No Going Back

Last week I found myself suiting up for hockey. My first game back! I was so excited.

As I finished putting my right shinguard on, I remembered: I can’t come back.

I turned to my teammate on my right. It was Raika. Last year I had to tell her I couldn’t play with the team in Thailand. This time I had to tell her I couldn’t play right before game time.

I wasn’t sad about it. Just like last year, I simply accepted it as fact. The only part I found upsetting was that I had to disappoint my teammate. Again.

I suspect I had this dream because now, a year later, I’ve decided I’m done coaching. I didn’t wake up one day and tell everyone; I’ve sort of let this idea settle in as I’ve stayed off the ice all summer. Now that Winter season is starting, people have been asking me whether I plan to continue coaching. My answer has been a consistent, natural, no. Not that I don’t like to coach, but it’s an awful lot of time and preparation, and while it’s rewarding, it doesn’t bring me anything close to the joy of playing an actual game. So while I have skills and knowledge to share, I no longer have super rad stoke to share. The skaters deserve more stoke, and I have a long list of things waiting for more time.

And so another chapter has ended. I’m grateful for the year I spent coaching after I stopped playing. I had fun designing practices and creating light bulb moments. In exchange, I got to process my impending full retirement from the ice.

Here I am, fully processed, and fully retired. It’s peaceful here in my hockey world.

As for all my other worlds… I could really use some more time for all these new hobbies.

One Last Goal

This morning, I played hockey with my friends. It was pure joy.

Toward the end of the game, I lined up for a faceoff against my friend. I looked at her and asked, “Is this real?”

In that moment, I realized I was in a dream.

We laughed as we skated down the ice, my friend trying to defend. I made one final effort and pushed the puck over the goal line.

Time ran out.

New Mayor, New Town

Shortly after I lost my mayorship at the rink where I played my last game, the same operators reopened the San Mateo rink just a few miles north.

Today, thanks to Give Hockey a Try Day, coaching two NCWHL divisions, coaching the Black Stars, and volunteering at a special ed kids skate, I became the Mayor here.

Four more years?

Toe Drag Snapshot

At a scrimmage in the first half of last year, I found myself in front of two defenders and a goalie, with all the time in the world. I thought it would be neat to try toe dragging a snapshot. Everything happened as I’d imagined, and the puck sailed into the back of a mostly open net.

After practice last night, I remembered I wanted to explore this more. The goalie was still around so I went in for a couple shots. She squared to the puck. Perfect! I dragged, then shot for the left post. The puck got by the goalie cleanly, flew just inside the post, and hit the back of the net.

Did it again right afterwards to be really really sure I had it down.

Angles FTW!

Core

Small observation from top roping Wednesday night: I’m learning to keep my arms straight, position my feet, and reach starting with my legs and body. It feels way more stable and effortless than reaching with my arms. Especially overhangs.

I’m really enjoying how swimming and climbing are teaching me basics of stable and efficient body movement.

I wonder, if I’d learned these concepts before picking up hockey, how much faster I could have improved on the ice.

I suppose I can still try out some of these ideas and use the ones that pan out for coaching.

My People

Helped out on ice for the Black Stars tryouts tonight. People from all three teams were there, as well as some new folks from various corners of my hockeyverse.

Being on the ice was great. Seeing everyone was even better.

“My people,” I smiled as I left the rink. So grateful for this community.

Reminders

Two months and two days into hockey retirement, massage therapists are still telling me my back muscles are oddly imbalanced.

I don’t mind explaining that it’s from years of hockey, but… reminders.

Last week at the rink, someone asked if I missed hockey yet. I replied that I won’t miss something if I don’t actively think about not having it. Most of the time I’m so busy doing other things I don’t have time to miss hockey.

Reminders make me think about what I don’t do anymore. I miss it for a moment, dive into that feeling, and come out of it grateful for the time that I had.

Then I go do something else.

Nicest Hockey Player

Two months into hockey retirement, there is not a single mention of “hockey” on my blog front page.

I’ve been busy.

Spent the last two weeks helping out with Winter season evaluations. I coached, ran eval sessions, evaluated, coached, ran eval sessions, evaluated some more. There was a league picnic somewhere in all that as well. It was great to spend time with my hockey community.

Two of the practices I coached were at Ice Oasis, where I played my last game. The upside of not remembering my last game? No PTSD at the rink.

Summer season awards were announced today. Instead of voting for MVP/MIP/MSP we switched to voting for fun things. I get to leave hockey with a Mary Poppins award, “for the nicest player with the best attitude and is always there to encourage the team, even when you’re down.”

I should put that on a retirement plaque: Nicest Hockey Player.

I wonder if we still do prizes. I hope I get a flying umbrella.

Float 2.0

I headed back to the float tank today for some focused reflection on hockey. Because maybe there’s something I haven’t worked my way through yet.

I suppose you could call it a housekeeping visit for my mind. I like to be thorough.

I dropped myself back in 2002 and went through the moments that stand out:

Showing up at Belmont Iceland and being taught how to put my gear on.

My first ever hockey drill: Learning to fall, then learning how to get back up.

Breakaways in Green Division. Slamming into the boards because I didn’t know how to stop. The refs asking me if I was okay.

Getting chased down and knocked over by Ruth in Red Division.

Learning how to chase other people down in Red Division. If you’re fast enough, you can take the puck cleanly from them. No knocking required.

