Category Archives: shinny

A Man and his Son, A Man and his Father, and Me

I skated today for the first time in 9 weeks on this cold bright January morning.  I headed off to Vic park early, knowing the rink would be mostly mine, which is for the best as i know I’m in no shape to actually skate with others around me yet.  I took my stick and couple of pucks and felt a tiny surge of excitement to see how I felt.   There was a young man on the ice already, with his son, a boy of 5 or 6.  I skated at one end of the massive sheet, they at the other.  At one point my puck danced away and the boy was only too happy to dart over and pass it back to me.   I grinned and gave him a hearty thank you and he flashed a big smile and skated away in a burst.  There were days not so long ago where my son and daughters skated alongside with me here when they were his age.  And I remember being that small once and skating with my own father at the open air rinks in Peterborough – Bonnerworth, the Trent canal, Hillside street park.  Good memories all.

I was in my element again and it felt good.  A clean sheet of ice is the most creative thing I’ve ever known.  Turn left, turn right, quick steps to full speed, glide, turn, stick handle or let the puck do the work.  In my later years, I’ve never played the game in a way where my movements are planned.  It’s one of the beautiful parts of playing for fun, of shinny.  It’s movement guided by some primal, instinctive compass, long since obsolete now that we don’t have to outrun woolly mammoths and such.   Bobby Orr has suggested more than once that we are systemically removing the creativity of generation after generation of hockey players in favour of structure and systems.  I couldn’t agree more.

Handling the puck was magical.  My hands were fine and little strength was needed for the simple maneuvers I tried.  The burden of an injured shoulder hasn’t stolen that gem.  I was able to pass the puck off the frozen boards back to myself, and able to fire the puck smoothly along the ice at the net.  Ah, the clank of the puck hitting a pipe net at an open air rink.  A different type of pipe organ, but beautiful music indeed.

Sadly, it didn’t take long for the instinctive side of me to get overruled by my mind flashing a mental “careful” sign as I approached anything beyond the slowest speed I know.  The thinking part of the brain telling the rest of me this was premature and foolish.  A fall on to my gimpy wing would be a very bad thing.   This will be the part of playing I will miss the most if my shoulder always requires an element of caution from this point forward if at some point I am able to play again.  I may not be young anymore, but the rink is the only place in my life where I have done anything with any measure of abandon.  I was never a physical player, being not strong enough for that game, but I rarely backed away from going to the puck, or taking it to the net regardless of the opponent, and I was always happy to try the impossible pass, or slide through the slightest of lanes between players

In all, I skated only 10 minutes.  The weight of the puck on the stick for just that length of time began to play a different kind of music in my shoulder very quickly.  Pain on the end of the clavicle as it pushed up unrestricted into the muscle on the top of the shoulder. I picked up my puck and head back to the car, hopped in and started to remove my skates.  As I did so, a man about the same age as the one with the young son already on the rink walked by with an older man by his side who was obviously his father.  Skates on sticks over shoulders, toques on heads, they headed to the sheet I had just left.

I have been the young boy, and I have been the young father.  Shoulder be damned, I will be the old man in skates and toque yet.

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Filed under dads, injuries, memories, rinks, shinny, Sounds, Uncategorized

Outside Inside Goal

It’s just shinny but as one gets older, and is able to pull off a move one-on-one and then score, even if the defender is older than one’s self, and even if the tender isn’t half the goalie Tukka Rask’s mother-in-law is, it still feels good.  I had one like that last night.

There were a few chuckles as I coasted back to centre that I’m pretty sure were born of the notion that while I obviously enjoyed it and appeared to be thinking “I still got it” were really just reality checks indicating that it was old guy beating really old guy then beating tired old goalie who was thinking he was only 15 minutes away from post shinny pitcher of beer.

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As Good As It Gets

Our last night of spring hockey in Cambridge last night was a thing of beauty for me.  The trifecta for someone my age – I cut my stick off (again – another inch and a half) and voila, magic, my legs felt good and the heat and humidity slowed the ice to a slushy crawl so that the young guns were suddenly only two gears quicker than I for a change.

Someone commented they hadn’t seen ice this soft ever….inside, which immediately conjured up images of outdoor rinks in late February that had been skated on all day Saturday and were more snow than ice.  That’s old school baby, that’s where you learn to stick handle, when you’re not just trying to hang on to the puck but fight off six checkers and a pound of snow on your blade.

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Heavy Legs

5 hours + of commuting time today really didn’t help me feel energized for tonite’s weekly scrimmage.  It was grim.  Felt tired on the first shift and it got worse from there.  What a difference from last week where I had good jump.

The great equalizer of course is the cold beer afterwards whilst watching the late game (Detroit ain’t the same without Lidstrom but you still gotta love Datsyuk) – suddenly the night felt pretty good after all.

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Kids in the Hall

As I strolled out the dressing room around 5:00 PM yesterday, after a fine late afternoon game of shinny at the recplex, there was a wee lad in the hallway with a stick and an orange ball.  He looked like a little brother of one of the slightly older kids who had followed our time slot.  He was just rolling that ball back and forth, stickhandling it easily, lazily, almost unconsciously.   As I approached him on my way out, he stickhandled the ball and himself out of my way and said not a word as I slid by and thanked him for moving.  As I got to the other end of the hall, I looked back and he was still at it.

