"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Friday, 26 March 2010

For puck's sake...

"Oh hey there, Mrs. Lowry. Can your husband play old-timers' this Friday night?"

I knew I was destined to become a hockey widow once we moved to Kincardine and I began getting frequent phone calls like that one. But why did the guys who called feel they hadeto ask me for permission? Had I somehow gained a reputation for being an anti-hockey shrew? Or were they worried that a former city girl wouldn’t understand the crucial importance of hockey in a country boy's life?

A few years ago, they might have been right. Oh, I'd spent my fair share of Saturday nights glazed over on the couch at my dad's while Hockey Night in Canada blared in the background, but somehow I'd never soaked up much awareness of the sport. Now that I'd moved to the Bruce, though, it was high time I learned.

The first hockey game I watched my husband play, I wore a stylish short jacket and high-heeled boots.

"You're gonna want to wear something warmer than that," he warned me. “Put your winter boots on.”

"This is warm enough," I said. "You're in an arena, right? Not outside?"

D shrugged and said, "At least wear a jacket that covers your butt." I dismissed his concern. How cold could an arena be? I put the novel I was reading in my purse along with some change for hot chocolate and gave him a winning smile. His biggest fan was ready.

An hour later, I sat alone and shivering in the stands, trying to turn the pages of my book with numb fingers. There was no hot chocolate machine. My butt was uncomfortably numb. Humph, I thought. So my husband was right. I would have been having a lot more fun with a parka and a thermos of hot toddies. Maybe even a sleeping bag. And where were all the other hockey wives? I made mental notes for next time.

Although I really had no idea what the rules were apart from the whole get-the-puck-in-the-net thing, I thought I was following the play fairly well in between chapters of my book. At one point when I looked up, my husband collided with a player from the other team, who skated off the ice holding his head. A bunch of players skated around the rink slowly, peering down at the ice. Huh, I thought. Poor guy must have lost a contact lens. The play resumed; I went back to my book.

When the resurfacer whirred out onto the ice, I clued in that the game was over. I charged into the warmth of the hallway outside the change rooms and pounced on my husband when he appeared. He was walking oddly, half dragging his hockey bag.

"That was fun! Phew, it smells in there. How come your face is all red? Did that guy ever find his contact lens?"

My husband narrowed his eyes at me. "You mean did he find his TOOTH? The tooth that got knocked out when the puck came off my stick and hit him in the face?" He paused. I was horrified. "Oh right," my husband continued, "you were probably reading Shakespeare when that happened. I guess you missed the goal I scored and the hit from behind I received from Bobby Clarke’s buddy because he thought my stick knocked his tooth out." The car ride home was pretty quiet.

Things have changed since then. I don't bring books to hockey games anymore. In fact, I now know that wives and girlfriends only come to tournaments, not weekly games. And, good country girl that I am, I come wearing a layer of long-johns, a coat that has both a hood and enough material to cover my bottom, and a blanket to sit on. Like the dutiful puck bunny I’ve become, I’ve learned to spot my husband's orange-and-blue hockey socks the minute he’s on the ice and I yell like a crazy woman whenever he gets within 10 feet of the puck. I can even tell – most of the time – if he scores a goal.

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