It’s 7pm on a Sunday evening as I finish packing my gear and set out for my hour and a half drive to the Ford Ice Center. It feels like a short drive this night because the nervous anticipation of tonight’s game has my stomach in knots. This is my first ever game in an ice hockey league as a goalie. How good is my team? How good is the opponent? Am I going to look like a fool?
It’s the first game of the season for the Mighty Drunks in the Nashville Predators Area Hockey Association’s (NPAHA) “D” league, and the first ice hockey game of my “career”. Our opponent? The Phoenix Flyers. I have played hockey my whole life. I started playing in the front yard with street hockey sticks and a baseball glove. We eventually moved on up to playing in the driveway, and eventually a local roller skating rink, until I made the leap to playing high school hockey in Franklin, TN at the Rollerdome. I started playing ice hockey 10 years ago, playing a few times a year in drop-in games, mainly as a defenseman. I started playing more frequently, however, this past summer and starting strapping on the old goalie pads from high school. I played a few drop-ins, met a team that needed a goalie, and was “picked up” by the Drunks.
Fast forward to present day, and I walk into the locker room and Captain Colby Collier immediately makes me feel welcome. Heck, they even have a reserved area for the goaltender to get dressed. It’s pretty surreal, I’m surrounded by people I have actually listened to on the radio. Here’s Justin Bradford, Jeremy K. Gover and Charlie Saunier, members of the local media that cover the Predators, suiting up to skate. Pretty awesome.
I nervously get dressed, grab my water bottle, and head out of the locker room. I join the line of teammates ready to hit the ice, and they clear the way for me and say “our goalie hits the ice first”. Well, that’s kind of awesome. Welcome to the team, right? I immediately am overcome with anxiety, knowing I will step onto the ice in front of those that are entrusting me to stop the puck, and then slip and fall flat on my face. Oh the humanity! Fortunately, no one fell, and off to pregame skate we went.
The game was a doozy. The Phoenix Flyers got on the board first, but my team fought back and we traded goals until the final buzzer sounded. We were tied 3-3, and I lined up to shake the others team hands. Absolute terror raged through my mind as members of my team said that we don’t finish with ties…we go to a shootout. So, as if playing in my first ever ice hockey game wasn’t stressful enough, now, my skills would be on stage in front of everyone. I don’t remember who scored what or when, but I know we won the game outscoring the Flyers 2-1 in the shootout.
This season has been one of ups and downs. We have played pretty well as a team, but just haven’t been able to get in sync during the second half of the season. If I had a great game, the team wouldn’t. If the team had a great game, I was off. I feel like we have a great group of guys (and girl), and am anxiously awaiting the start of the next season.
I encourage anyone remotely interested in learning to play the game, or simply wanting to learn to skate, to check out the Ford Ice Center, or your local ice rink. The Nashville Predators are doing an excellent job of growing the game in the area, and there are several “Learn to Play” sessions for youth and adults alike.
We’ll see you on the ice!
Header photo credit: Kristen Jerkins