After my fun initiation into the world of hockey with the Father-Son game following Ty’s hockey team season earlier this year, I decided to dive in and take up the sport myself. So I marched down the Lynnwood Play It Again Sports (which happens to Learn to playhave the best selection of used and new hockey equipment in Seattle) and loaded up on my gear. What color practice jersey did I choose? Green of course. I also spoke with a couple of dads from Ty’s team who told me about the Greater Seattle Hockey League – which has leagues and teams for all skill levels (including novices such as myself). While researching the upcoming Fall/Winter league, they recommended that newcomers first go through a Beginner Learn To Play” clinic. I checked it out and learned: “The HES Adult LTPH Clinic is specifically designed for the first time adult hockey player. No previous skating or playing experience is required. We will address the basics of…skating, stick-handling, passing and shooting…focusing on developing the proper skating techniques needed to play hockey…Balance, Agility and Speed. You will leave this clinic a better more accomplished skater/player. Our clinics operate in a non-competitive advance at your own pace atmosphere.This clinic will also help you understand the game of hockey and how it is played.” Perfect! The only downside? Its held in Sno-King Ice Arena in Renton – quite a trek from Edmonds. But I figured that it would be worth the commute to formally learn the sport. And besides, its only two nights a week for four weeks. Not a huge commitment. Tonight was the first night of the clinic and it coincided with Renee having to be in Africa for her job. So I arranged for our nanny to help watch the boys while I was at the rink. Originally I was just going to have her take care of the guys at the house while I went to the rink solo, but I changed my mind and decided to bring the crew along for fun – and it turned out to be a good call. After pulling into the rink parking lot, I was getting my bag and stick out of the back of the car when I saw another player in the next car with his stick and bag. “It looks like I’m at the right place,” I said. “I hope so – learn to play hockey, right?” he responded – and proceeded to drop his stick and bag. “Damn, already dropping things,” he muttered. I checked in and the instructors asked if I’d skated before. I told them I had. They asked if I had my skates sharpened. I told them I had – I was less worried about the blades than I was having to tie them myself. They gave me some tips and sent me to locker #5, telling me to be on the ice and ready to go by 8 pm. The locker room atmosphere was typical for a bunch of guys who don’t know each other. There was an air of seriousness and no small talk. Everyone was focused on getting dressed and out on the ice in time. I realized as I started putting on my equipment that I had never actually tried any of it on before I bought it – and wondered if that would turn out to be a mistake. Luckily it wasn’t – everything fit fine and soon I was lacing up my skates and heading onto the ice for warmup. After a few minutes of warm up the instructors blew their whistle and called us in. They explained that their focus was going to be on skating fundamentals – because of its importance in hockey. “You can’t really do much in hockey unless you’re a good skater,” they explained. We all nodded. After another warmup period they divided us into 8 lines with 4 skaters to each group and sent us to the end of the rink. It was time for the drills to start. We did a variety of drills – or I should say we ATTEMPTED to do a variety of drills. Some of them proved to be too challenging for many of us (myself included). Skate to the blue line and get down on one knee and then get back up? I wiped out twice trying that move. The real fun began when they had us try to skate on one skate – and then stop using it. Bodies were again flying on the ice. 20 minutes into the practice one player was sprawled on the ice – not moving. The instructors went to check him out and he still didn’t move. After a few minutes they managed to get him up and help him off the ice onto the bench. He was out with an ankle injury. “Lets hope he’s OK,” the coach said and then continued the drills. Suddenly I felt a lot more like a hockey player. Here is the thing about hockey that nobody (other than players) know about the sport: it makes you sweat a TON!! I felt the first drips of perspiration after the first drill and it only got worse from there. 15 minutes into the workout and I felt like I’d been in a sauna, sweat completely dripping down my face. I probably lost 5 pounds in water weight on that ice in the 75 minute clinic. At one point the skater in front of me asked me how I was doing/feeling. “Very humbled” I responded. It’s been a long time since I felt like a true novice in a sport/activity and there was no doubt I’m one in hockey. But luckily the majority of the class was in the same boat. “I agree,” he said. “I decided to take this up because my son started playing 2 years ago. I used to skate a ton but haven’t done much for about 30 years,” he explained. I told him that was the same reason I decided to play too. Overall I feel good about my effort and in spite of the hard work I really enjoyed it. I only took one big spill (the welt and bruise on my arm/elbow is testament to that, in site of the heavy padding) and I’ll definitely be sore in the morning. But I’m excited about this new chapter and look forward to the rest of the clinic – and hockey season is around the corner!

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