Monday, April 20, 2009

Off the Shelf, Part I: No Crying in Hockey

“There’s no crying in hockey,” the AMHL Photographer (also my wife), says to me as the AMHL Canadiens and Rangers play on Rink One.

She’s glad I’m coaching the Sharks—who sunk the Sabres in this morning’s first game—but is tired of me whining and pining to play again. It pains her to watch me nurse a groin injury that has kept me "On the Shelf" since early September.

Next week is Spring Break, so the Sharks will be short-handed. Instead of eleven skaters, we’ll have six or seven. So my "Over-sized Mites" are all but begging me to play the Canadiens next week.

The AMHL Photographer, who hasn’t taken an action picture of me since the second game of last season, likes me more as a player than a coach. (She jokes that she’s like Ricky Bobby’s wife, who, in Talladega Nights, deserts her husband because he’s lost his mojo as a NASCAR driver). Although she’d love it if I were playing, she doesn’t want to hear me boo-hooing if I hoick my groin again.

Adductor longus and its afflicted neighbors: this region of my left leg and abdomen is my Middle East. Just when I think peace might have a chance, hostilities flare. I have more questions than answers, too. What about acupuncture? How long is this going to take? Should I wait until I’m 100% pain-free before skating? I’ve heard everything from “don’t aggravate it” to “skate it off, wussy.”

An orthopedic surgeon has advised me to risk minor setbacks. I won’t know if the injury is healing until press the boundaries. He suggested I start skating before games again, and then go from there.

He didn’t clear me to play but didn’t forbid it either. So I’m taking it day by day.

By Friday morning, the discomfort prompted by Wednesday morning’s pre-game skate has dissipated but has not vanished. Shake and bake, baby; I’m going to give pick-up hockey a go.

Paul “Cadillac”Anastas drives me to the rink, where I reacquaint myself with playing hockey. I forgot my gloves at home, so I borrow his two-tone black and blue backup pair.

An hour later—after all the welcome-backs, a goal, a giveaway in my own zone—sweat drips from my hair and stings my eyes. I love it. I missed it.

“How’s it feel?” my hockey brethren ask about the groin.

Tender, I say as I ice the Gaza Strip. But I m more concerned about how I’ll feel in a day or two. Will this morning’s workout catch up with me this weekend?

Back at home, I call the AMHL Photographer, who made a surprise visit to the rink to watch for a few minutes and is now at work. I tell her how happy I am to be back in the game—at least for today, anyway—and am overcome with gratefulness. I thank her for her patience. “I’m moisting up, gotta go,” I conclude.

Who says there’s no crying in hockey?

Stay tuned for Part II, when—hockey gods willing—I transform my title of coach to player/coach.
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