Before coming to Canada, I had never been known as a ‘sports girl’. Once upon a time, I could run a seven-minute mile, but as I focussed more on writing and the arts, I paid less attention to athletic endeavours. That all changed when I moved to Canada.
In Canada at sixteen without family, I tried to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t feel so homesick—and that was how I stumbled upon ball hockey. My college gym held recreational hockey practices every Wednesday and needed girls. I was sitting on the bleachers watching the game, amazed at how fast the ball could be whipped through the air, when the ‘hockey captain’—another international student called Mitsuki—came over and asked if I wanted to play. An oversized stick in my hands, I whacked the ball as hard as I could—although a goofy hurl, the ball smacked cleanly against the net. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Mitsuki taught me everything I know about ball hockey today: play formations, different maneuvers, how to control the stick better. I became obsessed with hockey, going into the gym every day after school and borrowing a stick from the school storage closet. It had a flimsy blade and was too short for me, but it did the trick. I slammed balls against the wall and whipped the rebounds into the goal. No sport had ever arrested me the way ball hockey did. I picked up other sports – badminton, volleyball, soccer – but hockey forever remained my main one. It was a sign of my enthusiasm for the sport that Mitsuki bought me my very own hockey stick for my birthday. Every game afterwards, I scribbled the number of goals I made on the blade in sharpie; in no time, those scrawlings inched up the narrow handle.
Discovering how much I liked sports… and that I was actually not half-bad at them… It was like a part of me I hadn’t even known myself had been unveiled. Who was this energetic, athletic person that had been lying dormant for the last sixteen years, suddenly come out to play in the Great White North? Perhaps it was just something about the air in Canada.
Note: Written when I was 21, reflecting on when I was 16.