Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Hockey in Columbus - First Thoughts

9.25.2009

Hockey in Columbus - First Thoughts

I am glad that hockey is considered to be a sport in this part of town.

Between Matt and I, we have visited four of the five ice facilities in the Columbus area. No, that's not a typo. I'm talking eight rinks in five facilities within 45 minutes of each other. Ironically, I mentioned Ohio being a "hockey state" to one of the players at today's drop-in hockey game at the Dublin Chiller and he shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Not really." After Matt was able to get a job at the Easton Chiller rink quite easily, I began to change my own perspectives on a sport that has has further designated me as an oddball of the West Coast.

Hockey and skating is so normal here that ice time is easy to come by. Matt and I went to a public skate on Sunday and we were only two of five people skating during the slot. I don't have to fight for a space to play as a goalie; in fact, the rink's happy when goalies actually do show up. It does beat the 2-week advance notice and $100 credit card hold Anaheim Ice used to put for their players...and the pick-up slot is only on Friday nights for 59.5 minutes. The Ice Haus, the official practice facility for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is open to the public and is so spectator friendly that the rink can be seen from across the street. In contrast, just getting into Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo is like entering Fort Knox. I guess they need to hide the fact that they also house figure skaters, I mean the Manchester Kings of Los Angeles.

The Chiller Rinks also have another strange concept: women's-only locker rooms. They're also equipped with a full bathroom stall and a shower. I felt really spoiled and alone at the same time; I was the only female on the ice both days I went to drop-in hockey. Going to have to work on that.

My only critique is that there is no full-blown women's league here. The closest thing to that is a single team in the Chiller's house league called "BOB" that is completely comprised of women and two travel hockey teams, the Columbus Capitals and the Columbus Bandits. In fact, I was asked to sub in goal for team BOB in October; I'm looking forward to doing that. Going to investigate those two travel teams as well, but I can't justify the $700 price tag that the Capitals put on their entire season. For now, I'm trying to stay in shape by going to random drop-in sessions of hockey when I can. Might as well while I'm still unemployed.

I guess anything hockey related in California will always be considered a novelty. Rink rentals are upwards to $400 an hour. The ice at most facilities feels like you're skating in a lake half the time. It's a sport reserved for the "rich." It is a change of pace to hop in my car and be at any one of these Chiller rinks within 20 minutes. And when CA starts recognizing sled hockey as a sport, I will be quite surprised. I got to see my very first sled hockey practice on the other ice rink after the drop-in time was done. Hockey and skating schools are in full swing here, completely transparent and very accessible. The young players aren't required to have skated since their fetal stages to be on teams, and every high school in the area has a team.

I still believe that I was an East Coast kid switched at birth. Hockey is a sport I take pride in and one that my family scorns, along with my passion for motorcycles. I am relieved to finally be in a place where I can be free to play hockey and indulge myself in what I love the most.