turned and almost collided with me, heading the other way. Turns out we were shooting to the other end. Oops. I decided instead it was a mature look-for-your-defender-behind-the-play kind of pass.

And then, in my final shift, I was chasing the puck and a classmate, Aimee, still sporting an impressive technicolour bruise from last Wednesday’s smash-up-derby session, came hard the other way and collided front-on, helmet-to-helmet, like two steam trains at full speed. Go helmets! And armour! And go Aimee, who had no intention of doing anything but taking me out. (She fessed up later it was premeditated revenge for the Mighty Ducks Incident.)

So I crashed and landed on my knees and, for the first time that session, all non-hockey thoughts were definitely nowhere in my head. We looked at each other in surprise, post-crash, and I instinctively called her a motherfucker, which I suspect shocked Aimee more than the crash. But I said it fondly.

And we were grinning. Especially me. That full body collision was just what I needed. It was a great way to finish the hour because, amen, I was a hockey player again. (Thanks, Aimee.)

At least for those next last few minutes, before the Real World came calling again. But you know what? Bring it.

… Good talk.

 (* technical hockey term)

Bobblehead shenanigans

True sports fans understand that the worst moment of the year is not necessarily when you realise your team won’t make the finals, or that gun recruit might not be all he was cracked up to be, or even losing a grand final (although clearly that is up there).

The worst moment is the day after the grand final, when you realize you have just entered the wasteland known as the off-season.

For AFL fans, this runs October through to February, although there is enough cattle trading of players and draft news through the first month or so to feed the cravings. English Premier League fans I know are only just joyously losing sleep to watch the first games of a new season. Golf and tennis pretty much never stop, between official events and meaningless exhibitions, for those 12 people who still care about those sports.

The NHL has been on summer vacation for quite a while now and the absence of meaningful hockey is starting to bite. Even from half a world away, you can feel the stir-crazy. The biggest hockey story running on the Detroit Free Press website, as I type this, is that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is planning to speak at a luncheon in a few weeks. Also that the Wings have renewed their affiliation with Double A team, Toledo. Wow.

Red Wing bobbleheads: competition is fierce.

This was after the great bobblehead face-off where the Free Press breathlessly reported on the Red Wings’ official site running a poll for which player fans would most like to have made into a bobblehead figurine. Clearly as bored by the off-season wasteland as the rest of us, several Wings players started campaigning, with Dan Cleary creating a video where he said: ““Hi, this is Dan Cleary. Vote for me for my bobblehead. I really want one. Please. Don’t vote for Bertuzzi — his head is way too big, it won’t even fit on a bobblehead anyway.”

Cleary’s victory led to my favourite headline of the off-season: “Wings’ Cleary gets a bobblehead; Bertuzzi calls shenanigans”.

Given shenanigans remains close to my favourite word in the English language, I was thrilled on many levels, not least that a hockey player for my team could use it and in the right context.

Of course, half a world away, it’s not summer, we’re not running countdown clicks until the first NHL game, the leading local hockey players are not reclining in their summer mansions in Canada or Sweden or Russia. The hockey season is in full swing, with the mighty Melbourne Ice confirmed as minor premiers and all roads leading to the semi-finals and final, on the weekend of September 3-4 at the Icehouse.

At training last Wednesday, somebody pointed out that Lliam’s beard is getting bushy and he confirmed it was a play-off growth, making the point that players have to start early because it’s kind of hard to grow the traditional play-off beard over the single weekend of Australian Ice Hockey League finals. Army is also getting scruffy so the Melbourne Ice players are clearly getting in the zone.

In the locker-room, we’re starting to wonder how to fill the summer, with players considering private lessons or the training programs that run through December and January. This time last year, it hadn’t occurred to me to play hockey so it’s all new to me. How is it possible that I was completely uninvolved in playing this sport nine months ago?

