Sunday on my mind

So, on Sunday, at 4.15 pm, I officially become a hockey player. I know I’ve argued for 20 months or so that I’m a player but I’ve been a student until now.

On Sunday, I pull on a purple Jets jersey, as Alternate Captain of the Interceptors team, against an Ice Wolves team of mostly strangers at Oakleigh, in Melbourne’s Summer Recreation League, Div 4; the lowest level of competitive hockey for championship points in town.

On Tuesday night, I hung laps at the Icehouse in a happily not-very-crowded general skate. As usual, my skating was so-so. I was gliding gentle outside edge to gentle outside edge, just feeling them. Occasionally I’d head into the centre circle and work on my backward crossovers, batting away other skaters who came to offer the inevitable and necessary advice. Not up for a barrage of well-meaning advice this night. Feeling the same frustrations that have been brewing to the surface over the past few weeks. Noticing the distinct lack of other 40-something rookies wobbling around this ice, instead of being at home with loved ones, nestled in front of a television, on a week night. Heroic or delusional, Place? Such a fine line.

The Power-Hough gals model the new Jets jersey.

Tuesday didn’t solve anything and on Wednesday, back on the Bradbury Rink but now in full hockey gear, warming up for 10 pm development league, I started to think about Sunday. My first official match as a player. A working scoreboard, a league ladder, official hockey rules, everybody needing matching socks, genuine referees who weren’t Melbourne Ice players laughing: Lliam in dev league later that night, after calling a big guy, Charles, for elbowing a little guy, Geoff, in the head: “(Laughter) I’m sorry. I know you didn’t mean it, but I have to call it. You’re just so big and he’s so small. That’s hilarious. I’m sorry … Penalty. Hahahaha.” This is the sort of ref call that’s unlikely on Sunday, where a player actually gets sent to the box instead of awarding a penalty shot for goalie practice in a game where the score is irrelevant.

Plus, we Spitfires face the unknown of whether we’re going to be competitive against other teams, like the Ice Wolves, Demons and Champs.

A lot to think about but then on Wednesday, pre-Dev League, in my gear, on the Bradbury ice, everything suddenly became clear to me; all anxiety dissolved. Just like that.

I thought: You know what, Nicko? Your skating is what it is. It’s actually not terrible (despite all the angst on this blog); you just can’t pull off moves that would make you better. But you’re not going to master transitions or Kutek-level outside edge C-cuts before Sunday. It’s done. And you are a 47-year-old rookie with only limited time to master this sport, among (in no particular order) running a business, falling in love, raising kids, writing novels, scuba diving, having a social life, enjoying street art, books, films, footy, art, waves, sky, whisky. You can only be so good, giving hockey the windows you do, which is as much as you can. And you are giving away 20 or more years to most of these teammates and opponents, but screw that, who cares? You have other strengths.

As I cruised, outside edge to outside edge, my mind travelled back to Lliam Webster’s sage advice when I was in that performance funk, months ago. “When you’re in a funk, concentrate on what you do well. Don’t worry about all the things you can’t do, or think you suck at. Just do the things you do well and the rest will follow.”

Not even realizing at the time, not until I saw the Ice 3-Peat doco, which talked about Lliam’s early season scoring drought, just how much he was also living that reality when he spoke to me.

And finally, as 10 pm ticked closer, as Big Cat Place and the rest of the preceding Intermediate class cleared the Henke Rink and the goalies shoved the goals to the side so the Zamboni could chug its way onto the surface, I felt strangely calm. Shit, I’m going to play recreational  league. We’re all going to go as hard as we can; try our guts out; hurt if we lose; go nuts if we win, but it’s Division 4, it’s the lowest rung of being a competitive player. Just do what you do well, love being in a team, equally share the ice time between the guns and the strugglers, and let the rest happen.

TigerShark and 11.15 pm dev league mate Brendan Parsons seems less stressed about the looming Summer League comp than some.

10 pm arrived and I stepped onto the ice with a clear mind and had my best game in a long time. Didn’t try to skate at warp 10 speeds, instead slowed slightly and moved better, all while controlling and using the puck, doing the slice-through-traffic passes that seem to be my specialty. Was unlucky not to score a few times. Had so much fun that Big Cat and I thought ‘To Hell with Thursday and real world commitments” and stayed around for the 11.15 game, finally getting off the ice at 12.15 am, in bed an hour later, wide awake. I played defence, alongside Wunders, which was a learning experience but just as enjoyable. Even if I did give away a penalty by tangling my stick in Aimee Hough’s legs and headbutting her into the boards. Turns out that’s a penalty …

My teammates good-naturedly gave it to me as I skated sheepishly back to the bench to watch her penalty shot (she missed). I shrugged. Sorry, all … just clumsy.

