The modern-day search for old-time hockey

Published 8:50 am Friday, March 5, 2010

I’ve got a fever. Lazy stereotypes suggest this heat is overdue. I am a Michigander-Minnesotan, and Hockey Fever should be in my blood. Yet no Red Wing courses through these veins and I feel no pulse for The Wild, but watching the Olympics with its pursuit of national pride and gold, silver and bronze bling spurred a yearning for the sport of my people: old-time hockey.

The neighborhood rink where my husband Graham plays pick-up games seemed like my best bet for bloodlust and bone crunching. I squatted in the snowbank while Graham hit the ice joining a couple of 50-somethings and 20-somethings already playing. A new player steered a silent protocol. Every guy threw his stick mid-ice and kicked them around until they were divided into teams. That seemed sportsmanlike, but I knew from watching “Slap Shot” 47 times that hockey was no gentlemen’s game. I grabbed my glasses so I wouldn’t miss it if somebody’s tooth went flying.

Skates teasing the ice sounded like knives being sharpened, a fitting simile I hoped. The teams traded goals over and over. This looked a lot like the games I watched on TV. Then two of the younger players skated to the boards near me. I was sure they were strategizing an attack when one of them pulled out his phone and started working his thumbs.

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“It’s her. What should I say?”

“See what she’s doing tonight.”

“Should I ask what she’s doing or if she wants to do something.”

“Dude, don’t get tied down. It’s only 7:30.”

I wanted to scream, “There’s no texting girls in old-time hockey!” but how could I interfere with a love like that? Then my pocket vibrated.

My phone screen read simply, “I’m texting you.”

“Why? Because those kids are and you don’t want to seem like an oldie?”


“Ohhhh, that’s so romantic.”

The action resumed. Suddenly one player’s stick connected with Graham’s shin. Here we go! Would Graham sock him with his gloves on or off? I saw them exchanging words. Pre-fight smack talk no doubt, but when they got closer, this is what I heard.

“Whoa. Sorry man.”

“No problem.”

“Did I get you?”

“Nah, didn’t hurt.”

Wait. Wait. What? There’s no apologizing in old-time hockey! Reg Dunlop would curse this bunch.

The game broke up when Casanova’s phone went off again. I followed the guys to the warming house, which was prettier and smelled better than my college apartment. Nobody roughhoused. Nobody used course language.

“Old-time hockey! Come out and show yourself!”

Then Graham, with sweat on his brow and flushed cheeks, looked at me with the clear wide eyes of youth, “Wasn’t that great?” he asked.

At that moment he was a boy, a boy who spent the night on the ice, laughing and playing with his friends in the silver cold under Minnesota stars. He was free of care and flying. He was joy personified. Finally. There it was, old-time hockey, shining in my husband’s eyes.

St. Paul resident Alexandra Kloster appears every other Friday. She may be reached at and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at