My First Outdoor Hockey Game

Rob O'gara | Boston Bruin

I have been a late bloomer in most aspects of my life. I’ll keep some of the more embarrassing aspects to myself, but in terms of hockey, almost everything came a little later for me than expected. When my Yale D-partner, Mitch, challenged me to write the first EZ ICE blog, I was almost ashamed to realize and now admit my early hockey memories are few and far between. My parents captured my earliest hockey days on VHS; they depict me struggling to stand in the corner of The Rinx on Long Island. Continuing up through the ranks, these videos show nothing outside of the confines of a rink, an occasional visit to Rockefeller Center, and somehow even less standing. Where are all of the formative moments that I’m supposed to look back and reflect upon when telling the story of how I got into hockey? How can I even call myself a hockey player with memories only formed through watching fuzzy VHS tapes? Maybe it was the wind’s sting on my cheeks or the chill beneath my double-layered socks that made it stick, but thankfully I do have one memory, one day I’ll never forget. Cliché alert: it was the day I fell in love with the game forever—and it happened outside.

I was around 9 years old and playing for the Suffolk PAL Silver Shields Squirt A hockey team. A chubby kid who enjoyed (still enjoys) his desserts, I was a little taller than everyone and somehow a decent skater despite my awkward proportions. Following a Saturday night game, some of the boys on the team and I got to spend the night at our teammate Chris Emerson’s house. With our smelly bags strewn about his garage, we huddled in his bedroom around his brand new XBox, blissfully unaware that a snow storm was rolling across Long Island, leaving a decent dusting and freezing temperatures behind. Morning snuck up on us without getting much rest, but as soon as the first guys saw there was snow on the ground, heads started perking up. “Snowball fight?” I thought naively. Little did I know, Miller’s Pond was no more than a stone’s throw from Chris’ backyard, meaning only one thing: pond hockey.

We hit the ice at 10AM and didn’t stop playing until the sun set and forced us to stop. All we needed were sticks, gloves, skates, pucks, and boots to mark off two nets. Well, that and the peanut butter and jelly/hot cocoa combo that Mrs. Emerson brought over. There was just something so pure about skating under the sky with a winter breeze in your face. Today, while I have been fortunate enough to have made my NHL debut, won an NCAA championship and 3 Ivy League Championships, it’s memories like this one that keep me hungry for more. I’m not dedicating my life to hockey for any sort of accolades; I’m dedicating my life to hockey because I love the game. I mark that day in my memory as one when my affinity for the game of hockey became a passion, a need to be on the ice, a need to be playing the game that means so much to me. It’s a moment that I can call upon now to remind myself why I’m working so hard to turn a debut into a career—because I can't imagine a life without hockey. I only wish that I’d discovered my passion sooner, maybe then I’d have more amazing childhood hockey memories like this one.

P.S. to all the hockey moms out there… hot cocoa is a must.

Thanks for reading, 

Rob

Mitch WitekComment