By Peter Anderson
1. One winter afternoon in 1974, I knew how good a hockey goalie’s life could be: skates sufficiently dull to slide around in the crease (but sharp enough for stability and precision), pads snug and riding well on legs, good light and clear vision though the eyeholes of a fiberglass mask, glove hands moving with speed and accuracy, kicks to right and left bouncing out shots along the ice. On a breakaway, the player I dreaded most hit the post after a risky cross-body lunge on my part. Good mojo held up until the third period clock ran down to all its lovely zeros. We came out on top. Just barely.
Before the rematch with our big rivals later that season, someone from their squad sent me an unsigned note (prophetic as it turned out) made up of letters cut and pasted from a newspaper. It said simply: “Anderson … Your ass is grass.” Soon that dreaded skater was back, drifting out toward the red line and receiving long breakaway passes from his defensemen. He beat me a few too many times that day – a gloomy denouement in an average, though occasionally transcendent, goalie career. Never again would I experience the adrenalin-infused task of guarding the net in such a big game, but the lure of a good day on the ice remained.
2. This mountain lake lives in shadow. The sun is a rounder … stays away longer each night, and sleeps it off behind the ridge during the day. The winds come down off the mountain, sweeping skiffs of snow across the ice. A father pulls on his skates, so much easier now with plastic and Velcro than it once was with leather and lace. He tests the freeze, first around the edges – a few feet thick – then out in the middle – clear and so deep, he can’t tell where the ice leaves off and the black water begins. He skates as fast as he can, grateful this sprint is his own – no whistles, no coach. He slides one blade in front of the other, leans into a wide rink turn, and carves two thin white lines that follow him out to the edge of the lake where his daughter, still wobbly in her new pink skates, glides toward him. He takes her hands in his and skates backwards, looking over his shoulder for stones frozen in the ice, then back at his daughter, steady now, who sees only what lies ahead.