Ciao from Cortina: What hockey means to me


It took me a long time to figure out what hockey means to me. When I first sat down to write this, it was the beginning of October. Hockey can be so many different things: for some people, it’s dropping kids off for practice every afternoon and watching weekend games. For others, it’s a hobby. For some, it’s a job. Some people think it’s just a game and some people don’t even know who Joe Sakic is.


Courtesy Photo

Sophie Dingle

For me, hockey is a way of life, though it wasn’t always that way. Hockey and I have come a long way together.

When my husband, Ryan, and I first started dating, he was playing at the University of Denver. I started “attending” his games, which meant showing up well into the second period and then ignoring the remainder of the game because I was busy chatting with my roommate.

Now, because of hockey, I live in Italy.

Between those two extremes, hockey was the reason why Ryan and I broke up at the end of college and then got back together two years later. It was why I got married in August instead of September. And it was why I left my job in New York City to wear flannel shirts and live in Canada for a year.

My husband likes to tease me that I still don’t understand what icing is, that I hadn’t seen him score a goal — despite going to hundreds of games — until last year (not true, but the icing thing is) and that I only show up to his games for the free glasses of red wine.

It’s true that I wasn’t interested in hockey before I met Ryan, and it’s true that my hockey knowledge is lacking. But for me, hockey isn’t about sitting in a cold rink or taping sticks or taunting the goalie. It’s about learning, experiencing, trying new things, taking advantage of new opportunities and having lots of adventures.

Hockey is the reason I know how to make spaghetti carbonara and how to travel by train in Europe. It’s why those winding streets in Venice are familiar, why I got to see how far the tower in Pisa really does lean and how I ended up at the top of the Duomo in Florence gazing out at the red rooftops of the city. It’s the friends we’ve made, the Italian words we’ve mastered and every delicious piece of cheese we’ve tasted.

Like anything, though, it’s not all good; we talk about it incessantly, it’s what occasionally forces my husband to get stitches and it’s why I haven’t spent Christmas with my parents in three years.

But for all that hockey has given to me, I’m willing to give back to it. Which is why we keep coming back to Cortina each season, why I make massive amounts of pasta every Wednesday night for my husband to eat before Thursday’s game and why I trudge down to the rink in the middle of January, in the snow, to watch a game even when it’s on TV — it’s truly not for the free wine, though that is an added bonus.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at


rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Sophie!! Hockey seems to have served you well.

I've noticed that people are either hockey fans, or basketball fans -- but not both (as a rule; then there are fanatics like my roommate).

My ice-skating experiences number two: When Barbara Ensinbach laughed at my two-rail, strap-on trainer skates, in the second grade, at the local lake, I was properly humiliated, had no desire to puruse that... then the racer skates I had at twelve, with foot-long baldes and floppy shoe, didn't work well on the snow-covered lake where my Buy Scout troop was camping, in the Black Hills. Both were negative experiences.

My family spent a good portion of my formative years in South Dakota -- cold country, in the winter. There were two primary winter sports: Basketball, and wrestling. No nearby skiing; Harney Peak didn't count. There was no organized hockey. I chose to pursue the indoor sports.

I saw my friends, playing hockey on a frozen Rapid Creek -- which we tubed often, in the summer, much like the Yampa -- and it just made me shiver. I was going somewhere warm.

Due to skiing, I have since come to grips with cold, goose down is my best friend -- but I never got into hockey. Sorry. Not qualified to comment.

B-ball is my game. I had the fortune of working for a company in Phoenix, out of Michigan, who installed sports and concert floors -- BEAUTIFUL wood -- padded underneath -- give me that, and a smelly locker room, any winter's day. Like Ski Corp's various locker rooms.

I read a John Grisham novel, "Playing For Pizza," in a departure from his norm, where the protagonist goes to Italy to play in their professional football league -- and reading Sophie's columns, confirms every suspicion Grisham planted: I want to see Italy!!

I love books. They take me where I might otherwise never go.

Thanks again, Sophie!!


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