I’m torn about sports. On the one hand, actively doing them promotes exercise, team work, discipline. On the other, they can easily become extremely competitive, and it is easy to do them for the wrong reasons. I’m especially torn about college sports (a.k.a. football) which, particularly in small college towns in the SEC, are both community builders and real distractions from academics and culture.
I was a pretty serious ice hockey player in my youth and through high school. Without doubt, I was more interested in hockey than (almost) anything else growing up. I did get a lot out of it, but for many years my main reading material was “Orr on Ice” and similar great books in the cannon of hockey literature. However, one of the greatest benefits that I got from hockey was the first steps into leatherwork.
I was a goalie, the lonely position behind the mask and with the huge leg pads. Back in my day (wow, does that make me feel old!) goalie pads were essentially pillows overstuffed with deer hair (if my memory serves me right) and covered with leather on the front and thick felt on the back. Attach several leather straps and you got a nice set of pads. I never made my own pads but always wanted to. However, I did regularly repair them. They often got worn away at the bottom or cuts from skates, and if you didn’t patch them well with new leather, they would leak their deer hair all around the net. Several times I also needed to replace straps to hold them on. It was also necessary to regularly treat the pads and big gloves with leather conditioner to keep them nice and supple.
I really enjoyed those times at home working on my hockey pads, and I recall a real sense of pride that I had when I put on a nice patch that worked well and looked good. Although I can’t trace a clear path from hockey to biochemistry professor, hockey was the clear starting point for my work in leather. The leather phone shown here was done at a major transition point in my life. More soon…