Surprised by Hockey

Surprised by Hockey

I do not care for hockey. Or any sports that require fast-paced non-verbal code language and aggression or camaraderie. It is beyond me. I feel both bored and irritated watching any sports that fall under this description and I feel terribly overwhelmed trying to play them. I have tried. Really. I grew up in Texas, which should be testament enough that I have tried to appreciate contact team sports.

I am more of a solo sport person. Running, hiking, swimming. Activities that allow me to slowly reflect in peace and disconnect from others.

But I had a shocking experience recently where hockey allowed me to feel emotions of connectedness, warmth, and joy. Unbelievable!

Our idyllic neighborhood organizes a hockey tournament each January for children of all ages. I used to think it was a bit cruel to encourage children to play such a violent sport. Used to, as in, until last weekend. I had assumed that 99% of such children were boys from wealthy, suburban families whose parents drove them in large gas guzzlers to grueling practices. People who I assumed were nothing like me at all. Yes, this was a judgment. One I thought was so true that I may not have admitted to it being a judgment until, well, last weekend.

I am happy and amazed and humbled when I get an opportunity to challenge my own stereotypes and assumptions. That, to me, feels like living fully.

I know a parent in the neighborhood whose son was in the tournament, and she and her family are lovely, sensitive, kind, generous, thoughtful, and aware of their many privileges. She talked about the hockey tournament with such excitement and even found a way to partake in it herself this year – “I signed up to work the concession stand!” I respect her a great deal and so I was inspired to step outside of my judgments and see what was what.

When I went down to the ice rink near the recreation center this afternoon, I saw both boys and girls on the rink. That surprised the hell out of me. I am not from Minnesota and hadn’t payed much attention to hockey before; I wondered, suddenly, if my daughter would want to play hockey when she is older, and I felt excited to imagine that possibility. I saw family members of all ages wandering around, laughing and playing and eating and talking, teaching their younger children to skate by holding onto folding chairs. I saw lots and lots of smiles and heard lots of laughter. I saw a handmade wooden scoreboard that just might have been made in the 1950s. I did not see what I expected to see: no crazed, competitive parents screaming at their kids to win.
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My heart welled up and I got a little teary. This is so good, I thought. This is so wonderful. It is more than enough. We intentionally and carefully chose to buy a house in a neighborhood that functions more like a small town than a just a section of a large city. I continue to feel surprised at how much this one place meets my needs. It’s a rarity to have this.

I moved here 7 years ago from San Francisco with a chip on my shoulder and enough wanderlust to merit buying stock in an airline. What a surprise that all I want to do now is stay right here and watch kids play hockey.