I don’t remember the first time I donned a pair of ice skates, but I remember loving the glide, the flow, the sense of flying in my rental boots at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville.
The city only “had ice” three months out of the year, when the Ice Capades came to town. During these winters, we skated overcrowded public sessions to organ grinder dance music. Before I knew it, I could go forward, backward and even do cross-overs.
When I was 10, Nashville started a youth hockey league. My father was approached to sponsor a team, so he signed me and my brother up for the hockey school. I guess he didn’t want me to feel “left out”, so I agreed to give it a go, and before I knew it we were buying all sorts of expensive equipment at the Athlete’s House near Music Row.
Well, after exactly one practice session, I knew this sport wasn’t for me. I wanted out. NOW. My mother however, had different ideas.
“We have spent all this money on brand new hockey equipment, and you are going to learn to finish what you started.”
She made me finish out the year. It was a painful, long, humiliating year.
As the only girl on the team, I was benched for every game. I was a liability, my team was winning, and I was simply not allowed to play. And that was fine with me. As my team racked up win after win after win and then finally entered the playoffs, the rink officials got wind of the situation and demanded that I be put in the final game. I’ll never forget it.
I played “right wing” position. I was nearsighted as hell, I wore coke bottle glasses, and I could barely see the ice through the fog in my lenses. My equipment, padding and uniform made me feel like the Goodyear Blimp, and I couldn’t see my feet.
Suddenly, someone shot the puck in my direction, and I flailed at it with my stick, not knowing (or caring) which direction I should take it.
“That way! That way!” Coach Briskin yelled, gesturing wildly toward the other end of the rink. For some inexplicable reason, I was in control of the puck. I didn’t want it, but I dutifully nudged it down the ice.
“GO GO GO!!” he wailed. I gave it a good whack toward someone on my left (thankful to be out of the spotlight), and BAM it went in the goal. We won that game, and that championship.
But. I. Was. Done.
I announced to my parents that this was the end of my hockey career.
I had just seen “Ice Castles” (3 times). I had watched the beautiful figure skaters with envy, longing to skate that way, eager to put on a dress and simply glide.
The following season, I did just that.