68: Love at First Lace

68: Love at First Lace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey

Love at First Lace

An athlete is a normal person

with the gift of an undying passion

to be the best and achieve greatness.

~Amanda Ring

Hockey has taken me to many unforgettable places . . . from winning gold in the National Championships with Team Ontario in Chicoutimi, Quebec, to travelling overseas to Europe for tournaments, to co-starring in a television commercial for Tim Hortons with Sydney Crosby.

Hockey has also allowed me to be scouted and accepted into a prestigious private school, The Bishop Strachan School, in downtown Toronto. This is where my fondest memories have been made as a student, resident and athlete. As I browsed through baby photos to choose for my yearbook graduation photo, I came across a very special hockey card: myself at age four, outfitted in my brother’s hand-me-down equipment. It is my hometown hockey “Rookie Card.” I reminisced about how a year before the photo was taken I had a traumatic figure skating experience, by a four-year-old’s standards at least, that changed my life.

I was dressed as Peter Pan for the end-of-year figure skating extravaganza. My fellow skater, Tinker Bell, made fun of my “boy’s skates” because they were so different from her white dainty figure skates. She told me that my skates didn’t belong and I ran to my parents in tears. I told them I was done with figure skating, and I wanted to play hockey like my older brother Jordan. And so, wearing a Peter Pan outfit complete with black Bauer skates and green laces, four-year-old me ultimately made a decision that would change my life forever.

As I look back on that moment, I remember being so easily offended by the insult about my skates, but I am thankful that I chose the sport for which they were made. My life changed then. I’m different than the majority of girls who attend this private school, which is located in a very privileged area called Forest Hill. To be honest, I didn’t believe that I would fit in when I was first scouted and invited to tour the school. First of all, I knew that I preferred the cold crisp air of a rink at 6:00 a.m. to the hot sunshine on a secluded beach in the tropics. I preferred concession stand hot chocolate to an expensive latte. I believed that bus trips, not spring break in Punta Cana, would make for the best memories with friends. I felt more comfortable balancing on thin steel blades than in expensive Christian Louboutins, and preferred wearing a jersey pulled over bulky shoulder pads to a slinky silk dress. My signature hairstyle was a messy bun, and the uniform skirt only highlighted my far-from-perfect legs, which were full of bruises and scars.

Most of my spare time was spent on a cold sheet of ice or in a gym lifting weights, instead of in malls, coffee shops, or movie theaters. I didn’t wear make-up; I wore “war paint.” I wrestled with insecurity about my butt being too big and muscular — it couldn’t fit in jeans as nicely as I wished and yet it powered me on the ice. Yet, despite these differences, it took me only minutes to make friends who accepted me even if I smelled like a rink rat and not Chanel No. 5. These friends may seem much different than me at first glance, but deep down we have made relationships that will last a lifetime. They accept me no matter what my crazy hockey schedule might be, and they don’t take it personally when I am unable to attend their lunches and parties. They even take time out of their lives on occasion to venture into the unfamiliar cold rinks and support me . . . and my dream.

As I write this I look around the walls of my residence room and see some of my favorite things: a poster of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a Canadian flag, homemade signs friends have created to cheer me on at games, trophies, and sports photos. No shirtless celebrities can be found on my walls. I hold my rookie hockey card in my hands and laugh as I read that, “body building” was apparently one of my hobbies . . . as a four-year-old! As I read that my future ambition was to “play for the Canadian National Team,” my mind jumps back to this past summer. I was chosen to attend the Team Canada Strength and Conditioning Camp earlier in the year. I spent the entire summer training for the final camp. Daily, I woke up bright and early and drove an hour to York University, where I trained with teammates and a strength coach. I gave up parties, vacationing, junk food and a social life to dedicate my time to chasing my dream. I was invited to the final selection camp at the end of the summer but was not selected for the final team.

When I returned home from the airport my parents had left this same rookie card sitting on my dresser. Although the feeling of defeat was strong, I knew I had come so close to reaching the goal that four-year-old Peter Pan had made at a figure skating show. I spent the rest of the day with a tub of ice cream, but I could still see that little girl smiling in the back of my mind. I knew that if I continued to persevere and dedicate myself to my hockey dream that someday in my future I would make that little girl inside of me proud, and achieve my goal at last.

As I hold my card in my hands I decide to use it for my grad picture. Not only because I am such an adorable little darling with my huge smile and oversized hand-me-down equipment, but also because it will serve as a message to myself in the future. When I look back at this yearbook, years down the road, hopefully I will see this picture and feel that sense of achievement that I have been working so hard for.

I think back to my younger years, growing up in a small town on the shore of Lake Simcoe. It was the small town hockey player dream: pond hockey in the winter, early morning hockey at the local rink, and Tim Hortons stops along the way. I had grown up being the only girl playing on the boys’ teams. As if I didn’t stand out enough already with my long brown ponytail, I always insisted on wearing bright green laces on my skates. I was not sure at the time why I chose this color, but now I seem to have come full circle. Through my hockey I again have the incredible opportunity to attend another prestigious school, this time for university. Dartmouth College, the Ivy League institution down in New Hampshire has recruited me and I have committed to playing hockey there for my university career. I will be proudly wearing the Big Green jersey for my future team. Sometimes I think that the little four-year-old version of me really knew what she was doing when she loved those green hockey laces . . . and I owe everything to her.

~Ailish Forfar

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners