Posts Tagged ‘freakin’ HAWAII’

Hawaii, part 4: The Game

November 20th, 2011 Comments off

(The thrilling conclusion of a multi-part look at the Hawaii leg of the trip.  Start at the beginning.)

The Game

It was a fun game, and fairly even.  I stopped some shots, I let some goals in, I switched nets with the other goalie halfway through.  In other words, it was remarkably similar to games I’ve played elsewhere around Canada and the States.  Even the ice quality was nothing new; I’ve played on some really horrible swimming pools of rinks in Minnesota, too.

After playing hockey -- ice hockey -- in Hawaii at the Ice Palace

That the whole thing could have easily been taking place in California or Michigan helped to reinforce one of the themes I’ve seen emerge during my travels: hockey is universal.  The players loved the game just as much in Hawaii as they did in Quebec.  The written rules were the same; the unwritten traditions were consistent.

But never mind the similarities.  I couldn’t get one thing out of my head: I was playing HOCKEY!!! In HAWAII!!!

I had a big smile on my face the whole time.  When I stopped a shot, it wasn’t just a save; it was a save IN HAWAII!  When I allowed a goal, it wasn’t just a goal; it was a missed save IN HAWAII!

I felt like I should have been wearing an aloha shirt instead of my jersey.  I’m sure there are shirts made big enough thanks to our obesity epidemic.  Thanks to vanity sizing, I bet a size medium would be about right.

Sure, Hawaii wasn’t as exotic as some of the places Bidini went for Tropic of Hockey, but it was the furthest south I’d ever played hockey.  Heck, it might have been the furthest south I ever play hockey.

After the game, I lingered around the party loft/dressing room talking with the other skaters before packing my bag and heading back to Waikiki.  Thirteen hours later, I was on a plane to Virginia.


If I were to evaluate my Hawaiian junket in objective terms, I could say that I paid about $1500 to play 80 minutes of hockey, which sounds expensive or even selfish.  But that would be missing the point.  The trip to Hawaii, and the trip as a whole, cannot be evaluated based on cost alone.  It was a wonderful experience.

I do not mind spending money on experiences.  You can’t take money with you, as the saying goes, nor can you take any of your accumulated material goods.  But experiences?  Experiences are different.  Sure, they blink out of existence in some way at the end, but in another more important way, they never die.  They live on as stories, as art, as the advancement of culture.

Nobody cares if you leave behind a nice dining room table.  But a good story?  Now that has value.  Even better if it’s somehow related to hockey.

Hawaii, part 3: The arena and the players

November 19th, 2011 Comments off

(Part 3 of a multi-part look at the Hawaii leg of the trip.  Start at the beginning.)

The Arena

Walking from the warm, humid night air into the cold of the area instantly transported me thousands of miles back to the mainland.  I had been lounging on the beach earlier in the morning, but inside the rink, I could have easily been back home.  It was a little piece of Minnesota in the tropics.

The ice itself wasn’t all that great.  It looked like it hadn’t been painted in decades, the white having transformed to clear, showing the concrete beneath.  The coolant lines were marked by changes in the ice quality, letting me imagine what it would be like to skate on corduroy: frozen, slush, frozen, slush; and then after some more set-up time: hard, soft, hard, soft.

There were no locker rooms.  Changing meant going up a flight of stairs to a party area overlooking the rink, grabbing a plastic chair, and changing in the open.  I know I’ve been advocating for more spacious changing facilities in rinks, but I didn’t really mean for the rink itself to fill that role.

The benches were literal benches situated outside the perimeter of the rink.  Christmas wreathes and garland punctuated the blue-and-white walls.

Yes, you could say that the Ice Palace wasn’t nearly as nice as the absolutely spectacular rink I used at Plymouth State in New Hampshire.  But you know what?  That didn’t matter.

It was ice, it was in Hawaii, and it attracted a bunch of highly enthusiastic players.

A league game at the Ice Palace in Hawaii.

The Players

I was one of two goalies at the pickup game.  The skaters, enough for 5v5 with a few subs on each side, showed a wide range of abilities.  Some appeared to have just learned how to skate, while others looked as though they had played at least juniors.  A surprising number were from Hawaii, and the remainder were transplants from the mainland.

Chris, a 26 year old from Boise, Idaho, had picked up the game back home rather late in life.  That didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the sport.  Even though he had been playing for only a few years, he brought his gear with him  when he moved to Hawaii for work.  It seems that even sunny warm beaches can’t cure the hockey bug once it infects you.

Martin, another skater, was also a 20-something, but he hailed from even farther away.  I was chatting with him while getting changed before the game, and he asked me where I was from.

“Minnesota,” I told him.

“Do they have much hockey in Minnesota?” he asked.  Clearly, he wasn’t from North America.

I paused for a second, blinked, and responded, “Yeah, we have a bit of hockey up there.  Where are you from?”

“Poland,” came the reply.  Ah, that explained it.

(to be continued)

Hawaii, part 2: The island

November 18th, 2011 Comments off

(Part 2 of a multi-part look at the Hawaii leg of the trip. Start at the beginning.)

Hawaii itself was as beautiful as the photos have always shown it to be.

