Hockey Therapy

by barbaragarn

Blog by Magnus Leslie 

I woke up the morning of February 29 as a brand new 40-year-old. 

I like to think that I was above all of the traditional hype and trepidation about turning 40 and did my best to convince myself that it was just another birthday. Truth be told, however, deep down I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of dread, and a desire to make the day at least slightly meaningful in some small way. 

Unfortunately, although I had the day off, my wife was stuck in meetings all day and my two closest friends, with whom I intended to toss back a few beers to mark the occasion, were both out of town on business. 

The absolutely dreary weather didn’t make things any better. I woke up to find my backyard rink coated under a four-inch layer of slush and pretty much out of commission for the remainder of this pathetic excuse for a winter. I spent the better part of an hour hand-shoveling my driveway and sidewalks free of that same cursed layer of slush since it was too sloppy to run through the snowblower. I then actually found myself sitting in my home office working on my taxes. 

As noon approached, I realized that this was shaping up to be an especially miserable excuse for a birthday. 

On top of it all, I was now afraid that I was going to have to cancel from my JMS skate as our dinner plans got pushed back an hour and I didn’t think I’d be able to make it back across town in time.

I enjoyed those community sessions at Minnehaha Academy. For one thing, it’s usually a fairly fast game with a fun group of players. Even though it tends to be fairly Level 4 and 5 heavy, I think everyone does a particularly good job of trying to include the lower level guys and, from my impressions anyway, a good time is usually had by all. 

On a personal note, I spent one year of Bantams and four years of High School playing in that frigid arena, so I really enjoy skating there again when the opportunity presents itself. Not that we ever experienced any glory days particularly worth reliving at Minnehaha in those years; we were the perennial doormat of the old Tri-Metro Conference, but I had a lot of fun memories in that old barn nevertheless.    

By noon on February 29, my taxes were in the mail on their way to the accountant, a fresh layer of sleet/slush had resumed falling from the dreary grey sky, and the realization that my evening’s hockey plans were likely going to fall by the wayside had me in a downright foul birthday mood. I finally came to my senses and realized that I couldn’t just sit around an empty house at the computer all afternoon hosting a pity party for myself and planning my mid-life crisis.

I headed down to my basement/man cave, pried the cap off of one of the remaining bottles in my dwindling supply of Summit Winter Ale, made a big bowl of popcorn and figured I’d sit down and DVD or Netflix one of my favorite movies (you know, one of the ones you can recite every line from but you haven’t watched in years because your spouse rolls his/her eyes every time you suggest popping it in the DVD player). 

As I was thumbing undecidedly through my collection, a plain uncased DVD in a simple white sleeve caught my eye and I pulled it out mostly out of curiosity. The disk was a copy of the 1980 Miracle on Ice game that I had completely forgotten that I purchased off of eBay years ago, probably stuck on the shelf when it arrived in the mail, and never watched. 

I remember watching that game “live” (though tape delayed) as it originally aired with my parents in our living room and I have always attributed that game as THE reason I wanted to start playing hockey as a child. In fact, a little more than a week later, on my 8th birthday, my dad bought me my first hockey stick–a Christian (of course). Anyway, although I’ve re-watched that game a few times since, I’m certain it had been at least 15 years since I last viewed it, so I slid the game in my DVD player.  You know what, Al Michaels’ famous call at the end still gets to me even after all these years.

With my birthday disposition now much improved, I was able to survive birthday dinner with the parents, and even managed to make it back across town (perhaps driving a bit faster than I should have on the wet and icy roads) in time to make it to the rink on time for JMS. 

Skating out there on that ice last night was a perfect way to celebrate what remained of my birthday (and my fleeting youth). The sights, sounds, and smells of that Minnehaha arena are still familiar to me even after more than 21 years. The hum made by those rows of overhead fluorescent lights, the seeping cold of those cinderblock walls even on the warmest day, and the slightly musty smell of that old wood barrel truss roof took me right back to my high school days.

I woke up this morning just 364 days away from turning 41, and although I admittedly awoke with few sore muscles, some stiff joints and one or two new bruises… for 90 minutes last night I was 18 again.