Wow! I'm having so much fun! This is grea-holy crap I can't stop!
By Bob Simpson (Writer)
I've always been a bit of an aberration when it comes to the things that I'm passionate about, but there isn't a better example than my love of the game of hockey. It's a strange thing, really, since I spent most of my life in Texas and the only people that enjoy hockey in that state are the players for the Dallas Stars, most of whom are Canadian/Scandinavian.
Regardless, I love it. I love watching a game that almost never stops (are you listening, baseball and football?) and a contest where advantages can change in a span of seconds. It's rugged, fast, and pure, and being a resident of a scalding, Southern state only whetted my hunger for the experience. To this day, I watch my Chicago Blackhawks whenever they're on TV, much to the chagrin of my dog, as he waits in terror for the moment when my team scores and I leap from the couch and dance around the room.
When I lived in Texas I played hockey as often as I could, which meant I played roller hockey, as finding an ice hockey league in the Houston area was more difficult than finding a Democrat in the Houston area. I have to brag that I got pretty darn good. Sure, I knew I'd never play in the NHL or even in college, but I was a solid player with a ferocious competitive streak.
For example, my brother, Tim, played on my team in our hometown of Kingwood, and while chasing the puck behind the goal during one game, he crashed into a brick wall at full speed. Wincing in pain and claiming he couldn't continue, I responded with this example of brotherly love:
"Quit faking. You're fine. Get back in the game."
He broke both of his arms, though to this day, I'm certain he paid the doctor off.
After high school, I stopped playing regularly, limiting myself to a few pick up games here and there, but never anything serious. A few months ago, however, I felt the hunger in me again. Perhaps it was due to my Blackhawks finally winning the Stanely Cup. Perhaps I had grown tired of looking in the mirror and seeing a belly slowly growing in the wrong direction. Perhaps I just missed the game.
I began to search, and soon discovered that the YMCA just a few blocks away ran a roller hockey league, and, even better, had an actual roller hockey rink built in the park nearby. We wouldn't be playing on some tennis or basketball court, desperately dodging the holes in the ground where the net would go. No, this league had an actual dedicated and regulation-size hockey rink. After placing my eyes back in my sockets, I signed up immediately.
I've been playing for the last several weeks, and here's what I've learned:
1. I am no longer good.
This is probably due to the 10-year hiatus I took from the game, which I thought would be a non-factor as, hey, it's like riding a bike, right? The answer is "no," it is nothing like riding a bike, and is more like riding a bike with no tires and a seat made out of lampreys. The pain I experienced after my first game can not be described in any human language. Which leads me to...
2. Hockey hurts.
There's a risk of injury with all sports, but it cannot be argued that hockey is one of the more dangerous sports in existence. I mean, in what other sport have there been not one, but two instances of players getting their carotid arteries cut from a sharp skate? The difference between hockey and other sports is that you're not running. You're skating, which means the action is faster and any accident that does occur is amplified due to the sheer speed of said accident.
Here's an example. At my game last week, I pursued a puck that had careened against the boards on the right side of the rink. My job was to move the puck down the boards to the other side of the rink, where one of my teammates was waiting. As I skated towards the puck, I noticed an opposing player headed in the same direction, and put on a burst of speed. I reveled in my triumph as I beat the other player to the puck, and, a split second later, felt the excruciating agony as my arm and shoulder crashed into the solid wood of the rink at top speed. The cool part? I now have this on my arm.
After the impact, I was certain I had dislocated my shoulder, but it turns out I just hit the boards really freaking hard. I told myself to avoid this in the future, so imagine my surprise when I did the exact same thing in the second period, only this time the boards collided with my hip (I have a beautiful bruise there, too, but I won't include a picture as it would be immodest).
Also, I took a puck to the face, though that remarkably did not leave a bruise.
3. Hockey is still fun to play.
Though I'm really rusty and my team is still working out our chemistry, the fact that I'm back out on the ice (concrete) has rekindled a relationship that I thought had ended a decade ago. When I'm skating, shooting, passing, scrambling, I feel a sense of freedom and peace that is so rare in my day-to-day life. Like I said, there's something about this game that is just so darn pure, and though I've managed to beat the crap out of myself the last few weeks, I feel like it's healing something else inside me. That sounds lame, but, man, it's the truth.
I have about a dozen games left in this season, and I can happily say it won't be another ten years before I play again. This time, my obsession is here to stay.
 Actually, the first guy, Clint Malarchuk, got his jugular vein slashed, but it's the same difference.
BOB SIMPSON is a writer and lives in Los Angeles, where he works for an entertainment company that he'd prefer to keep anonymous, should he accidentally diss something they made. www.bobsimpsonblog.blogspot.com
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