I have been playing men's recreational ice hockey for around 12 years now. I originally stopped playing when I was 15 years old, mostly because I was vertically challenged (ok small) and didn't look forward to the prospect of being pulverized into the boards by much larger opponents. I found curling to be a much safer and overall more enjoyable winter sport.
But I always missed playing hockey, particularly when my kids started playing and I began helping on the ice and then eventually coaching their teams. So when I was asked to join a team called the Fighting Hellfish, I acquired some used equipment and jumped back in. Since then I've gone on to play for The Terminators, Sunnyvale and for the last 6-7 years, The Iceholes.
For the first several years I played a 3-on-3 version of the game on a quarter-sized ice surface. Initially this was quite a shock to the system as the smaller confines means more, faster skating than the larger format requires. In 5 on 5 hockey, you have a lot more room to glide or, in other words, rest. Factor in the competition, which can sometimes be of a much younger and higher calibre skill-wise, and you present a pretty good challenge to an aging athlete like me. I've yet to figure out how or why we often end up playing in the "C" Division against kids (and I literally mean kids less than half my age.) I cannot quite reconcile what enjoyment they get from skating circles around us. My better half has chosen to not come and watch me play very often as she knows from time-to-time my age is dwarfed by my competitive drive causing me to get "chippy with the younger ones", for lack of a better phrase. One additional challenge is the time games are played; generally between 9pm and midnight. Yup, old guys get crappy ice times. And then try going to bed after you've skated around for an hour with testosterone and adrenaline coursing through your body. Regardless the format, the opponent or the time, hockey provides an intense cardio workout, which is at least part of the motivation to play.
The other significant motivation is simply being in and around the game. As social beasts, most of us yearn for and appreciate the camaraderie of being on a team with our peers, of chirping the other side in the heat of battle, of swapping war stories or tales of past glory and sharing a post or, depending on the opponent, pre-game beer or two. Based on the Iceholes record over the past few seasons, we're certainly not showing up for the glory of victory. On the rare occasion we do register a W, I take to Twitter to report the feat accompanied by the hashtag #ishitunot.
I firmly believe playing a kids' game keeps us young of both mind and body. As such, I don't plan on hanging up my skates any time soon.
In fact, I'll be lacing up again tonight at 10pm for my first game of 3-on-3 in a while so #GoIceholes. And if we win I'll be sure to let y'all know....#ishitunot.
Quick update: Neither yours truly nor the rest of the Iceholes performed very well tonight in an 11-5 loss. But the post-game beer was still cold.