The wisps of cool air of the Corner Brook Civic Centre are like a handful of knives being dragged down the back of my throat by an invisible assailant.
Each additional breath burns with a similar sensation and makes me wonder why anyone would want to put themselves through this torture at all.
All I really want is to be back in the dressing room listening to the younger guys comparing players and the different players they’ve played against, and who was on television that night.
It reminds of this one time sitting with an investment guy from Ontario at the bar in Jungle Jims who told me a couple of stories over a couple of beverages of playing against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin.
He also told me he threatened Taylor Hall with broken appendages at a party once, which is wild.
These are random thoughts at the moment, though. My throat still burns and there is still plenty more of the practice before I can shift back to that daydream.
This is the first of seven open senior hockey tryouts I attended in an attempt to crack the Corner Brook Royals opening night lineup, and things are not going as planned.
I’m clumsy handling the puck (imagine using a ringette stick to play hockey and you’ve got the idea) and making a tight turn is more akin to the Titanic turning around in a bathtub rather than a personal watercraft on the Atlantic.
It is at moments like these, which happened more than I’d like to admit — that is from a song I think — that I start to wonder what exactly drew me to the rink on a warmer than usual night in October.
I am not in great shape, haven’t tried out for a team since Grade 10 and haven’t been involved in an actual hockey practice for the better part of 15 years.
Yet, when it was announced there would be a second season of the fledgling West Coast Senior Hockey League, I began thinking that it’d be neat to try out for the team if they had open practices and see where I stood.
That is, why am I stood on wobbly legs in the corner next to what would be the Royals bench waiting for my turn to dart, or a term slower than dart, up the ice?
Well, I’m still relatively new to the city and I thought, why not?
I mean, you go out for a couple of spins around the ice, you get cut and life carries on its familiar path.
What was there to lose? Nothing really — except a couple buckets of sweat, that is.
However, let’s make one thing abundantly clear. The scattered recreational hockey skate with a bunch of weekend warriors does not prepare you for a tryout that involves players with some high-level experience in this province.
Most of the players have been through the rink wars with the shortened West Coast Senior Hockey League, while others cut their teeth in various major midget and junior hockey leagues.
Pucks zip across the ice from one stick to another accompanied by the loud crash that comes when it hits the blade.
When shots aren’t snagged by one of the half-dozen goalkeepers on the ice, they ping off the goalposts and rattle the glass.
Two-on-ones turn into three-on-twos as the evening progresses. Breakout passes are the norm and I’m getting a little more winded.
Still, there is nothing gained if nothing is ventured, or so they say.
It is only Practice 1.
Maybe the next time I won’t look so much like a neophyte.