My seven-year-old grandson, Wyatt, loves to play hockey. As a gramma, who played on the Banff girl’s team fifty years ago, I got up the courage to play shinny with him and his dad. I felt naked without the hockey padding but tightened my helmet and stepped onto the ice.
The puck ricocheted off the boards and the slap of the sticks echoed off the mountains.
“Gramma scored,” my son-in-law shouted.
“Off course she did.” Wyatt tapped his stick on the ice. “She was on a hockey team a long time ago.”
Out of the mouths of babes. My heart melted.
Memories of playing hockey as a teenager flooded back. In the mid 70s two of my high school teachers started a girl’s team and enrolled us in the Minor Hockey League.
We had many obstacles to overcome before our first game:
- learning the rules (important)
- learning to skate on hockey skates instead of figure skates (challenging)
- the art of stick handling, passing without losing the puck, and skating fast (equally challenging)
- there were no funds to buy team jackets (minor detail – we knit toques for everyone)
There was a wide range of athletic abilities amongst us, but we were determined. Not even the 6 AM Sunday morning ice times deterred us.
(top row 3rd from the left)
We surpassed all our obstacles and our first game was against Jasper.
The game started. They skated fast. They deeked and passed and zipped up and down the ice like super stars. But we kept up. And then there was a bam. Our centre got slammed into the boards.
I stood in the box with my mouth open. My teammates wore similar expressions. Our coaches - speechless.
What the hell? We all looked at the ref. Nothing. He did nothing.
I watched our player lean against the boards and pull herself up. When my line went out I took my spot – left forward. Skate fast. Pass. Stay out of their way. That was my strategy.
I flew down the ice (it’s my memory, I can go as fast as I want). Just as I went to pass to a teammate, I felt a thunk. The next instant I was on my back looking at the overhead lighting.
I rolled over, got up on my knees and blinked. That hurt. A lot.
“It’s a long way from the heart,” Coach shouted. “Get up.” They were the exact words I needed to hear to stop the tears.
We lost 13 – 0. We should have been devastated but we weren’t. We were just thankful we could all still walk.
From then on, our practices involved: how to check, how to take a check, how to avoid a check.
Fast forward to our next game against Jasper. We lost 4-0 but we were all proud of our defeat. We hadn’t been thumped.
Our final game against Jasper was the Easter Tournament in Banff. In the first period there was a battle of sticks in front of their net. And then the red light went on. The red light!
We scored a goal.
It felt like the whole team scored that goal. And it was the only goal of the game. A shutout our coaches talked about for years. We were victorious.
Who am I to tell Wyatt the goal I scored was not intentional? I’d merely leaned on my stick to stop from toppling over after turning too fast. My stick hit the ice just in time for the puck to deflect off it and into the net. Almost like I planned it. But I didn't tell him any of that. I'll let him think I'm a super star for a bit longer.
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