Chapter 7: You Were Always On My Line

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

The Hockey Bags came soooo close to victory at our last game. Even though we lost zero to three, I can honestly say we felt like winners in the end. It was about as close as you can get to being winners without ACTUALLY winning.

We had enough players for three full lines and were able to hit the ice with the same teammates each shift. With the diverse range of skill level on our team, each line had a rookie. Which, on my line, was the right winger. Which, on my line, was me.

I’m starting to like right wing, and it becomes more comfortable each game. I know (mostly) where I’m supposed to be when we are on the attack, and know (usually) who I have to watch when on the defensive.

Each shift just got better and better, as we started to play more strategically. There were actually a couple of times I was OPEN in front of the net, but just couldn’t get the puck on my stick. And another time the net was OPEN in front of me, yet again the puck managed to allude me. Alas, it cannot allude me forever.

It took four seasons of sponge hockey to score my first goal. Since ice hockey is a faster game, I’m anticipating it should only take about two seasons. No problem. I’m a patient woman. Right now, I’m feeling like the learning curve is jutting straight up, and I’m learning something new every single time I step on the ice.

Along with that, each time I get near the net, or my teammates make a great pass, make a great save, or get the puck away from the other team, I’m starting to feel the sheer thrill of the game. And each time I feel the thrill of the game, I’m inspired to skate a little faster, dig a little harder, and stand my ground a little firmer.

Yes, my most recent lesson has been about standing my ground. Back when I first started playing hockey (like, three weeks ago) whenever the other team had the puck, I would just kind of stand there til they decided what they were going to do with it. Or back off, even, so I don’t get too close. And try not to get in their way.

But I’m realizing, wait a minute… I’m SUPPOSED to get in their way. I’m SUPPOSED to make it HARDER for them to get the puck. It’s not about me standing off – it’s about standing my ground, and putting on some pressure of my own.

I used to be afraid of the puck, and never wanted to go near it. But now, I’m noticing myself going after it, wanting to be around it. In fact, the more time I spend with it, the more I want to be in its presence. I want the puck. I want the puck to want me.

I’m falling in love with the puck.

And the good ol’ hockey game… I’m loving that, too! Even though I still suck, and am quite certain I will for a long time, I’m starting to feel like a superstar out there anyway. Victory is coming. When it does, even though it might not be my goal, or my assist, or even scored by my line, the victory will be by my team – and I will be part of it.

Speaking of superstars… The real superstar on our team is our goalie Liana. She has been making some miraculous (and really cool-looking!) saves in the net, and miraculously saved our butts from not taking too big an a** kicking in the last game. She has been steadfastly going to battle on the ice for the Hockey Bags, but at this moment, is going through her own personal battle. With breast cancer.

It’s hard for me to comprehend that right now, and a scary thing that part of me does not even want to think about. It probably won’t sink in for me until our next game, when Liana is not in our net where she loves to be. Instead of recovering from recent surgery.

But she’s one tough and determined lady, her hockey skills alone prove that. As does her dedication to our team as official team coordinator, and her conviction to embrace not only the game of hockey, but her entire game of life. A life that this Hockey Bag is glad to be part of it.

So, as I was saying a little bit earlier… Liana is our superstar. And she’s standing her ground.

For this battle, we’re all on her line.

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