Sometimes you need context

Me, battling it out against an Ice Wolf, as Kittens supports. Pic: Elizabeth Vine

So, I had a shitty weekend of hockey. My first loss as a member of the Interceptors and the game went pear-shaped, from pretty early on. We didn’t play well, as a team, for the first time in my experience, just couldn’t get any magic happening, and the other team played really well. We copped a bunch of penalties, not all of which felt justified, so that the game felt like an endless penalty kill and we fourth liners sat and sat and sat. I’m not whingeing (no really, coach, I’m not). Just saying it was a crappy game, as far as a hockey game can ever be sub-awesome.*

The game put me in a foul mood through to Monday, which surprised me, because I try not to take hockey that seriously. I am, after all, playing in the lowest level of social amateur hockey in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; a long way from Canada or the American Original Six cities.

But I’ve played enough sport to know there are bad weeks along with the great weeks. That self-doubts and demons are lurking as soon as things don’t go well. That all you can do is front up again and improve, work on your game, get better.

And yet … Sunday sat in my stomach like a badly digested hamburger.

The Victorian Supreme Court: where the nasty side of real life gets judged. Pic: Herald Sun.

Happily I spent Monday afternoon at the Supreme Court, being grilled by barristers, and context was very quickly restored. I wrote a university thesis a million years ago about whether journalists should get psychological debriefing after covering trauma, and every now and then it bobs back up in my life as an important document in that area of the world (which is lucky, because in my professional career, nobody, as in NOBODY, has ever asked if I have a BA in Journalism. Nine years of night school and it’s the most irrelevant piece of paper in the world, other than maybe a document outlining a Dedication of Goodwill & Respect  between the NHL executives and the NHL Players Association, if such a thing attempts to exist.)

Revisiting my thesis was a trip and a disturbing one. I read it carefully for the first time in a few years. Journalists talking about covering murder scenes and fatal car accidents, getting home and looking at their children and struggling not to cry, having spent the entire night reporting on the rape-murder of a six-year-old girl found in a gutter (no really, that’s one of the stories). Detailed eye-witness accounts of the senseless Hoddle Street shooting, the Australia Post mass shooting, the Russell Street police bomb. Bringing up my own memories of my time on the “Graveyard Shift”, covering murders and fatals. One anecdote I’d forgotten in the thesis was of two cops who were feeling around under an overturned car in a massive puddle. They felt something and pulled from opposite sides of the car until the object gave and one cop suddenly found himself sitting up, holding a human leg. They laughed their arses off. He ended up needing intense counseling.

The Supreme Court case is about potential damage done to media workers, or one in particular, and I was a witness and it was draining, being cross-examined and all. I got home to hear that my sister’s cat, one of my top five cats ever, had died that day. My partner was stressed about some real life problems. A schoolie had died an unnecessary death on the Gold Coast. The NHL lock-out parties weren’t talking again. Storm clouds were literally gathering over Melbourne as we got home from dinner in the city, and by 1.30 am, I was unexpectedly awake and alert, thanks to thunder claps, and out in the backyard, dragging hockey gear off the line as the rain pelted down. (It was pretty awesome lightning, actually. I love storms.) My brain turned to all of the above and I couldn’t sleep until near-dawn. My old life, as an insomniac, revisited.

Just another week.

Of real life.

Of reminders that some people have much more difficult lives than I do.

Of the occasional struggle to go on. To literally go on. To process life as we choose to live it, and as it sometimes rises up against us.

That real grief is a lot different to a shitty hockey game.

Like I said, context.

Tonight I have dev league, to hang with the hockey crowd, to skate my legs off, to sharpen up for the weekend.

Then a game against the highly-rated Champs on Sunday.

Maybe we’ll win, maybe we’ll lose. Maybe I’ll play well and get heaps of ice time. Maybe I’ll stink up the Henke Rink.

Who can say?

The key is to care intensely and yet only to a certain point. Act like hockey is life and death, but know deep down that it actually isn’t.

That’s the trick. I just have to remember that. We all do.

(*This blog is going to get tough from here, because I don’t want it to turn into Interceptor Weekly, good or bad. I’ve thought about whether it’s actually time to shut it down, now that my journey to trying to be a hockey player – even if a crappy fourth liner in a low team – is presumably through the major learning curve, but I may still have things hopefully worth saying. I don’t think I’ll be posting as regularly, to try and keep it fresh. For anybody still turning up to read it, thank you. I appreciate it.)


  1. Keep writing, I enjoy reading it 🙂

  2. So. True. Sure, we all need context mate. Nothing you’ve said is untrue or lacking in any way. If you need space from this place, take it.

    But I’ll share with you one thing first. You mention context and all these Real Things. Well maybe this blog, your writing, are a place I go for MY context. To give me a place to be, to remember times, to think of things Other Than. To reset. To gain context.

    Do what you need buddy, we’ll be here.

  3. The blog is called Nick does hockey, not all of Melbourne does hockey, Part of your hockey journey is playing with the Interceptors so there is no reason you shouldn’t write about it each week. Keep it up 🙂

  4. I always love reading the blog. Keep it up nick!

  5. chelseaxavier says:

    My friend Su started her journalism career on the late-night police beat a few years ago. She was always a tough cookie with a spectacularly dark sense of humour that had seen her through some horrors already, but she couldn’t joke about the stuff she had to write up on that job. It would scar anyone.

    Playing like it’s life and death, but acting like it doesn’t… I think perhaps that’s one of the things that I’ve found hardest about playing team sports in the past. I know how much of my life I’m willing to give to the game, and how to let a loss roll off my back. The trouble is that there are always teammates who will give their every waking moment to the sport, or who are crushed by every failure, and it can get hard to justify my choices and my place in the face of someone more dedicated than I am. Not that I know the answer to that, but I think you’ve got it right.

    I don’t think any of your loyal readers would complain about reading more about how you’re going with the Interceptors. I can’t tell you what to think about your own hockey life, of course, but I wouldn’t consider the journey over just because you’ve gone from being a student to being a player. I’m sure there are still things you’re learning from playing competitive games. I’m sure it feels different to playing dev league. I’m still a student in my skate-borne sport of choice, but I’m hungry to start playing for real, because I think that’s when I’ll REALLY have some stories to tell. I don’t think the story of playing hockey is any less interesting than the story of learning.

    Plus… well, I’ve been reading this blog since before you opened it up to guest posts, but it’s had a different feel since then. I get curious about how all the other infamous names on here are doing, too.

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