Breaking the ice
Three years ago, at the age of 52, Carol Bond laced up her skates to play hockey, something she hadn’t done in 35 years.
“It’s taken a while to come back. The first time I was on the ice it was for a game. I hadn’t practised, I had new skates, new equipment. The first half hour wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t skate or anything. In your mind you think you can do what you used to do, but your body’s just not there.”
Her body isn’t the same, but neither is the game. Bond grew up playing hockey on the skating rink on her family’s property in Port Perry, ON. Over many winters, she honed her skills.
“All the kids in the neighbourhood came to our house to play hockey. Playing hockey on an outdoor rink is the best because it gets kids out even if they can’t play in a league. If you’re out on your own rink, you can do what you want and that’s where you get your fine-tuning.”
Bond joined a league when she was 11 years old. There was an established girls’ league where the calibre was high and competition was tough.
“Girls’ hockey was big in the early 1970s in Ontario. It was full contact and really rough. Totally different to what it is now. We would go play in this one town that was our rival and we had to take a police escort because the fans were getting into fights. It was pretty rowdy back then.”
The girls took the game seriously, even at such a young age, and injuries were not uncommon.
“Our gear was so crappy. Concussions weren’t even talked about. You just go out there and hit. One of our best players had her leg broken and another player had her tailbone broken. We weren’t even old enough to drive.”
When Bond was 16, she moved to Toronto and hockey was no longer part of her life.
“Life changed. I had different interests. I’m so glad I got back into it.”
Almost four decades later, Bond is one of Cowichan’s oldest female hockey players. She said she doesn’t feel old but she has made adjustments to how she plays the game.
“At first I had to be so conscious about not hitting people. Now I play a different style of hockey. I am one of the go-getters on our team, at least I think I am, or that’s what I try to be.”
Bond plays for the Kerry Park Thunder. She plays for a team that includes six players who are 50, about to turn 50 or turned 50 a while ago. The Thunder plays twice per week from mid-September until the end-of-season tournament in Campbell River.
It competes against other island teams, though the Thunder is a more social than competitive team.
“Last Sunday, we played Nanaimo and because of a schedule change they were short players. I went on their team and played for them. That shows you how uncompetitive we are. If the ref doesn’t show up we go on the honour system. There was one time the other team didn’t have a goalie.
“We still want to win, but there are definitely other teams that are more competitive.”
And other teams whose players are much younger.
Bond’s team plays against others with players in their 20s, which Bond said is a challenge.
“Our coaches always say, ‘We can’t outskate them so we have to use our heads more. That’s where experience comes in. We pass more, and use our heads instead of chasing the puck. The puck can go a lot faster than we can skating.”
Bond said playing hockey is what she enjoys doing most.
“It’s one of the best things I do now. If I could do it more, I would.”
Putting your dreams on ice:
Fuller Lake Arena offers adult co-ed power-skating courses on Monday nights from 8:15 to 9:15 p.m. The session runs for six weeks and costs $89.
Laurel Whyte at Fuller Lake Arena said they started offering co-ed power-skating courses because that skill was one of the main barriers to women playing hockey. The courses focus on skill development and have a 50/50 split enrolment of men and women. Participants must know how to skate but there is a beginner course starting in the new year.
Contact Graham Cousins, booking clerk at 250-246-3811, to reserve a spot.