Yes. That’s the sound of unspoken feelings in our locker room after losing an important game.
What just happened? Damn, number 10 was fast?! Stay calm in the next game. Forget what just happened! These were the exact words going through my mind, starring at the wall, straight up, feeling blank.
I can’t think of anyone, besides the girls, could ever understand what we felt. Losing an important game against Phillippines was definitely a blow to our confidence. When we decided to play in the Women’s Challenge Cup Of Asia again this year, we knew which teams we could beat and which teams we couldn’t.
We were tighter than ever as a team from months of training almost every day together. We were realistic and hopeful. We knew what to expect from our experience in last year’s WCCOA and we were seemingly in control of our destiny.
Did you win? How did you do? I’d be lying if I say I never once boil up inside when someone asks me these questions, especially when you feel so defeated inside. In the end, I smile, take a deep breath and say, we’re getting there.
We’ve played in tournaments together where we’ve lost more games than we have at winning them. I guess you need to feel shitty before feeling like gold.
We were feeling pumped and ready to take on our neighbour, Singapore. Any game with Singapore is always an emotional battle. And even though we’ve faced-off with them many times, we knew that the next game with them would be aggressive and intense.
I was two shifts in, in the first period, everything was going well. We were patient, closing shots and putting up a wall. And then, it was time for me to make my usual curl by the boards, just right at the hash mark so my defensemen can make a clean pass to me.
As soon as I turn, I blacked out.
Shit. Am I going blind?
It was as if someone switched off the lights. The dark slowly faded and light started coming back. It felt like 3 seconds or maybe more. I don’t really remember. I knew by then that I just had a head to head collision with a Singaporean player at full speed and fell on the ice like a log.
On the bench, our physio, Ease came up to me to check if I was ok.
“I feel fine but my left eye feels like its jolted,” I said.
“The way you got hit, though. You might have a concussion,” she said.
While saying those words, she puts ice on my left eye. I didn’t think to say anything else other than I’m fine. Physically, I felt fine and I wasn’t hurting anywhere other than my left eye.
All I could think of was to go back in and finish the game. I hate not being able to finish a game. Who does anyway? So I went back in and played till the end.
We were 6 days into the tournament and I wasn’t the only one with an injury. If one of us had a hard hit, the other had a back injury, a pulled hamstring or a bad knee. If we were out of breath from skating hard, one of us would be on the bench, most likely in pain for whatever reason. Next thing you know, she’s back on the ice.
We played through pain together.
On our off days, we had time to reset our minds and recover from playing. Our game schedule this year was the best. We have three off days, training time was not too early in the morning and our game slots were perfect. The girls took the opportunity to eat, rest, eat and rest more.
And then, there were moments like these.
Frankly, I prefer socks over cute unicorns on my feet. But look at them.
How could I say no?
I remember wearing these unicorns, officially, when we arrived at the hotel the first day, my two other captains and I decided to officiate this wonderful event by dancing in it.
I love game reviews. It’s not just about pointing out the good plays and bad plays. It’s more than that. I get a little bit OCD when I watch our games or any game. The NHL, NWHL, KHL, World Cup, World Champs.
Did I skate hard or fast enough? Did I hold my stick tight? Am I looking up when I skate with the puck? Do I look as aggressive or as hungry as I feel while playing? Every detail matters. When I see those details I visualise them the next time I step onto the ice, and well, hope that I make a difference for the team.
My favourite part is when we get to look back at ourselves for making that dumb pass or falling on your ass for no reason, and occasionally, stealing your linemate’s puck because you thought she was fumbling and you only genuinely wanted to help. I can’t help but laugh at myself. Then you have issues with space. I mean there’s really not much room when your coach decides to do game reviews in our captain’s hotel room. You’d be sitting on your teammate’s bed, the floor and in my case, foam rollers.
Not so sweet on the butt cheeks.
Things can get messy when you enter the offensive zone, you know, that zone where you usually attempt scores. Let me give you a snippet of what normally happens:
There’s really no time to process everything around you. The puck might be wobbly coming to her, not exactly the cleanest pass but she receives it anyway. Chances are by this time, two defencemen are already engaged and ready to take her out. The puck is irrelevant to the two defensemen. Like a shark, they’re locked on, one angles her to the boards and shoving her just enough to be off-balance. Maybe, a quick check on the winger would give an idea of the next move. Technically, she only has a half -second to react. Don’t look down, look up again and find that open hole at the net, set the puck and let it rip.
And in that very second, a photographer presses his DSLR camera lens to the glass of the boards and snaps once in a lifetime moments of joy of my teammates. All Smiles Ladies!
At the closing ceremony, usually right after the last game of the tournament. All teams would skate on the ice and get awarded with medals and trophies.
I hereby announce the IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup Of Asia 2017, closed!
We mingle, snap selfies, add each other on Facebook and Instagram, make new friends and getting to know number 10, that fast hockey player who took me out while attempting a breakout.
Fangirling on other amazing hockey players that shine throughout the 10-day tournament is ironically a thing.
Just before the night skate ends, we realised we’re sort of in denial that the tournament ended. We started the first day looking at other teams like we could kill them and chop them into pieces. Each team so focused on winning every game for 10 days, can finally chill out with each other during the closing ceremony and tell each other that It was awesome playing against you girls, or You got some sweet moves!
And my personal favourite: If you’re visiting our country, let us know and we’ll show you around…and play some hockey.