With icy roads, short days, cold temperatures and wind chill, I have hung up my bikes and stripped the electronics and given up on cycling for this year. Last week I became restless, realizing that we may not have good snow for cross-country skiing until Christmas or later. I started to walk to the local community club and watched the man making ice on the outdoor skating rinks. He has only been making ice for the last week or 10 days, and the rinks probably won’t be ready for another week or two, if the temperature stays consistently below -5 C. Then I received and browsed through City Parks Recreation Guide and discovered that all of the City’s indoor arenas have a few hours a week dedicated to public skating, around the time devoted to skating classes and hockey and ringette leagues. They have been open since the beginning of October.
I went to used sport equipment store yesterday and discovered that used skates can cost $200 or more, although there are quite a few around $100. I couldn’t find anything in a EE width, and looked at new skates. I found a pair of Itech RPM 2500’s that were comfortable and they only cost $70.00. They seem to be the same quality and features as the entry level CCM & Bauer models but cheaper – because Itech is new to the market and hasn’t established a brand.
I went to a public skate at the Vimy Arena in Assiniboia and skated for about an hour. It was a good work-out. The rules are simple. One way traffic, reversing directions every 15 minutes. The ice seemed to have been Zambonied just before the public skating time started. I was a little tentative at first, because this was the first time I had been on skates in about 20 years. My last time on skates was at St. Vital Park when Jan and I skated with Colleen and Bob before they moved to Victoria. I think it was the winter of 83-84 although it may have been 84-85. I am pretty sure it was before Claire was borne, because I don’t recall worrying about a babysitter.(We had a common connection with Colleen who had been at St. Mary’s with my sister Joyce, and had been the daughter of a staff doctor at the Selkirk Mental Health Center like Jan).
I discovered that I could skate on indoor ice, which had defeated me when I was a child. It always seemed hard and slippery, compared to outdoor ice. I realized that it had been a question of the sharpness of my skate blades, technique, and perhaps weight. I found the new skates were comfortable and well fitted, giving me good support. I had sore places on my ankles, but no bruising or blisters – consistent with my experience with new footware. I noticed the music – pop radio – over the loudspeakers, but I simply tuned it out.
The public skate on a Sunday brings out an interesting crowd. New skaters, from toddlers to 7 and 8 year olds with the tubular frame support sleds. A few young couples and young parents. A few packs of pre-teen boys, a couple of gaggles of preteen girls, supervised by a parent or grandparent. A couple of adults, probably casually watching over some of the kids. A teenage boy skating with his dad, smoothly passing the traffic, occasionally throwing in a quick move passing a slower skater with a quick side step, visualizing himself as Messier, and then recalling his place in life as a teenager.
I noticed that many women wear hockey skates – the old rule that women wear figure skates has died. I wasn’t surprized, but it was the first time I had seen it. My sister Joyce played hockey in University 20 years ago and coached in The Pas for years. I noticed that no one wore the kind of old skates I had as a kid.
I was keen on playing hockey as a child – I am amazed at what my parents invested in, given our means, at something that I wasn’t very good at. I came away from that with a skill that will serve for a few more years, a way to stay active in the fall and winter.