I'd Rather Be Playing Hockey

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Growing up in Ontario, I was fortunate to have access to outdoor ice rinks during the winter months. Jack, the next door neighbour had a rink where I could skate. At the age of two, I was skating on the double bladed skates that attached to your boots. I can't recall at what age I acquired my first pair of ice skates, but I did cry when they tried to put me into figure skates. I wanted hockey skates like the boys.

It was my father who was influential in my love of hockey. Saturday nights, were Hockey Night in Canada. He would coach me while we watched. At the age of six, I was registered for Power Skating Lessons, under the alias of Dale (my middle name). Girls were not allowed to do Power Skating. At that age in my life, I wore my dark hair short, and could easily pass for a little boy.

At the age of eight (year 1975), I asked my father if I could play hockey like the boys. My father investigated, but girls were not allowed to play hockey with the boys. My father did the next best thing. He and another person, Marie Grey, organized an all girls team (except for the goalie, Kenny Grey), and we were allowed to play in the boys novice league. We lost ever game that year, save one exhibition game. We came back the following year, and won all but one game. The girls' team, won the novice division championship. The following year, we had our own girls house league division with four teams. Three years later, the PGMHA (Peterborough Girls Minor Hockey Association) was founded.

Playing hockey has taught me several things about life. One was that life wasn't fair. As a very fast skater, it was often a challenge for other players to catch me. It was my ankles that were mostly affected by the frequently slashing. Penalties were never called against the offender. I ended up getting ankle guards. What I also learned to do, was to utilize my self-righteous anger and score goals.

"...one of Satan's most successful ploys is his insistence that things ought to be fair. The good should be rewarded; the bad should be punished." Madeleine L'Engle (A Stone for a Pillow)

In her novel, A Stone for a Pillow, Madeleine L'Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time), explores our need for "forensic justice." She asks, "Why is it so hard to understand that in this world everything is not going to turn out all right." Our world acts in accordance with natural laws. "The 'natural' world operates on principles where fairness plays no part..."

About the time I hit adolescence, I realized that as a female, my dream of being the first woman in the NHL was not likely possible. All my male friends, seemingly overnight, became faster and stronger than myself. At the age of nineteen, I pursued an academic path over hockey. There was about a ten year period where I didn't play hockey. I resumed play in 2001, after moving to Vancouver Island. My new aspiration was to be able to continue playing until I was eight-five.

The 2020-2021 hockey season was lost to the global pandemic. This season, I am dealing with a cancer diagnosis that has left my body lacking the strength and stamina for playing hockey. I still plan to lace up for some public skating ice time.

When I think about this worlds' current events; the fires that are burning out of control, not only in British Columbia, but in the USA, Greece, and Turkey; the floods in Europe; the crisis in Afghanistan; the earthquake in Haiti; and all the people affected by these events, it really hits home how life isn't fair. Reflecting on these events, makes me feel grateful for all that I do have in my life. I may struggle to fall asleep because of the pain in my body, but I have a comfortable bed, with a roof over my head. I am grateful for the access to quality medical care. I am grateful that even though there still exist inequalities for women even in Canada, that I have the option to vote, to get an education, and to independently earn a living.

I would rather be playing hockey, than dealing with a cancer diagnosis, where the outcome is uncertain. When I play hockey, I lose myself. I am in a state of pure joy. I live in the moment - one shift to the next. I can get so caught up in the moment when I am on the ice, that sometimes at the end of the game, I can't recall how many goals I scored.

No one said that life was going to be fair. We will all experience loss. We will all face obstacles and challenges. We are here to help each other learn, grow, and survive. Making a difference in this world, can be as simple as not turning away from another who is suffering or down on his/her luck. If all you have to give is a blessing, then give that.

“Sawubona,” is an African Zulu greeting which translates to, “I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being.”

Robert Holden taught me this on a course I attended in New York city. I recall the exercise vividly. We had to walk around the room, face another person (as if doing wedding vows) and say, "I am here to be seen." To which the other person replied, "I see you." I don't think there was a dry eye in the room by the end of the exercise. That evening as I walked about NYC, when I saw a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, I would look him/her in the eye and in my mind say, "I see you." A simple blessing.

"What is a good man, but a bad man's teacher. What is a bad man, but a good man's job." Tao Te Ching

If you really think about it, everyone has a light side and a shadow side. I have had to serve my fair share of penalties. Some were not intentional. Others were. Not retaliating to a slash, an elbow, or cross check requires a great deal of restraint when you are caught up in the heat of the moment.

Hockey is a team sport. One person alone does not win the game. Each team has players who can consistently put the puck in the net. Other players are the ones who set up the goal scorers. Then you require a strong defence (my favourite position). I have seen games won because of the goalie "standing on her head." We really do win as a team and loose as a team. This world right now needs more teamwork.

No, life isn't fair. The better team does not always win. The "good" do not always prosper. The "bad" do not always feel the sting of "forensic justice." The penalty isn't always called. One thing that I am grateful for is that even though I will not be playing hockey this season, that my teammates still have my back. Thank you.