Guest Post: You’re Always Better Than Tanner Glass

Editors Note: As I am not qualified to write about what it is like to play hockey as a woman in a co-ed league, the wonderful Sara Garcia (@sara_lnr on Twitter) consented to step in as a guest contributor, and really make this website far, far more classy.  Enjoy reading it, I know I did!

As a kid, I was never all that in to sports. Looking through old family photos, there’s me in a Kings sweater, but I don’t recall watching any games. When I got older, I did take to ice skating quickly and it became something I begged my mom to do every weekend. After moving to the Midwest, I continued the weekly tradition of going ice-skating.

I went off to Rochester Institute of Technology for a year and continued skating for a bit. Regrettably, I never attended a single hockey game for either the men or women’s teams, even though they were both phenomenal programs.

Then, I moved back home. Shortly after, there was the Blackhawks’ 2010 Cup win, which I and most everyone I know got swept up in. I continued to watch games when I had the chance. After the 2013 Cup run, I decided to get back on the ice by buying a pair of skates. Getting back on the ice felt kind of like going home after a while. It just felt right.

I joined a clinic for beginner’s hockey through one of the local park districts. It ended up being for all levels of skill, which was great! I was able to learn from and with others in the clinic and their abilities were in different places. One of the guys had actually sold my first pair of skates to me.

While I got the hang of the skating, positioning was a different story. I was placed on the wing, which had me skating forwards more than backwards. However, I constantly managed to forget where the lines were. I remember my coach asking if I knew what “being offside” was and I responded with a nod and realized that I was on the wrong side of the red line. Whoops. I can only imagine how players that are accustomed to playing on international-sized ice must feel when they come to North American rinks.

Another thing I remember being fairly difficult was actually getting the puck up off the ice. There was no way I was going top shelf, at least not for a while. The first time I actually did get some air under the puck, it was a big deal. I couldn’t remember how I did it for a while, but everyone seemed impressed at a girl having a half-decent shot her second time picking up a stick.

Learning how to play a sport that I enjoy watching was a rewarding and difficult experience. However, I was disappointed in the fact that I was the only woman in attendance for something was promoted as co-ed. Given hockey’s rise in popularity in my area, it was a surprise. I’m not entirely sure where the miscommunication was between my registration and the time I spent at the rink, but the park district never opened up the women’s locker room for me.

I never bothered to ask, because when it came down to it, I changed in/out of my lowest layer in the bathroom. It was inconvenient and part of a decision to stop playing for some time. The other factor in that decision was a hip injury that I’d sustained somewhere along the line.

Being in the gender minority shouldn’t stop someone from playing hockey, or any sport they care about, for that matter. While most locker rooms are relatively welcoming and open, I simply didn’t feel comfortable.

As soon as I feel good enough to get back on the ice after rehabbing from what caused the injury, I’m signing up for a quick refresher course and then the next logical step from there would be joining a rec league. I’m just hoping that I’ll have an open stall waiting, where I feel comfortable changing in and out of my gear.

If I had to give one piece of advice to someone learning to play hockey, it would be this: You’re not going to be Sidney Crosby on your first shift, even if it feels like you are. Don’t worry though, at least you won’t be as terrible as Tanner Glass! You’ll get better with time and practice.

Learning to Play Hockey as an Adult: Why You Should Learn

So you’ve been watching hockey for years, and you know everything about it. You know the teams, the players, the stats, and that the Blues are the spawn of Satan. However, for whatever reason you haven’t played. Or you haven’t played in years. Maybe you’ve had an itch to learn how to play, and never quite scratched it. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. I learned as an adult (if you ever see me play and want to take issue with the idea that I ever actually learned, well, you’re probably justified), and know people who have learned at all ages, from 20 to well into their 50’s. I can also say, without a doubt, that learning to play was one of the absolute best decisions I’ve ever made. So I am writing this series of posts to convince you to play as well, and show you as best I can how to learn.
So, why should you learn? A bunch of reasons!
To appreciate the sport on a deeper level – Now, I am in no way saying you need to play hockey to understand the game. Some of the best hockey minds I know have never played. But let’s be real, getting on the ice yourself can only deepen your understanding of the game. It can help you understand just how skillful that deke was, how precise that pass was, how sick that top shelf backhand was. Skate a mile in the players skates as it were.
You’ll be helping the sport grow – This may sound naive, but it is completely true. Hockey is a relatively minor sport within America in terms of participation. While you as an adult will never be as important to its growth as children are, you can grow it in a real way. The money you spend on the game will help it expand, both on the local level by injecting money into the rinks and leagues, as well as the local shops, and will help the big gear companies continue to expand. Hell, if more people played, more companies could get in on the game. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Nike release a line of gear like they did with golf a few years ago? And from a non-monetary perspective, every new person playing brings their unique skillset and life perspective to the game, further enriching it.
The “post-game locker room beer” – Nothing will ever taste sweeter, no matter how bad the beer is. Plus, in the league I’m playing in right now, sometimes we go heckle other teams while drinking the beer after we change. Makes the beer taste even better!
Your game matters more than your professional teams – A bunch of us, myself included, live and die with our NHL team, but the funny thing is that we have no control over what our team does. Maybe your coach is making dumb personnel decisions and it’s driving you mad, maybe your front office keeps extending the wrong players. Maybe the players on your team have let you down recently (not that that’s happened recently nooooooo sir). But if you play, you’d be amazed to see that your game, which you have control over, will begin to take precedence. It’s nice!
But really, screw all of those reasons, you’ll do it because it’s fun! I remember the first time I stepped onto the ice with my gear after learning to skate, and felt the wind rush over my face as I skated on the empty rink. I’ll never forget the moment. I’ll never forget my first goal, which just so happened to be in my first game. Or how could I forget when I scored a no look backhand as my first goal in my second season. I think I had the wildest, gangliest celebration ever. Those moments will stay with me forever. So will the laughter, both on the ice and in the locker room. This last year, I had more bad weeks than good ones. No matter how bad the week was though, when I stepped onto the ice for a game, everything else disappeared, and would stay disappeared until I went to bed that night.
Basically, playing hockey is amazing, and I wish more hockey fans did it! But I already convinced you to learn, right? Well, good! Stay tuned this week, and I’ll show you how to learn!

Here are the posts you can expect:
Wednesday: Your Game Plan for Learning to Play Hockey
Thursday: SPECIAL GUEST POST from Sara Garcia (@sara_lnr) on playing hockey as a woman in co-ed leagues
Friday: What to Buy
Monday: How to Go About Learning to Skate
Tuesday: How to Learn to Play
Wednesday: Addressing Common Concerns (and any questions you have hint hint)