Friday, February 29, 2008

He Shoots! He Scores! okay, maybe not

I like hockey. That may seem strange being that Texas is known more for it's fragrant cattle feedlots, oil derricks, and cowboy boots than for ice, pucks and razor sharp skates. But we even have an NHL team here. The mighty Dallas Stars. (take that Grace) And between the minor leagues Texas has more professional hockey teams within its boundary than any other state in the U.S.. Here in Amarillo we have the Amarillo Gorillas who play in the CHL. I want this shirt. Feel free to buy it for me. I wear an XXL and prefer black. My wife reads this blog, so maybe she'll take a hint. Though it might go against some cosmic law to spend money earned as a Catholic school teacher on such. Back to the subject at hand.

But right now I'm not thinking about ice. I'm doing a bit of that looking back I talked about a few days ago. I'm thinking about concrete and wheels, ramshackle boards and dust covered rinks, late nights and buckets of sweat. Hot nights and foul smelling hockey bags. I'm thinking about my days of roller hockey. I miss it.

Once upon a time I coached a roller hockey team, and I'm right proud to say we were good. Dang good. I also played in an adult. I was bad. Dang bad.

But I did lead one stat every season. Penalty minutes. And unofficially, no one took as short of shifts as I did, but no one tracks stats on whose the most out of shape.

Our rink was basically a giant carport. We had a tin metal roof and steel beams to hold it up but the structure had no sides so before every game we would all grab brooms to sweep off the dirt that had blown in, otherwise the concrete was too slick and I didn't need any help busting my ass.

I nearly always played defense. As the biggest guy in the league my job was to agitate, and keep the area in front of my goal clear. On occasion if we were behind I'd be dispatched to the other end of the rink where I would park in front of their goalie and screen him. Of course, they would try to move me.

I miss the flying elbows. The sweat stinging my eyes. The muttered curses ... "Move your fat ass." "Get off me." "Shit, you're big."

The very first game I ever played was against a team of Air Force guys who came over from Cannon Air Base over in Clovis, New Mexico. I could skate but I hadn't quite mastered the art of stopping. Not thirty seconds after hoping over the boards I skated hard for a loose puck. As did the other teams fastest player.

I had ten feet to go.
He had twenty.
We go there at the same time.

To tell the truth I would have lost the game of chicken and stopped but I didn't know how. We both crashed to the concrete floor but he got up with a face covered in blood. Being shorter than me his nose had smashed against my chest. No penalty was called but I became a marked man every time we played that team. Yes, I even miss their slashes, hooks, and cross checks.

I miss being called a big hairy goon. I miss sliding my hands into the damp sweaty gloves just before leaping over the boards. I miss the solid feel of a hockey stick in my grip.

I miss dropping to the concrete. I miss the thud of a blocked puck thumping against me. I miss comparing bruises as we undressed after each game.

Sadly I didn't skate off the rink the last time I played.

It was a playoff game. Second round. Just before half. We were up by two when I skated back behind the goal and cleared the puck from our zone. Some fired it back into our corner and as I turned ...

Countless times I'd been slashed, mashed against the boards, tripped, crosschecked, hooked, punched, knocked down, and battered. Without any serious injury.

... my ankle folded. In half. Sideways.

I crawled off thinking it wasn't too bad. Until I unlaced my skate. The damage? Two broken bones. The ligaments and tendons in my ankle torn. One surgery, one metal plate, four screws, and nine months on crutches. (The entire time my wife was pregnant with our youngest.)

But damn, do I miss it.


Shauna said...

Oh man, that sounds aweful. Nine months on crutches!?

I'm very accident prone - practically a disaster on two legs - yet some how I've managed to escape any serious injuries. A sprained ankle in junior high is about as bad as it gets. I mean, I've walked into the broad face of a wall, been smacked in the face by flying soccer/basket/foot balls, had some near misses with vehicles, yet have never broken a bone.

angel, jr. said...

