I played the last game of my ball hockey career this week.
As near as I can tell, because amateur sport record keeping is not fantastic, my career started in 2001. With a couple of years off for life things, I think I have played 16 years, 35 seasons and 600+ games over five leagues in two cities. Three decades! I played in my 30s, 40s, and (now) in my 50s! I swear at least a quarter of the people I play against currently weren’t born when I started playing!
How do you say goodbye to that?
I think of the teammates I have had along the way. The friends I have made. The struggle I had when I transitioned as to whether I should continue playing… and if I did how I would be treated, and how would I play?
I think of the good times: Four league championships, team parties, weddings and scoring straight off the face off at least 40 times (the Bullock-Emsley special!).
I think of the bad things: Three concussions, a high ankle sprain, the one teammate who smelled so bad of alcohol I threw up on the bench, getting drilled by that Emsley slapshot in the back so bad I crumpled to the ground and my opponents dragged me off the floor in sympathetic solidarity!
I think of the challenge of coming back to the game after transitioning genders. The fear I felt going to a new team, playing against men (boys) and seeing some of the people who would have known me pre-transition. The gratitude I felt for those who knew me and immediately accepted the “new me”. (Special thanks to Adil who was so supportive and accepting and who was always pumping me up!) The love I have for my female teammates, who showed me that being a woman doesn’t mean I can’t be an amateur athlete and that love of the game transcends gender and we have every right to be here.
I think of the reasons I wanted to play: Competitiveness outlet, fitness challenge, bonding experience, inexpensive way to stay connected to a sport I love (ice hockey is EXPENSIVE!), and as a way to meet like-minded people in a new environment.
This sport has given me a lot.
Amateur athletes don’t usually get to say goodbye.
It sucks because we can have as much, if not more, passion for sport as the professionals do. It means a lot to us and we truly play for the love of the game… it’s not a money maker for us, it’s a money drain! We play at ridiculous hours, with short benches, out of position, emergency goaltenders, and in a variety of arenas…some of dubious (at best) quality. We play for the camaraderie, the fun, the beers after (some play because they still think they can make the pros… we don’t like those guys!).
I can still play. Maybe not as well as I used to, but I can still play. I was never fast, and I am even slower in my 50s (not a lot though… there wasn’t much to start with) but I can still shoot. Still find my teammates with passes. Still win the odd face off or 15.
It’s time, though.
The league keeps getting younger. My body keeps getting older! For all the fun and good times, I just no longer have the passion and desire for the rigours of this particular amateur sport. I am at peace with my decision.
I’ll be forever grateful for my experiences playing.
I will miss it.
Thank you for 21 years.
Goodbye, ball hockey.