Staying upright and finding my stride at hockey
When the intermissions occurred in the Tips' game, some of the crowd that gathered in The Ice Box, Comcast Arena's beer garden, made their way over the full-length windows overlooking the community practice ice rink.
I can only imagine what they were thinking as the scrum of bodies and the mishaps with the puck occurred on the secondary rink.
While the discerning crowd above may have felt that the quality of hockey they were temporarily watching (only because it was a diversion) was lacking, for those of us skating on the community ice rink, this was our own playoff moment. When Coach Rylan Huot sent Kevin Pilch-Bisson, 35, to the floor on an aggressive, but legal, check right in front of me, it took everything I had to avoid adding to the pile-up.
Then, a couple of minutes later, when Kevin's son, Caleb, 12, inadvertently went to the ice in what appeared to be a blatant check by me, a guy who weighs twice as much Caleb, I took that moment to stand over him and jokingly yell, "And don't you ever think about doing that again," down at him. It's only later that I found out that the spill Caleb took actually hurt.
Yes, I am getting more comfortable on the ice. No, I haven't gotten lucky and slipped another puck past the goalie since that glorious day a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I may be acting out on the ice just like a guy in the WHL No, I still don't have a cool nickname like those guys who make it into the NHL.
But, the real thing to ponder is that I am starting to live for this hockey. As Derrick Lease, 36, said in the locker room as we prepared to hit the ice this past Sunday, "I start thinking about playing hockey on Tuesday." To which Dan Langille, 37, responded, "I am still sore on Tuesday, but I feel the same."
One guy who was sore on Tuesday was Caleb, the 12-year-old who took a tumble on the ice. But, the pain was assuaged by the fact that Caleb scored right at the end of the scrimmage on a nice assist from his brother, Jacob, 15.
Adding to the satisfaction for both Caleb and Jacob, the score was done against the blanket defense of their dad, Kevin, a Canadian who hails from Toronto. With both boys wearing Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys every week, you almost get the sense that dad is trying to pass on to his sons the specialness of being a Torontonian in Snohomish County. Even though times are tough for the Maple Leafs, who are currently sitting fifth place in the Atlantic Division, and for the city of Toronto, which has Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor running the city, don't try to convince the Pilch-Bisson boys that their roots are tainted.
In fact, the following week, when I arrived on the ice, the fast-skating Caleb came up to me and slyly said, "Welcome to hell," with a smile on his face. If nothing else, those people who hail from Toronto may be a little brazen.
Yes, the kid may beat me to the puck every time we battle for it, but I do have a significant weight advantage on him. And I'm not so proud that I wouldn't tackle him and sit on him if it meant keeping him from scoring.
That's hockey. It's not always pretty, but it certainly is always entertaining. Especially on the ice.
Bonds are formed on the ice. There are enough father-son combinations out here to make Martin Sheen feel short-changed. And that's part of the beauty of this hockey program. Young and old alike can be out here trash-talkin' and cheap-shottin' each other. Well, to be honest, at this level, the cheap-shottin' is not yet part of the game.
And at the end of the session, as we sit exhausted in Locker Room No. 4, we can only laugh at the fun of it all. It doesn't get much better than this, even if you are in Toronto. Or in the main Comcast Arena watching the aspiring NHL professionals.
NOTE: If you are interested in playing beginning hockey, it's not too late to sign up for the next session. You won't regret it. To access their website, click here. And get ready to have fun.
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