Taking one for the team and not @#$%! happy about it

So there I was skating backwards like a son of a gun in a brisk game of shinny with some young turks at my local outdoor rink and…bam!

Faster than a Pierre McGuire shampoo and cut, I caught the brunt of an upwardly mobile stick blade to the nose. Ouch! Uh oh. Shit.

Ah, the unique thudding suddenness of being injured. One moment things are fine. The next, your world gets knocked off its axis.

My hockey life host Rolf Sturm bandaged up after taking a stick to the nose in a shinny game.

I instinctively dropped a glove and hunched over — again, shit! Blood. Not a lot but hell, I don’t need this! Christ, I thought, am I going to need a couple of stitches? A trip to a hospital waiting room and then wait and wait and wait and …

The thought of that in the brief seconds into my mishap was almost as bad as the injury. I decided against a trip to the ER -hardly an emergency – hoping my pretty face wouldn’t be permanently marked from this scrape. It’s supposed to add character, right?

One thing I did know was that it was game over for me this night. None of that playing the hero stuff, putting on a bandage and get back into the game. Too old for that.

As I skated off I thought what was the kid’s stick doing up around my nose? He seemed a bit clumsy, no hotshot but still, just bloody careless. And by the way, where did he go?

I didn’t hear anything from him either. No shy offers of “sorry” or the usual “Are you okay?” Nothing. It bugged me. It’s kind of keeping in the spirit of the game, not to mention common decency, to show some degree of concern to an injured party when you’re the perpetrator – accidental or not. In this case, there was none forthcoming.

I tried putting myself in his skates for a moment. What would the young me do in this situation? How would I handle a cursing adult — a stranger at that — who’s in some pain that I was the cause of?

Didn’t have to think twice: I would’ve said something, even if it was lame. Or help. You just do it. Didn’t happen here. I don’t know what’s changed in the world but something has. You can detect hints of it the way the game is played NHL style: More violent, less concern and respect for your fellow players. Sure it’s a stretch to extrapolate from one small incident at an outdoor rink to the pros yet there is a continuum of behaviour here. But that’s a story for another day.

Okay, so they didn’t exactly have to call in the paramedics or take me off in a stretcher. It was a minor mishap as hockey injuries go — all the more reason to say something, isn’t it? They sure would in my beer league game.

At the very least, it was an opportunity for this kid to become more of a man and show some concern like an adult would, or at least should. But he just skated away, perhaps afraid to say anything.  Just an unthinking, lost kid who missed a chance to grow up a bit in the fallout of an unfortunate incident.

Thanks for the souvenier, kid. Guess I have to go full shield next time I play shinny.

This is why I generally don’t like playing with teens and twenty-somethings. They are gifted with youth, vigour and skill but take risks, can’t resist showing off and frankly, can be quite callous. Not all of course but an alarming number are. A curse of the young I suppose. But at that moment, it just made me angry. I wanted supplication and didn’t get it.

All this probably just sounds like the whiny rantings of a baby boomer playing out of his age range but I was enjoying myself immensely in the fast pace up until that moment. So I just have to suck it up. Shit happens on the ice. Deal with it.

I’ve been relatively lucky during my hockey playing years, which has been most of my life,  in that significant injuries have been minimal, touch wood. The worst thing I’ve suffered is a broken wrist. Most of the other bumps, bruises and aches just kinda go with the territory.

I suppose the lesson here is to have worn a visor, or better yet, a full face shield. I don’t disagree. You should always be aware of protecting your face and head. But at least once this year, I wanted to feel the wind in my face and in my greying hair, playing in the great outdoors on a temperate winter’s night. I was just unlucky. Or maybe really lucky it wasn’t worse. Food for thought for sure.

The other lesson – and here’s where I’ll pull a Don Cherry on any young shinny players who might be reading this: Keep your sticks down!  Be in control. It’s an age old hockey axiom yet seems not to register in the brains of some teenagers and young men.

And when someone is hurt by your actions – whether accidental or not – be man enough, no matter how scared or bad you feel, to offer some help or kind words. They’ll likely be very pissed at you or might be in too much pain or both — but do it anyway.

Because that too, is also part of the code.

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About Rolf Sturm

Sportswriter & blogger, news writer, video journalist, photographer, podcaster
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