Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hockey night in Israel

Before making Aliyah I was playing hockey on average at least 3 times every two weeks. I had not been on the ice since the end of July. I finally made all the arrangements to join the Thursday night game in Metullah. Last week I finally returned to the ice.

Normally the game starts at 9:30. We were going to be bumped to 10:30 due to the national figure skating championships. We were told there was a possibility we would get on the ice at 10:00.

My parents were generous enough to let me use the rental car. I did not want to go by myself. I got a ride from one of the regulars to the game. He was from LA and made Aliyah earlier this year. To say that are personalities were completely opposite would be an understatement. The other guy catching a ride I knew from Ulpan. He is from Chicago. Even though the driver knew the route he still used the GPS.

Pick-up was at 5:00 sharp. He hit major traffic the previous week, which caused him to be late for the game. He wasn't going to take chances again. Arriving early allows for nap time to prepare for the drive home. Metullah is way up in the North. If you miss the exit you end up at 'Good Fence' (the Lebanese Border) We hit some major traffic and got to the arena after 9:00.

The first thing I notice getting out of the car is the row of palm trees surrounding the arena. The Canada Centre also has a swimming pool, gym, shooting range, ping pong tables, squash, basketball and probably more facilities that I did not see. The figure skating was still going on and Russian could be heard throughout the arena. Our driver used the waiting time to take a nap.

The figure skating finished a little bit after 10:00. There was a flood before the last two pairs went out so the ice was free and clear. The problem was that the arena only has one dressing room. The last skaters waited 10 minutes after their routine before going to get changed. After waiting around for an hour our guys were getting anxious. Some guys tried to go into the room to get changed. They were immediately confronted by a coach who said that "It was not nice. There are girls changing in there." Within 5 minutes a number of males (figure skaters, coaches, etc...) entered the dressing room without any objection. We had already been guaranteed we would not be sold short on our 2 hours of ice time.

I got ready and went on the ice. I decided to wear my tuxedo jersey. I decided for better or worse, I was going to be noticed and remembered. Before leaving my parents had all the much needed repairs carried out on my equipment. It is amazing how much of a difference it made. The only exception was my trapper. There was no padding between my fingers and the plastic that protects the hand from the outside. I will have to find a way to relieve some of the pressure on my hand.

I completed my stretches and got into my net. The first shot was a reaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyy slooooooooooooooowwwwwwww trickler on the ice. I was embarrasing to watch it slide between my legs and into the net. I then settled down to have a decent warm up. I was having some trouble judging the angles.

The game started. It was such a great feeling to know that hockey is hockey, even half way around the world. It could be the rink size, but there was no super dominant player who could take the puck end to end by himself whenever he wanted. It could be the size of the ice but I think the game was a bit slower than what I am used to, although the talent was more evenly distributed. I made a couple of decent saves and quickly made friends with my posts. My shining moment early on was when a I guy came in on a break away. He decided to go for a wrap around which I stopped. I then had to stop two quick rebounds before freezing the puck. Within a minute I had to make two more quality saves. After that I felt at home and had a great game.

We stopped for gas on the way home. We had been going pretty fast on our way to the rink. On the way home he drove even faster to make up for the lost time. I got home at 3:3o and was in bed an hour later. It took 10.5 hours for 2 hours of ice time.

The majority of people interested in playing ice hockey live within an hour of here. I have been tossing around the idea of building an arena in Bet Shemesh, Modiin or the surrounding Moshavim. It would need to be a multipurpose recreational centre to provide facilities lacking in the area. I don't know the first thing about getting such a project off the ground. It would be great on a number of levels if it were ever done.

There is an international tournament in January. Rachel and I are taking our first real vacation alone together in 6 years. It is going to be a lot of fun.

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