I have spent several mornings and evenings watching hockey, public skating, and eating greasy rink food. Over time, going to the arena to watch hockey became less about watching the game and more about socializing. My classmates and I would miss entire periods huddled around the canteen tables, playing truth or dare and figuring out who was crushing on whom. I was looking forward to yet another weekend spent at the rink; a place so familiar I could consider it a second home.
I wanted to spend the least amount of time possible in the frigid December air and my pace seemed to increase with each step towards Murray Arena, which was a short, five-minute walk from my house. Although, most things in Souris were a short, five-minute walk from my house. The Pee Wee boys were scheduled to play early that morning and the sun was not up yet to light my path to the rink. Each exhale sent a whirling puff of water vapour out to dance in front of me. Instantly regretting my decision not to wear mittens, I stuffed my hands into the warm, deep pockets of my winter jacket. My Mother’s voice sang “I told you so,” loud and clear in my mind.
In a few short moments my good friend, Kate, was meeting me at the rink. Kate was bringing the posters we worked on during our lunch hours at school. Each player on the Souris Pee Wee Minor hockey team had their own personal 8.5 x 11-inch poster decorated with sharpies and made with love.
Finally, the complex came into my view and my anticipation grew with excitement for what was waiting for me. I pushed through the doors of the arena and hung up my bulky jacket by the row of bleachers. As I looked around, I inhaled a deep breath and wrinkled my nose at the smell of body odour. It was the kind of stench that can only be provided by a boys locker room. I met Kate in the music booth that looked over the surface of the ice. She handed me a steaming hot chocolate and I eagerly took a sip, letting the liquid warm my insides. As the game began, we excitedly chose music off our iPods to play for the small crowd of parents sitting outside with Tim Horton’s coffee cups gripped tight in their hands. From Justin Bieber to ACDC, Kate and I were exceptionally proud of our song choices. While cheering on my peers as they skated across the ice, I could not help but feel like a stereotypical Canadian pre-teen.
Unlike most of my friends, I was not ever a hockey player nor a figure skater, however, the rink was still a place I considered home. It truly felt like a home away from home but I guess nearly everywhere in my small town did. There is a sense of comfort in visiting a place you have seen a thousand times. Every building and landmark in Souris impacted my childhood somehow, someway. The rink, of course, is no different.