John White: I felt like a hockey player, until the flagrant nausea

Your brain thinks you can just hop back on the ice and cut it up like there was no lapse in activity

If you’re a frequent reader of this space, you’ll recall my musings about a return to hockey after a 30-year absence.

I was a pretty good skater — when I was 16. Somehow, your brain thinks you can just hop back on the ice and cut it up like there was no horrific lapse in activity, and certainly no absence of skating of any sort over that span.

After my initial return to the ice in “tryouts” for the Castlegar men’s hockey league went sideways after two shifts thanks to a wonky ankle, I decided to forego the attempt to play in a formal league this season and try a more casual approach.

In hindsight, it was a blessing that my ankle flared up during the tryouts. I went for a lengthy skate during a Sticks and Pucks session the following week at Castlegar Complex, and after 30 minutes I was not having a good time.

My legs actually felt pretty good, but my lungs and sinuses were just not having it. There was a work stoppage. The sinuses went out on strike first, and the lungs followed in sympathy. There were expletives thrown back and forth, and hard feelings remained for at least a week. There was also a nasty spitting incident that led to an official grievance.

Thankfully, there was the perfect solution awaiting my thirst for a return to hockey action, without the threat of instant collapse or intense embarrassment.

The Castlegar Leisure Guide listed drop-in hockey at the Pioneer Arena for someone who, and I quote: “Has played hockey in the past or would like to start playing. Want[s] to get out and get some exercise in a fun environment. [Is] nervous about starting to play in an established league with established teams. Then this program is made just for you. This is simply, weekly hockey for fun and some exercise.”

It’s like they wrote that description with me in mind, and certainly after watching my tentative wobbling during the tryout skate.

Fittingly, the opening night of the drop-in hockey program was on Halloween night. It wasn’t the sharp blades or sticks that had me trembling, it was the prospect of laying on the floor in the dressing room coughing up ectoplasm after skating a little too hard for the conditions.

Sure enough, after 30 minutes of increasingly quick skating as a warm-up, which included some smooth wrist and snapshots to the top corners of the net, we started a little two on two scrimmaging. I made a few nice passes and turned to skate backward to defend. I caught a bit of an edge and tweaked my ankle. It wasn’t as bad as the first go round, but enough to send me to the bench.

I also noticed at that time that I felt thoroughly vomitous. I managed to quell the blargh by lying on my back to catch my wind. Once I recovered I did a little more skating to work out the ankle and it felt not terrible.

My legs actually felt really good. I felt like I was skating naturally and with some speed and balance. That was very encouraging.

When I got home I watched the replay of the Jets vs. Wild game and was reminded just how world-class those players are. Their fitness levels and their muscular structure that supports the skating postures must be incredibly advanced.

I will never think, “Gee, that player seems to be dragging his butt” ever again, considering I was Caption Butt Drag Tuesday night. Dogs in the stands were looking at me with a “hey when we scoot our butts like that we get heckin bamboozled” look.

I may have been delirious as I am told there were no canines in the arena that night.


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John and his skatemates after John nearly died during two-on-two. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

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