I Stink at Hockey. So What?

Okay, Sunday I wrote about hockey being back. Along the way I told the tale of “Old Fart plays First Game in 6 Months.” Spoiler alert, while it was rough, he survived. I also mentioned that I love the game, and will keep on playing for as long as this old carcase can handle it.


First and foremost, it’s fun. I’ve mentioned a time or two, that there are already enough barriers to getting regular exercise. Throwing up an extra one in, “do this exercise that, while good for you, you hate” only makes it more likely that you’ll quit. And hockey? I ain’t gonna quit.

But Andrew, the headline says you stink at it.

Well, when I started yoga, I stank at that, too. But I enjoyed it, and I stuck with it, and eventually I became one of the guys that the teachers point to for an example of a good posture. It’s not all about being good at something, it’s about getting the benefits, and if you enjoy something you’re more likely to stick with it to reap the benefits. As to hockey? I was never particularly good at it, but I found a bunch of guys who are equally mediocre, and we have fun. So we reap the benefits.

What benefits? Well, let’s dive a little deeper.

One, it’s aerobic. Hoo boy, is it aerobic. Back in the days when I wore a heart rate monitor, I once measured my heartrate at 200 BPM. Someday I’ll get into heartrates, aerobic zones, maxes and mins and so on. For now, let’s put it this way, at my age, for the out-of-shape, a heartrate over 200 is heart attack territory. But I’m in pretty good shape, always have been, and I’m used to driving myself pretty hard, so no problem. At any rate, it’s aerobic exercise.

Two, it’s HIIT (high intensity interval training). In my Monday night Inferno Pilates class we do Tabata training; 20 seconds max effort, 10 seconds rest. In level two Inferno we do 30 seconds effort, 5 seconds rest. In hockey, well, I don’t know what those times are, but it’s still max effort followed by rest.

Three, it’s low impact.

Wait, wut? Andrew, I’ve watched hockey and it’s anything but low impact.

Well, yes, for the professionals, and even some industrial leagues, but I don’t do either of those things. I play no-checking shinny with a bunch of old buddies. We may grind on each other a bit, but we’re not hammering each other into the boards. And as to impact on your joints, the main exercise of hockey is skating, which is aerobic as hell but low impact. I quit running 10 years ago to save my ankles, knees, hips and back. I started again this past July, with my joints greatly improved from the time off running plus yoga, but I never stopped playing hockey, and my joints never suffered from it.

Four, it exercises more than your heart, lungs and legs. It’s a sport of balance, hand-eye coordination and reflexes, played at three times the speed of any running sport. It requires teamwork, planning and rapid decision making, so you’re exercising your brain along with your body.

A healthy lifestyle is more than “eat right and exercise.” Lately I’ve been focussing on connection and community, but even adding those in isn’t enough. A healthy lifestyle requires you exercise your brain. As our population ages, age related cognitive decline will be a growing problem, one we need to address. Well, sports happen to be one way we can address it, because physical activity can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia while also helping with the obesity epidemic.

So, adding it all together, in a crappy Sunday shinny, I get:

  • Physical exercise
  • Mental exercise
  • Disconnection from our overconnected world
  • Connection with friends in a community

And all of this in an hour of fun playing a game I love.

Put aside that we’re a bunch of old farts, stinking up the ice. We love it, we benefit greatly from it. Why on earth would stinking at it stop us?