There’s a certain feeling of discomfort married with beauty about stepping onto the ice for the first time each year. It’s not like tying your shoe or riding a bike after a prolonged hiatus, but it’s pretty close.
It’s those first few steps into the cold atmosphere where you familiarize yourself with the edges of the blades once again. It’s a common feeling, sure, but it tends to feel like something you forgot about forever.
It was all these things that I felt on Sunday night when I stepped on the ice for my first game in the world-famous Invermere Hockey League (IHL), playing for the Inside Edge team. I say this mostly as a light-hearted joke, being someone who’s spent a better part of my 22-year-old life playing competitive hockey; it’s not as if the IHL is the most combative league that I have participated in.
But there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Having played in body contact leagues and the recreational league at Carleton University, I wasn’t looking to lace up my skates in the hopes of using physical force as part of my on-ice skill set. In fact, it was the contact in a supposedly recreational league at Carleton last year that made me almost hang up my skates for good. After suffering from multiple concussions — three diagnosed — there comes a point where playing recreational hockey just isn’t worth it. There are other things in life, other sports or activities, that I could do that wouldn’t potentially cause me future brain damage in my spare time.
Fortunately, after playing my first game in Invermere, this league isn’t like that. Instead, it’s a colder replica of the softball league that I played in this summer. It shares a lot of the same faces, smiles, laughs, and more or less, good sportsmanship that makes living and playing here such a joy.
Are there times when disagreements happen, mixed in with a slash or a well-intentioned jab? Sure. That kind of thing is bound to happen in a physical-natured sport like hockey. But it certainly doesn’t have the feeling of my former recreation days when a shove or hit was a blatant act of dislike for your opponent.
Mostly, I hope Sunday nights throughout the year manifest the chance at getting back to something I loved and yearned for as a kid. A night out to enjoy playing the game Canadians across the country grow up playing in their backyards, hoping to one day play in the NHL.
For me, that NHL dream has sadly evaporated like a puddle on a warm summer day. I made peace with that a long time ago despite my willingness to sit in front of my TV on a Saturday and scream at my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs as if I could do better — well, if you know them, I probably can.
That said, I can live with the fact that I’m never going to lace them up in the NHL. Instead I’ll enjoy my time in the IHL; it’s really a close second place anyways.
When I’m not out on the ice on Sunday nights, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me just how badly you think Inside Edge will lose next week.