“What Gay Hockey Means to Me” by Mike Meholic
As I sit here staring at a blank page trying to figure out how to distill down on paper what being part of the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA) has meant for me, I am overwhelmed about how and where to begin. Skating in the league for the past six months has affected almost every part of my life in a very positive way. I realize now that I gained much, much more out of being part of the league than just some great hockey games, good times and bruises.
From the moment I took to the ice for our first practice in September, something unexpected started to happen to me. My past began colliding with my present. At times the world would blink and all of the sudden I was a 12 year old defensive player scrapping in the corners for the puck and destroying the other team’s break away scoring dreams. At times I was randomly catapulted back to when one of my only true escapes from the weirdness of growing up gay in a small Michigan town was being on the ice playing hockey. But also in the mix with all the fond memories were a lot of other memories. Very different memories.
These other memories were tough to think about as they were the polar opposite of the good ones. Memories like never really getting along or relating to boys my own age when I was growing up. Like always being tense and nervous in the locker room. Like taking my equipment off as fast as I could so I could get the hell out of the locker room. Like feeling alone and cut off because of this “thing” about me I sensed but really didn’t understand. Like getting the crap kicked out of me by a team mate in the locker room while the rest of the team taunted and made fun of me. Like sobbing in the car afterwards while telling my older sister who picked me up that day what happened. Like having to explain to my parents what happened and why when I wasn’t even sure I knew. Like having to walk back into that same locker room the next weekend and face those guys again.
These hard stinging memories were coupled with still other poignant recollections of that same time period. Like when that same older sister who picked me up that day (she was only 16 and not outspoken at all) went into the ice arena and chewed my coaches out for not being around when everything went down. Like the coaches talking tough to the team that they should be ashamed of knocking down a team mate rather than building him up for the good of the team. Like my Parents helping me to muster the courage to stand tall and walk back into that locker room the next weekend. Like all my brothers and sisters coming to every one of my games for the rest of that season. All these vivid memories came back from the corners of my past and stirred the person I am today to my core. But at the same time, I was able to stay acutely aware of the fact I’m not a 12 year old kid playing hockey anymore. With 25 years of time stretching between me and those memories, I can comfortably say that that was hockey then.
So what about hockey now? From the start I felt like the MGHA had something very special going on. What I’ve had over the course of the last six months was an amazing opportunity to make fresh new hockey memories. And oh, what fun and hilarious new memories I have! Like seeing pink hockey gloves and skate laces on the ice. Like the guy who said “sorry” after we collided by accident during our first game (I found that really confusing at first). Like Tammy’s Suzy baking treats for us every game. Like cheering in the stands for the all the other teams and players. Like being burned (repeatedly) on the ice by Pork Chop. Like taking my time getting out of my gear in the locker room after our games. Like some of our interesting locker room discussion topics—how do you get a black eye from ice fishing anyway? Like Steven’s 3 game scoring streak. Like that crazy auctioneer at the Jock Auction (next year we just have to make sure he gets his meds before hand). Like Jean handing out her farm fresh organic chicken eggs in the locker room. Like the best New Year’s Eve I’ve had in Madison. Like finishing dead last in the regular season with my team who really didn’t care because we had so much fun together on the ice anyway. Like Bill’s patience as he fed me pass after pass in front of the net when my shots usually missed (when I hit the net that is). Like scoring my first goal since I was 13. . Like winning our first play off game! Like feeling safe. Like feeling I belong. Like being part of a team.
What the MGHA has meant to me is hard to describe or quantify. Suffice it to say to me it is, and remains, the gift that keeps on giving. I feel like after 5 years in Madison I have finally found the elusive gay community that I knew had to exist in this town. And what an amazing, diverse, passionate, fun and inclusive community it is. Before I joined the league last fall I had one foot out of Madison and was trying to move to Chicago. But now after a season of gay hockey under my belt, I know I’ll be in Madison for a long time to come. And I plan on getting more active than ever in our league community, the Madison gay community and the entire Madison community. Can gay hockey change your life? It did for me.
Like going to the Badger State Games and having our asses handed to us but still having fun anyway.
All the ladies in the league—they are the heart and soul of the league.
Like Kevin’s cannon wrist shots from the blue line.
Like such diverse, witty, fun passionate and crazy team mates.
Like feeling like I belong. Like feeling safe.