Ah yes, another “after 30 years…” hockey post.
One of the teams in our division is stacked with very strong players who have spun-off a team from a different club and are strong favourites for promotion to a higher league. This team has been employing a full-court press in games swarming defenders who are taking free hits. Our player-coach has felt that we needed to prepare for our game against this team and had asked that we join our first team practice.

The side-benefit was that this practice is held at the gym in Hatzfelder Allee, not only the place where I practiced indoor field hockey for most of my childhood and youth, but a much nicer facility than the gym we, playing in a lower league, are relegated to.

Yes, a full size gym, great parquet floor, real side boards that return the ball at a true angle… great fun! All this inspired us for strong play against our first team and the hope that we might face the league bullies with some tools even though our system against the full-court press relies a lot on my (and other left defenders) passes, a shaky basis for success.

Part of the joy of returning to the “Hatze” gym was seeing that the street it sits on – like many Berlin streets – is still lit by gas lanterns. Yes, even in an era of LEDs, gas lanterns are still common. They are dim, but with roughly 40% of Berlin’s energy supply relying on natural gas (which also powers these lanterns) it probably makes little sense to switch them over to electricity as that would require re-wiring, etc. However, the current scene in front of “Hatze” is not as available for childish mischief as it used to be.

After winter practice, maybe waiting for pick-up though we usually rode the bus, we would climb halfway up the lanterns and then reach up with the curved end of our stick to pull on the ring that would turn the gas supply to the lantern off. We would then hide in the bushes that were planted in front of the gym to wait for the GASAG (Berlin gas works) car to arrive and for a cursing worker to emerge with his extendable pole to pull on the string again, turning the light back on. I am not sure how frequent this mischief was in front of gyms generally, but we enjoyed it.

Sadly, the bushes are gone and as far as I can tell, the lanterns no longer have a manual switch with a ring attached, but it was a fond memory and I enjoyed returning to Hatze.


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