What Hockey Gives and What Hockey Takes Away

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At The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten recounts what beer-league hockey has given him over the years: occasional bragging rights, countless happy sud-soaked memories, a feeling of camaraderie, and three concussions whose lingering after effects caused him to leave the game.

The third concussion came months later, in another Intangibles game, the clock running out on a late-night midseason loss. A freak accident, a collision with a teammate: we hadn’t seen each other. I got the worst of it. The light dimmed, the ringing kicked up, and the fog rolled in again.

In the following weeks, my skull felt as though someone had draped a towel over it and was pulling down on all four corners, or maybe cinching tight a bank robber’s stocking. I had trouble concentrating. If I tried to exercise, the headache came galloping in. I couldn’t handle crowds or concerts or the ordinary din of New York. The thought of playing hockey, the sight of men playing football on TV: it seemed as reasonable to stroll on foot across the New Jersey Turnpike. After an hour or two in front of a computer screen, a kind of dizzy fatigue washed over me. I began napping a couple of times a day. The Advil stopped working. My moods darkened. My work stalled.

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