It may be snowing outside, but among the spectators the excitement is generating warmth. The music and bright colored lights are creating a heated atmosphere. The players are gliding across the white rink, twisting and turning with the agility of athletes. The crowd roars its encouragement, urging on the players as the action begins on the stick hockey table.
The venue for the encounter is not the local arena but a suburban living room. While some people try to recreate the atmosphere of a real stadium through endless video games or television sports channels, others have discovered a different type of home entertainment. The players stand ready for action.
The quiet gathering at home or the dinner party with neighbors will never be the same again. When the visitors are tongue tied and the conversation is dull, the hockey table provides a chance to break the ice. The chosen teams line up ready for action while the spectators sit or stand around sipping their drinks. The small talk disappears as everyone focuses on the encounter.
Also known as rod hockey tables, the games come in shapes and sizes to suit all tastes and budgets. The rink has realistic markings and the length may be chosen according to the space available. The players are operated by control rods, sliding back and forward or rotating to strike the puck.
Many of the familiar sights and sounds of the stadium may be experienced on a smaller scale in the living room. An electronic scoreboard keeps the players and spectators informed about the score and the periods of play can also be measured accurately. The games may be equipped with colored lights, music and sounds of the crowd. An automatic roar goes up each time the puck enters the net.
For the protection of the game and players each table is covered by a resistant plastic dome. The games are often referred to as dome or bubble hockey tables owing to this characteristic. The table may be on legs or a pedestal designed robustly to ensure a level playing surface during the play. Most tables are capable of withstanding normal wear and tear from over-excited teenagers or adults.
The stick hockey table allows the participants to reach a level of camaraderie never achieved at the office party. By the end of a game shyness and reserve are forgotten. The breathless players may share a drink of victory or commiseration. The evening is a success.
Someone who has a toy hobby is usually an adult. After all, all children collect toys - the more the merrier for them, but a person who has a toy hobby usually collects one type of toy - like, say, train sets or a specific make of train set. These adults retain their childhood absorption with fantasy. They are not childish, but are childlike while they begin talking on the topic of or playing with their favourite toys.
Some toy hobbyists like to share their hobby with children, frequently grandparents come into this category, and some toy hobbyists do not, frequently single men who are scared that children may damage their often valuable collection.
These collections of toys can become very valuable, because people tend to collect the toys from their youth, so a grandparent is usually collecting toys from fifty or sixty years ago.
A favourite toy hobby for women is collecting antique dolls or dolls from other countries. Occasionally this interest in dolls will spill over into an interest for dolls' prams or dolls' dresses and they may begin to make dolls' clothing and even their own clothing. Some women and some men too get into manufacturing dolls and even dolls' houses.
Rag dolls are a distinct favourite both for the collector and the crafter because they are easy to make and easy to mend. Teddy bears could also be put in the category of dolls. Many homes have a small collection of teddy bears if there have been children brought up there and it is not strange to see hundreds of teddy bears on shelves dotted around a house.
Lots of older men collect train sets or model cars. Hornby, Marxs, Marklin and Lionel come to mind for train sets and Matchbox and Dinky for small but detailed, die cast model cars. Tonka is famous for larger, maybe less detailed, model trucks, but people liked to play with their bulldozers, trucks and earth-movers as children.
More modern toys that have become collectible include Beanie Babies. Beanie Babies are childlike representations of babies. So there are baby kangaroos, baby elephants, in fact babies of every type of animal you can think of and each one has its own separate personality.
They are inexpensive and lovable and there are hundreds of them - exactly the combination that some collectors desire. Teddy bear collectors frequently have a couple of Beanie Babies as well.
Other popular toy hobbies are flying radio-controlled, powered model aircraft and racing motor-powered radio-controlled cars and trucks. There are also hobbyists that collect or and make radio-controlled boats. Some collectors of radio-controlled aircraft, boats and vehicles may not like being referred to as toy hobbyists, but it is what they are after all.
Wooden toys have always been popular too. A hundred years ago and further, all toys would have been manufactured of timber, especially those of the working class and there are still a lot of parents and grandparents who like to give or manufacture wooden toys themselves. A toy hobby is a great pastime for those who remember their childhood fondly and never really got out of the habit of playing.
Is it possible for children to have too many toys? I think that there probably is a case against children having as well many toys. I grew up with four younger brothers (about two years between every one of us) and our largish shared bedroom was lined on two walls with shelves from floor to ceiling with toys and each Christmas there were sacks full of even more playthings that we did not have any more space for.
I was the oldest, so you would think that I could pass my baby toys down the line once I had no use for them. That worked while my brothers were actually babies, but as their consciousness began to expand they liked to play with what I was playing with and so all the toys that I used from, say three to eight years of age were ignored by my brothers as they leap-frogged past those years and went straight to year eight and nine with me.
But we never got rid of those five years worth of overlooked toys or any other toys either. This would have been in the Fifties and Sixties and I do not believe that recycling was fairly the buzz word back then that it is today.
My parents did not throw them out, we only squirreled them away on the top shelves, which we could not reach anyway. I assume that after sitting up there for ten years they were eventually thrown away but I do not know as I had already left home by then.
The point is that those redundant toys were not doing anyone in our family any good and they were taking up space. It would have been far better to have given them away or not even to have bought some of them in the first place.
We always had to have 'one each' so that there would be less squabbling. So, we had items like five plastic trumpets, five tin xylophones, five plastic guns, five of this and five of that and we hardly ever used them after Christmas Day. We liked to play together at board games like Monopoly, Risk and cards and although I, being the oldest, won nine times out of ten, my brothers never seemed to mind.
We also had a train set, Scalectrix and a big box of Lego. We would spend all weekend creating various scenarios with combinations of the train set, a roadway and Lego houses and Lego railway platforms. OK, these three toys were probably expensive, but they were quality, versatile, could be used in combination and, in a way, were educational. These were the toys that we kept on the bottom shelves.
What I am saying is that more is not always better and in the case of toys, more can be merely a waste of money. Instead of all that junk on the top shelves, which was often donated by aunties and uncles by the way, it would have been better to get us a new bridge for the railway set or a new chicane for the Scalectrix or another box of building blocks for our Lego set.