WHEN I MOVED to Kaua‘i, I knew there would be an adjustment period. Kaua‘i is a lot smaller population-wise than I’m used to and doesn’t have some of the things I’ve taken for granted over the years. For the most part, what this island offers definitely outweighs what it lacks. But the hardest thing for me to give up upon leaving college in Montana was ice.
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up playing hockey. For at least 15 years, ice was a constant in my life. The ice is where I would meet friends. It’s where I competed. It’s where I got away from things. Ice was my second home.
One of the toughest things about the move was deciding to not bring my hockey gear here. What were the chances of needing it in Hawai‘i?
The month I’ve been in Kaua‘i has been great. I’ve met a lot of really cool people and this job has been a lot of fun. But some things have been tough. Some of the adjustments have been trying, such as being thousands of miles away from loved ones and friends.
Unfortunately, I let this get to me Wednesday night. I was leaving work, heading home to spend another night alone. I was getting homesick so I decided to go on a drive. I headed north from Lihu‘e, passing through the outskirts of Kapa‘a. I wanted to just keep driving, but the combination of hunger and the blinking low-fuel light told me it was time to turn around.
As I came back through Kapa‘a, I saw something. Big bright lights illuminating moving figures. I was drawn to the lights like a moth to a flame. I got to the lights and saw that they were beaming on a roller-hockey rink. I had seen the rink a few times before, but it was always empty. On this night, however, it was alive. I stopped, got out of my car, and pressed my face up on the rink glass like a child looking through a toy store window. Kids were skating and shooting pucks. Men were on the bench swapping stories and drinking beer. It looked like home.
I stood there watching, kicking myself for leaving my gear at home, when somebody saw me. I was worried he thought I was weird for watching them when he asked, “Hey you. You want to play?” I was elated, but I told him I didn’t have any gear. He said it didn’t matter. They had a shed full of it.
So after sifting through the shed, I emerged with a helmet two sizes too small, skates with holes in them, shin pads strapped firmly around my work slacks and gloves that didn’t match. Not only did I look ridiculous, but stepping onto the rink after 15 years of using ice skates and never roller blades, I played atrociously. I couldn’t stop. I nearly fell every time I turned. By the time I got to the end of the rink where the action was, it had bypassed me as it moved towards the other end.
If I ever played that bad on the ice, I would be furious. But I had an absolute blast. All the guys were there for the fun. I sucked, but no one cared.
We played for about an hour before the sky opened up and doused the rink with water — the first time I’ve ever had a game delayed for rain.
I sat underneath a tattered tarp, taking shelter from the rain and trying to get my massive head out of the helmet. I talked with a few of the guys and got my name on a text list that notifies everyone when a game is on.
After getting all my gear off and getting into my car, soaking wet from sweat and rain, my mood was the complete opposite from where it started when I began my drive. I thought I had left something big back on the Mainland. But Wednesday night, I found it in Kapa‘a. I found ice. That sweet, 80-degree cement ice.
Follow Sport Editor Tyson Alger on Twitter at www. twitter.com/tysonalger