Ice Cred

by barbaragarn

People want to look like they know what they’re doing–even if they don’t.

In our hockey community, some people who care seek to develop (for want of a better definition), “ice cred.”

While most folks are out to have a good time and couldn’t care less what others think (beyond the standard “oh jeez he sent me a pass, hope I catch it so he’ll pass to me again”), some people are very, very eager to prove their hockey prowess. And it’s usually the folks who know the least about hockey–though understandably the most fervent to gain skills and be perceived as legitimized. I’m not talking about the average skater, I’m talking about the 10 percent who want SO BADLY for other people to think that they are awesome hockey players (even if they’re not).

Like anyone joining a new social group, people perceive hierarchies and try to emulate the leaders. In our case, these are the hockey veterans. Newbies copy their behaviors to learn hockey skills, but also to legitimize themselves.

I did it myself–when I started playing in 2002, all the “cool kids” wore mismatched socks. I thought that was something the cool, in-the-know hockey veterans did, so I did it too.
Yeah, I’m not proud, I cringe remembering this. I don’t know if other folks do this anymore (in retrospect this strikes me as rather piebald and juvenile), but I don’t do it any longer. If I’m wearing two different socks on the ice now, it means I forgot one.

What are some other ways some beginners seek to legitimize their ice cred and emulate more experienced players?

I always have to laugh when I see a level 1 or 2 player who has changed in his full cage for a half shield. It’s what the cool kids up in JMS L5 or the AHA’s Elite Tier wear, so newbies emulate the behavior. What the lower level players don’t realize is that those guys are in control of their sticks, they know how to skate and they’re at much less risk than the levels where folks are learning control.

It’s not a smart move to switch to the drastically reduced protection of a half shield unless you’re a very very skilled player–and even then I’ve seen too many broken teeth, sliced lips, etc. Is it cool to have your face covered in stitches and scars two months in to your hockey career?

Another thing I’ve noticed is how players anxious to “prove” their prowess will make a big show out of missing a shot. This is kind of funny–the REAL skilled players shrug it off; he’s made that shot a hundred times, he missed once, so what? He knows he’ll make the shot next time.

But the person new to hockey and concerned about perception wants SO BADLY for people to see him as an experienced player, to value his “ice cred.” If he can’t make the shot, he has to show his prowess in some other way. Bang a stick on the ice and holler and show everyone how frustrated you are, right? Nope, this just shows that you haven’t played long enough to be phlegmatic about the vicissitudes of hockey.

And then there’s the lecturing. Sometimes people want so desperately to feel they “belong,” to get that valuable “ice cred,” don’t have the skills to get where they want, so they use words.

And sadly, it’s often the people with the least experience who are so very, very eager to tell others what to do (on the ice or in other hockey venues). It’s frustrating; these people don’t understand that they’re achieving the opposite of what they want.
By constantly telling other players what to do, they’re only highlighting their lack of expertise, instead of hiding it. I know, I did this too when I started. I cringe again remembering the many lectures I gave in the first months when I was stumbling around on the ice and learning hockey. I should have heeded Ben Franklin: ‘Tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
These days when someone asks me for advice, I’m almost embarrassed. I preface my comments by saying, “I think…” and concluding with “but that’s just my view.” I don’t want to be a monolith; I’m atoning for my previous presumptions.

To a certain extent, I guess lecturing other people about one’s newfound passion is part of the beginner hockey experience, fine. It’s a component of the skater maturation process and I think most folks grow out of the coping behavior once they gain more self confidence, abandoning it when they realize how silly it looks. Because once other skaters are savvy enough to judge for themselves what is “ice cred” and what’s not, they realize that actions show skills and experience. Not gear choices, not words.

I’ve been running JMS since 2003. There’s always something more to learn, and I’m thankful for the many folks with more experience who responded to my requests and helped make the program function as a parity-based hockey organization. Their input helped shape the online assessment survey and the captains program to ensure balanced skate sessions.

Beginners are beginners, and sometimes part of the growing process is trying to be like the cool folks with more experience. I’m sure people gritted their teeth at me just as I do when I see novices emulating legitimizing behaviors today… and in a few years, those people will be rolling their eyes at the next crop of half-shield wearing folks who can barely skate, lecturing loudly to anyone who will listen.