I was not always a fan of hockey.
Sure, I was a Canadian kid, and growing up, hockey was always on Granddad’s television on Saturday night.
It drove me nuts.
I would try and convince him to let us watch something, anything, else.
But it was no use.
Needless to say, I did not pay much attention to the game.
For those of you who have read Grant Lawrence’s latest book The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie, I identify completely with Lawrence’s attitude towards hockey in his youth, though he did enjoy watching it at times, he did not like the bullies in school he identified with hockey, and as a girl, I had even less inclination to want to be a part of the hockey player circle.
At that time, girls did not play hockey, and like Lawrence, I identified skating in general with pain and cold. Damn those cotton socks and old leather skates.
I liked it even less thanks to my brother playing minor hockey his entire life.
Everything revolved around his hockey schedule and I would spend countless hours bored and cold sitting in the stands listening to my mother scream and get excited when the game became tense or my brother skated down the ice with the puck.
My parents didn’t believe in allowing me to run around and play with the other kids running between the bleacher seats, playing tag, high on sugar candies.
No, I had to sit and freeze and with poor circulation and cotton socks, I hated the hockey arena and the time I spent there with a passion.
Fast forward to 2014 and not only am I sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my lip as I listen to the gold medal women’s hockey Olympic final between Canada and the U.S., but I even play the game (admittedly poorly) and look forward to our practices, when I can make the late-night time slot.
My love for hockey seems to be something which was hiding deep inside me, suppressed by years of cold feet, sexism and high school bullying.
All it took for this love for what is an amazing and challenging game to burst forth from within was one really fun game of shinny.
As a forest firefighter, our crew would play a fun game every year, and there was always pressure to participate, which for a few years I resisted.
But one year I relinquished, and was somehow convinced to go out and give it a try.
It was not pretty, I was a complete mess on the ice, with poor skating resulting in frequent tangled messes as I ended up in a pile on the ice.
And there were some really talented hockey players out there, a few who had even played junior hockey.
But with all that padding, it didn’t hurt.
And incredibly, working as hard as you do at hockey, I wasn’t cold.
The good players were also great sportsmen and helped give everyone on the ice a chance to move the puck and enjoy the game.
It was a complete and utter blast.
I also realized just how difficult a game it is, and had so much more respect than I ever had for watching the game, in complete awe at the speed and agility of NHL players.
But I think the ultimate proof of the hockey fan I have actually become came in February of 2010.
I spent my birthday afternoon in 2010 in a pub on Haight Street in San Francisco watching the men’s Olympic gold medal game.
It was one of my most memorable birthdays ever, and how could it not be, with the winning goal by Sidney Crosby being one of my favourite moments in Canadian Olympic history.
I remember the incredible tension while watching the overtime period, and I thought “all I want for my birthday now is a goal for Canada.”
So I can honestly say I received one of my best birthday presents ever from Sidney Crosby.
And how Canadian did it make me feel to be able to cheer the winning goal from an American pub.
Well Grandad, you were right, as usual.
Now if I could only figure out what you thought was so great about curling.