Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Sports - I've done that

By Kerry Schafer

These days, my participation in winter sports pretty much consists of sweeping the snow off of my truck and bringing in firewood. But it was not always so.

I grew up in Canada.

You may begin the hockey jokes immediately and I'll have to admit that you're probably not far wrong. I will also point out that the official National sport of Canada is actually Lacrosse. If you don't know exactly what that is, don't worry - most Canadians don't either. I have never seen a game and don't know anybody who played it or followed it.

As for hockey? Well, that's a different story. When I was a kid, every Saturday night the music for Hockey Night in Canada would play from the TV and my Dad and my brother would be engrossed. And I would go off to read a book or do something else, because I really didn't care to watch. I did get into watching later, though - I was living in Edmonton during the time of the Great Edmonton Oilers Dynasty. Hard not to get sucked in when the home team is full of characters like Gretsky, Kurri, and Anderson, and they're winning every game in sight. But then my beloved team split up, and I had a problem: it turned out I was in love with the individual players, not the team itself, and what's a girl to do when her favorite players are on opposing teams?

As with so many other things, I found hockey much more fun to play than to watch.

We made a skating rink every winter. Well, technically, my brother and my Dad made the rink, but I took my occasional turn at helping with flooding it. For those of you who have no idea, flooding the rink means standing around in the freezing cold with a garden hose, running water over the frozen surface of your rink. Back yard rinks don't have a Zamboni.

In all honesty, I wasn't totally crazy about playing hockey - I've never been much for any sort of team sport, mostly because I'm just not that good at anything. Messing up on your own time is one thing, letting down the team is another. However, I pretty much idolized my big brother, who was three years older than me, and developed an "anything you can do I will definitely try to follow" attitude pretty early on. So, on cold winter afternoons or evenings when I was lost in a book in front of the fire and my brother's friends all showed up to play hockey, it would often go like this.

"Kerry, we're a player short."
"I'm reading."
"Come on, you can read later."

Really, it didn't take much convincing. I was a teenage girl. I mentioned my brother was three years older, right? And I was being begged to come out and play with the boys. Yeah. My arguments were feeble and few.

I could more or less handle a hockey stick, but I lacked the passion for the sport that would have made me really good. So mostly I got stuck playing goalie. If you're really good at the goalie thing, this is a challenging and very important role, so please note that I'm not dissing any goalies out there. For me, the philosophy was more that my team would do their damn best to keep the puck away from my net, and then hope like crazy that I'd manage to stop anything that got by the defense.

If you've never experienced it, by the way, it is quite intimidating to have a large male on skates converging toward you and your unprotected net ready to slapshot a puck at you. Pucks hurt.

I know this by experience. I managed to stop a fair number of pucks, many of them with my shins and once with my thumb. I don't suppose I mentioned that for the most part we played without equipment. Skates and a stick were the only real requirements. Yeah, we had rules that prohibited hard checking and puck raising, but there's only so much you can do. People get caught up in the game and pucks will fly, no matter how good the intentions.

The time I stopped the puck with my thumb? Yeah, it was probably broken. And yes, I finished the game, and no I didn't go to the doctor. But I did get a little bit of special attention from the really cute guy who shot the puck, who happened to be somebody's cousin visiting from out of town. Always, there are rewards.

And now, in honor of my youth and my Canadian roots, I leave you with the following tribute:

1 comment:

  1. Love the post, Kerry! I would, however, have enjoyed a Don Cherry reference or two :-p