Unless you're a die-hard Rocky Balboa fan, you may not recognize this quote. It's from the (what we thought would be) the really, final, definitely last...Rocky movie "Rocky Balboa". He says it in reference to his longing to continue boxing at the ripe old age of 60 (or 60 something - I'm not totally sure how old he's supposed to be).
Anyway, I love this line as it could apply to my running at this point though I'm sure I'll never give up. Without a doubt, it applies to my continual attempts at playing ice hockey. During our temporary move to Canada, I started playing hockey at the age of 48. I've been at it now for about two years -including now that we're back in NYC - but I still would not categorize myself as even a low level hockey player. In fact "playing hockey" might be an overstatement for what I do...I just love the thrill of being on ice, wearing all that cool equipment and getting to live out my fantasy of being a hockey player.
As a little walk down memory lane, and in honor of the awesome President's Cup winning Rangers start of the playoffs, I thought I'd share a bit about my addiction to hockey...
It started in my hometown of Philadelphia when the Flyers took their first Stanley Cup. It was followed by the 2nd in 1975. I was 10 years old. I grew up idolizing the Broad Street Bullies. As the one who was usually goalie due to my mobility (or lack of it), I fantasized about owning my own pads, waffle and glove. Watching Bernie Parent was all I could ask for. He made it look amazing, graceful and perfect. Simply because he was. I appreciated the great and relentless (and toothless) Bobby Clarke, the Rifle Reggie Leach and soft hands of Rick MacLeish. Later in the 80's, Ron Hextall (the somewhat newly minted GM who inherited quite a mess) was my idol and was surrounded by greats like Dave Poulin (now a front office guy in Toronto), Brian Propp and Rick Tocchet (the bald one on the bench next to the Penguin's Coach). The list goes on.
I have to admit that upon moving to New York City in 1990, I had an affair. With the New York Rangers. It turned into a nasty split when I could literally watch the Rangers and feel myself emotionally invested in them beating their rivals, the Flyers. It was easier as I had disassociated myself from the orange and white over those last years, so it was just the uniforms I hated - not the players wearing them. In 1994, my love was rewarded - as was that of the many millions who had waited patiently for 40 years -as the Rangers took the Cup from the Vancouver Canucks. I was blown away by Messier's incredible leadership, Richter's understated yet awesome goaltending and several relocated Edmonton Oilers like Craig MacTavish, Essa Tikkanen and others.
I could talk about the current series between today's Rangers and the Penguins - made only more interesting as my wife and her family, my mother and her family and many friends are from the Burg; but then this would become a simply self-indulgent ode to hockey.
What I intended to talk about is how much I enjoy playing even though , I'm what I think other players might call "bad" or politely stated "challenged". I'm an OK skater and my stamina is decent due to my overemphasis on aerobics like running and biking. But at the end of the day, I'm still learning how to handle the puck, shoot, and do the basics. My mantra when I'm on the ice for my 2 to 3 minute shift is similar to Socratic oath: First, do no harm. Better yet, do something good and get off the ice before I do something bad. Not exactly a fearless approach. But when I play with others as part of a team, I don't want to let the other guys (and women - it's coed) down.
What's really cool is that I recently started playing again at Chelsea Piers with a program called Game Time Prep and I'm lucky to have found it. It provides folks like me, absolute beginners, with a real hockey experience. I am, as noted, an Absolute Beginner. What amazes me is that some of the folks I play with are amazingly talented - from where I sit at least. And they're beginners too.
The point of all this - besides writing about hockey which I love - is one of the coolest things about this group is that no matter what happens when you're out there, the players heading on to the ice will give you a tap or fist bump and say "nice shift". They do that even if there was a goal that went in against you. They do it even if you totally goofed up. And boy did I demolish a drill last week due to a total lack of understanding. They do it pretty much no matter what. And to me it matters as someone who's just figuring out. Maybe this is normal to some of you who have played team sports before - I haven't.
I think about how this might translate to every day life. We tend to focus on appreciating the big stuff - winning the big project, getting the deal, completing the job. Nice shift might be the same as nice or interesting email. Good point in the meeting. Thanks for speaking up. Strong proposal. These "nice shifts" actually add up to someone doing a great job.
The little stuff - and shifts - add up to a great game. So here's to the Rangers all having 14 more games full enough of nice shifts to win the Stanley Cup. And have yourself a few while you're at it.