The Ride of Her Life

Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements. ~Napoleon Hill

Growing up in the South, where it rarely snows and where ponds almost never freeze over, I didn’t know a thing about hockey. Which wasn’t a problem until my daughter became engaged to a man who was into the sport big time.
“Help!” I begged my friend Jeanette, who had grown up in Detroit as a rabid Red Wings fan. “Teach me everything you know about hockey.”
“Relax,” she said. “Hockey’s not hard to understand. I can teach you about rules and stats and famous players and a lot of other stuff if you want. Or I can tell you what I love most about the game.”
“Let’s start there. What do you love most?”
“Zambonis.”
I suppose she could tell by the look in my eyes that I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.
“You know, the giant machines that resurface the ice. Ever since I was a little kid and saw my first hockey game, I’ve wanted to ride a Zamboni. Who knew I’d be more than sixty years old before I got the chance?”
Jeanette and her husband Steve traded Detroit for middle Tennessee in the 1970s and supported the minor league hockey teams that came and went in a state not overly enthusiastic about the sport. When Nashville snagged the Predators in 1998, the couple was thrilled and quickly became ardent fans. “I still have the commemorative puck I got when we went to the opening game,” Jeanette proudly told me.
And though she loves the action and excitement of the game itself, her favorite part of any hockey outing is what goes on between periods. That’s when the Zambonis appear and begin to work their magic, making the chopped-up ice smooth and perfect again.
Jeanette and Steve’s son, Tim, is also a huge hockey fan, though lifelong chronic health problems have kept him from being able to play the sport. When he was just thirty-two years old, Tim suffered a stroke. “It was a tough time for the whole family,” Jeanette said. “As Tim’s primary caregiver, there were many days when I wondered how I was going to dig out of the deep emotional hole I found myself in.”
Steve came up with an idea he was pretty sure would help.
“He called a friend whose business was a major Predators sponsor,” Jeannette told me. “The next thing I knew, I’d been granted permission to ride a Zamboni.”
“You’re kidding.”
“Nope. All I had to do was show up at the arena — wearing one of Tim’s Predators T-shirts, of course — and sign some papers. About halfway into the first period, I was escorted to the bottom of the building where the Zambonis are parked.”
“So you just hopped aboard?”
“Not exactly. I’d recently had knee replacement surgery, which of course I purposely didn’t mention, so the driver had to help me find the toe holds and climb into the passenger seat. I had no idea how huge those machines are until I sat on top of one.”
“But you didn’t chicken out?” I asked.
“No way. I buckled my seatbelt and off we went. And for as long as I live, I’ll never forget how it felt when we burst out of the dark tunnel behind the goal and into the arena. Everything was so big and bright and noisy. I felt like a rock star and the Queen of England all at the same time. As we went round and round in smaller and smaller circles, I waved to the crowd the whole time.”
“What happened when you were done?”
“Well… nobody asked for my autograph. But I did get to watch the Zamboni guys empty more than a ton of shaved ice into waste bin before I went back to my seat. Pretty cool. And I still haven’t told you the best part. You’ll never guess who the Predators were playing that night.”
“Don’t tell me….”
“Yep. The Detroit Red Wings. What more could a true-blue hockey fan ask than that?”

~Jennie Ivey

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