A random list.
In no particular order.
The actual skating part. It’s hard. If you are skating as hard as you can, you are almost out of control at all times. It’s excellent practice for expanding your comfort zone because it is never comfortable
The exercise. Hockey is fast. Very fast. So fast you only skate for about a minute at a time. A hockey game is the most fun you can have doing 60 minutes of high intensity interval training. By far.
The “special puck” post game ritual. This may be specific to my current team (go Boobies!) but basically when someone has the special puck, they give it to someone else on the team after the game. It can be for just about anything. Scoring the winning goal, a particular great play, being inspirational in some way. I got it for scoring my first goal ever, and then gave it to someone who is fun to watch because she is still learning to skate and you can already tell she is going to be a total beast soon.
Scoring for the first time. Obviously a once in a lifetime event. And because I skate in the most supportive league ever with the most fantastic teammates it was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Highly recommended. Like, you should take up hockey just to get a first goal. It’s that amazing.
Being part of a team. If you know me, you know I have never been good at the team thing. The PDX Women’s Hockey league has absolutely changed that. They are all about expanding the participation of women in the sport in an inclusive and supportive way. They are doing sports in the best way. When they say they welcome new skaters, they mean it 100%.
The falling down part. Falling down is followed by popping back up. The idea of popping back up still makes me laugh. Six year olds pop back up when they fall. I haul myself up as quickly as I can. Which is “not very” but I am getting better at it with practice. And yep. It is a skill that can be practiced. One drill we did last week started with two skaters flat on our bellies. The coach shot a puck and we had to race to it. We also practice falling while skating. One whistle, skate. Two whistles fall and get back up. Let’s just say it is a good core workout. And also? Pads and helmets are crucial. It’s yet another way that hockey teaches you to get used to being out of your comfort zone.
Facing continual challenges. Learning to actually skate. A constant barrage of new skills. While on ice. Finding time to practice. Challenging yourself. Challenging your opponent on game day, either through skills or just getting in their way so it’s harder for them to get to their offensive zone. Not giving up when you do something dumb. And you will do many, many dumb things. Watch an NHL game—they fall down all the time. Sometimes they totally blow passes or just plain miss the puck. The better you get, and the better the people around you get, the faster it all goes and the harder it gets.
Funny moments. Like when the 16 year old who goes to a hockey boarding school in Canada is flying down the ice, turns to you (in about month 6 of your skating journey) and yells encouragingly “stay with me” and all you can do is laugh and try to skate a little faster because there is NO fucking way anyone on the team is going to stay with her. And it’s so sweet that she thinks you could.
Watching people play hockey. Learning their individual styles. There are skaters you could pick out on the ice anywhere. Some people swoop like birds. Some are all about power and shooting. Some are extra scrappy against the boards. Some are stealth puck stealers. Some hardly look like they move their feet and then all of a sudden they are all the way across the ice. The newbies are just trying to be on the right side of the ice for their position and keep up with play. A couple of seconds behind feels like a lot in hockey.
Keeping my mind in the moment. If your mind wanders, it will end badly for you. You will miss the puck, or fall. Or run into someone. Or someone will run you down like a train. Ask me how I know. It’s a great mindfulness practice. Way more fun than sitting on a cushion while your monkey mind runs rampant on you.