As the great Harry Hoo, off Get Smart, would say: “Amazing.” …

On Saturday, we had our usual intense session, fuelled by all the teammates from dev league, who aren’t shy to tell you if they think you’re not pushing it. I got talking to one guy in a cool jersey who confirmed it was the official jersey of a Kuala Lumpur ex-pats team, with his actual name on the back. So there’s another guy who has played for real. The terms “intermediate” and “learning” are pretty loose at the Icehouse.

But even post-intro hacks like me can have fun. We played a game ‘Scuba’ Edwards introduced, called “boggle”, where it was five-on-five inside the blue line, kind of the hockey equivalent of half-court basketball. If your team got the puck, and you made a pass to a teammate, you could go for goal. The other side switched to defence until they got the puck back. It was fun, even if I did have one embarrassing moment of watching a loose puck too closely while at speed and forgetting to stop until it was too late.

“You boarded yourself,” said the celebrated northern skater, Hotcakes Gillespie, who had been watching from the stands, just above where I slammed into the glass. “Impressive.”

I’m just glad she wasn’t watching the other time it happened.

Yes, managed it twice.

I rock.

Supermans, Russian roulette & a hip-hopper called G-Storm

“So,” said Magic Enzo, the osteo, on Monday. “How’s that shoulder? Have you been looking after it.”

“You bet,” I said.

“What did you do on the weekend.”

“Um, played hockey, then watched hockey, then got wildly drunk, then played footy, then watched footy. Rode my bike around.”

“Did you land on your shoulder at all?”

“In hockey or footy?”


“Actually both. Why? What’s your point?”

I kind of got away with Saturday’s hockey training, not nailing the shoulder even in tricky, nasty backward skating defence drills, where I’m never at my peak. Then at The Bang, my Sunday footy, I did my usual quota of 10x push-ups for skill errors, but laughed as a couple of rising Timorese hip-hop artists, Fabrice and G-Storm, ran around like giant puppies, learning AFL. Until recently they were in a detention camp for seven years, an old mate of mine, who’d brought them down for the kick, told me. Even that guy, Paulie, had been so sick a couple of years ago that he was literally given the Last Rites. I was trying to get my head around such life swings but was probably too hungover for such ponderings. Damn vodka. It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp Sunday morning and, going by their attitude, Fabrice, G-Storm and Paulie aren’t unhappy with their change in fortunes, By the end of the session, they were leading and yelling like old-time Bangers.

The Superman. Getting up is the hard bit.

Suddenly my dodgy shoulder didn’t seem so bad. I landed on it again five or six more times last night at hockey training, and several were enforced. Lliam decided it was time we became Jedis at Supermans (where you throw yourself full length at the ice then get back to your skates – last night in a very short distance, between the blue and red line). If one skater failed, we were all punished with laps or skating drills. Supermans are a good time to be wearing armour and I wince in sympathy for the women in our class, landing six or seven times on their chest. I’m reliably informed it’s like men being kicked in the balls.

After that drill, though, last night’s session took off. One drill, for example, had us taking a puck the length of the rink, being chased by a back-checker (defender hunting you down from behind). Then, after you took a shot, you tapped the left goal post with your stick, which was the signal for another skater to take off with the puck and you became the back checker. It meant sprinting as fast as you possibly could down the rink and, even if I didn’t catch many of the others, I can’t remember just out-and-out sprinting on my skates with such intensity. I was even able to snowplough stop at the end before I slammed into the boards, which helped.

We also had two-on-two drills, with pairs trying to score goals, alternating from defence to attack depending on who had the puck. My puck-handling actually stood up, so that I controlled it repeatedly, made passes, scored two or three goals. One was a sneaky backhand slide from a tight angle between three flailing sticks. Army had a lot of trouble hiding his astonishment that I made the shot, but that was okay. I was right with him in the open-mouthed stakes.

