So, I arrived back in Melbourne mid-morning on Monday on the red-eye from LA. Feeling strangely not too bad.
Went for a run at about 5 pm, to keep creeping tiredness at bay until a decent sleep hour. Also drank some wines at dinner, which was a rookie error or a veteran sleep-well move, depending on your take. I slept.
Ran again in the heat on Tuesday, to start warding off those American carbohydrate extra pounds.
And then it was Wednesday.
And pretty quickly, I realised I’d made a huge mistake.
A Biblical storm was closing in on Melbourne and I could have so easily scrambled for home, a couch, some whisky, the ever-loving smooches from my faithful hound, and some TV and early sleep.
Instead I turned my car west and headed for the Icehouse, marvelling at the cloudscape as I descended on Docklands from the Goalpost Bridge freeway (no traffic and a rockstar park at the Icehouse front door, because of said storm: awesome).
And that’s when I realised my mistake. You see, for most of this year, Wednesday has meant hockey class: Intro for two terms, and then Intermediate last term. As previously discussed, this term I decided not to enrol in Intermediate again because of my frank assessment that my skating isn’t good enough to progress to Dev League. So I’ve decided to spend the summer having private skating lessons, and/or just hanging endless laps and trying hockey moves on the Bradbury Rink.
Which is all fine and remains an excellent plan. Except that I have to walk past the Heinke Rink and see classes in full flight. The intermediate classes I should be part of, with my usual classmates out there, chasing pucks.
Everybody was super friendly and glad to see me back. It’s very cool what a strong ice family we have built in less than a year, from our ever-expanding Facebook Icehouse Rookies group to just random banter at the venue. The McNab girls, friends of mine, are in Intro and were wearing armour for the first time last night, enjoying the wonders of Supermans and the other rookie moves that made me nostalgic for, what? April?
But then I felt like a loner as I turned my back on all my classmates and headed to the public rink; to toil on my pivots and backward skating and other moves in gloves, helmet and basic padding, but not in the usual class environment.
This term has about five weeks to go and it’s going to be difficult.
There is plenty of upside though. Wednesday night turns out to be a good one for general skating, with very few people there, whether it’s because they thought Melbourne was going to be levelled by the storm and had loved ones to spend their final moments with, or 7 pm Wednesday just isn’t a time people usually skate.
I was on my beautiful new Reebox 11s – as worn by Pavel Datsyuk among others – and they are definitely superior to my old Bauer Vapors. Much more comfortable and fit better (a whole size smaller). I feel more in control even now, when they’re new and the cut is fresh. I read a book recently that discussed hockey skates and said: “A hockey stick is like a date. They come and go. Your skates are your wife.” You do get attached to them, and need to trust them as you perform ridiculous moves that are going to hurt if they go wrong. I feel better in these ones.
Plus even Lliam was impressed by my new wheels, so they have the Cool factor. Pumped up kicks.
Out on the ice, I realised I hadn’t skated at all for something like nine weeks, apart from a cameo appearance in the final scrimmage class of Intermediate (between mantas and American adventures) and one test-the-skates session in Chicago, where Will and I joined locals on an indoor rink, surrounded by Blackhawks of all shapes and sizes, for five bucks a skate.
But even that was more than two weeks ago.
At the Icehouse I took a while to find my legs, then skated fast, zipping around the track, and tried some slow pivots, hockey stops … all my usual foes. I even did 360 spins – as in, pivot and keep pivoting – just to see how long I could balance while turning like an idiot. I figure to get better,I need to conquer balance. Once or twice, at high speed (for me), I almost lost it and had to recover through sheer arse and hammie work. I stayed up. Felt good. Skated for almost three hours.
It was so nice to be back on the ice. Even if I was deliberately ignoring Will and the others, enjoying intermediate followed by dev league. I hope I can catch up when I return from this self-imposed exile.
* A tip of the hat, yet again, to Arrested Development.