As I placed my husband square in the cross-hairs provided by the cage on my helmet, I pondered for a second about how I wound up here on the ice ready to body-slam my opponent. Less than 10 years ago, I “spectated” my first AHL game watching the Norfolk Admirals, then the farm team for the Chicago Blackhawks, my husband’s hometown team.
I could barely follow the players, much less the shiny puck zipping back and forth, but I cheered for the Hawks to support my husband; it was a fun family event.
Little did I know, once the fights began on the ice and the shirts came off, I would be hooked, and the phrase “eat-sleep-breathe hockey” would make complete sense to me.
Since then, I have relocated and become a season-ticket-holding fanatic of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, that’s me in the stands in all my middle-aged glory, arguing with the referees and linesmen, elbowing my way through the memorabilia auctions, questioning coaches’ tactics, and stalking, er, patiently waiting for my beloved team members to emerge from the locker rooms for autographs and photos.
I have the jerseys, the sweaty used equipment, and other various items proudly owned by any self-respecting fan. But I also have the friendships made, even with adversarial fans, the strong opinions about fair-weather fans who trade jerseys when “their” team plays ours, and many, many memories to make me smile during the off-season. My family caters to my hockey addiction, bringing me the freshly delivered Hockey News and understanding when the games are a priority.
While I haven’t started travelling to all the away games as well, I’m sure that’s in the near future.
Now here I am, a Southern girl learning to play a fast-paced game on a surface very unfamiliar to me growing up, and loving every sweaty, bruising moment of it!
So with a satisfying thud as I slam my husband/opponent into the boards, I will do as my coach says, don’t look down but keep moving forward—Hockey season, here I come!