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John White: Hitting the ice after 30 years

It’s been 30 freakin’ years since I’ve played hockey in an organized and meaningful fashion
John is exhausted, after putting on all of the equipment. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

This week’s burst of truth can be considered a companion to last week’s admission of magnificent sluggishness.

To gently recap, it’s been 30 freakin’ years since I’ve played hockey in an organized and meaningful fashion. I likely would have trouble getting my last team jersey over my head, let alone onto my body, at this point.

While I’ve been keenly focused on healthy eating over the past month or so, there has been little in the way of blood or sweat. Certainly, without potato chips, cheeseburgers and Reese Peanut Butter CupsTM, there have been many tears.

So cut to the scene at the sporting goods store Tuesday night, where my wife and I were attempting to figure out the latest innovations in hockey equipment so I can hit the ice this week for some rec hockey, looking like someone who has a whiff of a clue.

I had very intense flashbacks, and triggered moments, during this process.

This was the best part of the fall for me growing up in working-class northeast Winnipeg. My dad would go through my beat-up hockey bag with me and figure out what could make it through another season and what had to be replaced, either from wear or overwhelming stench. He would take me to Canadian Tire and we’d figure out the best options on a tight budget.

He took great care in finding the right sizes, and brands that had earned their stripes in his playing days. I remember vividly buying the Micron moulded skates one year, and thinking I was impervious to slap-shots wearing those. No, I did not have skates with Tuuk blades like the rich kids, but I felt I was protected.

I was so young when I first started, I didn’t have the hand strength to tie my skates tightly, so my dad was there before every practice and game to make sure I was ready. Looking back, I may have let that go on longer than it really had to just to maintain the ritual.

So many critical parental bonding moments were shared in these activities. My dad divulged all of his secret hockey gear knowledge little bits at a time, over many years. He showed me how to check the skate blade with the edge of my thumbnail for sharpness, without cutting myself. He showed me the best way to roll the tape into a string to establish the base and finger grips for the top of the stick. He showed me how to tape the blade with perfectly spaced, tight loops. These lessons were always interspersed with colourful anecdotes.

“One time when I was playing goal, I took a hard slap shot right in the cup. It was steel, and yet it exploded. I couldn’t breathe for 30 seconds. That was a scary one,” he said, without flinching. “So that’s why you need a good cup.”

After that vivid image, I wore the cup every day for a week, just to be safe.

I grinned to myself in the store Tuesday as I rolled through these snippets of beloved moments in my mind.

“Huh, so you buy shorts that hold the cup now, and they come with Velcro to hold the socks in place. Dad would have loved this one,” I thought out loud. “These composite sticks are incredibly light, I bet my dad would have had a rocket shot with these…” And so it went.

Once my dad and I got home from our excursions, I made sure to try on all of the new gear with my existing stuff, and my mom would always be ready to get the photo.

This one’s for you, dad.


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