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Tale of a late bloomer.

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Oregon Canucky

The First Group Lesson.

It was pretty obvious that if I wanted to meet my goal of playing on a team next

October, I'd need some lessons. I scoured over the arena websites and tried to

digest all the information; Group or private lessons? Weekends or

weeknights? Hockey or beginner ice lessons? My head was spinning

so I resorted to emailing just one question to multiple different instructors

and all four rinks…

"I want to play hockey around this time next year.

How do you recommend I start to achieve this goal?"

Each instructor responded a bit differently. One recommended I absolutely get

private instruction from him. I found that odd considering all other instructors

seemed to lean toward group intro lessons. I have to admit, the thought of private

lessons was appealing, but the dollar amount slowed me down. Almost every

private instructor charges a dollar a minute for private instruction! Whew.

I eventually settled on the mall. It wasn't myfavorite rink, but the

schedule kept me from having to go on the weekend and it was very close to my

work. The session started at 7pm which gave me time to find a spot to park and

get a bite to eat before instruction. When I made my way over to the rink entrance

I found a small "pro-shop" with all manner of things for figure skating (not a

hockey stick in sight). Looking around, I realized that I was surrounded by girls.

The young ladies ranged in age from 5-12, and ran at full speed despite being

strapped tightly into skates. I sighed as I approached the pay window.

The place was hopping with youngens all impatiently waitingfor their turn to hit

the ice. Their classes had already finished but the public skate session wouldn't

start until after my adult intro class concluded. The kids' parents were staring at

me as I walked through with tattooed arms and the only pair of hockey skates in

the arena. I felt a bit out of place.

At 7pm sharp a voice came over the PA. He called my grou pout onto the ice. I

held on to the boards (no glass) as I set foot on the ice. Gliding to the far side I

met up with my instructor and classmates. I was briefly relieved to see another

guy, until I realized he was a 6 foot hairy mammoth, wearing spandex shorts,

fingerless bicycle gloves and a bike helmet. Reserving my judgement,

I introduced myself. He told me his name but I cant remember it (because it was

hindu, not because his giant red helmet distracted me).

The lesson wasn't half bad. We worked on forward and backward skating. We did

swizzles and slaloms, as well as gliding on one foot and strong push-offs. I

worked my way through the lesson pretty well and was happy with what

I could do out of the gate. My low center of gravity seemed to aid natural balance

and prevented me from falling (haven't fallen once), but I also haven't attempted

anything very complicated.

My main gripe with the lesson would be that the instructor was obviously

ignorant to difference in hockey and figure skates. When I asked where my

weight should be on my skate, she would say

"I'm not sure on a hockey skate, but in a figure skate you would want it…"

It got even worse when I asked her about my foot pain, she suggested I spray hot

water in my boots to soften the leather. I looked at my skates then back at her but

she stood by her word.

With no zamboni in site, the ice was a disaster before the public session even

started. In some small spots chunks of ice were gone all the way to the concrete.

I sighed again as I skated around on what felt like gravel under rollerskates.

The mall was also amazingly warm which left a thin layer of water atop the ice surface.

I was grumbling to myself about the condition when someone "bit it" in front of

me. Leaning hard I managed to swing around them without taking a header, but

was infuriated to see mall walkers point and laugh at the situation (literally).

I had to refrain from doing a skate-by knock out on the teenage boneheads.

Overall the environment was not welcoming to someone who was more

interested in hockey than triple axles and the onlookers were an insecurity

nightmare. If the trend continues over the next few weeks ill likely

be looking to hit another rink. I hope to be able to push my limits without

worrying about jerks taunting me for my failures.

Oregon Canucky

My First (Adult) Attempt At Ice Skating.

Well I had my shiny new Bauers in my passenger seat as Itook to the northbound

freeway. Traffic was good on that Saturday afternoon and it took a mere ten

minutes to get to the Mt View Ice arena in Washington State. From the outside

the facility looked nice and well kept. I was surprised to feel a bit of the

butterflies as I walked in the door.

I was greeted by a lady at the counter, and paid her seven dollars for the public

skate session. Meandering around the corner I found lockers, drinking fountains,

vending machines and a concession stand. Barely resisting a soft pretzel, I moved

through to find a spot along the crowded benches. I looked around as I pulled

off my street shoes. The facility was pretty awesome. Full sized ice with boards,

glass and hanging netting. No doubt this place was made for hockey!

I laced up the skates and walked awkwardly to the door. People of all levels

were on the ice. Some folks were falling down all over the place and the more

experienced skaters easily cruised right around them. The variety in ability

curbed my insecurities as I set one foot down on the ice.

Gripping what I could of the boards, I sort of glided around the first corner of

the ice. My knees were knocking and my ankles wobbled horribly at first. I

remembered the videos I had taken the time to watch and bent my knees pretty

deeply. At the beginning of the session I thought it was going to take me fifty

years to learn to ice skate, but about 15 minutes in I had found my legs. I pushed

away from the boards moved along pretty comfortably with C cuts. Without

lifting my skates at all, I was cruising!

The pain in my arches got my attention regularly, but I wrote it off as a pain

that would pass as I got used to skating. Occasionally I would sit for just a few

minutes (in the penalty box ha!) but I would hop back out as soon as the cramping

let up. I spent a good amount of my ice time pondering what sorts of insoles

would get rid of the cramping or if I was clenching my toes or if I was suffering

from flat feet.

