When I was a teenager, the biggest draw on a Saturday afternoon was to the roller skating rinks in either Rochdale or Bolton – a good 30 minutes drive away from where we used to live in North-West England. They were popular hotspots, with the latest 80’s music blaring out through worn-out speakers and dimly lit rinks illuminated with flashing disco lights. We’d attempt to look proficient and adept on wheels, always believing we were more ‘hip and trendy’ than we actually probably looked. Roll forward 30 years, and as I’d always been ‘competent’ on roller skates, (i.e. could stand and move forward in an upright position), it was with an air of self-confidence and blind optimism that I felt my ability to adapt to moving on ice would be a seamless transition. How wrong I was. For those who remember our first Winter in Canada just over 2 years ago, my inaugural attempt to ice-skate ended within the first 2 minutes and resulted in broken bones and a trip to the local A&E. Ice skating is clearly harder than it looks ……
Given my newfound admiration for anyone who can demonstrate the ability to remain vertical on ice whilst wearing ice skates (or any type of footwear to be honest), I was in complete awe when we went to watch our very first ice hockey match between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Saskatoon Blades last week. Edmonton has just splashed out $600m on a new world-class arena, Rogers Place, which only opened in September after 3 years in development, and is sited in the heart of downtown. It’s an impressive building and will act as the new home to the Edmonton ‘Oilers’ as well as playing host as a major concert venue for touring acts – we get some big names appearing up here in the freezing North, you know 🙂
I’ll admit here and now, that my knowledge of ice hockey is absolutely zilch other than it’s split into 3 periods of 20 minutes, with a 15 minute break separating each one. I don’t know about the players, but I needed a break to recover after watching each period. You can’t fail to be impressed with the speed by which the players move around the ice along with their short reaction times chasing a ‘puck’ which seemingly moves at the speed of light. By the time I’d spotted where the puck had gone, it was then down the other side of the rink – and I got the decided impression that I was consistently 3 or 4 seconds behind where the game was upto throughout the entire duration of the match (my husband would probably argue there’s usually a few seconds delay in me with most things in life ;-).
And it’s violent too. You can see why they need so much protection gear as the speed and ferocity with which they bash each other against the sides of the rink prompted an audible gasp from the audience and made me wince on several occasions. Clearly tensions were running high as at various junctures, a fight broke out between players who would then throw their headgear off and chuck a punch (or 2) at each other before the referees stepped in and sentenced them to the ‘sin bin’. Clearly there are rules and guidelines of which I know nothing, but it makes for engrossing watching when it’s happening right in front of you. Much better than watching it on the tv …..
I’m a convert. Audience participation is encouraged throughout – plus the obligatory food stands selling hot dog and fries are a must. We loved it. It was a great night out and we’d definitely go and watch another game. It’s a far cry from roller skating in Rochdale all those years ago. Mind you, the outdoor ice rinks are starting to open here for the winter season and I’m sure with a bit more practice I can stay on my feet for at least 5 minutes this year! Better get those skates on and start slip sliding away …. 🙂