People usually learn to ice skate when they’re very young. It could be with their parents, at a birthday party or with a boyfriend or girlfriend. But rather than go for one of those clichés, I thought why not learn how to ice-skate in roughly ten minutes and then use my newfound skill in a game of ice hockey? For some strange reason I spent a large proportion of the evening either falling over or flailing my arms about trying to prevent myself from falling over. Despite these minor setbacks however, it was a thoroughly good night.
ALTS is essentially a form of ice hockey designed for beginners who aren’t interested in the violence or competitive nature of the real thing. This means there is no need for the excessive protective gear because it is non contact (except for the keepers, who wear a face mask and gloves), the puck is a great deal lighter and you are not allowed to lift it off the ground. There was blatant disregard for this last rule however. Because attendances at sessions regularly exceed 150 people, the rink is split up into two or three 6-a-side matches that last three minutes each.
Apart from these small differences, the games are played like a normal game of ice hockey. This is very much a sport for beginners,but more skilled players use this as an excuse to turn up and show off their skills. This pretty much eliminated any contribution newcomers could have, but on the plus side it did provide the determination to keep plugging away and eventually take the experts down.
To put it another way, I was bitterly jealous because I have never felt so helpless and stranded on a sports arena in my life. Furthermore my former background in hockey did not compensate for my ineptitude; rather, it was a hindrance. With the games as short, high-paced and frantic as they are it means that those who are less capable simply cannot keep up with the play and spend a lot of time on their arses.
Putting aside my personal grievances, by the end of the night I had started to get the hang of things and at that point it became much more enjoyable and I even manged touched the puck a couple of times whilst staying upright. This may sound like a small achievement, but to me, it was a huge moment.
Overall there was a very relaxed atmosphere and the scores of the games seemed completely irrelevant. This made a nice change, but for those who wish to develop their skills there have been Cuppers tournaments in the past two years. This is a great way to spend an evening and even though the sessions are at slightly awkward times, it breaks up the monotony of the weekly visits to Park End or Wahoo and brings out the child in you.
Sessions are 2330 – 0115 on Wednesdays and 2345 – 0100 on Fridays and I cannot recommend them enough.