Guest writer (Origin story): Chris Tran

WORLD EXCLUSIVE:

Today, rookie Chris Tran talks us through his international journey of Mighty Ducks, rulers-and-erasers-hockey and finally to the Icehouse. (Next up is Alex McNab with a sure-fire traffic generator as she talks about girls in the hockey changing room …)

My journey

By Chris Tran

Where it all began…

Where does my story begin? I’d like to say I grew up in Canada watching my dad play in the minors, learning to skate on the frozen pond behind our house and playing street hockey with the kids in the neighbourhood. None of that is true, of course. Actually, dad lived in Canada for a while in the 80’s after the Vietnam War and he was a semi-pro table tennis player, only to perpetuate the Asian stereotype.

I was born and raised in Melbourne and like a lot of 80’s and 90’s kids, my first exposure to the beautiful game was through the Mighty Ducks Trilogywhich I watched religiously during my childhood (and in my late teens when I rediscovered them).

The Tran house was ruled by: “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Once our eyes were sore from staring at the TV screen for so long, my little brother and I would play a little one-on-one. Now our family came from humble beginnings; we couldn’t afford rollerblades or hockey sticks so we had to make do with wooden rulers and used erasers as pucks. None of that really mattered to us though and we played till our backs wore out – as it turned out, 30cm rulers were too short even for us so our games didn’t last very long.

Eventually I grew out of this phase (most likely due to someone taping over our copy of D2 with a double episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman). AFL and the FIFA World Cup took over and it wasn’t until 2009 that I found the sacred trilogy on DVD and rekindled my love for the game…

February 23, 2010 and beyond!

I don’t think I will ever forget this day; my first skate at the Icehouse. I had skated once before when I was 8 years old at the Edmonton Mall ice rink in Canada. Twelve years later I was hoping to pick up where I left off, secretly wishing that once I set foot on the ice I would manifest into some sort of ice skating prodigy. This…unfortunately didn’t happen.

After falling for about an hour, I realised my rentals were two sizes too big; the scars those blisters left on my ankle are there to remind me that I’m actually a size 6. Despite being battered and bruised with bloody blisters all over my ankles, I knew this was the sport for me.

Since then, there have been four terms of hockey school, torturous bag skate drills, concussion scares and long double shifts in the d-zone but nothing else has changed…The feeling of liberation and the ice cold air that hits my face when racing from end to end and the sound of the blades carving against the ice is satiating after every stride; there’s nothing else like it.

Man, I love this game!

Stop, in the name of love (well, hockey)

The hockey stop. It’s one of those annoying manoeuvres that some people seem to get in their opening five minutes on the ice while others struggle for years.

I guess I’m somewhere in between because I’m closing in on a year, as against years. And I remain determined to master the bastard.

In fact, this move has been my main focus over the past two weeks. Even on Wednesday, when the Icehouse helpfully closed half the public rink so seven people – that number again, seven – could enjoy a curling Christmas party, as everybody else – speed skaters going in second gear, figures skaters having lessons, hockey players cooling down or warming up, general skaters and newbies wobbling around – all crammed into a space smaller than a public swimming pool. But icier.

I found occasional unpopulated corners of ice where I could keep working on kicking my heels, trying to snap my skates around to a sliding, sudden stop; arms held in front, as though holding a stick in front of my chest, so that my shoulders don’t move with the stop, just my hips and legs.

This is just one of the roughly eight million pieces of advice or teachings I have absorbed re the hockey stop. I’ve watched untold videos, spoken to skaters who clearly know their stuff, watched smartarse hockey players stop on one foot, or backward hockey stop or just go from 100 kph-zero in a nano-second, next to the boards.

It’s clearly a matter of feel and I continue to probe away at that sliding, hopefully horizontal, full-skate edge that becomes solid enough that I can dig in, really dig it, and not either feel my skates slide out, or stop dead so that the rest of me keeps going, sans ankles. I just need to dare to fully commit, and I’m determined to hockey stop on both sides. Many players are great on their preferred skating side, but wobbly on the other. I want to Jedi-stop both sides. Aim high, right?

In Chicago, a local player, John, who saved the lives of Will and I by driving us away from the mean streets of west Chicago to Gunzo’s hockey store and then back to where we were staying, admitted he took three or more years as a kid to truly perfect the hockey stop. That gave me hope (apart from the well-established fact that I’m no kid).

Even talking to the coaches, Lliam and Army, has left me strangely confused; as to whether the weight is on the front leg or the back leg, or both legs. It’s a pimped-up snowplough, yet the back leg plays a role. One of my Hockey Rookie mates, Chris, gave me a crucial tip when he managed to convey that I wasn’t getting my front leg perpendicular enough to my body (something Will, admittedly, has been trying to tell me for months), and I definitely need to snap my heels, so I don’t curl into the stop. Or do I?

One thing’s for sure: I need to keep wearing elbow pads and a helmet while I nut this one out. I actually haven’t fallen in two weeks, while working on the hockey stop, which either suggests I am tantalisingly close, or I’m not committing hard enough for death-or-glory stops that will solidify the move. Like the bastard that is the pivot, I certainly still can’t hockey stop at speed. From a cruisy pace, I’m not far away.

I’m close enough that I can feel how much fun it’s going to be when I finally get it. I reckon it’s the coolest move on the ice.

Tonight (Friday), a bunch of us were invited to train with one of the summer league teams, at about 10.30 pm. I am choosing instead to join my band of Giant and ex-Giant desperadoes for a night of drinking and shenanigans, throwing out any chance of Hockey Rookie of the Year. A price has to be paid sometimes.

And what the Hell, in honour of this quasi-Christmas party tonight, let’s get in the mood with the mighty Paul Kelly, and his anthem. Sing along, peoples.