The Glimmer of the Ice

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The steady hum of the Zamboni cleaning the ice echos through the brisk rink air indicating the ten minute mark. We recognize the cue and, all fourteen of my team mates and I begin to organize the clutter in the locker room. We tape our sticks and adjust our damp pads, which cling tightly to our limbs with their strong Velcro supports. For the last forty five minutes we have been wandering about the locker room getting dressed, stretching and listening to our usual soundtrack of a combination between rap and punk rock music. The excitement begins to mount and our nervous twitches grow more and more prominent. As the Zamboni finishes its last stretch of ice, we all start to place our empty lifeless bags in their proper place under the hard, wooden benches. We adjust our pristine white home attire and tighten our skates for a final time.

As I walk through the locker room door and enter the rink, I am drawn in by the glimmer of the clean ice. The reflection of the lights hanging from the rafters beams out of the pockets of water left from the Zamboni. I notice the crowd defusing from the warming hut into the brisk air of the ice rink. All of them stand on the bitterly cold steel bleachers, snuggled up in their warmest sweatshirts, gloves and hats. They have all come to support my team, the Colonels, as we continue our playoff quest on our home ice against Stowe. I stare into the crowd searching for familiar faces, and the monumental size of it surprises me as my eyes wade through all the fans. I see my mom standing with her black leather jacket on and her large furry hat. She sways back and forth while clapping her hands at the sight of our appearance. My mom’s best friend Patty, the mother of another teammate, is next to her. Standing next to them is my dad, conversing with another long time hockey fan with our family’s camera poised in his left hand. Seeing my parents in the stands reminds me of the hundreds of my other hockey games they have been to. Countless Saturdays and Sundays getting up with the sun, traveling to all corners of New England for a short hour of ice. They have been at almost every game since I was five, and now, thirteen years later they are still here. My focus widens and I peer around again to notice all my friends from school wearing purple and white shirts and holding freshly painted signs that scream out in support of my team and its players.

I think back on what seems like such a short season. It has only been a few months since we raced from the busy school parking lot to our familiar rink for the first practice. Driving up its entrance way I could see the long steep hill that stretched three hundred yards all the way to its grassy crown. Every time I saw that hill I thought of the months of preseason we spent running up and down its tremendous incline. Each of us would gasp for air as we neared the top. Our strides would slow to a crawl because of our burning thighs and aching lungs. The idea of rest seemed amazing, until it was over and we had to make the dangerous descent when we evaded holes and the other surprises that awaited us in the thick grass.

On the afternoon of the first practice when we reached our destination in the rink parking lot, the excitement rose. We were all energized for the new season. I laced my skates for the first time in months and stepped on the ice. Hearing my blades crisply tear through the soft ice, I felt home again. Playing around with the puck and getting my legs moving I soaked up every minute of ice time while I flew over the ice with the brisk air flowing past my face as it filled my lungs and fed the muscles that propelled me.

Now, so many practices, suicides and whistle sprints later, the first round of playoffs have snuck up on us like the first day of school after a summer vacation. A full season of subzero winter morning practices, of having to enter the locker room before the halogen lights have even flickered above the lifeless ice, have all blown by. Now when the rink is filled, we wait in line strutting about as we release our excitement with every manly fist pound and slap on the back.

When the nets are set up and the officials have buckled their helmets, we begin to march out onto the ice and circle it, destroying the smooth surface with each pass. We begin our warm up routine, stretching around the circle in a kind of content silence. In line of the first shooting drill I begin to quiet my mind and focus on the game. I let the energy from the crowd and the lyrics to an Eminem song blasting from the rafters, flow through me. I join the passing and shooting drills as we all mentally and physically prepare for the looming game.

As the timer ticks down to zero and the buzzer roars to indicate game time, the crowd goes wild. We position ourselves across the blue line, our heads held high, proudly standing as the words of the National Anthem echo through the rink. When the song ends my team moves into a huddle. With our hands held up clenched together in the middle of the huddle, Devin’s voice rings out: “ This is for survival boys... You’ve got to want it more than them. You’ve got to want to have practice tomorrow! Compete on three ... One ... two...three!” he shouts, fueled by the raw excitement that spread through the huddle like an epidemic. “COMPETE!” we counter with all the force we can muster, knowing full well that there is a possibility of never being able to say that as a team again. The starters assume their positions. We all hunch low around the face off dot. Our eyes focus, on the ref’s poised hands. His whistle blasts and the puck is released. We all wait in anticipation as it plummets and slaps the ice.





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