My earliest memory of the sport hockey was playing the Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge “Blades of Steel” at my friend David’s house. I was in 5th grade. I lived in a trailer park outside of Salina, Kansas at the time. We used to play that game a lot. At the time I knew nothing of the sport but I can honestly say it was the only one I ever felt drawn to. I always wanted to play it. I had aspirations of playing based on so many other pop cultural references that helped me foster an ever increasing interest in the sport.
I never watched the game. I only had basic cable when we had cable and most of the time we just had what came over the air. This meant we rarely had opportunities to watch hockey games on TV. Also since none of the other sports-viewing television enthusiasts in our household cared for the sport I was left to a mere curiosity.
Despite that I continued to develop a passing interest in the sport that largely kept to myself.
My next big exposure to the sport came in the form of an early 90s childhood classic brought to us by the folks at Disney. It was The Mighty Ducks. I watched only the first two films. At the time my interest was more in the skating than the storyline surrounding the movie. I was also secretly into figure skating but thanks to conservative gender roles in my family as well as the Nancy Carrigan debacle I was discouraged from watching figure skating. AS such the Mighty Ducks would have to suffice, for now.
For the longest time I felt remorse that I lived in Kansas. Largely because we mostly attended rural schools that unsurprisingly did not feature hockey rinks therefore the sports was not an option, not even for the dreaded gym class. Still I kept holding out hope someday I could get a chance to experience the sport. I even turned to roller blades and tried to round up friends to get into street hockey but that never came to fruition.
Like many things in my life this passing interest slowly faded. My next dabble came in the form of yet another Hollywood film targeting the youth of America. This time it was Seth Green and friends. The movie was called “Airborne” it was more about roller blading than ice hockey but ice hockey was still a large part of the film. I watched this movie as a teenager which prompted my fellow white friends to form a skater punk “gang” we called uninspiringly “y2k.” Yeah we were the whitest kids you could meet. Still my interest in hockey never faded but merely moved to the back of my mind where I channeled it into some kick ass Sega CD games.
Then at the age of 14 I got my wish come true. I was attending a middle school in Hastings, Nebraska. Not the largest city in the Great Plains but one of them. It was a big enough school we actually played the P.E. variant of hockey in class. My day had arrived! I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself.
I never participated in P.E. mostly because as a deeply closeted trans girl I didn’t want to change in front of the boys. This was largely because I was wearing girls panties I hide under my “boy” clothes. But the chance to play hockey was too exciting I walked behind the lockers and changed where nobody could see me. For the first time in several years I was wearing boys gym shorts. Hockey stick in hand I was grinning from ear to ear. The day had arrived! I was too excited, too happy at long last I could experience a game I had only dreamed about, had only seen in the glamour of Hollywood feature films. Then reality hit.
The other kids picked up on my changing behind the lockers. I was called faggot and one of the bullies I regularly scuffled with pushed me aside as he lobbed that along with other accusations my direction. Here I was about to enter the gymnasium triumphant! I was about to get my first ever chance to play a game I had romanticized in my mind growing up. I had enough. I flushed my chances of playing that day down the toilet. I raised the hockey stick as high as I could, with all my might, all my anger and every tear I had ever cried I swung as hard as I could. I broke that kids face. The first swing blood splattered on the gym. Kids scattered. Now thoughts racing I just realized I was going to detention my shot at hockey was over. Suddenly I was even more furious. The second hit came from above. Stick held high above my head I brought it down on his arms, thrice in rapid succession. Each hit harder than the last. You robbed me of my chance to play a game I had been DYING to experience for YEARS. You ROBBED me of my joy!!!! I screamed as the gym teacher and school security officer pulled me off the kid who’s life surely flashed before his eyes. This was it the point of no return.
I wasn’t given detention. I wasn’t suspended. I was arrested. I was charged with aggravated assault. In exchange for dropping charges I agreed to go to court mandate anger management as well as therapy. That kid could have died that day simply because he stood in my way of having fun playing a game I never got another opportunity to enjoy. To this day I let my resentment of that situation prevent me from even exploring the idea of hockey ever again. I was dead set against it. Traumatized by the experience I swore the sport off for good.
So a couple of weeks ago when my girlfriend, who lives in Canada invited me to watch a game of hockey with her I had to go to bed early just so I could cry mixed years of joy, regret and deep sorrow. Not just because I never had a normal childhood. Not just because I had regret for my actions that day but because I missed my only opportunity to get into a sport I had wanted to love so much. My beautiful girlfriend has given me a second chance to experience hockey and now I do so with enthusiasm. That is how life goes sometimes. Every once in a while you get a second chance. I am savoring my second chance. I have planted my flag firmly in camp Toronto Maple Leafs. I decided to root for the same team she does. I made this