And then we played Russian roulette scrimmage, where we were divided into two teams, on the benches, and Lliam or Army would yell a number between one and five, and that many skaters would hit the ice, chasing a puck, tossed randomly onto the rink. I was part of a four-on-four, and then a three-on-three. Scored a goal on that one. And then was next skater on as I waited my next turn. I should have known from Lliam’s sneaky look what was coming. “Nicko, make sure the gate’s open,” he said. “ONE!!!” (The only “one” for the night.)

Will getting ready.

I charge onto the ice as Lliam and Army woop, and of course it’s Will flying out of the other gate. Place v Place; always entertaining. (Will told me later that he was at the other end, last to go, and they called him to the front, so they could set it up.)

I wasn’t too far behind Will when we got to the puck, guessed right that he would turn left, clashed sticks, SO close to stealing it, and lost my legs, crashing hard (Hello, shoulder. Sorry, Enzo). I figure Will was long gone, but then saw over my screaming shoulder that he was also in a pile of armour on the ice. Apparently he’d hurt a knee earlier in the session and it buckled as he tried to take off. He still had the advantage though, and by the time we found our feet, he was in shape to goal, and did.

Back on the bench, as Will explained the knee thing, Army just gave it to him about excuses, laughing his arse off. I love the merciless nature of hockey players in hanging shit.

“I still got the goal,” Will said.

“At least I hurt him, right, Army?” I said.

Everyone was happy.

In the rooms, we were all buzzing. We all agreed that was the most intense, full-on session we’d had, at least on a Wednesday. People were bruised and battered. All grinning like maniacs. I definitely skated better because I was so pushed for speed and need.

Up until last night, it felt like I’d had a low-key hockey week, more interested in my AFL team,

Saturday whiteboard: Us (11.30 am), minor leagues, Melbourne Ice and Blue Tongues all represented.

Richmond, actually winning a game and some life matters swirling around me. But now I think about it, I’ve read the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News at least twice a day, hunting Red Wings news (as well as noticing there were no less than 28 shootings in Detroit last weekend, including seven dead. We’re there in November … there goes Father of the Year), watched Melbourne Ice wrap up the minor premiership for finishing top of the ladder, started trying to write a commissioned feature for The Age about being a 40-something hockey rookie, and spent a couple of hours looking up hockey gear warehouses in America, for our looming trip. I might be more hooked than I thought. Then again, who am I kidding?

Gotta love hockey.

Getting edgy

Since I got back from the Gold Coast, I’ve managed to hit the ice a few times. I had a morning skate, which I always love because a) the ice is practically empty and b) those who are there are usually interesting.

On Tuesday, there were a few figure skaters doing their thing and one older dude speed skating, but in third gear. As in, sort of lazily doing laps but in full speed-skate position, one arm behind back, crouched, long strides.

I was down on the goal line at the far end of the rink, entertaining the hockey Gods with my attempts

Cossack dancing: Not so good on the ice, or on new edges.

to skate only on my outside edges along the line, or doing the tight-turn drill Army had us doing a few weeks ago, stepping over the line and trying to turn as tightly as possible on one foot, either inside or outside edge.

Like I said, the key word here is attempting.

While I was getting up off the deck from one such attempt, another hockey player hit the ice. Tall, dark, dashing. Name of Tom, once we’d introduced ourselves. He skated like a dream, with powerful confident strides, broken only by the occasional flawless one-foot hockey stop, snow flying. Or to pivot effortlessly, to either side. Or to skate backwards, with the occasional backward crossover to mix things up.

“Wow,” I said. “What level are you at? Dev league?”

“Intro,” he said.


But one thing I liked about him: he fell over a lot. As in, I’d be doing my thing on that far goal line and I’d hear the crash as Tom bodily hit the boards at speed at the other end (figure skaters, not so happy). Tom was fully prepared to push himself and his ability beyond comfortable, which I liked him for. It was apparently his first time in armour, so he figured he may as well as crash and get used to it.

Falling is the only way to get better, as they keep telling us in class, and as I keep proving … but without getting better. (Ok, maybe a bit, at glacier pace.) Another friend was skating last night as we finished class and was proud and/or relieved to get through the skate with a dry butt, which is reasonable. I looked down at my hockey kit, covered in snow from repeated falls. Maybe that’s the key: to know that by wearing the kit, you’re padded and able to get wet and icy without worrying?

At class last night, Melbourne Ice player Tommy Powell joined Shona and Scuba in putting us through lots of drills. Heaps of skating, which was good, involving puck handling, one-on-two, attack-and-defence. Fun.

Well, eventually fun. To start things off, they had us doing all sorts of skating drills, such as skating and crouching while trying to put one leg forward and then the other, like a Russian Cossack dancer jogging. Nuts. In fact, here’s video of our class trying it. (I’m the one in the traditional Red Wings colours). See for yourself.

I had just had my skates re-edged and to a different, deeper cut. Having new edges always makes me skate like a drunkard (ok, even more so), and I was not loving these drills to push your skating ability. My feet felt wrong all night and I was wobbly, but not so badly that I didn’t enjoy the class.

Talking to Josh, a classmate, between drills, he said that it usually takes him three skates before new edges feel okay. So I had better try to somehow skate between now and Saturday’s next official Intermediate outing. Or maybe I should just wear the skates to the supermarket, or for a day at work … that should blunt the edge, huh?

In other news: Our big USA trip is close to booked and looks like including four Red Wings games. One in Washington (four rows back from the glass: booked!), three at the Joe Louis Arena, plus a tour of the facility by the Wings, who seem genuinely pleased we’re making the trip from Melbourne. And, for a change-up, we are also ticketed for Harry Potter World in Florida.

Life is about diversity. Write that down.

Infiltrating Blue Tongue country

It’s winter on the Gold Coast in Queensland, which means it’s sunny and 26 degrees. I’m freezing (which could be a virus I’m battling), wearing a Red Wings baseball cap, a jumper and a scarf, watching my breath fog in front of my face. In front of me, a diesel-powered Zamboni is chugging along an ice rink in what can only be described as an old shed.

I’m at Iceland, in the suburb of Bundall. Bundall is not close to “The Worlds” to the north or

The Iceland rink, in all its glory.

Coolangatta airport to the south, which basically means it’s part of the endless industrial park hinterland that makes up any part of the Gold Coast that hasn’t been subdivided into tiny housing blocks.

Having skated at Iceland, Hotcakes Gillespie, the celebrated northern skater, tells me to watch for the arch across the road on approach. It turns out the piping, like some plumbing experiment gone wrong, is celebrating the Gold Coast Turf Club, which is nearby, but, hey, it’s a landmark among the factories and we sail under the arch, turn left and find ourselves at the home rink of the Gold Coast Blue Tongues ice hockey team.

I don’t want to get all elitist about this place. I had always kind of known that the Melbourne

The view from my seat: Ice players stand in front of the crowd between shifts.

Icehouse, where I train, is Australia’s official winter Olympic training facility and as such is pretty schmick. I guess what I hadn’t taken into account is life away from the Icehouse.

In fact, far from being all sniffy about the Gold Coast Iceland, I’m in awe of the Blue Tongues players. To train and play at such a dilapidated, sub-standard rink and then duke it out with the better resourced teams, like Melbourne Ice, is nothing short of heroic.

A photo on the Melbourne Ice facebook page from Sunday showed the showers at Iceland … several plastic water drums on top of a shed, with hoses to let the water fall. When we arrived, Jason Baclig and other members of the Ice were warming up in the carpark. The actual rink looked wet, not frozen, and instead of that pleasing, sharp scrapped-ice sound of a good hockey stop, when players changed direction there was a kind of slushy sound. I have never seen so many players in an AIHL game lose their footing, sliding around on watery ice. And the rink looked smaller than the Heinke Rink where we train, and where Melbourne Ice plays its home games. I’m not sure if it was an optical illusion or not. I suspect this rink was NHL sized, not Olympic sized.

Watching all this was about 150-200 fans, who had paid ten bucks each at the door. Five or six people were wearing Gold Coast jerseys, which are based on the Canucks’ colour scheme. Otherwise the major fundraising initiative was a sausage sizzle out the front, cooked by parents of Blue Tongue players.

Two or three rows of seats lined one wall, meaning even such a small crowd was capacity. Amazingly, there was no glass around the rink, meaning netting was all that protected spectators from the flying puck, and also meant any player getting “boarded” was pushed into a waist-high wall, not safer glass.

The scoreboard was for “Visitors” v “Grizzlies” (much better name than the Blue Tongues, btw, Coasters). There were no benches for the teams, or penalty boxes. That swarthy sex symbol of the Ice, Jacques Perreault, got a penalty and had to stand with the rest of the team for two minutes, seething quietly.

Ice goalie Stu Denman didn't bother trying to go outside to the change room during intervals.

Between shifts, Melbourne Ice players stood in front of us, local fans wandering past them with sausages in bread, as the Ice players discussed tactics and were baited by the crowd. After one dodgy penalty, an old dude standing next to us muttered in a super-satisfied growl under his breath: “Welcome to the Gold Coast.” By the game’s end, when the Blue Tongues sunk an empty netter to take a 5-3 lead, Ice captain Vinnie Hughes was leaning on the wall, having verbal stoushes with the crowd, sitting a whole metre away.

“Man, tomorrow’s game is going to have an edge,” Hotcakes Gillespie observed, as Joey Hughes was led out of a fight with three seconds to go on the clock. And she was right … according to Twitter, the refs tried to give Army a five minute penalty for fighting the next day, when Melbourne claimed he wasn’t even on the ice at the time, Lliam got thrown out of the game, and Ice eventually won 5-3 after Jason Baclig (who else?) chipped into the empty net to split the weekend’s scorelines.

So this is AIHL life away from the palatial Icehouse? I felt genuinely concerned for the Melbourne Ice and Blue Tongue players, trying to play at the professional level they do on such a dodgy rink (a game was cancelled recently because the Iceland ice was deemed dangerous) EDIT: a broken thermostat made the ice too cold, according to a local, replying to this post (see below).

But I also felt amazed that the Gold Coast team could be at such a decent standard, given their home. And I felt admiration for the bloke who clearly runs everything to keep Iceland going, driving the Zamboni, putting up the netting, checking the bar is ticking over, renting skates on weekdays and ensuring the shipping container that doubles as team changing rooms is clean and tidy for visiting sides. All while 99 per cent of the local population are at the beach down the road.

Aduba, Tommy Powell and Lliam Webster watch the game; a long way from the AHL.

At one stage, I was watching Melbourne’s star import Obi Aduba clamber over the sponsor-free wall to stand on wet carpet with only a net separating him from the fans, dodgy under-wattage lighting making the whole scene gloomy. When the AIHL finals finish, Aduba is heading back to America to play for the Quad City Mallards, in Illinois, (This is him dropping the gloves for Quad City before he joined the Ice) and will try out with Springfield, in the AHL – one level below NHL. What must he have made of this Gold Coast scene? It would be like an ATP tennis player competing at antbed tennis courts in central Queensland, local farmers manning the lines.

I guess, like so much else in hockey, he’s in it for the adventure. Iceland provided that.

Quack. Quack. Quack.

The mighty mighty Mighty Ducks

I like to think of my hockey classmates as a band of brothers and sisters. We skate together, we bite ice together, we battle stinky hockey gear together.

It’s a bond.

Sadly, this week there was a dangerous edge to the locker room.

Even more sadly, there is no dispute that I was the cause of it.

Anybody who believes Facebook is not dangerous, heed this story. Like CW Stoneking’s “Love Me Or Die”, Facebook should be used carefully, else a powerful voodoo may bring undone the person or the thing you love.

Trust me. I know.

