So, you want to play hockey. Now try skating!

ice_skating_1Perhaps you are inspired by the recent success of the Chicago Blackhawks this year (crazy game on Wednesday, by the way). Or maybe you've been thinking about this for a while like I have. But you've made up your mind and decided that you want to learn how to play hockey.

Great! So now it's time to hit the ice. And I mean that figuratively -- though you will fall a few times.

If you've never ice skated before, you absolutely must try it at least once before you decide to shell out money for hockey equipment and lessons. Ice skating is a lot of fun, but it is definitely a strange feeling that takes a little getting used to -- and you might not enjoy it.

First, see if any of your friends have skated before; maybe one of them can go with you and show you a few things. Although I'm not the greatest skater, I still know enough to teach my friend Anthony the basics.

Next, find a nearby rink that has public skating sessions. Admission to public skate is usually around $5. Here are a few rinks in or near Chicago you could visit:

Once you find a rink and pick a date to go, be sure to dress appropriately for your first time on the ice. Wear long, loose-fitting pants, like comfortable blue jeans or even sweats. Do not wear shorts. Also, wear a sweater or sweatshirt and bring some gloves. And socks too -- the ones that go up to your calf, as short socks will feel very uncomfortable when wearing ice skates.

All indoor rinks will have skate rentals for around $3 to $5. Be sure to request hockey skates so that you aren't given figure skates. Figure skates have toe picks and I found myself tripping over them the first (and only) time I used them. But if figure skates are all the rink has available (or available in your size), don't worry; they'll still give you an idea of what it's like to glide over a sheet of ice.

During your first time on the ice, you'll probably have the overwhelming urge to cling to the boards and slowly make your way around the rink. That's fine. Everyone does that their first few times, or at least their first time.

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Once you feel adventurous enough, move away from the boards. Try turning one foot outward a bit -- around 45-degrees -- and pushing with that foot while gliding on the other. Make sure you push with the middle and back of the skate, and not the toe. After you push, bring that skate back to the middle, glide on both skates for a bit, then push with the other foot. Keep  your knees slightly bent and take it slow, and you should do OK for your first time.

And just so we are clear on this, you will fall. Everyone falls at least once. Even pro hockey players wipe out. There is no shame in falling -- the only shame is in not trying.

Filed under: Skating

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