Once more with feeling …

Nicko (right) and a manta friend.

So, I have a game of ice hockey tomorrow night. Turns out I’m in town, back from crazy manta ray adventures, for the final class of Wednesday night lessons. And that means scrimmages.

Having not been on the ice for a couple of weeks, and having been in a different universe (see picture) and now caught in the quicksand of life and labouring under a heavy head cold … well, what could go wrong?

Weirdly, this could be just what I need. I can hit the ice tomorrow with no real expectation of performing at a high standard. I should just get out there, crash into people and have fun. Given that I don’t plan to take formal classes next term (Will and many others are doing Intermediate again, and Dev League, so I’m very worried about being left behind, but I think I need to follow my plan to become a better pure skater) … this could be my last real game for a long time, unless I take the plunge into Drop-In hockey when I’m back from America.

The last scrimmage session I attempted was at the end of my second stint of Intro and it was an absolute shocker. My dodgy shoulder exploded very early in the piece after a nasty fall, confidence ebbed with every shift and I was terrible all night.

I’m pretty sure the whole experience was made worse because I was dumb enough to carry expectations onto the ice. I hadn’t played so badly in my first end-of-Intro scrimmage and it made sense that, 10 weeks of refining and underlining skills later, I should be an infinitely better player, right?

Wrong. When I was clearly fumbling and bumbling like your standard end-of-Intro beginner, I unravelled.

Happily, in Intermediate, I’ve known all term that I’m at the lower end of skills among the class, so I can just embrace that and do what I can. The others have been in hockey mode right through, whereas I blew off to Lady Elliot Island to dive with Project Manta, and you can’t believe what an awesome/foreign headspace that was.

hockey sledging in the Tropics.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the lead scientist, Kathy, is a Canadian who wore her Canadian hockey jersey around between dives, and one of the dive masters, Alesh, was a Czech who gave Kathy anti-Canada hockey shit at every turn, well, hockey would have been another planet.

Canadian Kathy.

Even stranger than spending seven days underwater with giant mantas was having no phone or internet access for a week. You tried that lately? It’s freaky, if you’re as connected as most people who would bother to read a blog. I had no idea Sam Stosur had won the US Open, only sketchy details of the footy finals and missed a whole week of friends’ lives on facebook. Very unusual.

Since I got back to Melbourne, I’ve been absorbing the trusty Detroit Free Press and Detroit News sites, to see what’s been happening at the Red Wings. Informal training has now ended and the team is in Traverse City, holding formal pre-season training. Pavel Datsyuk is wearing No. 24 instead of his usual No. 13 for the entire pre-season, as a tribute to the Wings’ previous 24, the late Ruslan Salei, killed in that plane crash a week or so ago.

Me at Earthwatch's Project Manta.

My last blog stands, about not knowing where life is going to take you; allowing those Wings of Fate to flap. For good and bad, and often at the same time.

Right now, I need to concentrate on the good, because there’s a lot of it if I tune in. I can’t believe last week I was swimming with manta rays, with up to a five-metre wingspan. I can’t believe in two and a half weeks, I’ll be in Manhattan, skating at Central Park. I can’t believe in a month and a bit, we’ll be watching the Wings live, in Washington and then Detroit. I even have tickets, stashed among my luggage. As long as online booking across two countries works, we’re there. Or very unhappy.

But first I need to survive tomorrow night, including coming up with a way to handle mass snot under a glass visor. I never said this hockey adventure would be pretty.

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