You have to get up pretty early on a Saturday morning sometimes. I wrap myself in as many layers as my small, eight-year old body can carry – arms stiff in my sleeves from so many sweaters underneath. I grab the shovel that leans on the brick siding beside the screen door being careful not to let the door slam in the -10 C weather.
Shuffling along, the snow crunches under my footsteps and the shovel I am dragging behind me leaves a path in the 10 cms of new snow that has fallen overnight. My ice skates are slung around my neck like a necklace because they are too heavy for me to carry over one shoulder. They bounce against me with each step.
First one here! I plunk my bottom on a snow back – there aren’t any benches at this makeshift outdoor rink initially made by the neighbourhood Dads and now maintained by us kids. The snow begins to fall softly as I change out of my boots into my skates. I tie up the laces the way my Dad showed me, but I can never get them as tight as he does.
I pick up the shovel awkwardly and it takes me a moment to get my balance. Slowly pushing the shovel in front of me, I begin clearing the ice. Back and forth I gradually clear the entire rink before the first big kid arrives. The others will be here soon and they don’t let us little kids play, but, I am happy because I got to clean the ice.
This memory came to me as we were watching a couple of home games of the Victoria Royals this past weekend. I am not a huge hockey fan, but I understand enough of the game to follow and that games can be lost in the last three seconds of a period. A live hockey game for me is not just the hockey. It is all of it – the fans, the sounds, the slapping of sticks on ice – “pass the puck to me”. It brings out something primordial in me and I am more surprised than my husband when a loud, “Shoot the Puck” bellows out from the stands and I realize that it came from me.
Like many Canadians, I have spent many early mornings sitting in a cold arena on a wooden bench watching someone I know play hockey. Whether it be Timbits or minor hockey, it is a ritualized experience that you never forget.
And like many Canadians on the West Coast today, we set our alarm for 3:45 am to watch the men’s gold medal game in the Sochi Olympics. From the comfort of our home we celebrated the victory with our fellow Canadians. Hockey binds us together.