March 4, 2007
I am a Hockey husband.
No, not a hockey dad (I am that too) but a hockey husband. My wife has become a hard core hockey playing nut. Multiple practices per week, travel games, even sleep away hockey camp at Dartmouth!
Her favorite T-Shirt says it all: “make your own damn dinner, I’m playing hockey tonight!”
Other hockey husbands know exactly what I am talking about.
Which is why I got such a kick out of Daniel Coyle’s piece in today’s New York Times Play Magazine, called “Puckholded.” I’ve excerpted the entire thing below:
It probably sounds foolish to say this now, more than a year after the affair began, but I never thought it would happen to us. I assumed that after 14 happy years of marriage and four kids, Jen and I were strong enough to resist any temptation. But we weren’t — or, let’s be honest, Jen wasn’t. It’s the old story: girl meets puck, puck takes girl. Then comes scoring. Lots of scoring.
I remember the night it all began. One of Jen’s friends phoned, saying a few women were getting together for a pickup game at the new rink. Why not?, Jen said, half-interested. But when she returned home three hours later, her eyes were alight in a way I hadn’t seen in a long time.
“It was the best,” I overheard her telling a friend a few days later. “I haven’t had fun like this since college.”
A passing infatuation, I figured, a harmless dalliance like those she had had with yoga and pottery. Oh, I spotted the warning signs — the seemingly casual mentions of Gordie Howe during dinner-table conversation, the sticky black clusters of used tape blooming in the entryway. But it wasn’t until a few months later, when I caught Jen sneaking new shinguards into the house — shinguards to replace the perfectly good ones she’d been borrowing from our 10-year-old son — that I knew this was serious.
“These fit me better,” Jen explained, clutching the ergonomically designed Easton Synergy 300s to her chest with a passion that Hockey Digest writers might describe as “Stan Mikita-esque.” “I need them!”
Jen’s passion is shared by two dozen other women in our little town of Homer, Alaska. Though a handful had experience in the sport — one had even played in college — most, like Jen, were neophytes. Still, one night a week didn’t satisfy them. Before long it was two nights, then three. They got a local Irish pub as sponsor and named themselves after the Homer Spit, the five-mile-long peninsula that is our most prominent local landmark. They became the Spit Sisters.
And now the hockey husbands are left gazing at the action from outside the Plexiglas. We’re easy to spot, the guys with stove burns on our hands and runny-nosed children shivering at our feet. Ours is a simple lot: feed kids, do bedtimes and play commentator (“Did you see Mommy’s hip check? Doesn’t Mommy do good hip checks?”). Occasionally, the locker room door bangs open, and we catch glimpses of the Sisters gathered in tribal circle, sharing postgame beers, lobbing rolls of tape back and forth, conversing in their private language of crushers and suicides and man-in-the-crease. We remain outside the threshold, resigned to our fate. I’m not saying it’s always easy. Frankly, it’s a little disconcerting to see your bride smile during intimate moments and realize that she might be visualizing Jaromir Jagr’s wrist shot. But after a while you get used to it.
The Sisters’ first game was against the local squirt team of 8- to 10-year-olds, the roster of which partly comprised their children (our son played wing). The whole town turned out to watch what was informally billed as Kids versus Moms. The game started quietly enough, both teams feeling their way along. The Sisters skated in neat ellipses, as they had in their practice drills. “Sorry, honey” and “Nice pass, sweetheart” rang out over the ice. But midway into the first period, the squirts found their legs and attacked. Possessing far superior speed, the kids buzzed up and down the ice, scoring two quick goals. And then it happened: a hockey game broke out.
Competitive instincts unleashed, the Sisters began muscling the kids into the boards. Mothers body-checked sons; daughters hacked mothers. A ragged clutch of bodies pinwheeled around the ice as the crowd roared. The Sisters got clobbered, 6-0. As they limped off the ice (one with a dislocated shoulder), we husbands nodded to one another with knowing satisfaction. Even the most hockey-besotted Sister had to acknowledge that this game — this alluring, magical game — might be a bit rougher and clumsier than she’d imagined.
Jen still plays hockey, but the honeymoon can’t last forever. Game by game, slap shot by slap shot, the thrill will inevitably dim. Sure, the Spit Sisters may have so many new players that they’ll have to form a second team. And, yeah, they’ll drive anywhere in southern Alaska for a pickup game. And Jen might have scored two goals the other night, one of them a nifty one-timer at the post. But I’m sure it’s just a passing thing.