I received an email about a month ago from Sean Patrick Dean, a new reader of the site and future backyard rinkbuilder. As we exchanged emails, we realized that we had some common hockey roots: we both grew up playing in Manchester, we both played for the same travel team in our youth, and we both played high school hockey for Manchester public schools. We had very similar hockey upbringings, separated only by a few years. But then he told me one thing he did that I’ll never get to do: as a journalism student at Boston University, he studied under the guidance of the great Jack Falla. During his time with Jack, he wrote a short piece about a pond hockey experience he had as a child. With his permission, I’m reprinting it below.
In Which I Fall Through the Ice
By Sean Patrick Dean
The punch of the extreme cold sucked the air out of me, and I wondered if I’d be able to replace it. I had just fallen through the ice, and my body’s first response to the freezing water—hyperventilation—rendered me unable to call out to my friends in the distance for help.
The idea for the shortcut–across the pond, instead of around it—was the product of running late to play hockey with my friends Rich, Dave, and Tracey. By cutting through a patch of woods and then across the pound, I would save 15 minutes, or more importantly guarantee 15 more minutes of playing hockey.
Birch trees marked my way along the packed snow until I reached the edge of the pond. When I had walked about 20 yards onto the pond, the ice beneath my feet vanished and gravity sucked me into an icy hole. Significantly, my head remained above the water, and within a minute, I was able to pull myself up from the icy water.
I should have gone home, chastened. Instead, I went to play hockey, with my wet pants clinging to my legs like plastic wrap. If you’ve ever been 13 years old and played pond hockey with your friends, you may understand the madness.
By the time my curfew arrived and the game came to an end, my pants were frozen solid. My feet wouldn’t fit in my icy sneakers, so I walked home in my socks. This time, I went the long way. At home, I lay in front of the fireplace until I fell asleep to the cracking of the wood. Still, the heat generated from playing olde tyme hockey is probably the only thing that saved me from suffering hypothermia and frostbite.
Thank you to Sean for sharing. Have a purist hockey story you’d like to share? Reach out using our contact page.