Created with Sketch.
Hockey Cures All Ills
48 minutes | Jun 19, 2019
Special Podcast Episode: A Crazy Goal
Chapter 1: Cigars and Bourbon Cigar and Bourbon Night 2017, with Raconteur “Then sing something.” The first time he said it, I thought he was joking. He was not the first person I had ever met that I had told about my singing background, but he was certainly the first who had demanded that I demonstrate it on the spot. I could see he was looking at me intently, expectantly. He was serious. And so was I. He had been talking a bit about his early days playing hockey professionally in Quebec when I asked him if he spoke French. He said he did. I said I could sing in French, which is how we landed here. I may have had more scotch than I realized, but I took another swig to smooth my somewhat dry throat. I leaned in as if telling him a secret, and I sang the first verse and chorus of Pink Martini’s “Sympathique,” a song I have always loved. He wasn’t the only one who heard me, but I thought he was likely the only one who understood the lyrics and their dark take on love. He raised his eyebrows, “Very good,” he said. “Did I get the pronunciation right?” “You did.” I drank more scotch in relief and the group that formed around us now switched the subject back to hockey. A few other attendees let me know that the fellow who listened to my song ran a local hockey program, and he was at the event with a few of the adult players he coached. An exuberant bunch, these players encouraged me to join them when I mentioned that I, too, was learning to play. The age-range of their group appealed to me—other older adults new to playing hockey. I found that information encouraging and something to consider, although their rink was not close to my current apartment in Merrifield, Va. We were on the roof of the W Hotel in Washington at an annual charity event where fans could smoke cigars and sip whiskey with former Washington Capitals players. One of the adult newbies there was chatting with a younger man who would be playing in the Capitals alumni game the next day. Earlier in the evening, I had learned that two roster spots for this annual charity event had been auctioned off to fans. An idea began to form in my mind as I chatted with the winner. In many ways, the thought was preposterous. But, my mind kept circling back to it, given that the winner was somewhat new to the sport and I was surrounded by others who were learning as well. The love for hockey was palpable with this group. It was contagious, although I had caught that love for hockey well before now. I turned to the coach, a former pro who also would be playing in the event. “You need a woman out there next year,” I said. “It should be you.” He said it without missing a beat, without hesitation. I thought at first he was joking—I had been very honest about my hockey level and inability. I thought he was messing with me. But, I looked at him. He had the same look on his face as when he had asked me to sing. No joking smirk. No wink and a nod. He was sincere. I was thrown, although I did my best to hide it. I had known this man for maybe 15 minutes, and already he had challenged me twice to show what I could do, to be excellent, to back up my words and boozy bravado with actions. Maybe he would be the right coach for this crazy goal. “OK,” I said. I downed the rest of my scotch and wondered what a year could do. Chapter 2: Rock ‘n’ Roll All smiles after my first scrimmage ever, July 2014, Kettler Capitals Iceplex If timelines held, I would need to be ready by the end of June 2018 to play in the 2018 Capitals Alumni Summer Classic. I had no time to waste. At this point in 2017, when it came to hockey, I truly was starting over. Although I took my first adult hockey classes in Kettler’s Learn to Play program in summer 2014, I had stopped those classes by February 2015. An increased workload followed by a family health scare necessitated some major life changes that severely cut into ice time for me. I watched hockey as much as ever, but my own efforts were limited to sporadic skills classes in the DC area and Ohio. My father had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and the condition made it difficult for him to travel more than 3 hours away. Because I generally work remotely, I decided to sell my Takoma Park house of 18 years, buy a house closer to my parents in Ohio, and rent something small in Virginia for my work there. As the dust settled from these transitions, I had by spring 2017 found a newbie scrimmage league in Ohio and a rink to practice skating nearby in Fairfax. But, I was feeling that two-year hiatus acutely on July 31 as I walked into the adult program discovered during conversation at the Cigar and Bourbon event. I had done a full scrimmage maybe seven times in my life. Generally, I preferred skills classes because there was no team for me to disappoint with my ineptitude. I was relieved to find out that nobody kept score during these scrimmages. And I was extremely happy to see a few familiar faces from the event that had inspired my crazy idea. Once on the ice, I followed the strategy that I had followed from my days as a basketball player—get open on offense and get in the way on