Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Guest Writer: ¿Qué es el “Hockey”?
In the beginning, there was Arroz con Pollo. Then there was hockey. Or “El Jockey”, as my mom calls it to this day. What follows is a little anecdote about growing up being a hockey playing fan in a first-generation 1990's Colombian household. Sound weird? Well yes, it was a mucho weirdo journey indeed…
My parents moved us to the U.S. when I was 7 years old. I eventually learned English in school but like any normal South American kid, I grew up on a steady diet of Fútbol and horribly addicting TV Novelas on Telemundo. Back then, we had just the one TV set and certainly no cable, so Madre and Padre picked what my sister and I watched, listened to, and clothed ourselves in. No ifs, ands or buts. I had no clue about American sports, music or pop culture until the time I hit middle school.
When I was 13, two universe-altering things entered my life: I was introduced to Metallica, and later, to floor hockey via phys ed. I fell in love with both on the spot. In that fateful awkward year, I morphed into a braces-wearing, tomboy-ish headbanger geek (think a chubby version of Darlene from Roseanne) and needless to say, I got picked on a lot. Aside from an innately weird sense of humor and the pleasure procured from always kicking the prissy girls’ asses in gym class, it was my love for hockey that really got me through those stereotypically miserable years.
On school nights, while occasionally doing homework, I listened to every Rangers games on my AM/FM Walkman radio. I actually looked forward to school the next morning, eagerly in fact, to talk about the game with my hockey buddies in Home Room. In math class, we used to draw the Rangers logo on our arms in pen ink out of boredom. My most memorable moment EVER was purposefully rushing through the questions (and almost failing) my English Regents* exam in June of 1994 because it got in the way of us making it to the Rangers Stanley Cup Parade that morning. My friend Aaron and I made it to the Bowling Green subway stop with just enough time to run up the stairs, sprint a few blocks, and catch the float as it passed by with Lord Stanley’s Cup hoisted above Mess’s head. So worth it!
Eventually I started playing roller hockey with the neighborhood boys and, to my mother’s delight, I would come home with my fingers all smashed up, bloody knuckles, scraped knees and elbows. Fuck pads and gloves, we thought. I cannot tell you how many times I got grounded or punished for this. Colombian girls don’t play boys’ sports. We’re supposed to be dainty and pretty and watch beauty pageants and get good grades. Not me. I just never fit that traditional, I mean boring, mold…
Thankfully I got good grades all through school, and it took my mom a few years to realize that hockey-love wasn’t just a phase. With Dad out of the picture at this point, I think she figured out that playing this sport kept me out of trouble and made me a stronger person despite all the bruises I used to bring home. Eventually she started liking the sport because it was, as she called it, “Fútbol on Ice,” and to my surprise, it was she who bought me my first pair of ice hockey skates and my first ice hockey equipment bag.
At this point we lived in Long Island, and being poor as hell with no car, had to bus it everywhere**, but somehow I made it to the rinks after school to get as much ice time as possible. The Cantiague Park P.A.L. Wednesday night men’s league “adopted” me as their “little sister” and I got to play for free every week. I cut my teeth, as they say, on the ice with Nassau County’s finest
Through the years, I have made most of my good friends around the sport and evenwhen not playing for long stretches at time, I always find myself going back to it. It even gave me the most entertaining job I ever had for three years after College — I worked for the New York Islanders and got to meet many interesting characters (next time I’ll tell you about the time Zdeno Chara and I went to the Empire State Building***). Oh yes I have so, so, so many stories…
However, I’ll end my story here, but will thank you for reading if you got to this point. Thanks to '94 Parade for letting me share this because to this day, I’m pretty sure I am still the only Colombian chick that plays hockey in Queens, maybe even all of New York City. But if any of you out there know of any other Colombian girls who do, please let me know, it’d be great to compare notes, and bruises, with someone else who’s traveled the same path...
*Regents exams are mandatory in NYC, you must pass them in order to pass the school year.
**If anyone that has lived in Long Island can attest to this, public transportation out there is a fucking joke.
By Sandra Ximena