Warm Weather Hockey – 2 June 12, 2017

Our hockey team, the Beaver Dames, is known for off-kilter first nights at international tournaments. Back in 2014, arriving for the tournament in Reykjavik, we decided the thing to do after an overnight flight during which few of us slept was to get on a tour bus well past sunset (after a day during which few of us napped). Our goal: to search for northern lights in the mountains outside town.

As a result, we were trapped for several hours on a bus relentlessly driving God knows where (we specialize in God knows where) while our guide, who identified himself as RRRRRonnie, chased spectral waves he swore would put on a show any minute, as meanwhile one of our forwards recited The Cremation of Sam McGee to the bewilderment of several poor sods who were trapped on the bus with us.

No northern lights. Not a squib in three hours. Although Icelandic friends of mine saw a fine display from the roof of their apartment building in Reykjavik the following night.

On our recent Arizona trip, many of us had packed in the wee hours before leaving, stolen a few hours sleep, then got up at 5:30 a.m. to make to the airport in time for immigration and customs line-ups, the usual joy. After a crammed flight, we landed in Phoenix and grabbed our hockey bags (as Mike Babcock strolled by, which I might have mentioned) then divided into three vehicles to reach our hotel in suburban Scottsdale.

To my shock, it proved to have two pools, a wave feature, a Lazy River feature complete with float-up bar, golf and tennis courts, yoga lessons and a spa. I hadn’t expected any of this, having failed to register the name of our hotel—Kierland Resort and Spa, which might have been a clue—and assuming we’d be staying in a low-rent hotel with a chain link fence around a kid-filled, pee-ridden pool, meaning we’d have to make our own fun.

I’m able to report that I adjusted. We spent the afternoon by the adults-only pool, ate tacos, and navigated three cars smoothly to the arena in Phoenix half an hour away, arriving in plenty of time for our 10:15 p.m. game.

Translate that to 1:15 a.m. Toronto time, add the usual back-up, and we were on the ice at 2 a.m., expected to play hockey. As I mentioned, a weird first night.

It was a team we should have beaten. In fact, we would have beaten them if we’d been awake during the first ten minutes of play. As it was, our Zombies on Ice show meant we started slowly and soon found ourselves on the wrong end of the score. Yet as the clock ticked down to 2:30 a.m., we woke up, pelted their very good goalie with a steady stream of shots, and ended up losing only 3-1, or maybe 2-1 (I think).

Why on earth do we do these things to ourselves?

Maybe to feel the lift of winning the second game the next evening, and more to the point, the satisfaction of playing well.

The third game we shall not mention, since we probably couldn’t have beaten the other team despite the 1:30 a.m. ballroom dancing lessons the previous night from two Ukrainian men from Russia, whom we won’t mention either. Nor will there be any reference to tequila shooters, although it was very good tequila, despite the lack of sea salt. Nor the way it seemed like a good idea that we use the kitty (intended for sober things) to pay our bar bill.

During the tournament in Las Vegas, there was a moment when I faced off against the 22-year-old college player from Minnesota on the team of young women we had inexplicably been scheduled to play. She looked up at me briefly, said, “I’m still drunk,” then tore off down the ice like, well, a 22-year-old college player from Minnesota.

Now I knew how she felt. Sort of. At least, I was slightly hung over and terminally unfast.

With a 1-2 record, we didn’t make the playoffs this year either. But at least it meant we could get off early the next morning for Sedona, up in the high red hills.