these feet aren't made for skating, that's just what they won't do

Skating at Harbourfront
Ice skating and I have a strained relationship.

Skating was not a skill that ran in our family. Pictures exist of Dad in full hockey gear from a stint in a mid-60s recreational league in either Leaside or Kirkland Lake. He claimed that he wore Alex Delvecchio's skates for a few games after a teammate found a pair lying around, making me wonder how easy it was to swipe an NHL star's equipment from Maple Leaf Gardens in those days.

My problem was my feet. Within a quarter of a lap around the arena, my feet cried uncle. Compared to that pain, falling was pleasurable. Skate size didn't seem to matter, resulting in as much time off the ice as on.

Every year, my elementary school had a skating party. Early on, my parents would buy me skates and we'd go to at least one or two other rec skates a year. When it became clear skating was a once-a-year attempt, Dad arranged for hand-me-downs from other teachers. After a few years of this, I resorted to sliding on my boots. By Grade 8, we conveniently scheduled vacations around skating day.

(OK, maybe once. I dodged skating that year by tagging along with Dad and my grandmother on her last trip back to Toronto, for a former neighbour's wedding anniversary. Highlights were discovering a taste for anchovies and a splurge at the comic book stores than lined Queen West).

While ice skating was torture, elementary school trips to Wheels roller rink in Windsor were less of problem. My feet adapted well to 70s-style roller skates and I quickly got over a need to rush over to the walls every five minutes. The only problem was a doofus in my class who thought it'd be fun one year to keep slamming me into the boards. The cosmic balance was restored when he failed that grade.

Apart from a brief attempt at Nathan Phillips Square after an office Christmas lunch a few years ago (which consisted of my co-workers supporting me for two laps), I hadn't laced up skates for 20 years until Robbie Burns Day. After feasting on haggis, Hilary, Nadia and I ventured down to Harbourfront for a DJed skate.

Skating Under the Tower (1)
After watching the others at a similar skate two weeks earlier, I figured I was up for the challenge. The Harbourfront rink feels relaxed compared to Nathan Phillips, with skaters of all skill levels taking it easy under the city skyline. Even if you don't step onto the ice, it's a pleasant spot to wind down the week and watch others fly by.

I rented a spiffy pair of black and red blades, walked over to the rink and carefully entered the rink.

When There Isn't Enough Room to Fit "Sharpening" on the Door...
All confidence evaporated quickly.

In retrospect, I might have felt more secure had I left my camera in a locker, as paranoia about falling on it made every wobble a fear-filled moment. Hilary did a great job of steadying me, so the fear slowly ebbed.

However, my old enemy returned in all its force: foot pain. Any moment it seemed I might find my glide, my feet would cry. Cue frequent pit stops. Attempts to head off by myself ended up with a quick grab of the nearest post.

At least I gave it a shot. I may try again someday - never say never...


Riding the Bench Riding the Bench (Card Back)
Just for fun, I created my own hockey card. The design is based on 1977/78 O-Pee-Chee, one of the first older sets I built up (mostly from a kid I'd exchange cards with on the bus in return for not complaining too loudly when he used my head as a drum).

Anyone care to guess who was the "Eddie" that New York loved?

Photos taken January 11 and January 25, 2008 - JB, card photo by HM or NH


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