I rented a Toyota Corolla for the five days I was there, and while Lola didn’t have the refinement or power of Sam, she dutifully transported me all around the perimeter of Oahu.

I experienced the surprisingly hectic “relaxation” of Waikiki.  I lounged on deserted beaches on the windward (east) shore.  I watched surfers on the north shore.  I drank 100% Kona coffee, the water from a fresh coconut, and a mai tai with a festive pineapple slice.  I saw the decadent luxury of the rich in the south and the abject squalor of the poor squatters in the west.

Looking out to sea on the north shore of Oahu

I also picked up some Hawaiian during my stay:

  • Aloha — Traditionally, means something like “love,” but more recently has become a salutation or, to a lesser extent, a farewell.
  • Mahalo — “Thank you”
  • APEC — “Traffic jam”

The ramifications of APEC hadn’t been clear when I booked my condo in Waikiki.  It turned out that the conference was a major draw for political leaders and business executives from all around the Pacific rim.  It also brought President Obama to town.  The presence of those VIPs led to security checkpoints and slow going throughout the weekend.  It took me two and a half hours to reach my condo the first time I drove from the airport. Yuck.

I wasn’t sure what the Hawaiian word for “ice” might have been.  I wasn’t even sure if there was a Hawaiian word at all for “hockey,” but I did know that Hawaii’s single ice sheet was located in a strip mall northwest of Honolulu.  And so, I got in Lola and set out for the rink.

(to be continued)

Hawaii, part 1: The logistics

November 17th, 2011 Comments off

(Part 1 of a multi-part look at the Hawaii leg of the trip.  Broken into bite-sized chunks because, let’s face it, you’d probably just skim a 2000-word monolith.)

Hello, Hawaii.  Land of sandy beaches, verdant forests, and ice hockey.  Yes, hockey.

Hawaii has always been a pivotal role in the Pacific [sic]. It is in the Pacific.  It is a part of the United States that is an island that is right here.

— Dan Quayle, former US Vice President

I hadn’t always planned to include Hawaii on this trip.  Up until September or so, my route included every Canadian province and every American state, except Hawaii.

Fortunately, I came to my senses. It would have been a tragedy for the story of the trip to be marred by an “except Hawaii” qualifier.  That, and Hawaii is a great place to visit even without hockey.  What had I been thinking?

Hawaii! Beautiful even without hockey. A hill on the windward shore of Oahu.

The Logistics

Well, the logistics and cost were two big problems.  The single ice arena in Hawaii was in Honolulu, and for some reason it hosted no hockey in the month of December.  Since I wanted to complete the trip by Christmas, and since most of October would be spent in Canada, that meant that Hawaii would have to happen in November — but not over Thanksgiving weekend, when, again, there was no hockey.

Lake Superior coast in northern Minnesota in November. (Edit: This is a joke, people! Minnesota is actually much more beautiful.)

In order to keep costs reasonable, the flight needed to originate at an airline hub, and given that I’d be on the East Coast, that effectively limited my choices to Dulles (a United hub) or Atlanta (a Delta hub).  Fortunately, my planned arrival in Washington, D.C. coincided with a flight to Hawaii that was 20% cheaper than on neighboring dates. (Thank you, Hipmunk!)  I booked the ticket and only then realized that my savings would be short-lived: United Airlines hates hockey goalies.

The Fact that United Airlines Hates Hockey Goalies

Why does United hate goalies?  Quite simply, the luggage restrictions are incompatible with hockey goalie gear.  While it might (might!) be possible to fit a skater’s gear within the 50 pound and 62 linear inch restrictions, there’s no way that a goalie could pull that off with a single bag.  The leg pads packed alone would be about at the size limit, to say nothing of the rest of the pads.

There’s a simple solution, you say?  Wear my gear onto the plane?  Well, that would be hilarious and solve my checked-luggage issues.

Assume that I could somehow get through security with 12-inch steel blades on my feet.  Let’s also say that high-density foam wouldn’t look like explosives on those new-fangled body scanners.  Furthermore, accept that the TSA wouldn’t go ballistic over my sticks, since though they might appear club-like, using them in that manner is something that I’ve never been caught doing in a game.

Sadly, I can't really draw, not least of a goalie going through security, so here's one of my old comics of a penguin trying to fly. Ha-ha, ha-ha.

Once on the plane, my woes would be multiple.  For starters, I wouldn’t fit in a seat: the width of each leg pad is 11 inches, and the width of an economy seat on a United 767 is only 18 inches — 4 inches shy, at the least, and that’s completely ignoring the extra bulk of the goalie pants.  And if you thought that leg room was bad to begin with, just image how it would be with huge pillows on your legs.  My seat neighbors would be thrilled, too: it would be like sitting next to that really, really, really obese guy, but much worse.

Also, can you imagine the smell?  By the end of the many hours in the air, it would be good that I’d have so much padding on, because everybody around me would be looking to beat the hockey out of me.

On the plus side, I don’t think I’d need the extra flotation provided by a life vest in the event of a water landing.

Clearly, checking the gear was the way to go.  I just wish I didn’t get docked an extra $100 each way for being a goalie.

Here are a few airlines that would have let me flown with my goalie gear without charging me oversize or overweight fees:

  • Delta
  • US Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Air Canada (duh)

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

(to be continued)