So what did I do?

Well, I admitted to our catchily-titled “2011 Icehouse Intermediate Hockey Group” that I considered “Mighty Ducks” to be a crap film.

I ventured my opinion on the merits, or lack thereof, of this 1992 classic, alternatively-named “Champions” (talk about give away the ending, btw).

I know, I know. I’m sorry, alright?

There’s no need to go into specific details of the 30 comments that followed (starting with: “oooh fighting words Place!” … “This should get interesting.” … and then straight into “Blasphemy!” and beyond.)

It would be fair to say our Facebook group went nuts. It’s a closed group, thankfully, so the public wasn’t exposed to the vitriol. We’re hockey players, so the language can get fruity. The only win was that nobody dobbed me in to Lliam Webster, our coach and the hard man of Melbourne Ice. I know for a fact he loves the film, and he attacked me with a stick tonight, anyway, but playfully, so I dodged a bullet there.

Suffice to say, I am now aware that many of my classmates feel strongly about the film, which stars Emilio Estevez and a very young Joshua Jackson for any Dawson Creek fans out there (and if you are out there, why the Hell are you reading a hockey blog?)

Me (left), shaping up to take on a defender, tonight. Pic by Will.

Mighty Ducks is set in Minnesota in the days of puffy hair and is a film about a team of misfit kids; hard kids off the street, who all manage to be cutesy with hearts of gold. All of them. One kid learns to skate by roller-blading through a shopping centre in one easy sequence. Can’t skate: now can skate. A lot of eggs are sacrificed. (We have actually had Lliam use that scene to teach us stick-handling: “Treat the puck softly like an egg … glide it, don’t whack it.”)

The complicated plot, summarised by imdb, goes a little something like this: “Gordon Bombay, a hotshot lawyer, is haunted by memories of his childhood, when, as the star player in his champion hockey team, he lost the winning goal in a shootout, thereby losing the game, and the approval of his coach. After being charged for drunk driving, the court orders him to coach a peewee hockey team, the worst in the league, Gordon is at first very reluctant. However, he eventually gains the respect of the kids and teaches them how to win, gaining a sponsor on the way and giving the team the name of The Ducks. In the finals, they face Gordon’s old team, coached by Gordon’s old coach, giving Gordon a chance to face old ghosts.

There’s no way you could possibly guess what happens.

So anyway, it turns out 75 per cent of our Facebook group only got into hockey because of this film. Goldberg, the fat kid goalie, is regarded as an icon. Nobody has any issues with Gordon heading off to try out as a player at the end of the film.

I’m not criticising. It’s the greatest film ever made. And there were sequels, which I am yet to enjoy. Oh boy.

By the time I headed to the Icehouse tonight – accompanied by an enthusiastic spectator in Will (sidelined by toe surgery), eagerly along for the juicy prospect of extreme violence and the likely death of his father – online threats of “boarding” me and worse had been made, including a pledge for the whole class to stand over my fallen body, doing the Ducks’ famous “Quack” chant.

Me, beating a defender, tonight. He shoots. He scores!

Happily, my teammates decided to let me live and I actually had an awesome class, learning forward-to-backward transitions, doing lots of passing, backward skating, shooting for goal and one-on-one forward versus D.

It was one of those rare classes where my feet felt right in the skates, I had my balance and the world actually worked for me, in that the move we had to learn was snow-plough-based, as against the hockey-stop lean-back. As the only person on the ice who is still crap at hockey stops, the urgent snow plough remains my only stopping option, all weight on the front leg, which is what tonight’s main move required.

Who knows? Maybe falling over every-other-pivot will turn out to be a strength too in the weeks ahead?

Either way, I’m not scared any more. All I have to do is invoke the spirit, pluck and sheer goddamn decency of Charlie Conway, captain of the Ducks.

Quack! Quack! Quack!

(Secret blog easter egg, thanks to classmate Shaun Madden: Where are the Ducks now? Gold.)