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The Circle

Years ago, I lost a tooth after getting hit with a hockey stick while I was playing hockey—so I can claim to be a real Canadian. But I also broke a finger playing softball, so maybe I am just clumsy.

In the interests of full disclosure, the stick in the mouth was not deliberate. I fell in front of another player just as he was shooting the puck at the net. Neither the puck nor the tooth went into the net.

I haven’t played hockey or softball for quite a few years. Time took a toll on my body. But it can’t be said that my early retirement was a significant loss to the sporting world.

Some of the boys I went to high school with were obviously better athletes and stayed in better shape. They played a lot longer, into their fifties and even sixties.

I talked with one of them a few days ago. He had been playing in a community old timers’ hockey program for a number of years. He said he was finally forced to retire from hockey a couple of years ago due to an injury. He wasn’t hurt playing hockey. He fell while taking the dog for a walk and injured his arm.

My friend told me that he doesn’t miss the hockey so much, but he does miss “the circle.” Apparently, hockey players sit at their lockers around the outside of the locker room and face inward, toward each other. They talk and become a community. (Baseball and football players apparently sit in a similar circle but face outward, toward their lockers.)

The idea of the hockey circle reminded me of women’s sewing circles of a generation ago. Women, often connected with a church, would get together to make quilts or sew clothes for poor people overseas. While they worked, the women would share their lives and offer each other encouragement and advice. It was a community-building practice disguised as a charity project. Or a charity project disguised as a community-building practice.

Like my hockey career, I fear such circles and such community-building exercises are becoming a thing of the past. Today’s young men and women do not often sit in circles. They mostly sit alone, staring at their iPhones.


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