Friday evening, Mrs. Harrible and I stacked our 40 lb. bags in the way back of the Big Red Wattle Wagon, stuck our sticks along the doors, stuck CCB in the passenger seat, picked up Lefty and fetus in Gibsonton and headed toward Kissimmee for our second FWHL tournament of the season. And as the conversation on the road settled into random giggle fits and pregnancy FAQs, I settled into my happy place.
Being completely at ease in social situations is a rare and invaluable luxury for me. This social situation extends for two full days.
Unable to find a "Baby on Board" sticker, we decorated Lefty’s helmet thusly.
A hockey tournament weekend flows like the indicator on a Ouija Board: effortless and collaborative. It’s just like sports to me, or dance, jazz or conversation to other people. Logistics stress me out. Sports joy is instinctive, improvised, meditative and immediate. No planning ahead or dwelling on the previous play.
At the hotel, our door opens facing the elevators, and an impromptu hugfest erupts just outside our room as the rec team arrives after their 7-5 victory. People move in twos or threes, but everyone ends up in the same place—20 friends gathered around tables pulled together next to the hotel pool, laughing, shouting mock insults and forever telling stories.
Then we’re at the rink Saturday morning—no thinking required, it just happens, like in the game itself. See the puck, skate the puck, shoot the puck, score. Lather, rinse, repeat. Hearing “Han-NAH! Han-NAH! Han-NAH!” from our over-sugared rec teammates in the stands pulls me out of the sports-induced meditation for a moment, like waking up from a pleasant dream to breakfast in bed. This is so cool.
Then we’re in the stands, acting ridiculous cheering on the rec team; then we’re at dinner; then we’re at the hotel breakfast Sunday morning, after one of the day’s games and before two more. Teammates in and out like an ant farm for coffee and toast. Hell yeah, Mickey Mouse waffles.
Everything’s endorphins: seeing friends and laughing, exercising until your lungs burn, then catching your breath and doing it again, extra cheese and caloric guiltlessness, falling down, making other people fall down, high fives, celebratory ice cream and hard-earned sleepiness. The moment when the puck leaves your stick doing exactly what you intended, and that vacuum when you hear nothing at all—not post, not boards, not pads or stick. The silence of net. It’s steady contentment in a whirl of wild activity.
Ms. Conduct teammates’ cars in the rink parking lot. V is for…"girl power."
Or sometimes it’s the uncontrollable grin that emerges as an opponent cross-checks you in just the right spot between pants and shoulder pads, or when you perform a perfect can opener maneuver with your stick and crank a girl onto her head. Or a ridiculous shopping trip to Target followed by an impromptu foosball game at Play-It-Again Sports. Or when your teammates rib you mercilessly for flubbing your 11th breakaway in a row, then put stickers on your car and shout embarrassing things in restaurants.
It’s the incredible joy of participating in the world instead of watching from delayed distance somewhere deep in my head.