This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

- crash dynamics

Somehow as kids grow up through the ranks of learning to skate -- as they go from swizzles to stroking to spins -- they gradually gain a sense of rink and positional location awareness.

Skaters seem to crash into and clip the boards more frequently than they run into one another, but that latter possibility is always looming. It seems to weigh more on the minds of the parents though than the skaters.

Of course falling on the ice is as much a part of skating as lacing up your boots. Indeed part of the learning process is also learning how to fall safely, without causing too much damage. Naturally it is best to learn this skill when you are little.

Once you grow into a competitive skater you spend half of your time skating backwards. This makes for a bit of a challenge if you want some ice time in a public session amongst the newbies and the amateurs.

As a parent it seems I spend a good one third of my time telegraphing concern about an impending crash; I haven't a clue if this is actually useful to my daughter, but it is part of the crash dynamics, and it seems to be the general background concern of most of the newbie parents at the rink.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

- tribute

For variety I like visiting other rinks: it's not only different scenery but also for the different culture. The kids at each rink tend to reflect the attitudes of the surrounding neighborhoods. Some are more serious, others are more recreational. A couple times a year I hop over the hill to visit Culver Ice, a rink that feels like a mid-50's design. It's been on Sepulveda as long as I can remember. The covered entry porch is topped with a nine foot Sonja Henie and the old asphalt parking lot sprawls in the back. After entering the front click-lock glass door and passing through the plastic hanger vertical freezer slits you are in the rink proper, greeted by the powder blue and white color scheme, beat up dark green wooden bleacher-style benches, and white acoustic soundboard ceiling tiles.

My daughter had skated here in competition a couple of times. Hearing that they had lost their lease, I ventured down for a final visit yesterday. It was a full house at the Culver Rink, no spots were left in the parking lot, and the folks in line out front had bittersweet feelings all around. Lots of them were reminiscing with sad hearts. Most people were taking photos. Last photos. I bought a Culver Ice T-shirt for 20 bucks from a table outside.

Inside the rink most of the older skaters were sitting quietly with their private thoughts and a tightly controlled velocity of reminiscing so they wouldn't break out in tears. This tempered though with a quiet joy for what they had here and the future joy of the little tikes on the ice who don't know any better.

In the gloss-white warm up room the theatre on ice suits up for one last go of it. I wonder and worry about the skate coaches here, their head shots still smiling on the wall, as to where they will go. The gal at the skate rental counter is glassy eyed. The rink handyman with the brown round wool-knit skull cap gives me a nod of recognition.

After a very packed public session the announcer invites us to stay for a tribute performance. Zamboni resurfaces. I can't say the theatre is a high production affair -- just some inexpensive costumes and a few run throughs of some formation skating. Four or five groups take to the ice one after each other, grouped by age and skill. A local news cameramen stands on the ice to film. At the end of the show they unfurl a large banner of We (heart) Culver Ice signed by all eighty some skaters. After all the skaters take their final bow the choreo director says a heartfelt thanks, her voice breaking with emotion.

They clear the ice and open up for another public session. Many of the theater skaters join the public skate, still in costume. I leave with teary eyes and walk along Sepulveda. All the adjacent businesses, the urbane eateries, the pet groomers, Tanners coffee, the model train store, continue along unperturbed.