The very first time I stepped on the ice in hockey skates, I wanted to be here. Not "July", not "Summer", I wanted to be playing. I wanted to not be saying "I’m learning the game", I wanted to say "I’m a hockey player".
The ultimate truth is that I’ll always be saying "I’m learning the game", but as a hockey player.
Two weeks ago, on July 10th, 2015, I played in my first real hockey game. I joined a ten week long, four team, women’s summer league and it’s been amazing. The games are on Fridays, tucked away in the evening after we all get out of work/school/daily obligations; it’s just a bunch of women who love the game like I do.
Almost everyone on the team I’m on is a great skater/player — I’m definitely the lowest on the totem pole — but the girls are all great on the bench. I’m getting coached by teammates: if the other team is playing down low then I need to be there, too, even as a right wing. If there’s an open body in front of the net, I need to get there to cover her. Always keep my feet moving. Be smart about when I head off the ice for my change. These girls all know I’m just starting out and, whether it’s for my benefit or their own (playing with someone who knows what they’re doing is always a plus), they’re helping me get better.
I drive home on Friday nights feeling a little euphoric, whether or not my team won. I replay portions of the game in my head, trying to remember what it was I did right so I can do it again, remember what I did wrong so I can work to make it better.
The truth is I’ll always be learning the game. At the rec-league level there’s always going to be someone better than me that I can learn from and aspire to be like. Whether or not they talk to me about it, I can watch their game and (thanks, NHL) I can break it down so I can learn from it and improve. I just need to keep skating.