Today’s guest writer is Theresa, a dynamo of organisation and hockey passion who has become a leading figure in the self-proclaimed Rookies and our dreams of forming a summer team. Well, actually, it simply wouldn’t happen, or have a chance of happening, without her drive.
Here, she explains how her hockey obsession began and how it survived so many false starts.
My hockey addiction: a love story
Hi, my name is Theresa, and I am addicted to hockey.
First a bit of background info:
I grew up in South Africa. I found hockey at age 13 when I went general skating to go look at some handsome hockey boys. I happily general-skated once a week for a few years, gaping from afar at these boys. By age 16 I was a real “rink rat” and running the rink cafeteria. By age 18 I was dating one of these boys, and tried to play a bit of hockey myself for a half season. My prized birthday gift was a pair of Graf hockey skates.
But I was talked out of playing hockey by the boy I was dating, because he and his friends felt it was “unladylike”. I was impressionable back then; I listened to him.
I moved continents to North America (L.A.), and while I only took one suitcase, they contained my skates. In my year in L.A., I bought everything Kings and Gretzky at the time, though I never skated.
At age 19, I presented myself to the Canadian consulate in South Africa and filled in all the paperwork they could give me for immigration. The Canadians are pretty strict about who they let in, and who they don’t. This 19-year old upstart with no qualifications to speak of, no hockey skills, on her own dime, was hardly given a glance. I was told in no uncertain terms that I didn’t qualify.
By age 21, I was on my way to Sydney, Australia. In my two suitcases, was one suitcase of shoes (what else??), and one of clothing and again my prized Graf skates. I worked crazy hours and hardly skated. I can count on one hand how many times I skated in many years. I lost most of the ability to skate.
Fast forward to the near-present, when I settled in Melbourne a few years ago. That’s where I met Adam McGuinness of (among others) Nite Owls fame, who encouraged me to come back to hockey. He didn’t seem to think it was unseemly for me to play – in fact he encouraged it!
For a work social outing, Adam suggested we all go watch a hockey game, and so I was introduced to the Melbourne Ice. And here my resistance to being involved in hockey crumbled.
In my head went around a myriad of thoughts, among others: “Wow the standards in Australia are high! The Icehouse is amazing! I am mesmerised! I am in LOVE!!”
I knew that in all my years out of hockey, I was still madly in love with it. All of it. Perhaps it was self-preservation that kept me away from it. I could feel the pull back into it, magnetic and irresistible. I remember saying to my sister at the time: “This is going to suck me in, it’s a bit scary”.
And so it sucked me in.
I enrolled in beginner hockey school at the Icehouse, and started over again. Imagine my awe when I found out that the Melbourne Ice captain, Lliam Webster, was also my coach! Talk about weak knees! And this other guy called Army, whom I couldn’t understand at the time because of his thick Canadian accent, also from the Melbourne Ice, was coaching me! Army is the guy who skates over opposition defence men like a tank and scores multiple goals! Wow, I was in the company of hockey royalty!!
I went to all the Melbourne Ice games in the remainder of 2010 and in 2011. In 2012 I bought a Melbourne Ice membership and went on a road trip to Adelaide and the Gold Coast as a MI “groupie”. I will be going to Perth for the MI games in August, and of course to the finals in Newcastle in September. I have become a “one-eyed” MI fan (as fellow Rookie Wayne McBride calls me).
I attended all the IIHF world championship games in Melbourne in February 2011. It was there that I really noticed the hockey marvel called Joey Hughes, awarded the top forward for the tournament. I remember Googling him at the time and not only discovering his business NLHA, but also seeing more about his international career. I mistakenly thought at first: “Wow, there is another Joey Hughes who plays professional hockey in North America, also with a brother Vinnie Hughes!” – only to realise it was this very same person I was seeing in action in front of me.
I vowed to be trained by him, and after emailing him a few times, but not getting enough people to join me to help cover the cost of private lessons, I didn’t make it to NLHA in 2011.
In June that year, some of us started a Facebook group called “The Rookies“. We have grown from a five-person group of hockey school friends, to several hundred. We are intensely enthusiastic, intensely vocal, intensely passionate about hockey. We are all, to a greater or lesser degree, addicted to hockey. I am one of its five “admins” who monitor and steer the group direction and activities.
At the end of 2011, I enthusiastically bought my first full kit and another pair of Grafs online, which (due to being very ill-fitting) regressed my skating noticeably.
It was in these ill-fitting Grafs that I presented myself to Joey for my first NLHA camp in January 2012. It was a group bootcamp, and more affordable than private lessons. Joey was diplomatically horrified with my skating abilities. But he and Czech legend Martin Kutek and local hard man Tony Theobald (and guest instructors like Vinnie), persisted with me and patiently got me to skate better and faster and harder, despite my feet aching almost every time I skated. They truly took me to my next level – many of them. I love every camp and every individual class with NLHA. I get better and better and better. I even deferred my part-time degree for one semester, to be able to fit in all the NLHA camps. (Now of course, I am going to buy new skates from them, after NLHA sized me up for the right fit!)
I almost went to Poland to support the Mighty Roos in April this year, but I couldn’t get anyone to come with me! Even my husband, who has reluctantly but obligingly been dragged along to all my hockey excursions and activities, wasn’t up for this one.
Earlier this year, The Rookies secretly raised funds within our group, and surprised our coaches and heroes (and now our friends) Joey, Army and Martin, each with full 2012 Melbourne Ice player sponsorship. If we had more money we would have sponsored Lliam and Tommy and Shona too!
The Rookies are also doing volunteer work for The Melbourne Mustangs, particularly in supporting their imports. For instance this Saturday just past, we had an off-ice training day and fundraiser with three of the imports (and with import Martin Kutek from the Melbourne Ice).
We vocally and enthusiastically support anything that is Melbourne hockey and hockey school, in either of its two rinks. We believe in “Hockey Karma” and in paying it forward.
And now we are starting to look at putting some IHV 2012/2013 summer league teams on the ice for the Rookies, with at least two clubs so far expressing an interest in assisting us, and at least two or three teams’ worth of Rookies ready and willing to commit.
We believe that while we are working hard at opening up avenues for our own development and involvement in hockey, we also try to give back as much as (and more, if possible) than we have received. I look forward to seeing more individuals and more clubs join hands in this cause.
My renewed dreams of “making the big time” in hockey, will of course never be realised. I have a full time job, which pays my mortgage and limits my hockey practise time. Besides, I am now *cough* a bit older, and not really able to compete against 20-year olds anymore. And yes, I am getting back to that degree next semester because I like to finish what I started; which means I consciously have to cut back a bit on hockey.
But that does not alter my love of (read: passion for, addiction to) the sport.
I still have dreams of going on an extended leave/sabbatical/whatever to Canada. I might do a short one, a teaser, at the end of this year.
But the longer one will also still happen…