by Joey Rodman
Anyone who has ever met me realizes pretty quickly I’m a die hard baseball fan. From the beginning of spring training until the lingering days after the last game in the World Series, it’s almost all I think about. When postseason starts, I get a little sad. Okay, I get a little sadder. My original depression starts when my team gets mathematically eliminated, which – depending on the year, can be several weeks before postseason. That’s another story though.
Life as a baseball fan gets a little boring in the early fall when your team hasn’t made it to the World Series in over 100 years and likely won’t for another hundred. So, how do you fill the gap between October and Spring training? The logical answer in Oklahoma would be football. There’s only one problem though, I hate football. I tried to like it. I really, truly tried. And I failed. So, now I’m trying something new.
I found out a few months ago that Oklahoma City has a brand new hockey team. I began to research information about the sport. I first found that the only calendar day in the summer when nothing happens in baseball, something happens in hockey. This was looking good to me…then:
1. Hockey starts about the time that baseball ends, and ends about the time that baseball starts;
2. We have a local team, and;
3. It’s not football.
Hockey is my new off-season sport.
I looked around trying to figure out the rules and this website is the best one I’ve found. I still wanted to know more about the sport, however, so I set out to dig deeper. I found some local fans who play hockey for fun and went to one of their games. A few days later I sat down with the captain of the team and two players (who happen to be husband and wife) to ask some questions. Nick is the captain; Paco and Pook are married:
How did you get started playing hockey?
Nick: The only reason I got into hockey was I married a Canadian. In a land where football is king, really hockey is the same thing as football. You have to be that skilled, but you’re doing it on two knives on ice. That’s why it amazes me that people say “I don’t like hockey” because it’s really like football on ice. I’ve hit a lot of home runs, but I think the best thing I’ve ever experienced was getting my first goal. I was shocked that I made contact with the puck, to be honest.
Paco: I’m from Sayre, Oklahoma – out West. When I was about 10 my parents built a roller rink in the town. About a year later we’re going to skating conventions in Las Vegas and there’s information about roller hockey. Eventually I convinced my parents to buy skates for me and my brother and we started our own roller hockey team.
Pook: Mine is actually totally different, I went ice skating with my friend in Thailand. I’m from Thailand. This guy came up to me and said he was trying to get a girls’ hockey team together. I played for a while in Thailand and then I came over here to go to school. When I finished school I wanted to play again and I met Paco on a hockey team.
Everything seems to happen so fast, I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. One second everyone would be going one direction, and the next second everyone is going in completely the opposite direction at full speed. How do you work together as a team when everything changes so quickly on the ice?
Nick: It’s really fast, in other sports like baseball, basketball or even football you have time to think. In hockey, you either have the puck or you don’t, it’s so fast paced you can’t think you have to rely on instinct. It’s hard for me because I can barely skate. I played almost every sport growing up. I like to think of myself as halfway athletic; I got most of my school paid for playing baseball. Hockey is one of those sports that you can’t play just because you can walk. Baseball, basketball, football, you’re basically running to get around. Hockey is a different beast – there’s an art to it.
Paco: I think a lot of it has to do with playing together, hockey is the only sport I’ve heard of that talks about chemistry with other players. You have to know who is going to be where and when.
Pook: Sometimes you think [a teammate] is going to be somewhere but they aren’t and you have to figure out quickly what to do about it.
I noticed the teams are co-ed. How does that work out?
Nick: What’s funny is this is our second season; we played in the summer and the winter. We had another woman in the summer, she was in her 50’s and she’d been playing for 20 years. She could skate and stick handle and she was really good. The women tend to hold their own; we haven’t had any problems. I’ve seen two other teams with women too. In our league, it’s a non-contact league because we’re all beginners. We don’t have a separate league for women and men so whoever wants to get out there and play can.
If someone reading this wanted to get involved in hockey how would they do that?
Nick: For an adult, the hardest part is getting out there. The first time I ever played hockey was in Canada against my wife’s 9 and 10 year-old cousins. The hardest part was swallowing my pride and getting out there, listening to them laugh at me – and they did quite a bit of laughing at me. There are some good websites out there like OKChockey.com and Dailyhockeydeal.com
or you can visit one of the local ice rinks and tell them you want to play.
As a kid, the best part of Oklahoma is they have a “learn to play” program called “Kids First”. Just take them to a rink and tell them you want your kid to learn how to play hockey. They’ll give them the equipment for free and let them play for 30 days, teach them the rules and let them try it out. If they want to play after that you just pay for the equipment (about $200 for kids) and they’ll put them on a team. If you don’t want to play then you just give the equipment back. It’s pretty easy for kids to get started.
For those of us who are still a little too scared to play, you can always just watch the games. The OKC Barons season opener is Saturday (TODAY!) and as I’m typing this, tickets are still available. It’s also going to be broadcast on the radio.