17 April, 2014

Some Washingtonians Have Discovered Pond Hockey This January

I found a new hockey blog yesterday, and under the most delightful of circumstances: a young local happened upon OFB early Sunday morning, saw our pics of the frozen-over C&O Canal from Saturday, and was inspired to take his first-ever steps onto ice with a hockey stick. It looks like Aaron’s been hockey blogging for only about a month now, and his account of his first-ever strides outdoors on Sunday, My first game, to the roots of it all, on his blog Adventures of a hockey nOOb, is one I highly commend you reading this morning. It’s a most promising start for a new blogger, I think.

Aaron was actually one of a handful of readers who shared sentiments in comments over the weekend that moved me as much as any comments left here since we started OFB. “As soon as I saw this post I raced down there . . . ” he claimed. A reader named Maureen wrote: “I am beaming looking at these photos . . . Then I go to the video and I actually got teary-eyed.” Reader Dave noted, “I’ve missed pond hockey since leaving Michigan and you guys might have just made DC better.” Susan said: “My teenage boys (and middle-aged husband) were there both days and the memories will truly last a lifetime.”

What is it about this experience that makes a mother teary-eyed at its recollection? Why would a man from the upper Midwest see some pond hockey pics on a blog and declare Washington a better home because of it?

Blogger Aaron has a file from this past Saturday titled ‘Current Progress‘ wherein he lays bare his struggles with his skating: “I can sort of hockey stop to my right side! It’s mostly just with one foot though, as when I put my left foot down I tend to lose my footing for some reason. Need to work on that a bit.”

I found myself instantly charmed by Aaron’s endearing honesty. And Aaron, as it regards that bedeviling left skating foot, we’ve all been there!

It was thrilling for me to read that file and find that his very next, the very next day, referenced no struggle with his skating at all but rather his elation to have his feet in boots and be out on the Canal’s frozen water for the very first time in his life. So now I know of two such skaters from this past weekend, the other of course being my blogger brother McErlain.

“Immediately, I knew where I was going for the day,” Aaron wrote excitedly. “The canal had frozen over just outside of DC! ‘Pond Hockey’ was on!”

Maybe Aaron was one who joined us late in 2008 for the D.C. screening of ‘Pond Hockey‘ at the Avalon Theater, never imagining he could participate in such a skate here, or maybe he’d recently seen the documentary on DVD. But something about seeing our pond pics here this past weekend inspired him to take action. And apparently he fell in love with the experience. I love that.

Wonderful, wonderful photos of Aaron’s first shinny experience accompany his account. (They’re better than mine.) And I was struck by the commonality of experience Aaron and I had this past weekend, despite the fact that I took my first strides on a frozen pond more than 30 years ago, and Aaron took his just on Sunday. Aaron, who’s married, we learn, sounds like a kid in his narrative’s enthusiasm. I felt like a kid all of Saturday (until I stooped over to begin removing my gear after three hours of skating). He writes, “After grabbing my stick, skates and puck, the smile didn’t leave my face the rest of the day.”

I’m still smiling about my weekend skate on the canal, Aaron.

I appreciated, too, Aaron’s attention to detail in his narrative. It’s quite easy to experience sensory overload on a first shinny skate, the experience is so overwhelming in its novelty and splendor. It’s nature’s most extraordinary sporting stage. There’s just nothing else like it! But Aaron recalled: “People were all over the place, playing pickup hockey, skating alone, walking about. Some had their kids, some had their dogs, entire families made their way down as well.” Aaron’s words painted the pictures I saw the day before on the canal.

Then he hit me in the hockey solar plexus: “This was the first time I’d ever handled a puck on ice with a hockey stick.” What a wonderful moment to capture for a new blog. And doing what Aaron appears to be doing with his blog ought to give encouragement and comfort to other Washingtonians enthralled by what they see out on the ice sheet at Verizon Center these days but intimidated while curious to try some of the sport’s actions themselves. Washington these days isn’t just falling in love with watching hockey, it’s falling in love with playing it. And Mother Nature this month is playing the role of Cupid with our Canal.

Necessarily Aaron will have a different appreciation for hockey, and its skill requirements, on his very next visit to Verizon Center for a Caps’ game. More importantly, he now has a keepsake experience for his hockey heart. I bet he writes about more such.


  1. Jim wrote:

    What is it about pond hockey that makes it so enjoyable, you ask? Well, I’ve played “pond hockey” in backyards and driveways as well as actual ponds, and, for me, it was always the fact that the Zamboni doors weren’t going to open and end my session. I could play as long as the ice remained frozen. So it’s a cost thing, believe it or not. Frozen ice is rare in nature, soooo expensive to duplicate manually, and therefore extremely valuable when it happens by accident of weather.

    12 January, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  2. GFCapsFan wrote:

    Pond Hockey in Great Falls, VA

    12 January, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  3. Jerry wrote:

    Growing up in MI, the site of two kids playing 1 v. 1 on the creek down by home in Tildenwoods (rockville) definitely brought a lot of fond memories back.

    12 January, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  4. chris trice wrote:

    We spent all weekend skating and playing hockey on my neighbors pond here in Winchester,VA. My In-line hockey buddies and their sons and daughters became my ice hockey team mates for a couple short days. Absolutely awesome. I’ll try to send you a couple pics

    12 January, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  5. Wow, I don’t know what to say! I was floored when I saw this this morning waiting for my Winter Semester English 101 to start up. Standing there reading this on my Blackberry I couldn’t help but smile as they finally opened the doors.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the entry, and I hope anyone else who’s read it can drum up old memories or even be inspired to get out there and create new ones as I did.

    This Friday at the Caps/Leafs game, one fan will definitely be much more appreciative of where this amazing game all started and what it’s become.

    Oh and if it’s still a solid sheet out there this coming weekend, I’ll be out there in Red.

    12 January, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  6. Mike wrote:

    Please please please if you plan on going again this Saturday make a post on Friday or something. I grew up in MD and have always dreamed of playing pond hockey, and didn’t even realize it was a legitimate possibility around here. I’ve even considered roadtripping north until I saw a game out on a pond somewhere.

    13 January, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  7. burgh guy wrote:

    I had searched the web for pond hockey spots all weekend, without any luck, until I found your blog on Monday. The next morning, I was out on the canal, passing the puck around with a 77-year old I’d just met who had been skating there most of his life. What an amazing day – I felt like a kid again. Thank you!

    13 January, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  8. Dave wrote:

    Follow-up to Mike… does anyone know anything about the current ice conditions on the Canal?

    15 January, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  9. Andy wrote:

    Just saw this post today, does anyone know where on the canal this is? I’ve been playing for almost 10 years now, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get out on a natural pond. Looking to head there this winter.

    13 October, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink