Hicks with sticks

I never saw Jerry before he died. And, due to a domestic dispute, I missed seeing Johnny Cash live, too. So when the chance to be part of the first official Durango women's traveling hockey team came up, I decided not to let history pass me by again. When a desperate coach called me pleading for warm bodies to fill the bench a few weeks before an end-of-the-season tournament in Denver, I stepped forward. Although I could think of a multitude of reasons not to go (aside from the fact that I had long since banished my gear to the basement), there was one overwhelming reason to go: the fact that, for once in my life, I would be able to look back and say, "I was there, man." Years from now, when my grandkids ask me why my teeth are chipped or why I walk with a limp, I can regale them with tales of how I heroically took a slap shot to the face mask, did the human piledriver into the boards or fell so hard on my ass that their kids will probably feel it.

So, even if we ended up getting slaughtered worse than the girls who inevitably stall their car on a dark, deserted road in a B horror movie (which several naysayers said we would), it would still be a win-win situation.

Unfortunately, even before the team hit the ice, there was dissension. A consensus could not be reached on the name, other than that the official one the Durango Duranged sucked. Aided by a few beers in one of our local taverns, a vocal minority decided a better name would be the Duranghos, in the bawdy spirit of the game. As is often the case, when the alcohol wore off, it was realized that the name (now shortened to 'Hos) really wasn't that funny. But it was too late. The Hos stuck for lack of anything better. Sure it was lewd, but so are names like the Motherpuckers and Puck Ewes and at least this one was original. Or so we thought until we showed up at registration to find someone had stolen our idea and plastered it all over "We Put the Ho'in Hockey" T-shirts.

We tried to shake it off so as not to distract ourselves from focusing on our first game which was somewhere inside a giant structure housing multiple rinks, which on the Front Range are referred to as "sports complexes." Unlike our dinky little "Sports Pavilion," which consists of a snack bar, a few bleachers, tow bathrooms and one rink, these sports complexes (which typically bear an obnoxious corporate name as is all the rage these days) are ice skating's answer to the Megamall. After driving around a massive perimeter and walking from a nosebleed parking spot, one finds herself surrounded by a strange and surreal world of Plexi-glass, freon and glitz. The particular complex that hosted us consisted of three Olympic-sized rinks, one of which blared Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" while hopeful young Tara Lipinskys and Brian Boitanos practiced toe loops and sit spins. There also was an espresso shop; a pro shop complete with carbon fiber sticks, blue-sequined leotards and skates that cost more than my entire set-up; and, much to our delight, a real, live sports bar (which we would later learn was a destination even for the nonskating public). Downstairs, there was a maze of locker rooms (equipped with their own bathrooms and showers), and access to the three rinks and their adjacent stands for the screaming fans.

This was the big time.

At least as big as you can get playing in the "Plains" division. See, the teams in the tournament were of varying skill levels and came from all over the country. In an effort not to make any "C" players feel inadequate, the teams were split into three ambiguous categories: Front Range, Platte and Plains. It didn't take a genius (which for a hockey player is anyone who can get his or her gear on right the first time) to interpret that the "Plains" was the least skilled of the groups, as in "can't get any lower," "nowhere to go but up," "devoid of any visual interest," "home to pig swill and cattle slop." But, like the T-shirt fiasco, we took our basement-dweller designation in stride, after all we were rookies. Besides, we weren't just there to win, we were there to take part in history, to build camaraderie with our fellow female hockey players and represent the fine town of Durango.

Of course, this all was conveniently forgotten once we took to the ice against a team from Steamboat and realized we actually had a shot in hell at winning. When the final buzzer sounded and we were on top, I dare say, we even got a little cocky. With the refrain from "We Are the Champions" resounding through our heads, we again took to the ice. But, as is often the case in the fast-paced world of hockey, we were soon eating our breezers as female Wayne Gretzkys skated circles around us. I will not divulge the scores, only because I lost count when they hit double digits. But, as I mentioned earlier, that's not important. What's important is that when it was all over, we skated off the ice with our heads held high and with no profuse bleeding.

After a long drive home, we arrived with nothing to show but some trashy magazines, empty Frito-Lay bags and a roof-top box full of sweaty gear that was more befitting crime scene tape than ticker tape. In fact, not only did no one seem to care, but no one even seemed to notice. Summer had arrived, and ice, cold and hockey were the furthest things from people's minds. I lugged my bag of gear inside the house and gave it a little drop kick down the cellar steps. I then let the trap door slam shut, effectively closing the door on my personal chapter in history at least for the time being. Perhaps the world was not quite ready for the Hos, or vice versa. But whatever the case, in a few short months, the call of garters, thigh-highs and black lace-up boots would again beckon me to the cellar door, and then there was no telling what sort of history would be made.

Missy Votel




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