Kids playing hockey outdoors.

It Was My Day

Saturday morning - a bright January sun barely cleared the horizon; a light wind pushed the -5 degree Fahrenheit air and made the wind chill ten degrees colder. "No school." I thought to myself. I leapt from bed, dressed in layers of clothes: two pairs of socks, long-johns, pants, T- shirt, sweater and topped it all off with my much loved Boston Bruins' jersey. They were having a good year. Bobby Orr would lead them to another Stanley Cup championship that year. (1972)

"Time for some hockey." I thought and hurried to the kitchen for breakfast. The house was quiet. My parents and brothers slept late on the weekends. I was always the early riser, especially when the pond was frozen. There were times the ice would be so smooth and clear, you could see all the way to mud at the bottom, where the frogs hid from winter.

I ate my peanut butter and toast, put on my jacket, grabbed my hockey stick and slung it over my shoulder. My laced-together skates dangled from the end of the stick, where they slapped me in the back with each step I took.

A mist rose from the surface of the bitterly cold ocean. The wind carried the small clouds of frozen steam across the dirt road and over the pond, where it coated the grass at the edge in thick layers of bright white frost.

I sat on the crusty snow and surveyed the pond. No one else was out this early on such a frigid morning. Two hand-made goals sat frozen to the ice on either end of the rink. The rink was bordered by a wall of snow, shoveled from the ice by us kids after a recent snowstorm.

I picked up a frozen skate. The leather, hard from the cold, resisted my double-socked feet. Fifteen minutes later, both skates were laced tightly. I stood, walked across the snow, reached the clear ice and pushed off.

The ice, rough from freezing during a wind and the multitude of blades that scared its surface, rattled under my blades. My feet became numb from the cold. I ignored them. If the ice was frozen and clear, we played hockey. No whining was allowed.

I skated clockwise around the area. Left turns were my weak point. I learned to turn right, which was why I liked to play left wing: I had to skate to the right to go for the goal and for glory. I tossed a puck to the ice and practiced stick handling. I moved the puck to the right, the left, the right flew out of control into the snowy ring boundary.

My stick dug into the snow, felt the frozen puck and pulled it out. I stickhandled toward the net and felt a warmth. I imagined the goalie - crouched - ready for my shot. Defensemen bounced off my rock-hard body. My fans screamed. The puck lifted from the ice by the sheer power of my shot. The goalie dove. The puck soared over his shoulder and knocked the frost from the net behind him.

"He scores!" I raised my stick in the air as my imaginary fans cheered and the ocean mist floated around me. The warmth of victory was in my heart. I could feel it. This would be my day. Stardom was near.

"Mike!" Ramon waved at me. "It's cold this morning."

"Good day for hockey!" I smiled with chapped lips and red cheeks. I watched him approach with my eyes barely visible through the zipped up hood of my winter coat. "Anyone else coming?"

"They'll be here." Ramon quickly pulled his skates on. He lived across the street from the pond. His skates were still warm and slipped on easily.

Ramon practiced. He skated effortlessly over the ice and made perfect shots into the net. I envied him. He was a year younger but a much better hockey player. I was the big clumsy kid who couldn't turn left.

Other boys arrived. We soon had enough for a game. The ice was alive with the scrape of blades, the slap of sticks and the yells of boys playing. The temperature climbed into the twenties, as we rushed back-and-forth over the ice, now coated white with the scrapings from our blades.

We played for five goals. The team who reached five, won.

Noon passed. We played on. My day did not go well. After four games, I hadn't scored a goal. I remembered my elation that morning - this would be my day. A sense of calm came over me. I looked across our makeshift rink. "I can do this!" I vowed and skated out for the next game.

In the first play, I received a pass, skated toward the net, and took a wrist shot that went over the goalie's stick, between his legs and into the net for the first score. On the next play their goalie kicked away a shot. I picked up the rebound. The goalie was still down. I lifted it over him for my second goal.

The other team quickly tied the game at two goals apiece. This was a battle as good as any professional game. We played like demons. Nothing would keep us from victory.

We got the puck and headed toward the opposing goalie. I approached from left wing, my normal spot, took a pass from the center, and slapped the puck toward the goal. It hit their defense men's skate and popped right back to me. My second shot slid under the goaltender's outstretched pad and into the net. Three goals - my first "hat trick".

They tied it up at three. We had the puck again. This time there was a scramble in front of the net. Every player seemed to be slapping at the puck, but luck was with me that day. The puck slipped out from under the maze of steel blades and stopped by my stick. The goaltender, screened by the tangle of players, was an easy mark. I slapped the puck into the wide open corner.

Once again the other team tied the game. It was four to four. The next goal would win. It wasn't easy. Both teams fought passionately. Back-and-forth we skated. Neither goaltender wanted to let his team down. They slid, dove and blocked. They looked like pros.

There was another scramble in front of their net. I was knocked off my skates. Lying flat on my stomach on the ice, I watched the puck bounce between the players. Occasional flashes of sunlight reflected off their skate blades, momentarily blinding me with their brilliance.

I blinked. There it was. The puck slipped away from them unnoticed. It lay unattended. I reached out with my stick, swept it across the ice and slid the puck into the net.

Five Goals and the game! I'd scored five of them. It was a miracle on ice. I was a hero.

The day was my one and only moment of glory at the game of hockey. It goes down in my history as one of my personal triumphs.

It was my day.

~ Michael T. Smith ~
Copyright © 2012

Michael lives in Ohio with his wife Ginny and his stepdaughter's family. You can see a list of Mike's stories here: And you can get his stories emailed to you by signing up here:  Let Michael know what you think of his story:  Michael T. Smith
[ by: Michael T. Smith Copyright © 2012, ( ) -- {used with permission} ]

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