Saturday is hockey night in Canada and like troglodytes leaving their caves, shinny players from the shacks of every rink galumph onto the ice. In the lambent softness of moonlight, in the Canadian winter chill, a million skaters glide across the frozen granites of the outdoor skating rinks. With their skate blades freshly sharpened, their heads wrapped in a toque or trapper hat, and wearing a hoodie, hockey gloves, and blue-jeans, the game in the gloam is on.
Shinny is an informal game of ice hockey with or without skates (preferably with). No referees, no equipment save for skates, stick, and gloves, no real designated positions, no age restrictions and no limit on player numbers, the game of shinny makes for pure Canadian Winter entertainment and exercise.
Aside from the aforementioned accoutrements, the necessaries for shinny are simple. Instead of a hockey helmet, a toque or trapper, a beanie or a Yukon cap will do, and when it’s really frigid, a head covered in a hoodie or wrapped in a scarf or balaclava is a must.
I can remember, as a kid growing up in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada, the game of shinny being a constant in my life. Right after school each day in Winter, there would be twenty or so adolescents playing road hockey (skateless) in front of the Puckett house (no pun intended … Puckett is the real family name … and quite a renowned name in our hockey world … both Neil Puckett and his brother, Billy Roy Puckett were standout goalies in the NHL … the Notekeu Hockey League).
Not so strangely, we road hockey warriors battled with a rubber ball until suppertime, after which most of us would lace up our skates and head to the real rink for more shinny. We loved that game that much. Fact: All the shinny players in our village also played organized ice-hockey, from wee wee to senior league, all under the team moniker, the Vanguard Eagles. The Vanguard Eagles formally played in the NHL (Notekeu Hockey League) whilst all team members were unsigned and also active in the informal outdoor one-team shinny league.
Rather than be accursed in winter, the cult members of shinny relish in the cold, a kind of on and off again ice amour, depending on the temperature. Perfect ice for shinny needs to be below freezing temperatures. Above freezing, the ice is too soft and the game is off.
Ten degrees below freezing is ideal. With sharpened steel blades the shinny players across the nation are cutting their boustrophedon lines back and forth the cold winter ice, then grinding them into oblivion, into hockey hieroglyphics before the game is done.
Shinny is not highfalutin. However, this is no reason to fleer. Factoid: Shinny players are the hoi polloi and poetasters of hockey, the pelaton of quintessential ice gods, the real stereotypes of the Canadian Winter. And the hebdomadal hockey night in Canada is really an outdoor rehearsal for the music and euphony of rink entertainment.
Shinny is frozen ice medicine spewed from the generational fountain of youth. Shinny keeps me young and ready for Springtime busking.
December through February, a couple nights each week shinny is my zowie ... erstwhile and presently, I am a shinny player, and I shall continue to be a shinny player until that last puck is dropped!