There’s just something about stickhandling. It’s like waves against the side of a boat on summer day, or rain coming down – it soothes the soul of any hockey player.

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What Price Hockey?

I don’t recall how old I was but it was sometime during my elementary school days at St. Anne’s in Peterborough.   The parish church was right across the parking lot out front of the school so we were pretty closely aligned with the parish recruitment activities.  There were no altar girls back in those days, just boys.  (Someone must have taken to readin’ in the later years).

Some of my buddies were altar boys but I never had received the calling and was quite ok with it.  However, one later winter day, it was announced at school that those male students who had served that year would be eligible for a special altar-boys-only hockey game one afternoon while the rest of stayed in school.   This made me pause – hockey in exchange for religious service – hmmmm…..but after a bit of brief thought, and a little anguish about being left out of what promised to be a pretty fair game, I decided to move on.

It was as close to a calling as I ever got.


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How does one prepare for an old-timer hockey tournament?  By playing hockey of course!

Today was a good day as I was able to get to the Friday afternoon gang’s weekly game of shinny. This weekly event is a beauty because it’s an hour and a half.  A wonderful way to start any weekend.   I did have to think about this one though – tomorrow’s 3-games-in-5-hours tournament is one of those grueling and unique contests in sport.  Like the 15 round heavyweight bout, or the four best of seven’s that are required to drink from Stanley’s mug, this ain’t for just anyone who can slap on skates and wheel their hockey bag in from the parking lot.

So…on this day, after having played last night, I wondered whether an hour and a half of hockey was a good idea given what was on the agenda for tomorrow.  However, logic and reason won out – you can never play too much hockey.  And with that, to the rink I went.  I left a couple of shifts early though, making sure I didn’t drain the tank completely for tomorrow.

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Christmas Ice

One of the great things about the Christmas season is spending time with family and friends.  It’s a cliche, but it’s true.  Squeezing in a game or two of hockey with old buddies fits nicely into this category.

For those of us lucky enough to have kids who play the game as well, Christmas sometimes gives us a chance to don the blades and play with them.  I had that chance this past week with my son, who invited me out late one night for a game of shinny on an open-air neighbourhood rink with his buddies.

There were some other blokes playing as well on a rink that was too small to hold all of us so we split into two shifts of about four or five to each side.  There was even a goalie there with full equipment who had just finished taking it all off just as we got there, and seeing that a new game was forming, he threw it all back on and went back to the cage.  We had nets at both ends, and the ice was a mess after having been skated on all day but it didn’t stop us.

What a grand night.  I didn’t play long, perhaps a half hour.  I chirped the young bucks and chatted with some of the strangers who by the end of the game were like old friends.  Then I went home and flopped on the couch and fell asleep.  Life truly does not get any better than this.  What a blast.

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Choosing Teams Using The-Pile-Of-Sticks Method

I wonder if baseball players in sandlot games have ever made up teams by throwing their gloves in a big pile and then randomly separated them into two piles?  Football?  Hmmm…wouldn’t work there given the lack of a common piece of equipment (assuming helmets aren’t regularly worn for pickup games).  Hoops? Nope, not there either.   Soccer?  Nada.

In hockey though, it is a time-honoured technique to throw all the sticks of those wanting to join a game into a big pile and then split this into two piles.  This was never a  completely arbitrary approach because there were times when the stick-separator was quite aware that the heavily taped Koho 201 was owned by a ringer or his best buddy, or that the beat up toothpick was the weapon of choice of the skinny, slightly-crazed kid who was always better to have on your team, than to be playing against.

However, it did have the benefit of transparency.  It was tough to rig such a vote because everyone at the dance was basically standing there watching the proceedings to see where their stick landed.  If the separator tried to put all the mylec super blades and short shafted sticks on one side, and all the rest on the other, there would be hell to pay for this was stacking one team, pure and simple.

However, this was, and still is, a truly great way to builds team in a hurry.  I remember many days at outdoor rinks on cold winter days or nights where we used this approach.  I remember doing it several times over the course of a few hours because inevitably, players would come and go during the course of a pickup game and teams would get unbalanced.  When things got way out of wack, the hockey players’ collective conscience would kick in, and all the sticks would end up in a pile again for the process to repeat itself.

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Friday Hockey

Strangely, Friday has always been a day without much hockey in my life.  House leagues tended not to schedule much on Friday nights, although for a few years my son’s team used to have the odd practice in the late evening hours when the kids were older.  High school hockey likewise didn’t schedule things on Fridays unless we were away on tournaments.   I never played in any Friday night pickup leagues, although it is a night where a few of my buddies have played for years.

I’ve played hockey for years on Thursday nights (every year since living in KW in fact) and so it seems Friday is a day of rest, sort of a religious holiday for the game in my life.

But wait….there is Bart’s Friday afternoon University pickup game at 3:30 for a glorious 1.5 hours that I sometimes sneak out of work to get to.  Great hockey, a great way to finish off the week even if it is a bit hard to get to, timing-wise.  I only wish I could make it more often.  Who needs a day of rest anyway?

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