It's no secret by now that hockey is a huge, huge part of my life. I love hockey. Hockey is my life. Literally. At this point, I don't know who I would be without it.
People always talk about things like books or maybe movies or inspirational people changing their lives. I've never heard a lot of talk about how a sport changed someone's life, but I'm sure that it's happened. Because it happened to me. I also feel like I'm one of those rare breed of combination nerd/hockey fan, so I gush about my love for hockey as freely as I wish.
I started playing hockey (again) in 2008. The last time I played hockey before that was elementary school. There was no sound reason or basis for wanting to play again. I was standing with my dad, watching my brother play, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I said, "Hey dad. What do you think about me starting to play hockey again?"
My original suggestion was roller hockey, but he suggested ice hockey instead, which I readily agreed to. I went through the painful process of buying and then breaking in all the equipment (skates were the worst, ugh), finding a team, trying out for the team, making the team. I did endless camps and clinics over the summer. Because I'd never skated much before, I remember doing a clinic every Sunday morning with kids probably ages 7 to 10. It was combination mortifying and hilarious. Eventually I progressed, and did clinics with kids my own age--it was still mortifying because I was awful. I didn't know how to stop and couldn't lift my shot to save my life.
But eventually, I got better. There was nowhere for my level of skill to go but up, and up it went. With every new camp that I went to over the summer, the more I fell in love with hockey. By the time I started practicing with a real team in October, I knew I was hooked. So much so that I somehow got it into my head that I should play on my high school's hockey team too, which was quite the experience.
That's where it all started. And for the next four years, my life was nothing but hockey games and practices and tournaments and trying to fit in homework and seeing my friends around all that. I complained bitterly during every season. At one point I hated it. But every March, when it was time to wash my equipment (shocking, I know, but I can't deal with the smell if I don't) and put it away, I wished for a few more months to play.
Hockey changed my life. Before I started playing again, I was just another quiet girl in high school, wondering what I could do to lose weight, make myself feel confident about myself. Getting back into skates not only helped me get in shape (the second year I played was the best shape I have ever been in. Ah, the good old days when I actually had upper body strength.) but helped me to feel better about myself. For the longest time, I wished I was more like my best friend, who is tiny and petite and stays skinny with virtually no trouble. I envied her so much for that because next to her I always felt fat and hulking and gigantic. I was never skinny, even after I'd been playing for a while, but hockey helped me come to terms with that. It was okay, being the size that I was (am). If I had the body type of my friend, I wouldn't be able to play hockey because I would take one hit and fall apart on the ice (no offense, Jessica). I've learned to throw my weight around and not be afraid to use it to my advantage, especially when playing with all guys.
But even more than that, hockey is one of the few things that can make me truly happy. It fills me up, it completes me; there is nothing that playing hockey can't fix for me. If I'm having a bad day, if I'm upset or angry and need to blow off steam, hockey is my go-to solution. I prioritize it over almost everything in my life. If I have a game at 8:15, get off the ice, and someone asks if I want to play another game, I will say yes with no hesitation. If you pose the question "hockey or _______," it is highly likely that my choice will be hockey.
I have never had anything I could be so passionate about. This doesn't just go for playing hockey, it also applies to being a hockey fan. People are sometimes mocked, I think, for being sports fans, and for getting so into something that you aren't even playing. We're not on the team, no, and we don't contribute to their wins or losses. But being a sports fan is about being a part of something that's bigger than yourself. It's about losing yourself in the joy of watching two teams battle it out for victory. It's about coming together in a community of people who all share the same passion. It's about realizing that no matter how many people tell you it's just a game, it's really not.
It's something to be passionate about. It's something to share with others. It's something that allows you to make bonds with people that will always last. It's something to love. It's something to live for.
Nothing will ever be greater than the feeling of lacing up my skates and stepping out onto the ice. The first puck drop. The last two minutes of desperation in a tie game. Getting worked up and emotional over what is technically a kid's game.
I can't explain what hockey is to me. Trying to describe how I feel about hockey is like trying to describe what being in love is like. If you've never felt it, you simply will never know. And that's as far as my words will take me.