When I was nine, we moved from a house in the city to one just outside the city in Peterborough’s north end. I had a buddy (Lorenzo De Marchi) who lived across the street and we used to go to an outdoor rink together after school and after dinner. It wasn’t far away but we would put our skates on at his house, throw the skate guards on, and hike across a small field that lead us to the Hillside Street Park where this outdoor rink was situated just inside the city limits.
One particularly cold and dark winter night (ten below farenheit rings a bell), we bundled up after dinner and headed out. Like most really cold nights where you go out to play hockey, you get cold before you get warm. Part of the motivation for playing hard is to keep warm. (It would be worth studying if those who really hustle when they make the big leagues come predominantly from colder climates – I’m betting there may be some correlation). On that particular night, we had the typical really cold hands and feet shortly after we hit the ice but there were enough kids out for a game so we were all set. After about a half hour went by, my hands were just cold and the sting had gone out of my feet completely – it was all good!
On we played. Obviously, that’s a few years ago but I’m guessing we were probably out there for a couple of hours. When the game faded away, we threw the guards back over our blades and hiked back up the field (going home was harder because it was uphill) and landed back at his house where we pulled our skates off. For those who have ever had really cold feet from an outdoor experience, you know there’s always that feeling “as the frost goes out of your toes” which is what we call it when I can only assume what is really happening is blood-flow is resuming to a part of the body that it had been restricted from. It was never comfortable but you got used to it and it was the price one paid for outdoor hockey. It takes a few minutes and then bob’s your uncle, your feet are warm again.
Funny thing was that on this night, I didn’t get that “frost going out sensation”. I didn’t get any sensation. I remember very clearly that the toes on my right foot just felt hard to the touch. Especially my big toe and a couple of the smaller ones next to it. In fact, when I pulled my sock off and looked at my toes, and then felt them, I remember distinctly thinking they looked and felt about like a package of frozen chicken my mom would cook for dinner. I’m not kidding, that’s the imagery that came to mind. I’m talking a rock hard big toe that was solid white. I couldn’t even feel my fingers touching it.
Now my buddy thought this was quite amusing. He really did. I can remember him laughing. I can remember his dad coming in for a look and telling me I’d better get home toute suite and let my parents have a look. So I pulled on my boots and headed home on my own. Shortly thereafter the “frost started coming out” only this was no ordinary frost. It was the mother of all frosts and she meant to inflict maximum pain as she left. Holy hell, did it hurt. I screamed like a baby for at least a couple of hours and then just cried like a toddler until sunrise. It was a very long night.
My folks were on the phone shortly to my buddy’s parents to trade stories and I got some pleasure from the suggestion that my buddy had promptly jumped into the shower without really examining his toes. As it happens, frost apparently doesn’t like to “come out” under the duress of a hot shower and so my buddy ended up joining the screaming baby chorus with me.
I don’t remember many of the details in the days that followed. I can’t even remember if I went to to see the family doctor but I know it was a pretty fair case of frost bite. My big toe especially, and one of the smaller ones blistered horribly over the next week. I had to stay home from school for a few days and it was several more before I could get a skate on again.
You learn from all such mistakes in life and mine was a painful lesson – stay out too long on a cold night and you could end up missing your house league game later that week which sadly, was the price I had to pay.