Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hockey Night In Korea

"You have grey hair."

I'm not an old man by any means, although my mid-thirties are approaching faster than Marian Gaborik on a breakaway. Yet just when I was feeling like a kid again my brother, as is the duty of younger brothers everywhere, had to drop one of the few statements that can make my chest hurt.

(The other heart attack inducing statements, in case you were wondering, would be: "The company put a freeze on all pay raises, including those tied to promotions, but we're going to need to you continue managing the client and the staff", and "you are thirty-four next month.")

Such is the life of this single, aging goalie.

Nevertheless, such insolence by my sibling didn't dampen my mood because last night was my first night of Hockey Night in Korea! Yee-haw! What could be better than an evening manning the pipes as a group of wily Canadians took turns firing the puck off of my groin?

Every week for what seems like decades, a group of Canadian expatriates have been coming together at Namsun Ice Rink in Daejeon for an evening of skating, smack talk, and beer-fueled revelry. For them there is nothing better than this, and I couldn't agree more.

On this night there were only six of us. Five skaters and one keeper, but it didn't matter. Surely an organized game would have been nice, but that wasn't necessarily the point. The point was that for an hour the place was ours. Gone were the hordes of figure and speed skaters doing their cute little dances, getting in our way, and screwing up the ice.

I have to admit, this was the first time in well over two years that I was able to strap on the pads. A knee injury a number of years ago took its toll, and a doctor advised me that the best course of action was to lay off for awhile. On this night my visions of pulling a Mike Richter were trumped by visions of being carted away to a strange Korean hospital in a strange Korean ambulance.

In news that should surprise no one this small group of Canadian ice duffers were collectively the most skilled bunch of forwards that I have had the pleasure of facing in a very long time. I like to think that it is because Canadians probably aren't allowed to graduate high school unless they can demonstrate proficiency in the fine arts of curl-dragging, dangling, and tipping.

Not to be beaten I managed to demonstrate proficiency in the fine art of sweating.

Eventually I found my rhythm and made some good stops, so American hockey pride is still intact. It may sound strange but it feels nice when a group of Canucks compliment you on the fact that you don't have a five hole.

When all was said and done we headed to the bar where we made a point of drinking the place out of Czech beer in a mission to get everyone free toques. I did it just because I get a kick out of hearing Canadians say "touque", and from of the good feeling that comes from heading to the bar with the crew after a game.

It's good to be back on a team.

Thank God for hockey in Korea!