The surprising thing is how quickly hockey players denied ice-time become stir-crazy. I’ve touched on this before, such as the frenzied Facebook message chain that accompanied the Icehouse website being down when we were supposed to be registering for class this term.
The last two weeks have seen hockey classes suspended because the world junior speed skating championships took over the Henke Rink. I basically left town for two weeks, unable to face the prospect of an Icehouse with no hockey. Well, ok, I’m sort of totally lying. I went diving with manta rays, which I planned to do whether hockey was happening or not, then timed a work trip to coincide with the other week I knew hockey was off.
These were among my more brilliant plans, seeing me spend some quality time with sharks, as discussed in the last post, and then some entertaining time with cowgirls, far too many elaborate and potent cocktails, Woody from Toy Story, a Special Forces Commando and other eye-raising Sydneysiders at Shady Pines, a saloon down a side street that I fully recommend if you’re ever in Coathanger City. (And yes, it was established by a couple of veterans of the Fitzroy bar scene, so if it feels like a Melbourne kind of bar, it is. Enjoy, Sydney. Thank God, the ridiculous beer-barns-can-only-be-massive-Leagues-clubs liquor laws have changed up there.) Then I got back to Melbourne and huddled under a towel in the rain at The Boulevard, one of Melbourne’s lesser-known brilliant views, watching an awesome electrical storm, drinking beer, talking philosophy and anticipating a Denny’s hamburger. That, my skater friends, is how you fill two non-hockey weeks, right there.
Anyway, not for the first time on this blog, I digress. Cut back to the Icehouse last night, where the Henke Rink now has hockey lines redrawn, instead of the giant circle that apparently graced it on the weekend, and was being re-iced, post-championships. (I’m bummed I missed the speed skating actually. I would have loved to see those skaters in full flight.)
But we were there for General Skating, all crowded onto the Bradbury Rink, which was close to standing room only. And that’s where the stir-crazy hockey players become obvious. I call them the ‘dick-swingers’ – skaters who insist on attempting to travel at 4000 kph despite the fact there is never more than about a metre of clear ice in front of you at any time on such a crowded rink.
These skaters, and sadly most appear to be on hockey skates, zip and zoom between the slower skaters with the breathtaking danger of the opening scene of Mad Max – you know, where the baby wanders onto the road as Max the Interceptor and The Night-Rider hurtle towards him. (… about six minutes in, if you can’t watch the whole 10 minutes in the link, but if you can spare 10 minutes, do. I maintain this is one of the greatest first 10 minutes of an Australian film ever. Especially because legend has it they shot a lot of the crazy car stunt scenes without council permits, out the back of the You Yangs.)
I don’t doubt the talent of the dick-swingers (and this is a non-gender term: there are women out there, needing to show how big their dick is on skates, every bit as much as the men); they’re amazing the way they can change direction, flip from forward to backward crossovers, etc. But my issue is with the danger and intimidation for the everyday skaters on the same ice.
Last night I was gliding along, basically trying to get the feel of skates under my feet again after two weeks off the ice. It’s surprising how such a short layoff can affect your balance and poise. And there was a tiny little girl, maybe five years old, who had been in the middle of the ice with, I guess, her mum. Now the little girl was trying to get back to the wall, and dozens of skaters were swirling towards and around her, all moving in an anti-clockwise direction but at different speeds and moving straight, diagonally, you name it across the surface.
It was okay. This little girl was easy to see and everybody was giving her room. As I approached, there was plenty of ice for her and for me, but then the dick-swinger arrived.
Hurtling past my left shoulder, spotting the girl, right there!, cutting sharply to the right, screeching past the little girl with centimetres to spare. Flying down the rink, weaving between wobbly, maybe-first-time skaters.
Fancy, fast skating, yeah, but terrifying for the kid. And dangerous if one of those less accomplished skaters falls or lurches unexpectedly in a direction.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m being harsh. There don’t seem to be many collisions, even if you do occasionally see Icehouse staff literally chiseling blood off the rink. I know the Icehouse staff occasionally have a word with the dick-swingers, asking them to slow down.
But it keeps on happening. One hockey mate, Justin, who is a brilliant skater and seems to know how to draw a line between going fast and showing his skills without actually putting anybody else in peril, said he sees the slower skates as “moving traffic cones” and I think that’s true of all the dick-swingers. Not all of whom strike me as having Justin’s sense of the fellow man.
The bottom line is bring on tonight’s return of hockey classes and dedicated ice time for hockey players, whether rookies like me or look-at-me Jedis like the dick-swingers. Let them skate as fast and hard as they can, with skills to marvel and enjoy, without putting fear into the eyes of a little girl just finding her way on the ice.