Sports writer Steve Rushin once wrote that "Hockey belongs to the Cartoon Network, where a person can be pancaked by an ACME anvil, then expanded – accordion-style – back to full stature, without any lasting side effect."
That is great … in theory. In fact I am convinced, watching as much hockey as I do that, his theory may indeed be a real truism because these players seem to be resilient in all things and short of having a throat cut, will come back to the ice after all manner of injury. The hockey season started again this week and tonight there is a big game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Those of you who know me well, know that I will be rooting for the Habs. In fact I can’t wait for the game to get started.
I got a little silly with the hockey this week though. I need to tell you about my BIG MOMENT! Well, you see, the whole spirit of the game seemed to take me over. Last week at a wedding, I was invited by the groom and his Father-in-Law to come and join their Friday Night Hockey League – easy play, no contact, and lots of fun I was promised. Well and good. Captain Steve White and I were anxious to get in a game of hockey. A Couple of the religious guys should be able to go work out some aggression. So I agreed and was very excited to go play. Did I mention that I am famous for overestimating what I can do physically? You can figure for yourself where this short story is headed.
The last time I played organized hockey, I was 7. That was 30 years ago. No wait, I played in nets for my Jr. High School for 3 games. We lost by a collective score of 32-8 but that does not matter much to this story. Hey wait…I played shinny on the pond back home (I was always the last one picked) and enjoyed every minute of it. I have watched thousands of hours of hockey and for that reason alone, I should be very qualified to play the game. Right? Well – keep reading. You will not want to miss my BIG MOMENT!
First I broke the news to Catherinanne. She was not too enthusiastic about the idea and felt that I might be taking a bit of a risk of injury. Really? Catherinanne should know me well enough by now to ascertain that I am always good at talking about doing something and that talking should translate well into doing…”What about my track record?” you ask. What does that have to do with anything? It was just ironic that I pulled a groin in 2004 when I was last thinking of playing hockey. Sometimes you can hurt yourself thinking, ask Sarah Palin…Never mind, back to the story at hand.
I got Steve all pumped up and he too was excited to play. The big night came last night. I could feel the juices flowing all day (or was that the excessive diet coke making its way out of my body? (Doesn’t matter). We were at HMCS Hunter last night and we came back form our social outing with friends and I boasted proudly that I was going to play hockey. I called up Steve who is sadly a Leafs fan. “Hey Is Darryl Sittler there?” I asked his wife Erika when she answered the phone. She laughed. “Tell him the Pocket Rocket is on the phone.” She laughed even harder. We agreed on when to meet and we were off to our adventure.
My BIG MOMENT was almost at hand. I got to the dressing room and I was feeling pumped. Steve was a little nervous. I could tell because he kept asking me to hold his hand (Ok I made that part up)! Introductions were made and we started getting dressed. I looked left and right and watched carefully what the others were doing. I did not want to put the wrong equipment in the wrong places. The last time I was in full gear, my protective cup was the size of a thimble (no wise cracks about what size it is now PLEASE!) Finally, geared up, with help from Steve, after everyone else was on the ice, and out to the ice we go! I must say Steve looked the part in his Ultamar Sweater (you don’t see many of those on the mainland). Borje Salming would have been proud of him. I looked like…well…I don’t really know. I have not seen an NHLer who is shaped quite like me…but in my own eyes I figured, Larry Robinson would have liked my look. In reality I was an Eggplant on Skates!
When we got to the ice surface and I saw everyone zipping around, all of my enthusiasm turned to nerves. “What did you get yourself into, Revy Kevy? It’s ok! Calm down! These are normal nerves. I heard the NHLers talk about these pre-game jitters. Nothing to it really. Usually means you’re going to have a great game… right?” We stepped onto the ice and skated (Gracefully) to the bench, politely asked someone to open the gate for me, and waited for that first shift. My heart was racing. It was awesome. Then the moment came. The BIG MOMENT? No – Not yet! “One up,” the guy shouted as he leapt over the boards. “I could have opened the gate for him,” I thought to myself. Out I went into the fray, skating looking, racing, panting and generally praying to God that I would not fall down. I played a good long shift and then raced (well race may be a strong word) back to the bench. “One up,” I shouted. Boy was I proud of myself. I did it! I played a shift and I did not fall, and I was not hurt. What does Catherinanne know. She thinks she is so smart. Granted I was more like a pylon out there than a player but I was out there and that is what matters. Steve got his first shift in too…except he could skate and was keeping up pretty good with the others. At one point I leaned over and said to one of the good players sitting next to me, “I Know him. I brought him with me.”
Each shift I got a little braver. At one point I almost touched the puck in front of the net…but someone moved it before I got the chance…rude really. But the BIG MOMENT was yet to come. It was about 12:30 AM. We were playing from 11 PM on. I was on defence. My team was at the net pounding away at the puck. I stood on the blue line (Stay at home kind of defenseman that I am) and watched every move. Then it happened. The puck squirted loose toward the blue line. It was coming right for me. This was my BIG MOMENT! In those few seconds, in my mind’s eye, I saw what was going to happen. Two strides towards the frozen vulcanized rubber and I was going to one-time that biscuit into the top corner at a scintillating speed. Funny how one’s imagination and one’s real state of being can be so out of whack. Speaking of whack…I took the two strides (kind of) and I began to wind up. Everything after that is not so clear. My knees wobbled, my head bobbed, my skates gave way and WHACK! I landed right on me arse with my feet in the air. OUCH! It’s hockey man – GET UP! I got up finished the shift…well ok I skated to the bench.
What’s that? What happened to the play? Oh, just swift shift for the whites down the ice and scored on our guy while I took my bruised arse and ego to the bench. These guys did not even make fun of me…making them better than me for sure. Steve was so good he even asked if I was ok.
I took a couple of more shifts and we packed it in at 1 AM. These guys were still going strong. I was so happy to find my bed last night. I needed rest. How am I today? Well apart from the fact that I’m uncomfortable sitting or for that matter standing and I have an unusually sharp pain in the lower part of my spine and in my tailbone whenever I move, and apart from the fact that my tailbone aches if I pee, fart or sneeze – I am fine! Each time I wince I pain today Catherinanne looks at me and without saying a word she is communicating a very clear message. It is in her eyes. It is a quiet message from a wife to her broken down husband. It is similar to “eye towed yew sew.” You can figure it out! Sometimes it pays to listen to the people who know us best.
I am so glad I went last night and I will go back again – I am just on the injury reserve right now. It is fair to say that Steve and I did enjoy it – so many thanks to William, Kevin, and Andy and the gang for inviting us out and for being such great sports about it all. You are good people. Also grateful that after we left Catherinanne came out to the rink and took some photos and was really encouraging – she loves me even when I am a little nuts!
"Hockey belongs to the Cartoon Network, where a person can be pancaked by an ACME anvil, then expanded – accordion-style – back to full stature, without any lasting side effect."…I my case there will certainly be…lasting side effects.