A better hockey player (Pt. 1)

It was the evening before my first day of high school.

I had been uncharacteristically single-minded that summer.  For the first time, I was going to be—at least temporarily—attending a school outside of New York City’s public school system. The Catholic high school of my parents choosing was to be my destination for at least half of the school year.  The deal was that if I was miserable there after the Christmas break they would transfer me to the local public high school for which I was zoned; the default setting that all of my friends were attending.

Knowing only two other people who were going to what I was forced to call “my new school”, and dreading the lack of comely females and terms like dress code or worse, uniform…I had found the sole silver lining.  This school was the only one of it’s kind in Brooklyn in one respect that was most important to my just-turned-fourteen year old mind.  They had an ice hockey team.

I had not played formally, but fancied myself an undiscovered star of the street after only two years of skating at all.  Three to four hours of non-stop playing each afternoon after school in the P.S. 207 schoolyard.  Endless hours on the weekend.  I knew I was ready.

If not for the small matter of never having ice skated, that was.  So all that summer I spent every available moment roller-blading (when no one had ever seen such contraptions).  On most weekends, I had dragged my family to SkyRink in the city to raise my comfort level with the genuine frozen article.

On this particular evening, as I cruised the neighborhood at full speed, I put aside the apprehension and anxiety of being the new boy in a new school, with my eyes set firmly on the prize:  A spot on the Xaverian High School ice hockey team.

The sight of the city championship banner which hung proudly in navy & gold in the gymnasium was all that I saw during orientation, no matter which direction I looked, and that vision lingered long after the interminable ride home on the B9 bus.

This focus drove me forward with powerful strides along avenues, and turned me, with careful, precise cross-overs down side streets I had never explored.

A voice at the corner of East 38th street and Fillmore avenue brought me to a reluctant stop with a spray of imaginary ice shavings.