For some reason, it really hit me this year — maybe because Winter seemed to last forever here in the Northeastern US — that the harbingers of Spring really sound the end of the ice hockey season for most people. The championships in college, kids hockey, and the National Hockey League are either completed or in progress. The number of rinks that are open have shrunk, with outdoor rinks closing in March and skaters I haven’t seen in a while migrating back to those facilities that maintain ice through most of the year. Now at the evening adult stick practice at the rink I work at we even occasionally get kids from college or lower professional level teams, like birds finding that one green space to alight in the midst of an otherwise desert. I, too, am actually happy the “season” is winding down so I can get my energy and focus back for hockey next year — which for me means the year beginning in July!
Why? Because for me the hockey season is in line with the ice in/ice out schedule at the local twin rink facility. It is my home base for skills clinics, womens pick up hockey, co-ed hockey league, and yes, I do work there on a part time basis! After youth hockey season ends, the first rink comes out in March and then the second rink comes out in late May. The ice doesn’t come back again until July.
With only a few weeks left in “this” hockey year, I’ve had some general thoughts about what I learned from my ice hockey experiences this year in no particular order of importance.
1) If you can’t play for some reason, figure out what you can do to make it better for someone else. Just after another blogger here at Women’s Hockey Life wrote about coming back from injury, I broke my big toe (or the "Great Toe" as they say in medical speak). Rather than dwell on not being able to skate for 3 weeks in the middle of the season, I focused on what I could do to help my team (whether it was videoing a co-ed game for review or working on organizing for the women’s team). In videotaping my co-ed team, it made me realize how well some of them were playing in certain situations that I had failed to notice before. Rather than sit on the sidelines (well, even when sitting on the sidelines), I chose to focus on things I could do to either help my teammates or improve my understanding.
2) Take a chance and play somewhere you normally wouldn’t — like GOALIE. For some reason I decided to try being a goalie this year. At age 52. And I am not flexible. And I am thrilled that the women I play with have supported me in doing so. I started doing it because we had a series of pick up sessions where we were shooting on an empty goal which isn’t much fun (sorry shooter tutors). What I learned (because I already had mega respect for goalies) was that it truly gives you a new perspective on the game. Literally. Seeing how my teammates move a puck around the zone, individual quirks from folks on puck handling, and discerning how different people react in situations made me understand my teammates more. I recommended that some of them get in net , not as revenge, but to get an idea of the different perspective from being there. Similarly, if you always play forward, try playing defense — in the words of one of my friends who had always been a forward, “Wow, you have so much more time and can really see a lot more from back there”. I have found that I have been able to take this new knowledge and apply it to my game. I hope my goalie is happier at least.
3) Appreciate the wonderful community of women that make playing women’s ice hockey so special. I helped a friend start a women’s team…in the middle of the season…when almost all the ice had already been reserved. Despite that hurdle, we came together to practice late at night and worked together to raise funds for jerseys and ice time. The team ended up placing second in their novice division at the tournament that culminated our season. Our few ardent fans complemented us with noticing how our game had improved over the year from those first games. We had a potluck the second night of the tournament, invited friends from another team, and had a great bonding experience both on and off the ice. The energy from this tournament has buoyed us to look forward to next season!
Looking back over the past “hockey” year, I realize that underscoring my entire year is the community of women I have found in ice hockey that make it so special. From the Maine Cooncats, the other woman on my coed team, my pickup hockey Chix, and the Disruption Womens Hockey Group, I have been priviledged to play with such a great group of women. So, here’s a salute to all women who love ice hockey, whether they play it or not, who keep the fires burning, season in and season out. See you out there!