Okay, so, hockey’s back, which is good. But it’s still September, and most of the guys are still getting their last rounds of golf in (Why, oh why do people play that stupid game?), or there’s one last weekend at the cottage, or there’s too much to do around the house, or the weather’s simply too nice for the frozen sport, or they simply forgot that hockey’s back, which is bad.
Because 50 minutes of 4 on 4, with no substitute players is…taxing. It was taxing when I was young, and with 52 peeking around the corner it’s…well, let’s put it this way:
- 5 minutes in I was huffing like I was running a marathon
- 10 minutes in my heart felt like it was going to explode
- 15 minutes in my legs were like lead and my stick felt like it weighed 20 lbs
- 20 minutes in I’m looking at the clock and thinking, “Did that f!@#$%g thing stop?”
- 25 minutes in (halfway) and I’m looking at the clock and thinking, “Is that f!@#$%g thing running backwards?”
- 30 minutes in and I’m not even looking at the clock, I’m leaning on my stick, across my thighs, gasping for air
- after that, it’s a bit of a blur
I love this game, but man, that first game it sure feels like it’s gonna kill me. Now, keep in mind, for the 3 months after hockey season ended, I’m doing HIIT training and yoga 3 to 4 times a week. During the summer, I’m kayaking two, three times a week, and I took up running again. I’m not out of shape.
But I’m out of hockey shape. All us old farts are laughing about the 10 minute mark, saying “There’s no other exercise like this.” Which isn’t true, it’s just (really intense) HIIT training; go like hell in short bursts and then take a break. Except, there really is no break because we had no spares. So it’s go like hell in a short burst, then coast for a while hoping the goalie makes the save, ‘cause you’re too gassed to back check.
Thing is, this happens every year. And every year, we show up, tough it out, play ourselves back into game shape, and laugh about it.
The game really isn’t killing me. In fact, if you believe the research on HIIT training, it’s actually keeping me young. And leaving the exercise component aside, it’s a disconnection and re-connection. There’s no cell phones on the ice, just you, your buddies and a puck. You get your exercise, yes, but just as important, all the outside world considerations are gone, and you’re having a laugh with your friends.
I love my alone time; kayaking and fishing are (for me) solitary pursuits. But for all the bumps and bruises, all the aches and pains, all the gasping and coughing on the bench, there is something so special about hockey, so important that, no matter how much age slows me down, you can have my hockey stick when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Hockey isn’t killing me, but I’ll be playing it until I die.