I’ve had a lot of “firsts” since I’ve moved up here to the U.P. I saw my first opera here shortly after arriving. Pretty hilarious that I had to move up to the sticks to get culture, ha. I made some strides in the relationship area of my life. One day when I’m not so tired I’ll talk about it. I got into some new sports, like cross-country skiing and hockey.

I was a rollerskater growing up. We sometimes froze over the backyard and skated in the winter, but it was pretty rare. My family wasn’t a hockey family like some of my friends’ families were. Trips to an open skate at the Livonia Ice Arena were few and far between. Rollerskating was easier, cheaper and oftentimes a school outing. I think it’s fair to say that I was a decent skater. And when rollerblades became popular (or fruit boots, as the BF likes to call them) I picked that up fairly quickly.

So last year when I found out I had an opportunity to try hockey, I was all about it. Sure, I played a little floor hockey in elementary school. But there was still an obstacle: the ice skating. I had been out on skates a few years before with my friend Colleen–we had gone up to the used sporting good store and picked up a few pair of hockey skates–and after one trip out to the rink one thing was clear: I couldn’t stop, and crashing into the boards was not the optimum method of braking. I would have to learn to skate if I wanted to give this a try.

I started going to the almost daily open skates down at the arena in town, just to get some practice in. Scott worked with me on the basics, and before I knew it, I was snowplowing. I joined in on a Sunday night rental with a bunch of the area geeks (i.e. MTU profs and other locals) and started to learn. A few months later they invited me to their Thursday night rental (a little faster and with goaltenders). Slowly but surely I started to make some progress.

One of the women I was skating/biking with mentioned that she was practicing with the Tech women’s club, and after a little help from Scott on a contact, I got in touch with the gal in charge and got in. Now I’m practicing with the girls two nights a week and playing games on weekends. Last weekend we had a scrimmage against the local U-19 team, but tonight?

Tonight was our first game of the season. My first “real” game. I stepped out on the ice tonight to an arena filled with a few hundred spectators and a pep band who stayed after the men’s game to play for our game. And I swear, I could have puked right then and there from nerves.

I’ve played sports my entire life, but never in front of so many people.

But the butterflies are a good thing, and once the puck dropped I forgot about the people in the stands, the band playing “Proud Mary,” and just focused on watching other players. I’ve been practicing with defense, because I think it will make me a better player and a better skater, but it was not surprise that tonight I got put on the fourth offense line with another girl who’s at a lower level like myself. It was fine with me, though. To quote the BF, “you make a mistake on a wing, it’s a missed opportunity. You make a mistake at D, it’s a goal.” I was totally fine having a little less pressure on me tonight.

NMU’s team was big and slow, but outplayed and outskated us. Maybe it was first game jitters, or maybe our big guns just didn’t show up. Either way, we lost 5-0. I did all I could really do in the situation, and that was be aggressive and fight for loose pucks. It’s a little frustrating not knowing where to be or what to do, but I guess I’ll just have to be more prepared and be ready to do whatever they ask, whether it’s D or offense.

Losing sucks, but it sure is a lot of fun. It’s nice to be a part of a team and feel like you’re working toward a common goal. It’s great to have something that gets you off your butt and pushes you to be better. Every other sport I’ve played in my life I’ve done because I was good at it. When the game was on the line, I was one of the ones the coach would put in. With hockey, this is definitely not the case. But can I push myself and get there and be that player? I don’t know, but I’m sure going to try.

So, another “first,” my first hockey game. Looking forward to number two tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping for a better outcome!