The first weekend of December is a time I always look forward to in Toronto. For here, in the midst of the metropolis, we are blessed with a superb network of parks, many of which feature free outdoor rinks. And this weekend is when they open for the season, sending the locals, skates in hand, dashing out into the winter gloom.
The rinks themselves tend to rise and fall in correlation with how much the surrounding neighbourhood takes ownership of them. Some have lovely homebaked food available, and a range of scheduled family-friendly activities. Mine is a bit of a rough-and-tumble affair, rarely given the love of a good zamboni, and often the staff simply leave a shovel out so you can, as you possibly did as a child in your own backyard rink, shovel yourself an area and skate away.
One of the neat things about the city rinks is that there is often scheduled shinny, which is essentially a bare-bones version of hockey. There are three rules: no contact (no one is wearing full pads), no rising shots (again, due to the lack of pads), and, as there almost always no goalies, you can only score from in close to the opposition's net.
With these things in mind, I grabbed my stick, helmet, and puck, and set off into the cold, clear day yesterday. When I arrived at the rink, there was only one other guy -- a teenager idly batting a puck against the boards. Quickly, I laced up and joined him.
It was only moments later that it happened.
An aside: when the city rinks are first opened, the ice is not yet fully formed, and in some places can be quite thin.
Forgetting this, on about my eight circuit of the rink, I glided into one of the corners only to hit on a tiny, nearly invisible bare patch of the underlying cement. Before I knew it, I was down, and when I tried to get up, my shoulder let out a nearly audible scream. I collapsed in a heap. Unable to raise my arm at all, I plotted my next move. "Gotta get off the ice and put my shoes back on," I thought. "Then maybe I can walk all or part of the way home."
After managing to somehow skate to the bench and gather my stuff, I commenced my journey. Predictably, it ended only about 100 metres on. (Walking like this, hunched over with one arm stuck in the forward position, is something akin to swinging a throbbing elephant's trunk before you.) Moments later, salvation arrived in the form of a passing stranger who heard my whimpering and offered a cell phone and some friendly company until my wife Amy arrived with the car.
After being given a lot of drugs, a couple X-rays (I heard the technician actually chortle out loud when she saw the pictures), and a procedure that I care not to think about, I was slinged up and sent packing.
I didn't get a chance to see the X-rays themselves, but Amy did, and nicely summed up the sorry state of things later in the evening:
"There was a socket, and there was a ball. The ball was a long, long way from the socket."