On December 23, my two friends and I bundled up in our -15 best and head downtown. We walked down Stephen Ave, towards Olympic Plaza. We said hello to the Famous Five, gave them each a quick, but meaningful high five for fighting for our right to vote, and then found the skate rental building perched next to the rink. We walked up and told the man we needed to rent skates! He asked if we just needed three? I said, “well, we need two each…” and smiled. The man burst into raucous laughter! Woah! Do jokes get you a discount? He asked for our foot sizes. I lowered my voice and whispered to him my embarrassing, ogre-like foot size, 11. He gasped and shook his head. “We don’t have skates that big.” Story of my life. As I took the size 8 hockey skates the man handed me, images of all the falling I would inevitably do flashed through my mind. We paid our $12 each (the joke did not get me a discount) and walked to the ice just as the Zamboni began its rounds. The view was perfect, the ice fresh and slick from the Zamboni, the icicle lights twinkling over the rink, and the Calgary Tower silhouetted against a sky of classic, Calgary blue. Lacing skates is hard. Lacing hockey skates is hard. Lacing hockey skates in -15 is hard. We were already very cold by the time the Zamboni finished.
With trepidation, I stood on the ice, getting a feel for the clunky shoes underneath my feet. Then a 5-year old girl, helmet off-kilter, hot pink snowpants wet with snow, and mittens on idiot strings, skate/walked by me at a snail’s pace and screamed to her dad, “catch me if you can!” She giggled as she went by, seemingly not even moving, she was going so slowly. Fearless she was! I took her lead and pushed off. I wasn’t really skating, I was walking on skates, but I was doing a damn fine job of that. I sped up with each lap I did, feeling more and more comfortable. As I turned each corner, I stretched my arms out like an airplane and made zooming sound effects. I am 26. I’m an airplane. Only one speaker around the rink was working, so each time I flew past, I heard a snippet of a Christmas song and it filled me with Christmas cheer. An hour on the ice, over 30 skating selfies, only one toe with any feeling whatsoever, and not a single fall, we triumphantly returned our skates and walked back to the car. Thanks for the skate, Calgary!