On the brink

10 October, 2013   Jacqueline Lim, The Nanyang Chronicle

Photo Credit: Yeo Kai Wen

As part of the series “getting physical with….” From The Nanyang Chronicle, Nanyang Technological University Undergraduate Jacqueline Lim dips her toes into a thrilling adventure sport each month. For this edition, Jacqueline experienced the fluid and face-paced sport of ice hockey as she joined a training session with the Singapore Ice Hockey Women’s team. Amid tottering at the edge of the rink and falling on her bottom multiple times, Jacqueline learns the hard way that achieving the grace displayed by our national ice hockey players is no mean feat. 

ONE moment my eyes were focused on my skates, willing myself forward, and the next, I found myself looking at the ceiling of JCube — my bottom wet and freezing on the ice skating rink.

That was my abrupt and freezing introduction into the world of competitive ice hockey. I had agreed to train with the Singapore Ice Hockey Women’s team, and boy was I in for a spin.

As Ms Diane Foo, 35, a member of the team, helped me into my protective gear at JCube’s ice skating rink, I was haunted by one thought: I couldn’t skate if my life depended on it.

Crash Course

Having done a crash course on ice skating only two days before, naturally I was anxious of making a fool of myself .

I had a sinking feeling as I put on the protective gear which included a chest pad, padded hockey pants, shin pads and helmet.

The skates, socks and an oversized hockey jersey completed the ensemble that costs more than a thousand dollars.

It took me what seemed like forever to suit up — I wondered how the players did it so quickly — and when I glanced into the mirror, I realized I had ballooned to twice my usual size.

Despite the players’ bulky appearances, I was thankful the protective gear did not hamper movement.

As I stepped into the rink, I felt like I was being pushed straight into highway traffic — the hockey players were executing a drill called “suicides”, which consisted of furious sprints up and down the length of the rink.

Talk about perfect timing.

Daunting Task

My task was equally daunting, for a beginner at least, — I was implored by Diane to try to move faster than a granny on skates.

I must have looked pretty pathetic shakily trotting on my skates as the players whizzed past me at every whistle.

It didn’t make me feel any better when they started doing “suicides” backwards.

As the team broke into pairs to practise puck handling drills, I discovered that I could actually skate better with my eyes on the puck.

Diane confirmed that ice hockey was one of the best ways to pick up ice skating as beginners tend to focus less on maintaining their balance and more on the puck – ironically speeding up the learning process.

If only I had known earlier.

I got to speak more with Diane as the players began a friendly match among themselves in preparation for a regional competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Source: Video Department of the Nanyang Chronicle

Contrary to popular belief, ice hockey is not as rough or as dangerous as it is so often made out to be, as players are governed by strict rules that forbid excessive body contact and cheap shots.

With 15 years of experience under her belt, Diane enthusiastically gushed that her love for the sport sprouted from The Mighty Ducks — a movie about ice hockey.

The secretary of the Singapore Ice Hockey Association shared that being a competitive player had its perks and drawbacks. For example, players were always at risk of major injuries such a concussions and broken legs.

Training till 2am every Friday is also not something many people can commit to. Holding down a full-time job makes it even harder, added Diane.

But it is the opportunity to compete on an international stage that drives her to pour in a copious amount of time and effort into this fast-paced, exhilarating sport.

“I also get to make a lot of friends from different countries,” said Diane.

With Diane’s words in mind, I was resolute. While I lacked the finesse of the players I trained with, I was sure that one day, I would hold my own in the game — frozen bottom or not.