Hockey — the Guilty Pleasure

The ice skating complex in Salmon easily played a role in my family’s move here. By complex, I mean simplex, like there is a public skating rink co-located with a certifiable hockey rink. The public rink had a warming shed, albeit one that smelled like a carpeted urinal, and lights that anyone could turn on for night skating. We bought skates for the whole family on Christmas 2001 and moved to town in January 2002 with a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. The daughter hoped for a figure skating career… but Salmon is a hockey town, not a figure skating town.

Carly imagined this…

but we did this for her:

Soon, both kids were skating for the Salmon Rapids youth hockey teams.

As the product of a diehard baseball family, I was instantly taken by the pace of the game, even at the earliest levels. The truth is, parents would be better advised to watch romaine lettuce grow than to be forced to watch more than one tee ball game per lifetime. And even though beginning youth hockey players (inexplicably known as Mites) spend 92% of the time getting their body forcibly shoved into voluminous amounts of gear and the remaining 76% of the time crying about the cold and any leftover time remembering that they do have to use the bathroom after all, I couldn’t help but harken back to my introduction to hockey during my college years. The Spokane Chiefs played in the old Spokane Arena that smelled like a great big urinal but had $5 buckets of beer on college night. When a player scored a hat trick fans really did throw hats in the rink, and when the crowd didn’t enjoy a referee’s opinion (which was a frequent occurrence), it was perfectly acceptable to throw smelly fish on the ice. To honor the fact that most Americans can’t skate, we were invited to sing the Canadian national anthem (see earlier post for more commentary on Canadians).

The Chiefs were young junior league hotheads who skated fast, checked hard, and were quick to drop the gloves. I was in love.

Last night, my man and I headed to the Salmon rink dressed in matching insulated Carhart overalls to watch Salmon take on the visiting Spokane Midget team. Now before anyone gets excited, in youth hockey Midget means high school age — not little people. I’ve seen more than one person become seriously disappointed when confronted with this misunderstanding. In any case, Salmon’s outdoor rink on a Friday night under a bright moon is perhaps the finest place  in the universe to watch full-size players engaged in the game of hockey.

The sport counts as just one of my many  guilty pleasures.

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