I've only recently started playing ice hockey (as opposed to skirt hockey, the "other" hockey played on grass or orthopedic surgeon's delight). As a former rugby player, I needed a game that had enough contact to be worthwhile, but not involve running. I always enjoyed watching ice hockey on the rare occasion that I saw it on the idiot box, and when I was in New York working in February 1998, I decided to go skating at the Rockefeller centre. Convieniently this was a 5 minute walk from where I was staying.

The first time I hit the ice there was with an old friend I'd known for years over the 'net, Darcey Harding, she'd come up to NY from wherever it is that she lives for a work trip, and I had a spare room in my apartment for a few days, so to save her some cash, and give me someone to talk to, I offered to let her stay there for the weekend. We decided on a spur of the moment to have a skate (it's one of the things you have to do when in NY). I hadn't been on skates for years and that had only been a bit of mucking around at the Oakleigh rink in Melbourne, so I was pretty hopeless. Fortunatly, so was Darcey! I did decide that I really enjoyed it though, so I went out the next week and bought myself a pair of CCM "Tradition 99's". Cheap, but I didn't know any better at the time!

For the remainder of the time I was there I skated almost every day for a couple of hours at a time, and by the time I was due to fly home I'd managed to stop (badly!) and skate reasonably fast in a straight line.

I got back to Oz, and a mate of mine who used to play ice and skirt hockey prompted me to join a club and get into training. I spent a few more weeks skating almost every weekend, and got a friend, Linda, to teach me how to do crossovers. Then Bruce (the mate) and I decided to bite the bullet, and we spoke to some people from the rink at Ringwood, who put us onto Dave Rama from the Sharks. Two weeks after then, with borrowed gear, I started training! By golly, did I have a lot to learn about skating!

I trained for about 3 weeks before getting a game, and we won it! It's C grade, which is supposed to be non-contact, but it's impossible (and undesirable!) to avoid. I'm currently doing club training on Wednesday nights with Robbie (our coach and captain) from 8.30pm through 'til about 1lpm, and skating at least twice every weekend. My stops are now good on both sides, and backwards is slowly improving. I need to get my backwards lots better if I'm to get into B grade, which is full contact. At our 1998 presentation night I was given the "Most Improved" award for our team, which means I must have really been bad when I started, because I'm pretty bad now!

Along the way I "invested" in a new pair of CCM 852's, the 99's proving to be a little fragile around the cuffs, and having a cheap blade with a tendancy to rust. The 852's are great skates, superb ankle control, just switching to them improved my stops drastically. I've also got all my own gear now, Ferland shorts, Lousville shoulderpads, Bauer elbow and shin pads. I upgraded to a set of CCM SG400 shinpads, as the Bauers weren't quite up to protecting a reconstructed knee from the impact of a 100kg ex rugby player falling on them frequently. I've also got a couple of Sher-Wood sticks (left handed), all the toys, and yes, in Australia that gear is not cheap!

In 2001, I upgraded my shoulder pads to a pair of Franklin THT Pro 8950's, as I managed to bruise some ribs at Oakleigh, and felt that some padding with a bit more rigidity around the chest would be a good way to prevent further injury, especially since being a lowly skilled defenceman, my main role is checking, so there's a lot of contact.

In early September 1999 I needed new blades for my now rather tatty and worn CCM 852's, Bladeworx offered me a tradein to new 952's. Needless to say, I took the offer!

We've had two successful seasons, winning our grand finals in both the summer and winter competitions for our divisions. Next winter comp, B grade. I need contact hockey!

In 2001, I finally got into Senior B (full contact), with a bunch of the other C grade lads (Mikey, Dwayne, Brett, Mark Butcher et al), and it's great.

2002 .. still in B grade (phew!) and had a run in Senior A when they were short and needed players. I never thought I'd play senior A, it was very satisfying. I'm not good enough to be useful as anything more than a space filler, but it was fantastic to get the opportunity.

Here's a few Ice Hockey links I keep an eye on


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