defense. I added recent advice from my Ohio hockey coach to stay on whatever side I had chosen, to be a left or right winger and stick with that on both sides of the ice. Skill levels varied, although the friendliness of those on the ice did not. Unlike other scrimmages and pick-up opportunities, we played here while rink speakers blared. It helped so much. Lots of classic rock I had not heard in a while, many songs I knew well, that I could get lost in between the 1:30 shifts designated by buzzer. The coach played with us, which also helped. Zipping among the players, he helped set up plays and added some structure to the confusion of the new. On my last shift, I skated to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n Roll,” a song I love until I need a break from it. On that night, it was perfect, and I took it as a sign that my crazy plan might not be impossible. I was stretching on the wall after the game, when the Coach came over. “You were better than I thought you’d be.” In any other context, I might have taken offense at this assessment. But that night, I thought someone had awarded me the Pulitzer Prize. Chapter 3: Stick-To-It-Tiveness After I survived that initial session, I soon found myself at the rink two, three, even four days a week. When ice time allowed, the Coach added adult skills classes, and I did my best to make every one. I had no time to lose. Despite the time lapse, I had been playing hockey for maybe a year, if you add up my previous sporadic skills class attendance and current efforts. The more I learned, the more I saw how much I didn’t know or how much I had misconstrued. For instance, because of varying advice related to using my inside edges for power, I had mistakenly spent much of the summer skating only on my inside edges. It’s a common mistake and one I often see in new skaters. My hockey coach in Ohio had been working with me to get the glide back as well as any stride length. (He had taken to calling me “Short Stride.”) Skating had been my strength—or so I thought–but now it required endless tweaks. My relationship with my stick was worse. If anyone bumped me or if I fell, my stick flew out of my hands and across the ice. I was growing adept as the loose-stick scramble. Exasperated one night, I asked the coach what I was doing wrong. “If your stick is flying out of your hands that means your grip needs to be stronger.” “But, aren’t you trying to have ‘soft hands’? “I asked, “I try not to clench the stick too much.” “Yes,” he said. “But soft hands doesn’t mean soft grip. It means soft arms and shoulders.” From that point forward, scrimmages got much better for me and less amusing for others. As I resolved each misunderstanding and worked on improving each basic skill, I ultimately wasn’t surprised that I would take a hit in a scrimmage before I would score a goal. It was mid-October toward the end of one of our Wednesday night scrimmages. Slowly but steadily, my confidence had been growing, and I was trying to be more aggressive about stealing pucks. An opponent was coming toward me. I planted myself in front of him, trying to gauge when I could dart around to take the puck. Generally, the better players just scooted around me, and I ended up having to chase them down. This time, he didn’t do so, and I thought I had a chance to swipe the biscuit. But as I went for it, I realized at the last split second that he was moving directly at me, his head down, eyes on the puck. He did not see me. It flashed through my mind: I’m about to get hit by a train. And, I did. Because it happened so fast, it would take a video review to see that at the last second he had tried to adjust to avoid me and had instead slammed me full-on, his stick going up across my throat, which left me hoarse for the rest of that night and for several days after. It goes without saying that he was beyond apologetic, and all nearby were extremely concerned as they helped me up. As I sat on the bench before the last shift in the game, I asked my teammate if it were possible to break your throat. He wasn’t sure, but we concluded that a broken throat was probably serious and obvious and because I seemed okay, it probably wasn’t broken. Such conversations happen on hockey benches more than you would imagine among people without medical degrees to support their assertions. So, I got on the ice for my last shift—all 130 pounds of me, despite my brief flattening by an opponent almost twice my size. I hung around afterward as we usually did, talking about the game, watching and discussing the hit, seeing myself bounce off the ice from the force of it, listening as my voice grew closer and closer to “Bette Davis Eyes” hoarseness. After seeing t
17 minutes | Mar 4, 2019
Listen to the Blog: Episode 3 “1980”
The first hockey game I ever saw was an early morning adult league game at Kettler Capitals Iceplex–now Medstar Capitals Iceplex. I ran into someone I used to know. In the second part of the podcast, “In the Locker Room,” I suggest some hockey programs adult learners might want to try and recommend hockey documentaries from the Russian perspective. I also discuss how combining wisdom from William Blake and Ted Lindsay can take you far as an adult hockey player.
