Last Tuesday was a good day.
The kind of day that makes you realize why you still play this damn game in spite of all the reasons you can find not to.
To back up a bit, I used to play with a group of teachers in Mississauga on Tuesdays at a time in the afternoon that is convenient only for them, freelancers, the self-employed and the unemployed. In other words, a time to play hockey 9-to-5ers can only dream about.
Finding myself at times in the freelance/self-employed/unemployed category, I could nicely fit this into my schedule — and did for more than a decade.
Over the past few years however, I moved further away and no longer had a car. To anyone who hauls around a big-assed hockey bag to arenas, this is no small inconvenience.
I missed these games, sometimes more than I’d admit to myself.
I missed the fast-pace, the competitiveness, the good skills on display. The stuff that stokes your fire and drives you to continue to play the game.
But most of all, as many often do as long-term players, you miss the guys. Okay, at least most of the guys (there’s always a few you can do without in any group but the good hockey spirit eases the sharp edges).
Sure there were disagreements over the years, some built-up animosity, some questionable aggressiveness but they were the exception, not the rule.
So it was then this last week where I got the chance of a reunion with my Tuesday guys.
As it turned out, it also marked the last game of their season – so my timing was lucky.
I’d get to reacquaint with some guys I haven’t seen in a couple of years and be introduced to some new faces. There would of course be the traditional post-game, post-season reflections on how another year on the ice was over too soon.
As any rec player knows, these sessions can be quiet jovial and boisterous. Between jokes and holding court, things can sometimes tilt towards the philosophic because at our ages we don’t take anything for granted; we quietly acknowledge every season completed is a gift at this point in our lives. This of course is fortified with a couple of refreshing beverages for all our hard on-ice work just freshly completed.
Anyway, the game was good, the familiarity reassuring. I seemed to pick up where I left off which at least isn’t a decline. I suppose a bit of good news.
I don’t know if competition fuels the camaraderie or it’s the other way around. Whichever way it is, men take away something good from all this.
Like a bunch of middle-aged hockey pundits, we always indulge in a post-game analysis with healthy doses of ribbing and one-liners. It washes over me like good medicine. The sweet reward after spending an hour toiling alongside your ice comrades, trying to best theirs. What beats that?
Yes, last Tuesday was a good day.