This topic is of particular importance to me. When you read the title, it seems pretty straightforward. “Sweet, free ice time!” However, I find it to be much deeper than that. As a veteran, getting discounts on things is sort of bittersweet. It almost feels wrong. We certainly didn’t swear an oath for 10% off select items or free passes. While it’s safe to say that we all had different experiences while serving, I’m willing to bet that it was never about that. Ask any soldier, sailor, marine or airman what they miss. Their top 3 answers are sure to contain something about camaraderie. Feeling like we were a part of something. How does this have anything to do with free ice time? A few things, if I may...
For those of you who aren’t familiar, pick-up hockey/stick-time is one of the few opportunities that you can get out on the ice with total freedom. You can work skills and drills. Get creative with types of contests and challenges. Play full ice 4-4 with shooter tutors, no subs and test your lungs. Or full out games with all levels of skill playing together.
So first off, it’s one of the only chances that you get to be an athlete. For some of us, we miss competitive sports so much that just getting out there makes us feel that excitement again. Being a part of something. Getting ready in the locker room, while BS’ing about what happened in the NHL the night prior or what’s going on with the fam. Putting on the equipment, as stinky as it may be. Hearing the sounds of tape being put to pads. The rattling around of sticks in the rack. It’s invigorating and rejuvenating. It’s being a part of those sounds and being out there with those skaters. It’s a place to find camaraderie and revisit it as often as you like.
It’s a healthy way to exercise when the box gyms just aren’t cutting it. I just can’t get myself to walk into a big box gym these days. Jockeying for dumbells and worrying about the nasty puddle of sweat that Muscles McGhee just left on a bench I was about to use… You don’t run into that at the rink. For what’s commonly a bunch of strangers, everybody seems to be on the same page. When you’re among like minds, the momentum of the exercise takes you over and brings you to another level.
It’s FUN! Period.
All that being said, ten bucks a skate adds up. By the end of the month, if you’re out there a few times a week, that’s a car payment spent on pick-up hockey. Tough to justify. A lot of vets are mindful of their money because we understand it’s hard to come by. It puts a difficult decision in front of you every time you grab your gear.
“Should I be spending more money doing this?”
“Should I put this money to other things that could help me out right now?”
“Should I be putting these dollars into a savings plan?”
“But there are so many reasons to lace them up!”
(This was me before every $10 skate.)
So this is why Vets Skate Free means so much more than saving $10. It’s giving us access to all of the things that we love and crave. It’s opportunity. It’s sport. It’s brother/sisterhood, sweat, FUN! Being a part of something is important. It’s purpose. It’s LIFE.
So, I’d like to say THANK YOU to those establishments that offer veterans free ice time! I’d like to share this news with everyone who doesn’t know it already. I’d like to say get out and join me to those vets who have any level of interest in hockey. Spread the word!
See ya out there!
P.S. - If you’re local, check our website or Facebook page for where we’re skating and when.