Saturday, March 19, 2011

Say it ain't so, Joe. The story of the great white hope.

Theres this Zamboni driver. Some might consider him just your average Joe, but I hardly think so.
Turns out, he's been playing hockey since he was a little kid. Nobody knows exactly how long that is, because records don't seem to go back that far. This is not to say he's getting up in years, but if anybody's put in more miles on skates than he has, they likely started out when people had coal chutes, gas lights, and such things as milk and ice were delivered to their door.

Chances are, he knew at a relatively young age he was never going to be good enough to play at the professional level and make the big bucks, but it wasn't about that. It was a passion. Other people might feel the same fire within for golf, tennis, bowling, or maybe even non-sports activities like photography, doing needlework, or a million other things. To each their own when it comes to passions.

I prefer getting up, fetching the paper, and trying to solve the NY Times crossword while sipping a V8 with ESPN on in the background.. "Old Joe" might have already driven to the arena and laced them up for a morning skate before I fill in the first answer to a clue. I can do without the juice, puzzle and 4-letter network, if need be, because that's hardly a passion, though I will concede waking up every morning is very high on my wish list. Yet Joe without hockey might be akin to a dog accustomed to running free in a yard, and now finding itself only going for a short walk on a leash everyday, before being put back into an apartment. Both will carry on with life, but somehow it's just not as much fun as it used to be.

Bumps, bruises, concussions, and countless stitches to sew up all the cuts along the way went with his territory. It's hockey. Things happen. No complaints. Keep pushing on.

After a few decades of all the wear and tear, things got worse. Joints wore out. Thanks to the miracles of modern science, they're replaceable. The left shoulder here, the right shoulder there, and both hips, twice. Evidently, Joe has pretty good medical insurance coverage. More pain, more stitches, more recovery time, and then back to the ice. Drop the puck and let's get it on. It's a passion.

Of course, all that titanium in his body nowadays has it's drawbacks. Cold weather makes things ache, but there's another problem. Metal detectors. The trouble with them is they can't tell the difference between a potential weapon or a new hip. They go crazy when he passes through them. The first time I was with him at an airport approaching one, he told me---

"Dude, look after my wallet, change, shoes, keys, and belt. I'm going to be a while, because I've got some 'splainin to do". After the authorities finally decided he posed no danger, and could put his clothes back on, we were on our way.

Old Joe's still skating, but he's talking about hanging them up after this year. I don't believe him, and deep down I don't think he believes it either. He'll be back as long as he's able to do so. It's the passion thing, and it's not going away.

If the day ever comes where he can't play hockey anymore, you have to give the man credit for looking ahead. He knows how to pilot a Zamboni, which will keep him at the arena and near his beloved ice for the foreseeable future.

The moral of the story? Near as I can tell he's a great guy and, as passions go, hockey's pretty cool.

But stay away from him at airports. Trust me.

1 comment:

  1. Old Joe has a nice wife. Vespers