By Sophia Harris
The crowd funnels in through the small doors of Loring Arena just in time for the free skate at 2:30 p.m. on a recent Sunday.
The skaters are so rushed to pay the mere $5 fee to skate, they are not even holding the door open for each other.
The younger children are already wobbling around on their skates, eager to get onto the ice.
Loring Area is bustling with chatter and laughter at 2:35 as a hockey team slowly meanders off the ice, unaware of the crowds of people anticipating their turn.
Just as people line up to enter, a quiet disappointment sets in as they watch the Zamboni crawl over the ice, leaving smooth trails in its tracks.
Once the Zamboni finishes its last lap, putting an end to what felt like hours, the chatter picks up again as people, one by one, some holding hands, some children pushing their way to the front, glide onto the ice.
Skaters on the ice join from all different backgrounds and various abilities.
Some of them are dressed in full hockey gear, likely practicing for upcoming tournaments - while others glide and twirl around in figure skates practicing technique and form, perhaps for a future competition.
Kaleb Kinskey, a junior Framingham State hockey player, has been skating at Loring Arena for the past three years and has been playing ice hockey since he was 8.
Rebecca Gerfen, an FSU junior, figure skates for the sector of Hayden XII for Team USA.
She said her first time on the ice was when she was only 4. Six years later, she started to figure skate competitively when she was only 10.
Stepping onto the ice is one of the hardest parts of ice skating for a beginner. As surprising as it sounds, the idea of a person's entire body weight balancing on two blades thinner than a pencil is the first fear a new skater must overcome.
The sides of the arena provide a safety net for any new skaters. A clear giveaway of a new ice skater is the loyalty they seem to have to the wall.
After a lap is made around the ice rink, gripping the sides of the wall, more confidence is gained as skaters slowly start to add distance between themselves and the rink's walls.
A rhythmic pace sets in as the line dissipates at the entrance and people skate along the perimeter of the ice. Few people have the confidence to venture to the middle to show off their skills.
Kinskey said he plays the forward right-wing position for the FSU Rams hockey team.
He said he loves and respects the sport, adding as long as players train properly and “learn the fundamentals of the game and how to play it the right way, then it's safe.”
Kinskey added, “But if you don't know what you're doing, and you aren't taught, you know, how to safely hit people and how to receive it, how to keep your head up, and you don't wear the right equipment,” hockey can get dangerous quickly.
Kinskey said, “I love hockey so I'm going to say it's safe but people also realize it's not.”
In her free time, Gerfen said she also coaches ice skating for children between 6 and 15 years old.
Her favorite part about coaching is being able to see her students’ “aha” moments on the ice, she said.
Gerfen advises novice skaters to “be very careful, and know your limits.”
She added, “Don't try to push yourself too much. Just take your time with it. One of the big tips for when you're feeling like you're going to fall is you want to put your hands on your knees.”
Gerfen said part of her success as a figure skater is her love for the sport.
“The reason I love skating personally is I just love the speed that I can get and I love my teammates, and I just love that I'm able to express myself through the movements. I just think it's so fun,” she said.
An experienced skater, seeming to be in his early 30s, wearing headphones around his neck and dressed in a gray sweatsuit, coasted along the ice scanning the arena for inexperienced skaters in order to offer them his expertise.
Seeming to show off his respect for the sport, he glided backward and thoughtfully explained that in order to create balance one must put their hands on their knees.
He skated backward effortlessly in front of the first-time skater for multiple laps teaching the unspoken techniques of ice skating.
And once he felt the novice got the hang of it, he disappeared just as quickly as he appeared into the swarm of people, forcing a search to be made of him.
The ice skaters blend into each other like a school of fish, and the only ones who stand out are those gripping the sides of the rink.
Tension builds as the clock ticks down from the one-hour free skate.
As 3:25 p.m. rolls around the pace picks up, an unspoken agreement among skaters trying to gain as many laps as they can before their time is over.
The novice skaters wobble off the ice, also attuned to the understanding that their time on the ice is over.
Gerfen said she thinks everyone should try ice skating at least once.
“It's a really good thing, especially for younger kids to do even if they don't go far with it. It's really good for body awareness. And learning where your limbs go and ankle control and things like that.
“I think it’s a really good thing even if you don't stick with it, to at least try it a little bit,” she said.