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A Different Kind of Family This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I walk through the vast double doors, my hand sticking to the frosty handle. I scold myself for wearing flip-flops as my toes poke out into the cold air. The wet cuffs of my jeans stick to my ankles. I look around, glancing at the empty scoreboard and the flat ice. The Zamboni crawls across the rink, the ice still etched with the history of previous games, and leaves a trail of glassy ice in its wake. I walk over to the bleachers. The floor is slightly bouncy because it's rubber, specially treated so that you can walk on it in ice skates and not dull the blades. I climb the concrete steps, my breath coming out in clouds, and seat myself next to my mom on the stiff bleacher bench.

The stands are basically empty; only family members are here to watch their kids or siblings. My dad is standing a few yards away, since his yelling bothers us when he's too close. He will remain standing throughout the three fifteen-minute periods. The rink, surrounded by boards, plastic walls and netting, seems like a bubble or a cage to me. I can only imagine what it feels like to play a vicious game here, with everyone watching my every move. Although I am usually not one for the sidelines, I don't mind being a spectator for this particular game.

I sit on my hands to keep them warm. My knees bounce up and down to heat my legs. You wouldn't think that someplace as cold and empty as an ice rink would be the most comfortable place for me, but it is.

I don't have to wait long. The teams file out, our team in blue and gold, the Navy colors. I see my brother, Jake, number fifteen. The opposing team is in red and white. Both teams immediately begin a seemingly simple pass-shoot drill, but anyone who knows hockey recognizes that moves like these can win games. The sound of the blades grinding on the ice is somehow melodic. Within a few moments, the scoreboard buzzer goes off, a sound loud enough to fill a huge room.

Jake heads for the center of the rink to face off. One of the opposing players skates over and faces him squarely, their sticks almost touching. A referee skates to the center circle, puck in hand. The time on the scoreboard shows 15 minutes, no goals and no penalties. I know all that will change quickly. The ref stoops over the toes of the two sticks. He holds the puck in his hand directly over the center point of the rink, almost teasingly. The rink is silent. Anticipation thickens the air. The ref's hand opens and the puck falls.

Hockey is energy. The stamina ­required to play the game mixed with the fervor of the crowd creates an ­explosion of passion that is almost ­indescribable. Show me something more thrilling than a breakaway, the ­offensive player ripping free of the defense and ­flying down the ice so it is just him and the opposing goalie. The crowd rises to their feet, he shoots, and everyone is silent as the puck swirls through the air. Show me something more beautiful than the pride in a ­father's face as he watches his son do a victory lap after scoring the game-winning goal.

The togetherness is key. When someone makes an amazing move, whether it's a great pass or a perfectly executed slapshot, we cheer and stand in awe as one. When someone gets hurt, we hold our breath as one. Perhaps our harmony is a result of time spent together – after all, the kids on the team have played together for most of their lives. Maybe it's the distances traveled that keep us together, as we often journey from Annapolis to Philadelphia or farther as a team. But I think the reason we stay together is because we can.

Something as demanding as hockey is not something to face alone. Everyone chips in to make this team a thriving reality. Our team includes not just the players, but also the parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends who support us. Although my brother is the player who connects our family most to the team, I never feel left out of this huge congregation. I have no desire to play hockey; it's too rough-and-tumble for me. But I can't imagine not having it as a part of my life.

The hockey rink is not my most comfortable place because the scoreboard shows what I want it to, or because it has soft seats or heaters. What makes a hockey rink my most comfortable place is the fact that I'm surrounded by people who I know will stand by each other, because they have been brought together by this sport. And the pride that I feel at watching my brother skate his heart out and “leave it all on the ice” is enough for me to feel blissfully at home.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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Essie said...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 7:19 pm:
Well written!
 
Marmalade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm :
Thanks so much!
 
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