“Beer League Beauty” — A Player’s Blog by Nicole Court

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CHAPTER 1: BIRTH.

They say in May of 1992 I entered this Earth the same way as every other baby does — head first and crying. However, the story of my birth plays out a little differently in my mind. In the early morning of May 30th, 1992, I entered the world skates first and chirpin’.

From the moment I opened my eyes I could feel the sensation of brisk air sweeping past my face, the chill of ice running through my veins and an undeniable shot of adrenaline taking over my tiny legs. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was unlike most newborns and that the reality I was born into was much more intriguing than what meets the eye. I was born a contender, addicted to adrenaline and destined for the gem life in a universe us beauties like to call “THE HOCKEY WORLD.”

A few years went by and I learned to talk, crawl and eat just like other toddlers my age. However, when it was time to stand up on my own I took it in stride, literally – – with blades strapped on and ice beneath my feet, I took my first steps on an outdoor rink in Southern Ontario.

CHAPTER 2: DRINKA.

The story of how I learnt to skate is told best the way my dad has told it to me for years…

Nicole’s attention span ranged from 2-5 minutes depending on the task. So once she learned to skate around, I knew it was only a matter of time before she’d lose interest in merely skating in circles at the outdoor rink. In no time, she got distracted by my lessons and wanted to build a snowman, which came to be known as ‘Drinka.’ I would tell her that ‘Drinka’ had to be built on the far end of the rink, and that only snow from the opposite end would work. Nicole would skate from end to end for hours, gathering small handfuls at a time. Eventually she would have enough to build a tiny snowman. In the meantime, I would leave her to it and be able to sit in the warmth of the truck. This went on her entire first year of skating and by spring she had unknowingly spent around six hours a day skating… Let’s just say it payed off.

CHAPTER 3: THE TOE PICK.

Although my dad was successful getting me on skates, his choice of colour ended up being questionable. When it was time for me to hang up the old trusty plastic wheels and get my first pair of “real” skates I was more than eager, expecting to gear up, hit the rink and play with the big boys. Only issue was that it was the early 1990’s and female hockey players were about as rare as home computers. So my dad did the only thing he knew to do: get me fitted in a new pair of figure skates, gear me up in a frilly dress and send me out to fend for myself in the world of ice dancing. What began as us struggling to get these foreign objects on my feet quickly turned into an obsession for the both of us (and an unlikely foreshadow of what was to come once I lost the picks and grabbed a stick).

I have little memory of learning to figure skate, which may be because it came extremely natural. Despite my lack of rhythm off the ice, it took me a matter of months to excel past every​ level and begin with a personal on ice trainer preparing for my first competition. My dad was loving it as much as I was, sitting on the bench through endless hours of training, learning all the moves like a bonafide dance mom. This continued for a few years until something happened that changed the course of my life entirely….

CHAPTER 4: MATTHEW.

In the early morning of October 16th, 2000 my mother woke me up from a deep sleep to tell me some news that I couldn’t quite grasp as an 8-year old. She told me my cousin Matthew had been hit by a car and passed away during the night, He was 12-years old.

Matthew was an incredible hockey player, playing travel for our local boys team. He dreamed of being in the NHL. There’s a lot I didn’t understand about what had happened, but there was two things I did get: Matthew was not coming back and he could no longer pursue his dream of being a professional hockey player.

 At that moment I knew what I had to do to keep part of Matthew alive — I was going to continue his dream were he had left off. That night I made a decision and didn’t look back. I hung up the figure skates and spent a year convincing my dad to let me play hockey. He finally gave in and put me in a girls league. One season went by and he was back on board in a more fitting role as ‘the crazy hockey dad’. I spent one year in house league and a summer traveling around Ontario to different hockey camps. I spent hours and hours on the ice, and even at 10-years old I knew that Matthew was with me every second living his dream. I went back my second season and led the travel team in points, by a long shot.

During October of my second season of travel my father got a phone call from the coach of the boys travel team in my city. The team had lost a few players to injuries and had heard about me within the hockey community. They asked my dad if I could come out to a practice so they could see how i did with the boys. My dad told me the news and I was in shock, but not for the reason he would have thought. This was one of those moments in life you will never forget.

I was 12-years old now, the same age of Matthew when he passed away, and this was the very same team he was a part of when he died the very same month of his death. I don’t think my dad fully clued in at the time but in my head this was the call I was waiting for. This was my chance to continue his dream at the very same spot he had left behind. After one practice I was on the team. I think at this point my dad was starting to understand that this was more than just playing on a boys travel team for me because when the coach came in my dressing room before the first game to give me my jersey, it was Matthew’s.

