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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Sportsmanlike Conduct

The winter I was eight, we must have had a lot of snowstorms followed by thaws. There was a small paved patch near our house, and that year it got covered with a layer of ice, turning it into a mini rink. While it was small, it was much more convenient than going to the official rink a few blocks away, which was also outdoors. This was especially so since we always had to walk to the rink wearing our skates (with guards on the blades, of course).

I was out on the mini rink by myself one morning, skating slowly around, when I saw a group of boys headed my direction and carrying hockey sticks. Since the ice wasn’t big enough for them to play on and me to skate on, I started moving faster, determined to enjoy the last few seconds before they kicked me off. After all, I was a girl and I was alone. I understood the laws of the playground.

The boys arrived, and we eyed each other warily. Though they must have been from the neighborhood, I didn’t know any of them, not surprisingly since they were a little older than me and we hadn’t been living there that long.

Finally, one of them spoke. “Do you know how to play hockey?”

I shook my head. I barely knew how to skate.

They looked at each other. Here it comes, I thought. “Okay, why don’t you play goalie?” he said. And so I did. They marked off a goal at one end with piles of clothing, and I stood in front of it, while they skated around and took shots. I even managed to stop a few. I felt pretty good about it as I walked back to the house.

Looking back, I realized the boys were probably happy to have someone else in net—that gave them all the chance to try and score goals. It was still very generous of them to share the ice with me (even though I was there first). Their willingness to share the game they loved, even with a girl, has left me with a fond spot for hockey in my heart ever since.

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