The Good Old Hockey Game
I am six years old and it is my first time walking into the frigid hockey arena. I have my pink backpack over my shoulder, holding tight onto my mom`s warm hand. My dad and brother left us as soon as we parked the car, to go into the dressing room and prepare for the big game. We take our seats on the wooden benches and begin to feel the warm heat blowing out of the heaters on the ceiling. I take my jacket off and squish closer to my mom. My grandma and grandpa show up and give me the biggest hug and kiss I had ever experienced. It made my sides hurt, when my grandpa picked me up to give me a kiss, but I try to outdo his squeeze by holding him tighter around his shoulders. The Zamboni whistles blows, beep, beep, beep, the sound of the Zamboni reversing onto the ice. Twelve laps of the ice and the rink is now shiny and wet, it looks like glass. Click, click, and click goes the door, the Zamboni is now locked away so the game can begin.
The glass doors open and the little skaters enter the arena banging their sticks on the ice. The sound of the sticks and the pucks hitting the ice startles me at first, but then I become fascinated by the action. A whistle blows and my brother and my dad hit the bench with the team. The opposing team takes a seat on the visitor bench, and gets ready for the game.
Six blue jerseys take a step onto the ice. One goalie, two defense men and two forward, and of course, my brother in the center ready for the puck drop. The red jerseys begin to follow us and take their positions on the opposite side. Two big people with black and white stripes take a very serious position, one in the middle, with the puck and one on the side looking at the middle. A whistle blows again and a puck drops; the game has begun. Whistle, clang, and whistle are the sounds I hear for thirty minutes. Three ten minute periods fill the thirty-minute game. Mixed cheering and clapping fills the arena, as the blue team scores the only goal of the game. Four seconds left in the game and we win. It is a very happy day for us.
A long horn sounds and the blue team hugs. They line up to shake hands with the red team. The game is now over. Parents, siblings and friends still cheer happily from the stands. Even though they are so young, it is important to show support. Mom and I pack up our stuff and head to the dressing room with the other moms to meet our boys. The dressing room is as loud as the rink. Conversations about how well the boys played filled the air. Parents talk about what we can do to celebrate this wonderful win and feed everyone. All of the players and siblings choose pizza. The coaches give final notes and confirm everyone knows where the next practice is, and it is soon time to leave for dinner. Happy and excited that I have experienced my first hockey game, I give my brother a hug and say “good job, brother.” My brother is excited as well, since he has experienced playing his first hockey game and has done so well.
The next twelve years consisted of walking in and out of hockey rinks, cheering, whistling and celebrating. My brother is now sixteen and has been drafted to the Ontario Junior A Hockey League, which is one step below National Hockey League (NHL). The games now become two and a half hours long, making it a much more exciting and thrilling experience. Many of the games are now in different cities, making it a full day trip. The team players and coaches have their own bus, which I must say is very high class. Each seat on the bus has a TV on the back of the seat in front of them, and wireless internet so the boys can all stay connected with Facebook and Twitter. The family bus is not quite as nice as the team bus. We only have three T.V`s throughout the bus and all have to watch the same movie, which is m usually not too bad.
After hours of driving across Ontario, we reach the rink; each rink looks the same, with two small differences. One of these differences is the city and the color of the opposing team, obviously different each game. The arena can seat one thousand people, which is quite a bit more than the arenas I have been too in the beginning of his hockey career. Large TV screens hang from the ceiling and the padded seats are elevated so the people who like to move their heads every three seconds can see the game. Loud music begins playing and fans begin to take their seats. Four referees enter the ice and skate laps around the rink as the players begin to get ready for the big game. The lights soon go off and people stand in their seats to welcome the home team, and the visiting team to the rink. A red carpet is rolled out and a singer comes out and begins singing “O Canada” loud and proud. The crowd all sings and cheers as the song finishes. Upon the ending of the last verse of the song, an announcer comes on to address each team with confidence. Each player’s name is addressed as they come forward and give a wave to the crowd. When it is our teams turn to be recognized the crowd all stands and cheers and our loved ones are called out as being a part of The Kingston Voyagers. The lights come back on and the players take position. It is now game time.
I am now eighteen and I pack up my car and begin my travels with my parents to Potsdam New York. I have no idea of what to expect and immediately begin feeling nervous and scared. After all, I am moving to a country that is different than my own, and in a city, which I have no recognition of at all. While touring the campus, I begin to realize maybe this is not such a big community and I can fit in here. We enter into Maxcy Hall where we see the hockey arena. I remember saying to my parents “oh thank god, I know I am going to like it here. They have a hockey team and I`m sure the guys are cute”. Knowing far well that they must be, as most hockey players are seen as being cute, I mean take Sidney Crosby for example. With that thought aside my parents and I take a seat on the hard wooden seats and I immediately flash back to the first hockey game I attended when I was six. The only difference was that I was older and was not holding my mom`s hand, but I was freezing and the benches are still very hard. Sounds of my life begin getting louder and louder. Each player is banging their stick against the boards, waiting for a pass and referees are blowing their whistles, these referees were coaches in this case, but similar. The tour of Maxcy hall continues and as we are walking up the stairs back to the parking lot, six people from my hometown come up and give me the biggest hug anyone could handle. I was completely shocked to see these old friends. When we were in high school, they all played hockey with my brother before they came to Potsdam to play hockey and study. Now finally feeling comfortable after a few tears, my parents leave and I am on my own. Not feeling so much out of place anymore, I realize I am in my new home away from home. The new chapter of my life was beginning, whether I wanted it too or not.
Weeks have gone by and nine of my Canadian friends and I are sitting in the Maxcy Hall ice rink waiting for the Bears first game to begin. Voices get louder and louder as fans pile in and decide where the best place to sit is and begin reading the roster to see whom they should cheer for. We decide to do the same; seventeen out of twenty players were from Canada. This was no surprise to us, as we know that most hockey players are from Canada, or so the tabloids and stereotypes prove. As soon as we could start discussing how this was very exciting to have so many people from our country playing for such a great school, the lights went off. ‘Fire Burning’ begins playing and the Potsdam bears are announced to come onto the ice. Introductions of both teams end and that familiar sound of a whistle rings in my ears. It was time for the game to begin.
Three twenty minute periods, with two ten minute intermissions comes quickly to an end, faster than we imagined. I begin to feel more at home than ever as the Potsdam Bears exit the ice after a big win over SUNY Plattsburg. Attending this game alone, without my parents in tow, I realize that it is not such a big step being away from home; but that I am living my life as I would if I was in Canada. Potsdam has become my new community, and that is because of the strong connection between Canadians and hockey. No matter what situation I am experiencing in life, I will always resort to hockey and remember that first day I first experienced this sport with my family. SUNY Potsdam is my community away from home, and it too brings me home every time I walk into Maxcy Hall arena and that whistle blows and pucks begin hitting the boards. In my future, I see myself spending many weekends and evenings at the hockey arena with my children. Hockey will always remain a part of my life and my community, no matter where that might be.