So long, and thanks for all the pucks

Let’s start with the pain.

Where it all began. Literally trying to stand upright on skates. January, 2011. (Some would say nothing has really changed)

That was the first line of my first ever nickdoeshockey blog, way back in January, 2011. So it’s right that it be the first line of this, Blog no. 257, and the last.

Of course, the line remains true.

Tonight I’m going to attempt to play hockey for the first time in months, wondering if a sore knee and a sore shoulder will cope. Read it before? Me too, which is why I’m calling time on the blog.

I set out to chart my unlikely adventure from having never skated at 45 years old, to trying to become a hockey player. Six and a half years later, that journey has pretty much happened, regardless of how long I continue to struggle along on the ice. I backed off regular posts a while ago, because there’s only so much you can say about another training session, another dev league scrimmage, another summer league battle against this team or that. I only ever wanted to record the key details, the elements that mattered, to chronicle the crazy adventure as it happened. (Each post now archived by the National Library as a record of significance, incidentally, so there.)

So I’m going to keep showing up but probably not write about it.

I think I’ll try and saddle up again for the Cherokees next summer, bringing my very average left wing skills to my ever-accommodating team, even if I am a little unnerved by how seriously a lot of people and teams now seem to take ‘social’ summer hockey these days.

I definitely plan to continue banging on the glass of Icy O’Briens’ Henke Rink, in support of Melbourne Ice; men’s and women’s teams. It’s unlikely but I’d still love to play pond hockey in Canada, and see games in Detroit’s new arena. I still want to sing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ out of tune and proud, after a Wings’ game.

Will that all happen? Dunno. As far as the blog goes, I don’t want to repeat myself any more than I already have, so let’s put it to rest. I’m putting a lot of energy right now into a new blog, called GiantsAmongMen.com.au, where I plan to explore what it is to be a man in today’s society, to try and be a leader in a difficult world, to keep pushing yourself to have adventures beyond what is regarded as your prime. I want to inspire people with stories of heroes. I want to unflinchingly dig into the hard stuff, and hopefully, if I really get it right, save lives, as men aged 45-60 facing the darkest of times realise that other men have survived it, and they can too.

My happy place. Hanging with the Cherokees.

It is going to take a lot of my energy, and feels more important than my hockey career, whatever that is from here; no offence to hockey.

Plus, there are so many passionate, much more committed people in the Melbourne hockey community who deserve your attention. I float in and out. Yes, I am passionate, yes, I adore our sport, but I don’t live and breathe it. I am not one of the coaches or volunteers or others striving to keep the sport advancing, progressing, thriving. Those people should have the spotlight. Not the occasional rantings of a Div 3 plodder with fading legs and no shot to speak of.

Anyway, today feels like the perfect time to finish because, tonight, me and a bunch of my closest hockey friends will indulge in a friendly battle at Icy O’Briens. A few of us like to play a game every year or so to honour our fallen brother, Charlie Srour (RIP, see post: Jan 3, 2013)

And that’s tonight. Wearing the now-retro Rookies jerseys that we hockey-class-crowd-funded back in late 2011 or maybe 2012, when we gained a sense of the wider group of us, of a wave of new hockey blood that we somehow were part of (immediately after the Icehouse opened, I realise now). We became organised. We dived into every level of the sport. We built a strong Facebook presence, welcomed new players and pushed each other to greater heights. A few made it all the way to the AWIHL. Some of us settled for lesser grades. We inspired follow-up gangs of bonded class-mates. Over time, several Rookies left the state or the sport and, of course, Charlie didn’t make it, which gutted us all.

I have no idea if I can skate tonight, or be competitive. To be honest, this is one time it doesn’t really matter, so let’s go out on that note; in the spirit of friendship and chasing pucks while laughing, and skating with a wider sense of everything that matters beyond the ice.

As I have written before, when I started nickdoeshockey, I honestly didn’t know if the adventure, and the blog, would last for a week, or a month or maybe a year.

Jumping the boards. Hopefully, I’m not done yet.

To be sitting here, six and a half years later, 257 blog entries down, is more than I ever could have hoped for.

And the fact that readers stayed with it for all of that time blows me away.

Thank you so much. I hope you’ve been entertained.

I have fucking loved hockey and continue to.

It has been a life highlight to have skated with my sons – so many times with Big Cat, but briefly, memorably and joyously with Mackquist as well, to form The Podium Line. We’ll keep skating, along with other non-icy adventures, from here.

I’ve made so many great friendships out of hockey; had so many adventures, and laughs and car-park beers and late-night post-training Big Ms, and locker-room banter sessions. I’ve had an opponent drop the gloves at me, scored some unlikely goals and learned a lot about sport, life and myself. I’ve been so lucky to have the coaches I’ve had, including (and apologies to anybody I’ve missed) Lliam Webster, Matt Armstrong, Tommy Powell, Shona Powell, Georgia Carson, Michael Best, Joey Hughes, Martin Kutek, Jason Baclig, Scuba (!), Rob Clark and more. Thank you for your endless patience, enthusiasm, humour and friendship.

The bad news is that you’re not rid of me yet.

The Podium Line: Big Cat, Nicko and Mackquist.

It’s funny. I had always assumed this blog would end in catastrophe, with a photo of a limb in a plaster cast, either a week in, or three years in, I didn’t know.

So it feels kind of wonderful that I am signing off, a few hours before strapping on my skates and heading onto the best hockey rink in the country with friends, to honour Charlie Srour and to see if I can still stand up after 10 weeks away from skating. Same as it ever was.

And so that’s it. See you out there, skaters, or by the glass on Ice game day, or just roaming the universe we all share.

Gretsky said: Skate to where the puck will be, not to where the puck is.

It’s time for me to skate towards new adventures.

Nicko, out.

 

Comments

  1. John Richardson says:

    Good one nicko!

  2. Catherine says:

    Thanks for the blog, Nick, I’ve really enjoyed it. Best of luck with your new blog, which does, indeed, sounds important. I’m 45 so I already worry about a sense of obsolescence. Go out and fight that ageism! Thanks again, C

  3. GoalieJudd says:

    Been a fun ride Nicko, I even think I’ve been here for most of it (2011? Really?!). I’ll keep up with you though mate, it’s been too much fun to leave off now.

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