I don't think that shirt says anything bad right? I mean Jesus does score! And isn't that what we want?

Charles Gramlich said...

Puts hair on your chest. And cuts, contusions, breaks and fractures in your body.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


What a story! Do you still have trouble with the ankle now?


Clare2e said...

You're making me mist up, Travis. I like it. Amateur sports with no stakes but guts and pride are the real shiznit (not to mention the lifeblood of orthopedic practices across the nation).

Re: the lesser pros, Go, Chicago Wolves! IHL then AHL champions. I used to go all the time when I lived there. $8 ticket and all the laser lights and T-shirt giveaways you could stand. I'm gonna dig out my jersey. Oh yeah, it's on.

Barrie said...

Hmmm....sorry, but I don't think I could miss something that put me on crutches. You're obviously braver and more stoic than me.

However.....I did grow up playing road hockey. And I do miss those times.

Ello said...

Oh Lord that sounded just awful dude! I've got serious ankle problems from having done serious injury to both ankles, they still have a tendency to bunkle in on me sometimes. That just sounded painful and your poor wife to have you on crutches during her pregnancy and afterwards!

alex keto said...

Personally I like the bumper sticker that says "Jesus Loves You, But He's The Only One."

~grace~ said...

OWWWW. I feel for you.


"Mighty" Dallas Stars? You must be joking. The San Jose Sharks are the kings of the west. (we're only lower in the rankings than Dallas to give them a false sense of security. so that when we decide to charge ahead and kick a** they will be taken unawares.)

Jenster said...

Great story! LOL

I LOVE that t-shirt! May have to get it for my husband. Maybe he'll share.

Hockey is the greatest, isn't it? By virtue of our current location my husband is a huge Flyer's fan which is really sad for him because they suck. At least this year. I, personally, like the St. Louis Blues because I think they have a great name.

Marla said...

Yup...that shirt is awesome.

Erica Orloff said...

Love the shirt!

I had two cousins growing up--a lot older than I am. And I spent a lot of my younger years from kindergarten on up, huddling in ice hockey rinks cheering them on. LOVE hockey. Ice. Roller. Don't matter. Good memories.

Patti said...

it's always better to tell when there is an injury involved!

and i love the shirt...

Rocketstar said...

I feel your pain, moving from Minnesota to Colorado, I have lost all of my outdoor hockey rinks.

Michele said...

Oh, what a story! On crutches for nine months? Yikes. I live in Mighty Ducks territory, but I'm actually more of a MLB and soccer fan than hockey (although, I'll watch it occasionally).

Love the shirt, though. :-)

Great blog!

Stephen Parrish said...

You were invalided during your wife's first pregnancy? And therefore didn't have to run all those ERRANDS? No wonder you miss Hockey.

Funny how you were on crutches nine months. Not eight months, not ten months. Nine months. Travis, the better I know you, the more you impress me.

Penelope said...

I'm not a big hockey fan, but I did attend an Aeros game last year.

I've never seen a sport marketed thirty- something rednecks in my life. It was amazing with the heavy metal music and the fighting, some of which I really believe was staged.

Hockey as a sport amazes me. It's graceful while at the same time horrifically violent. I love watching the Olympics just to see the sheer skill.

-- Karen

Bubblewench said...

OUCH!! I have goosebumps from just READING about the injury.. it was all la la la cool post about hockey.. la la la and SMASH! Broken bones! ick.

The shirt is cool.

Sepiru Chris said...

Wow, Travis, that is the best story I've read yet on the internet. Send this off to get published on its own.

And I am so not with the "sounds awful" crowd. That just sounds great and fantastic to me. It reminds me of my own well spent days doing similar things.

I am still laughing and revisiting the hits and the blows.

I have never laughed this hard reading something off of a computer screen.

Thanks! I doubt you will ever see this comment seeing as how it is so far back in time, so I suppose I should tell you somewhere up near the front to publish this. I cannot imagine what misanthropic killjoy would refuse comedic gold like this.

I am still laughing.