PreCamp – Day 1

Spent twenty minutes in the garage with my daughter’s playing Simon says with skates and pads on.  We have a sheet of 12′ x 16′ of synthetic ice I picked up from Kijiji. Probably 50 butterflies and umpteen T-Pushes & Shuffles. Got real sweaty……I am so out of shape!

The start of a team

As posted before we have a team. Sort of.

People are all for joining a team and playing beer league when you bring it up to them, but when it comes time to register for the team and paying your dues, that’s a different thing.

Why on Earth?……..

When I mentioned that I was going to start playing hockey in a winter league and that I was going to be a goalie, I got a lot of “You’re too old”, “You’re crazy”  or “You’re going to die” responses.

So lets get this out of the way. I am 44, a husband, father of three young girls (12, 10 & 6), I have a full time job and I have never ever played a game of organized hockey in my life.

Why start now? It’s simpler than you think. Mid-Life crisis? Meh, I don’t think so. Nothing better to do/bored? Um no….see the above paragraph. So then why on earth would I want to start playing hockey at this stage in life? For me, Hockey was always something that I wanted to get involved in. For some reason and I cant remember why, I never played as a kid. I skated a little when I was young but not a lot and I never got asked to play a game of shinny.

About seven years ago I started building a back yard rink for my girls to skate on. As the years progressed, the rink size went from 20’x20′ to 38’x96′. Complete with boards, rounded corners, lines, nets and lights for late night skates and games. My middle daughter Sarah got the hockey bug and wanted to play. So three years ago, so we signed her up. She started as a skater but ended up as a goalie. Yes I tried to convince her to stick with being a skater (Goalies are weird after all) and told her that she needed more skating under her belt, but half way through her second year of hockey the net-minder position became available. She tried it and she loved it. This past year was her first year of being a full time goalie and I became an assistant coach.

Early in the year I quickly discovered that my skating abilities were less than acceptable. During the first few team practices I thought I had no business being on the ice. Even though the coaching position is voluntary, I was pretty sure that some of the parents were shaking their heads – then again, I stepped up just like the other coaches. I was out there to help the girls on the team become better players. But how could I do that if I couldn’t keep up? I never had a stitch of skating instruction. So I enrolled in a beginner hockey course at our local CanLAN sports complex. There were some guys in my group that needed to be in a higher level and I was towards the bottom of the ladder that’s for sure. I found that it was a great work out and I learned a lot. Like the fact that my 15 year old skates sucked and I needed new ones.

What does this have to do with starting to play hockey at 44? Hey, I’m painting a picture here. Bear with me…..

During the past hockey season practices I would normally coach my daughter on her position in net while keeping an eye on the girls and their shooting drills. We have put Sarah in a lot of hockey camps and two seasons of one-on-one goalie instruction. I have been there for almost all of them and had a good idea of  what was required from her in terms of her position, technique and attitude. Part way into the season while scouring Kijiji (Canada’s online classifieds) I found a guy selling a complete set of adult goalie equipment. My thought process was, if I am going to coach my daughter on being a goalie, perhaps I should be able to relate to her i.e. – walk the walk. Just before Christmas break we had a fun practice with the team. I suited up with skates that had missing eyelets, a chest protector that stunk to high heaven and a mask that was so loose that it flopped all over as I was looking around. It was crazy but it was fun.

Fast forward to the end of the season. The girls won the city championship with a 17-1-2 (tie) record. My daughter in her first year of being “the” goalie posted 15 regular season shutouts and 2 shutouts in the finals. It was a fun year and I now caught the bug. Maybe 35 years too late, but I caught it non the less.

All three of my girls (goalie included) are also in dance. My oldest Emily is in competitive dance and that takes up a lot of her time – even more than hockey believe it or not. Emily is busy with dance minimum 4 out of 7 days a week. And when competitions start? – Watch out!  Sarah and our youngest Bella are in recreational dance. Through them I have gotten to know a few of the “dance dads”. In talking with these other dads, I discovered that there is whole bunch of guys my age out there that have never played rec/league hockey before. The best part is that these guys want to start playing even at this stage in life.  A little more talking and some internet surfing on the local leagues that have divisions for fat guy ankle skaters and we have a registered team with about 10 guys and…….wait for it……a goalie.

So why on earth would I want to start being a goalie at age 44? Hockey is a fun game there is no doubt about it. Its good exercise and hey, this is beer league, there is bound to be a few of us getting together after the slaughter that is in our future. It helps that I have all the gear and why not? I don’t have to skate up and down the ice, worry about cross overs, back checks, getting boarded and skating backwards (well fast anyways).  If there was a goal light, I’d have to worry about a sunburn, but hey, I don’t think at this point the NHL is calling anytime soon anyways. I might have to work on my reflex’s though, not so much for making saves, but for getting out of the way when the rest of the Div E skaters that cant stop come barreling towards me.

Guys I know that grew up playing hockey, some even making it into Juniors, feel they are too old/injured to play anymore. If they haven’t hung up their skates they are still trying to play like they are 19/20 or are still trying to play with 19 & 20 year old’s but complain about it the next day. Guess what? I have no illusions of ever making that kind of level of skill and that’s OK with me. I just want to have fun.

I don’t even care if I suck. I could let in 50 goals per game and that’s OK. Why? Cause I can only get better and I’ll be on a team of 15 guys that probably suck just as bad as I do.