I had a dream. I wanted to become an amazing hockey player; to be a freshman on the varsity team. If my dream could have come true, it would have been all thanks to my dad. He was the one who taught me everything, and he supported me in my first year of hockey. But in the end, he was the one who crushed my opportunity to be a star hockey player.
My hockey career began when I was only a couple months old, my dad played hockey in his past time with his friends. He was a goalie and had big hockey shorts and pads. Sometimes, I would crawl around on his hockey pads. Although, it was the hockey shorts that I liked best. Being so small, I could climb straight through the shorts. I must have felt like I was spelunking a grand, and mysterious cave. I could spend an afternoon crawling in and out of the shorts and playing on the hockey pads. That was my first experience with hockey.
As I got older, I stopped being able to fit through my dad’s hockey shorts, so I began to try on his jersey. It looked like I was wearing a robe or dress because the jersey would hang down to my ankles; an emperor garbed his royal attire. Around four years old, I was bestowed my first hockey stick accompanied with an orange plastic ball. My dad had bought it and would have me take shots on him. We didn’t have a goal, but If I could get the ball past him I had surely scored. Starting out, my form wasn’t the best; my ball handling skills consisted of carefully hitting the ball back and forth in front of my feet with the stick. When I took shots, no one knew where the ball was going. I had fun, and I think my dad did as well; even though one or two of my slap-shots took him in a soft spot. When that happened, practice was over for the day. Looking back, I don’t blame him for abruptly ending the fun we were having.
When I was five, my dad started taking me ice skating; he told me it was, “…kinda important for playing hockey.” Ice skating was the hardest for me to learn, therefore very time consuming. For the first winter, all I was concerned with was staying on my two feet and turning. The next winter— when I was 6—I wanted to go fast. I wanted to be the fastest skater there was. My dad thought I should focus more on skating backwards, which was also important for hockey. Skating backwards was way more challenging than skating forwards. I fell on my butt so many times my black snow pants turned white, caked with snow.
This was very discouraging for me, so I focused my efforts on skating fast. I got rather good, and started skating faster than my mom. Of course, my dad always beat me when we raced, even when I asked him to go easy on me. To help me get faster we would play tag. I was always “it.” I could never catch my dad, he would purposefully go slow until I was inches away from getting him; then would speed up, or change directions so quickly I tripped trying to stop and follow. He told me that the faster I could skate, the faster I needed to stop or change directions. He demonstrated, skating faster than I’d ever seen him go to a sudden skidding halt, his skates sending a glistening wave of snow and twinkling ice particles right into my face. Making me feel like I was getting hit by the freezing blast of a snow blower. My attempt to go from top speed to a skidding stop was less graceful; I flew through the air for a moment before making a crash landing. I kept getting better at stopping the more I did it; I learned it was important to lean back a little to make up for my “momentum,” whatever that was. I made sure I practiced stopping near my sisters, sending my own shower of ice and snow into them. By now, I was really fast and I could stop well enough to impress myself. I was ready to begin hockey.
At the beginning of first grade I moved to Amery, a little town in Wisconsin. There, I joined the youth hockey team, and I got hockey pads of my own for practice. When I suited up in front of the mirror for the first time, I looked like a samurai warrior, with his hockey stick ready to be drawn at any moment. During practice, the team worked on all the skills I had worked on with dad: Shooting, skating, turning, skating backwards, and working as a team. I became left defender for the team because I didn’t fully grasp the concept of off-sides. We were a pretty solid team. We won almost every game that year and got to play in the EXCELL Energy Center in the twin cities. A pretty good first year of hockey, I couldn’t wait for the years to come.
My parents had problems with the hockey program, and they didn’t let me play a second year. They didn’t like that hockey tournaments were on Sunday mornings, going to church was the top priority on Sunday. They also didn’t like the community of the hockey team, or the way the older hockey players acted. I was sad that I was done with hockey as a sport, I was going to miss my teammates and playing beside them.
I still got to play hockey every Saturday night. I got to play the same place my dad played, a hockey rink in Baldwin. There were kids my age who played there; we would play pick-up games of hockey or race each other. When I am older, I’ll take my son there and teach him the same things I learned from my dad. He will experience the certain moments in hockey that occur when someone grows up playing hockey; the moments I experienced with my dad. I had a dream; to become a great hockey player. Do I regret the day I stopped playing; regret the day my dream died? Not a bit.