An NHL player wouldn’t have given away that penalty.

I did.

… Expectations versus Realities.

All leading into Sunday …

This player, this ever-improving, ever-striving rookie will continue to make mistakes. But will also occasionally position himself well, use hand-eye and innate hockey sense to steal pucks and even stone-cold his more talented son, playing for the other team in the 11.15 game, every now and then on a forward rush; will no doubt be part of an Interceptors team that comes up against a more seasoned, experienced unit this season and gets belted, or has that moment when everything clicks as a team and we win large and feel like world beaters.

Play-offs? Maybe. Or not.

It’s all to come and I’m in for the ride; warts and all, age and all, faults and all, strengths and learnings and wisdoms and laughter and friends and all.

Can’t wait. Roll on, Sunday. I’m good to go.

Guest writer: Winifred Beevers

WORLD EXCLUSIVE:

Today, a big chance of pace as we hear from a skater who spends her time on the Bradbury Rink, not the Henke. Yes, a figure skater joins this crazy blog. She’s got a name that should be a hockey team, and she does all those figure skating moves without frickin’ armour. Full respect from this skater.  Introducing Winifred Beevers …

The figure skater on L-plates

By Winifred Beevers

I came to hockey via ice-skating.

I grew up mostly in Queensland where roller skating and large shoulder pads ruled – it was the 80’s. My mother would not allow me to go skating as she’d heard stories about the panel vans in the car park.  I came to Melbourne to do a music degree. Fast forward to 2011 and I take the kids to the Icehouse one school holidays. To my astonishment my kids fell constantly whereas I didn’t. I’m amazed that I can even go forwards when I want. I start wondering if this is something I can do.

I sign up for Adult 1 lessons and immediately stand out as the person most likely to fall. I spend weeks choosing and buying skates over the internet. My hands are important to me. I buy wrist guards and graduate to Adult 2.

This pic is kind of an unfair choice by me, but I haven’t had a chance to run it since early 2011 … Nicko

Soon after beginning lessons I venture onto public ice in a morning session. There were three people skating: me, and two guys. One is Bill,  Icehouse’s resident “legendary old dude”. The other is some guy in hockey skates, also feeling his way. I practice going around one of the circles – forwards – and we smack into each other. We grab each other by the shoulders, freakily stay upright and start spinning. I WISH I could do this intentionally.

I am finally doing backward crossovers and occasionally doing mohawks. The coaches have all been unfailingly friendly and encouraging. I still fall often, resulting in one episode of mild concussion. I now wear an Ice Halo. My next purchase will be pants with hip and coccyx protectors.

I really enjoy the time in a new world, with my new skating buddies from classes. I love watching the hockey guys pivoting so easily and really wish I could do a spectacular hockey stop. Actually just stopping intentionally would be nice.

Recently I was on freshly sharpened blades. During class warm up I was zigging across the ice just loving the speed and the sensation of flying. It was sooo good! Suddenly realised that I couldn’t stop and then I did. Full body and face slam into the glass and boards of the Henke rink. I leave an impression of my nose and chin in the glass. No concussion this time (Ice Halo works!) just bruised knees, nose and chin. My family and classmates cheekily suggest swapping to hockey just for the protective gear.

Speaking of hockey – my family wanted to see something on ice. I figure hockey is a good start. Any competition where Australia is up against New Zealand is always going to be a good spectator experience. Bring on the Trans Tasman Cup.

Melbourne Ice vs. Southern Stampede. It is a pushover for Ice. We have a ball trying to work out the rules, loving the fights with boundaries and the speed of the game. I’ve always enjoyed the rugby, this is rugby on ice! The musician in me wishes they had live music and lyrics on the big screen for the respective anthems. Next time call the Vic Police band, or the defense force bands.  Hey, even one of the community brass bands would do a terrific job. I’d also love to see the Haka performed on ice

The next day– my scholarly and tech savvy husband having had a blast decided to stream the last match on our large TV. We’ve now watched several AIHL matches via the web AND we’re subscribing to the streaming thingy from the NHL.

The only real question is – which team?

Yes – Melbourne Ice, almost without question. I don’t have the necessary faith to love a team that wins rarely as opposed to often… But the NHL ones? I appreciate Nicko’s philosophy of supporting the team with the best logo. RedWings’ is a stand out for visual design. I’m a music therapist. I want a team with a song with great lyrics that I can easily learn and play. Melbourne Storm had a winner in Chumbawumba’s ‘Tubthumping’. Wish they’d kept it. I want a song that is easy to sing, not one with a chord riff and intro I’ll never replicate.

Any suggestions?

Postscript – Saw a guy at Icehouse wearing a shirt with a blue music note! St Louis Blues with a song that is suitably daggy