Archive for the ‘Confessions’ Category

Hockey skate nerd quiz! How old are these skates and to whom do (did) they belong?

It wasn’t a hard shot. There are no hard shots in adult women’s non-competitive beginner shinny. Okay, maybe one, but she doesn’t use it much, out of a sense of decorum or maybe just not giving a fuck. Beyond her, though, there a couple of accurate shooters, a few quick shooters, and a great number of terrible shooters, but no one who sends a puck flying in high or heavy. On defense, I’ll get in front of anything. Why not? There is no shot in this hour capable of denting my layers of plastic and foam, providing I have the ovaries to face it square.

So when I deflected a puck off my skate and pieces of black shrapnel scattered across the ice, it took several long seconds for me to figure out what happened. At first, dumbly, I thought the puck had broken. But then I remembered that rubber does not work that way, and looked down, and saw the pink of my toes peering back up at me.

My skate had shattered. Not just cracked, but shattered. The goalie was busy fishing up chunks of plastic from the crease and other bits hung by tenuous threads and specks of glue from the sides.  My toe cap was gone.

Huh.

I didn’t know such a thing was possible.

“I’ve never seen THAT happen before,” said the goalie, sympathetically, as I skated alone towards the doors.

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The first time I scored a goal, a real goal on a real goalie, I scored two. Two goals, in the same hour of the same shinny time, imagine. They weren’t pretty, a rebound and a redirection, both scored so tight to the goalie that I could see the frayed edges on her pads, but they were real nevertheless. Over the line and in. A fucking miracle.

If somewhere up on high some color commentator had been watching the growth of my game up to that wondrous two-goal evening, he might have said she’s breaking out. My shot was improving, as was my positioning, my body aligned better and better against the twisting torsos of the others, against its own shifting blades. I may have looked like I had somehow figured it out, as though my misfit pieces had suddenly snapped into place to make the spitting image of a shitty-goal scorer.

I won’t lie, I had hopes. For a day or two I fussed over the memory of those goals, rewinding and replaying them inside my head, slowing bits down and picking just the words I might use to describe each little motion, each tenth of a second. I had daydreams of turning into garbage goal machine, no good from a distance but deadly in close. Learning how to play is really about discovering the type of player you already were. Like Michelangelo supposedly said about his sculptures, you just get a block of stone and chip away all the unnecessary bits until you’re left with the image that was always was inside. I thought maybe, inside, I might be the ladies’ non-contact shinny version of a power forward. Maybe that’s the player I was meant to be.

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When I first saw the pictures below, I was going to post them without asking my father-in-law, Clark Gillies. But then I realized he could still kick my ass, and I figured I needed a few questions answered, so I dialed him up for a quick chat.

First, here’s how I first stumbled across the interesting news that my father-in-law once posed in his underwear for Penthouse magazine.

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Glitch

Logan Couture shows off his mastery of the fine art of not looking at the puck.

I am trying to play defense.

It’s not the hardest thing in the world. My level of hockey is not the level of superstars or even average men’s league. Mostly what’s needed from wingers is to try to pressure the defensewomen, should they have possession, and should they not, to hover open in some airy space in between them and the dots, hoping to pick it up for the breakout. I’m not so very good at the out-breaking- I have about as much chance of leading a wagon train through Siberia as carrying the puck successfully in the neutral zone- but I can be disruptive and have known to be able to get a pass to the right person every now and then.

Like I said, trying to play defense.

Anyway, I’m a little bit low when the puck goes back to the defensewoman, but close enough to pressure her, and she doesn’t get it clean. There’s one of those moments where the puck is with her but she doesn’t really have it; one of those moments that smell like a turnover.  I try to press it, but she gets control just before I can and flicks it hard, right through the triangle between my stick and my body.

[insert blank gap in memory here]

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The Perfect Stick

“You should get a one-piece.”

“I don’t need a one-piece.”

“It’d be lighter. You wouldn’t get tired so fast.”

“I don’t get that tired anyway.”

***

I have always played with wooden sticks.

The first I got in Montreal. It was 2008, late winter, and I pulled on my heavy boots and shuffled up St. Laurent to a Canadian Tire. The rack of sticks was small, couldn’t have been more than ten choices, but stood in front of it, bewildered and petrified as though it were a wall of space shuttle components. Sticks are complicated things, differentiated from each other by hundred fine details: the weight and the composition, the flex and the lie. Hell, the curve alone has a whole lexicon of jargon to describe its properties; even rec league players drop lines like, “Oh, I prefer a thicker blade, slight heel curve, closed, square toe.” Facing that row of choices, I knew enough about them to recognize that there were many important differences between these sticks, but that knowledge meant nothing.  I didn’t know enough about myself. I didn’t even know if I was a right or a left shot.

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Compete

Jonathan Quick, whose daughter might have some issues with competitiveness when she gets older.

We are digging in the corner.

She is big, taller than me and strong through the shoulders. A real athlete, I know from the dressing room, practitioner of every kind of winter sport I’ve heard of and a few I haven’t. In addition to hockey, her weekends consist of curling and snowboarding and skiing of both varieties, and I’m pretty sure she mentioned a triathlon not too long back. She asks speculative questions about speed skating.

This lady exercises every day of the week and twice on Sundays, and her body shows it. Me, I walk and sometimes carry grocery bags, and my body shows that. I know, when I get my skate on the puck a bare quarter second before she comes in behind me, that we are not evenly matched. I go for it anyway.

I have position but she has size. I get low, my only real option, pulling my body down to solidify my stance and hopefully catch her off balance. My odds aren’t great in any situation, but I figure I’m better off shoving against her ribs than up around her shoulders and jutting elbows.

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Something Magic

A thousand years ago, the world was full of magical things. They were literally everywhere, from Japan to Peru, New Zealand to Norway, so many of them you could hardly stumble into a town anywhere without hearing about the Amazing Such-and-Such of So-and-So and it’s miraculous powers. The Cup of Jamshid, which reflected the whole world; the Hammer of Thor, which could not be destroyed; the Necklace of Harmonia, which conferred perfect beauty. There were fortune-telling mirrors and clothes of invisibility and about a hundred different fruits and vegetables of immortality, and don’t even get me started on all the swords, daggers, and spears. Every culture, in every country across the entire Earth has some kind of myth about an enchanted slashing weapon. If all the legendary blades in human history were real you could arm the entire population of modern China and still have some left over. Once upon a time, we all believed in magical objects.

***

The Hockey Hall of Fame is a refurbished nineteenth century bank in the heart of downtown Toronto. Its trophy room is a big ornate hall in the slightly stuffy British mode of all decent Toronto architecture, which is to say it has high ceilings and tall windows and wood panels and a colorful skylight, and all the hardware looks very shiny and impressive indeed in all that big space and natural light.

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