Chapter 3: I’ve Fallen… But I Can’t Let Up!

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

After three months of participating in sports that do not require ice, undersized equipment, and oversized jerseys, it’s time to lace up the skates and subject myself to voluntary torture.

Yes indeed, summer is over, and that means one thing to eager young hockey players (and me) – the Dragon Lady is open for business.

In anticipation of the start of my first REAL hockey season on my first REAL hockey team, I signed up for another go at Dynamic Power. Because it’s my belief that more powerskating lessons will make me a better player. That is, once I eventually start playing.

It was nearly 30-degrees and sunny the first evening out. Feeling torn between golf clubs or hockey bag, the latter seemed the wisest choice in my imaginary quest for hockey greatness. While some people choose to play fantasy hockey drafts, I prefer to play fantasy hockey stardom. This involves telling everyone who will listen that I am on my way to becoming an awesome hockey player.

“Really?? How long have you played?” they usually ask me.

“Actually PLAYED? You mean on a TEAM? Well, I haven’t actually played on a team. YET. Ever in my life. But I’m going to…”

That is when they usually change the subject, and start talking about something else. Like maybe golf.

“Hey, did I mention I’m also a golfer and have been on some golf tours??”

“Really?? Professional tours?”

“Well not actually PROFESSIONAL tours. But I did play the six furthest courses in northern Manitoba in one week one time, so I’d consider that a tour. And a bunch of courses in Minnesota over a long weekend – another tour. Next I’ll be touring a few courses in Saskatchewan.”

That is when they usually stop talking to me.

But seeing as I’m not here to talk about fantasy golf, I’ll get back to my current passion – the good ol’ hockey game… In returning to the Dragon Lady’s class, I was happy to see one of my “old” young friends from last season. She greeted me with a big smile. Her mother looked a little surprised to see me back. While all the “new” girls just looked at me kind of funny.

Not one to be intimidated by people a third my age (or the ones half my size) I put on my gear, tied my skates all by myself, and hit the ice. Once there, I was greeted by the Dragon Lady herself.

“Welcome back! Now start skating…”

The class got quickly into the rhythm of warming up, skating lap after lap. We looked so good you’d never know we’d been on hockey hiatus for three months. Or that some of us (mostly me) have never even played hockey before.

I was finding my groove, and feeling in stride. Then the commands started: “Forward… backwards… forward… backwards… forward… backwards… stop! Other way!” And then some more: “Forward… backwards…forward… backwards…”

Then the Dragon Lady zeroed in on me during the backwards part, and glided over. She grabbed my hands and pushed me to make me go faster. Which caused me to panic and look down at my feet.

“Where are your cross-cuts??” She asked, looking me squarely in the eyes. Except I didn’t see her looking at me because I was looking down.

“You’re not going to find them by looking at your feet. But if you keep looking down, I guarantee you’re going to fall.”

Sounded like words of wisdom to me.

“Now head up, bend your knees, and cross… cross… cross… cross… cross…” With that, she let go of my hands and glided away.

After picking on me right off the top, I was feeling confident she would leave me alone for a while. After all, there were nearly two dozen others to pick on. And some of them couldn’t do backwards cross-cuts either. So I took the opportunity to once again look down at my feet.

And sure enough, I fell. Just like she said.

Later in the class, I fell again. And again. And finally, again. Which made for a grand total of four full-on falls during my first class back. Fortunately I come from very stubborn stock and managed to get up promptly and laugh it off each time. Despite the fact my pride hurt more than my butt.

Afterwards, as I was walking to my car (did I mention I’m the only one who can drive myself to class??) the Dragon Lady was out in the parking lot her self. And what she said surprised me a little bit.

“You did good out there today. Some of the parents told me that they’ve noticed how much you’re skating has improved since you started.”

“Really?? But I don’t feel like I’ve improved – I fell down four times today!”

And then came her best words of wisdom of this day: “When you stop falling, you stop learning.”

Which just goes to show that when it comes to playing hockey, I must have A LOT to learn…