At least one player could identify with what I was going through. Dominic Larocque wore a huge smile after sending a puck in my direction and watching me nearly tumble out of the sled to slow down and corral it.
After all, it's been just 10 months since the winger with Canada's sledge hockey team first tried the sport himself.
It's safe to assume he was quite a bit more adept at it in his maiden voyage than I was. The national team was nice enough to invite a few journalists on the ice with them Thursday morning for what amounted to a fairly eye-opening – and fun – experience.
There were a few light-hearted attempts to strike fear into the “victims,” as one player referred to us just before we put on some helmets and gloves and got strapped into the sleds.
I really wasn't sure what to expect. My first strides were surprisingly encouraging as I was able to reach a decent speed using the two mini hockey sticks with picks on the ends.
However, the good feelings disappeared quickly as the end boards got closer and closer. I had no idea how to stop – making a late decision to wrestle my feet free and drag them along the ice, tipping the sled on its side in the process. It couldn't have been any less graceful.
One friendly player whipped by and encouraged me to use my core muscles to stop. Darn, I knew I'd forgotten something at home.
The most impressive thing about seeing the national team players from ice level was how hard they fire the puck. I was barely able to raise it off the ice, let alone get any speed behind it.
The humbling moments didn't end there. The closest thing I had to a battle for the puck was with the Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery and the veteran columnist ended up emerging with it – letting out a whoop in case anyone was unsure who came out on top.
I was spurred on by that and started to get a little more sure on my sled, just in time for national team coach Mike Mondin to blow his whistle to signal the start of practice.
Before I'd unbuckled and left the surface, I was already hoping I might get another chance down the line.
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