“Any man who can sing the national anthem can play hockey.”
At least according to one of the teachers chatting with me while I was striding across the ice during a class for hockey newbies at the Patriot Ice Center in Newark, Del. last night (Tuesday, April 3). I’m not so sure I agree with him, but we’ll find out over time, I suppose.
While I’ve followed hockey since my youth, I’m brand new to it as a participant. In fact, I never owned a pair of skates until last March—at age 30. Only in the last month have I made a concerted effort to get comfortable on skates and now to learn how to play the game I’ve long loved despite the absence of rinks in rural north-central Pennsylvania during my childhood. This is the first entry of a four-part series focusing on my transition from the rafters to the neutral zone. (Fret not, I’m not hanging up the headset for a good long while!)
The hour-long class, led by Patriot proprietor and hockey director Mark Cardillo, began with skating drills ranging from straight forward skating to edge work to crossovers, all with an emphasis on staying low. Admittedly, it felt unnatural at first, and still does—my hips and lower back are paying for it today. But despite my inability to perform crossovers and C-cuts and my further inability to push off from my right foot, I managed to get used to staying fairly low and the efficiency it yields. Likewise, I can’t stop yet, but I’m certain that will come in time and with practice. Suffice it to say I’ve got lots to work on despite steady progress in skating over the past month!
The bright point of the night: I scored a goal! Well, kind of. Following a brief four-on-four scrimmage (Mark stressed the value of learning through play), we lined up to take penalty shots on Chris, the goalie joining the half-dozen students for the duration of the class. I managed to get the puck past him with a net-front backhander in the lower right corner, but it was a super slow-motion development. Think the iconic scene from Chariots of Fire, but a thousand times slower than that. Still, despite my skating and stick-handling deficiencies, it was a good feeling to tickle the twine.
Tons of homework for me in the next week and a few public skate and stick-and-puck sessions, but I feel it was a good start. Until next week!