I live in a hockey-crazy corner of New England. Within a 50-minute drive of my house there are 6 ice rinks, not to mention the many frozen ponds that grace the Upper Valley.
For seven months a year, I play an average of 10 hours of hockey per week, with the opportunity to play many more. It’s my idea of Hockey Heaven.
But, somehow, bewilderingly, there are NO year-round rinks here in the Upper Valley. My rinkrat paradise is seasonal. Come April each year, I begin to dread the day they turn off the compressors and let the ice melt.
Just as the rest of New England is rejoicing at the return of warmer weather, I am suddenly cut off from my favorite activity. Just like that. Cold turkey.
It’s worst in the first week. I am restless, listless. I am antsy, unable to focus and vaguely irritable. I am deep in the throes of hockey withdrawal.
Within my hockey circles, no one doubts that hockey withdrawal is real. We all search for some combination of “off-season” activities that never quite seem to fill the place of hockey.
It’s not just missing the game itself, which is, arguably, the most fun game ever.
There’s the resulting decrease in feel-good endorphins, since it’s hard to maintain 10 hours of activity per week if it feels more like work and less like play.
There’s the disruption of my routine, leaving huge holes that I don’t have energy to fill.
There’s the disheartening need to change my diet to reflect reduced caloric needs, or else risk gaining 10-20 pounds, easy. I like food. Playing lots of hockey requires me to eat lots of food. It’s hard to dial back my eating habits.
Most of all, though, there’s the loss of community. Hockey is a team sport. You need hockey buddies to pass the puck & make plays with. You need hockey buddies to score against.
It’s a social game, with unique communication happening often wordlessly on the ice.
Plus, plenty of antics and banter from the bench.
Thankfully, I’ve got one last hockey hurrah this weekend: a women’s tournament with my Growlers team up in Burlington, VT.
One last, sweet taste of hockey before the long drought of Summer. And I intend to savor every last drop of it.
What about you? How do YOU handle hockey withdrawal??