Trying out for Maroon and not making it. I worked my ass off the next season, attending every clinic I could find, in an effort to improve.

Skating circles around Red Division after a power skating camp. Scored my first hat trick. That was my last season in Red.

Hating my first season in Maroon Division because our coached cared more about winning than having fun.

My first game in Blue Division, catching my breath on the bench, in awe of how fast everyone skated.

Championship goals and assists. Overtime victories. Game winners.

Laughing with and at my teammates. Getting laughed at in return.

There are lots of good moments, and a sprinkling of challenging ones. The challenging ones made me better in the end. I learned how to chase, I worked hard and improved, and I made fun a core tenet of hockey. My hockey.

My mind jumped a bit to work. Things change quickly at work, and there’s some change I need to spend time processing. Meditation and float time are great ways to surface what’s truly on my mind.

Toward the end of the session I focused on relaxing. The water went away pretty quickly. Peace.

It’s not clear to me whether that water going away feeling comes from my body getting used to the constant even pressure, relaxation from the Epsom salt, or my mind. I suppose if I’m able to relax into this state earlier in the session that would make it a mental phenomenon.

I guess that means I’ll need to try again.

Boston 2017.2

Another visit with the folks in the books. Dad is bored in retirement, Mom seems to have found a volunteering/walking/cooking groove, Grandma is sick of being old, Sis has her hands full with little Penny, and Penny is super active and learning every moment.

Day 0: Now I Can Play Golf

Dad: How is your hockey season going?
Me: Well, I don’t play anymore. I retired.
Dad: Oh… now you can play golf!

That’s the spirit, Dad. :)

Day 1: Auntie Viv Phone?

Penny: Mommy phone video?
Sis: My phone is out of batteries.
Penny (to me): Auntie Viv phone?

The next day, she asked for my phone again. When I told her I didn’t know where it was, she proceeded to search my pockets.

Day 2: Up Up Down Down…

Dad and I turned the basement inside out on Saturday searching for the 8-bit NES. I was looking for my Contra cartridge, but instead I found the Atari 7800, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo 64. That, and a tabletop pinball machine. I was super excited and purchased batteries for it right away, but alas, it doesn’t work anymore beyond a sickly extended start beep.

Look super cool though.

Day 3: Observation Point

When I’m in town I like to get Mom outside for some exercise.

Sign: OBSERVATION POINT 300 YARDS
Me: Let’s go see what it looks like from up there.
Mom: 300 yards is far.
Me: We just walked 100 yards from the car. *points at car*
Mom: Let’s not go, there could be bad people on the trail.
Me: It’s the weekend, there are lot of people out.
Mom: 300 yards means 600 total, plus car. What if we get hungry?
Me: We’ll be fine.
Mom: This is steep. What if I climb up but can’t get back down?
Me: I’ll show you how!

In the end, Mom did a great job scrambling up rocks to the top. We were rewarded with a view of Downtown Boston as well as many other landmarks in the surrounding areas. Afterward she went home and took a nap.

Day 4: Hockey Travels

I told Dad about my upcoming Thailand trip to cheer and not play hockey, and he asked me about the places I’ve visited with my teams. He worked for years as a traveling salesman, so he started naming random places he’s been.

Dad: Have you been to Wisconsin?
Me: Yup.
Dad: Green Bay?
Me: Yeah, I got to tour Lambeau Field!
Dad: How about Minnesota?
Me: Yah, I went to the Mall of America!
Dad: Have you been to Detroit?
Me: I saw a Red Wings game there!

Writing about this reminds me that I got to visit the Budweiser factory in St. Louis as well. Clydesdales!

Also Day 4: Paper Sons

Mom and I got to talking about immigration, and she told me stories of paper sons related to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Entire families in the US today are here through a paper son. Entire families remained split because their documents were sold to families wishing to send a paper son. Mom knows people on both sides of those stories. I had no idea this was even a thing.

Ultimately, it’s the classic immigrant story: Life is hard, and you do whatever you can to make it less hard.

Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: Umami Monster

For an almost 2 year old, Penny has made it quite clear that she loves seafood. Her favorites: shrimp, lobster, and clams, as well as shumai and sushi. She asks for all of those by name, except lobster, which she calls “monster”.

Cheese is no slouch either: string cheese, Cheddar Bunnies, pizza, and Pirate’s Booty register high on her preferred foods list. This kid loves umami.

She’s willing to try just about anything. We gave her a pickled carrot. “Souwr!” Recoilscrunchyface. OMGSOCUTE.

Day 5: Bahn Gwai

Mom says when I was in elementary school she told me to behave and I told her, “I have to bahn gwai all day at school, I’m not doing it at home!”

Mom has used the phrase “bahn gwai” for as long as I can remember. Turns out she got it from me. It literally means “pretend behave”.

Day 5.5: Frogging

Dad recalled his frogging days as a kid. He’d catch a small frog by the side of the road, tie it to a string, and dangle it from a pole to fish for larger frogs. Larger frogs would leap to eat the small frog, and he’d fish them out and into a bucket. When he was done he’d release the small frog and take the large ones home for dinner.

Day 6: Narwhal

On the final full day of my visit, I taught Penny how to say “narwhal”. Success! I have done my duty as auntie.

Penny, whenever she sees herself in a selfie: Hiiiii…