At age 42, Rebecca joined hockey league that was supposed to be 35+ and new to hockey, but after the first game the league was changed to 19+ and the ‘new to hockey’ was dropped. It was like being dropped into pool and being told to swim, but in true Rebecca style, she rolled with it.
Have you always liked hockey?
As an adult, Hockey Night in Canada was always on at my house and we always watched it as kids. I’ve had Canucks tickets for as long as I remember. I jokingly say that’s one of the reasons [my husband] and I started dating.
What made you want to try to play?
My husband plays several times a week including drop in and he loves it. He loves the comradery, he loves the team aspect, the whole thing. And I felt like something like that was missing from my world. It so happens that my assistant has played hockey since she was a kid. She told me there were learn-to-play leagues – “You can totally do this and I can help you!”.
What is the biggest challenge in starting hockey?
The barrier to entry to get into hockey is pretty high. You have to have the gear. It’s a huge expense up front. Most people are just “I want to see if I like it”. Well you are kicking out $500-$1000 up front, just to see if you like it.
Do you need any skills to get started?
I started skating 20 years ago but on figure skates. With hockey skates you have rockers, so if you stand up too straight you go backwards. I signed up for private skating lessons and I was so grateful I did that.
Is it hard to put the equipment on?
My friend sent me a checklist “’Jill, garter, socks…bam!” because if you put [it on wrong] then you have to take it all off. And if you put on your skates too soon you are screwed. All these things I’m learning. There is so much gear.
Was it hard to get yourself to that first game?
There’s a lot of anxiety to get yourself there, walk into the arena for the first time, meet a whole new team, never played a game of hockey in my life. What change rooms do we go to? How do we do all this? But I was comforted thinking everyone else is new too. (little did she know!) My husband said he recognized how hard it was to get myself there for the first game, it is so intimidating. He’s a huge support.
I understand the ladies weren’t as “new” as you expected?
When I got there a lady came up to me and asked “Are you here for the league? Are you new too? I only play in Maple Ridge, Mission and Chilliwack and I’m looking for more ice time.” And I was like “What???” […] And I wondered “Oh no, what have I done?
Then one lady said “Don’t worry, I only started playing when I was 32?” Great! How old are you now? “47.” So she’d been playing for 15 years. Awesome.
What position did you play your first time out?
They put me on defence, which is […] very challenging cause you have to be able to skate backwards really well. Not like a winger where you have to go forwards and then get out of the zone when the puck goes out. As a defender you have to be able to skate backwards very well and not get in the way of the goalie.
Can you skate backwards?
I can skate backwards, but not at hockey speed. My last hockey lesson was skating backwards. I’m working on that. It’s great when you are doing drills, it’s another thing all together when you are focusing on the game. And I laugh because I watch hockey all the time and yell “get your head up!” “what is he doing?” “why are you staring at your skates?” and here I am staring at the ice while I’m skating around, I can’t even lift my head up. It’s hilarious.
So it’s hard?
It’s very high intensity because you do these shifts. You’re out, skate-skate do your thing, and then you got to get off in a minute. That was another reason I thought this was a great sport for me, because I like the high intensity and then you get a break aspect. I’ve never been an endurance athlete. Running, running, running. Not for me.
Are you afraid to get hurt?
Even for skating lessons I would put all my gear on so if I fell I wouldn’t get hurt. You feel much safer. At my first lesson [the instructor] made me super girl – dive on the ice and get back up – You need to know how to get back up if you fall. The first time falling on the ice is such a bizarre feeling. As adults you don’t try to fall. Everything in your brain is saying, don’t fall down. But it doesn’t hurt!
In hockey, what is the worst that’s going to happen? With women it’s not that fast-paced and you have so much gear on. You put it all on and think nothing can happen to you.
Did your team win?
We lost 10-0. The white team had three girls that have been playing together their entire life. Their goalie had a TeamBC sticker on her helmet! Our goalie [was in her words] “A 47-year-old broad” and was literally as tall as the net on her skates. We got abused.
Is there aggression on the ice?
They always joke that hockey can get a bit ‘chippy’ and people throw out all kinds of insults. I can see how things get really heated. You get really protective of your goalie.
I’m playing…there’s two minutes left in the game, and this girl takes a slapshot from the hashmarks at our goalie – who has checked out 8 minutes ago, she’s done, she’s exhausted – And I just yelled at her. It just came out of me. I was like “What are you doing? Settle down!” And I got so mad and was like wow, I just did the hockey thing…
What kind of women play hockey?
I thought it was really cool to see some of the ladies that are in the locker room, they have their glasses on and cute short mom hair and they come in their blouses and a “grrr” let’s play! I was really impressed with the mix of ladies that were on the team, and the ages. [They all] look like everybody’s mom and grandma. You would never know they get out there and rock hockey. It’s really cool.
Would you have had trouble going if you had known they weren’t all beginners?
I would have had some self-doubt for sure. About being the newbie or about letting the team down. We are always harder on ourselves as women.
What I have learned now is that there are D and E divisions. Basically, all beginners. Learning on the ice is way better than just doing drills, but I think the two in combination would be the better situation. I’m learning on the ice now, but at the D or E division they will call a penalty and then tell you why. They help you learn VS just playing.
Are you sticking with it?
Gotta stick with it! It will get better. Every game you will get better. There is only one first game.
I’m going to do hockey academy. Its eight sessions – drills, stick handling and shoot to score. Adult beginner. It’s perfect. The league I joined is a 25-week season so I have lots of room for improvement and I’m in it now I can’t just walk away. That would be the worst.
So far to be there with those ladies and get out and be active and part of that community is pretty cool!
Rebecca Permack is a realtor with Permack and Associates in Coquitlam, British Columbia. One of the many other activities in her life includes raising money for the Shelter Foundation which is an adventure in itself and will be featured in a later article!