Chapter 16: 40 Is The New 10

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

I just had a birthday. It was a BIG one. I’m talking the f-word.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. Everybody younger than me says “Ooooh, I didn’t know you were THAT old…” While everybody older than me says “Ooooh, you are still so young – life BEGINS at 40!”

This leads me to conclude that, even though I’m already THAT old, life is apparently JUST beginning – despite having four well-lived decades under my belt. In some ways, I honestly do feel like life is just beginning. At least when it comes to my new found love of playing hockey. Here I am, doing things at the grand old age of 40 that should have been done 30 years ago.

Like, for instance, power-skating. One entire year after first signing up for lessons with the Dragon Lady, everyone in my class is still under 14, still under 5 feet tall, and still under the impression that because of my age I should be a very good skater. The operative word here is SHOULD. I’m old enough to know that I’ve certainly shown them.

Something else I should have done 30 years ago is join my first hockey team. I feel very fortunate in having found a team like the Hockey Bags. They’ve welcomed me, instructed me, and believed in me. They’ve seen me try my damndest, skate my fastest (even though it’s still kinda slow) and fall my hardest (ouch!). Through it all they’ve been supportive, encouraging, and (thankfully!) forgiving. I’m old enough to know that with continued perseverance and passion, someday, I’ll show them.

If I joined my first hockey team 30 years ago, I’d have 30 seasons under my belt by now, and boy would I be good! Instead, I’m not so good. It’s a little unusual – and a lot humbling – being a ‘rookie’ at my age. When the kids in power-skating class ask me how long I’ve been playing hockey and I proudly exclaim “it’s my first year!” they start to look at me funny.

It’s only then they understand why I’m the slowest one in the class. Especially since I’m also the oldest. By far. It’s also then they continue to stare at me, as if trying to figure out if I’m as old as their parents. Guess what, kid?? I’ve seen your parents over there in the stands, and I’m not as old as they are. I’m OLDER! Yes, at the glorious age of 40, I’m old enough to know when I’m the oldest in the room. (Except for the Dragon Lady – bless her heart!)

The only saving grace is that my real age doesn’t actually show when I’ve got my helmet on and face-cage locked in place. I have to say, the face-cage truly helps at skewing my age, and keeping them guessing. It’s a miracle – you put it on, and the wrinkles, jowls, and fine lines instantly disappear.

Okay, so maybe they don’t actually disappear. But they certainly are minimized by the warm glow of softly diffused arena light reflected off iridescent face-cage metal, and blocked by the criss-cross pattern of thin interlaced bars protectively set an inch away from my face.

The face-cage is like a miracle. In fact, now that I’ve reached the ripening age of 40, and have discovered how much a face-cage actually disguises my true years, I’m tempted to wear it everywhere. And I’m not even joking. After all, it allows me to blend in with the kids in power-skating class.

Wearing the face-cage makes 40 look like the new 30… which looks like the new 20… which is the new 10… So if you look at it that way, at the blossoming age of 10, I really am young enough to be starting my hockey career.

And old enough to care.