The 40-Year-Old (Goalie) Virgin, Part 4: Hockey Isn’t For Every Body
Let me tell you about this fantasy I have.
Some years from now, when I’m less of a sieve on the ice and a PHATS legend (and stoned Pavel Barber exactly once, because why not?), some nice kid doing a report will happen by.
“What was the hardest part of being a new goalie when you were so old?” the kid will ask. “Was it the butterfly? Skating? Your credit card statements?”
I will have to pause to reevaluate that last one, because it’s definitely a contender.
“Nope,” I will sigh, rolling my eyes. ”It was effing getting dressed.”
Grab a couple gallons of water, folks, because this post is about to get Dead Sea salty.
For me, clothes shopping sucks. I mean really sucks. I hate it every bit as much as it hates me, so we’ve agreed to avoid each other as much as we can. Turns out that shopping for hockey gear is largely the same experience, save the bonus event that kicks it off with Groundhog Day-like inevitability:
Me: Hi. I need to get [insert hockey item name here]
Shop Employee: Sure! How old’s your son?
Me: I don’t have kids. It’s for me.
Shop Employee, mind visibly flatlining: YOU? What?
Me, resisting the urge to tell him to say “what” one more time: Yeah. Me….
I probably don’t want to know what’s so universally shocking here. However, it would appear that 200 hockey men aren’t the only ones thrown by it: I’m an enigma to the equipment companies, too.
The problem is a matter of scale. Literally. Hockey may be for everyone, but hockey protective equipment is designed for boys. Not even men. Boys. Teenage boys. Tall, spindly, teenage boys with long feet, shoulders like wings, disproportionate limbs and imaginary body fat. I mean, on what other planet is a 34” waist an Extra Large? These little marvels of physics and human metabolism are my diametric opposites, and god, has this ever become obvious as I’ve tried to get outfitted for my latest Questionable Venture.
Yes, yes; I hear you up there in the bleachers:
“They make gear for women!”
“Just wear the men’s stuff!”
I’m glad you brought that up.
Now, pay attention, because we’re only going over this once.
In 2016, the average American (sorry, Canada: you hid your stats well) woman was 5’4” tall. She had a 46” bust, a 37.5” waist, a 48” hip, and was between 25% and 31% body fat. She wore a size 16-18 in Misses, or a 20 in Women’s (for further proof that women’s clothing sizes make zero sense, those are the same thing). Note that I said average, and let that sink in for a moment.
Because I’m obviously a masochist – and for the analytics crew – here’s where I stand.
Alright, let’s see what we’ve got on the rack here. Each company is a bit different, and yet….
The few companies that do make women’s gear are very proud of the fact that they consulted professional and Olympic women’s hockey players in designing their lines. While this is indeed cool, I would respectfully point out that the average elite female athlete is in her late teens to 20s and sitting around 15% body fat. Which does just so happen to be closer to the overall shape of the aforementioned teenage boy.
My only point here is that given that there are vastly more average-ish types out there on rink benches than there are elite builds, it would be awfully nice if the women’s gear actually included us. Especially since in beginner hockey, where stick control and precision stopping are arcane aspirations, protective equipment that fits is the difference between being a nuisance, and being unconscious on the ice.
“So just wear the men’s gear.”
Yeah, about that.
I guess it still needs pointing out, but men and women aren’t built the same way. Here we have some human anatomy fundies, courtesy of very talented illustrator and graphic artist, Joumana Medlej:
Those “consequences throughout the body” — which include the way the femur meets the pelvis and the knee — mean we don’t even get measured the same way men do. Things get…complicated.
So here we are. Eight months, two countries, and more awkward conversations than I care to relive later, I have a serious problem: I cannot find a pair of goalie pants that fit me. In the few cases where the pants should theoretically fit my waist, they were too narrow to make it past my hips. The one – ONE — pair I found that did clear my hips fit absolutely nowhere. They were as uncomfortable as they were impossible to move in. I’m officially Cindertendy now. Marvelous.
Adding to my frustration, the pants are one of the last two items standing between me and getting this show on the ice. I’ve got a long way to go before I can hold my own in net, and with every passing week, I’m falling further behind — and becoming increasingly less useful to — the rest of my team. I can all but hear the whistling from my stock freefalling there; if they thought I was weird before (they were right), this isn’t helping matters any.
THIS, dear Bryz, is why I hefta be mad.