They had retired number 3 after his death but my dad talked to the league and they made an exception for me. This was the beginning and the most important part of my hockey career.

CHAPTER 5: THE MINORS.

I continued to show a natural knack for the sport throughout minor hockey and spent more time on the ice then I did on solid ground. I made friends with the arena workers so I​ would skip school and spend the day at the rink. The dream was Team Canada and I wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way. Problem was I didn’t account for myself. I got recruited to play midget three years yearly, and then junior by the time I was in Grade 9, and began to learn
that talent isn’t the be all and end all for a successful athletic career.

A good hockey player will adapt to their role on a team and improve when they play with better players. I didn’t. All the talent I had had no chance against my own mind and as soon as I lost confidence I started to get frustrated with the game. I realized what my dad has been telling me for year was true: I had a BAD attitude!

The junior team I played for had four current Women’s Olympics players on it so at 16-years old I had to know that I needed to wait my turn. But I didn’t get it and started to resent hockey (biggest lesson I’d give any young player is DON’T LOSE YOUR LOVE OF THE GAME) I became obsessed with being the best and as soon as I wasn’t I felt frustrated. By that time I had forgotten how much I enjoyed learning to play in the first place. I got caught up in anything that would distract me from my bad games or this new ‘structure’ that hockey turned into in junior. I chose parties and friends instead.

Luckily, I squeaked by with a scholarship to play D3.

CHAPTER 6: ELMIRA.

More learning was on the way. I went to Elmira straight out of high school. Still on my high horse, my talent was still there but now I had to deal with not having the discipline of my father, living alone in a different country and actually going to school for once. The first month was a blur, I was on academic probation and off the team by Christmas my freshmen year.

You can imagine how it went when I saw my dad during Christmas break. He flipped and refused to let me go back but just like I did when I was trying to play hockey, I fought for it because I knew I had it in me to get my grades up.

I went back after the break and got straight A’s. All the time and energy I had once spent at the rink quickly turned into full blown study days and sleepless nights at the library. I got my marks up and studied so much that when it was time for me to go back out for the hockey team I DIDN’T! The only way I can understand this is that when you only know one thing your whole life, when it’s all you think about and all you do, it becomes exhausting and you need a break. I found my break with school and stopped playing for three years — didn’t even put on a pair of skates! Prior to starting my senior year I made the decision to transfer back to Canada because i wanted to get my Masters in Psychology from a Canadian accredited university. And here we go again…

CHAPTER 7: BROCK.

I contacted the varsity coach at Brock University and let her know who I was, where I played, and well you know, the hockey spiel. Anyway, she recruited me for that season and I was back at it.

I had my grades up, I knew how to time manage and prioritize, what could go wrong? Well let me tell you, I never dealt with the initial issue that swayed my interest in the​ game in the first place. I found myself uninterested again and lasted until Christmas before calling it quits.

CHAPTER 8: FINDING YOURSELF.

So I continued to go to Brock, study, and… there was something missing. These next few years, I spent time doing things that I hadn’t before, I snowboarded, drank beer, relaxed and eventually strapped on the skates for some pick-up hockey. One lesson I learned looking back is that there’s an unavoidable chapter in everyone’s life where they have to find themselves again. It’s like that saying, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.” Well guess what, we are all a little insane. I continued to try hockey because I did love the game. I just needed to find it again. I wasn’t going to find that love until I found out who I was as a person outside of the rink. So I searched (unknowingly) over the next few years and something beautifully bizarre came out of it.

That brings us to the next chapter of my life.

CHAPTER 9: BIRTH OF BEER LEAGUE BEAUTY.

This is best explained by a short write up I did for an article about a year back. “Beer League Beauty” started as an Instagram account I made for the sole purpose of messing around and having the memories to show it. Four short months and a couple thousand followers later, my ‘messing around’ turned into a growing brand within the hockey
community. The best explanation I can give comes from a fan that wrote on the wall of my Facebook page: “So let me get this straight. You’re famous for drinking beer, being active and being hot? Those are some amazing goals if I’ve ever heard ’em, keep it up! Haha.”

When I was younger I thought living the dream would mean playing hockey and getting paid. But little did I know instead of wearing a Team Canada Jersey, I’d be holding beers and wearing a “Beer League Beauty” jersey. Now, I’m literally living the dream I never thought was possible and loving every minute of it.”

There’s a lot of thing I still need to figure out in life, like that university degree I’ve been working on, a fitting career or what the next chapter has in store for me. But I can finally say I’ve found the one thing that’s been missing for many, many, many years — my love for the game of hockey!

 

Written by Nicole Court / @BeerLgeBeauty

Special to HockeyClan

 

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