Taking a deep breath, I channel the energy from the fans in the arena before gliding onto the ice. After a few laps around the rink, the puck is passed to me. Tightening my grip on the hockey stick, I whip that baby toward the net and imagine the announcer saying, “She shoots, she scores!”
You can’t come to Canada and not experience hockey, now can you? But don’t just settle for highlights on TV. Even if you can’t skate, it’s entirely possible to get a shot at playing by lacing up with Pinnacle Hockey in the picturesque mountain town of Canmore, Alberta. Participants learn the secrets and superstitions of Canada’s favourite sport with an elite group of hockey players, the Canmore Eagles.
Our experience kicks off inside the Canmore Recreation Centre, where we’re introduced to players and coaches. They guide us through the history of the sport, its rules and superstitions. Once we test our equipment and have a basic understanding of the game, we’re ready to carve up some ice.
First stop is the player’s dressing room, where we get a pep talk – all players need one before their big game. It’s surprisingly tidy, with the team’s logo woven neatly into the carpet. Careful though! Stepping on it will result in a fine – and if you believe the superstition, bad luck for the team. Then it’s into our own dressing room, where we suit up in full hockey gear, Eagles team members helping lace up our skates (where’s my dad when I need him?).
Finally, it’s game on! Some in our group sit out the game, but watch us from the stands. We have fans! Granted, it’s a few less than the 800 supporters that regularly attend Eagles games, but the atmosphere feels equally electric.
I shiver as I step onto the smooth surface. Though the arena is chilly, I know it’s my nerves. Many in our group have never been on ice before. Fortunately, the players are there to teach the newbies how to skate and handle the puck.
After taking a few tentative laps around the rink, I increase my speed. A sense of freedom like to no other ensues, as I move the puck down the ice. Gathering my gumption, I shoot the puck and it actually hits the net! High fives are issued all around.
Played before? They’ll amp it up with some drills, so you can get a taste for the speed and skills needed in this fast and furious game. There are few spills from our crew, but they end in laughter.
Our gear protects us like a modern coat of armour. For posterity, a professional photographer takes pictures, so we can prove our hockey greatness to friends back home (look for my hockey card in your next pack). A certificate makes it all official.
I’ve never felt as Canadian as I did when stepping off the ice. The famous Canadian hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.” He’s right. What are we waiting for?
Dividing her time between Calgary and Canmore, Jody Robbins is an award-winning writer who loves après-ski equally as much as snowboarding. When not kicking back in the Rockies, she’s often found travelling the globe with her family.