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Peter Goes For A Genuine Punk Rock And Hockey Experience, Hilarity Ensues

August 5, 2010

Tuesday night was a rather interesting evening for me. As those that follow my twitter know, I’ve recently started working at a local ice rink. One of the most common questions I get from my male co-workers is, “Do you play hockey?”

Shockingly, relatively few of us actually play the sport.

A few days ago this question came up from a supervisor of mine, to which I responded, “I used to, I plan on starting again in the fall.”

To clarify, the actual answer is that I play street hockey with a group of friends every week and once in a while play on roller hockey with a friend in the local high school’s parking lot. I stopped playing ice hockey when I was 13 for reasons that are both long-winded and boring. Therefore, I’ll spare you the details.

After informing my co-worker of this factoid, he then tells me I should play pick-up hockey with him on Tuesday night. When I tell him I lack any of the needed equipment, I’m told he’s a goalie most nights so I can use his spare set. I think it was my desire to get back on the ice, but regardless of whatever reason my brain formulated, I without hesitation accepted the offer.

Then a problem arose in my head, I have a show on Tuesday night with my band. After checking that my show starts at 6:30 and hockey started at 9:30, I completely committed to what I was sure was a bad idea from the outset.

Tuesday night arrives and I get to the show. For some reason I completely neglected to realize this show would definitely run on “punk rock time*.” It was at this point I realized I was screwed. I then spend the next twenty minutes trying to inform my bandmates that I need to be out of the building by 8, if I want any hope of making it to the rink in time to get geared up and out on the ice surface in time. Finally, after much sarcastic complaining from my fellow band members, they decide we’ll start our set at 7:50 (this is fine seeing as our set is only five minutes long).

One thing of note is that this show is going on in a garage that is separate from the house it sits behind. For those finding this odd, house shows are quite common amongst this type of music. They’re cheap venues that will fit a solid number of people and create a more intimate, fun environment.

This is a garage in the middle of a Midwest summer with a closed door and one lonely fan working quite hard to create some sort of cross ventilation. It also doesn’t help that Indy was experiencing near-record humidity on this day. Long story short, it’s quite hot in this building.

At about 7:48, my band starts playing. One really negative aspect to playing in a place like this is the way the sound will bounce around the room. A concrete floor and drywall are not super conducive to absorbing noise. We play a decent set, one where there was a lot of non-verbal communication between the musicians due to the fact it was hard to hear any of the instruments clearly from the “stage**.”

After seven minutes, our set ends. Everyone in that room is dripping with sweat, even if they weren’t moving. Of course since I’ve made a vow to honor the connection between punk rock and hockey by wearing a sweater for every show, I’m drenched. I apologize to my bandmates for having to rush forward the start of the show, collect the few obligatory “nice job” remarks from people, say my goodbyes to some friends that came out and make plans with a female for dinner after my game. When I remark that I will be covered in both show and hockey sweat by the time I get to see her next, she simply replies, “I go to shows, I think I’m used to people covered in sweat.”

Good answer.

I then begin the frantic drive to the suburbs in hopes to make it in time to get dressed and ready for this game. At this point I begin to come to terms with the fact that I’m quite nervous. Although I acknowledge it is a pickup game and therefore how well I play has no real meaning, I’m still uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the fear of looking like a complete fool as I try to shake off nine years of rust or perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown. I realize at that point, I really have no idea what I’m walking into. I begin desperately hoping for a bunch of beer leaguers that I can blend in with as I make mistakes. Yet, I remember it is the summer and figure I will be with guys trying to stay in shape during the off-season.

As I arrive at the rink, I begin to look for my co-worker to his location. After I place a phone call I realize that he’s at a softball game and he’s left his gear for me to use. I’m now more panicked. Perhaps it is because I was hoping to know someone out there with me. Regardless, I figure I’m already here, I might as well play hockey.

I walk into the locker room and sit down to dress. Looking around the room, I see a ton of very young faces. It occurs to me that most of these guys are either my age or slightly younger. At this point I start noticing logos on everyone’s equipment. Some have local high school logos, meanwhile others have USHL emblems on their sweaters. I then look down at the guy next to me and see a symbol that makes me mutter obscenities under my breath. Staring back at me from this guy’s bag is the logo of the Miami Redhawks. I realize I am going to be playing very far out of my league.

Meanwhile I continue dressing. This is either because I really wanted to play hockey and no one was going to deprive me of that, or because I’m a complete idiot. I think the romantic answer is the prior, but the realistic truth is the latter.

We all leave the locker room and venture out onto the ice, the moment my blades cut into the surface I sort of forget how outclassed I’m about to be and just focus on the happy fact that I’m about to play ice hockey again. The game starts and minutes into my first shift I record an assist on a well-aimed pass. Upon returning to the bench, a co-worker of mine, one that is playing, congratulates me. Before the game I had told him about the fact I hadn’t played in a while, but decided to come out and play anyway. After another shift he asks if I’m tired. I respond with an honest, “yes.” I always tend to forget how much the sport takes out of you.

Although my first shift went rather well, my second shift or third or fourth did not. I began routinely making mistakes and was getting blown away by guys in better shape and overall better at hockey than I am. As I clumsly hopped over the boards, a kid on our bench asked my age. When I told him I was 22 he just started laughing. I laughed back. I knew how ridiculous I looked out there, but I really couldn’t care less. I was having a ton of fun. He ended up asking why I was playing and as we waited for another shift I told him why I was there. After some banter with generally everyone on the bench, they tended to all be very supportive and encouraging. Honestly, I really needed that. I often claim that hockey is one gigantic family and in that moment, my faith in that belief was rewarded.

As the game progressed, I began to feel more comfortable. I was nowhere near the level of play that the others on the ice were at, but I was significantly better than I was when I started. When it ended, I smiled. Thankful that I was able to play hockey again. That evening confirmed to me that playing hockey is completely worth the amount of money it costs to participate.

I quickly changed into an extra pair of clothes, returned the equipment and left for dinner. During the meal I’m rather quiet, but I have an uncharacteristically large smile on my face. Although I watch hockey in some facet on TV almost every day, I read blogs dedicated to it and write in one myself, I tend to forget just how happy a simple children’s game makes me.

So yes, I did look like a clown out on the ice and I’m sure I smelled like roadkill, but it was completely worth it. It’s rare that a person gets to participate in two of their favorite things in one day, but on Tuesday night I did and it was fantastic.

*- Punk Rock Time is around 2-3 hours behind schedule. More or less, the show will not start until there are enough people there to start the concert. Since punctuality is not a value adhered to by any group of people involved in the scene that I’ve known, nothing starts at its posted time.

**- We set up on the floor, there isn’t actually a stage.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2010 11:03 am

    Nice job!

  2. August 5, 2010 11:11 am

    Haha, love it.

  3. August 5, 2010 11:56 am

    At least you made it through. Playing with people better than you has to make you better, right? Also, congrats for sticking it out you are a braver man than I.

  4. Patrick Mullins permalink
    August 12, 2010 8:01 pm

    I’m 23, in a local league and I’m the same way. Hadn’t played at all since middle school and never been on the ice. That first time out was horrendous and miraculous. Glad you got to enjoy yours too.

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