Tonight, I bid goodbye to an old friend.
It took me through good times — racing my way up and down the ice, dishing the puck off to a teammate, rough-housing some forward who dared get in front of my goalie.
Yes, folks, tonight, I’m getting rid of my hockey gear.
I came into my gear in a way which makes many turn green with envy.
It’s (mostly) WHL issue. Top-quality stuff, you know.
My old friend Brian Silverson, who owns an ice rink in Kamloops, B.C., wanted me to write about the fantastic women’s rec league he and his wife were running at the Ice Box.
I could play in it … if I liked.
Except for one little problem. I had never played hockey before, outside of pond shinny with my brothers.
Sure, after 10 years as a sports writer — interviewing and chatting with some of the game’s best — I knew that game like the back of my hand.
But playing it?
Brian offered free lessons. And free entry into the league for one season.
The WHL Kamloops Blazers caught wind of my project — writing about my lessons and playing time — and offered my free gear. That’s right … head to toe, WHL gear. Everything was out of wrapper … everything but for my shin guards and helmet (which, by the way, had previously been worn by former Calgary Flames blueliner Robyn Regehr).
My skates came from the local Source for Sports: Hey, we’re going to save some money. Your feet are small enough to go into junior sizes!
Brian and I hit the ice. He saw my skating and said, ‘damn, you’re gonna be a defenceman.’ Thank you, so many years of figure skating.
(Of course, he couldn’t help but challenge me to stop near the boards while skating backwards. I had no ice picks. What’s a girl to do but fall flat on her face? Brian laughed. Uproariously. That bastard.)
I shared practice ice with NHL defenceman Eric Brewer.
I was put on a team with six Western Canadian Senior AA title winners.
I was paired with one of the best damn women defencemen to never play for the national team, Kelly Bosko.
My stickhandling sucked. I was timid at first, playing hot potato with the puck and barely going into the corners.
I moved to Alberta and came into my own, landing a spot on a rural rec roster. I played in Airdrie, Balzac, Cochrane, Carstairs and all around the outskirts of Calgary.
I owned the spot in front of my goalie. The other teams knew they weren’t going to freewheel through my zone.
I was improving with my puck skills. I even scored a couple of goals.
And then came Jan. 20, 2008.
I’m in the hash marks, waiting for the faceoff.
The puck is dropped and I feel my feet go out from under me.
I’d been slew-footed.
My butt hit the ice first. My head fell back and smacked into the ice.
I had no idea where I was. I couldn’t see 10 feet in front of me.
It was, in fact, my 12th concussion.
And my last thus far.
Yes, 12. My first concussion happened so many years ago, while playing on my dad’s work benches in the basement. They looked like horses, you know, and I wanted to learn how to ride.
Head … cement … bang.
There have been soccer injuries along the way. Slo-pitch. Hockey. Dog walking.
Yes, dog walking. You try controlling a 110-pound beast who wants to run to say hi to another dog right when you’re hitting an icy sidewalk.
My doctor said no more. At least for that season anyway.
He ordered me for a CT scan. He was surprised when it came back clean. (You are, too, aren’t you? No brain damage … and there’s proof! Ha!)
He said I could play again … if I wanted to take the risk. But your noggin, Angela, is soft and you don’t know what could happen the next time you hit your head.
He scared the bejesus out of me.
And so I listened.
I spared for one game two seasons ago.
I played scared.
And that’s not me.
So I hung ’em up, so to speak.
I’ve been hanging onto my gear ever since. Scared to let go? Wondering if I could ever play again?
I don’t know.
But the opportunity to clean up some space in my
spare bedroomshoe closet has come due.
Thus, I divest my gear to a friend’s niece. She could use the help in getting some new-to-her gear so she can play.
As long as it isn’t sitting idle any more.