Blood oozes slightly from my son’s skinned knee. He doesn’t even notice it. Our knuckles are scraped, and welts have begun to form at various spots on our bodies. We don’t care. He is at one end of the hallway; I am at the other. We eye each other, studying for flaws, weaknesses and gaps.
For a brief moment, I hear David Attenborough’s voice in my head. He is talking about Big Horn sheep crashing into each other at 35 km’s an hour. Yes, that sounds about right. It’s hallway hockey night at the Wilkinson house.
The floor is scared with innumerable stick slashes. The walls are nicked and dinged. Three of our family photo frames have required significant repairs. An errant ball, stick blade or shoulder dislodging them from their spot on the wall and sending them crashing to the floor. Such is the cost of battle.
My hands are on my knees. Sweat ison my brow. I’m huffing and puffing. I experience the unease of light-headedness, but the next goal wins. It’s go time. My son Darve, a most worthy opponent, has battled back from a 7-2 deficit to tie the game at 9 goals apiece. The first one to 10 is the victor.
There is undoubtedly a size mismatch in this contest. I’m two hundred pounds, and my son is hardly more than half that. But he is young, his energy is limitless, he is quick, and he is as desperate to win as me. In the final stages of the game, he plays with the ferocity of a bobcat caught in a trap.
No longer can I simply impose my will on this young upstart. I must now compete, or I will be bested. Darve knows it too. He has perfected an off-the-wall backhand shot with his neon orange Covert Warrior QRE SL, which is almost impossible to stop. Every day I hear the clatter, clatter of this assiduous young competitor working on his craft so that one day soon, he will emerge from the hallway victorious.
Will that day be today?
I strike the red foam ball with my neon yellow Alpha Warrior DX, hoping to snipe a goal from distance and end all this mounting drama. No such luck. My son is much too quick for that. I charge forward. Darve attempts to bank his return shot off the wall as I thunder down the hallway towards him. It almost works. The ball slams off the wall and squirts by me, rolling at a dangerously fast speed towards the green tape that marks the end of my portion of the hallway. And the end of the game if it crosses. I can’t let that happen! ! I turn and race back down the hall. Darve hot on my heels. Three inches from disaster, I corral the ball with my stick. In one motion, I turn and fire a shot high over my son’s head, hoping the lob will find its mark at the far end of the hallway. This time it’s Darve’s turn to run. With the quickness of a cobra, he dashes down the hallway preventing the goal with ease.
At the halfway point, the hallway widens into an alcove. There is more space and thus more opportunity to create. Darve advances the ball into the area to press home his chance for victory. I storm ahead into the alcove just as Darve tee’s up a slap shot. Instinctively I kick out my leg. The ball bounces off my ankle, another welt for my collection.
Wildly we both launch ourselves towards the loose ball. Darve goes flying as he ricochets off my bulk. My nearly splattered son allows me to win. I swat red foam toward the green tape. I can taste victory. But then, out of the alcove glides Darve. He is doing a full-on Superman! His outstretched stick manages to deflect the ball and prevent the goal.
The tussle continues, back and forth we go, until finally, the ball squirts free from another pile-up near his goal. He arcs backwards, but I’m actually standing on him! He isn’t going anywhere. I reach out and help the ball across the line.
The old bull remains champion, at least for another night.
In truth, no one has lost. With each contest, our love for each other grows, and that’s a win. The hallway hockey bond is deep. The floor’s quality is lost, but so much more is gained—perseverance, courage, bravery, creativity, confidence & good sportsmanship, to name a few.