When I stopped played hockey it was the joshing and mutual encouragement I missed the most. No matter how competitive, we all shared our collective wins and individual loses, often under the guise of a good ribbing. It was a safe way to say I love and appreciate you to each other and am grateful for the exchange.
I guess anyone who plays team sports already know this but it was new for me. As a kid I just wanted to ride my skateboard. Around the age of 11 or 12 I tried out little league but quit after a couple seasons as everyone around me began to shoot up like skyscrapers and the only time I could see the ball was after it was in the catcher’s mitt.
Getting glasses helped me see the ball but I was too embarrassed to wear them so I went back to the board where I could express myself without needing anyone else’s involvement.
It was through skateboarding I found my tribe. Individuals who shared a passion for independence and self expression. We hated jocks, conformity and pop music. We believed in anarchy, punk rock and self-expression. We spoke the same language and learned the same tricks. Non-conformist conformity.
My attachment to skateboarding and the illusion of separation was so great that I told my first love that if I had to choose between her and it, that was it for us. In this way I passed the first twenty-five years of my life.
When she chose her own way I was forced to acknowledge how myopic I had been. For the next five years I struggled with the constructs I had reaped, ruled and ruined. So began my re-education.
On my 30th birthday my brother got me into hockey by giving me a pair of high-end skates that were simply too good to give away. Pretty sneaky really. I never really wanted to play before but now the idea of learning from him and, even better, the possibility of playing together, took hold.
To get there I had to play with others. I learned to share my appreciation of them (albeit in the most sarcastic way) and that I could make a contribution as part of a team even if I wasn’t the one calling (or taking) the shots. Hockey was my first bridge out of a self-destructive worldview. More would come.