Whenever I say to my fellow Australians, “I play ice hockey,” they usually exclaim “Do Australians play ice hockey? I thought it was an American game!”.
Well, in fact, it’s very much an International game. More and more NHL and European players are heading on down to Aussieland to play during their off-seasons. It’s fantastic for us, because they get so involved when they’re over here, and they head home extolling the virtues of Australian Ice Hockey.
Sure, the game in Australia is small, but it’s growing. I’m quite heavily involved in the sport now (it really is an addiction), and I’m having fun whilst being involved, and I’m losing weight, gaining new friends, and becoming a respected member of the ice hockey community.
I have another addiction which led to this addiction – skiing. The two are inextricably linked, by my sister’s birthday. You see, I was heading on down to the snow to go skiing, and her birthday intervened. Instead of giving her a present, I gave her an IOU card.
Upon my return, I took her down to the skate shop, and bought her a pair of ice hockey skates, deciding at the same time to get some for myself, ‘coz ice skating is quite a lot of fun!
Skating lessons with figure skating school on Saturday mornings led into ice hockey lessons with Development League on Sunday mornings, and I quickly dropped the Saturday morning lessons. The ice hockey lessons were fast, hard, unforgiving, because I was so unfit!
I spent six months or so learning how to skate, how to control the puck, how to shoot at goal, how to fall over, and get back up again, how to play the game, where to stand, how to fall over, how to be pushed over, tripped, smashed into the boards (actually, it wasn’t all that bad, really).
Season 2005 – My First Season
I joined the Sydney Bears Ice Hockey Club Senior C team in 2005. Apart from not being able to skate, I had an awesome time. It was hard, the boys pushed me hard, and I improved. One thing I learnt from that season was that beginners should never be Defence – it’s just too hard for a beginner to skate backwards, cover the opposing forwards on the rush, and thus the whole team suffers. My team kept putting me in that position, because I was then “out of the way”.
Season 2006 – The one I’ll never forget
Season 2006 came along, and I joined the Liverpool Saints Ice Hockey Club Womens Team, because the Bears didn’t form a womens team. Now that league was fun! I scored lots of goals, skated hard, had even more fun than 2005, and pressed for selection to the NSW Womens Team, but failed.
The end of year 2006 was memorable. Somehow, I managed to get onto the South Australian Womens Team, and played my first State-level games in Brisbane for South Australia, competing for the Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy. After four grueling days, we played seven games, and came out the other end holding the Trophy. We’d defeated NSW twice – they were unable to score a single goal against us.
Season 2007 – Back with the Bears
I took a leap of faith in 2007, and rejoined the Sydney Bears, and the Womens Team in particular. It was a new team, consisting mostly of the Bears girls playing in Bantam and PeeWee divisions, and thus the year was more about fun, than playing hard. As a result, we learnt heaps, but didn’t achieve much (I think two wins in total). We got spanked hard by the Penrith Phantoms Womens Team in the early games – 20-nil, 15-nil, 10-nil, but we knew we’d grown as a team when our last game against them was a 5-nil loss.
I loved playing against Canberra, because we felt we were still in there with a shot at victory, even though we were 3-nil down with 60 seconds on the clock! They were fun, fun games.
In the end, we came last, which was what we expected.
Season 2008 – Consolidation
This season, the emphasis has been on consolidating our skills, bonding as a team, and working hard. We’re still at the bottom of the table, but all the other teams now know that they better turn up with a full squad, otherwise we might just cause an upset.
We’ve only really failed twice this season so far – once against Erina (which was a true shocker), and once against Penrith. We’ve tied two games (I think twice against Canterbury – of all teams), and had two games of 3-nil losses against Penrith, which were the best games we’ve ever played.
The team is really close, and I hope we continue next year, because we should start winning a few games.
In 2005, my first few games were in Defence. Ever since the JMK tournament in late 2006, I’ve been playing Defence, and loving it. It’s hard, physical, I’m in and out of the penalty box, and have a certain “reputation” within the competition, which is good :) I stopped trying out for State and AWIHL teams, and as a result, a lot of the pressure for me to achieve and excel have reduced to the point where I can enjoy my games, and not worry about competing – I’m too old for that crap now.