Gay Hockey Diary: The Season Comes to a Close

I finally started learning how to actually play hockey in the Madison Gay Hockey Association. I’ll chronicle my journey in my Gay Hockey Diary, a semi-regular feature here. See the previous posts here.

That was fast.

There’s a weird paradox that comes with a long hockey season, especially when it was my first one. The time flies, and it seems like yesterday that I first strapped on all my gear for my first game. Yet, at the same time, you can’t help but improve so rapidly that it seems like years ago when I was such a noob that I could barely skate backward.

Tony 1But, as the regular season ended, I found myself beating some of the league’s better players in battles for the puck and even getting some quality chances on goal that were the result of hard work, and not just dumb luck.

And perhaps the most impressive part of this season is not just seeing how much I’ve improved,  but also seeing how much other beginners have improved.

 Hockey shape

When I played in my first-ever scrimmage last spring, I was so out of shape, I was dead tired after my first shift—dreading the moment that I had to hop over the boards again and skate up and down the ice.

Eight months later, I now dread the moment that my line has to get off the ice and sit on the bench. I want to take more shifts, and when I’m sitting on the bench I find myself urging the line before me to change so I can jump back over the boards.

After those first few scrimmages, I realized just how out of shape I was, so I started exercising regularly and eating healthy. And magically, I was less and less tired as the season wore on. I became a faster skater, and I could keep it up for longer shifts. It’s a baffling concept, really, that simple diet and exercise can work wonders.

I even found myself heading to the rink early some weeks, hoping to fill in as a sub for some other games so I could play more than one game. After my first time on the ice last spring, I never would have imagined that I would soon be playing two games in two hours without passing out.

I’m able to skate and keep up with some of the better players in the league, and I can get in good position and win some puck battles along the boards.

Now, if only I could stick-handle and lift my shot higher than my ankles. There’s always room for improvement, I guess.

What a difference a year six months makes

Speaking of improvements, I certainly wasn’t the only one who picked up speed, strength and skill over the course of the season. Every player got a little better, but the most impressive and inspiring improvements came from players who had never even skated before signing up for the MGHA.

There were a few players who could barely stand up on the ice in October, and when the puck came to them, they would just fall down. In other hockey leagues, his teammates would get mad as the other team stole the puck and scored on a breakaway.

But that’s not how things work in the MGHA. Everyone encouraged those players, and cheered when they made the simplest of plays. And I mean everyone—everyone on his team’s bench, everyone in the crowd and even everyone on the opposing team’s bench. It’s really inspiring how encouraging this league is.

Early in the season, I mentioned that one of those players found it hard to take compliments and encouragement when he knows he’s not very good. Last week, that player was able to skate the puck into the zone and get a shot on net.

Both benches cheered him on the whole way.

On to the playoffs

Tony 2The Green Gay Puckers finished the season 4-8-1, and now we’ll head into the playoffs. Predictably, no team is ever really eliminated in the MGHA’s playoffs. All eight teams play for three weeks, with the final week of the postseason featuring games for 7th place, 5th place, 3rd place and finally culminating in the championship game.

If you’re in Madison, we’d love to see you come out and support the league on championship night, March 23.

Go Puck, Go!

If you have any questions about the MGHA or life in general, feel free to email me of hit me on twitter.

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