Hockey Practice

This post has nothing at all to do with Emerson or parenting… it’s just an essay I wrote back in college… a few weeks ago… I’m dumb.

Chop, chop, chop, faster and faster—the sound of hockey skates carving through newly resurfaced ice like the sharp, metallic scrape of the sharpening of a knife in a hectic kitchen. I’m at another predawn hockey practice, exhausting yet comforting, like curling up with a tantalizing mystery novel on a cold winter night. The hum of the electricity surging through the vacant arena is reminiscent of early-morning summer days, a distant lawnmower droning—striking in the stillness at first light. I look all around me and see the faces of my friends, my family, my team. We are here to better ourselves—all for one, and one for all.

We skate hard; we have to, which is understandable as we’re supposed to be the best of the best, the top of our division. I catch my breath between drills and breathe in the soft, crisp bite of the ice below my feet. The acoustics in the empty rink are incredible; the echoes amplified by the absence of sound-absorbing bodies.

A whistle blows, the coach gives instructions, a new drill begins. I use my graphite stick to corral the puck, the total blackness of which stands in stark contrast to the ice’s lack of real color. Back and forth I stick-handle; the dense, rubber disc bouncing left and then right, a real-life game of Pong. I quickly maneuver around the fluorescent, orange pylons, not hesitating even for an instant. I know this game like the back of my hand; I am the puppet-master, this is my show.

I look up, set my sights on the far end of the rink, and see the goaltender sizing me up; it is then that I begin my intricate dance. I rush in like a lion suddenly charging its prey, bringing the game to him, lending myself the upper hand. I head-fake left and then right; the circular, solid saucer glides back-and-forth effortlessly the entire time. I deke once, twice, then begin to shoot, my stick flexing much like an archer’s bow. The puck leaves my stick and follows its calculated trajectory toward the net. I watch the goaltender trace its flight with his eyes, trying desperately to get a part—any part—of himself in front of it before it crosses the line demarcating my victory and his loss. He’s too slow, and it finds the mesh at the back of the net, just slightly under the crossbar, inches above my opponent—goal.

I swing wide, pass behind the defeated defender, make an enormous arc, and begin toward the other end of the rink. The chill of the frigid air apparent on my face as I glide gracefully across the glossy surface. I watch as the next in line sets himself in motion—chop, chop, chop, faster and faster, the sound of skates slicing precise grooves into the ice. I’m glad that I am here because here is happy and familiar—here is life. Twelve for me was simple and beautiful—a warm place to revisit when the going gets tough.

 

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