Something about schedules this time of year (the College's, and those of the various town rinks where 10's hockey team practices) has put them on the big ice all week, at Dartmouth's Thompson Arena. (Not bad writing from where the sportswriters sit, either, for that matter.)
Big ice, small kids: they find each other, 10 and his teammates, at the college games they come to, kids turned loose by parents to circle the concourse, couple of dollars slipped into their pockets, just enough to have to decide between the Ben & Jerry's or something else, not both. They know where Coach sits, too, and when there's room, a bunch of them will settle there, talk hockey, learn to love the game even more.
It's not that any one of them expects, really, to see their picture, jumbo poster sized, framed and mounted along Thompson's walls, in an NHL uniform with a Dartmouth class year tagged to their name, too. Most of them have a signature or two - on a helmet, or a jersey - on them right now, out there on the ice, collected from Dartmouth players and local Olympians-to-be. They've shared the big ice with the men and women who skate for the College; they don't gape, really, if they see a name-and-number from the program walking around town without pads on; they've been behind the scenes, down stairs, in the locker rooms, and come and go onto the ice through the same tunnels the players do on game nights.
Yeah, maybe Thompson does feel a little different - but it's all just hockey, for now. And the better news is this: the really big ice is finally ready... Occom Pond opened today. Hello, winter. Get out there and play.