Hockey and Sicily don’t seem like two words that should find themselves in the same sentence. It’s hard enough to find ice for drinks let alone a whole sheet of ice to play a sport on. Luckily ice isn’t absolutely necessary and luckily I didn’t leave my hockey equipment in the States when we moved here to Sicily. From everything I could find online there wasn’t going to be a chance for me to play hockey. This was a tough pill to swallow since I have played competitively for the past 30 years!! Yes I am old! I packed my hockey equipment anyway and Im so happy I did. There is roller hockey here and its been one of the best experiences I have had in Sicily.
After arriving in Sicily I kept the search going and heard through some friends at work that there were a couple of Americans that play hockey on the island. Not only that they played hockey, but also coached a local Sicilian team in Catania. I got the directions to the location and Im embarrassed to say this now, but I got lost 2 times trying to find the arena. When you get lost in Sicily as a newcomer its not a simple… “well I got lost and then eventually found the place on that same drive”… its more like “I am lost and Im not even sure if Im going to find my way home tonight”. I laugh about this now because the drive is literally 6 minutes from our house, but the first night I got lost was truly sketchy. GPS and/or google maps are usually the main problem out here. The streets are a mess and GPS has not kept up, so you think your chugging right along and then all of the sudden you are twisted and flipped upside down somewhere not near your destination even though the GPS thinks you are. Back to the first night… I followed the GPS to a dead end road into a small clearing, where there was a group of circus trailers and the weird circus folks caravans circled. The stupid GPS said I arrived! hahahaahaha.. It was really creepy. No lights except for in their trailers and I tried to turn around, but the clearing was covered in huge gravel(mini boulders) that wasn’t playing nice with our car. I got out to inspect the situation and I hear a ‘Roaarrr’ . I literally jumped. It was a full grown tiger pacing in its cage nearby unhappy with my car lights Im assuming. I moved like lightning back into the car and peeled out of there, but had no idea how to get back home. I was gone for over 2 hours and finally made it home happy to be alive, but frustrated about the whole driving situation. Im happy I persisted and eventually found the hidden rink and have been playing hockey for the past 4 years.
The team that I skate with is called the Catania Flames and now also the Catania Octopuses. We skate a couple times per week during the hockey season. Last year was a lot of fun because we finally had enough Americans to make our own American team… called Sigonella Wiseguys. We played in a league with all of the other Sicilian teams and won first place during the regular season, but lost to Messina in the finals. The best part about playing hockey out here has been the great friends that I have made including all of the Sicilians. They have been very welcoming and its great learning the language through a sport because you have something in common to talk about. They also were great at teaching me all the dirty words that you can’t find in Rosetta Stone! Being good friends with locals has made our time here very enriching. Its hard to put into words all of the things that I am grateful to them about… lots of little things over the years that really showed me a lot about the Sicilian culture. And I have introduced them to some American culture… including BBQ, which they always request me make for them. I know that we are all going to remain friends even after we leave the island.
If you are moving out to Sicily and interested in playing hockey just let me know! Pack your equipment we are always looking for new players no matter the skill level.