Why do I play hockey? Ask the laddergoat.

“Why do you play hockey?”

I get asked that a lot. Why hockey?

Yesterday, I walked blinking into the sun after watching the documentary, Detropia, about the death and potential rebirth of Detroit.

As I left Fed Square, still in that post-cinema zone-out, a woman crossed my path who had blood pouring from both sides of her mouth. Her skin was deathly pale. She had a severed human hand on a chain around her neck. Her partners, also with blood-stained faces, and blood-rimmed eyes, were chatting, waiting for the light to change. Cops directed traffic, not even glancing at the trio.

By Spring Street, the pedestrians had changed into the standard bridal couples near the Parliament House steps, and three people in purple and green costumes, with some kind of flower attachments, including a huge hanging flower suspended from the purple guy’s head.

At the Exhibition Buildings, dozens of the most magnificent vintage and veteran cars were queued up, waiting to hit Nicholson Street. Chargers, Holdens, Porsches, too many brands and shapes and sizes for me to know or care about, but I’d wished I’d been driving the Karmann Ghia, to be briefly among them.


In Detropia, an artist talks about moving to Detroit, because he was able to buy a loft apartment – a really good one – for $25,000, and to keep a studio nearby for his art. He and his girlfriend are pictured, wearing golden spray-painted gas masks, and he in a suit and tie, the tie with a big gold dollar sign, standing by a Detroit freeway with a sign: “Give us all your money $


Motown locals, who tend to be no-bullshit people, are shown frowning and staring out the car windows, and eventually one female passenger yells: “What the fuck? I mean what the fuck?”

It seems a fair question.

Meanwhile, a Detroit opera singer walks through the city’s empty decaying Grand Central station, practicing his vocal range.

Not a single mention of the Red Wings hockey team, which was disappointing. Opera instead of hockey as an expression of Detroit? Even more random. Or maybe just symbolic given the stupid NHL lock-out, a rich people’s game, which is depriving Detroit’s passionate fans of their team, of some escapism from their lives.

On Saturday night, my hockey team won 7-0 over an inexperienced and undermanned Sharks outfit, in Summer League Rec D. I played ok – managed to get two assists while falling back into bad habits like inside edge skating, legs too far apart, and not keeping two hands on my stick. Although, looking at Jess Hough’s pictures from the game, I might be being too harsh … my feet are moving in most shots. Anyway, that’s the great thing about team sport. It’s about something bigger than just you and your form. I walked into our locker room, where the Philadelphia Flyers’ favourite post-victory song, ‘Knock Knock (Let ‘Em In)’, was already pumping. Everybody excited, happy but without the urgency and adrenalin of our first ever game, a 4-2 win over the Ice Wolves team the week before. I felt I had lacked fluency in the game, spending too long between shifts on the bench, not getting my legs moving, but found other ways to contribute, whether delivering my now trademark passes to the slot, or upper-body duke-outs with the goalie and defenders (ended up flat on my back at one point – big defender), and providing a screen to release a teammate for a goal at one stage. Victory was good.

Whipping a pass to the slot, against the Sharks. Pic: Jess PowerHough

I was cheered off the ice by Australia’s No 1 Kylie Minogue impersonator, an unlikely Facebook friend, Red Wing fan and skating enthusiast who’d shown up to watch after reading my many hockey posts on Facebook or the blog. She told me about being in Las Vegas last year, riding a taxi through the desert to an ice rink in Las Vegas – one most of the locals wouldn’t even know existed. In the desert??? Buying skates crazy cheap and zooming around the ice in that mad city. Random.

Reading the paper overnight, two stories caught my eye. One was about a woman who was bludgeoned to death in her own home a while ago; the same house which has now been robbed and her ashes stolen. Her grieving family, not unreasonably, called a press conference to say: WTF? In New York, a cop has been charged with aiming to torture, kill and eat women of that city.

On Saturday night, Big Cat and I walked into Carlton, not known as a sea port, to hockey player and gad about town Brendan Parson’s birthday drinks at a pub with a seafaring theme. Pictures of potential Moby Dick cast members on the wall, guys posing next to massive fish. So random.

Then the next day, I found myself literally walking on street art bees scattered on the tarmac of the Fed Square car park. That night I surfed Foxtel’s random selection of shows about people hunting pigs, or killer tuna, or running a Detroit pawn broking shop (“Hardcore Pawn” – look it up. Oh boy) or being judged for their looks or dancing or singing or anything else that can potentially humiliate them for other people’s entertainment. As I channel surfed, a couple of kilometers away, at the top of Brunswick Street, in the secret, secure part of St Vincent’s hospital, reached via a tunnel, in the specialist ward for hardcore prisoners, the guy accused of killing a young Irish woman in Brunswick recently was being treated after reportedly trying to take his own life. I tried to imagine the weeks so far in his jail cell. Faced with the randomness and pointlessness and horror of the crime? Nowhere to hide. On the news, it was mentioned that a strange multi-murder in Switzerland had finally been found to have links to Saddam Hussein. Say, huh? As I type, a super storm is moving in on New York City, for the second time in two years and this one is looking to be even bigger and faster and nastier. My friend, Chelsea, having just arrived there in time to meet a hurricane.

Randomness swirling all around me. So many angles to the world.

Chloé and I ride our bikes down Brunswick Street on a Sunday night and a woman rides the other way, in a pink dress, with leaves and jewels and I can’t work out if her painted face is supposed to be fairy or Halloween, hippie or just because? On Facebook, a friend Jay is despondent because he didn’t shoot well over the weekend, dressed in full armour and charging around a semi-pro paintball arena. Fake killing anything that moved. Something he is very good at. Another random way to spend a weekend.

So many threads and interests and people doing crazy shit or following strange passions and urges and needs and thrills and causes and strands.

And I walk among it all, watching, laughing, sighing, horrified, ecstatic, unmoved and delighted.

You ask why do I play hockey, here in Melbourne, half a world away from anything resembling frozen lakes and Canadian winter?

Well, shit, it’s a random world.

Why the hell not?

(Anybody wondering what the laddergoat had to do with this post should watch the first four minutes of this video.)


  1. juddexley says:

    Mate, when I open up the boot of the car to throw in some nappies and fruit, I have to shift a pair of ice hockey gloves, a battered 17th C rapier, chainmail, a 10th C Norman helmet, some camping equipment, a box of G.I. Joe airplanes and a roll of flyers for Marriage Equality.

    It’s those times that it occurs to me that it’s damn good to have some diversity in our lives and hobbies. Spice of life and all that. Except the gloves and the helmet both smell like they’re actually from The Dark Ages.

    Another great post too.

    • Stop Judd, you had me at “chainmail”. You’re somebody I would love to sit and have some beers and whisky with, just to shoot the shit about life and hockey. Where are you based? Perth, yeah?

  2. Hello Nick,
    Do you offer writing lessons?
    I can think of a number of folk that could very much use your help.
    Always thought provoking and some folk even play Korfball.
    Thanks for adding to the richness of life in our sport.
    I’d love to chat about an idea for 2013.

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