Hi! This is a series about my journey into the world of men’s league/rec league hockey in southeastern Virginia. Having never played before at the age of 24 I decided I wanted to, and thought I’d share my thoughts along the journey. Is it great? Am I an idiot? Have tips? Feel free to let me know!
When we last left our hero (always wanted to describe myself that way) he was at a Play It Again Sports and had selected a stick for his journey into the world of rec hockey. And I really can’t keep talking in third person like this.
Having selected a stick I turned to my other objective- skates. I had gotten some advice from some surprisingly nice people on twitter, including the De La Fuente family (Jenn blogs here), Ellen Etchingham of the Score.com, and Chemmy and Colin of Pension Plan Puppets. Given how much you hear about the internet having no manners at all, the outpouring of free advice was a pleasant surprise. Everyone seemed to have one piece of universal advice- do NOT skimp on the skates.
This advice makes a lot of sense to me. A cheap skate might hurt when one goes to wear it. Painful feet would make for a much less enjoyable experience, and could unfairly morph my entire experience of playing hockey. However, I have no idea how these are supposed to fit. Or what’s a reasonable price for skates for that matter. Price isn’t quite as important but in my vulnerable, knowledge-less state, I don’t want to be taken advantage of. Plus as I explained in my previous post, the Play It Again Sports Virginia hockey gear monopoly leave me few alternatives for acquiring gear in my area.
I have a thing against Nike and Reebok. I can’t really explain it, I just don’t like the idea of wearing something from a company that big. A large company like that could never understand my needs! Anytime I see a player wearing Reebok or Nike I think ‘Yuck’ (looking at YOU Sidney Crosby!). Is this silly? Probably. I’m not even from Canada, but I much prefer the idea of wearing CCM or Warrior, something more hockey specific.
The first skates I look at are the Bauers. I like it! I’m lucky that I happen to be shopping at the same time Colin is on Twitter, and he responds to my questions as a second opinion. Really, I’d be lost without you twitterverse.
The PIAS manager tells me skates should fit about one-one and a half shoe sizes less than your skates (Twitter confirms). I try them on and tighten them up as best I can. They hurt a little bit after walking around in them. I’m not sure if this is due to my under-developed ankles and feet, or the skate.
I’m then told that the skates are supposed to be baked to fit my feet.
Baked?!? Like a cake?!? Why would anyone bake skates?!? I think to myself. Thankfully Twitter confirms this. The Bauers feel a little funny, and I’m unsure about them. I’m also given skate socks to wear with the skates. This concept seems strange to me, as these they seem to be little more than dress socks. I find out later that these are designed to absorb sweat. Whatever.
Then the Grafs catch my eye. ”What are these?” I ask.
“Graf.” She tells me. “They’re a Canadian boot company, they just started making skates recently. All of their skates are designed to be baked, so they tend to fit people’s feet a lot better.” Interesting.
I like the look of these. I like the feel of these. I tighten them up and it’s just like a really comfortable boot. I try walking and it feels much more natural. If skates were beef products, I’m convinced that Graf is the 24-ouce Porterhouse Tenderloin of the world, if not the bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon with sautéed mushrooms and onions — both served with a house salad of course. I look at the price tag and decide to go for it. I’m told they’ll also be sharpened for me before I leave (Twitter confirms this is normal). The skates are baked and I go to put them on. I have to be careful as I lace them back up, as the eyelets can break after being heated up like this. Plus they hurt like hell to the touch. Damn conductive metals!
I notice that the laces are yellow. This is a problem for me.
”Is it possible to get these laces in a different color?”
“They come with a white set of laces as well.”
”Good, I’m not trying to be an Alex Ovechkin type.”
Maybe this makes me a pain in the ass, but I’m concerned with my image despite not having played hockey yet. One of my favorite phrases I hear about hockey is “It’s a sport that’s all about the logo on the front, not the name on the back.” Jeff Marek must have said it on his podcast at least 10 times. I don’t want to be the guy that starts fights or talks shit. I want to be the classy, head down player I’ve come to admire. I never want to hurt anyone and I want to be a guy you want on your team but don’t mind playing against. This comes into play when I look at stick tape. What color defines me as a person? Camouflage? Flames? Skull and Crossbones? Nah, plain white will be fine with me.
“We’ll need to get you some blade guards too.”
“Eh, let’s see if I even use these more than once first.”
I get the stick, skates, skate socks and stick tape. I can picture myself coming back here for more gear on a quest to actually play in a league. What kind of player would I be? I want to have the class of Nick Lidstrom. But would I be a role player? Will I be any good at winning faceoffs? Maybe I’ll make it my mission to screen the goalie. Or quarterback power plays. That term drives some people crazy but I don’t care. Just because it isn’t football doesn’t take the passing out of it. You can pass in hockey and bring about the term quarterbacking!
I walk out of the store that day feeling like a kid almost, day dreaming of hockey skills and absolutely giddy at the chance to play. But I’m getting ahead of myself- I’m not even sure if I can skate yet.
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