So as anyone who knows me knows, I play a recrementitious amount of hockey, a sport I am clearly obsessed with. I mostly play on men’s or open men’s (meaning they are coed in theory but only men play in reality) leagues. I’ve written plenty about my experiences in the locker rooms and sometimes even on the ice. Generally I’m treated like “a great gal” by the guys playing. Though most probably don’t give a second’s thought to my gender or personage. We are all there for our love of hockey, the thrill of friendly competition, a good workout, and the need to be able to function at work the next day. We’re there to play hockey, not have tea, gossip or, truth be told, make friends. The time on the ice and in the locker-room doesn’t foster chit chat anyway. Heck, we barely know one another’s names! I play goal, and most people refer to and address me as “goalie” or “keeper” or simply, “keep”. As in, “Nice game Keep”
During one of my games last week my defense got taken for a ride, coming up short and in the far zone when the other team’s forwards had a break-away. I both love and hate breakaways. I love the exhilaration of one on one competition, facing off against an opponent in single combat. And I hate it because the odds favor the shooter and not the goalie in those situations. This time I came out of my crease and faced him directly. I didn’t back down too early and I followed him the whole way to the net. I dropped down into a butterfly position just in time to take his shot on my leg pad and stop it. All you really need to know in this instant is that I blocked the shot.
Loud banging on the boards from my team sitting on the bench ensued. My defensemen skated up mere seconds after the shot. One apologized for leaving me hanging. The other punched my leg pad with his stick and said, “Atta girl”. He skated in a circle around the net and punched my other leg pad with his stick and said, “Atta boy”. And skated halfway to the blue line before skating backwards toward me. When he was nearly close enough to bump into me he said over his shoulder, “I should have just asked. Which do you prefer?”
I. Was. Stunned. At a total loss for words. I had no idea what to say. I was so taken aback, so unprepared, I just gaped after him as he skated away. I found enough wherewithal to say, “thank you for asking”. I didn’t want it to be as awkward as it was and I didn’t want him regretting having asked or beating himself up for asking and getting only a dumb stare. I smiled. But I don’t know if he caught it behind my helmet and cage. He shrugged and skated off and then the game resumed. I was a bit embarrassed, but also felt seen, or at least acknowledged.