I recently ran into one of my hockey friends at the sports store. She was getting her skates sharpened. I was getting new hockey gloves. We started talking out our women’s rec league, which wasn’t starting for another two weeks, and her face just lit up with excitement. She said, “It’s like when you were a kid and you were going back to school—excited to see your friends again!”
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about her statement and how true it is! As much as most of us dreaded the summer ending and heading back to school when we were young, there was still a lot of anticipation and excitement—new teachers, new school clothes and supplies, and of course, seeing friends we hadn’t seen for months. Getting back on the ice, for us recreational players, is a lot like going back to school.
In my league, we allocate players via draft—meaning that all registered players in the league are put into a pool and then are distributed in a way to attempt to make the teams as even as possible based on players’ experience levels. Every September, the players in the league wait with great anticipation to see the team lists released. If the word gets out that the team lists will be posted on a certain night, many players in the league stay up late and keep refreshing the website to see the list the minute it’s posted. I, too, have felt the excitement building into a puck-like weight in the pit of my stomach waiting for the team lists to be revealed. I remember having that feeling before. . . .when was it? Oh, right; when the class lists would get announced when I was in elementary school. They would be taped to the inside of the glass near the front doors of the school and my parents would drive me to the school a few days before class started so I could see who my teacher was and who was in my class. Some of my friends would be in a different class from me. Some of my friends would be in my own class. I might get a teacher about whom I’d heard terrible tales of tons of homework. I might get a teacher that I’d heard was kind and patient. Regardless, it was new and exhilarating to prepare for this fresh start.
When our hockey league team lists are posted online, it’s a similar sensation for our players. Some are most excited to see what color jersey they will be wearing. (I once requested to play on the team with the black jerseys because, as I put on my registration form, “black is slimming.” Request was declined.) Some are most excited to see if they will have a coach and who it will be. Some are most excited to see which of their friends are on their teams. And some just want to be sure they got placed on a team (as we often have a wait-list).
So, now I will continue my back-to-school. . . I mean, back-to-hockey shopping. New laces and stick tape are in order, especially if I can get them both to coordinate with the color of my team’s jerseys. Of course, I think it’s unlucky to start a season without a good skate sharpening. Maybe it’s time to sew the holes in my hockey socks and tighten the screws on my helmet. I’ll find as many hockey-related activities as I can to fill the time that is the countdown to my first game with my new team.
Opening night in the change room will be like the first bus ride or recess in the beginning of a school year. The chatter will be non-stop with everyone catching up, talking over one another, discussing positions and lines, strategizing against the opposition, gossiping, and mainly, rejoicing that our beloved weekly activity is back. And with hockey, the good news is we aren’t usually given any homework!
This past summer, I passed what most would call a “milestone” birthday. It was supposed to be a birthday to cause me to reflect on how long I’ve been on the earth vs. how much projected time I have left. However, instead I put a lot of thought into how age is just a number—cliché that it is, I thought about how old I felt. I certainly do not feel my age. I look, dress, and act much younger, for better or worse. Then it occurred to me that I now feel younger than I did five years ago. Something important in my life happened five years ago—I started playing hockey for the first time.
Yes, physical activity can help a person feel younger and more fit physically. But the social stimulation of the team sport environment definitely has proven to me that you are only as old as the childhood excitement you are able to revive.