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: asÂ 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 wonderedÂ if Iâ€™d be able to replace it. I had just fallen through the ice, andÂ my bodyâ€™s first response to the freezingÂ waterâ€”hyperventilationâ€”rendered me unable to call out to my friends inÂ the distance for help.
The idea for the shortcut–across the pond, instead of around itâ€”wasÂ the product of running late to play hockey with my friends Rich, Dave,Â and Tracey. Â By cutting through a patch of woods and then across theÂ pound, I would save 15 minutes, or more importantly guarantee 15 moreÂ minutes of playing hockey.
Birch trees marked my way along the packed snow until I reached theÂ edge of the pond. When I had walked about 20 yards onto the pond, theÂ ice beneath my feet vanished and gravity sucked me into an icy hole.Â Significantly, my head remained above the water, and within a minute,Â I was able to pull myself up from the icy water.
I should have gone home, chastened. Instead, I went to play hockey,Â with my wet pants clinging to my legs like plastic wrap. If youâ€™veÂ ever been 13 years old and played pond hockey with your friends, youÂ may understand the madness.
By the time my curfew arrived and the game came to an end, my pantsÂ were frozen solid. Â My feet wouldnâ€™t fit in my icy sneakers, so IÂ walked home in my socks. Â This time, I went the long way. At home, IÂ 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 isÂ probably the only thing that saved me from suffering hypothermia andÂ frostbite.
Thank you to Sean for sharing. Have a purist hockey story you’d like to share? Reach out using our contact page.