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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

Better skate than never

I thought I hit him in the nuts.

The puck came right to my tape, I was in the crease with no one in front of the net and my brain screamed, “Shoot!”

I let loose a wrister and my eyes followed the puck as it lifted off the ice and hit a stranger in the crotch. Shinny play on the Centre Wakefield La Pêche rink stopped. My hand covered my mouth as I croaked an embarrassed apology.

My friends skated up to me asking why I shot.

“What do you mean? We’re playing hockey,” I thought.

“You don’t shoot when someone is in front of the net,” my friend Phil said. “It’s an unspoken rule.”

It seemed so obvious, a total no-brainer. I skated up to the guy I hit as he shook off the hit by skating a lap and I apologized again. Luckily the shot only hit him on the upper left thigh and he was bruised but fine. Play continued. I didn’t shoot for the rest of that game.

The learning curve for outdoor hockey is more wild than the blade on Joe Sakic’s stick.

I’m 30 years old and I’m just now learning how to ice skate and play hockey. Before moving to the Gatineau Hills from California in fall 2018, I had only ice skated twice and played goalie in a roller hockey league.

Thanks to a pair of used skates and a used Louisville stick my friends gave me in late-December, I’m finally falling in love with Canada’s game.

Learning a new skill and sport at my age is tough and fraught with missteps, but worth it. There may not be many hockey beginners reading this, but here are some outdoor rink hockey etiquette rules I’ve picked up along my learning journey:

  • Wear a helmet. Dragonfest 2020 ice waitering champ Jack Pelletier recommended that I keep an athletic stance to stop myself from falling backward, skull-first onto the ice, and to buy a helmet in case I forget the first part of his advice. I bought one for $70.

  • No slapshots. Do I need to explain this further? Don’t practice your slappers during pickup games.

  • Don’t shoot while someone is behind the net. No one skating laps wants to get hit by a high shot.

  • Don’t shoot the puck if someone is between you and the goal. Even if it looks clear, check again. The game moves fast and so do the players.

  • Scrape each time you play or skate. Wakefield rink guru Patrick Poitras spends hours of his time maintaining the community centre rink. The least skaters and players can do is scrape snow or loose ice from the surface.

  • Plan on-rink activities according to the published schedule. The Wakefield rink has hours posted on Facebook with set times for both family skating and shinny hockey. Other rinks may have similar schedules that allow everyone to enjoy the rink.

  • Don’t be a jerk. ‘Nuff said.


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