I played a hockey game last night. When I took to the ice, I was still 39. When I got off the ice, I was 40. It was a tough game, a 1-0 loss in overtime. But it was still a hell of a cool way to enter my fourth decade on this planet.
I started learning how to play hockey 18 months ago. I was 38 1/2 years old — an age that many would consider too old to pick up a new hobby, let alone attempt to learn a sport with such a steep learning curve.
Do I regret not starting sooner? Perhaps. I started thinking about learning hockey in 2010, but did not take my first lesson until 2013. True, that would have started my hockey odyssey three years sooner.
Then again, there was no Heartland Novice Hockey League in 2010. There was no Chicago Outdoor Hockey League D-Level Division back then, either. While places like Johnny’s Ice House and The Skatium in Skokie were offering lessons for adults, there still were not many playing opportunities for brand-new adult hockey players.
More importantly, I would have never met the guys that I’m playing with now. I have great teammates. As cliche as it sounds, the camaraderie of hockey is one of the best. I used to be heavily involved in martial arts, and while I still have several strong friendships from my “karate days,” playing a team sport really draws a group together. Plus, I know many of my opponents from hockey lessons. Heck, I’m even on a first-name basis with half the guys on the team that beat us.
Speaking of that game last night, my fellow defensemen and I kept it close. We limited the other team’s quality chances, blocked shots and broke up passes. We also gave up 26 shots on net, and our goalie stopped 25 of them.
I single-handedly killed 30 seconds of a penalty by clearing the puck, chasing it down, intercepting the goalie’s pass, playing keep away from two opponents along the boards for 10 seconds, then setting my teammate for a shot on net. When I got back to the bench, the guys were high-fiving me like I had scored a goal.
Not bad for an out-of-shape 40-year old.
The point is, if you’ve been thinking of playing hockey, now is the time. Over 1,600 adults in Illinois have started hockey within the past two years alone. I have teammates in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s who just started a year or two ago.
Don’t let age or conditioning be an excuse. I was panting pretty hard after that penalty kill — one of my ‘mates asked me if I was OK — but how cool is it to be so into what you are doing that you push your physical and mental limits without even realizing it? That might be the best reason of all to hit the ice.
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Filed under: Advice