A Strange Reconciliation

I started playing hockey because of a girl. I believe I was around 8 or 9. This girl was a hockey player and therefore I lied and told her that I, too, played hockey. As I had just moved to town the previous year, such a declaration could well be true to the uninformed. I wanted to play hockey so I could be with her more. When I think back to this bold claim, it amazes me that I followed through to the point of joining the league, and even her team, and yet I had never played hockey before. The fact that I stepped on the ice with buckling ankles, a hodge-podge of my uncle’s old equipment from the mid 70’s and an oversized PacMan T-shirt for a jersey, is so sweet and yet so wonderfully ridiculous. This girl, who went on to play at almost the Olympic level, never once admitted the obvious that this was clearly my first time on the ice. We continued our “relationship” for many years, until the social politics and general confusion of middle school tore us apart. I look back upon those first years with a sighing fondness, a melancholy sweetness, as I went from horrible to terrible on the ice, but had an incredible girl who gave me my first kiss.

The second amazing piece of retrospect to my hockey saga is that I continued to play for 10 years, despite breaking up with the girl when we were 11 and the fact that I was just awful. The first goal I ever scored was the result of having the puck on my stick and my teammate slapping the back of my blade to force the puck into the net.  Nonetheless, it was my number on the score sheet and my dad took me out for a steak dinner. Eventually, I switched to goalie because I had incredibly slow feet and comparatively faster hands.

Throughout middle school and early high school I balanced my love of playing music with a love of hockey. In a rare moment of two worlds colliding, the mullet was the recognized uniform for both the rocker and the hockey player. I wore a mullet with so much pride it even made my Monsters of Rock T-shirt nervous. My Zeppelin posters where paired with my Bruins ones. I dreamed about better, faster guitars, probably some Steve Vai influenced Ibanez at that point, the way I dreamed about better, lighter goalie pads – probably Vaughn Legacy’s. After we hit the neighborly curfew for jamming on Friday nights, we’d spend the rest of the evening smoking cheap pot and alternating between playing hockey on Saga Genesis and watching Rush videos.

As High School progressed, music finally became all-consuming. Despite reaching the Varisty level, I was still embarrassingly awful and it was merely my “Rudy” style of determination that got me on the team. I realized that I did not enjoy hockey, and in fact, it had always been a real source of stress for me. I continued to play because I liked my friends who played, and when I first moved to town I needed a gang. Music became my gang, and I was way better at music than hockey.

After high school, I hung up the pads and went a good six or seven years without even acknowledging the sport. It was somewhere around 2003 when my girlfriend suggested we catch a Bruins game. As we were broke (remember, I’m a musician), it was the cheapest ticket in town. We had a bunch of beers and I remembered how much I liked going to games and particularly the lore of the Bruins of old. Surrounded by the accents, beer and profanity reminded me that I am truly a Massachusetts guy. These people were woven into the fabric of my upbringing just as much as the folks I play with in the clubs and bars. Being in the Garden again reminded me that I loved being from Boston, and although I am a much different person than when I went to my first few games, this is still my home team. We would catch a couple games each year and when she eventually moved out, I sold my hockey equipment to pay some rent and let hockey go from my mind for another couple of years.

Now that I find myself single and free of the day job, I have slowly begun to follow hockey again. Over the past couple of weeks my breaks from writing have revolved around the Bruin’s schedule, and I am slightly saddened when an evening’s plans prevents me from watching a game. The added time around the apartment leads me to occasionally think about shooting a tennis ball around. When sorting through old junk in my parent’s basement a week ago, I spotted my sticks. Although I didn’t think much about them at the time, I found myself a few days later regretting not bringing one back.

There is a strange reconciliation going on here. The hockey experiences from my youth remained deep-rooted scars of desperately trying to fit in, anti-Semite kids and parents, realizing my physical limitations, and not being true to my instincts to play music. My entrance into the professional world of music was a step from which I rarely ever looked back, yet now I am finally finding myself able to reflect with the balance tipped more in the favor of humor and resignation than regret or discomfort. My decisions, or at times, lack thereof, have brought me to this interesting point, and ultimately, it is just what I’m looking for – strange and stimulating experiences to help me see the world with a little more wonder. I am comfortable with who I am and what I do, so I can finally begin to take stock of what got me here and size up what is going to get me where next. Through this journey the strangest thing to come back to me is hockey. Sure, there is a procrastination element to it and it is also playoff time and the Bruins haven’t done shit in awhile, but there is another little ember that keeps this rekindled love affair very mysterious and therefore kind of alluring.

This is the point where I reveal what exactly this ember is, but I don’t think I have that figured out yet and that may be part of what makes this so slippery and intriguing. Perhaps I feel guilty that the sport got wrapped up in so much of my painful adolescence or I feel a strange reverence for the other lover that I had to leave behind when I gave myself fully to music, but I think that it may just be that I have discovered that despite our long, strange, uncomfortable history, sometimes I just like watching hockey. I am seeing the sport through new eyes, and if the game where to be personified, I don’t think they would recognize me either. It is funny and weird and leaves me hopeful about whatever else lies down the road to find that after all of this I kind of like it. I had to grow up to enjoy a game.

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2 Responses to “A Strange Reconciliation”

  1. Mayte Says:

    Like I said before, nice writing… reconciliation, I like it.

  2. EWP Says:

    Now that is more like it!

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