If nothing else I’ve learned this about our magnificent sport over the years: hockey enriches the lives of its players and fans, but the people in it actually have an uncanny ability to change lives. Mine got changed, again, on Monday night, in a small Northwest Washington movie theater filled with hockey lovers bearing witness to a cinematic labor of love by one of their own.
I’m reasonably confident that not every one of the nearly 150 patrons for ‘Pond Hockey’ at the Avalon last night was a puckhead, but I guarantee you every one of them left the theater believing that they’d learned something significant about the importance of unstructured recreation in the lives of children. And adults.
Leaving the theater wasn’t an easy task near 9:30 last night. On this school night we had a healthy number of under-12 youths who after the screening peppered ‘Pond Hockey’ filmmaker Andrew Sherburne with questions pertaining to the whereabouts of pond hockey tournaments for skaters their age. This movie apparently has that kind of effect on the young. It also has that kind of effect on more veteran skaters, like one for the GeriHatricks. After the movie my father rang me from his cell while en route home to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“It took me back 50 years, to those four- to six-week, especially cold spells in winter in Northern New Jersey when we could skate on ponds.”
“I found myself getting nostalgic,” Pops told me.
My old man was also nostalgic by virtue of his pre-movie dinner that included the company of one Miss Virginia 2008, Tara Wheeler. She arrived at the Avalon far earlier than expected and rang my cell wondering if I was looking to kill some time. Normally I don’t have my cell phone on when I’m out dining with family and friends, but Monday night I had movie logistics roles to oversee.
“Dad,” I said after finishing my phone chat with Tara, “mind if Miss Virginia joins us for a drink?”
Yeah, he owes me.
A Bethesda schoolteacher after the screening asked us for a ‘Pond Hockey’ movie poster because he planned on using the film as a teaching moment in his classroom.
People in parkas and touques on this magnificently frosty Monday night milled about our screening theater more than 30 minutes after the end of our Q&A with our new hockey hero, Andrew Sherburne. I was struck by the number of Minnesotans in attendance. I met folks from Brooklyn Park and Edina and White Bear Lake. In fact, one of them, Wendy Suiter from White Bear Lake, won our Jose Theodore-signed touque. She was elated.
“I never win anything!” she exclaimed.
During the screening the filmmaker crouched up in the projection room and painstakingly fashioned scraps of paper with the theater’s rows and seat numbers etched on each one, accounting for all 160 seats, just so every attendee could have a crack at winning a Jose Theodore signed touque at movie’s end. The filmmaker himself did this. That’s hockey, as I’ve come to know it.
I arrived back home with a DVD copy of ‘Pond Hockey’ in hand, a token of appreciation from Sherburne, and I knew I wanted to do two things with Monday’s rapidly dwindling hours: crack open a couple of bottles of beer with the DVD gracing my high-def screen and allow merely the movie’s menu screen and its mesmerizing postcard of Minnesota winter to bathe me in our sport’s essence.
“I’ve never been unhappy at the [outdoor] rink,” author Jack Falla observes seconds before ‘Pond Hockey’s closing credits.
Neither have I.