Hockey reflections


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Growing up, no one I knew played hockey. We were farm people and knowing our way around horses was valued. Skating across an icy pond, not so much. There were no ice rinks in our depressed agricultural community and those of us lucky enough to have skates received them from S & H Green Stamps or from the J.C. Penney Christmas catalog.

Oh, sometimes we tried to play hockey on lumpy ponds with cheap plastic pucks but they never lasted long and it wasn’t much fun and sooner or later we all went home to drink hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.

Years later, while working at Anchorage Daily News, I was given a pair of hockey tickets. I stuffed them in my pocket; I had no intention of sitting through a game.

But my son was going through that awkward, almost-in-middle-school period and I thought the game would cheer him up.

Before we left for the game, I stuffed a book into my purse. I was angry the whole drive to the Sullivan Arena. I resented my son for wanting to attend the game when all I wanted was to stay home and read novels in the bathtub. I was a swimmer and a runner, after all; watching team sports just wasn’t my thing.

An hour later I was jumping up and down and screaming at the top of my lungs. I still knew very little about the hockey but the sound of the skates whizzing past was thrilling, and so were the hard thuds when someone slammed against the boards.

I became a bit obsessed. I bought a cow bell. I screamed myself hoarse at every home game. My son started middle school and was embarrassed to accompany me to the games.

“Mom,” he would hiss. “Stop it, okay. People are looking.”

The years passed and my son grew up and graduated from high school and I took a job down in Seward and I forgot all about hockey.

Until I was hired at the Star a few months ago and started attending not only hockey games but wrestling and basketball games, too.

I still don’t know much about sports. I don’t know the lingo or the technicalities between moves and plays. I don’t always understand why a penalty was called or why one wasn’t called.

But I love attending high school games. I love the visceral element of sports, love the way competition wears down the ego and turns us into purely physical beings, love how gritting our teeth and pushing past limits and pain enables us to grow both mentally and emotionally stronger.

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Mike Nesper, the former Star editor, left to write sports at ADN. It will be impossible for me to fill his shoes in the sports arena. But I will do my best to cover as many games and snap as many photographs as possible.

In the meantime, please be patient as I adjust my feature-writing, pondering mindset to cover weekly sports games. But be forewarned: Until I hire a sports freelance writer, I’ll be covering the entire newspaper, including sports, on my own.

There’s a bright spot in all of this, though. It’s almost track and field season and if there’s one thing I know, it’s running. I could (and often do) talk of running for hours: Tempo runs, speed intervals, long and slow distance vs. faster, shorter distance.

It’s all competition and each game, each meet, each match teaches us something, whether we’re playing or spectators.

In the end, it’s all good, no?

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