After last weekend's hockey game, we had
to go skating. Not surprisingly, there are two ice arenas in Fairbanks to chose from. I packed up the wife and boy, and we went out to go and see if one was open on a Sunday afternoon. Both were, but the first arena we went to was being Zamboni'd for an upcoming hockey game. I looked around for about five minutes to find someone who might be in charge of the place, but gave up. There are quite a few local rec-league teams, and one was getting ready to play. I walked up the to goalie, and asked if there was an open skate, and was informed that Polar Ice didn't have one until 4 (it was 12:30) but that Big Dipper had one starting at 1pm. I thanked her (I did mention that it was a women's hockey team, didn't I?) and got back in the car.
Women's hockey is just another indication of how popular hockey is here. The other was kid's hockey, which we saw at the Big Dipper when we got there. It was a game filled with five year old boys and girls, moving around the ice like a group of young Gordie Howes and, in general, packed up in the traditional hockey gear. That means pads all over the place, a helmet, and jerseys. They actually looked more like tiny space explorers wandering back and forth on the ice, but they seemed to be having fun.
At this point, it was time to get our skates.
The nice young lady behind the counter looked at me and said "hockey skates, right?" and I nodded. I'd never skated on hockey skates, and this was only the third time that I'd ever been ice skating (though a large number of hours were spent at a roller rink when I was in grade school, skating forever 'round counterclockwise). I just did the math - figure skates - Dorothy Hamill. Hockey skates - big guys who run and hit each other. Figure skates - Brian Boitano. Hockey skates - big viking men with beards and axes relaxing after sacking Northern Europe. Figure skates must be inferior.
The wife began to put skates on the boy. Too small. I was charged (as most husbands would be) with walking back and getting a larger size. I had put my skates on, and figured that I'd have to walk to the door that leads to the ice anyway, so better start practicing walking with them on now. I stood up.
I am pleased to report that walking on skates is the most natural motion you can make, if you were born with little tiny metal blades on the ends of your ankles instead of actual human flesh-feet. Immediately, one of the blades tried to slip under my skate and lay flat, causing my ankle to twist like a dog's head when he hears the rustle of cellophane in the fridge.
Skating was not starting well. I hobbled over, balanced precariously on the metal blades. I had noticed two things about the skates when I'd been putting them on: first, that someone had taken the time to etch 11-3/8" in the stainless steel of each blade, and second, that my skates were stamped "ASTM Approved."
The 11-3/8" (and, actually, the metric equivalent as well) puzzled me. Why was it important that my skate blades be exactly that length? I can do the math here, too. One more (or less) inch of blade wouldn't spread my weight that much more effectively, so, why 11-3/8"? Still don't know. But somebody must think it important.
The ASTM designation really made me proud, though. ASTM is the abbreviation for the American Society for Testing and Materials. Very official. I went to the website and found that they, indeed, had a test for hockey skates. So, not only was I on hockey skates, I was on hockey skates that passed some sort of test.
So, folding up under me like a cheap accordion must be my fault. I hobbled over to the counter, and got skates two sizes larger for my son. I hobbled back, and was informed that these skates were still too small. I had time, however, to tighten up the laces on the skates to the point that my feet and the skate were rapidly going to become one, what with the lack of blood to the foot and all. The blade didn't fold up under me this time.
I went back to the counter, got yet another pair of skates for my boy, and waited while Mom put 'em on him. That accomplished, we were ready. We all were now hobbling off to the rink.
We got on the ice.
We began skating the proscribed counterclockwise direction, near the wall, sort of like three ducks that don't want to leave the nest. Or some other simile. Anyhow, skating was not so bad, with the exception that a pain similar to someone attempting to gouge the muscle in the arch of my foot out using a blunt instrument developed. I had to sit.
This pain (which I attributed to having some sort of muscle in the foot that was used only in skating) seemed to bother only me.
I kept skating. After forty five minutes, the pain was really, really bad. I saw someone I knew (who was a hockey player) and asked him.
'Oh, you want your skate laces real loose, except for around the ankles.'
I loosened the laces, and it was wonderful
. The pain immediately went away. We skated some more, and the boy even managed to skate a few feet on his own.