Ciao from Cortina: What hockey means to me |

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.

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

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