Every Sunday night in Amherst I play hockey; when I’m home that is. My Dad does too. So does my summer boss, and another carpenter on our crew. We have a local radiologist, a real estate agent, a roofer, painter, woodworker, insulator, mechanic, nurse, chiropractor, landscape architect, several students, and a stone mason, to name a few. We have the skill set to build a house, fix a car, save a person and sell that house. But instead, we just play hockey. Or some slow, awkward version of it. Our oldest skater is pushing 70, our youngest about 21. Me, I’m turning 24 next month, excited, I hear it’s an excellent age. No matter.
The puck bounces around for an hour and a half, off the boards, sticks, legs, skates and into the goal. I myself never score. Instead I opt to shoot the puck into the catcher’s mitt, a fastball, right down the center, like I’ve done every winter, on the same rink since I was five years old. The play peters out toward ten o’clock, the old guys retire to the locker room, the young fellas follow soon enough. And we all drink beers – a skill not dulled by age. Every Sunday, all season (all three that is), from September to June. A wholly unholy experience, church for the common man. My town, my area, slides together, right there, as I see it. A mix of born-and-bred townies, transplants, transients, new-comers, all mixed-up in our strange, open, New England, college-town, down-to-earth community.
The seasons slide-by in our corner of Massachusetts, somewhat slowly, and without remorse. The trees change, fall gives way to winter, the students motor-in, motor-out, and us, we play hockey. Or like I said, some version of it. Our version. Friendly, competitive, not too accurate, dirty with a smile on your face. Washed down afterwards with our unholy communion, our congregation.
Battered and beat-up, we head home late, a welcome fatigue fills the bones. But bruises heal quickly under the quilt of community, always in time for next Sunday.