18 minutes | Feb 23, 2019
Listen to the Blog: Episode 2
With the possible exception of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, I knew nothing about hockey when I saw my first game in 2013. I discuss that nothing in this latest re-imagining. Additionally, follow me to the locker room to learn more about Try Hockey for Free Day, Paul Newman, AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, and what Sleater-Kinney has in common with adult hockey newbies.
5 minutes | Feb 6, 2019
Listen to the Blog
As an avid podcast listener, I decided it might be fun to offer recorded versions of the blog posts. You’ll find many of these recordings on the shorter side, vignettes, if you will. That may change as the project evolves. Episode One is ready. You can read the original here. Drop me a line. In the episode, I describe a few ways you can find me if you don’t feel like using the Contact form on the blog.
1 minutes | Mar 2, 2018
Lily and the Snow Baby
I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath. After the van stopped leaning on its driver side tires and decided on upright, I breathed. I was the wrong way off the snowy road—the direction from which I had traveled visible through the windshield instead of the rear-view mirror. My hands shook as I processed that the van had nearly flipped onto the driver side, and I tried to figure out how I could have sped off the road in a blur when I had only been going about 15 miles an hour. And, I truly had been. I was a barely 16-year-old who had never wanted her license in the first place. Driving terrified me in every way, and this recent adventure, which had come despite my doing everything I was supposed to do, only confirmed for me that I had no business behind any wheel bigger than a bicycle’s. With temperatures in the teens, my dad and two grandpas worked to replace the tires that a snowbank had stripped from the rims. Quietly and with uncharacteristic calm, they identified the culprit—black ice. I watched them for a while, numbed and silently freaked out from the suddenness of the entire situation, and vowed many, many things. Namely, I was no longer driving in the winter, and I did not. It was spring before my parents let me back behind the wheel, and I was totally fine with that. Ecstatic, if truth be told. And, I vowed that the first chance I could, I would get the hell out of Ohio and never have anything to do with snow or cold again. It would be a few years before I moved to Washington, DC—I would be out of college and grad school and married—but at that time, one of DC’s chief draws was the charming way it shut down with the slightest whisper of snow or ice. These were my people, I thought. They also hated winter and decided they just would not deal with it. I could support this attitude wholeheartedly. I saw no reason to soldier on as everyone must in the Midwest. Here, people had decided they were ill-equipped, and they had organized around that concept. After so much Midwestern can-do, I happily embraced this codified laziness. Ah, but you can never hide from your nature. I was a snow baby—as my parents, bewildered at my vehement hatred of winter and snow and especially ice, above all ice and its invisible and sudden treachery, always pointed out. It snowed the November day they brought me home from the hospital. In response I pointed out that winter was really the only season that killed people routinely and without warning. Winter was dead to me. I could give all the credit to my change of heart to hockey, but a critical first-step that opened me to hockey had been underway years before I saw my first game. A certain blue-eyed lady gently led me back to where I started without my even knowing it, her pure snow joy transformed her in every way: hound dog without snow, super husky with it. Her dance, her abandon, her wild run down snow-shut streets, her sing-song howl, with ears forward, nose up to read every creature who was dancing or shivering unseen. Had I a sled to connect her to me, she would take me anywhere. As it was, she took me home, in the snow, the question of who rescued whom never far from my mind or heart. https://www.hockeycuresallills.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Pure-Snow-Joy.mp4
Terms of Service
Your Privacy Choices
© Stitcher 2023