Chapter 13: The Kids Are Alright (And Pretty Damn Fast!!)

(The Hockey Bag series was previously published on NHL.com)

This New Year, I’m taking a new session of power-skating with the Dragon Lady, because I’m certain that becoming more confident on skates will ultimately help my game. This marks my third round of Dynamic Power in under a year, for a total of about 20 classes so far.

Reflecting back to that very first time I humbly and hesitantly stepped out onto the ice with a bunch of kids all under the age of 12, I’ve come a long way, baby. In fact, here are some things that have become apparent to me lately:

I’m getting faster… When I started taking power-skating, every single one of those kids could skate circles around me. Even the slow ones. This became most obvious in the drills that required us to literally skate circles. Starting at one corner of the ice, we’d go from circle to circle, skating each one twice before moving on to the next. Before I’d even be finished the first one, those fast little buggers would already be two circles ahead. But now, I can stay on their tails at least until circle number three, at which point the gap begins to grow. Judging by my progress, and the amount of time I’ve now been power-skating, I’ve calculated being able to fully close that gap by the time I’m a senior citizen. Provided power-skating class won’t conflict with my naptime. Or bingo game.

I’m getting smarter… Seeing as I can now keep up all the way to circle number three, I’ve cleverly figured out that if I eliminate one lap on circle number four, I can come in right at the back of the pack by the time we complete circle number five. Which actually makes it look like I’ve kept up the whole way. (Shhhhh, don’t tell the Dragon Lady!) This leads me to conclude that while the twelve-year-olds may be faster, I’m still smarter. Which is about my only advantage. Other than the fact that I can drive myself to class.

I’m getting braver… I used to absolutely DREAD when it came time to do backwards cross-cuts around the circles. For the simple reason they are simply cross-cuts but BACKWARDS. Not only would I be miles behind everyone else, but to make matters even more embarrassing, the Dragon Lady would have to come over and hold my hands to keep me from falling down. So now, even though I still have a habit of ending up on my backside, I can do my backward cross-cuts all by myself. I’ve realized that I’m starting to go faster, too, since I currently only have to skip a total of two circle laps during this drill. Yup, at this stage, it’s about doing whatever it takes in order to close that gap. And save a little face.

I’m looking better… My first two sessions, I wore mismatched gear, oversized skates, and either a solid black jersey two sizes two small, or white jersey two sizes two big and emblazoned with a booze logo (probably not a good idea when skating with impressionable young minds). Today, I wear top-of-the line Easton gear, super cool Easton Stealth skates, purple jersey proudly emblazoned with the name of my hockey team (the Hockey Bags!) and my very own number (23!), and matching purple hockey socks. So while I may not be fast, at least I’m gonna look good. With or without the Dragon Lady holding my hands.

They’re getting smaller… Ummmmm, where did all the big kids go?? In the first few sessions there used to be a few who were somewhat close to my height, so I didn’t stick out all that much. But now, save for a couple of tallish girls, every one of the boys are at least an entire foot shorter. Although there was one guy almost my size, and at the age of 16, was oldest in the class next to me. I liked having him around because it turns out he was also slower than me. At last, someone I could beat! And look, he’s almost my size! And then the Dragon Lady went and demoted him to skate with the eight-year-olds, which once again put me at the back of the pack. DOOOH!! Talk about raining on my parade. Oh well, on the bright side, at least she didn’t demote me. Because I’m at least TWO feet taller than those kids. And even then, would probably still be a circle or two behind.

They’re getting curious… At one point when we were lined up waiting for our next drill to begin, I noticed the little boy standing next to me was looking at me really closely. In fact, he was full on staring, like he was trying to figure me out. I can only imagine what he was thinking… “Wait, she’s not a girl – she’s an old lady! Wow, I wonder if she’s older than my mother???” To which my answer would likely be… “Why, YES I AM older than your mother – AND your father!” However, before he could make up his mind about me, and formulate any kind of childlike opinion as to my existence, I turned and faced him head-on. Towering at least one foot taller, I proceeded to boldly stare him down. After a mere five seconds he broke, looked away, and sheepishly slipped in behind a bigger kid. After that, he never stood beside me again. Nor did he even look at me for the rest of the class. Boo-yaah!! Score one for the big old lady.

So now, what does all this mean?? Seeing as I can now do pretty good cross-cuts (forwards AND backwards), decent double brackets, terrific two-foot jumps, and can pivot without wiping out… Slowly but surely, I think I’m getting better at power-skating.

While there are still plenty of things I need to work at – like those nearly impossible u-turns (can’t understand how they look soooo easy yet are soooo not), doing “hockey stops” on both sides without implementing any snowplow-type-maneuvers (as IF!), and the highly embarrassing one-foot slalom drills (my newest nemesis!) where I have a tendency to drift off in one direction instead of weaving in-and-out of itty bitty pylons that are always too close together – I can tell that my power-skating skills are coming along nicely.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Dragon Lady has noticed, too. In fact, she told me that she wishes she took a picture of me in my first class, because the difference from then to now is huge. No comparison, she says. I’ve gotten MUCH better.

I’ve gotta say, that makes me feel really really good. Because now I know FOR SURE that I’ll never be demoted to the eight-year-olds (double boo-yaah!!). And pretty soon, if I keep practicing and working hard, I should be able to easily keep up with the twelve-year-olds throughout every single drill. Forwards AND backwards. From the very first circle right through to the very last.

No lap-skipping or stare-downs required.

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