The Rules of Pond Hockey
Last week, for the first time in two decades, Trout Lake, a pond in East Vancouver, froze over enough to skate on it. A few hours later people were shoveling out a hockey rink, building goals out of milk crates and throwing their sticks into the middle for some old fashioned shinny hockey.
I grew up with a hockey rink at the end of my street. Some of my earliest memories were of pushing a plastic chair around that sheet of ice, my feet adorned with twin bladed contraptions called “bob-skates”, a two bladed skate that you strapped on like a pair of crampons
Over the years, I learned the rules of the rink. They were unwritten and informal, but understood and respected by everyone who laced up their skates.
The rules were simple.
First, everyone gets to play. Age, skill and experience don’t matter, if you show up, you can get on the ice. If you’re in the middle of a game and new players join, you make room for them. If you show up and a game is already on, you join the team with fewer players.
Second, teams are chosen by a pile of sticks in the middle of the ice. One person divides the sticks in two, whichever team your stick ends up with, that’s who you play for. You might end up playing with your friends, but you might end up chasing a loose puck into the corner and have to run your dad into the boards. However temporary it may be, during the game your loyalty is to the team, and at the end of the game, there are no hard feelings. Well, most of the time there are no hard feelings.
Third, pass to the kid. At every rink there is going to be at least one kid playing with you who is younger, smaller and slower than you are. Pass the puck to them and try and set them up for goals. If you’re kind the person who swoops in and steals the puck from a child, know that everyone thinks you’re and asshole. Oh, and if the kid is faster and better than you, be extra nice, because that might be the next Connor McDavid.
Last, if you shoot the puck over the boards, it’s your job to go dig it out of the snow. Don’t leave it buried, and don’t expect someone else to go get it. If you don’t like having to climb through the snow with skates on, learn to hit the net.
When I left my hometown and moved to Montreal for university, the rules at the rink that sprung up in Mount Royal Park for the winter were the same. Again, at the rinks in Toronto, the one cold, dark winter I spent there. And last week on Trout Lake the rules remained, even when 20 years had passed since the last game had been played on that ice.
It got me thinking, if we can respect these rules, which basically boil down to inclusion and not being an outright asshole, at unregulated sheets of ice across Canada every winter, why do we have so much trouble with it the rest of the time?
Seriously, I don't have an answer.