the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
Mmm, baby: The very best in food porn
April 27 2013
Alternatives to Butler
April 19 2013
Red Bull and relaxation
April 17 2013
Back to the kitchen: A short journey through sexist pop culture
April 12 2013
Bikinis and big booties, y’all
April 8 2013
Azealia Banks Did What?
April 5 2013
More stories from Columbia’s military veterans
April 3 2013
Sing, O Muse, of some sappy story
April 1 2013
Missed the Cliterary Open Mic? Check out the highlights here
March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
by Hannah Sotnick
The tone of incredulity is always the same, marked by slight differences in pitch and degrees of eyebrow-raising: “You play hockey?”
Then a beat. Usually another. Next, a narrowing of the eyes and a tilting of the head, as if my small stature might magically magnify from a different angle. No luck.
And then the inevitable conclusion: “You don’t look like a hockey player.”
Like most contact sports, ice hockey favors the big. Bulging biceps provide power for booming slapshots, and more body mass and height inevitably mean harder hits along the boards. Despite my diminutive figure, though, I was destined to play for the Columbia University Women’s Ice Hockey Club.
I was both blessed and cursed to have been born to a long-time New York Rangers season-ticket holder. My father had me waddling around with a hockey stick in my hand and a personalized Rangers jersey on my back before my second birthday. I grew up playing street hockey with my younger siblings, firing the bright orange ball into broken crates in our driveway all year round. Sometimes, if we were feeling particularly adventurous, we would ditch our sneakers for roller blades, reveling in the thrill of a more precarious mode of movement.
I joined the floor hockey team at my high school and continued to nurture my skills and passion for the game. One of my most cherished moments occurred in the last game of my senior year, when I tipped in a key goal from right in front of the opposing goaltender off a flawless feed from my line-mate. It provided the perfect—albeit bittersweet—farewell to my floor hockey career. But however dear to me it was (and still is), floor hockey soon became a thing of the past; I was heading off to the “real world” of college, where I would be hard-pressed to find a competitive floor hockey league because, as I’ve been told numerous times, floor hockey is not a “real sport.”
Though the prospect was daunting, I decided to make the jump to the more intense sport of ice hockey. For someone who only enjoys participating in activities in which she excels, learning the ins and outs of this complex sport proved to be a real lesson in humility.
I certainly had a fair share of roadblocks ahead of me. Unless you count a summer of lessons when I was four, I had no idea how to ice skate. Learning involved quite a bit of falling down and quite a bit of embarrassment on my part. It didn’t help that I’m not exactly built for a sport that involves players careening around an ice surface at breakneck speeds, frequently colliding with one another in order to gain an upper hand on the possession of a small (but heavy—another strike against me) vulcanized rubber disc.
Fortunately, joining the Columbia team provided me with the perfect platform to sharpen my skating, shooting, and stickhandling skills. What’s more, I was not about to embark on my unexpected journey without guidance. Undersized hockey player Petr Prucha has been my personal hockey hero for almost a decade—he’s the reason I wear number 25 on the back of my jersey. Prucha played for the New York Rangers from 2005 to 2009, spanning my entire high school experience. While his glass-cutting cheekbones certainly can’t be discounted, that wasn’t the only reason I developed a soft spot for him. Prucha is 6 feet tall and, despite the generous inches Prucha and I both gain from our skates and the veneer of bulk that the rest of our hockey gear affords us, we’re both still hopelessly small.
Prucha was beloved by fans because he turned a deaf ear to those who complained of his small size. My hero-worship became about the feisty energy that Prucha brought to the ice to make up for his lack of size, and only by embracing these values did I then turn to my own development as a player.
Admittedly, the crisp scraping of my skates on the ice and the inexplicable thrill of hurling the puck into woven twine is exhilarating, even addicting. More often than not, though, the puck hits the boards instead of the net—or fails to move off the ice entirely—and I skid, or flail, or sprawl out on all fours, and wonder what the hell I’m doing out there. As a beginner, I learned to swallow my pride and accept falling as part of the learning process. At the same time, I resolved never to be too humbled not to get right back up.
I’m a big believer in mind over matter; I applied this principle in my first Columbia ice hockey game, two months into my freshman year, at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J.
The other players were big, experienced, and skilled. I was an undersized neophyte, a newborn foal on skates. Still, I gave it all I had, and then some. I skated. Hard. I sweated. My calves were burning. The ice, with its frustrating lack of friction, taunted me.
Determined to prove myself, I dug my blades into the ice and parked myself in front of the opposing goalie’s net. I lost track of the puck and then found it, grinning at me, so dull and unassuming against the backdrop of glistening ice and the harried motion of blue and gray players alike. It was an inch away from my wobbly stick.
I swatted at the puck with my stick in a PGA-worthy putt and promptly ended up on my knees. Miraculously, though, the goalie also ended up on her knees. And the puck scuttled past the faded goal line.
There was no jubilant arm-raising on my part. I wasn’t even close to coordinated enough for that.
But I saw my smile reflected on the faces of my surprised teammates as we exchanged gloved fist-bumps, and I felt my helmet vibrate joyfully as my grinning coach tapped me on the head. A goal for the home team—it was slow, it was messy, but it was mine.
The incomprehensible hockey gods rewarded me for my hard work. I have given my all to the sport, and it has given it all right back.
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