The Third Leg, Tuesday: 5 pm and we’re in the Icehouse change-rooms and it’s silent. Everybody’s lost in thought, shifting gears from work, uni, relationships and whatever else is swirling in real life, as they strap on armour, tape socks, yank skate laces and move into a hockey head space.
We hit the ice and I snowplough hard on my right leg and my quadriceps in that limb aren’t even close to happy. I have a half-hearted shot at the empty net and skate straight to the centre circle for some serious stretching. Oh, that’s right … it’s less than 24 hours since all that skipping and moving and boxing with Mischa. Something is rebelling deep under my left shoulder blade too. Two legs of the quadrella to go and the pain is rising. But I’m a hockey player, right? And I’m loving being back on the ice after almost a week. It’s time to play hockey. I snarl and grin and head to the bench, resplendent in my Slap Slot “Chiefs” jersey (Hanson 17).
And the game is a cracker. This is Intro Dev League and I’m starting to be able to keep up, even if there is one uy, on the other team, who is about three levels above us. Luckily he is generous and doesn’t totally dominate, looking to pass off, reather than just charge the net every time.
The rest of us scramble and try to hold our positions and work on clean passing, battling for the puck against the boards and finding teammates in space. I feel like I’m skating okay.
In fact, after several shifts, a miracle happens. Brendan is near the boards and we’re in attack. He passes in-board to another teammate who swipes towards goal. It beats everybody but skims across the front of the goal and guess who is right there, miraculously all alone and in the perfect spot to trap and tap the puck through the vacant bottom hole in the imitation goalie’s defence?
Uh huh. You know it. IN YOUR FACE, IMITATION GOALIE!
N. Place scores his first ever genuine matchplay goal in Dev League. Oh yeah.
And while we’re on miracles on ice (good film, btw) … in the very next shift, I’m mid-ice as two or three white team opponents move forward. One loses control of the puck for a moment, I snipe it and suddenly I’m clear on a breakaway.
And I don’t even panic and close to within 6-8 metres and shoot and score! Iin the same slot.
Truth be told, this shot may have grazed the imitation goalie fabric (Big Cat Place, The Artist Formerly Known As Kittens*, ever supportive, remains adamant it wasn’t a goal), but Army as ref signalled goal, and Tommy Powell, the other ref, congratulated me later on the snipe and counter attack goal. I grudgingly admitted I thought it might not have been clean but he said it looked fine to him.
“So you reckon it was good, and Army signalled goal. Good enough for me,” I said. “I’m claiming it.”
Two goals in two shifts.Wow.
In Tuesday Dev League, it’s shift on, shift off (1 min, 15 sec each time) so I had more than a minute to patiently explain to my teammates on the bench how brilliant each goal was before the next shift. Which was awesome for them.
In fact, on the shift after my second goal, I was designated for D (defence) and jumped the wall, saying loudly: “Well, I am the premier goalscorer but for the good of the team, I guess I’ll shore up the defence as well.” … all of which I thought was funny until I saw Tommy’s face as he overheard this. “Jokes, Tommy, jokes,” I gasped, hustling to pick up some pace, the puck already in play.
All in all, had a blast. By now, as you can imagine, any aches and pains were a distant memory. I was floating. I went over a couple of times, as you do, but was reasonably solid on my skates and my puck-handling is definitely improving every game.
The best thing about finishing a game at 6.30 pm is that you’re home, with take-away food, at a decent time to watch the highlights of the Red Wings’ 7-2 smashing of Columbus (Oh yeah! Found our mojo right before the play-offs – Mack, Will and I are more in man-love with the rookie, Nyquist, than ever), plus Robot Chicken and Sherlock before bed … still arguing with your oldest son over whether fabric moving matters if two Melbourne Ice stars have agreed it’s a goal.
(* Big Cat scored two goals as well. And, because I’m a lot more fucking gracious than he is, it should be recorded that one was a sizzling shot from near the boards. Zetterberg, eat your heart out.)