Category Archives: Sounds

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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The Silence of the Game

As I sat at my keyboard looking for inspiration for this post, I found myself listening to Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood”.  (Not sure what it’s about but the title gives the impression it’s about hockey).  It’s one of those really slow songs with long pauses between notes – almost no sounds happening at all.

And so, after my last post about the sounds of the game, it was with some irony that I found my inspiration in the non-sounds of the game – the silence of the game, if you will.

Of course, there is no greater quiet than that which comes from the puck going in clean and finding “nothing but net”.  Very quiet, very sweet.  Then there’s the nothing that can be heard from a perfect drop pass.   The drop pass is a misnomer really.  It’s not so much a pass as it is a “leaving of the puck” for a player behind the front of the play.

On the dark side, there’s the silence that descends on a rink when a player goes down and all watching know it is, or could be, bad.

There’s the quiet of being the first one on to the ice, and to have it all to yourself for awhile.  You can choose to kill that silence by shooting up a storm or by skating as hard as you wish.  Or, you can coast, and just soak up the quiet of the rink all to yourself.

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Great Sounds of the Game

Hockey is a game of great sounds.  I’ve always loved the unique noises that can only be found at a hockey game.  The boom as a puck hits the boards dead on or the slightly different sound that comes with the puck hitting the glass.

I’ve always loved the sound of the puck hitting iron.  Goal post, cross bar – either one, both great sounds.  However, it’s a bittersweet sound if you’re the shooter who has hit iron.  Sweet if the puck clangs and goes in, bitter if it clangs and stays out.   It’s been said that in sport, “there’s only an inch between a bum and a hero”.  So true for the shooter who hits iron, or the tender the puck got past.

Then there’s the sound of the puck hitting sticks as it’s passed from player to player.  The louder and harder the note, the crisper the pass.  Sometimes the sound is imperceptible except to those on the ice.  A stick just touching the puck to break up the pass.  Or the sound it makes as it hits a shin pad and changes direction, sending everyone in a direction they weren’t going a moment before.

I love the sound of blades on ice.  With speed, the rhythm of this sound increases.  It’s like a great engine firing up and accelerating to hear the skate blades of a player taking off.

There’s the sounds that come from goalie’s equipment.  The “thunk” as a shot hits their pads.  The “smack” when the snare one with the trapper or the dull “crack” when they take one off the blocker.  The “splat” when one hits them on the melon.

In a contact game, there’s the crushing, wincing noise of two players colliding in an open-ice hit.  The crash and bang of the hit against a player along the boards.

Even the off ice noises are unique.  The sound of the bench door closing, or being slammed, when whoever is closing it is pissed off.

And of course, there’s always the chirping, barking and hooting of those playing the game.  Some are good-natured, some are meant to get under the skin, some are directed at the ref, some are directed at one’s self.  These noises are found coming from the players in any sport, but when they blast out of helmeted blokes into cold air at high speed, they just have a little different flavour.



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