Before there was skiing, there was skating which inevitably leads to hockey. Not the blood hockey on the boob tube where gladiators on razor sharp blades duke it out for control of a rubber disk, but friends and neighbors playing a faster, meaner version of soccer with sticks.
It’s still a rough game. When you go down, you go down hard. Not if you go down, when you go down. Everyone slips while charging for the puck, or just as likely, after being checked to the deck even though it’s a ‘gentlemans’ game. When two bodies careen together one is bound to go down. If that doesn’t get you, catching your blades in a crack will do it every time.
Things settle down usually around the ten minute mark. In pond hockey, you don’t get a replacement every three minutes, you learn to slow down until you get in better shape.
It’s tough because you still need to sprint to steal or keep the puck. That’s where being a team comes in. You learn to pass and wear the other guys out. Hopefully. Or they’re doing it to you.
Play enough hockey and you’ll get in shape, or break something trying.
So far I’ve only managed to get in a few games this season. Might’ve played more but after not playing hockey for three years my groin muscles were groaning for four days last week.
The ice has been good for a month now. A month without snow. It’s not as good as it was the first week; smooth as glass for thousands of yards in the long direction and 300 yards wide along the narrows. The cracks were long, thin and young so they weren’t deep enough yet to grab your blades. And the ice was growing and cracking from the expansion and it sounded like a pod of ice whales, singing to each other in rhythm with the cracks.
Weeks later those cracks have grown and shifted like pangean plates and there is a web of lines fracturing the ice so intricate hooking a blade is inevitable. The sun has melted the surface and the continental cracks have refrozen as canyons, with one plate higher than the other by as much as an inch in places. Fishermen have bored holes and left piles of slush to refreeze like scaled down mountains rising above the glassy surface of the lake. The ice is still mirror smooth, but not for acres on end like it once was. Fortunately those cracks have been easy to overlook thanks to friendly conversations with local faces enjoying the ice too.
At first I didn’t mind the lack of snow. I still don’t. The snow will come. It already didn’t come as soon as it needed to but there’s nothing you or I can do about that. I could be bummed, but it won’t help me or anyone else to sulk about it. The snow industry has been devastated and I don’t know how to change that. People don’t buy snow toys or tickets unless there is snow, preferrably fresh.
Am I bummed that there is no snow? No. I’m content to skate because it is so rare to be able to skate on the lakes around Tahoe. The snow usually ruins the ice, so I’m enjoying it while I can. If it’s not going to dump, I just hope it gets cold enough to keep the ice thick and complete the sun’s zamboni action on the lake this afternoon.
The snow will come. The fact that it is taking so long does make me nervous, but the snow will come and when it does we’ll have a rollicking good time. In the meantime, I think it’s worth an early rise for a lil’ pond action. No need to sulk when the skating is so good.