I first got introduced to hockey in phys ed. in elementary school. Our teacher handed out these yellow plastic sticks and put two mylec goals at each end and let us have at it. I saw a similar spectacle a couple of years ago. This time the kids were wearing gloves and full head gear by then which was kinda cute. Since I grew up in a country where soccer is the national sport, we never played a lot. In high school we got a chance again and intermittently played what is probably close to floorball. I was a goalie at this time and became pretty good at it. We had an annual sports day at our high school where different teams competed and in our senior year, we won the tournament with a total score of 17-0.

This was followed by several years of university studies where I only had time for running and a little wannabe bodybuilding. Then I moved to the US and at some point one of DW’s friends invited me to a game of inline hockey. I had caught the inline bug with what I presume is the rest of the world in the late 90s. Back then I learned to skate forward and stop with the brake. I could also do a couple of turning crossovers (preferably to the left), a 180, and a spinout if things weren’t going too fast. So I dug out my old skates and old knee pads, got a used hockey stick for $10 and new mylec helmet for $20. They promised to go easy on me.

Apparently I was pretty good at passing(*) and shooting and I even scored a goal. After that there was no more going easy. As we were playing on an indoor rink there was little wear on the equipment. It took me a year to finally fray the already used sherwood stick and get a new one (sherwood $50, open Crossby blade). At that time I had learned to do a hockey stop (powerslide). I could also turn around quickly in case I was defending and someone played the boards or I lost the puck.

(*) I don’t think I’m that good, but apparently I am. I wonder whether I’m particularly talented at judging speed and distance because a) I can typically put a puck at people’s feet when they need it and b) I’m the most annoying back seat driver ever always going “DW, watch out, you’re closing [on that car] -if you keep going like that, you’re going to hit it in 4.7 seconds :-P

Shortly thereafter I got a new job and so I moved to CA. This meant loss of the free rink privileges I used to enjoy. It also meant stepping up the game as I was now playing on a regulation outdoor rink. Thus, I had to get an officially certified helmet, shin guards, elbow guards, gloves, and cup. I was also recommended to get a girdle. I also found that I needed to get a stick with fiberglass blades since the tennis court like surface would work woodsticks like sandpaper. Not knowing any better I went to the regional pro-shop and came back more than $500 poorer. Initially I was paying $7/game. The normal range was $5-8 but it was tough given that I used to play free. I justified it with my new higher paying job. Later I found that one could get an annual pass for $100. I also signed up for the league at that time to save some more money and perhaps get a little bit more competitive.

My first game happened in 85 degrees F in full gear. That was a killer for a guy who was used to play in cargo shorts and a t-shirt in an air-conditioned sports center. I was blown away by how some of the 200+lbs guys at 40+ year old guys managed to do so without dying. The trick is heat adaption and hydration. It takes some getting used to.

Today, I can do random forward crossovers while stick-handling and toe-dragging (nothing too fancy). I can skate backwards, do backward crossovers, powerslide in both directions (forward backward) and turn and piroutte. I can even skate/start sidewards in some sense. I learned slapshots, backhanders, one-timers, and top-shelf wrist shots. It’s pretty cool to improve and overhear other people noticing too [“Dude, that guy is getting awesome” :-) ] . Currently, I’m working on starting and skating backwards as efficiently and agile as forwards, more stickhandling magic and one-on-one against a goalie (I totally suck at that).

All this costs a tidy buck though. On top of the playing fees, there are also equipment depreciation. Wheels last 2-3 months and cost $40-50 for a set. That’s $2 per game. A $20 blade lasts about the same time and comes to $1 per game in wear and tear. I also noticed that the chassis on my skates is getting twisted — powerslides are pretty brutal … think 3 yard skidmarks — either I have to skate nicer or replace them sometime next year. On top of that there are torn pants. Also my gloves are starting to stink (I tried rubbing alcohol, febreeze, chlorine, detergent, nothing … ). So it’s an expensive game – about as expensive as basic cable, I think, or eating out every other week. Ouch!