Aging Hockey Player Can’t Eat Like He Used To

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(Hockey Player Magazine, February 2013)

One hour after I made my food choice I realized it was a bad one.

I’m almost 50 and fall under the old-guy category. Bobby Orr and Brad Park were my heroes. I cheered when Team USA beat the Russians in 1980. Many of my teammates weren’t yet born and ESPN was barely five months old.

I grew up playing ice hockey in Colorado and played a year of junior hockey in Sweden. My claim to fame was making the All-Area High School team but that was long ago. I’ve since migrated to a warmer climate devoid of Zambonis. In rural Northern California, we have more duck blinds than ice rinks. So, I joined the in-line epidemic, a sacrilege for any die-hard, old-school, ice hockey player. Hockey on wheels? In-line is akin to kissing a cousin, but I tried it and liked it, in-line hockey that is. The actual skating technique was surprisingly similar…but I couldn’t stop.

I’ve resurrected my routine from years past with some minor adjustments. I arrive at the arena thirty minutes early to limber up instead of looking for girls. Stretching is a key to my survival; so is pre-medicating with a handful of painkillers. I now compete against players who are faster than gazelles, gazelles that are 20 years younger. I hate eating their dust. I’m not easily embarrassed but still have pride.

Between my bantam and high school years I grew a foot taller and could eat anything. Pasta, fried chicken, horse-meat (I’m kidding)…the calories filled my hollow leg. I’m more careful today but occasionally suffer mental lapses. I eat my pre-game meal two hours before suiting up to make sure my body has enough time to process it. One day I ran late and hunted through the refrigerator. It was barren except for three Polish sausages and a jar of sauerkraut. Behind the mustard I stumbled upon fries and sourdough bread. I reckoned sauerkraut qualified as a vegetable. I scrounged a feast and demolished it.

I sped to the arena and arrived disheveled. At least I didn’t get a traffic ticket. My buddies were already warming up. I tied my skates and rushed onto the rink. Immediately after the face-off, stomach rumblings forewarned of impending doom. I ditched my teammates and raced to the men’s room. My wheels spun with no way to stop. The toilet did that job.

Had disaster struck on the rink, my teammates would have un-friended me on Facebook, or worse. I completed the game in good physical status albeit several pounds lighter. I can’t remember the game’s outcome but will remember what not to eat next time. My brain must remind my stomach it can no longer tolerate a haphazard diet. It’s great playing hockey again. Even if it means I need to use the commode to brake.

So, I offer my younger comrades sage advice: Never eat the entire recommended daily allowance of anything just before playing a game.

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