Trading ballet slippers for hockey skates changed my life

Photo by Suzanne Park.
Photo by Suzanne Park.

Last year I did something I never imagined I’d do. I hung up my ballet slippers and traded them for hockey skates. At age 16, I decided to take up hockey. Yes, you read that right: hockey.

Although I grew up with a Leafs fan as a dad, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I became a fan as well. I have now become a full-on fanatic, analyzing statistics, player trades, top draft candidates and of course keeping track of all the standings. Who would have thought math could be so useful?

Now, I can update my dad on trades, news and events – something neither of us expected to happen. Through my interest in the game I decided I wanted to try playing hockey, and with the encouragement of my hockey-playing friend Jessica, I took the leap and signed up for skating lessons.

The first step in this new adventure was getting hockey skates. I had always used figure skates, so that was the first obstacle I had to overcome. The second was my age: most people start skating at the age of four. To improve my skating abilities I put my ego aside and signed up for lessons with four-year-olds! In those lessons I grew more confident and learned how to dodge falling kids, but it wasn’t until the summer when I took lessons from Hockey Extreme that I started to see improvements. I learned how to stickhandle, skate and most importantly stop. I learned the basics needed to start playing on a team.

Finally, I took the huge leap of signing up for Leaside Wildcats girls’ house-league hockey. I’ve been lucky that through this journey I have had my friend Jessica beside me and even playing on the same team. I’ve also been lucky to have a great team and coaches who have embraced my newness to hockey and helped me improve over the course of the season. With the help of Coach Lawrence and Phil and my teammates I have been able to accomplish my aims of scoring a goal and improving my game, and was thrilled to get a compliment from Coach Lawrence, who said, “It is great to see Zhen grow and develop as a hockey player (and teammate). She has a very positive attitude.”

Hockey has become a huge part of my life. As a result of my love for the game I am excited to attend Ryerson’s Sport Media program. If you had told me three years ago that I would be going into sports media and journalism and playing hockey, I would have said you were crazy. This experience has taught me that you never know where you might go in life, and no matter what your age you can always learn something new. Take that first step and see where it leads. Somewhere exciting.

This article was contributed by Zhen Park-Vandal.