The white glory of a rink. I found a used pair of skates at the sporting goods store and a good stick and I stood at the door to the player’s bench looking out at the ice and trembling. I told Virgil that I needed some time to get my legs under me. He knew that I meant more than getting used to skating again. So he arranged to let me have the ice to myself for an hour before the guys showed up. I dressed on the bench. My head down lacing up my skates and my nose full of the smell of a rink. Wood. Sweat. Spit. Leather. When I stood and faced the ice itself, it was dazzling. I stood at the gate and it spread out in front of me as if it were its own special world—and it was. I knew its geography. I knew its breezes. I knew the chill of it. It took me five minutes before I could push off.

When I landed I couldn’t move my feet. I glided straight across the ice to the opposite boards and gripped the top of them with my hands. Then I turned and leaned on them and just looked at the wide oval of ice. I pinched my lips together hard. I understood then that when you miss a thing it leaves a hole that only the thing you miss can fill. The feel of the rink on my face. I closed my eyes and pushed off from the boards. I turned lazily at centre and skated slowly around the red circle. Then I headed for the boards and pushed along them and around the end behind the net. When I turned up ice I pushed off harder. There was no rhythm. There was only the effort of propelling myself along.

There’d been a practice just before I’d arrived. Someone had left a wad of tape on the ice. When I reached it I scooped it up with the blade of my stick. It felt like a horse turd. I skated loosely from end to end with that ball of tape on my stick. Then I tucked it backwards between my legs and spun on one blade to pick it up and cradled it on the blade. I snapped it into the top corner of the net. I laughed then. I opened my mouth and I let myself peal off a great bray of laughter. Then I scooped up that wad of tape and began to move faster around that blazing white glory of ice.

I skated until sweat was pouring down my face. I skated until my legs became elastic and my breath was hard in my lungs. I didn’t have anywhere near the speed I used to have, but I could still skate. When I bent to scoop the tape out of the goal, a real puck caromed around the bottom bar. I turned and Virgil was at the gate with Fred and Martha.

“Even up here in the sticks, we like to use a hockey puck to play hockey,” Virgil said and pushed out onto the ice.

“Old habits,” I said when he reached me.

“New days,” he said.

“The guys here?”

“Them and more,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

He waved his arm and Fred stepped out onto the ice. Behind him were five of the original Moose, still recognizable despite the years. Behind them were some kids of assorted ages and sizes and behind them were young girls and older women. Everyone had a hockey stick. They skated toward us in a wide stream and stood in a circle around us. Martha waved from the bench.

“Best way to choose up sides is the old-fashioned way,” Stu Little Chief said with a nod to me. “Do the honours, Saul?”

“Sure,” I said.

Everyone dropped their sticks in the centre-ice circle. I skated in and began pushing sticks toward each blue line. When they were all cleared from the centre, the teams were set. Virgil was on the opposite team. He skated to the faceoff circle.

I met him there. At least eighteen of us were on the ice.

“How are we gonna do this?” I asked.

“Gotta hit the post to call it a goal. No raising the puck.”

“No, I mean with all these people. How are we gonna play the game?”

He smiled and tapped my stick with his. “Together,” he said. “Like we shoulda all along.”

I smiled. He won that first faceoff, but I didn’t care.