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It Wasn't Always a Ballet on Ice

When we listen to the beautiful melodies of Kevin's Ballet on Ice, it's easy to see that you can be lulled into a false sense that we were always the hockey stars that all of us old timers pretend we are. But we all had our humble beginnings on the frozen ice of Alexander Bay or some other pond or stream.

I remember a time when I was a boy with a broken wooden hockey stick patched up with nails and wound up with as much tape as was needed to keep it half sturdy for a good shot at the puck. Very few parents could afford another wooden stick whenever the blade broke off from the handle.

One day after school I raced out over Jenny Burton's Field to the edge of the bay and got ready to tie up my skates. I had to get out with the other boys, playing shinny, already on the ice in the cove there. In my haste I broke one of my leather laces. There was a biting wind and my hands were numb from the cold - when I removed my woolen mitts. It took a monumental effort to tie the two pies together and get my laces all tied up. My hands were darn near frozen when I shoved the mitts back on.

Wading through the snow on the edge of the bay and skating out to the boys in my skates half sprawled over, I was ready to wack the puck between the two rubber boots we had for goal posts. Of course I had to compete with the Brookings, Sweetapples and Briffetts to get that puck since they were the true wizards on skates.

But that was the way it was when you were a boy. On Saturdays you play a game in the cove for awhile and then move on to River Head or North Shore to pick up a game anywhere on the bay.

The strangest sensation I ever encountered was skating on buckly ice on the bay. After three days of rain the ice froze and we went playing hockey. There was a foot of water between the newly frozen ice and the thicker winter ice. It was strong enough to hold us up but really buckled wherever we skated on it.

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