Dave Esparza – 2013-2014 Essay

I will never forget the Sunday of our first game. I had to work that afternoon, and I spent most of the day with a sick stomach. I had an extreme feeling of fear, and it had gotten the best of me.I didn’t want it to be the end of my shift; that would mean I would have to go play hockey, and frankly, I didn’t know if I could do it.

Well, it happened; my shift was over, and I had my cab on its way to take me to the Hartmeyer Ice Arena—now I was committed. During the ride over, I remember asking the driver to turn around at one point and drop me off at home. I didn’t want to do this whole hockey thing; I couldn’t! I was so terrible and could barely skate, much less play hockey. I didn’t want my new teammates to hate me because I sucked at sports. I was so terrified of positioning and that mixed with being new on skates and the rules of hockey made me want to puke with fear!

Well, it was time. I found the locker room and proceeded with caution, hoping to find a hidden back door to run out of! When I entered, I had forgotten what order to put things on. I remember Mimi was one of the first ones to help me with the order of things. She took one look at me and knew I was a mess! I sat next to Brandon Rounds—I kind of knew who he was, but he was still a stranger to me. He was so friendly and willing to help. I owe it to him for his kind words that first day. I think it was the second game when I had my hockey socks on and he looked at me and was like, “Umm, you forgot your shin guards.”

Anyway, we took the ice, and honestly, I was still hoping for a way out! I couldn’t find a way to escape, so I had to do it. My new teammates were so supportive of me and the other new players on the team. They were so motivational, and still are! I did it, I played; I played my first official game of hockey, in fact my first team sport ever, besides gym class.

Now, don’t get me wrong, just because I survived that first game doesn’t mean the fear went away. I went through the same sick feeling for about the first three games or so, and was still looking for ways to escape. Fast forward to February 9, 2014…I played two games that night—I was a sub in the game before ours. Now, granted, I still suck, but I have improved a ton since that first game. Now I am on the pond playing pick-up games or practicing as much as I can. I even joined and played in a pond tournament this winter and signed up for the Gay Games in Ohio.

It’s crazy; I’m now a full-fledged, shitty hockey player. Haha! Instead of being sick at work on Sundays, I’m bouncing around the room with excitement, watching the clock, counting down the hours until hockey! I get such a high when I’m putting on that smelly gear in the locker room with the teammates that have now become friends. I only get sick when hockey is cancelled for the holidays and that for football thing.

I moved to this city not knowing many people, much less other gay people. I came from a small town, population: one gay guy! I joined this league for a few different reasons. The first was because I wanted to be part of a gay community. I love my straight friends and all, but it’s nice to be around other LGBT people. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do this: I could be the fat gay kid and still learn to play a sport. The people I have met on my own team as well as this league have been so amazing, and a lot of them have become friends and even family. The ongoing support and willingness to help is such a wonderful thing. People who play on other leagues that I know are always shocked that if somebody knocks you down on the ice, they come back and make sure you’re okay. That kind of sportsmanship is why I love this league so much. This helps take away the fear of playing. I’m thankful every day that Patrick and David didn’t give up on me and were like, “What’s the hold up, you’re joining!” I owe a lot to those guys, along with a few other players from past seasons. I’m so glad that I joined, and stayed, because now I have an extension of my family. I have so many kick-ass new friends and a team that I can say I’m part of. I think that some of my non-hockey-playing friends are already annoyed with me because now I’m the person who talks about hockey 24/7! If we are out at a bar and it’s on TV, I’m watching it. I called Charter and ordered the Center Ice package, so that I can watch games and learn from the pros. I even asked for hockey stuff for Christmas.

Thank you so much, MGHA, for what you have done for me and others who thought that we’d never be able to do this. Thank you for picking me up when I’ve been down on the ice, frustrated; thank you for not letting me quit; thank you for telling me that I can do it; thank you for cheering me on and making me feel part of this amazing thing called the Madison Gay Hockey Association. Also, thank you to Sexy Train for your ongoing support, and thank you for passing on the MVP sash and rainbow hat to me this season. That made me feel so great, I almost wanted to cry tears of joy. You are an amazing team and group of friends for life!