I was distracted from the sharp cramping when a 30-something guy in a Dallas

Stars jacket skated up next to me. He grinned as he asked how I was doing. I

smiled and told him I was doing pretty well. I went on to brag about how I had

the "going" thing figured out but the "stopping" was eluding me. He responded

with some interesting advice;

"Oh, don't worry about it man! I played hockey for a year and a half before I

knew there was a way to stop other than the boards or a body."

I laughed pretty heartily as he suddenly sped off. I wondered if I had just heard

something Zen-like or if that was the most ridiculous piece of advice ever. Either

way it was funny.

The rest of the session I skated and watched others. There were a pair of kids

that I secretly nicknamed "The Terror Twins". The identical youths (about 4 or 5

years old) were playing a fun game of 'push your brother around the ice in a

chair'. Initially that game may not seem so terrible, but the rules included things

like continually speeding up until your brother and or the chair goes flying.

When a brother flew from the chair he would wildly slide across the ice. After

the out-of-control ejection, both brothers shared a loud laugh before switching

spots.

Intermission saw the Zamboni go round and round, while everyone

mobbed the concession stand. I just sat and watched with a grin. I was ice

skating, and soon I'd be playing hockey! What was not to smile about?

Oregon Canucky

My First Pair of Skates.

After a six month battle with the wife, I finally got her approval to play hockey.

Sure, I could have told her to "bugger-off" months ago, but I knew that she

wouldn't keep me from anything I REALLY wanted to do. A variety of excuses

were slowly confronted and the Wifey eventually gave in. My foster son (also

named Matthew) just offered up a chuckle "Youre gonna get

smashed" he said with a grin. I responded with a nod.

"I know! Its gonna be awesome!"

So, one of my hurdles was just learning to skate. I had plenty of rollerblade

experience from my youth, but very little time on Ice. Either way it had been 17

years since I had done either. I wasn't derailed by the thought of the learning

curve as I knew it would take some time to get all the gear that I needed anyway.

I searched local ice rinks (4 in my area!) for open ice times, learn to skate lessons,

and options for hockey in the future.

Excited to hit the ice, I wanted some hockey skates!

I knew I could have rented figure skates at all four of the rinks and hockey skates

at three of them, but I also knew I was going to need them anyway so I scraped

together 200 dollars for a sturdy set of beginning hockey skates.

I didn't want to make the mistake of buying something off the internet.

I'd read enough to know that you want your skate to fit real nice, and

while you pay more at a local shop, you'll likely get a baking and your first

sharpening for free. My hunt took me to Sherwood ice arena. Their pro-shop

was a twenty minute drive, but was well worth it for the experience. I tried on tons

of skates and attempted walking around in them. Wobbling and nearly

falling over didn't discourage me, Instead I laughed about it and explained

my new-ness to the shops other customers.

The bustling shop had a good number of people in and out. They wanted stick

extensions, skate sharpening, and heat moldings. Looking around I actually got

intimidated for a moment. At 30 years old and 5'4, almost all of the guys' sticks

alone were taller than me. But they were all very polite and spent time talking to

me about starting hockey. They shared their personal stories while their little kids

ran around like maniacs in the smallshop.

Eventually I Picked a pair of skates. The Bauer Vapor X3.0 Limited Edition

(black and white) Skate. Paid One-Ninety, got them baked andsharpened,

and left with them, blade cozies and a practice ball in hand. Overall It

was such an awesome experience and I left wishing I didn't have to wait until

Saturday to use them.

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Oregon Canucky

Growing up, hockey was little more than a fleeting idea. The family home was more interested in the NFL and our local NBA team. The lack of exposure to the sport didn't leave me thinking it was much of an option. Despite all of the cards that hockey had stacked against it, it didn't stop me from endless hours of street hockey in the Portland rain.

At the tender age of 12 I had single handedly put together a small roller hockey league in my elementary school. The overall lack of understanding about the game didn't stop the six teams from having a blast. Every 5th and 6thgrader with blades and a stick was welcome to play in the school gym afterclass. Teachers and parents rounded out the ranks of referees and score-keepers. Looking back, it's pretty obvious that no one knew the first thing about hockey, but none of the kids seemed to care. We just wanted toplay, and play we did.

Eventually roller hockey gave way to middle school football, soccer and karate. The thought of playing any sort of hockey didn't re-surface until recently, and if I may, I would like to blame that on a Surrey B.C. native.

After graduating high-school, sports spontaneously vanished from my life. In 2000,I had already

been with mygirlfriend for four years and our interests jointly moved into things like videogames and

punk music. I spent a few years playing music and then we both took up online role playing games.

This is where Matt came in… The B.C. native was our friend online for several years and

eventually even came down to meet us. All the while, he spoke highly about hockey and the Canucks.

Before I knew it I was watching televised games in my area, and chatting about them with him the next day. Soon that wasn't enough. I found online streams for games that weren't on in my area, and even ended up paying for the center ice package. I was hooked. Hockey hockey hockey! The first year, my wife rolled her eyes. The second year, not even she (the anticompetitive sport type) could deny hockey's awesomeness!

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