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The wear and tear of a hockey weekend.
By Hannah Wallace
Another hockey tournament weekend. It’s funny how much my enthusiasm for hockey lets me gloss over its, shall we say, less glamorous aspects. A lot of it could be considered an inconvenience, and plenty of things are annoying—some even downright infuriating—and yet, it’s all good. Like the bumper sticker says, a bad day on the ice beats a good day anywhere else.
It’s a three-and-a-half hour drive to Incredible Ice in Coral Springs, which means I have to skip my lunch break and head directly from work. I’m reminding myself that it’s Friday night, and I could very well be recovering from the work week at this very moment, going out to eat with friends or even in my pajamas already. Instead I’m staring into the blackness of Alligator Alley with a numb butt.
If I weren’t used to it, I’m sure I’d be nauseous, trapped in a hatchback with the stench from my equipment—the full and sharp notes of body odor that concentrate as it dries.
I like hotel rooms. Ours is a La Quinta about two miles from the rink. King bed and a television that blips “unusable signal” until you turn it off then back on again.
We’re at the rink by 8:30 p.m. to watch the rec team game. It is freezing cold outside—in Miami, fer christsakes—so there’s no relief from the freezing cold inside. I have to put new tacky tape on my stick, and I’m frustrated because the tape keeps wrinkling. I’m also trying to change the laces in my skates, but the eyelets have corroded and collapsed and I’m having a helluva dusty tug-of-war trying to get the old laces out. I use my car keys to pry out the little bits of metal.
Glamorous locker room.
On the C team, we don’t start putting on our equipment until 9:45. It’s cold, undressing in the locker room of an ice rink, but this is the only time this weekend that we’ll be putting on dry equipment. And it’s the only time this weekend that we’ll feel limber and energized.
We play at 10:15 p.m., a team from North Carolina we’ve never met before. Too many 18-year-olds, the minimum age for the league. They beat the snot out of us, 7-2. By the time we’re out of the rink, it’s almost midnight, and the grocery stores are closed. CCB makes late-night PB&Js in the hotel room, tearing off a piece of a Styrofoam cup to use as a knife.
Up at 7:20 a.m.; game at 8:15. Temperatures dipped around 30, and the wet shin guards, elbow pads, gloves and pants that sat in my car all night are painfully cold. Close game, too—the other team, our regular rivals, have a conniption, thinking they’ve tied it up with 11 seconds left only to have the refs wave off the goal.
Downtime meal (lots of water).
Gorging on bagels from a real indy deli, then a nap well earned. Four free hours in the middle of the day, but we’ve still got two games to play, so I sit in the hotel room and watch football.
CCB takes advantage of between-game downtime, too.
It’s Top Dog Tom’s birthday, and a text tells me they’re getting together with Krazy Kevin et al to go bowling tonight. “Thanks for the invite,” goes the reply, “but we’re in Miami for a tournament. Tell Tom he’s old.”
Next up: a team from Minnesota. Mostly middle-age women. Starts off friendly enough, but a 1-1 tie into the third period, and things start getting chippy. They go up 2-1, and with a minute left, we pull our goalie and immediately give up an empty netter. Down 3-1 with 30 seconds left, I get pinned against the boards, out of reach of the puck, and retaliate by two-hand whacking a woman in the back of the shoulder pads. Aaaaand now I’m in the penalty box. The other team protests (technically, they’re right) that I should be kicked out of the game, but the refs leave me be at my current level of shame.
Still another game to go. Mozzarella sticks at the upstairs bar. We trade stories—tearful, laughing—about on-ice brawls.
Mrs. Harrible and Lefty are amused by my locker room self-portrait.
Yep, equipment’s still cold, and by now we’re stiff and sore and nursing various bumps and bruises. The other team challenges the eligibility of a substitute player we’ve recruited, and just like that we’re down to three defenders, two of whom haven’t skated in months. We lose our heads, and the game soon thereafter.
It’s after 10 p.m. and Wendy’s is the only dinner option. Junior bacon cheeseburgers and Vitamin Water while we chat with Lefty late into the night. There’s another tournament in February, but her next break from vet school isn’t until August. She’s on a plane at 7 a.m. Sunday.
The three-game Saturday lets the rest of us sleep in, and we’re back in the car by 2 Sunday afternoon. All the muscles that are sore from hockey are exacerbated in the car, and we’ll only get back in time to eat dinner before heading off to our house-league game in Ellenton. And that’s where the weekend went.
Rearranging equipment before heading to the final game of the weekend.
But if I’m going to be sore, I want to be sore all over. And if I'm going to fall down, I want to be wearing pads. If I'm going to get angry, I want to have a stick in my hands (and knives on my feet).
If I'm going to be tired, I want to be exhausted.