Sports  Sacred rules of the outdoor rink

Ben Makuch on outdoor hockey's unwritten etiquette

When hell literally freezes over (Canadian winter), my one and only refuge, beyond getting needlessly drunk and forgetting how the fucking Seventh-Circle-of-Hell cold weather persists, is outdoor-rink pickup hockey. According to Dante, the Seventh Circle of Hell is so polar that it’s probably located somewhere in Chelyabinsk, Siberia or Churchill, Manitoba. Either way there’s a fifty per cent chance that it’s buried somewhere in the Canadian tundra.

As the resident “bro” of the Douchebaga Canadensis species, I flee to the legendary realm of the ODR (outdoor rink) when winter strikes to both prove my manliness and to partake in the time-honoured ritual of overcompensating for my lack of actual real world success by being moderately better than you at hockey.

It’s that cracked and splintering public ice, those shitty plywood boards, and the nets that look like they’re made out of depleted uranium from the former Soviet Union that really bring a jingoistic smile to my face. What, you ask, could possibly disrupt this uniquely Canadian and blissful reverie? Another rival fauna, most likely an offshoot of the common Asshole, not yet defined by any sociological research. However, to prevent against their invasion of the rink and in honour of the golden season of pond hockey, I’ve compiled a list of things any potential participant should be aware of, as to avoid the scornful wrath of the faithful knights of sacred hockey tradition. Punishment may involve your shirt being lifted over your head (known colloquially as “jerseying”) in order to inhibit you from manipulating your own limbs, whilst a barrage of punches find their way to your ribs and/or “gibs” (jaw) region.

1. No slapshots allowed

Especially your sad impression of one. I know you grew up watching Brett Hull smash some lumber cheddar and you think, “Wow I should totally disregard the safety of others and try that out.” It’s really not cool at all – it’s is a shitty, selfish thing to do. I’ve seen countless a-peasant who skate like the Tin Man (in other words really terribly) wind up and unleash an abhorrent version of a slap shot, which hits the unsuspecting, unprotected shin of an opponent. You should know that this is practically considered a war crime in most provinces of Canada. Keep the puck no more than an inch above the ice, you reckless donkey.

2. Don’t wear NHL Jerseys.

This rule can be overlooked if you’re under the age of fourteen. After that, your dreams should be sufficiently crushed.

Come on, we’re all past impersonating our favourite players and skating around the ice with our arms in the air pretending that we just won the Stanley Cup. By now, if you haven’t realized that you’re more likely to work for Staples or the federal government and not the Colorado Avalanche, you have no hope of ever entering reality. Wearing an NHL jersey to the rink says, “Obsessive fan with no life,” more than having three fantasy teams and the third shitty alternate jersey of the Ottawa Senators. Avoid at all costs. Also, you may unknowingly attract the violent attentions of another clown crazier than you, who really hates your team and will thus act as irrationally as his number 87 Crosby jersey. Beware.

3. Proving you should’ve “made it”

I know you think that you got cut by the Nepean Raiders House League A team back in ’96 because the coaches didn’t understand your creative genius and it put a real crutch on your bid to become a Hall of Famer, but nobody at Parc Lafontaine gives a shit. Stop stick handling like a lunatic, never passing the puck, and screaming at me to “back-check.” I’m likely hungover and therefore twice as likely to do something violently irrational to your ankles, à la Bobby Clarke in ’72. Honestly, relax a bit. Anyway, I’m fittingly going to refer to this creature as “hotshot” from now on.

4. Stop the political bullshit

This is ODR hockey, not fucking Parliament.

Maybe it’s just because it’s Montreal, but I cannot tell you how many anglophone versus francophone grudge matches I’ve seen out at the rink. Why? Let it go. I really don’t care if you grew up in “Leafs Nation” or love the Habs – you’re being ridiculous. Aren’t we past ’95? I know I don’t care anymore, and I didn’t then; I was something like five years old and thought the whole fiasco was a boring A&E show my parents wouldn’t shut up about. For the most part, when I hit the ODR I’m just trying to skate around and convince myself I’ve worked off the last week of debauchery. Cultural conflict is definitely last on my to-do list when gliding around the ice nonsensically. So please, this is Canada: we all love each other and unitedly hate hotshots. Remember, they’re the real enemy.

5. Let the kid play

When you were a kid, don’t you remember how fun it was to dream? How impressed you were with all the older players at the rink? How you somehow skated and deked them all out? Probably because you were incredible. Not! You weren’t at all. For all intents and purposes you probably sucked (and still do), but it felt good at the time when everyone indulged your naivety. So please, hotshot, don’t barge along and steal the puck when some kid who can barely skate gets the black biscuit and launches himself headlong on a Bobby Orr rush. Humour the kid – let him score and give him some of the hope that adulthood will inevitably deprive him of. If you break this rule you’ve essentially declared to the world “I’m an Asshole: avoid me like the plague.” You literally had to contribute ten seconds to the happiness of a child and you failed miserably. You’re the worst.