I never bail on a pick up hockey game. As long as we had a few good men I never go home, I’d rather play till exhaustion. We play street-roller hockey; five hours straight, puck possession, experimental hockey. We weren’t just experimenting with our stick handles and passing, however, we were searching for an identity as roller hockey players, we were also searching for a place to play.
We’d play in the street until we got taller, then we started hopping fences.
Growing up on Long Island I climbed and jumped over lots of fences. Unlike basketball courts and baseball fields, rinks in our county are locked up from the public. It’s a safety concern in the suburbs. Long Island baby boomers need to keep us kids safe by locking up rinks, adult supervision is required according to local governments. I never said “thank you,” I usually said “fuck you.”
My dad grew up in Flushing, Queens, and he played some old school puck you wouldn’t associate with today’s roller hockey. The games were full body-check, no helmets, and quad roller blades. Hockey was played in empty school parking lots with no boards. The game has evolved but that brand of hockey is perhaps more reckless and pure in theory. Passes need to connect and heads to need be up. I can understand it, that’s why I cherish my time on a boarded rink, and will do whatever it takes to play surrounded by sturdy old boards.
So, we hopped on to rinks and we were in search of new competition and better rink surfaces. It was less about the rink and more about the competition really. Competition was good when a game lasted five hours as the poor scrubs waited on the bench. We try to include everyone but its survival of the fittest sometimes.
We played everywhere; the double rinks at West Hempstead, down south at Long Beach, under the lights in Lynbrook and on the rough surfaces of Bellmore.
I drove up to Baldwin Harbor Park for the first time when I was 17. The rink is plunked down next to the harbor and adjacent to the city dump. It smelled something awful, but God it’s a terrific rink. The game play and culture is what kept me coming back for the past seven years, I was a level of repetition that all players must experience. I give credit to the City of Baldwin as its one of the few rinks that is open to the public and maintained by the city.
Canadian kids grow up on frozen ponds, we grew up hoping fences and playing on cul-de-sacs. Ice hockey players can skate like the wind and roller players will pull off moves I’ve never seen before.
Ice hockey gets the fame but Long Island ice is expensive. So we’d drag out the net, yell “car” and continue playing.