To residents of Tennessee, the chill of a 25-degree day in November is hostile, unfamiliar and downright cold.
I’m not your average Tennessee resident.
Anyone who knows me, knows I grew up in the frozen tundra of northern Illinois, where temperatures can reach as low as 30 degrees below zero. But for me, winter reminds me of home. Hot chocolate by a fire, the relief felt when you get into a warm building from the cold and hockey.
Hockey is a way of life in the Midwest. Drive by a frozen pond and there’s bound to be a bunch of kids and adults slapping a puck around.
Hockey is by far my favorite sport to watch and play.
I fell in love with it watching the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics and I never looked back. Part of the reason I liked it stemmed from the fact it kept my younger self busy between the end of football season and the start of March Madness.
I used to play a lot of hockey with friends, especially in the summers when the roller hockey rink would open at the YMCA.
When my family moved to Tennessee, I never thought I’d ever get to play again. But then, I received a bit of luck. My parents told me we were moving from Memphis to Franklin. In the Nashville metro area, there are two public rinks, soon to be three.
One of those rinks is the Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee.
For those unaware, the Nashville Predators built the Ford Ice Center in 2014 when their popularity surged. As a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago Blackhawks fan, I hesitated to go, especially on the heels of the Predators sweep of the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As it turned out, the facility is not only full of kind and helpful people, but it compares to just about anything we have up north. Ford Ice Center is a world-class facility with not one but two rinks, and it’s done a remarkable job in growing the game in one of the most unlikely of areas of the country.
So, I decided to take a risk.I bought my first pair of adult hockey skates back in February. Soon after, shin pads, gloves, a stick and helmet followed. I skated again, basically having to relearn how to skate and play hockey. I taught myself everything from scratch.
After a lot of falls, a lot of money and a lot of time spent at the Ford Ice Center, I started playing hockey again in late April.
One of the highlights of my rediscovered love of the game came in May when I played in some scrimmages with former Nashville Predators players Victor Bartley and Cody Bass one morning.
Playing with two legitimate professional hockey players is an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and it’s something I never would’ve gotten the opportunity to experience if I hadn’t done taken the risk to rekindle my passion for the greatest game in the world.
I go home to Franklin and play hockey whenever I can. Because if hockey’s taught me anything its take risks, because you never know what might happen or who you might get to play with.