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.