Public versus Private
It was this afternoon. I didn’t get much notice. . .just a quick text from Tory that it was today at 4:30 and tickets went on sale at 3:30. I dropped what I was doing, mentally erased my plans for the rest of the afternoon into evening and raced over to the high school to pick up Tory, then get to the local ice rink to stand in line for tickets (the lone middle aged mom standing outside in the freezing cold for 45 minutes with a bunch of hyped up high school fans) before they were all sold out.
Today was the local high school varsity ice hockey game between our town’s public school and our town’s private school. I go almost every year; the (very few) years I haven’t attended are those in which I couldn’t buy, beg, or (I guiltily admit) pay a premium price to score a ticket for myself. I love the drama of hockey, the crowds that attend the games, and the players. Mostly, though, I love the high school players. They play with heart, passion and a raw love of the game, not for money and fame.
For the first time, I got to see Tory’s friend Heidi play. Number 29 is scrappy. She plays with heart, skill and speed. And she’s a pony-tailed sophomore playing varsity ice hockey with mostly junior and senior guys. That makes me even more proud to know her. When she takes a hit that the local crowd thinks is unfair, it goes wild chanting: “She’s a girl! She’s a girl. She’s a girl,” letting the local private school know what they think of the treatment of their lone female player.
Number 8 is Evan. I watched his older brother play and now I’m watching him. He’s been to our home and seems like a nice guy, kinda quiet. On the ice he’s anything but as he jumps and weaves and smushes the opposing players into the boards on his way to the puck. And did I mention he jumps? That kid gets more air on the ice than I see many skaters getting on their boards.
Number 20 is the Canadian, Zach. Wow. He’s big, and he skates with speed and finesse. When he and an opposing player collide, Zach doesn’t even flinch from the impact. He barrels down the ice, intent on the puck, and leaves his hapless opponent in a crumpled pile. It ain’t pretty. When you meet him in person, you look up and up; he’s that tall and friendly and well spoken.
In addition to these players, who are my daughter’s friends, I watch number 3, a team captain, who scored the lone goal today. I know and love his parents and have watched him play for years; he’s really good. And number 19. He’s also a captain and a tough-as-nails, no-holds-barred hockey player. Hit a member of his team unfairly and you’ll have him in your face. The crowd loves him. The goalie, number 33, only gave up two goals today; he deflected many, many more with precision and an almost intuitive flick of the stick or wrist. He’s skilled and makes it look easy.
Part of the drama of high school hockey is the crowd. It’s a living breathing organism. Even after standing outside in the 20 degree cold this afternoon for 45 minutes or more in cutoff shorts, tank tops and blue war paint (many of the local girls) and jeans, tee shirts and hoodies (the local guys), then coming inside the barely heated rink and waiting another 45 minutes for the game to begin, the teen crowd was pumped. When the public school team skates onto the ice, the voices roar as one, the bleachers shake from the pounding fists and feet. It’s magnificent in the sheer, raw power of youth, not always polite, not always politically correct, but true to who they are right at that minute. Stand back and let the chanting begin.