Pond Hockey Reflections

Yesterday evening (it's almost 1:00 AM as I write this, and later than I thought) I got a little look, I think, at what it is to get old.

Rink and Rick
It didn't happen during opening night of the pond hockey tournament at the University of Alberta. Mitch, Kelly, James, Rick and I put together a UA-NAIT alumni team and we skated to a 18-15 loss against the Dekes fraternity during opening round action in the outdoor 3-on-3 tournament.  They were a younger team, good with the puck, fast, able to turn 3-on-3s into 3-on-2s. And, besides fighting vigorously for the puck when it's buried in a snowbank, that's the key.

It didn't happen during the game, because a game necessarily pits two opponents against each other. They face each other, they react off each other, they battle each other. There is a dialogue, of sorts. One may be turn out to be stronger than the other, but strength and victory are somehow relative terms. The handshake after the game seals it: you were in the fight, together.

Sure, we were tired after the game, and we joked about having started to play together when their parents were kids. But the feeling of getting old didn't happen on the rink.

And it didn't happen in the carpark where we shared a beer together, the five of us.

It happened at Duke's.

Mitch, Kelly and I stayed together and went for a bite at Duke's, a '50s-style diner in a strip mall on 87 Ave, a couple of blocks toward sunset from the Varsity Field rinks.  It was packed with singing, dancing, drunk and getting-drunk undergrads celebrating Friday night. We convinced the manager to pull a couple of chairs out of the kitchen and to set up a table for us by the washrooms. It was the only free space. And it kept us on the perimeter of the pulse. The chair they gave Mitch was soaked with beer, I think.

There were two dudes pacing around, sharing a t-shirt. All of a sudden everybody except us broke into the chorus of the song playing over the speakers. Everybody seemed to know everybody, or, at least, knew each other's type. Cellphone camera flashes went off.

And then it occurred to us, somewhere after our discussion about the Oilers coaching history but before we compared Billy Joel live to the Eagles live, that we were, essentially, invisible.

We were sitting at a table within vomiting distance of all the action, but we were behind a two-way mirror. We could look out and see the and hear the lively, expressive bouquets of conversation, but nobody really knew we were there. No eye contact, no casual conversation, no offers of beer.

We were there. We weren't there.

And that might be what it's like to be old. You're just not seen. A mirror with no reflection.

Tomorrow, er, later today, we'll see if the old guys can make themselves noticed on the ice.

Varsity Field


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