What the Game of Hockey is Really All About: "All That Counts", Reviewed

There's a story about the tight red pants I'm wearing (I'm standing in the middle), but that's for another day.

I was reminded recently that hockey is much easier to write about than to play.

After taking a couple years off of playing rec league hockey, I was starting to wonder if my playing days were completely behind me. The picture you see above is from 20 years (and 50 pounds) ago, but by now it looks like someone else's life instead of my own. That's me in the middle, standing up.

I know you might find it hard to believe, but I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen, and that doesn't exactly do wonders for my physical conditioning. Toss in the day-to-day distractions of being a 43-year-old father of three, and it seemed like there just wasn't room in my life for the game any more, let alone the time required to get back in shape for it.

Two recent developments have changed my thinking, however, and reminded me of the transformative power that hockey can have. Stay tuned for the whole tale, because we're running a giveaway at the end!

Re-Igniting the Fire

Two factors came together in the last few weeks to get me back out on the ice. First, author Frank Scalise tipped me off to his book All That Counts after seeing my post from earlier this summer with some recommended hockey reading, so I downloaded it from Amazon to my Kindle Fire during a free trial period to check it out. The story centers on an adult rec league player who decides he wants to descend into madness become a goaltender, which sets him on a journey in which he rediscovers what the game is really all about.

If you've ever played rec league hockey, this book will be like sitting down with a good friend to share stories together. The sights, sounds, and tempo of the game (and the locker room) are perfectly captured here, and for those of you who haven't played hockey, it serves as a window into that unique world.

More than just an enjoyable read, however, All That Counts reminded me of what a powerful, positive force the game can be for those who play it. At an individual level there's the drive to improve your conditioning or refine your skills, while collectively the struggles that a team goes through can bring people together in ways that otherwise would not have been possible. For a couple hours, all your regular concerns are pushed out of the way, because whether you're a star talent or an ankle-bending newbie, the game demands your absolute undivided attention.

Put simply, I'm a better person when I'm playing hockey.

Getting Back on the Ice

I got the chance to do just that last Sunday night, as Justin Bradford of Penalty Box Radio advised me that his D-league team over at A-Game was short a few guys. While I couldn't commit to a regular spot, I got the call to fill in as a sub and decided to give it a shot. Normally an experienced player wouldn't play in the D (which is for beginners), but 1) I wasn't looking to go out there and show off and 2) given my physical condition and a two-year buildup of rust, that wasn't a concern anyway.

While we got rolled 5-0, the experience itself couldn't be beat. The locker room chatter, the smell of the fresh ice, the flow of the game... it all came back in an instant once I was there, it was like getting a bucket of cold water splashed in my face, awakening me from my hockey slumber.

As for my performance, let's just call it a work in progress. I fell down on my first shift (leading to a scoring chance for our opponents), stayed on my feet for the second, and got a couple shots on the third. Sure, I was gassed pretty quickly each time out there, but it was absolutely worth it.

And now I can't wait to get back out there again (once the stiffness subsides, of course).

Win a Copy of "All That Counts"

Frank Scalise has generously offered a copy of All That Counts to one lucky OTF reader, so let's have a contest, m'kay?

You can earn an entry to win in three different ways (each method can be used once, totaling 3 entries per person):

  1. Leave a comment here at OTF below this post;
  2. Use the Tweet button immediately below this post to spread the word via Twitter (don't alter the wording, please);
  3. "Like" or Share the posting for this article at the OTF Facebook Page (here's the link). You only get one entry via Facebook.

The deadline for these entries will be noon Central time on Saturday, September 21 2013, after which I'll assemble the entries and contact the randomly selected winner.

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