With regards to special places, no amount or quality of words can offer a sufficient tribute. Places become special because of the memories crafted there. These memories belong only to their beholder, and each in a unique way. The Deerfield Academy hockey rink is one of these places. So when Perry asked me to write about The Barn, I knew that I would face the impossible. I also knew I wanted to try. So here we go.
My memories in the rink are high in number. The Barn is my rink. Every hockey player knows what I mean: you can play on countless sheets of ice, but only one will ever truly be your own. When the building comes down this spring, that won’t change which rink is mine.
I know its smell by heart. I know every corner, every inch. I know what’s changed in my 16 years calling Deerfield home, and I know what’s stayed the same. And I also know which key on my dad’s keychain opens the doors, and which one opens the light-switch closet. I know what times I’m not supposed to skate, and I know exactly what to say when a security officer arrives and asks my friends and me to leave. This is what the rink became to me, but it’s nothing like how it started.
Deerfield hockey was my first love. I never missed a home game, and for most away games, the team bus would roll through Deerfield Elementary School to pick me up early from class. I would stare at the intercom all morning waiting to hear the confused voice of the secretary buzz my classroom and say, “A bus is here for Zeke Emerson.” Thus, I didn’t have much of a choice in selecting who my team would be. Pro, college, whatever — Deerfield is my everything and my nothing when it comes to hockey fandom.
I would watch every game with my friends from behind the net Deerfield was shooting on, just as I will at the final men’s game against Choate. I remember spending
multiple hours in the Pocumtuck basement with Brian Davis coloring a green “D” onto an old bedsheet so that we could run around the rink with our flag after a Deerfield goal. I remember Evan Dugdale and Kevin Roy’s overtime wins against Choate, and I remember crying the whole walk home after a loss. I remember Alex Killorn’s first game, and also his last. I remember the home playoff games in ’02 and ’03. I remember every player who would give me fist bumps as they came onto the ice – by the way, no one will ever top Josh Lesko in that category. In fact, as Creagh or McVaugh or anyone who has had to suffer through listening to my endless stock of memories in this rink knows, there isn’t much I don’t remember.
Most of all, I remember the times that I laced ’em up and got out there. From pushing around chairs, to getting run over at JV practices as a 9-year-old, to imagining myself as a varsity player, to my freshman-year 7th period Thursday skates with O’C, to my first game and to my last, and to seeing the faces of people who genuinely cared about me and about Deerfield hockey. Every second was memorable, and every second was worth it. So much so that even as this building goes away, its presence in my life is barely diminished. This rink filled me with happiness. My memories will overflow the void its impending absence will leave, and for that I am grateful.
And these memories are just mine! Imagine all the other moments that each person who entered The Barn can recall — the number is truly immeasurable. Only a special place can play host to so much joy and love. The Barn will never entirely leave us, and its spirit will never leave our school.