Since winter seems to have returned to Alberta, I thought I’d share some good memories of this cold season.
It’s a cold winter day. A lifeless sun shines out of a cloudy sky, only beginning to melt the frost on the trees that circle the pond. We’re sitting on the bench at the edge of the ice, lacing up our skates as fast as possible so we can get our hands back into our mitts. I wear two pairs of socks, but my skates are still cold when I push my feet in. I shove my boots under the bench and lunge to my feet. My blades feel awkward for a few steps, and then I’m gliding across the ice, picking up speed as I go.
My brothers kick a hockey puck onto the ice and skate out after it. I circle back for my hockey stick. Balancing it in my hands, I skate after them. Bob sets up the goal at the end of the rink and Will gives me the puck. They face each other, tapping sticks on the ice, and I wait for the right amount of suspense before I drop the puck between them. With a scratching of skates and a thumping of sticks the game begins. Eyes fixed on the black spot, we turn and stop and dodge and dash.
A hard shot from Bob lodges the puck in a snow bank, and I clamber over to dig it out. They circle, jostling each other, calling out insults and suggestions, and I watch them as I flip the puck out. I hit the ice right behind the puck and slap it as hard as I can, sending it flying between them. They spin around and we’re off after the puck like sharks after a tuna fish.
We no longer notice the cold; in fact, Bob shucks off his mitts and toque as he passes the bench. I loosen my scarf and unzip my coat slightly. Then the puck flies past me, bouncing from Will’s stick to my skates; I kick it free, juggle it on my stick, and try for a goal. It misses and Bob takes it.
Later, when I tire of hockey, I convince my brothers to play tag instead. We jam our sticks into a snow bank and stash the puck in a boot, then take off after each other. I am chasing Bob through our maze of trails, skating as fast as I can, when one of my picks catches the ice and I hit hard, knees first and then flat out on my stomach. Time out. I catch my breath and wince as I get to my feet. My knees have been black and blue since we started skating this season.
Bob and Will circle back to make sure that I’m okay. The tag game ends as we skate around for a few minutes. Then Will picks up his hockey stick, I forget the pain in my knees, and we’re off after the puck. Five minutes later, I’m standing in the goal when Bob makes a shot from the other end of the rink. I dodge, and the puck hits me square on the shin. I take out my pain on Bob, yelling at him for pucking me yet again. He’s always hitting me with that puck and he should be able to aim when he’s shooting and he shouldn’t shoot that hard anyways!
That ends the hockey game. I leave my stick by the goal and skate off by myself, weaving through the paths that we’ve shoveled around our rink. We clear the pond by hand, so it’s taken us a while to get the rink and all the trails shoveled out. Will stabs my stick into a snow bank and they keep on playing, jockeying each other for the puck. I scowl and grumble to myself and try to ignore them, but in ten minutes I’m grabbing my stick and getting in on the game again.
We quit for the day when our watches read five o’clock and the sun is settling on the horizon. We shove our feet into cold boots, tie our skate laces together and loop them over our shoulders, then pick up our sticks and head up the trail. We laugh and joke as we trudge the half kilometer home. It’s good to have brothers and hockey sticks and frozen ponds.