AMHL Glory Introduction: the Joy of Hockey
AMHL Glory Fans,
The piece that follows is a reconstructed version of the book's introduction. I've edited it to meet the requirements for a creative writing contest administered by Answers.com.
People ask me about that shining moment when I first fell in love with hockey. Realizing hockey has been in my blood has been more a prolonged dawning than a flash of recognition. I didn’t play the game during my salad days. My earliest hockey memory, though, is as an eight-year-old, watching my dad’s Rangers against the Bruins in the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals.
Not until I was a teenager did I get that adrenaline rush while digging dulled blades into a frozen pond and eluding other players who wanted that ebonite prize bobbling along my stick blade. Sensing the pure pleasure of pushing the puck between two tennis shoes, I wanted more.
During my high school years, I became agog with hockey, but my love for it was unrequited. I would give hockey everything I had for two months on the pond; then, it would dump me because the pond couldn’t commit to being frozen for longer than that. When the ice would melt back into the pond, I’d long for the return of winter—or for the city to build an ice rink—which would reunite me with the object of my affection.
However, the hockey gods scorned me: They didn’t build that rink, and they stole the NHL team my family and I had coveted most by letting hockey’s henchmen move it to another city across the country.
I went away to college, to a place just south of The Great White Heartland of Hockey where I could adore and learn about the game from those who loved it with more fervor than I had felt or known possible.
There I started to understand the balance between raw talent and dedication—and that it helped if you had both. Realizing I had little of the first, I knew I’d have to find more of the second to become part of the Frozen Fraternity. I dedicated myself to becoming a better player, if only as a fringe member of the team.
Soon afterward, though, I traded the pursuit of glory for gazpacho. In Spain, where ice rinks were rare, I acquired a new language if not a taste for cold soup. Then, before I knew it, career, marriage, and kids—and all the self-imposed pressure that came with these responsibilities—claimed precedence. I all but divorced myself from the game I had loved.
Unknowingly, I had turned the tables on the hockey gods, allowing myself only the occasional fling on the ice. For the better part of a decade, I lingered around the game’s edges, a part-time participant feeling unworthy of full membership in the club to beat all clubs.
Yet, the hockey gods had a plan for me because after a series of scarring setbacks, I clawed my way back toward a more balanced life. .
Now that I’ve been in Massachusetts and playing hockey regularly, I realize how much the game enriches my life. I realize what I was missing and rarely take for granted the horripilation on my arms as I enter the arena; the sound and feel of sharpened blades carving into the ice; the simian shenanigans and subsequent laughter that belies the fug in a room shared by ten sweaty men and their rarely-washed hockey socks.
The joy of hockey knows no borders. The elation I feel while playing stays with me as my wife and cross the 49th parallel. We take so many trips to Canada that I’ve been accused of being a “Canadian spy.” I’m not what federal authorities consider a fifth-column, but it’s a thrill to “abscond” across the border, gather “intelligence,” and then return home to play more hockey and plan our next trip.
Even in places where ice hockey isn’t king, it isn’t hard to find. In England, most tourists visit Buckingham Palace, the Kew Gardens, and London Bridge, but you won’t find them in Basingstoke. There, my wife and I watched the Bison battle the Cardiff Devils.
The beauty in all these experiences is that as my love for hockey has intensified, so have my proclivity for music and my passion for composing stories with references to the likes of U2, Journey, and Wham! I’m no Bach or Mozart, but I create my little opuses to share with others who love the game—and all its extending benefits—as much as I do.