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Learning to Play Hockey in Las Vegas

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I started learning to skate and play hockey about 4 months ago…a little later than most kids, say 40 plus years later, but the game of ice hockey has always intrigued me. Living in the sweltering heat of Las Vegas, you’d never imagine I’d find an ice rink, but I did. There are actually two rinks in town and quite a large hockey community.  The SOBE ice center, inside the Fiesta Casino was offering an adult hockey clinic, for all skill levels, every Sunday night. 90 minutes of skating and stick handling drills and then a scrimmage game.

That first night, stick in hand, staring wide eyed thru the cage of my helmet, padded head to toe, I thought I would surely vomit. But I didn’t. I skated, I fell, I skated and I fell some more. Then I learned to stop. Afterwards we split into two groups and the coach shouted…."beginner on the ice!" Then everyone started skating around, chasing the puck and I did my best to keep up. My fellow teammates were very supportive and helpful, passing me the puck and avoiding my twirling tumbling mass. When the buzzer sounded, we all circled in around the coach, and raising our sticks overhead, he said " It takes a lot of courage for a beginner to come out here and skate, so this game is for Kris", at which point everyone chanted my name in unison! It’s a feeling I’ll never forget, and I knew from that moment, I’d found my passion.

I discovered my coach had a gym, where he trained several bantam teams, so I started participating in off ice workouts and shooting drills. The first few weeks were grueling and I found myself napping after every session, but as time passed, I got stronger and stayed longer. Making friends was easy, because everyone shared the same incredible passion for the game. I practiced my skating as often as I could, even attending the ice center’s weekly “Senior Skate”. There, I met a number of new skating buddies, including “Backwards Bob”. Bob only skated backwards because it was safer that way, as he fell whenever he went forwards. He taught me the backwards C-cut and after about 2 weeks, I was on my way to mastering the task.  Sundays soon became my favorite day of the week. I couldn’t wait to get out on the ice for drills, and especially the scrimmage. Yes indeed, I was hooked, and couldn’t stop thinking about the amazing way it made me feel…excited, nervous, exhausted, vulnerable, exhilarated, accepted, energized, fearless and strong…all at the same time! Everything was going great! Then my right knee started to click and pop, followed by painful twinges. An MRI revealed a torn medial meniscus. Medically speaking, I damaged the C-shaped fibrocartilaginous disk that provides structure to my knee during tension and torsion…which in hockey terms means….no gym and, even worse…NO SKATING! I was devastated!!

Surgery was scheduled for late September. I grabbed my calendar and counted out the days, and gave myself 4 weeks. Surely I’d be healed and ready to skate in 4 weeks. The arthroscopic procedure took just 30 minutes and involved 2 small incisions. Piece of cake, right?! Wrong…..the first 2 weeks were painful, lonely and boring. I mean, you can only ice and elevate your knee for so long. I watched and tagged over a dozen instructional videos on YouTube and when standing and walking were no longer an issue, I practiced with my green biscuit on the kitchen floor. Now, at the 4 week mark, I continue to have some pain when squatting and lack full range of motion. On Thursday, the physical therapist stated it could take up to 8 weeks to heal. And with that, my head started to spin and the tears rolled down my cheeks. 4 more weeks without working out or skating? I’ll forget everything I’ve learned. I’ll be so far behind my teamamtes and the progress they’ve made…it will be like I’m starting over!  And so I whined, for 2 days…then I emailed my coach with an injury update….and I waited for a response.

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