As a hockey player, you have never truly experienced the joy, passion and thrill the game can offer until you have been out-foxed, out-hustled and out-skated by an 83-year-old. I say this as a somewhat spry 69-year-old who can now quite confidently bill himself as the second-worst hockey player in the land.
Second-worst? Hey, there has to be someone, somewhere, even more inept at the sport than am I.
My problem is this: I cannot skate any better than your average seven-year-old. And it doesn’t help matters much when I am plagued by a wonky right leg.
But back to the hockey itself.
I immensely enjoy the game, largely because of the skill sets required to be even moderately successful. Most folks are able to naturally walk or run, and from there can go on to play golf or soccer or basketball, or just about anything else you can name. Not so with hockey. Skating is a must, and it is not necessarily an innate ability.
My first foray into ice skating took place way back when I was in junior high school and living in the picturesque village of Crescent Beach, B.C., which is about two booming slap shots away from the Canada/U.S. border.
My dad, who grew up in Vancouver, was far from a hockey expert. Soccer was his game.
One day he brought home a set of skates for me. Old, used skates. A couple of sharpened deer antlers would have been better.
These things were not much more than floppy boots with metal tubes stuck on their bottoms. Five sizes too large. No tongues. No ankle protectors. And I thought, “Wow, they’re mine.”
Mine, yes, but way too big for me. The solution? Wear three pairs of socks, stuff more socks in the toes of the skates, and don’t whine. No tongues in the boots? No problem! I stuffed a few pieces of ratty foam rubber here and there, and that did the trick.
The results were less than spectacular. Step on the ice, fall down, repeat.
A few years later, I purchased a pair of new, properly-fitted skates when I was temporarily living in Saskatchewan.
My skating improved somewhat and I dabbled in hockey until the early ’90s. I then joined up with a group of guys in Bellingham, Wash., that met for pick-up hockey once a week. The skating continued to be weak at best.
The year 2000 saw me return to the Prairies. I played the odd game here and there, mainly as a goaltender, but it wasn’t until maybe two years ago that I returned to the game on a more or less regular basis.
The skating problems persisted, with my right leg refusing to perform as directed. Then, I remembered why.
It was in June, 1982. I was playing a slo-pitch softball game with my CFUN radio comrades in Vancouver. I stepped on home plate and heard a cacophony of snaps, crackles and pops, much like a riot in a Rice Krispies bowl. My right ankle exploded in pain and I hobbled off the field.
Due to a number of odd circumstances, I did not seek medical attention, so the injury slowly healed on its own. Torn tendons? Lacerated ligaments? No idea, and no remedial measures were taken. Over the months and years I simply forgot all about it.
Then, just a few months ago, the memory returned.
Now, I am left with a right ankle that simply does not want to co-operate. Am I complaining? Not in the least. My personal problem with an obstinate ankle doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this mixed-up world.
I can’t skate. So what? My skating style will always be laughable, but now I know why.
And so it goes.
I will try to step up the exercise and weight loss programs and work at improving my game. Would skating lessons help? No. I don’t think even Elvis Stojko or Karen Magnussen could rescue my situation.
So, should you happen to take in some contests played by members of the Sixty Plus Hockey League at the Schroh Arena and you see a 69-year-old being schooled by his seniors, that will be me — the guy with the big grin on his face.
And, should I by chance actually get a bit better at this ice hockey thing, then I might turn into only the fifth-worst player in the world. It could happen.
(Dennis Rimmer submitted this